The Celts were a group of Indo-Europeans people who in their heyday in IV to III century BC extended in a wide area of Europe, the British Isles until the Danube basin, as well as some isolated settlements more south as a result of the expansion to the Iberian, Italic and Anatolian peninsulas. The Celts were increasingly politically divided as between different groups of Celts are distinguished Britons, Gauls, Pannonians, Celtiberians and Galatians, allocated respectively in the British Isles in Gaul, Pannonia, Iberia and Anatolia.
Bearers of an original and complex culture, the Celts were subjects from the second century BC to a growing political, military and cultural pressure by two other Indo-European groups of the Germans from the north and the Romans from the south. The Celts were gradually subdued and assimilated, so much so that in late antiquity the use of their languages appears in sharp decline.
The decline of the Celts as an autonomous people is testified by the marginalization of their language, soon confined only to the British Isles. There, in fact, after the great early medieval reshuffle emerged the historical heirs of the Celts of the populations of Ireland and western and northern fringes of Britain, speaking Brythonic languages or Goidelic, the two varieties of Insular Celtic languages.
Archaeologists and linguists agree, by a large majority, in identifying the Celts with the bearer of La Tène culture, which developed during the iron age from the previous Hallstatt. This identification allows us to locate the original homeland of the Celts in an area between the upper Rhine and the Danube sources, including the current Germany, southern and eastern France and Northern Switzerland.
In the La Tene there is a continuity of cultural evolution since the time of the Urnfield culture from the thirteenth century BC. At the beginning of the eighth century BC it affirmed the culture of Hallstatt, the proto celtic civilization that was already showing the first cultural characteristics that will then own the classical Celtic culture.
The name comes from a major Austrian archaeological site that is about fifty kilometers from Salzburg. The Culture of Hallstatt, with agricultural base was dominated by a class of warriors and has a rather wide trade network involving Greeks, Scythians and Etruscans. It is from this civilization in Central Western Europe which, around the fifth century BC, developed, seamless, Celtic culture itself and in archaeological terminology, the culture of La Tene.
The penetration in the Iberian Peninsula and along the Atlantic coasts of France then goes back to VIII to VII century BC, even in Hallstatt era. Later, when they had already developed the culture of La Tene, they reached the English Channel, the mouth of the Rhine, the current north-western Germany and the British Isles and still later was the expansion to the current Bohemia, Hungary and Austria.
In the third century BC, the Galatian groups moved from Thrace to Anatolia, where they settled permanently. The advance was mainly favored by the technical superiority of the weapons in the possession of the warlike aristocracy warriors, who led these peoples during their migrations.
This family is part of the wider Indo-European, from which it broke away in the third millennium BC. There are three main hypotheses that specify the best time of the separation of the common Celtic or proto celtic.
According to the first, the proto celtic would develop in the area of La Tene culture from a broader Europe together. This continuum language, extended to a large part of Central and Eastern Europe, was formed following a series of penetrations of Indo-European people in Europe, joined by the original homeland of Indo-Europeans, the steppes north of the Black Sea, the cradle of the Kurgan culture. Detachment from the common trunk of this Europeans is traced back to the early centuries of the third millennium BC, approximately between 2900 and 2700 BC.
The second hypothesis, which still moves by the same overview Europe, postulates a secondary penetration in Central Europe always in the La Tene, and always starting from kurgan steppes. This movement of population, in this case only Proto-Celtic, would be placed around 2400 BC. This postponement of the separation of Proto-Celtic is motivated by dialectological considerations, which emphasize certain features that Celtic languages share with the Indo-European languages more late including, in particular, the greek.
The third hypothesis instead moves from one setting radically different. The proto celtic evolution occurred in situ, historically the entire area occupied by the Celts (British Isles, the Iberian Peninsula, Gaul, Pannonia). This hypothesis is supported in archeology, but disputed by linguists as the width of the area occupied by the Celts, the lack of political unity and the long period of separation of the different varieties of Celtic (three thousand years from the common to the first historical attestation) are a set of factors considered incompatible with the close affinity between the various Celtic ancient languages, very similar to each other.
