CELTS

word, Keltoi, which means barbarians and is properly pronounced as "Kelt" (despite what the Bostonians call their basketball team).  They appear to have been descendants of a variety of European Bronze Age folk mingled with wanderers from central Asia.  The Celts knew how to breed and manage horses, skills learned from their Asiatic forebears and they understood iron technology and were to develop it extensively. The earliest Celtic settlement thus far discovered by archaeologists is a site at Hallstatt in Austria.  As they spread to other parts of Europe they exhibited one major Celtic trait:  inter-tribal fighting--a trait that would ultimately prove to be disastrous in later wars with the Romans and then the Anglo-Saxons.  No one knows when the Celts first began settling in the British Isles, but they were documented there as far back as 333 B.C.  Celtic migration occurred over more

The historical Celts were a diverse group of tribal societies in Iron Age Europe. Proto-Celtic culture formed in the Early Iron Age (1200 BC-400 AD) in Central Europe(Hallstatt period, named for the site in present-day Austria). By the later Iron Age (La Teneperiod), Celts had expanded over a wide range of lands: as far west as Ireland and the Iberian Peninsula, as far east as Galatia (central Anatolia), and as far north as Scotland.

Goidels (Gaels)

Goidel (or Gaidhel) is written and pronounced in English as "Gael."  The Goidels/Gaels were probably the first Celts to come to the British Isles.  They had probably been there for centuries when the Brythons came and drove them back to the west and north.  The Goidels/Gaels had done the same to another people, for when they landed they found a small, darkhaired race inhabiting all the British Isles.  They were the pre-Aryan population of Europe and were possibly related to the ancestors of the Basques in northwest Spain.  These non-Celtic natives were known as Iverians.  After them Ireland was called Ivernia, which was distorted by the Romans into "Hibernia."  The Ivernians of Ireland were never completely eliminated, but gradually

Brythons (Britons)

T h e B ry th o n s ( o r " B rito n s " a n d p ro n o u n ce d " B rith o n s " )  w e re G a u ls fro m w h a t is n o w F ra n ce .   It is fo r th e m th e isla n d o f B rita in is n a m e d .   T h e y sp o k e th e " P - C e ltic " fo rm o f th e C e litc la n g u a g e , w h ich is th e m o th e r o f th e W e lsh , C o rn ish , a n d B re to n la n g u a g e s .

In n o rth e rn B rita in th e S tra th cly d e B rito n s o ccu p ie d th e so u th w e ste rn p a rt o f S co tla n d a n d th e n o rth w e st o f E n g la n d k n o w n a s C u m b ria .   T h e ir ce n te r w a s D u m b a rto n , o r A lclu y d as itwas then called, which means " fortres o f th e B rito n s . " T h e ru le o f th e B rito n s o f S tra th cly d e w a s a t its h e ig h t in th e 7 th ce n tu ry A . D . W h e n th e k in g d o m o f A lb a w a s cre a te d u n d e r K e n n e th M a cA lp in ,

Archaeological evidence

Celts were considered a Central European Iron Age phenomenon, through the cultures of Hallstatt and La Tène. However, archaeological finds from the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures were rare in the Iberian Peninsula, and did not provide enough evidence for a cultural scenario comparable to that of Central Europe. It is considered equally difficult to maintain that the origin of the Peninsular Celts can be linked to the preceding Urnfield culture, leading to a more recent approach that introduces a 'proto-Celtic' substratum and a process of Celticization having its initial roots in the Bronze Age Bell Beaker Culture. The Iron Age Hallstatt (c. 800-475 BC) and La Tene (c. 500-50 BC) cultures are typically associated with Proto-Celtic and Celtic culture. The La Tène culture developed and flourished during the late Iron Age (from 450 BCE to the Roman conquest in the 1st century BCE) in eastern France, Swizerland, Austria southwest Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. It developed out of the Hallstatt culture without any definite cultural break, under the impetus of considerable Mediterranean influence from Greek, and later Etruscan civilizations. A shift of settlement centres took place in the 4th century. The western La Tène culture corresponds to historical Celtic Gaul. Whether this means that the whole of La Tène culture can be attributed to a unified Celtic people is difficult to assess; archaeologists have repeatedly concluded that language, material culture, and political affiliation do not necessarily run parallel. Frey notes that in the 5th century, "burial customs in the Celtic world were

