Celt (people) - Encyclopedia

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CELT, or Kelt, the generic name of an ancient people, the bulk of whom inhabited the central and western parts of Europe. (For the sense of a primitive stone tool, see the separate article, later.) Much confusion has arisen from the inaccurate use of the terms " Celt " and " Celtic." It is the practice to speak of the dark-complexioned people of France, Great Britain and Ireland as " black Celts," although the ancient writers never applied the term " Celt " to any dark-complexioned person. To them great stature, fair hair, and blue or grey eyes were the characteristics of the Celt. The philologists have added to the confusion by classing as " Celtic " the speeches of the darkcomplexioned races of the west of Scotland and the west of Ireland. But, though usage has made it convenient in this work to employ the term, " Celtic " cannot be properly applied to what is really " Gaelic." The ancient writers regarded as homogeneous all the fairhaired peoples dwelling north of the Alps, the Greeks terming them all Keltoi. Physically they fall into two loosely-divided groups, which shade off into each other. The first of these is restricted to north-western Europe, having its chief seat in. Scandinavia. It is distinguished by a long head, a long face, a narrow aquiline nose, blue eyes, very light hair and great stature. Those are the peoples usually termed Teutonic by modern writers. The other group is marked by a round head, a broad face, a nose often rather broad and heavy, hazel-grey eyes, light chestnut hair; they are thick-set and of medium height. This race is often termed `` Celtic " or " Alpine " from the fact of its occurrence all along the great mountain chain from south-west France, in Savoy, in Switzerland, the Po valley and Tirol, as well as in Auvergne, Brittany, Normandy, Burgundy, the Ardennes and the Vosges. It thus stands midway not only geographically but also in physical features between the " Teutonic " type of Scandinavian and the so-called "Mediterranean race" with its long head, long face, its rather broad nose, dark brown or black hair, dark eyes, and slender form of medium height. The " Alpine race " is commonly supposed to be Mongoloid in origin and to have come from Asia, the home of round-skulled races. But it is far more probable that they are the same in origin as the dark race south of them and the tall fair race north of them, and that the broadness of their skulls is simply due to their having been long domiciled in mountainous regions. Thus the " Celtic " ox (Bos longifrons), from remote ages the common type in the Alpine regions, is characterized by the height of its forehead above the orbits, by its highly-developed occipital region, and its small horns. Not only do animals change their physical characteristics in new environment, but modern peoples when settled in new surroundings for even one or two centuries, e.g. the American of New England and the Boer of South Africa, prove that man is no less readily affected by his surroundings.

The northern race has ever kept pressing down on the broadskulled, brown-complexioned men of the Alps, and intermixing with them, and at times has swept right over the great mountain chain into the tempting regions of the south, producing such races as the Celto-Ligyes, Celtiberians, Celtillyrians, CeltoThracians and Celto-Scythians. In its turn the Alpine race has pressed down upon their darker and less warlike kindred of the south, either driven down before the tall sons of the north or swelling the hosts of the latter as they swept down south.

As the natives of the southern peninsula came into contact with these mixed people, who though differing in the shape of the skull nevertheless varied little from each other in speech and colour of their hair and eyes, the ancient writers termed them all " Keltoi." But as the most dreaded of these Celtic tribes came down from the shores of the Baltic and Northern Ocean, the ancients applied the name Celt to those peoples who are spoken of as Teutonic in modern parlance. The Teutons, whose name is generic for Germans, appear in history along with the Cimbri, universally held to be Celts, but coming from the same region as the Guttones (Goths) by the shores of the Baltic and North Sea. Again, the Germani themselves first appear in the Celtic host destroyed by Marcellus at Clastidium in 225 B.C. All the true Celtae or Galatae in France had come across the Rhine; the Belgic tribes in northern France were Cimbri, who also had crossed the Rhine: in Caesar's day the Germans were still constantly crossing that river, and so-called Gauls who lived near the Germans, e.g. the Treveri, closely resembled the latter in their habits, while in later times were to come Goths and Franks from beyond the great river. It is then not strange that the Gallic name for a henchman (ambactus) is the same as the Gothic (ambahts). The earliest invaders, under the name of Celtae, had occupied all central Gaul, doubtless mixing with the aboriginal Ligurians and Iberians, who, however, maintained themselves respectively in the later Provence and in Aquitania. The Celts had firmly' established themselves by the 7th century B.C. and we know not how long before, the Bituriges (whose name survives in Berri) being the dominant tribe. In the Alps and the Danube valley some of the Celts had dwelt from the Stone Age; there they had developed the working of copper, discovered bronze (an alloy of copper and tin), and the art of smelting iron (see Hallstatt). The Umbrians, who were part of the Alpine Celts, had been pressing down into Italy from the Bronze Age, though checked completely by the rise of the Etruscan power in the ioth century B.C. The invention of iron weapons made the Celts henceforth irresistible. One of the earliest movements after this discovery was probably that of the Achaeans of Homer, who about 1450 B.C. invaded Greece (see Achaeans), bringing with them the use of iron and brooches, the practice of cremating the dead, and the style of ornament known as Geometric. Later the Cimmerians (see Scythia and Cimmerii) passed down from the Cimbric Chersonese, doubtless following the amber routes, and then turned east along the Danube, some of their tribes, e.g. the Treres, settling in Thrace, and crossing into Asia; others settled in southern Russia, leaving their name in the Crimea; then when hard pressed by the Scythians most of them passed round the east end of the Euxine into Asia Minor, probably being the people known as Gimirri on Assyrian monuments, and ravaged that region, the relics of the race finally settling at Sinope.

