Ch 01 Tribes and Legions

Celts Part 1

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Celts Part 1

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Celts (pronounced /ˈkɛlts/ or /ˈsɛlts/, see names of the Celts) were a diverse group of tribal societies in Iron Age and Roman-era Europe who spoke Celtic languages.[1]

The earliest archaeological culture commonly accepted as Celtic, or rather Proto-Celtic, was the central European Hallstatt culture (ca. 800-450 BC), named for the rich grave finds in Hallstatt, Austria.[2] By the later La Tène period (ca. 450 BC up to the Roman conquest), this Celtic culture had expanded over a wide range of regions, whether by diffusion or migration: to the British Isles (Insular Celts), the Iberian Peninsula (Celtiberians, Celtici), much of Central Europe, (Gauls) and following the Gallic invasion of the Balkans in 279 BC as far east as central Anatolia (Galatians).[3]

The earliest directly attested examples of a Celtic language are the Lepontic inscriptions, beginning from the 6th century BC.[4] Continental Celtic languages are attested only in inscriptions and place-names. Insular Celtic is attested from about the 4th century AD in ogham inscriptions, although it is clearly much earlier. Literary tradition begins with Old Irish from about the 8th century. Coherent texts of Early Irish literature, such as the Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), survive in 12th-century recensions. According to the theory of John T. Koch and others, the Tartessian language may have been the earliest directly attested Celtic language with the Tartessian written script used in the inscriptions based on a version of a Phoenician script in use around 825 BC.[5]

By the early 1st millennium AD, following the expansion of the Roman Empire and the Great Migrations (Migration Period) of Germanic peoples, Celtic culture had become restricted to the British Isles (Insular Celtic), and the Continental Celtic languages ceased to be widely used by the 6th century.

Insular Celtic culture diversified into that of the Gaels, the Welsh and the Bretons of the medieval and modern periods. A modern "Celtic identity" was constructed in the context of the Romanticist Celtic Revival, mostly in Great Britain and Ireland.

Names and terminology

The first recorded use of the word Celts (Κελτοί) to refer to an ethnic group was by Hecataeus of Miletus, the Greek geographer, in 517 BC,[6] when writing about a people living near "Massilia" (Marseille).[7] The Latin name "Celtus" (pl. "Celti" or "Celtae") seems to have been borrowed from Greek (Κέλτης pl. Κέλται or Κελτός pl. Κελτοί}), according to testimony of Caesar itself taken from a native Celtic tribal name.[8] Pliny the Elder referred it as being used in Lusitania as a tribal surname[9] which epigraphic findings confirm.[10][11]

Latin "Gallus" might originally be from a Celtic ethnic or tribal name, perhaps borrowed into Latin during the Celtic expansions into Italy of the early 5th century BC. Its root may be the Common Celtic "*galno", meaning power or strength. Galli and Galatae most probably go with Old Irish gal 'boldness, ferocity' and Welsh gallu 'to be able, power'.[12] The Greek "Galatai" seems to be based on the same root, borrowed directly from the same hypothetical Celtic source which gave us "Galli" (the suffix "-atai" is an Ancient Greek inflection).[13] (see Galatia in Anatolia)

The English word "Celt" is modern, attested from 1707 in the writings of Edward Lhuyd whose work, along with that of other late 17th-century scholars, brought academic attention to the languages and history of these early inhabitants of Great Britain.[14] The English form "Gaul" (first recorded in the 17th century) and "Gaulish" come from the French "Gaule" and "Gaulois", which translate Latin "Gallia" and "Gallus, -icus" respectively. In Old French, the words "gualeis", "galois", "walois" (NF phonetics keeping /w/) had different meanings : Welsh or the Langue d'oïl, etc. On the other hand, the word "Waulle" (NF phonetics keeping /w/) is recorded for the first time in the 13th century to translate the Latin word "Gallia" and then, "gaulois" is recorded for the first time in the 15th century and the scholars use it to translate the Latin words "Gallus" / "Gallicus". The word comes from Germanic *"Walha-". (see Gaul: Name) The English word "Welsh" originates from the word "wælisċ", the Anglo-Saxon form of "walhiska-", the Germanic word for "foreign".[15] or "Celt" (South. German Welsch(e) "Celtic speaker", "French speaker", "Italian speaker"; Old Norse "valskr", pl. "valir" "Gaulish", "French"), that is supposed to be derived of the Celtic tribe's name "Volcae", that is supposed to be derived of the Celtic tribe's name "Volcae",[16] that lived first in the South of Germany and emigrated then to Gaul.[17]