According to another theory, far more accredited, between 3000 and 2500 BC, the three Indo-European populations of the Kurgan in the Volga area in high Caspian Sea, the Caucasus and the Transcaucasian of the Black Sea area, all of Indo-European origin, mixed and undertook a mass migration that would involve Anatolia in which would come into contact with the Hittites, Mesopotamia where it would be mixed with the Aryans, Greece and Mycenaean central Europe and contact with the culture of Unetice in Bohemia.
The tail of this eastern migration had strong contacts with the Scythians who around 800 BC, spread to Mesopotamia giving rise to the Chaldean culture, following the Assyrian, in Anatolia which were already present Phrygians, Lydians and pontine, in Greece, where, by 900 BC, the Etruscans were present and, before that, the Ligurians and Italics and in central Europe.
From the Scythians they borrowed many customs, the use of burial mounds, breeding of the horse, sacred rituals to cut and keep the head of the enemy in huts to protect enemy, the division into social classes, where aristocracy was one who owned more horses.
Assimilated mainly by Latin or German people, the Celts were dissolved as an autonomous people in the first centuries after Christ. Their heritage, cultural and linguistic entered the small part in the new synthesis that was created in the territories they occupied at the time. A wider influence is only recorded in the British Isles, where together with the language were preserved even some popular traditions.
The Druidism is a neopagan religious movement that emerged since the seventies of the twentieth century. Its adherents claim to resume the ancient Celtic religion, interpreting it as a pantheistic, animistic and polytheistic religious system. The Celtic paganism are also inspired by currents of Wicca and New Age.
Although the Celts developed its own music production, grown mainly by bards, no concrete evidence has survived to this day. The so-called Celtic music is a modern musical style, developed from the folk music in the countries that host the contemporary Celtic languages.
The Celts had remarkable taste for bright colors even on the fabrics they used to make their clothes in which bloom all colors, and pants they called breeches. Jewelry is the artistic branch of the ancient Celts of which the greatest testimonies have survived. Typical Celtic crafts, Gallic in particular, are the torque, necklaces or bracelets made propitiatory in gold, silver or bronze. Other Celtic artifacts preserved are jewels, cups and pots.
The metal objects, at the end of processing, were decorated by means of colored material applications. On numerous artifacts we have in fact, from the fourth century BC, evidence of mergers of glazes, obtained with a particular glass. This red enamel was initially established through a fine mesh of iron, together with Mediterranean coral, directly on objects, as if they represented a magical form of blood, petrified sea and came out from the fire.
Starting from the third century BC, with the evolution of the fusion technique, new objects, such as colored glass bracelets were developed, and developed new techniques such as direct application and fusion of the enamel of swords and finery, without using support structures. New colors, such as yellow and blue, were introduced as from II - I century BC although the red was the predominant color.
The Celts created their own literature heroics. This literary tradition, in fact, was transmitted only orally, through the work of bards. The use of writing in greek, Latin or Iberian alphabet was reserved for the practical functions, as among the Celts transcription of poetic and religious wisdom was deemed unlawful.
The sages passed down only orally, devoting to this task many years of study and the use of mnemonics. In later ages, however, part of the corpus of Celtic poetry, however, was put in writing with the oldest evidence, in Irish, date back to the VI - VII century.
The metric structures and some styles of Celtic epic have, according to some scholars, analogies with Sanskrit Veda and the Greek lyric. In this case, the coincidences constitute a common heritage from ancient oral poetry. A stylistic device of this kind is made, for example, by the formula that combines the affirmation of a concept with the denial of its opposite.
The Celtic expression "I reach life, which does not reach me death" has exact matches in many Indo-European poetic traditions (Sanskrit, Avestan, old Persian, greek and German). Direct Indo-European ancestry would then offer stylistic gimmicks, such as the ring composition, and the same figure of the professional oral poets figures similar to the Celtic bard, and in fact, can be traced both in the traditional Indian and the Greek.
