The Celts were a group of Indo-European people who in their heyday in IV to III century BC settled in a wide area of Europe from the British Isles until the Danube basin. They were also present in some isolated settlements more south as a result of the expansion to the Iberian, Italic and Anatolian peninsulas.
The Celts were increasingly politically divided. Between different groups of Celts were 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. They were part of a growing political, military and cultural pressure from the 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 sharply declined.
The decline of the Celts as an autonomous people was testified by the marginalization of their language. They were soon confined only to the British Isles. There, in fact, after the great early medieval reshuffle, the historical heirs of the Celts emerged out of the populations of Ireland and western and northern fringes of Britain. They spoke Brythonic or Goidelic languages, 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 that 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, 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, affirmed the culture of Hallstatt. The proto-Celtic civilization that was already showing the first cultural characteristics 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 an agricultural base, was dominated by a class of warriors. They had a rather wide trade network involving Greeks, Scythians, and Etruscans. It was from this civilization in Central Western Europe around the fifth century BC that seamless Celtic culture itself developed, 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 warriors who led these people during their migrations.
They are part of the wider Indo-European family 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 developed in the area of La Tene culture from a broader Europe. This continuum in language, extended to a large part of Central and Eastern Europe. It was formed following a series of penetrations of Indo-European people in Europe. It was joined by the original homeland of Indo-Europeans, the steppes north of the Black Sea, and the cradle of the Kurgan culture.
Detachment from the common trunk of this Europe 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, postulates a secondary penetration in Central Europe in the La Tene starting from Kurgan steppes. This movement of the population of Proto-Celtics would be placed around 2400 BC. This postponement of the separation of Proto-Celtic was motivated by dialectological considerations, which emphasized certain features that Celtic languages shared with the Indo-European languages.
The third hypothesis instead moves from one radically different setting. The proto-Celtic evolution occurred in the entire area occupied by the Celts from the British Isles, the Iberian Peninsula, Gaul, and Pannonia.
This hypothesis is supported in archeology but disputed by linguists due to the width of the area occupied by the Celts, the lack of political unity and the long period of separation. The different varieties of Celtic are a set of factors considered incompatible with the close affinity between the various Celtic ancient languages that were very similar to each other.
According to another theory that is far more accredited, the three Indo-European populations of the Kurgan in the Volga area in the high Caspian Sea, the Caucasus and the Transcaucasian of the Black Sea area, mixed and undertook a mass migration between 3000 and 2500 BC through Anatolia. There they come into contact with the Hittites in Mesopotamia they mixed with the Aryans, Mycenaean culture in Greece and central Europe and contacted with the culture of Unetice in Bohemia.
The tail of this eastern migration had strong contacts with the Scythians. Around 800 BC they spread to Mesopotamia giving rise to the Chaldean culture, following the Assyrian in Anatolia. Phrygians, Lydians and pontine, in Greece were already present, where, by 900 BC, the Etruscans were present and, before that, the Ligurians and Italics 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 from the 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 cultural and linguistic heritage 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.
Druidism is a neopagan religious movement that emerged in 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 their own music, 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 a remarkable taste for bright colors. On the fabrics, they used to make their clothes in which bloomed 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 and Gallic, in particular, are the torque, necklaces or bracelets made propitiatory with 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 from the fourth century BC, we have 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 that 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. New techniques developed 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 IInd to Ist century BC, although red was the predominant color.
The Celts created their own literature and 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. Transcription of poetic and religious wisdom was deemed unlawful among the Celts.
The sages passed down only orally, devoting many years of study and the use of mnemonics to this task. In later ages, however, a part of the Corpus of Celtic poetry, however, was put in writing. The oldest evidence, in Irish, dated 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" 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 poetic figures. The Celtic Bard, in fact, can be traced both in the traditional Indian and the Greek.
The use of the currency spread in the Celtic territories 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 their own coins, both in Gaul and in the Iberian Peninsula, part of the so-called Hispanic coinage, inspired by those in use in the Italian peninsula.
Among the Celts, the currency was a convenient means for quantification of a precious metal such as gold or silver. Its introduction must be sought in the money that was given as compensation to the Celt Gaesatae mercenaries. They would, therefore, due to mere coincidence the first appearances of local emissions, in the basin of the river Rhone, following the return of Gaesatae mercenaries in 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. They were used in large-scale territories, formerly occupied by impenetrable forests to work the land with ease. The growing skills in metalworking also allowed the construction of new equipment, such as swords and spears. It made them militarily superior compared to people close to them and put them in a position of being able to move with relative ease.
