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the Term "Celt"

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« on: February 18, 2007, 11:33:36 pm »



A Celtic cross.

The term Celt, normally pronounced /kɛlt/ (see article on pronunciation), refers to a member of any of a number of peoples in Europe using the Celtic languages, which form a branch of Indo-European languages, as well as others whose language is unknown but where associated cultural traits such as Celtic art are found.

Archaeological evidence

Historical theories were developed that these factors were indicative of a common origin, but later theories of culture spreading to differing indigenous peoples have recently been supported by some genetic studies.

The Celts themselves had an intricate, indigenous polytheistic religion and distinctive culture, though the spread of the Roman Empire led to continental Celts adopting Roman culture. The eventual development of Celtic Christianity in Ireland and Britain brought an early medieval renaissance of Celtic art between 400 and 1200, only ended by the Norman Conquest of Ireland in the late 12th century. Antiquarian interest from the 17th century led to the term Celt being extended, and rising nationalism brought Celtic revivals from the 19th century in areas where the use of Celtic languages had continued.

Today, "Celtic" is often used to describe the languages and respective cultures of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man and Brittany (see the Modern Celts article) but, in some opinions, corresponds more accurately to the Celtic language family - of which four are spoken today as mother tongues: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, and Breton plus two recent revivals, Cornish (Brythonic languages) and Manx (Goidelic languages).

In the last two decades of the twentieth century multidisciplinary studies were brought to bear on the history of the Celts. Disciplines such as ancient history, palaeolinguistics, archaeology, history of art, anthropology, population genetics, history of religion, ethnology, mythology and folklore studies all had an influence on celtic studies.
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« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2007, 11:34:21 pm »

Development of the term "Celt"

The first literary reference to the Celtic people, as keltoi is by the Greek historian Hecataeus in 517 BC; he locates the Keltoi tribe in Rhenania (West/Southwest Germany). According to Greek mythology, Celtus was the son of Heracles and Keltine, the daughter of Bretannus. Celtus became the primogenitor of Celts.[1] In Latin Celta came in turn from Herodotus' word for the Gauls, Keltoi. The Romans used Celtae to refer to continental Gauls, but apparently not to Insular Celts. The latter were long divided linguistically into Goidhels and Brythons (see Insular Celtic languages), although other research provides a more complex picture (see below under "Classification").

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« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2007, 11:37:24 pm »

The term in English

The English word is modern, attested from 1707 in the writings of Edward Lhuyd whose work, along with that of other late 17th century scholars, brought academic attention to the languages and history of these early inhabitants of Great Britain.[2] In the 18th century the interest in "primitivism" which led to the idea of the "noble savage" brought a wave of enthusiasm for all things "Celtic". The antiquarian William Stukeley pictured a race of "Ancient Britons" putting up the "Temples of the Ancient Celts" such as Stonehenge before he decided in 1733 to recast the Celts in his book as Druids. The Ossian fables written by James Macpherson and portrayed as ancient Scottish Gaelic language poems added to this romantic enthusiasm. The "Irish revival" came after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 as a conscious attempt to demonstrate an Irish national identity, and with its counterpart in other countries subsequently became the "Celtic revival".[3]

Nowadays "Celt" and "Celtic" are usually pronounced /kɛlt/ and /kɛltɪk/, derived from a Greek root keltoi, when referring to the ethnic group and its languages. The pronunciation /'sɛltɪk/, derived from the French celtique, is mainly used for the names of sports teams (for example the NBA team, Boston Celtics and the SPL side, Celtic F.C. in Glasgow.[4]

Modern uses

In a historical context, the terms "Celt" and "Celtic" can be used in several senses: they can denote peoples speaking Celtic languages; the peoples of prehistoric and early historic Europe who shared common cultural traits which are thought to have originated in the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures; or the peoples known to the Greeks as Keltoi, to the Romans as Celtae and to either by cognate terms such as Gallae or Galatae. The extent to which each of these meanings refers to the same group of people is a matter of debate.

In a modern context, the term "Celt" or "Celtic" can be used to denote areas where Celtic languages are spoken — this is the criterion employed by the Celtic League and the Celtic Congress. In this sense, there are six modern nations that can be defined as Celtic: Brittany, Cornwall, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales. Only four, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and Brittany have 'mother-tongue' speakers of Celtic languages and in none of them is it the language of the majority. However, all six have significant traces of a Celtic language in personal and place names, and in culture and traditions.