The notion of an identifiable Celtic cultural identity or "Celticity", though problematic, generally centres on language, art and classical texts,[18] though can also include, material artifacts, social organisation, homeland and mythological.[19] Earlier theories were that this indicated a common racial origin but more recent theories are reflective of culture and language rather than race. Celtic cultures seem to have had numerous diverse characteristics but the commonality between these diverse peoples was the use of a Celtic language.[citation needed].

"Celtic" is a descriptor of a family of languages and, more generally, means "of the Celts", or "in the style of the Celts". It has also been used to refer to several archaeological cultures defined by unique sets of artifacts. The link between language and artifact is aided by the presence of inscriptions.[20] (see Celtic (disambiguation) for other applications of the term)

Today, the term Celtic is generally used to describe the languages and respective cultures of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man and Brittany, also known as the Six Celtic Nations. These are the regions where four Celtic languages are still spoken to some extent as mother tongues: Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, and Breton plus two recent revivals, Cornish (one of the Brythonic languages) and Manx (one of the Goidelic languages). There are also attempts to reconstruct the Cumbric language (a Brythonic language from Northwest England and Southwest Scotland). 'Celtic' is also sometimes used to describe regions of Continental Europe that claim a Celtic heritage, but where no Celtic language has survived; these areas include the western Iberian Peninsula, i.e. Portugal, and north-central Spain (Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Castile and León, Extremadura).[21] (see Modern Celts)

"Continental Celts" refers to the Celtic-speaking people of mainland Europe. "Insular Celts" refers to the Celtic-speaking people of the British Isles and their descendants. The Celts of Brittany derive their language from migrating insular Celts from west Britain and so are grouped accordingly.[22]


Overview of the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures.      The core Hallstatt territory (HaC, 800 BC) is shown in solid yellow,      the eventual area of Hallstatt influence (by 500 BC, HaD) in light yellow.      The core territory of the La Tène culture (450 BC) is shown in solid green,      the eventual area of La Tène influence (by 250 BC) in light green. The territories of some major Celtic tribes of the late La Tène period are labeled.

The Celtic languages form a branch of the larger Indo-European family. By the time speakers of Celtic languages enter history around 400 BC, they were already split into several language groups, and spread over much of Western continental Europe, the Iberian peninsula, Ireland and Britain.

Some scholars think that the Urnfield culture of northern Germany and the Netherlands represents an origin for the Celts as a distinct cultural branch of the Indo-European family. This culture was preeminent in central Europe during the late Bronze Age, from ca. 1200 BC until 700 BC, itself following the Unetice and Tumulus cultures. The Urnfield period saw a dramatic increase in population in the region, probably due to innovations in technology and agricultural practices. The Greek historian Ephoros of Cyme in Asia Minor, writing in the 4th century BC, believed that the Celts came from the islands off the mouth of the Rhine and were "driven from their homes by the frequency of wars and the violent rising of the sea".

The spread of iron-working led to the development of the Hallstatt culture directly from the Urnfield (ca. 700 to 500 BC). Proto-Celtic, the latest common ancestor of all known Celtic languages, is considered by this school of thought to have been spoken at the time of the late Urnfield or early Hallstatt cultures, in the early 1st millennium BC. The spread of the Celtic languages to Iberia, Ireland and Britain would have occurred during the first half of the 1st millennium BC, the earliest chariot burials in Britain dating to ca. 500 BC. Over the centuries they developed into the separate Celtiberian, Goidelic and Brythonic languages.

The Hallstatt culture was succeeded by the La Tène culture of central Europe, and during the final stages of the Iron Age gradually transformed into the explicitly Celtic culture of early historical times. Celtic river-names are found in great numbers around the upper reaches of the Danube and Rhine, which led many Celtic scholars to place the ethnogenesis of the Celts in this area.