Extracted under sponge form, the iron was subjected to a first processing of the forge and distributing in ingots in bipyramidal form. In a subsequent period, the ingots were replaced by long flat bars, that were ready to be processed as long swords. These bars were so popular that they were even used as currency, along with copper and gold coins.
Cattle had a fundamental role in the Celtic nations. Consequently, the rank of the various tribal chiefs depended on more on the number of livestock owned by them than the land owned by them for cultivation. Small and long-horned cattle were reared. 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. In their villages, geese and hens were also present. As skilled farmers, the Celts cultivated quadrangular fields that were not very large. The average size was ten to fifteen acres, corresponding to what one 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. They were perfectly suited to the soil in these regions with very high efficiency. They also cultivated buckwheat and cereal, which were especially suitable for high altitude. Barley was mainly used to produce a primitive form of Gallic beer named 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 of a form of entertainment, in lieu of military prowess. Fishing, near rivers, lakes and sea coast was also practiced. It seems that the Celts were fond of seafood, as is shown by the culinary waste collected in the region of Armorica.
People were divided into tribes sorted by high mobility. The Celts routinely practiced hunting and looting, while damaging the cities and populations on which they had their raids. This habit is attested in the whole area occupied by the Celts in ancient times. The Celtic law like the matrimonial law provided for the joint administration 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 polytheistic religious vision and worshiped deities related to nature with a religious significance attributed to the oak and martial virtues. There was the belief in the transmigration of souls, which resulted in an easing of the fear of death ao as to reinforce the Gallic military value. There was the existence of human sacrifice. The victims were to offer it voluntarily. Alternatively, they made use of criminals, but if they needed even innocent were sacrificed.
Compared to the contemporary Greeks and Romans, the Celts were described tall, muscular and robust. Their eyes were generally clear with clear skin and the hair was red or blond. From the point of view of character, the same sources describe the Celts as 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. Some of the animals were sculpted in bronze with decorative features. On their heads, they wore helmets of bronze with great figures such as protruding horns, fronts of birds or quadrupeds, which made those who wore them appear gigantic.
Their trumpets of war (Carnyx) produced a deafening and terrifying sound for the enemy. Some wore iron plates on the chest, while others fought naked.
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 in the horse's neck. In fact, they considered the head and not the heart as the seat of the soul.
The druids generally held the priestly functions. However, they were not only 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. Lead Larzac Gaulish inscriptions found in Southern Gallia also confirms the existence of druid women in the role.
The education of a druid lasted about twenty years and included teachings of astronomy and sciences. The notions on the nature of the educational path was dedicated in large part to the mnemonic acquisition of their knowledge. This knowledge was then applied to the development of the old Celtic calendar. Coligny is 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 Indo-European structures, based on the patriarchal big family. The family group included not only the 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 was elected according to a usual pattern among the Indo-Europeans. The king performed military functions while the prerogative of the free people were economic activities, focusing on agriculture and livestock. There is also news of the existence of slaves.
Finally, there were the druids, priests, judges, and magicians, who were 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 or at least the Gallic society is then presented as clearly articulated in three functions like the sacred and legal, warlike and the productive. This structure inspired, alongside other elements come mainly from Roman, Persian and Vedic mythology. According to this scheme, the division into three functions was stiff that descended directly from the original system of Indo-Europeans and involved both the social sphere of the three classes.
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 a constant regression of the surviving Celtic elements. It was subjected to a continuous process of linguistic, political and cultural Anglicisation. The Celtic, Latin and the Germanic (Viking and Anglo-Saxon) fusion elements were derived, ethnically and culturally from 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.
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. Also in the third century BC, another section of the people, composed of three tribes 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. Following their settlement, the region took the name of Galatia. The survival of their Galato variety of continental Celtic language lasted until the fourth century AD after which completed the process of Hellenization of Galati.
The Celts were in contact with the Illyrian tribes.
The Latinization of the Celtic tribes was intense but less than that suffered by the Gauls and Celtiberians. The ethnic and linguistic identity of the Celts was still alive. It survived subsequent Germanic invasions. From the merger of the three Celtic, Latin and Germanic elements were 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 preserved unbroken linguistic tradition, giving rise to the Insular Celtic languages, in both Goidelic and Brythonic houses.
Celtic Matronae is the embodiment of motherhood. 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 with the solar and the moon cycle. The solar cycle divided the year into 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 of Samhain around the last new moon of the year began the dark part of the year. During the first full moon of the year began the bright part of the year, with a feast of Imbolc. It was a feast of purification and rebirth, where they celebrated the Goddess Mother and celebrated the birth of the lambs. The 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 new harvest, celebrating the fertility of the earth. It was 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 Iceland. They each radiated a language, spiritual mindset, and culture that tracks that of the early Vedic.
At dawn of time, the 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.