For almost a century Gaul submitted peacefully to the new yoke; for a moment in A.D. 68, and again in 71, revolt flared under Vindex and Civilis; but the people gave scant support to these movements, and the love of liberty yielded to the enjoyment of prosperity, security, and peace. Under the Pax Romana Gaul became one of the richest parts of the Empire. Rome marveled at the wealth of the Gallic nobles who entered the Senate under Claudius, and a century later Florus contrasted the flourishing economy of Gaul with the decline of Italy. Forests were cleared, swamps were drained, agriculture was improved even to the introduction of a mechanical reaper, and the grape and the olive spread into every canton of Gaul.
Already in the first century Pliny and Columella praised the wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux. There were large estates tilled by serfs and slaves and owned by the forerunners of medieval feudal lords; but there were also many small proprietors, and wealth was more evenly distributed in ancient Gaul, as in modern France, than in almost any other civilized state. Progress was especially rapid in industry. By A.D. 200 Gallic potters and ironworkers were stealing the markets of Germany and the West from Italy, Gallic weavers were doing the largest textile business in the Empire, and the factories of Lyons were turning out not only commercial glass, but wares of artistic excellence. Industrial techniques were handed down from father to son and formed a precious part of the classical heritage.
Over 13,000 miles of road, built or improved by Roman engineers, teemed with transport and trade. Enriched with this expanded economic life, the towns of ancient Celtica became the cities of Roman Gaul. In Aquitania the capital, Burdigala (Bordeaux), was one of the busiest of Atlantic ports; Limonum (Limoges), Avaricum (Bourges), and Augustonemetum (Clermont-Ferrand) were already rich; the last paid Zenodotus 400,000 sesterces for a colossus of Mercury. In Gallia Narbonensis there were so many cities that Pliny described it as “more like Italy than a province.”
Farthest west was Tolosa (Toulouse), famous for its schools. Narbo (Narbonne), capital of the province, was in our first century the greatest city of Gaul, the chief port of exit for Gallic goods to Italy and Spain; “here,” Sidonius Apollinaris would say, “are walls, promenades, taverns, arches, porticoes, a forum, a theater, temples, baths, markets, meadows, lakes, a bridge, and the sea.” Farther east, on the great Via Domitia from Spain to Italy, lay Nemausus (Nimes). Its pretty Maison Carree was raised by Augustus and the town to commemorate his grandsons Lucius and Caius Caesar; its inner colonnade is lamentably sunk into the cella wall, but its free Corinthian columns are as lovely as any in Rome. The amphitheater, which seated 20,000, is still the scene of periodical pageantry.
The Roman aqueduct that brought Nimes fresh water became in time the Pont du Gard, or Bridge of the Gard River; standing today as a gigantic ruin in the rugged countryside beyond the city, its massive lower arches contrast to fine effect with the smaller arches above them to make the structure a revealing witness of Rome’s engineering art. Eastward on the Mediterranean, at the mouth of the Rhone, Caesar founded Arelate (Arles), in the hope that it would replace rebellious Massalia as a ship-building center and port. Massalia (Marseilles), already old when Caesar was born, remained Greek in language and culture until his death. Through its harbor Hellenic agriculture, arboriculture, viticulture, and culture had entered Gaul; here, above all, western Europe exchanged its goods for those of the classic world.