Centre for Continuing Education

History Course: Roman France

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

The world as we know it today has been shaped by events of the past. Learn about history the smart way with History courses at the University of Sydney.

The ancient region of Gaul (which included modern France, Belgium, Switzerland and northern Italy) preserves a rich archaeological heritage going back almost 2 million years. Palaeolithic cave art is some of the earliest art in the world. The Celts created a complex Iron Age society but the region came under Roman rule in the period of Julius Caesar (58-51 BC). The Romans created a number of provinces, the most important being Gallia Narbonensis in the south. Roman culture would last for 500 years and see the creation of stunning urban architecture at sites like Arles, Nimes and Orange. In the 5th Century AD the region fell to invading barbarians and Roman control came to an end.


This course will use archaeological and textual sources (primary evidence) to elucidate how Roman culture shaped aspects of European society.


Upon successful completion of this course, participants should be able to:

  1. Understand the chronology of Roman Gaul.
  2. Investigate the archaeological evidence (material culture) of Roman France.
  3. Assess the surviving evidence for the religion of Roman Gaul.
  4. Discuss and evaluate the theories for why Roman rule came to an end in France.


This course covers the following topics:

Gaul before Rome

Gaul (ancient France) was inhabited by early hominins at least 1.6 million years ago – 400,000 to 30,000 years ago, the Neanderthals lived in southern France. Upper Palaeolithic peoples created stunning cave art in sites like Lascaux and Niaux. Celtic tribes later occupied the region known as Gaul in the Iron Age often living in fortified hill towns (oppida).

The conquest of Gaul

Greek colonies like Marseille were established on the Mediterranean coast of France from 600 BC producing strong influences on the interior. Southern France (the regions of Provence and Languedoc) became embroiled in the Punic Wars and all of Gaul was subsequently brought under Roman control by Julius Caesar, despite the opposition of Gallic leader Vercingetorix. The region of southern France was brought into Roman control and became the province of Gallia Narbonensis.

The Roman cities of Gaul

The Romans brought a new urban culture to France, introducing impressive civic architecture including classical style temples, theatres, amphitheatres, baths and aqueducts. Many Celtic speakers found advancement and inclusion in the new administration and adopted the culture ways of the Empire.

Daily life in Roman Gaul

The Romans introduced a new way of life but to what extent did the Gaul’s adopt a Roman style of life? This lecture will examine the Celtic heritage which persisted in France by looking at the archaeological evidence for daily life in the countryside. Druidic religion was suppressed from the period of Claudius but many traditional cults persisted.

The end of Roman rule in Gaul

Roman rule in France came to an end with the withdrawal of Roman troops to guard Italy against incursion. Between AD 455 and 476 the invading Visigoths, Burgundians and Franks assumed control of Gaul, heralding an end to Roman society. In AD 486 the Franks defeated the last of the Roman authorities and most of the region later came under the control of the Merovingians, the first kings of proto-France.

Intended Audience

This course will particularly appeal to those interested in the foundations of modern Europe, and the importance of Roman law, architecture, and civilisation in shaping European society.

Delivery Style

This course is delivered as a face-to-face, interactive lecture where questions and open discussion are encouraged.

Recommended Reading

Omrani, B 2017, Caesar’s Footprints: Journeys in Roman Gaul, Head of Zeus, London, UK.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion

What others say.

  • The tutor was very knowledgeable and provided an excellent overview of the subject.
  • Excellent course with lots of fabulous photos to go with the commentary.