History of Toulouse - Before 118 BC: Pre-Roman Times

Before 118 BC: Pre-Roman Times

Archaeological evidence dates human settlement in Toulouse to the 8th century BC. The location was very advantageous, at a place where the Garonne River bends westward toward the Atlantic Ocean and can be crossed easily. It was a focal point for trade between the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Immediately north of these hills was a large plain suitable for agriculture. People gathered on the hills overlooking the river, south of the plain, 9 kilometers south of today's downtown Toulouse. The name of the city was Tolosa. Researchers today agree that the name is probably Aquitanian, related to the old Basque language, but the meaning is unknown. The name of the city has remained almost unchanged over centuries despite Celtic, Roman and Germanic invasions, which is rare for French cities.

The first inhabitants seem to have been Aquitanians, of whom little is known. Later came Iberians from the south, who, like the Aquitanians, were non-Indo-European people. In the 3rd century BC there came a Celtic Gallic tribe called the Volcae Tectosages from Belgium or southern Germany, the first Indo-European people to appear in the region. They settled in Tolosa and interbred with the local people. Their Gaulish language became predominant. By 200 BC Tolosa is attested to be the capital of the Volcae Tectosages (coins found), which C. Julius Caesar later called Tolosates in his famous account of Gallic wars (De Bello Gallico, 1.10), singular Tolosas. Archeologists say Tolosa was one of the most important cities in Gaul, and certainly it was famed in pre-Roman times for being the wealthiest one. There were many gold and silver mines nearby, and the offerings to the holy shrines and temples in Tolosa had accumulated a tremendous wealth in the city.

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