The use of the currency spread in the territories Celtic starting from areas colonized by the Greeks and the Etruscans, along the Mediterranean coast of Gaul from the third century BC the Gauls used the Greek coins, to go after those in Rome . The Celts also minted its own coins, both in Gaul and in the Iberian Peninsula (part of the so-called hispanica coinage, inspired by those in use in the Italian peninsula.
Also among the Celts, the currency was a convenient means for quantification of a precious metal such as gold or silver, transitions of some importance. Its introduction must be sought in the money that was given as compensation to the mercenaries Celts as Gaesatae. They would, therefore, due to mere coincidence the first appearances of local emissions, in the basin of the river Rhone, following the return by mercenaries Gaesatae the first half of the third century BC.
The subsequent changes, in particular from the second century BC, were a means to mark the difference between the various local communities, with the progressive affirmation of the city-state. The obligation to distinguish each subsequent issue of the same oppidum , maintaining the main and distinctive features, led the engravers to develop a rare variation capacity in the development of more and more original images.
Already starting from eighth century BC, the ability to work the iron allowed the Celts to manufacture axes, sickles and other tools in order to make mackerel large-scale territories, formerly occupied by impenetrable forests, and to work the land with ease. The growing skills in metalworking also allowed the construction of new equipment, such as swords and spears, which made them militarily superior compared to people close to them and put them in a position of being able to move with relative ease, as recently feared other people.
Extracted under sponge form, the iron was subjected to a first processing of the forge and distributed in ingots, heavy 5 to 6 kilograms and bipyramidal form. In a subsequent period, the ingots were replaced by long flat bars, ready to be processed in long swords; these bars were so popular they were even used as currency, along with copper and coins gold.
Cattle had a fundamental role in the Celtic nations. Consequently, the rank of the various tribal chiefs depended more on the number of livestock owned by them that the extension of land owned by them used for cultivation. Were reared small and long-horned cattle. The pigs were pets of much smaller size than the wild boar or the current pigs, but their meat was particularly appreciated, especially in the banquet.
The archaeological finds of bone remains, found in their citadels, confirm that it was certainly the most consumed meat. The goats, on the contrary, were bred mainly for their milk and in their villages they were also present geese and hens. Skilled farmers, the Celts cultivated quadrangular fields, not very large and the average size was ten to fifteen acres, corresponding to what could plow in one day. The fields were bordered by hedges to protect them from trampling of wild animals.
Archaeological data show that the Celts cultivated an ancient variety of small einkorn wheat as well as rye, oats, millet, perfectly suited to the soil in these regions with very high efficiency up to three tons per hectare but also cultivated buckwheat, cereal especially suitable for poor soils and a culture in altitude and barley, mainly used to produce a primitive form of beer, named gallic Cervesia.
Although hunting was widely practiced, it seems that the game did not have a fundamental role in the Celts. Hunting deer or wild boar constituted more a form of entertainment, in lieu of military prowess. It was also practiced fishing, near rivers, lakes and sea coast. It seems that the Celts were fond of seafood, as is shown by the culinary waste collected in the region of Armorica.
People divided into tribes by high mobility and the Celts routinely practiced hunting and looting damage to the cities and populations on which they felled their raids. This habit is attested in the whole area occupied by the Celts in ancient times. They are very slim the testimonials on the Celtic law. A matrimonial law provided for the joint administration between spouses of the family patrimony, made up in equal parts at the time of the wedding. Justice was administered by the Druids, who had full discretion on the secrecy of judgments.
The Celts probably, shared a religious vision itself polytheistic and worshiped deities related to nature, with a peculiar religious significance attributed to the oak, and martial virtues. There was belief in the transmigration of souls, which resulted in an easing of the fear of death as to reinforce the gallic military value. There was also existence, always at the Gauls, of human sacrifice, which was also the case that the victims were to offer it voluntarily. Alternatively it made use of criminals, but if they needed even innocent were sacrificed.