Diodorus Siculus and Strabo both suggest that the Celtic heartland was in southern France. The former says that the Gauls were to the north of the Celts but that the Romans referred to both as Gauls. Before the discoveries at Hallstatt and La Tene, it was generally considered that the Celtic heartland was southern France, see Encyclopædia Britannica for 1813.

Linguistic evidence

The Proto-Celtic language is usually dated to the early European Iron Age. The earliest records of a Celtic language are the Lepontic inscriptions of Cisalpine Gaul, the oldest of which still predate the La Tène period. Other early inscriptions are Gaulish, appearing from the early La Tène period in inscriptions in the area of Massilia, in the Greek alphabet. Celtiberian inscriptions appear comparatively late, after about 200 BC. Evidence of Insular Celtic is available only from about 400 AD, in the form of Primitive Irish Ogham inscriptions. Besides epigraphical evidence, an important source of information on early Celtic is toponymy.[23]

Archaeological evidence

Before the 19th century, scholars assumed that the original land of the Celts was west of the Rhine, more precisely in Gaul, because it was where Greek and Roman ancient sources, namely Cesar, located the Celts. This view was challenged by Jubainville who placed the land of origin of the Celts east of the Rhine. Jubainville based his arguments on a phrase of Herodotus´ that placed the Celts at the source of the Danube, and argued that Herodotus had meant to place the Celtic homeland in southern Germany. The finding of the prehistoric cemetery of Hallstat in 1846 by Johan Ramsauer and almost ten years later the finding of the archaeological site of La Tène by Hansli Kopp in 1857 draw attention to this area. The concept that the Hallstat and La Tene cultures could be seen not just as chronological periods but as “Culture Groups”, entities composed of people of the same ethnicity and language, started to grow by the end of the 19th century. In the beginning of the 20th century the belief that those “Culture Groups” could be thought in racial or ethnic terms was strongly held by Gordon Childe whose theory was influenced by the writings of Gustaf Kossinna.[24] Along the 20th century the racial ethnic interpretation of La Tene culture rooted much stronger, and any findings of “La Tene culture” and “flat inhumation cemeteries” were directly associated with the celts and the celtic language.[25] The Iron Age Hallstatt (c. 800-475 BC) and La Tène (c. 500-50 BC) cultures are typically associated with Proto-Celtic and Celtic culture.[26]

In various[clarification needed] academic disciplines the Celts were considered a Central European Iron Age phenomenon, through the cultures of Hallstatt and La Tène. However, archaeological finds from the Halstatt and La Tène culture were rare in the Iberian Peninsula, in south western France,northern and western Britain, southern Ireland and Galatia[27][28] 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.[29]

The La Tène culture developed and flourished during the late Iron Age (from 450 BC to the Roman conquest in the 1st century BC) in eastern France, Switzerland, 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 not uniform; rather, localised groups had their own beliefs, which, in consequence, also gave rise to distinct artistic expressions".[30] Thus, while the La Tène culture is certainly associated with the Gauls, the presence of La Tène artefacts may be due to cultural contact and does not imply the permanent presence of Celtic speakers.

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 2nd 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 1st 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 1st-century history.

 Minority views

Martín Almagro Gorbea[31] proposed the origins of the Celts could be traced back to the 3rd millennium BC, seeking the initial roots in the Bell Beaker culture, thus offering the wide dispersion of the Celts throughout western Europe, as well as the variability of the different Celtic peoples, and the existence of ancestral traditions an ancient perspective. More recently, John Koch[5] and Barry Cunliffe[32] have suggested that Celtic origins lie with the Atlantic Bronze Age, roughly contemporaneous with the Hallstatt culture but extending along the Atlantic coast of Europe.


At the dawn of history in Europe, the Celts then living in what is now France were known as Gauls to the Romans. The territory of these peoples probably included the low countries, the Alps and what is now northern Italy. Their descendants were described by Julius Caesar in his Gallic Wars. Eastern Gaul was the centre of the western La Tène culture. In later Iron Age Gaul, the social organization was similar to that of the Romans, with large towns. From the 3rd century BC the Gauls adopted coinage, and texts with Greek characters are known in southern Gaul from the 2nd century.

