A stronghold defended by Vercingetorix and the Gallic coalition, Alesia was the location of a decisive military action during the Gallic Wars in 52 BCE, won by Julius Caesar.

In the 19th century, the location of this stronghold was the subject of much debate. Excavations carried out by the Commission de Topographie des Gaules between 1861 and 1862 made it possible to locate the site at Alise-Sainte-Reine (Côte-d’Or).


Anthropology is the general study of man as an individual or as part of a collective existence, of his physical and spiritual relationship with the world and his variations in space and time.


Bibracte was an oppidum located in the Morvan region of France. It was the capital of the Celtic people the Aedui. Jacques Gabriel Bulliot, a CTG correspondent, led excavations there in the second half of the 19th century.


Casting is a method for reproducing objects. There are three types: industrial casting, 3D casting and the casting of artworks and artefacts. The latter form, used and perfected by Abel Maître at the musée gallo-romain, relies on the use of two-part plaster moulds. Find out more about the art of casting.


A stronghold of the Carnutes, the oppidum Cenabum is located in modern Orléans.

In the 19th century, some scholars, including those at the Commission de Topographie des Gaules, mistakenly located the oppidum in Giens, based on another spelling of Cenabum, Genabum.

Civil List

The Civil List was the annual budget agreed by the legislature for the monarch, whether a king or an emperor, for their personal needs and those of the Maison de l’Empereur.

As did all French sovereigns since Louis XVI, during his regime Napoleon III received a financial allowance. He also had several palaces located in Paris and elsewhere in France; the gardemeuble de la couronne (responsible for furnishings, art and other moveable objects in the royal palaces); the Gobelins, Beauvais and Sèvres manufactories; and the musées du Louvre, du Luxembourg, de Versailles and de Saint-Germain.

Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques

The Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques (CTHS) is a French research institution created by a ruling of the Minister of Education, François Guizot, on 18 July 1834. Its aim was to “lead the research and publication of unseen documents with the help of funds voted for by the state budget”. One of its missions was to promote the development of the activities of scholarly societies across the country.

To find out more about the history of the committee, see the CTHS site.

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum

The Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL) was a collection of inscriptions from across the Roman Empire. Launched in 1853 by Theodor Mommsen, the project was backed by the Berlin Academy. The corpus was eventually published in 16 parts, each divided into several volumes, as a collection of all known inscriptions, organised primarily by province. Today it remains an important reference work in epigraphy, with additions since being made to complete its content.

Dépôt de la Guerre

Created in 1688 by François Michel Le Tellier de Louvois, the Dépôt de la Guerre was an office which produced and conserved military maps, and as such had an important role in topography and cartography. These maps, which needed to give readers detailed knowledge of terrain in case of attack, were particularly precise.

Under Napoleon III the Dépôt was heavily involved in the work of the Commission de Topographie des Gaules. Antoine-Lucien Blondel (military Colonel and director of the Dépôt) and Charles-Raymond de Coynart (Major) played particularly active roles.

Dictionnaire archéologique de la Gaule - Époque celtique

The Dictionnaire archéologique de la Gaule was a work begun by the Commission de la Topographie des Gaules. The CTG’s significant contribution was to have drawn up the first archaeological map of Gaul during a period of intense discovery.

The first volume appeared in 1875. In 1894, Émile Cartailhac took over the project. In 1919, three new volumes were published covering the letters G to L. From 1921 Salomon Reinach, Camille Jullian and Émile Esperandieu oversaw the dictionary’s completion. The final volume was published in 1924.


Epigraphy is the study of inscriptions made on durable materials such as stone, clay or metal. This science involves dating inscriptions, placing them in their cultural context, translating them and deducing relevant information from them. 


Estampage is a technique for the reproduction of inscriptions in which damp sheets of paper are placed on the surface of stone in order to reproduce the relief. The imprint obtained is then dried and can be conserved. Estampage was one of the new techniques used by the Commission de Topographie des Gaules for the study of inscriptions.

Gallia Belgica

Gallia Belgica is one of the three provinces cited by Julius Caesar during his conquest of the Gauls.

