Map of the Gaulish tribes and regions of Gaul (58 BC)
Pictones coinage, 5th-1st century BC.

The Pictones were a tribe inhabiting a region along the Bay of Biscay in what is now western France, along the south bank of the Loire.[1] During the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD), the Pictones were included in the larger province of Gallia Aquitania, along with most of western Gaul. They gave their name to the Roman appellation of Poitiers - Limonum Pictonum / Pictavi,[2] as well as to the modern region of Poitou.

Prior to Roman rule

Pictones coin depicting warrior 1st century BC.

The Pictones minted coins from the end of the 2nd century BC. The tribe was first noted in written sources when encountered by Julius Caesar. Caesar depended on their shipbuilding skills for his fleet on the Loire.[3] Their chief town Lemonum, the Celtic name of modern-day Poitiers (Poitou),[4] is located on the south bank of the Liger. Ptolemy mentions a second town, Ratiatum (modern Rezé).[5]

The political organization of the region was modeled on the royal Celtic system. Duratios was king of the Pictones during the Roman conquest, but his power waned thanks to the poor skill of his generals. However, the Pictones frequently aided Julius Caesar in naval battles, particularly with the naval victory over the Veneti on the Armorican peninsula.

During and after Roman rule

Coin of the Pictones.

The Pictones had felt threatened by the migration of the Helvetians toward the territory of the Santones and supported the intervention of Caesar in 58 BC. Though fiercely independent, they collaborated with Caesar, who noted them as one of the more civilized tribes. Nevertheless, 8000 men were sent to aid Vercingetorix, the chieftain who led the Gaulish rebellion in 52 BC. This act divided the Pictones and the region was the location of a later uprising, especially around Lemonum. This was later quelled by legate Gaius Caninius Rebilus and finally by Caesar himself.

The Pictones benefited from Roman peace, notably through many urban constructions such as aqueducts and temples. A thick wall built in the 2nd century AD encircles the city of Lemonum and is one of the distinguishing architectural forms of Gaulish antiquity. However, the Pictones were not Romanized in depth. Lemonum quickly adopted Christianity in the first two centuries AD.

The region was known for its timber resources and occasionally traded with the Roman province of Transalpine Gaul. Additionally, the Pictones traded with the British Isles from the harbor of Ratiatum (Rezé), which served as an important port linking Gaul and Roman Britain.

See also


  1. Ptolemy, Geography ii.6 (Lacus Curtius on-line translation); Strabo, Geography, Book IV, Chapter 2.
  2. Limonum Pictonum / Pictavi = Civ. Pictavorum
  3. Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico iii.11.
  4. The c, in Poictou and Poictevin, was often retained into early modern times.
  5. Ptolemy, Geography ii.6.


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