Historical evidence

Polybius published a history of Rome about 150 BC in which he describes the Gauls of Italy and their conflict with Rome. Pausanias in the second century BC says that the Gauls "originally called Celts live on the remotest region of Europe on the coast of an enormous tidal sea". Posidonius described the southern Gauls about 100 BC. Though his original work is lost it was used by later writers such as Strabo. The latter, writing in the early first century AD, deals with Britain and Gaul as well as Hispania, Italy and Galatia. Caesar wrote extensively about his Gallic Wars in 58-51 BC. Diodorus Siculus wrote about the Celts of Gaul and Britain in his first century History.

The Celts left no written record of their early history. The first written mention of them came from their Mediterranean neighbors. To the Greeks, they were known as the Keltoi. Around the year 500 BC, Hecataeus wrote of the trading center Massilia (Marseilles) as being located in the land of the Ligurians, near the land of the Celts. He also mentions a Celtic town in Austria in the present day province of Styria.

Herodotus (ca 484-420BC?) also refers to the Celts at a slightly later date, mentioning in his work, The Histories, that the source of the Danube lays in the land of the Celts. He located the Celts as occupying the lands to the West and North of the Mediterranean, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, the Straits of Gibraltar, in the Danube region, and behind Marseilles. In other words, the Celts were already in the Iberian Peninsula, Aquitaine, and north of the Alps - a sizable portion of Europe. What he didn't know was that they had recently reached Britain, which is known to have had Celtic habitation by 500 BC. (It wasn't until c. 350 that Celts crossed to Ireland.)

Romanisation
U n d e r C a e sa r th e R o m a n s co n q u e re d C e ltic G a u l, a n d fro m C la u d iu s o n w a rd th e R o m a n e m p ire a b so rb e d p a rts o f B rita in . R o m a n lo ca l g o v e rn m e n t o f th e se re g io n s clo se ly m irro re d p re - R o m a n 'trib a l' b o u n d a rie s , a n d a rch a e o lo g ica l fin d s su g g e st n a tiv e in v o lv e m e n t in lo ca l g o v e rn m e n t. L a tin w a s th e o fficia l la n g u a g e o f th e se re g io n s a fte r th e co n q u e sts . T h e n a tiv e p e o p le s u n d e r R o m a n ru le b e ca m e R o m a n ize d a n d k e e n to a d o p t R o m a n w a y s . C e ltic a rt h a d a lre a d y in co rp o ra te d cla ssica l in flu e n ce s , a n d su rv iv in g G a llo - R o m a n p ie ce s in te rp re t cla ssica l su b je cts o r k e e p fa ith w ith o ld tra d itio n s d e sp ite a R o m a n o v e rla y . T h e R o m a n o ccu p a tio n o f G a u l, a n d to a le sse r e x te n t o f B rita in , le d to R o m a n - C e ltic sy n cre tism ( se e R o m a n G a u l, R o m a n B rita in ) . In th e ca se o f th e co n tin e n ta l C e lts , th is e v e n tu a lly re su lte d in a la n g u a g e sh ift to V u lg a r L a tin ( se e a lso G a llo - R o m a n cu ltu re ) , w h ile th e In su la r C e lts re ta in e d th e ir la n g u a g e . H o w e v e r, th e C e lts w e re m a ste r h o rse m e n , w h ich so im p re sse d th e R o m a n s th a t th e y a d o p te d E p o n a , th e C e ltic h o rse g o d d e ss , in to th e ir p a n th e o n . D u rin g a n d a fte r

