The Celts

celtic map"The Celts were a loose collection of tribes who were involved with trade and art as far back as two thousand B.C." p50

"Very little is known about Celtic culture much before five hundred B.C. They didn’t keep written records until the Middle Ages. All that is known through the mists of time is that sometime around two thousand B.C., the Celts fanned out from Eastern Europe after originating around the Caspian Sea. Some historians theorize that the Celts and Hindus shared a common ancestry because their language was similar.

"They moved into the north of Italy and Switzerland, then on to France, Germany, Britain and Ireland, reaching as far north as Denmark in the Scandinavian region and as far south as Spain and Greece. Archaeologists have even found Celtic artifacts across the Mediterranean in Morocco. Also, graves of well-preserved mummies have been discovered in northern China from a culture called the Urumchi people. They were most certainly Celtic, since they had Caucasian skins and facial features, blond and red hair, and were dressed in tartan-woven cloth." p. 176

"Though some [Greeks] originated in the region, it has been generally accepted that most filtered south from Central Europe… The Celts eventually ruled lands almost as vast as the Roman Empire. Displacing the neolithic people who built megalithic monuments around Europe such as Stonehenge, they continued the traditions of the Druid religion of mysticism. Druids… means ‘the very wise ones’.

"Unlike the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, they never built an empire nor formed a national unity. They were made up of a loose confederation of tribes that often fought each other but came together and banded against a common enemy. After fifteen hundred years their village culture eventually gave way to hill forts constructed of earthworks and wooden palisades that evolved into crowded communities. Quite a number of modern cities are built on the site of old Celt fortresses. Zurich, Paris, Munich and Copenhagen, for example, and half the towns across Europe rest on top of what were once Celtic villages.

"Celtic society leaned mainly toward the pastoral. Their primary endeavor in life was the raising of cattle and sheep. They engaged in agriculture but their yield was small, raised only to feed individual families… They often raided other villages for cattle and women. Not until three hundred B.C. did they turn to growing crops to feed their animals during harsh winters. Those who lived along the coasts became traders, dealing in bronze weapons and selling precious tin for other cultures to produce the metal." p. 177

"[The Celts] led the way into the Bronze Age by developing the metal using copper alloyed with the tin found in huge reserves in Britain. They were later credited with smelting iron and ushering in the Iron Age as well. They were superb horsemen and brought to Europe knowledge of the wheel, built war chariot and were the first to use four-wheeled farm wagons and metal implements for plowing and harvesting. They created tools still in use today like pincers and pliers. They were the first to have shod their horses with bronze shoes and made iron rims for chariot and wagon wheels. The Celts educated the ancient world on the use of soap. Their craftsmanship in metal was second to none, and their mastery of gold in the decoration of jewelry, ornaments, warriors’ helmets, swords and axes was exquisite. Celtic ceramics and pottery were also creatively designed, and they mastered the art of producing glass. They also taught the art of enameling to the Greeks and Romans. Celts excelled in poetry and music. Their poets were placed in greater esteem than their priests. And their practice of beginning the day at midnight has been passed down to us today." p. 178

"Unlike the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans… the Celts have been sidetracked by most historians, despite the fact that they were the keystone of Western civilization. Most of our heritage – religious, political, social and literary traditions – was born within Celtic culture. Industry too, since they were the first to produce bronze and then iron.

"Three thousand years ago, the Celts transmitted all their information, gossip and knowledge orally. Their rituals, customs and ethics were passed down through succeeding generations by word of mouth. Not until the eighth century B.C. did they begin to write anything down.

"…The Celts were advanced in more ways than the early Greeks. They only lagged in a written language and elaborate architecture… Their culture and civilization predates the Greeks by several hundred years." p. 307

Text courtesy: The Trojan Odyssey, Clive Cussler, 2003
Map courtesy: Euratlas

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