By their contemporary Greeks and Romans , the Celts were described tall, muscular and robust; eyes were generally clear, clear skin, the hair was red or blond. From the point of view of character, the same sources describe the Celts as a short-tempered, quarrelsome, brave, superstitious, loyal, drinkers and music lovers.
The armor of the Celts included shields in wood with bronze and iron fittings decorated in various ways  . On some of these animals were sculpted in bronze, with both decorative features both defense. On their heads they wore helmets of bronze with great figures such as protruding horns, fronts of birds or quadrupeds, which made it appear gigantic those who wore them.
Their trumpets of war (Carnyx) produced a deafening and terrifying sound for the enemy. Some wore on the chest of iron plates, while others fought naked. Not relying solely swords similar to court gladi Romans, but also long, anchored to iron chains or bronze, which hung along their right flank, as well as spears by the iron spikes of the length of a cubit and a little less than two palms width, and their darts had longer swords bits of other peoples.
Of them it is said, also, that they preferred to resolve battles with duels between the leaders or among the most skilled warriors of each of the opposing sides, rather than clash in battle. They also had a habit of hanging the heads of enemies killed at his horse's neck, and, in some cases, to embalm, when the won was an important opponent warrior; in fact, they considered the head and not the heart, the seat of the soul.
The druids held, generally, the priestly functions. However, they were not limited to be the link between men and the gods, but they were also responsible for the schedule and guardians of the sacred natural order, as well as philosophers, scientists, astronomers, teachers, judges and advisers of the king. Gaulish inscription found in Southern Gallia the Lead Larzac also confirms the existence of women awarded the druide role.
The education of a druid lasted about twenty years and included teachings of Astronomy, sciences, notions on the nature along the educational path was dedicated in large part to the acquisition mnemonic of their knowledge. This knowledge was then applied to the development of its own calendar of the old Celtic calendar that is known is that of Coligny, dated to the first century BC. It was much more elaborate and sophisticated than the Julian, and foresaw a complex synchronization system of moon phases with the calendar year.
The Celtic society modeled on the fundamental structures of the Indo-European, based on the patriarchal big family. The family group included not only family in the strict sense, but also ancestors, collaterals, descendants and in-laws, including several dozen people. More clans formed a tribe, at the head of which was placed a king. The family and not the individual had land ownership.
The social structure foresaw a significant division into classes. The warrior aristocracy absolved the tasks of defense and offense and elected, according to a usual pattern among the Indo-Europeans, a king from mainly military functions while the prerogative of the free people were economic activities, focusing on agriculture and livestock. Then there is news of the existence of slaves.
Finally there were the druids, priests, judges and magicians, custodians of community traditions, the collective knowledge and inter-tribal identity in which all the Celts could be distinguished. This identity was not confined to individual subsets of the great Celtic family but embraced in its totality.
The Celtic society or at least the Gallic is then presented as clearly articulated in three functions: the sacred and legal, that warlike and that productive. This structure inspired, alongside other elements coming mainly from Roman, Persian and Vedic mythology. According to this scheme, the division into three functions was stiff, descended directly from the original system of Indo-Europeans and involved both the social sphere of the three classes, as that ideal and religious.
The women enjoyed equal rights in the society of the Celts. She could inherit as men and be elected to any office, including those of druid or commander in chief of the armies.
The second millennium has seen constant regression of the surviving Celtic elements, subjected to a continuous process of linguistic, political and cultural Anglicisation. From the fusion element Celtic, Latin and the Germanic (Viking and Anglo-Saxon) are derived, ethnically and culturally, the modern populations of Great Britain and Ireland. The arrival of different Germanic people and the process of Christianization especially in Ireland, took specific and peculiar characters.
Since the mission of St. Patrick's Day in Ireland, the island experienced a religious bloom, through the missionary impulse.