Gallia Lugdunensis

Gallia Lugdunensis was a province created by Augustus following Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul.

Gallia Narbonensis

Gallia Narbonensis was a Roman province founded in 118 BCE.

Historical geography

Historical geography is the study of man in time and space. In the 19th century, Auguste Honoré Longnon, an archivist working with the Commission de Topographie des Gaules, defined the scope of this discipline. His work was based on the concept of borders, both of a society and of a regime, during a given period.


In the early 1860s, this commune in the Ain region was one of the sites considered to be ancient Alesia.

Julius Caesar
100-44 BCE

Julius Caesar was a politician and military leader in ancient Rome. He is known for having conquered non-Roman Gaul from 58 BCE, as proconsul. In the centuries that followed he was seen as a great example of a conqueror and strategist.

He was particularly admired by French military figures of the 19th century and by Napoleon III, who, thanks to the work of the Commission de Topographie des Gaules, its topographical investigations and archaeological excavations, was able to learn about the different stages of Caesar’s conquest.

Musée du Luxembourg

In 1750, the musée du Luxembourg (which no longer exists) was the first museum of art to open its collections to the public. From 1818 it hosted the works of contemporary artists appointed by the Académie des Beaux-Arts and whose works had previously been exhibited at its Salon. In the 19th century, the musée du Luxembourg was therefore the academic museum par excellence.

Musée gallo-romain/Musée d’Archéologie nationale

The archaeological museum created by Napoleon III on 8 March 1862 was officially called the musée gallo-romain. However, the collections in its care quickly expanded beyond the Gallo-Roman period. Therefore, it was also known by 19th-century scholars as the musée d’antiquités gauloises, gallo-romaines et mérovingiennes; the musée celtique; and very often as the musée de Saint-Germain. In 1870, Alexandre Bertrand, the museum’s director, proposed calling it the Musée des Antiquités nationales, a name which was adopted soon after.

Since 2005, it has been called the musée d'Archéologie nationale and is very often referred to by the acronym MAN.

Napoléon III

Following the coup d’état of 2 December 1851 and the subsequent plebiscite, Napoleon III became Emperor of France in 1852. Passionate about Julius Caesar, the nephew of Napoleon I began a biography of the Roman general. It was in this context that Napoleon III formed the Commission de Topographie des Gaules and later the musée gallo-romain. These two institutions were to be the foundations of modern archaeology and continued their activities beyond the fall of the Second Empire (1870).

National archaeology

National archaeology is an archaeological field of study and research which particularly developed in the 19th century with the aim of identifying the different cultures to have occupied a particular territory. Between 1858 and 1879 the Commission de Topographie des Gaules contributed to this field, either by funding or participating in excavations. Today our knowledge of national archaeology continues to increase thanks to discoveries made during preventive excavations.


Numismatics is the study of old coins and medals. It is frequently used to date archaeological sites and to evaluate their different periods of occupation.
Through their work, Anatole de Barthélemy and Félicien de Saulcy, members of the Commission de Topographie des Gaules, contributed to developing a method for the analysis of coins and medals and to building a collection for the musée gallo-romain.


Palaeontology is the study of past lives through plant and animal fossils and organisms which existed during different geological periods.


A Gallic people based in the modern Paris region, whose main oppidum was called Lutetia. An abundance of quality coinage attests to their wealth, obtained from the control of traffic on the Seine.


Philology is the linguistic, historical and literary study of an ancient language. Its practice saw a significant increase in the 19th century. This coincided with the development of archaeology with the aim of better understanding ancient peoples.

Physical anthropology

In the 19th century, physical anthropology (also known as biological anthropology) focussed on the study of the physiology and morphology of different human groups. In France, Ernest Hamy was a key figure in this area of ethnology. In 1877, Hamy became a member of Commission de Topographie des Gaules. In 1878, he was appointed the first curator of the musée d'ethnographie du Trocadéro in Paris.


Under the ancien régime, this was a summary (a record or list) of all the assets and funds of an abbey, diocese or province.

