The Celts

The Celts
Who were they?
 The term refers to any number of ancient
tribes in Europe using the Celtic
Origins and geographical
 Some historians believe that they
originate from the Caspian steppes
 The first records date back to 600BC
 By that time they had spread over much
of Central Europe, the Iberian peninsula,
Ireland and Britain
Geographical Distribution
 the core Hallstatt
territory, expansion
before 500 BC(yellow)
 maximum Celtic
expansion by the 3rd
century BC (blue),
 the boundaries of the six
'Celtic nations', which
remained Celtic speaking
throughout the Middle
Ages (green).
 areas that remain Celticspeaking today (dark
Celtic languages in Britain
Pictish (Scotland)
Brythonic (England)
Scotti (Ireland)
Cornish (South-England)
Other Celtic languages
Belgae (Belgium)
Gaulish (France)
Proto-Basque (Spain)
Galatian (Greece)
The Celts before the
 Social hierarchy:
warrior aristocracy
druids, poets, jurists
everyone else
Organization of society
 Around wars
 Kings were elected – the best warriors
became the high and low kings
 Women were also participating in all
spheres – they could become queens
 They were hunters and raiders – all the
goods were shared
Celtic arts
 They were literate, but preferred the oral tradition
 Highly skilled in visual arts (on clay, metal, wood)
 Druidism, after the Roman conquest
`Celtic Christianity`
 Druidism:
- Immortality of the soul
- When somebody dies the soul passes to
a newborn child
- They believed that they descended from
a supreme being
Classes: prophets, bards and priests
Assisted by sorcerers (female priests)
Druids had the power:
of mastering astrology
of magic
to control animals and plants
of healing
Sacred rituals
Rituals carried out in oak forests
Sacred plants: oak trees and mistletoes
Used altars (stone monuments)
Stone temples (Stonehenge)
Providing sacrifices (human heads,
plants, animals) to animistic gods (gods
of the wood, elements, rivers, etc.)
After the Roman conquest
 Julius Caesar conquered Gallia, and
parts of Britain; Claudius went deeper
into the inlands of Britain; Hadrian's limes
established the northern border against
the Pictish and Scottish invasions
 3rd to 5th century AD
Roman influence
Roads, aqueducts
Taxation, commerce
Anglo-Saxon invasion
From 6th century onwards
Lots of Celts fled to Ireland
Some melted
Remained only in Wales (Cymru, Cardiff
= Caerdydd) and Scotland (Gaelic: Alba)
 Language slowly disappeared
Celtic influence on Modern
 Christianity
 Beliefs/Customs: Wiccas, Halloween,
May Day
 Language (qw- queen, kn- knight, knife
-gh burgh, loch, lake-kh)