The Celts


Source: Public domain.

Celts = Indo-European group. Surfaced — Iron Age (1000 BC) = earliest archaeological evidence.

Dillon & Chadwick — date first Celtic settlements (of British Isles) > Early Bronze Age (circa 1800 BC). Thus identify Beaker Folk — Celts.

L. E. Stover & B. King = date Celtic origins earlier. Classify Stonehenge and Utenice burials — as formative Celts.

Thus (they claim) Celts `…emerged as a dominant people in Europe by the beginning of the 3rd millenium BC.’

Thus — beginning of 3rd millenium BC — developed in Europe (> British Isles) heroic societies that became (linguistically, culturally) Celts. [Upper Barbarians — Bronze Age].


Source: Thistle and Broom website. Public domain.

Beginning/early part of 1st millenium — Celts emerged as discrete, Indo-European ethnic/cultural group.

From homeland (Bohemia?) > dominant non-Mediterranean people. Expansion > west ­France, Spain > Britain, Ireland. East > Turkey (Galatians).

Took with them — chariots, iron swords + linear/geometric art = Halistat (after an important cemetery in Austria).

500 BC — new art = La Tene (after a site in Switzerland). Baroque development.

Celtoi (Herodotus) = mid 5th century, described as tall, light skin, hair, eyes. NB — Posidonius lst century BC).

Rapid expansion — 390 BC — sacked Rome. 279 BC > Delphi. Many tribes settled in France [Romans called them Gauls]. Also included — Boil (Bologna, Bohemia); Belgae (Belgium); . Helvetii (Switzerland). Settlements = Lutetia Prisiorum (Paris); Lugudonum (Lyon); Vindobona (Vienna); Mediolanum (Milan).

celtic moves

Source: Scottish Tartans Authority website. Public domain.

The Chronicles of the Celts. Beresford-Ellis, P. & Robinson. London (1999). Introduction (pp 1-18).

Mythology, legends, folklore — Celtic peoples = oldest, most vibrant of Europe. Celts = first people N of Alps to emerge into recorded history.

Celts — linguistic group = branch — Indo-European family = encompasses most of languages spoken in Europe, N. Iran, and India.

Therefore = single parent language = Indo-European. Diversified > dialects. Migration > dialects > ancestors of present major European and Northern Indian language groups +

Italic or Latin (now = Romance); Germanic; Slavonic; Baltic; Celtic; Iranian; Indo-Aryan.

Originators — Indo-European = probable origin — between Baltic and Black Sea. Probable ­parent tongue = dialects, prior to migrant waves into Europe and Asia.

First Indo-European literature = Hittite (now Eastern Turkey). Hittites — empire — incorporated Babylonia. Hittite writing — emerged — 1900 BC, vanished circa 1400 BC. Literature survives ­cuneiform syllabics on tablets.

Scholars argue — Celtic dialect of Indo-European = parent of all Celtic languages, emerged circa 2000 BC. Celts — appeared — distinctive culture in headwaters of Danube, Rhine + Rhone [now Switzerland + SW Germany].

Place-name survey = rivers, mountains, towns — still retain their Celtic original. Three great rivers — Danube (Danuvius) — after Danu (divine waters); Rhone = Rhodanus (incorporates ro = ‘great); Rhine = Rhenus (sea way).

This area = developed their distinctive culture. Thus — Hallstatt Culture (1200-475 BC) = Lake Hallstatt, upper Austria.

Later Hallstatt > La Tene = norther edge of Lake Neuchatel. Discovery — iron smelting ­start of !st millenium BC. Smelting = new role in society. Artisans > nobility.


Thus — Celtic Iron Age expansion through N. European forests. Thus — agriculture = iron ploughshare + threshing machines. Thus — built roads [Old Irish — slighe from sligin = ‘I hew].

Some Celtic tribes — crossed Alps > Po Valley by 7th BC. Thus — conflict with Etruscan empire. Pushed south of Appenines. Senones — crossed Appennines circa 390 BC. Then — encountered resistance = Romans + Etruscans.

Senones — defeated Romans > Battle of Ma. Occupied Rome for 7 months. Senate > ransomed city. Then — Senones settled at Ancona.

This period — appears in Celtic mythological tales [recorded by Geoffrey of Monmouth]. See Historia Regum Britanniae.

100 years later — Celtic tribes > Greek peninsula. Defeated combined Greek armies at Thermopylae. Then > sacked Delphi.

Celts (Kelto) — recorded history = 6th century Greek travellers/historians. Herodotus — says ­merchant from samos (Calaeus) landed at mouth of Tartessus = modem river Guadalquivir circa 630 BC.

Found Celts settled throughout Iberian peninsula — exploiting the regions silver mines. Trade — Greeks/Celts — developed. First records = Herodotus + Hecataeus of Miletus.

3`d century BC

Celts = greatest expansion. Ireland to Turkey (= the Celtic ‘commonwealth of Galatia’). [St Paul = Galatians. First non-Jewish > Xians].

North from Belgium (Belgae), south > France (Gaul) > Iberia > Cadiz. Alps > Po Valley (Cis-Alpine Gaul) > Danube Valley. Switzerland = Helvetii.

This period = several Celtic dialects. Not all Celts spoke the same language.

Tide of Celtic expansion turned. Slav/Germanic expansion began to turn Celts back. Celtic survivals now = NW Europe periphery. E.g., Manx, Irish, Scottish (Giodelic — Q-Celtic); Welsh, Comish, Breton (Brythonic — P-Celtic).


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