Promenades au musée de Saint-Germain

Promenades au musée de Saint-Germain was a guide published in 1869, two years after the museum opened to the public. Written by Gabriel de Mortillet, the guide presented the museum’s collections and reflected the museum’s museographical objectives.


Traditionally the period during which populations had not developed writing themselves, but are known thanks to the writing of other contemporary populations. Today specialists consider that protohistory is the period following the Palaeolithic period and preceding that in which physical written documents were produced by a culture. This rupture took place in the Neolithic period, a time of major economic and social change.

Recueil des Inscriptions de Gaule

The idea of producing a collection of inscriptions from Gaul was first introduced in France in 1835. After several abandoned starts and various ministerial changes, in 1849 the project was entrusted to Léon Renier. The project really took off in 1854, when the Berlin Academy announced its Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum initiative. The work was divided between Léon Renier for Gallo-Roman pagan inscriptions, Ferdinand de Guilhermy for medieval inscriptions and Edmond Le Blant (1818-1897) for Christian inscriptions. The goal was to publish a collection of inscriptions, beginning with Gallia Narbonensis and then continuing with the rest of Gaul. In 1866, an agreement was signed confirming Renier’s collaboration with the German project. However, the deterioration in diplomatic relations and the 1870 war put an end to this agreement. Despite the relaunch of the project in the 1870s and the advance of the German corpus, the collection of pagan inscriptions by Renier was never published, unlike the collections of Christian and medieval inscriptions, which were both published.

Revue archéologique

Founded by Jules Gailhabaud, the Revue archéologique first appeared in 1844. This coincided with a revival in interest for remains from the past and an increasing number of archaeological discoveries. Initially focused on classical antiquity, its scope gradually expanded to other regions.

In 1861, the review published images of arms found at the ferme de l'Épineuse, near Alise-Sainte-Reine, and an extract from the Moniteur universel newspaper telling the story of Napoleon III’s visit to the site. From 1863 the review was edited by Alexandre Bertrand, secretary of the Commission de Topographie des Gaules and director of the musée gallo-romain, today the musée d'Archéologie nationale.

Société archéologique de Constantine

Founded in 1852, the objective of this society was to collect, conserve and report on historic and archaeological monuments in the province of Constantine, Algeria. Its founding members included Auguste Cherbonneau, General Creuly and Léon Renier.

Société de Géographie

The Société de Géographie is a French scholarly society founded in 1821. Its objective is to carry out geographical work, including expeditions, and to promote French geographical work elsewhere.

To find out more, go to:

The Conquest of Gaul

The Conquest of Gaul (also known as Commentaries on the Gallic War in English or Commentarii de Bello Gallico in its original Latin) is a text by Julius Caesar in which he recounted the battles which took place on Gallic territory from 58 to 52 BCE. This text was the primary source for the Commission de Topographie des Gaules when it began its work.

The Maison de l’Empereur

The Ministry of the Maison de l’Empereur (2 December 1852-17 July 1869), later the Ministry of the Maison de l’Empereur and the Beaux-Arts, was responsible for presenting budgets, managing the Crown’s income, appointing ministerial staff (excluding those high offices appointed by the emperor), managing expenses, revising and approving agreements, managing the Crown’s personal allowance and the emperor and empress’s private estate, promoting the arts and making proposals to the emperor for pensions to be covered by the Civil List. The Ministry of the Maison de l’Empereur was based in the Louvre, close to the emperor.

Titus Labienus
100-45 BCE

Titus Labienus was a Roman general and one of Caesar’s most important lieutenants during the Gallic Wars. At the head of four legions, he defeated the Gallic army led by Camulogene in the battle of Lutetia in 52 BCE.


Topography is the science which allows us to measure, then to represent on a plan or map, reliefs and visible details on land, whether natural or man-made.


Uxellodunum was the last Gallic stronghold placed under siege by Julius Caesar in 51 BCE.

The oppidum of Uxellodunum belonged to the Cadurques and the question of its location was the focus of much scientific debate during the Second Empire. It is located in modern Le Puy-d'Issolud, in Vayrac (Lot).