Warfare and weapons

Principal sites in Roman Britain, with indication of the Celtic tribes. Tribal warfare appears to have been a regular feature of Celtic societies. While epic literature depicts this as more of a sport focused on raids and hunting rather than organised territorial conquest, the historical record is more of tribes using warfare to exert political control and harass rivals, for economic advantage, and in some instances to conquer territory. The Celts were described by classical writers such as Strabo, Livy, Pausanias, and Florus as fighting like "wild beasts", and as hordes. Dionysius said that their "manner of fighting, being in large measure that of wild beasts and frenzied, was an erratic procedure, quite lacking in military science. Thus, at one moment they would raise their swords aloft and smite after the manner of wild boars, throwing the whole weight of their bodies into the blow like hewers of wood or men digging with mattocks, and again they would deliver crosswise blows aimed at no target, as if they intended to cut to pieces the entire bodies of their adversaries, protective armour and all". Such descriptions have been challenged by contemporary historians. Polybius (2.33) indicates that the principal Celtic weapon was a long bladed sword which was used for hacking edgewise rather than stabbing. Celtic warriors are described by Polybius and Plutarch as frequently having to cease fighting in order to straighten their sword blades. This claim has been questioned by some archaeologists, who note that Noric steel, steel produced in Celtic Noricum, was famous in the Roman Empire period and was used to equip the Roman military. However, Radomir Pleiner, in The Celtic Sword (1993) argues that "the metallographic evidence shows that Polybius was right up to a point", as around one third of surviving swords from the period might well have behaved as he describes.

Head hunting

Celts had a reputation as head hunters. According to Paul Jacobsthal, "Amongst the Celts the human head was venerated above all else, since the head was to the Celt the soul, centre of the emotions as well as of life itself, a symbol of divinity and of the powers of the other-world.“ Arguments for a Celtic cult of the severed head include the many sculptured representations of severed heads in La Tène carvings, and the surviving Celtic mythology, which is full of stories of the severed heads of heroes and the saints who carry their decapitated heads, right down to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, where the Green Knight picks up his own severed head after Gawain has struck it off, just as St. Denis carried his head to the top of Montmartre. Diodorus Siculus, in his 1st century History had this to say about Celtic head-hunting: They cut off the heads of enemies slain in battle and attach them to the necks of their horses. The blood-stained spoils they hand over to their attendants and striking up a paean and singing a song of victory; and they nail up these first fruits upon their houses, just as do those who lay low wild animals in certain kinds of hunting. They embalm in cedar oil the heads of the most distinguished enemies, and preserve them carefully in a chest, and display them with pride to strangers, saying that for this head one of their ancestors, or his father, or the man himself, refused the offer of a large sum of money. They say that some of them boast that they refused the weight of the head in gold.

Religion

Polytheism

The Celts had an indigenous polytheistic religion and culture. Many Celtic gods are known from texts and inscriptions from the Roman period, such as Aquae Sulis, while others have been inferred from place names such as Lugdunum (stronghold of Lug). Rites and sacrifices were carried out by priests, known as Druids. The Celts did not see their gods as having a human shape until late in the Iron Age. Celtic shrines were situated in remote areas such as hilltops, groves, and lakes. Celtic religious patterns were regionally variable; however, some patterns of deity forms, and ways of worshiping these deities, appear over a wide geographical and temporal range. The Celts worshipped both gods and goddesses. In general, the gods were deities of particular skills, such as the many-skilled Lugh and Dagda, and the goddesses were associated with natural features, particularly rivers (such as Boann, goddess of the River Boyne). This was not universal, however, as goddesses such as Brighid and The Morrígan were associated with both natural

Celtic Christianity

While the regions under Roman rule adopted Christianity along with the rest of the Roman empire, unconquered areas of Ireland and Scotland moved from Celtic polytheism to Celtic Christianity in the fifth century AD. Ireland was converted under missionaries from Britain, such as Patrick. Later missionaries from Ireland were a major source of missionary work in Scotland, Saxon parts of Britain, and central Europe. The development of Christianity in Ireland and Britain brought an early medieval renaissance of Celtic art between 390 and 1200 AD, developing many of the styles now thought of as typically Celtic, and found throughout much of Ireland and Britain, including the northeast and far north of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland. This Celtic renaissance was ended by the Norman Conquest of Ireland in the late 12th century. Notable works produced during this period include the Book of Kells and the Ardagh Chalice. Antiquarian interest from the 17th century led to the term 'Celt' being extended, and rising nationalism brought Celtic revivals from the 19th century.

By

Oancea Ştefan and Alex Budeanu

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful