Around 177 AD Tolosa Aquitania France, near what is known as south-western France, a traveling merchant sent a personal letter to his brother about his encounter with a zombie:
- “He came from the woods, a man of stinking rot. His gray skin bore many wounds, from which flowed no blood. Upon seeing the screaming child, his body seemed to shake with excitement. His head turn in her direction; his mouth opened in a howling moan… Darius, the old legionary veteran, approached… pushing the terrified mother aside, he grabbed the child with one arm, and brought his gladius around with the other. The creature’s head fell to his feet, and rolled downhill before the rest of his body followed… Darius insisted they wear leather coverings as they pitched the body into the fire… the head, still moving in a disgusting bite, was fed to the flames.”
This passage should be taken as the typical Roman attitude toward the living dead: no fear, no superstition, just another problem requiring a practical solution. This was the last record of an attack during the Roman Empire. Subsequent outbreaks were neither combated with such efficiency nor recorded with such clarity.
The Romans began their conquest of southern Gaul (later known as the Provincia) in 125 BC. In 118 BC they founded the colony of Narbo Martius (Narbonne, the Mediterranean city nearest to inland Toulouse) and made contact with the Tolosates, noted for their wealth and the position of their capital for trade with the Atlantic. Tolosa allied with the Romans, who established a fort on the plain north of the city (a key position near the border of independent Aquitania) but otherwise left Tolosa semi-independent.
In 109 BC the Germanic Cimbri tribe descended the Rhône Valley, invaded the Provincia and defeated the Romans, whose power was shaken along the recently conquered Mediterranean coast. The Tolosates rebelled against Rome, killing the Roman garrison, before Rome recovered and defeated the invaders. In 106 BC, Quintus Servilius Caepio was sent to reconquer and punish Tolosa. With the aid of Tolosates who remained loyal to Rome, he captured the city and the wealth of its temples and shrines.