Greek traders founded Massalia in about 600 BC, with exchange up the Rhone valley, but trade was disrupted soon after 500 BC and re-oriented over the Alps to the Po valley in Italy. The Romans arrived in the Rhone valley in the 2nd century BC and encountered a Gaul that was mostly Celtic-speaking. Rome needed land communications with its Iberian provinces and fought a major battle with the Saluvii at Entremont in 124-123 BC. Gradually Roman control extended, and the Roman Province of Gallia Transalpina was formed along the Mediterranean coast. The remainder was known as Gallia Comata - "Hairy Gaul".

In 58 BC, the Helvetii planned to migrate westward but were forced back by Julius Caesar. He then became involved in fighting the various tribes in Gaul, and by 55 BC, most of Gaul had been overrun. In 52 BC, Vercingetorix led a revolt against the Roman occupation but was defeated at the siege of Alesia and surrendered.

Following the Gallic Wars of 58-51 BC, Caesar's Celtica formed the main part of Roman Gaul. This territory of the Celtic tribes was bounded on the south by the Garonne and on the north by the Seine and the Marne.[33] Place and personal name analysis and inscriptions suggest that the Gaulish Celtic language was spoken over most of what is now France.[34]


Until the end of the 19th century, traditional scholarship dealing with the Celts acknowledged their presence in the Iberian Peninsula[35][36] as a material culture relatable to the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures. Since according to the definition of the Iron Age in the 19th century Celtic populations were rare in Iberia and did not provide a cultural scenario that could easily be linked to that of Central Europe. Three divisions of the Celts of the Iberian Peninsula were assumed to have existed: the Celtiberians in the mountains near the center of the peninsula, the Celtici in the southwest, and the celts in the northwest.[37]

Modern scholarship, however, has clearly proven that Celtic presence and influences were most substantial in what is today Spain and Portugal (with perhaps the highest settlement saturation in Western Europe), particularly in the central, western and northern regions.[38][39] The Celts in Iberia were divided into two main archaeological and cultural groups,[40] even though that division is not very clear:

·                                 One group was spread out along Galicia[41] and the Iberian Atlantic shores. They were made up of the Lusitanians (in Portugal)[42] and the Celtic region that Strabo called Celtica in the southwestern Iberian peninsula,[43] including the Algarve, which was inhabited by the Celtici, the Vettones and Vacceani peoples[44] (of central-western Spain and Portugal), and the Gallaecian, Astures and Cantabrian peoples of the Castro culture of northern and northwestern Spain and Portugal.[45]

·                                 The Celtiberian group of central Spain and the upper Ebro valley.[46] This group originated when Celts (mainly Gauls and some Celtic-Germanic groups) migrated from what is now France and integrated with the local Iberian people.

The origins of the Celtiberians might provide a key to understanding the Celticization process in the rest of the Peninsula. The process of celticization of the southwestern area of the peninsula by the Keltoi and of the northwestern area is, however, not a simple celtiberian question. Recent investigations about the Callaici[47] and Bracari[48] in northwestern Portugal are providing new approaches to understanding Celtic culture (language, art and religion) in western Iberia.[49]

John T. Koch of the University of Wales-Aberystwyth suggested that Tartessian inscriptions of the 8th century BC might already be classified as Celtic. This would mean that Tartessian is the earliest attested trace of Celtic by margin of more than a century.[50]

Alps and Po Valley

It had been known for some time that there was an early, although apparently somewhat limited, Celtic (Lepontic, sometimes called Cisalpine Celtic) presence in Northern Italy since inscriptions dated to the 6th century BC have been found there.

The site of Golasecca, where the Ticino exits from Lake Maggiore, was particularly suitable for long-distance exchanges, in which Golaseccans acted as intermediaries between Etruscans and the Halstatt culture of Austria, supported on the all-important trade in salt.

In 391 BC Celts "who had their homes beyond the Alps streamed through the passes in great strength and seized the territory that lay between the Appennine mountains and the Alps" according to Diodorus Siculus. The Po Valley and the rest of northern Italy (known to the Romans as Cisalpine Gaul) was inhabited by Celtic-speakers who founded cities such as Milan.[51] Later the Roman army was routed at the battle of Allia and Rome was sacked in 390 BC by the Senones.

