Ancient Celts: where they lived, lifestyle and traditions

History 2023

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Ancient Celts: where they lived, lifestyle and traditions
Ancient Celts: where they lived, lifestyle and traditions

For thousands of years, to the north of the Alps, nameless primitive tribes lived, whose distinct traces are well preserved in the depths of virgin nature. Fragments of their life activity were found in caves and swampy areas, in the coastal zones of rivers and at the bottom of lakes, as well as in the thickness of centuries-old glaciers. Unfortunately, despite the many facts, for history, most of these peoples (hunters, warriors, peasants) are doomed to remain faceless, while modern science is trying to give them names according to the places of the main archaeological excavations. And only thanks to ancient Roman sources, some of them still managed to emerge from the depths of centuries and rightfully take their place in the historical arena. Questions about who the Celts were and where these people lived cause a lot of discussion among researchers and do not have unambiguous answers.

Hidden people

In the scientific community there is an assumption that the name "Celts" is directly related to such a concept as "secret people". Observing centuries-old traditions, the priestly caste of the Celtic tribes (druids) from generation to generation passed on their secret knowledge onlyorally. In order to keep the teachings from strangers and the uninitiated, the Druids were strictly forbidden to leave written evidence. This explains the fact that to this day none of their documents have come to light.

In the historical context, the term "Celts" does not have the meaning of a single nation, but implies a multitude of tribes that shared common cultural characteristics and spoke Celtic languages. According to the testimony of the ancient geographer Strabo, about 60 Gallic tribes were inscribed in the Lugdun sanctuary, dedicated to the ruler Caesar Augustus. In terms of their composition, they were different: some were small, others, on the contrary, were very strong and constantly defended their right to primacy in all of Gaul. These include the Arverni, Senones, Aedui, and Salluvia, who were defeated by the Romans in 124 BC. e., opposing Massilia.

During the period of Celtic expansion, certain parts of some tribes, when penetrating into European states, underwent significant changes in their composition. Archaeological materials from the Carpathian Basin and Moravia, where the Celts lived in the 2nd century BC. e., give reason to believe that they were already in close contact with the indigenous population, and some of their groups completely disappeared into the new environment, mixing with the locals. But there were also those who managed to preserve the purity of blood (lingons, boii), which was the reason for their small number.

celtic warrior

Through the eyes of the ancient world

The Greeks called this ancient people the Celts, the Romans called them Gauls, but did they have their ownown name, history unknown. The presence of these northern neighbors played a very important role in the life of ancient civilization, according to the notes left by Greek and Roman authors. According to their descriptions, the Celts had huge bodies with fair or reddish skin, blond or red hair, and a wild piercing look on their stubborn expression. They were the owners of a rather rough voice, which, even with a friendly attitude, sounded very menacing. In addition to everything, ancient authors notice that the Celts have excessive vanity and lack of modesty. They are characterized by arrogance, but in the event of any individual success, the barbarian's conceit became completely unbearable.

The Romans represented the tribes of the Celts as perfect berserkers, who had rather specific ideas about military uniforms and weapons. The historian Polybius from Ancient Greece tells that special Celtic detachments - spearmen (Gezats) rushed into battle, being completely naked. According to their beliefs, the observance of this ancient tradition made it possible to call upon divine powers for protection. In addition, for the enemies, such a spectacular exit provided a demonstration of military heroism, which the Celts always stood in the first place.

ancestral home of the Celts

Aboriginal Lands

Archaeologists and historians bit by bit looked for information, trying to answer the questions: who are the Celts and where did this mysterious people live before? The current linguistic data help to slightly lift the veil of the past and refute the early formedthe opinion that the ancestral home of the Celts was Gaul, and from there they began their performances in other states of Europe. The researchers argue that if Gaul is the very original place where the Celts lived, then much more Celtic names should have remained in French toponymy. And we are talking not only about the places of settlements, but also about natural objects. However, there their names are noted only near fortresses and settlements, and all other geographical names, apparently, are related to the peoples who lived here before them.

