Ch 01 Tribes and Legions

Celtic Tribes

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CHAPTER I: TRIBES & LEGIONS

SECTION 2: CELTIC TRIBES
 
THE FIRST WAVE OF CELTIC INVADERS ENTERED BRITAIN AFTER 700 BC, PROBABLY FROM THE UPPER RHINELAND. 

CELTS WERE TALL AND FAIRHAIRED. THEY WERE WARLIKE TRIBES, WHICH OVERRAN MEDITERRANEAN CIVILISATION, MUCH AS THE LATER TEUTONS WERE TO OVERRUN THE ROMAN EMPIRE.

THEIR KNOWLEDGE OF THE PRODUCTION OF WEAPONS WAS FAR SUPERIOR. IT GAVE THEM THE EDGE.

THE LEAF SHAPED SWORD REPLACED THE DAGGER AND KNIVES OF THE EARLY AND MID BRONZE AGE.

ABOUT 390 BC, CELTIC TRIBES SACKED ROME AND SET UP A KINGDOM ON THE FERTLIE PLAINS OF LOMBARDY.

THERE WERE MOVEMENTS OF LARGE TRIBES, COMPOSED OF FREE WARRIORS UNDER TRIBAL CHIEFS AND ACCOMPANIED BY CONSIDERABLE NUMBERS OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN.

THEY WERE MIGRANTS RATHER THAN RAIDING BANDS, AND THEIR OBJECTIVE WAS CONQUEST AND SETTLEMENT RATHER THAN PLUNDER.

IN BRITAIN, CELTIC INVADERS COMPRISED THE GOIDELS AND GAELS AND LATER THE BRYTHONS, WHO LEARNED THE USE OF IRON.

THEY SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE SOUTHWEST INTO WALES AND IRELAND BUT ALSO THE HILLY PENNINES.

THEY BLENDED IN WITH THE IBERIANS OF THE SOUTHWEST, BUT IT WAS THE CELTS WHO SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE BRITISH ISLES.

THEIR ORGANISATION WAS TRIBAL, BUT DEVELOPED, EVENTUALLY INTO FEUDALISM. THE ROMAN INVASION WAS MERELY AN INTERRUPTION IN THIS PROCESS.

KINSHIPS OR ENLARGED FAMILIES JOINED TOGETHER FOR ECONOMIC NECESSITY, AND, AS THEY WERE MAINLY PASTORAL PEOPLE, THEY PRACTISED A CRUDE AGRICULTURE BASED ON THE HEAVY PLOUGH DRAWN BY FOUR OR, MORE COMMONLY, EIGHT OXEN.

THE PLOUGH WAS THE TECHNICAL KEY TO HOW MUCH LAND COULD BE WORKED, SO KINSHIP LAND WAS DIVIDED INTO ADULT MALE UNITS. HOWEVER, PLOUGHING WAS A COMMUNAL AFFAIR.

AS THE POPULATION GREW, FAMILIES SPLIT OFF AND FORMED OTHER KINSHIP OR ENLARGED FAMILY UNITS.

THERE WAS NO LACK OF LAND, THOUGH THERE MIGHT HAVE BEEN A SHORTAGE OF CLEARED LAND.

THE CELTS USED THE PLOUGH, WHILE THE IBERIANS PRACTISED TERRACED FARMING, BOTH SCRATCHING AT THE SOIL.

WHILE THE CELTIC TRIBES CANNOT BE DESCRIBED AS CLASSLESS, DIVISIONS WERE NOT SHARPLY MARKED OR OF DECISIVE IMPORTANCE.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHIEF AND FREE TRIBESMAN WAS ONE OF DEGREE RATHER THAN OF KIND AND SUBJECTION OF THE NATIVE POPULATION SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN THE MAIN CLASS DIVISION.

THE TECHNIQUE OF PRODUCTION WAS TOO CRUDE FOR SLAVERY TO BE ECONOMICAL.

WE KNOW FAMILIES LIVED SIDE BY SIDE IN FREE AND UNFREE HAMLETS.

THE NATIVE POPULATION WAS EXPLOITED BY CHIEFS AND LANDLORDS, WHO EMERGED AFTER SETTLEMENTS HAD DEVELOPED.

THE BASIS OF THE GROWING POWER OF THE CHIEFS WAS THE EXPLOITATION OF THE LARGE SEMI SERVILE CLASS. THIS DIVISION WAS MUCH SHARPER THAN THAT WHICH EXISTED BETWEEN CHIEF AND FREE TRIBESMEN.

THE COMING OF THE BELGAE MARKED AN IMPORTANT STAGE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF CELTIC BRITAIN DUE TO THEIR ABILITY TO DEVELOP AGRICULTURE AND CORN GROWING IN PARTICULAR.

THE TOWNS OF ST ALBANS AND COLCHESTER SPRANG UP, THOUGH NOTHING BETTER THAN STOCKADED VILLAGES.

THE BELGAE KEPT A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE GAULS AND TRADED EXTENSIVELY.

WITH THIS CAME THE EARLIEST NATIVE COINED MONEY. WHILE THE BRYTHONS HAD SMALL IRON BARS, GOLD COINS WERE NOW STRUCK, BUT IT IS CURIOUS THAT THESE COINS BECAME EVER MORE CRUDE WITH EACH NEW MINTING.

LATER, NO GOLD COINS WERE STRUCK BETWEEN THE END OF ROMAN OCCUPATION AND THE REIGN OF EDWARD III.

WITH THE GROWTH OF AGRICULTURE, TRADE AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF TOWNS, POWERFUL CHIEFS BEGAN TO CLAIM KINGSHIPS OVER WIDE AREAS, AND, AT THE TIME OF CAESAR’S INVASION IN 53 BC, SOUTH EAST BRITAIN WAS, IN THEORY, SUBJECT TO A CERTAIN CASSIVELLAUNUS (CHIEFTAIN) WHOSE CAPITAL WAS COLCHESTER.

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