At the beginning of the 6th century B.C. the Celts of France had grown very powerful under the Biturigian king Ambigatus. They appear to have spread southwards into Spain, occupying most of that country as far south as Gades (Cadiz), some tribes, e.g. Turdentani and Turduli, forming permanent settlements and being still powerful there in Roman times; and in northern central Spain, from the mixture of Celts with the native Iberians, the population henceforward was called Celtiberian. About this time also took place a great invasion of Italy; Segovisus and Bellovisus, the nephews of Ambigatus, led armies through Switzerland, and over the Brenner, and by the Maritime Alps, respectively (Livy v. 34). The tribes who sent some of their numbers to invade Italy and settle there were the Bituriges, Arverni, Senones, Aedui, Ambarri, Carnuti and Aulerci.

Certain material remains found in north Italy, e.g. at Sesto Calende, may belong to this invasion. The next great wave of Celts recorded was that which swept down on north Italy shortly before 400 B.C. These invaders broke up in a few years the Etruscan power, and even occupied Rome herself after the disaster on the Allia (390 B.C.). Bought off by gold they withdrew from Rome, but they continued to hold a great part of northern Italy, extending as far south as Sena Gallica (Sinigaglia), and henceforward they were a standing source of danger to Rome, especially in the Samnite Wars, until at last they were either subdued or expelled, e.g. the Boii from the plains of the Po. At the same time as the invasion of Italy they had made fresh descents into the Danube valley and the upper Balkan, and perhaps may have pushed into southern Russia, but at this time they never made their way into Greece, though the Athenian ladies copied the style of hair and dress of the Cimbrian women. About 280 B.C. the Celts gathered a great host at the head of the Adriatic, and accompanied by the Illyrian tribe of Autariatae, they overthrew the Macedonians, overran Thessaly, and invaded Phocis in order to sack Delphi, but they were finally repulsed, chiefly by the efforts of the Aetolians (279 B.C.). The remnant of those who returned from Greece joined that part of their army which had remained in Thrace, and marched for the Hellespont. Here some of their number settled near Byzantium, having conquered the native Thracians, and made Tyle their capital. The Byzantines had to pay them a yearly tribute of 80 talents, until on the death of the Gallic king Cavarus (some time after 220 B.C.) they were annihilated by the Thracians. The main body of the Gauls who had marched to the Hellespont crossed it under the leadership of Leonnorius and Lutarius. Straightway they overran the greater part of Asia Minor, and laid under tribute all west of Taurus, even the Seleucid kings. At last Attila, king of Pergamum, defeated them in a series of battles commemorated on the Pergamene sculptures, and henceforth they were confined to a strip of land in the interior of Asia Minor, the Galatia of history. Their three tribes - Trocmi, Tolistobogians and Tectosages--submitted to Rome (189 B.C.), but they remained autonomous till the death of their king Amyntas, when Augustus erected Galatia into a province. Their descendants were probably the " foolish Galatians " to whom St Paul wrote (see Galatia).

Ancient writers spoke of all these Gauls as Cimbri, and identified them with the Cimmerians of earlier date, who in Homeric times dwelt on the ocean next to the Laestrygones, in a region of wintry gloom, but where the sun set not in summer. Nor was it only towards the south and the Hellespont that the Celtic tide ever set. They passed eastward to the Danube mouth and into southern Russia, as far as the Sea of Azov, mingling with the Scythians, as is proved by the name Celto-scyths. Mithra dates VI. of Pontus seems to have negotiated with them to gain their aid against Rome, and Bituitus, a Gallic mercenary, was with him at his death.

The Celts had continually moved westwards also. The Belgae, who were Cimbric in origin, has spread across the Rhine and given their name to all northern France and Belgium (Gallia Belgica). Many of these tribes sent colonies over into southeastern Britain, where they had been masters for some two centuries when Caesar invaded the island (see Britain). But there is evidence that from the Bronze Age there had been settlers in northern Britain who were broad-skulled and cremated their dead, a practice which had arisen in south Germany in the early Bronze Age or still earlier. It is not unlikely that, as tradition states, there were incursions of Celts from central Gaul into Ireland during the general Celtic unrest in the 6th century B.C. It is certain that at a later period invaders from the continent, bringing with them the later Iron Age culture, commonly called La Tene, which had succeeded that of Hallstatt, had settled in Ireland. Not only are relics of La Tene culture found in Ireland, but the oldest Irish epics celebrate tall, fair-haired, grey-eyed heroes, armed and clad in Gallic fashion, who had come from the continent. The Celts in Italy, in the Balkan, in France and in Britain, overspread the Indo-European peoples, who differed from themselves but slightly in speech. The Celts represented Indo-European q by p, whilst the Greeks, Illyrians, Thracians, Ligurians, and aborigines of France, Britain and Ireland represented it by k, c or qu. The Umbrian-Sabellian tribes had the same phonetic peculiarity as the Celts. Thus Gallic petor (petor-ritum, " four-wheeler "), Umbrian petur, Homeric 7rfvvp€S, Boeotian (Achaean) 7lr7-apes, Welsh pedwar; but Gaelic cethir, Lat. quatuor. The Celts are thus clearly distinguished from the Gaelic-speaking dark race of Britain and Ireland, and in spite of usage it must be understood that it is strictly misleading to apply the term Celtic to the latter language.

See also Ridgeway, Early Age of Greece, vol. i., and Oldest Irish Epic; Ripley, The Races of Europe; Sergi, The Mediterranean Race. (W. RI.)

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