Thus, based on the data of linguistics and archaeological evidence, scientists come to the conclusion that the original lands of the Celts were in the territories of the south and west of Germany, between the Danube and the Rhine. It is in these areas that many geographical objects have Celtic names (rivers, mountains, villages), which gives every reason to believe that toponymy has a local character. Consequently, the advent of the Celtic civilization took place from Germany to Gaul, and not otherwise, as previously assumed.

barbarian tribes

Scattered Barbarian Society

Speaking of the ancient Celts, it is worth noting right away that they did not have that civilization that one day could be discovered and traced, like the civilization of the same Sumerians or Ancient Babylon. Rather, we are talking about a scattered barbarian society, which at the peak of its power spread the empire from the British Isles to the territory of Turkey, and in the final was reduced to Latin and Germanic tribes.

First notes on whosuch Celts and where they lived date back to the 6th century BC, to the beginning of their mass emigration. Presumably from that time they began to move and settled in the territories of Spain and Portugal. After several centuries, Celtic tribes settled in Britain, northern Italy, Greece and the Balkans. It should be noted that such a wide distribution was not accompanied by the formation of any statehood, which was inherent in Greece or Rome. In the 1st century BC e. in confrontation with Rome and the Germanic tribes, the Celts were expelled from the continent, and the lands of their stay were now limited only to Ireland, England and Wales. The arrival of the Romans in 43 on the island of Britain significantly reduced the territory of the exiles, and the Anglo-Saxons who appeared in the 5th century pushed them back to the outskirts of the island.

The surviving sources allow us to conclude that the Celtic civilization was not so much material as spiritual and was based primarily on a developed culture that united tribes in vast territories. But what is interesting is that, unlike many of the more advanced ancient civilizations, their culture survived. The languages, traditions and religion of the Celts have come down to the present and have taken root in some areas of the British Isles, in some places in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Brittany.

celt family

Family and clan

The unchanging basis of Celtic society was the family and clan. According to the ancients, the head of the family had unlimited power over all members of the household, including the right to life and death. If the sudden death of someoneof men was doubtful and raised questions, then first of all his wife was interrogated and tried, but this did not mean at all that the woman did not have respect (especially in higher circles). At the same time, in Ireland and Gaul, a Celt could have several wives at once, among whom one was the main one, and the rest were in a secondary position, reaching a slave position. By the end of the La Tene period (5th-1st centuries BC), monogamy was demanded by society, although polygamy still persisted in places.

Members of the family and clan were firmly united by common obligations and responsibilities. Under certain circumstances, a representative of the clan could lose some rights and privileges, but he was not released from the performance of his duty. The way of the Celtic family included a certain order of inheritance and succession, which sometimes caused difficulties in the upper strata, including the royal house. The upbringing of children was also carried out in accordance with peculiar customs and rules. For example, according to the traditions of the ancient Celts, sons were strictly forbidden to appear in a public place with their fathers, and they did not have the right to carry weapons until they came of age.

The development of the tribal way of life in Celtic society was at a very high level and was accompanied by multiple phenomena that formed the prerequisites for the emergence of a class system. However, this process was stopped by the fall of Celtic power.

Celtic grain farming

Agriculture and animal husbandry

The economic resources of Celtic society throughoutagriculture and cattle breeding served throughout the time. In the west, they were engaged in farming themselves, and in the east (particularly in Central Europe), being only in the upper layer of society, the Celts were forced to rely on the production of the local population.

Grain farming in Gaul, the backbone of Celtic power, was marked by good profitability, and in the 1st century BC. e. the state was reputed to be very rich. Almost all types of grain crops were grown on the fields: wheat, rye, barley, oats. During the eight-year war, Caesar regularly received food from there for his large army. The Irish Celts preferred to cultivate mainly barley, from the grains of which they prepared porridge, baked bread and produced beer. In addition, some types of vegetables (beets, turnips) and plants were actively cultivated to obtain dyes.

In some areas where the Celts lived, such as the mountainous regions of Britain and Scotland, cattle breeding was of paramount importance in the economy. The herd was grazing most of the year in the meadows, and in the summer season it was distilled to higher places. Although the Celts bred livestock, however, hunting for wild animals (boars, wild boars, deer) was very common. Processed hunting trophies were a special pride of the nobility and were placed in the tomb after death.

the art of the Celtic masters

Skillful craftsmen

The art of the Celtic people refutes the prevailing stereotype of its unbridled savagery, revealing a high level of geometric imagination. Masters and artistsmasterfully combined motifs from different sources into a single whole and created on this basis incredibly complex decorations and household items in terms of design and manufacture. A considerable number of patterns of filigree technique are present in their works made of wood, leather and bone. Some works were made of stone. But the special craftsmanship of the Celtic artists was revealed in the works on metal, and in them it reached its full flowering.