At the battle of Telamon in 225 BC a large Celtic army was trapped between two Roman forces and crushed.

The defeat of the combined Samnite, Celtic and Etruscan alliance by the Romans in the Third Samnite War sounded the beginning of the end of the Celtic domination in mainland Europe, but it was not until 192 BC that the Roman armies conquered the last remaining independent Celtic kingdoms in Italy.

Eastward expansion

The Celts also expanded down the Danube river and its tributaries. One of the most influential tribes, the Scordisci, had established their capital at Singidunum in 3rd century BC, which is present-day Belgrade, Serbia. The concentration of hill-forts and cemeteries shows a density of population in the Tisza valley of modern-day Vojvodina, Serbia, Hungary and into Ukraine. Expansion into Romania was however blocked by the Dacians.

Further south, Celts settled in Thrace (Bulgaria), which they ruled for over a century, and Anatolia, where they settled as the Galatians (see also: Gallic Invasion of Greece). Despite their geographical isolation from the rest of the Celtic world, the Galatians maintained their Celtic language for at least 700 years. St Jerome, who visited Ancyra (modern-day Ankara) in 373 AD, likened their language to that of the Treveri of northern Gaul.

For Venceslas Kruta, Galatia in central Turkey was an area of dense celtic settlement.

The Boii tribe gave their name to Bohemia, Bologna and possibly Bavaria, and Celtic artefacts and cemeteries have been discovered further east in what is now Poland and Slovakia. A celtic coin (Biatec) from Bratislava's mint is displayed on today's Slovak 5-crown coin.

As there is no archaeological evidence for large scale invasions in some of the other areas, one current school of thought holds that Celtic language and culture spread to those areas by contact rather than invasion.[52] However, the Celtic invasions of Italy and the expedition in Greece and western Anatolia, are well documented in Greek and Latin history.

There are records of Celtic mercenaries in Egypt serving the Ptolemies. Thousands were employed in 283-246 BC and they were also in service around 186 BC. They attempted to overthrow Ptolemy II.

Insular Celts


A large portion of the indigenous populations of Britain and Ireland today may be partially descended from the ancient peoples that have long inhabited these lands, before the coming of Celtic and later Germanic peoples, language and culture. Little is known of their original culture and language, but remnants of the latter may remain in the names of some geographical features, such as the rivers Clyde, Tamar and Thames, whose etymology is unclear but possibly derive from a pre-Celtic substrate (Gelling). By the Roman period, however, most of the inhabitants of the isles of Ireland and Britain were speaking Goidelic or Brythonic languages, close counterparts to the Celtic languages spoken on the European mainland.

Historians explained this as the result of successive invasions from the European continent by diverse Celtic-speaking peoples over the course of several centuries, though this is now generally seen as only the elite[clarification needed]. The Book of Leinster, written in the 12th century, but drawing on a much earlier Irish oral tradition, states that the first Celts to arrive in Ireland were from Iberia. In 1946 the Celtic scholar T. F. O'Rahilly published his extremely influential model of the early history of Ireland which postulated four separate waves of Celtic invaders. It is still not known what languages were spoken by the peoples of Ireland and Britain before the arrival of the Celts.

Later research indicated that the culture may have developed gradually and continuously between the Celts and the indigenous people of Britain or Spain. Similarly in Ireland little archaeological evidence was found for large intrusive groups of Celtic immigrants, suggesting to archaeologists such as Colin Renfrew that the native late Bronze Age inhabitants gradually absorbed European Celtic influences and language.

Julius Caesar wrote of people in Britain who came from Belgium (the Belgae), but archaeological evidence which was interpreted in the 1930s as confirming this was contradicted by later interpretations.[citation needed] The archaeological evidence is of substantial cultural continuity through the first millennium BC, although with a significant overlay of selectively adopted elements of La Tène culture. There are claims of continental-style states appearing in southern England close to the end of the period, possibly reflecting in part immigration by élites from various Gallic states such as those of the Belgae.[citation needed] However, this immigration would be far too late to account for the origins of Insular Celtic languages. In the 1970s the continuity model was popularized by Colin Burgess in his book The Age of Stonehenge which theorised that Celtic culture in Great Britain "emerged" rather than resulted from invasion and that the Celts were not invading aliens, but the descendants of the people of Stonehenge.

