skip content
homepage
what's new
sitemap
search
frequently asked questions
help
complaints procedure
terms and conditions
feedback form
access key details


Belgae

Iron Age gold coins found on Whaddon Chase, a sign of Belgic invasion?A group of tribes of mixed Celtic and Germanic origin described by Caesar in the mid 1st century BC in the Iron Age. According to him they held much of Belgium, and parts of northern France and southeast England. Apparently their immigration into England, which was a gradual process, began c. 100 BC.

 

Traditionally the invaders have been identified with the Aylesford-Swarling culture in Kent and Essex. The tribal territories were supposed to have taken on the trappings of states, each with an oppidum as its capital. An oppidum is the term Caesar uses to describe what he saw as Gaulish and British towns. Oppida have been identified at Colchester and St Albans. Defences cover, but do not properly defend a large area though the settlement itself may be small and some way from the banks and ditches.

 

Coinage and the potter’s wheel were supposedly introduced by the Belgae, and during the century before the Roman occupation of AD 43 the culture of the Belgic aristocracy was considered to be very Romanised. In richly furnished tombs of the period are amphorae which once contained imported wine, and the Italian bronze vessels from which it was drunk. In exchange, Strabo records, the Belgae traded corn, cattle, gold and silver, skins, slaves and hunting dogs.

 

The term Belgae is no longer often used by archaeologists as the theory of new cultures being brought by invaders is not very fashionable. Instead changes in the archaeology are thought to be spread through ideas and trade rather than people. It is likely that the people of Kent and some other parts of south-east England considered themselves Belgic but the links with northern France and what is now Belgium may have been longstanding.