During the campaigns, the Celts actively got acquainted with the production methods of more developed countries and introduced them into work processes, adapting their tools to them. When military expansion turned into economic and commercial, some groups of Celtic manufacturers began to establish their own workshops, gradually gaining fame in highly developed areas. The art of casting and chasing metals, enamel art, leather production, pottery workshops, specialized production of rotating mills for grinding grain - Celtic craftsmen managed to master almost all production processes and technologies in Central and Northern Europe.

Celtic religion

Gods of the ancient Celts

The beliefs of the Celts are of particular interest to historians, although this side of their existence is one of the most difficult to study. Many scholars have had to admit that it is very difficult to penetrate the essence of the Celtic religion, and this is mainly due to the fact that it is closely intertwined with myths. The French mythologist J. Vandri wrote that when studying their religion, its depths seem to slip away, plunging intotales and legends that are voluminous and obscure in nature. The researcher M. L. Szhosted put forward the idea that the Celts did not have a developed pantheon of gods at all: numerous studies failed to reveal any hint of the presence of a temple, on the contrary, everything indicated that in reality it never existed. The people met their gods in the impenetrable wilderness of the thicket; his mythical world seemed to be a sacred forest inhabited by otherworldly forces. And the Celtic priests were the druids, who performed all the important functions in society (healers, judges, teachers).

Ancient authors failed to leave significant information about the Celtic deities. In the Notes on the Gallic War, Caesar mentioned the names of the Celtic gods, but he called them Greco-Roman names: Apollo, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and others. Another note was provided by Lucan, indicating a triad of gods with Celtic names: Teutates (patron in crafts, arts and trade), Taranis (god of thunder) and Esus (god of battles).

The surviving legends of the ancient Celts help to fill in the "blank spots" of this area, but it is still far from complete clarity. At the moment, a significant number of their gods are already known, most of which required bloody offerings, sometimes even human sacrifices.

secrets of the Celts

Celtic heritage

Even at the beginning of the New Age, the Celts were presented to the Western world as wild headhunters, a vivid illustration of distant ancestors, until in the 19th century archaeologists in France, Hallstatt, La Tène and others clatteredplaces that laid the foundation for subsequent scientific research and discoveries.

As it turned out, the contribution of the Celts to European civilization was greatly underestimated. Having experienced a revival more than once, their culture is the basic foundation for a number of cultures in Central and Western Europe. In the pre-Christian history of the European continent, it was the Celts who played the main role in bringing the barbarian tribes closer to the empires of the ancient world and the developed culture of the southern regions. This legendary people enriched European civilization with new approaches and processes of specialized production, thus creating the prerequisites for its subsequent development.

Until now, some areas where the Celts lived have retained some aspects of their culture, social structure, literary traditions, and in some places the features of the ancient way of life (the west coast of Ireland and Scotland) can be traced.

barbarian society

Interesting facts

  • The Celtic people had a unique law - to be thin, the observance of which was mandatory. If someone did not fit into the standard belt, he was subject to a fine. Therefore, the Celtic society was actively involved in sports and was considered the most mobile in the ancient world.
  • Roman authors repeatedly noted the pretentiousness of Celtic women. The beauties shaved off their eyebrows, wore headbands, hung with gold jewelry and certainly emphasized the thinness of the waist with narrow belts. In addition, they had hairstyles with a tower design, for the construction of which the hairrinsed with lime water.
  • The desired prey of the Celtic warriors was the cut head of a worthy opponent. Diodorus Siculus narrates that, having slain their enemy, the Celts cut off their heads and placed them in cedar oil for storage. Also, when a young man was initiated into a warrior, he had to provide the society with the severed head of the enemy.
  • The basis of most of the tales of Europe are the plots of the legends of the ancient Celts. Captivating stories about exploits and incredible love have become an inexhaustible inspiration for the classics of world literature and poetry, including Shakespeare, Pushkin, Tennyson, Wordsworth and others.

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