The penetration of the Celts in the Balkan Peninsula is certified by the Greek sources, which testify of a migration that submerged the Thrace in 281 BC The Greeks, perhaps adapting a term used by those same Celtic tribes.
Galatian raids pushed into the heart of Greece. A mob, attacked Delphi, giving up only at the last minute to desecrate the temple of Apollo. Alarmed by portentous thunder and lightning, also gave up to collect a ransom. Also in the third century BC, another section of the people, composed of three tribes and stronger than ten thousand fighters accompanied by women, children and slaves, moved from Thrace to Anatolia at the invitation of Nicomedes I of Bithynia, who had asked for their aid in the dynastic struggle that opposed him to his brother.
The Galatians settled permanently in an area between the Phrygia and eastern Cappadocia, in Central Anatolia and following their settlement the region took the name of Galatia. The survival of their language Galato variety of continental Celtic lasted until the fourth century AD after which completed the process of Hellenization of Galati.
The process of expansion of the Celts to the east, from the original birthplace of Culture of La Tene, is historically much less what happened to the certificate of Gaul. However, it is believed that penetration in the central European region then identified with the name of Pannonia dates back to the early fourth century BC. In that area, the middle Danube, the Celts were in contact with the tribes Illyrian already present; partly mingled with them, in part they were separated into autonomous groups, ethnically and linguistically homogeneous.
The Latinization of the Celtic tribes subject to Rome was intense, but less than that suffered by the Gauls and Celtiberians. The ethnic and linguistic identity of the Celts was still alive, and he survived for a long time also to subsequent invasions Germanic. From the merger of the three elements Celtic, Latin and Germanic would be formed during the Dark Ages, the modern populations of Great Britain and Ireland. The only direct heirs of the ancient Celts, among modern peoples, are precisely those of the British Isles, which would have preserved unbroken linguistic tradition, giving rise to the Insular Celtic languages, in both Goidelic and Brythonic houses.
Celtic Matronae are the embodiment of motherhood. In figures never appear alone, but always in groups and almost always form a triad. They represent a complex set of positive forces adorned with ears of corn and fruit as a symbol of a perennial fruitfulness. They do not belong to the official pantheon, but represent specific local or social reality, their religion is tied to the idea of free trust.
The Celtic calendar was based on a complex calculation, adjusted both from the solar cycle from the moon. The solar cycle chanted year in two phases, marked by festive Samhain (pronounced Sa'win) and Beltane. These two main phases were further divided into two equal parts, marked by lesser festivals of Lughnasadh (pronounced Lùnnasad) and Imbolc (pronounced Ìmmolc).
In the festival Samhain around the last new moon of the year, began the dark part of the year. On that occasion the gates of hell opened and spirits of the dead returned to wander in the earthly world. During the first full moon of the year instead began the bright part of the year, with feast of Imbolc, which was a feast of purification and rebirth, where they celebrated the Goddess Mother and celebrated the birth of the lambs and Beltane festival which was probably dedicated to Belenus. During the celebration, milk was poured abundantly on the earth to symbolize fertility.
During the mid year it was the turn of the Lughnasadh, in which was celebrated the harvest and the new harvest, celebrating the fertility of the earth, dedicated to the god Lug.
The Celts weren't the only Indo-Europeans settling the European idyll. Balts, Slavs, Germans and Nordics nestled in-all the way north to the frozen scrags of Iceland. They each radiated a language, spiritual mindset and culture that tracks that of the early Vedic. At dawn, Germans daily slipped into cold, sacred rivers for ablution, chanting and wearing loose-flowing robes and a topknot in their long hair so emblematic of the brahmins. The Slavs took seven steps around a holy fire in marriage. The Icelandic saga, the Edda contains creation passages that are Upanishadic in tone.
The connections between Celtics and Vedism are dazzlingly profuse, but they aren’t entirely dead branchings. Like two rivers cascading from the same mist shrouded mountain, Celtic and early Vedic culture share astonishing similarities.