LONG, long ago the land which we now call France was
Gaul was much larger than France is to-day, although
north, south, and west France has the same boundaries
now as Gaul had in the far-off days of which I am going
to tell you.
What these boundaries are, many a geography lesson will
have shown. But, lest you have forgotten, take a map of
Europe, and you will see that on the north France has
to protect her the English Channel, on the south she is
guarded by the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees, while on
her west roll the waters of the Atlantic. These
mountains and waters were also the bulwarks of ancient
It was on the east that Gaul stretched far beyond the
boundaries of France, reaching to the Alps and to the
swift-flowing river Rhine.
And it is of Gaul, as it was in those far-off days many
centuries B.C., that I wish first to tell you.
The large tract of land called Gaul was then little
more than a dreary waste of moor and marsh, with great
forests, larger and gloomier than any you have ever
Through these forests and marshlands terrible beasts
prowled—wolves, bears, wild oxen. Herds of swine,
too, fierce as any wolves, roamed through the marshes.
 had been tamed enough to answer to their
As for the people who lived in Gaul in those days, they
were almost as savage as the wild beasts. Half naked,
they too, like the wolves and bears, wandered through
the marshes and forests to seek for food.
They were tall and strong, these huntsmen, with blue
eyes and yellow hair. If you had met a savage Gallic
warrior, you would have thought he looked wild and
fierce enough to frighten any foe. But, you know,
people do not often see themselves as others see them.
That is why the Scottish poet Burns sang—
"O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us."
These warriors with blue eyes and yellow hair thought
that they did not look at all fierce, and so they would
often stain their yellow locks red, to make themselves
appear, as they thought, terrible to their foes.
Although they wore few clothes, the Gauls were fond of
ornaments, and often they adorned themselves with heavy
chains and collars of gold.
Stalwart warriors as well as huntsmen were these
yellow-haired men. Different tribes or clans, led each
by his own chief, would hunt one another and fight to
In these far-off days the clans often fought to win a
piece of land on which another clan had settled and
built huts. It is true that the huts were rough and
comfortless, yet they were the only shelter these wild
folk knew from the storm and cold. Very often, too, it
was bitterly cold. In winter the rivers were frozen for
weeks at a time. They were frozen so hard that they
were used as highways, and heavy wagons with great
loads could be rolled or drawn across the solid ice
without a fear that it would give way.
The Gauls built their huts of wood and clay, covering
them with straw and with branches cut from the great
 trees of the forests. They were huddled close
together, and round them the Gauls threw up a rough
wall of timber, earth stone. This wall was meant to
protect the town or encampment, as it was called, from
the attacks of an unfriendly tribe.
Yet when the war-cry was heard drawing nearer and
nearer to the little settlement, the people, after all,
did not always wait to defend their town.
It was so simple to build other huts, that sometimes,
at the sound of the terrible war-whoop, the whole clan
would flee for greater safety into the depths of the
Here, to be ready for such a flight, they had already
felled trees, which they now set to work, in grim
earnest, to pile up into an enormous barricade between
themselves and the foe that was all the while drawing
After the battle was over, the victorious clan held a
great feast, to which they brought the prisoners whom
they had taken in the fight. While their victors danced
wild dances and shouted triumphant war-songs, the poor
prisoners looked on with sullen faces and with heavy
hearts, for well they knew what would now befall them.
They would be tied to trees and burned, or, if they
escaped that cruel fate, it would perhaps be to be
flogged to death. Their conquerors were pitiless, the
prisoners knew it well. They might even be sacrificed
to the gods. For the Gauls never doubted that their
gods demanded human sacrifices.
But though the tribes which wandered now here, now
there, throughout the land of Gaul were wild and
warlike, yet already they had priests to whom they
yielded obedience as well as reverence.
These priests were called Druids. You have read of
Druids in the early history of your own land, and you
may have seen some of the temples in which they
worshipped long years ago. The temples were but simple
circles of Stones, open to the blue sky and fresh winds
 These stones are still to be seen in England and in
Usually the Druids were grave old men with long white
beards, who were believed to be very wise. They were
not often seen, for they dwelt in the depths of some
sacred wood, where, silent and alone, they sought to
learn the will of their gods.
But once every year the Druids, clad in their long
white robes, with sickles in their hands, would summon
the wandering tribes together, and go with them into
the forest. There, under the oak trees, they would
gather. The trees themselves were cold and bare, but
they were sacred, and upon them grew the mistletoe with
its green leaves and pure white berries.
The mistletoe as well as the oak was sacred to the
gods, and with their sickles the priests cut it down
and carried it in triumph to their temples.
The Druids were not only the teachers of the people,
they were also their poets and priests. It was from
them that the Gauls learned to sacrifice their
prisoners to the gods.
From the Druids, also, the Gallic warriors heard that
when they were slain in battle, they would live again
in some other world the same life that they had lived
When they heard this, the warriors said, "In this other
world we must have our slaves, our horses and our dogs,
to wait upon us as they have done here. Our swords and
our shields, also, we will not leave behind us."
Thus it was that when a great warrior was buried, his
slave, his horse, his dog, each was buried alive with
his master. His sword and shield also were not
forgotten. And the white-robed Druids who ruled the
Gauls in these olden days, though they had the power,
did not forbid this cruel rite.