Genetic studies have supported the prevalence of native populations, ruling out any model of post-Bronze Age cultural and language intrusion that ignore a very high degree of genetic absorpsion. A study by Christian Capelli, David Goldstein and others at University College, London showed that genetic markers associated with Gaelic names in Ireland and Scotland are also common in certain parts of Wales and England (in most cases, The Southeast of England with the lowest counts of these markers) are similar to the genetic markers of the Basque people, who speak a non-Indo-European language. This similarity supported earlier findings in suggesting a large pre-Celtic genetic ancestry, likely going back to the Paleolithic. They suggest that Celtic culture and the Celtic language may have been imported to Britain by cultural contact, not mass invasions around 600 BC.

Some recent studies have suggested that, contrary to long-standing beliefs,[dubious – discuss] the Germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons) did not wipe out the Romano-British of England but rather, over the course of six centuries, conquered the native Brythonic people of what is now England and south-east Scotland and imposed their culture and language upon them,[53] much as the Gaels may have spread over Northern Britain This view is supported by the Celtic, or at least non-Germanic, names of some prominent early members of a number of "Anglo-Saxon" dynasties, such as Cerdic of Wessex and Penda of Mercia.[54][55] The Pennines remained a stronghold for Brythonic culture in England, the Cumbric language survived until the 12th century, whereas in isolated areas of East Anglia, a Brythonic language was only recorded as late as the Saxon period. Parts of the Brythonic culture still survives in the form of the Northumbrian smallpipes and Wrestling (Lancashire and Cumbrian wrestling). Still, others maintain that the picture is mixed and that in some places the indigenous population was indeed wiped out while in others it was assimilated. According to this school of thought the populations of Yorkshire, East Anglia, Northumberland and the Orkney and Shetland Islands are those populations with the fewest traces of ancient (Celtic) British continuation, probably because these are eastern areas which were exposed to invasion from the East by Angles, Saxons and Vikings.[56]

The Celtic invasion of the British Isles is difficult to document genetically. Two published books - The Blood of the Isles by Bryan Sykes and The Origins of the British: a Genetic Detective Story by Stephen Oppenheimer - are based upon recent genetic studies, and show that the vast majority of Britons have ancestors from the Iberian Peninsula, as a result of a series of migrations that took place during the Mesolithic and, to a lesser extent, the Neolithic eras.[57][58]

Sykes sees little genetic evidence relating to people from the heartland of the Hallstatt and La Tene cultures. On the paternal side he finds that the "Oisin" (R1b) clan is in the majority which has strong affinities to Iberia, with no evidence of a large scale arrival from Central Europe. He considers that the genetic structure of Britain and Ireland is "Celtic, if by that we mean descent from people who were here before the Romans and who spoke a Celtic language." But this language was the result of diffusion rather than migration, and the vast majority of the inhabitants of the British Isles, whether they consider themselves to be "Anglo Saxon", "Celt" or otherwise, are descended from the original Mesolithic hunter-gatherers who migrated north from Iberia approximately 13,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.


.Under Caesar the Romans conquered Celtic Gaul, and from Claudius onward the Roman empire absorbed parts of Britain. Roman local government of these regions closely mirrored pre-Roman tribal boundaries, and archaeological finds suggest native involvement in local government.

The native peoples under Roman rule became Romanised and keen to adopt Roman ways. Celtic art had already incorporated classical influences, and surviving Gallo-Roman pieces interpret classical subjects or keep faith with old traditions despite a Roman overlay.

The Roman occupation of Gaul, and to a lesser extent of Britain, led to Roman-Celtic syncretism. In the case of the continental Celts, this eventually resulted in a language shift to Vulgar Latin, while the Insular Celts retained their language.

There was also considerable cultural influence exerted by Gaul on Rome, particularly in military matters and horsemanship, as the Gauls often served in the Roman cavalry. The Romans adopted the Celtic cavalry sword, the spatha, and Epona, the Celtic horse goddess.[59][60]

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