Galicia and Asturias in north-western Spain can also be considered Celtic because of the strong Celtic cultural identity and acknowledgement of their Celtic past. Regions of England such as Cumbria and Devon likewise retain some Celtic influences, yet haven't retained a Celtic language (even Cornwall became fully English-speaking during the 18th century) and are therefore not categorised as Celtic regions or nations. Northumbria, or North East England, isn't considered a Celtic nation but possesses the oldest worn tartan in Britain and has its own bagpipes. Cornish aside, the last attested Celtic language native to England was Cumbric, spoken in Cumbria and southern Scotland and which may have survived until the 13th century, but was most likely dead by the eleventh. As in the case of Cornish, there have been recent attempts to revive it, although the evidence upon which this is based is slight in the extreme. Another area of Europe associated with the Celts is France, which traces its roots to the Gauls. In Scotland, the Gaelic language traces at least some of its roots to migration and settlement by the Irish Dál Riata/Scotti. The settlement of Germanic immigrants in the lowlands — among other things — reduced the spread of the Gaelic language which was supplanting Brythonic in Scotland; this has meant that Scots-Gaelic-speaking communities survive chiefly in the country's northern and western fringes.




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« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2007, 11:39:10 pm »

Use of the term for pre-Roman peoples of Britain and Ireland

The use of the word "Celtic" as an umbrella term for the pre-Roman peoples of Britain gained considerable popularity in the nineteenth century, and remains in common usage. However its historical basis is now seen as dubious by many historians and archaeologists, and the utility of this usage has been questioned.

Simon James, formerly of the British Museum. His book The Atlantic Celts: Ancient People or Modern Invention? makes the point that the Romans never used the term "Celtic" (or, rather, a cognate in Latin) in reference to the peoples of Britain and Ireland, and points out that the modern term "Celt" was coined as a useful umbrella term in the early 18th century to distinguish the non-English inhabitants of the archipelago when England united with Scotland in 1707 to create the Kingdom of Great Britain and the later union of Great Britain and Ireland as the United Kingdom in 1800. Nationalists in Scotland, Ireland and Wales looked for a way to differentiate themselves from England and assert their right to independence. James then argues that, despite the obvious linguistic connections, archaeology does not suggest a united Celtic culture and that the term is misleading, no more (or less) meaningful than "Western".

Miranda Green, author of Celtic Goddesses, describes archaeologists as finding "a certain homogeneity" in the traditions in the area of Celtic habitation including Britain and Ireland — she sees the inhabitants of Britain and Ireland as having become thoroughly Celticized by the time of the Roman arrival, mainly through spread of culture rather than a movement of people.

In his book Iron Age Britain, Barry Cunliffe concludes that "...there is no evidence in the British Isles to suggest that a population group of any size migrated from the continent in the first millennium BC...". Modern archaeological thought tends to disparage the idea of large population movements without facts to back them up, a caution which appears to be vindicated by some genetic studies. In other words, Celtic culture in the Atlantic Archipelago and continental Europe could have emerged through the peaceful convergence of local tribal cultures bound together by networks of trade and kinship — not by war and conquest. This type of peaceful convergence and cooperation is actually relatively common among tribal peoples; other well known examples of the phenomenon include the Six Nations of the Iroquois League and the Nuer of East Africa. He argues that the ancient Celts are thus best depicted as a loose and highly diverse collection of indigenous tribal societies bound together by trade, a common druidic religion, related languages, and similar political institutions — but each having its own local traditions.

Michael Morse in the conclusion of his book How the Celts came to Britain concedes that the concepts of a broad Celtic linguistic area and recognizably Celtic art have their uses, but argues that the term implies a greater unity than existed. Despite such problems he suggests that the term Celt is probably too deep-rooted to be replaced and — what is more important — it has the definition that we choose to give it. The problem is that the wider public reads into the term quite anachronistic concepts of ethnic unity that no one on either side in the academic debate holds.
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« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2007, 11:39:58 pm »

Population genetics

With the information gathered recently by population geneticists, it is becoming increasingly clear that the old idea of large-scale replacement by newer invaders is sometimes a misleading concept. The Celtic ethnicity debate took off at a particularly early stage in population genetic studies, a science still in its very early stages of development. Taking this into account along with the fact that these limited studies are dealing only with particular sections of DNA (eg. MtDNA, Y chromosome; no studies can currently be carried out regarding X chromosome inheritance), the results cannot be considered conclusive in any way.

In his book Neanderthal, archaeologist Douglas Palmer refers to genetic research conducted across Europe, then states the original modern genetic group in Europe arrived between 9,000 and 5,000 years ago with the spread of farming, displacing the earlier hunter gatherer populations. Such displacement coincided with a population explosion, since farming is capable of supporting up to 60 times greater population than the hunter-gatherer lifestyle in the same area:

"None of Europe's subsequent historic upheavals - even catastrophic wars and famines - has seriously dented the old pattern set by the influx of farmers. The Goths, Huns and Romans have come and gone without any significant impact on the ancient gene map of Europe". This reality however may be changed in the future due to the influx of non European immigrants, causing the extinction of the European people.
The Y-chromosomes of populations of the so called Celtic countries have been found in several studies to primarily belong to haplogroup R1b, which makes them descendants partially of the first people to migrate into north-western Europe after the last major ice age. According to the most recently published studies of European haplogroups, around half of the current male population of that portion of Eurasia is a descendant of the R1b haplogroup. Haplotype R1b exceeds 90% of Y-chromosomes in parts of Wales, Ireland and Spain. [1] [2] [3]

In two recently published books - The Blood of the Isles by Brian Sykes and The Origins of the British: a Genetic Detective Story by Stephen Oppenheimer - it is claimed, based upon recent genetic studies, that the majority of Britons have ancestors from the Iberian Peninsula, as a result of a series of migrations that took place during the Mesolithic and, to a lesser extent, the Neolithic eras. Oppenheimer's theory is that the modern day people of Wales, Ireland and Cornwall are mainly descended from Iberians who did not speak a Celtic language.

In Origins of the British (2006), Stephen Oppenheimer states (pages 375 and 378):

By far the majority of male gene types in Britain and Ireland derive from Iberia (modern Spain and Portugal), ranging from a low of 59% in Fakenham, Norfolk to highs of 96% in Llangefni, north Wales and 93% Castlerea, Ireland. On average only 30% of gene types in England derive from north-west Europe. Even without dating the earlier waves of north-west European immigration, this invalidates the Anglo-Saxon wipeout theory... ...75-95% of Britain and Ireland (genetic) matches derive from Iberia...Ireland, coastal Wales, and central and west-coast Scotland are almost entirely made up from Iberian founders, while the rest of the non-English parts of Britain and Ireland have similarly high rates. England has rather lower rates of Iberian types with marked heterogeneity, but no English sample has less than 58% of Iberian samples...

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« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2007, 11:41:13 pm »



The green area suggests a possible extent of (proto-)Celtic influence around 1000 BC. The yellow area shows the region of birth of the La Tène style. The orange area indicates an idea of the possible region of Celtic influence around 400 BC.
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« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2007, 11:42:21 pm »

Origins and geographical distribution


The green area suggests a possible extent of (proto-)Celtic influence around 1000 BC. The yellow area shows the region of birth of the La Tène style. The orange area indicates an idea of the possible region of Celtic influence around 400 BC.The Celtic language family is a branch of the larger Indo-European family, which leads some scholars to a hypothesis that the original speakers of the Celtic proto-language may have arisen in the Pontic-Caspian steppes (see Kurgan). However, speakers of Celtic languages enter history from around 600 BC, when they were already split into several language groups, and spread over much of Central Europe, the Iberian peninsula, Ireland and Britain. Some studies now suggest (see above) that certain Celtic peoples shared genetic ancestry with the Basque people.[5] J. F. del Giorgio in The Oldest Europeans mentions that mythologists like Robert Graves reached a similar conclusion through comparative mythology and the study of Celtic customs.

Some scholars think that the Urnfield culture represents an origin for the Celts as a distinct cultural branch of the Indo-European family. This culture was preeminent in central Europe during the late Bronze Age, from ca. 1200 BC until 700 BC, itself following the Unetice and Tumulus cultures. The Urnfield period saw a dramatic increase in population in the region, probably due to innovations in technology and agricultural practices. The spread of iron-working led to the development of the Hallstatt culture directly from the Urnfield (c. 700 to 500 BC). Proto-Celtic, the latest common ancestor of all known Celtic languages, is considered by this school of thought to have been spoken at the time of the late Urnfield or early Hallstatt cultures, in the early first millennium BC.

The spread of the Celtic languages to Ireland, Britain and Iberia would have occurred during the first half of the 1st millennium, the earliest chariot burials in Britain dating to ca. 500 BC. Over the centuries they developed into the separate Celtiberian, Goidelic and Brythonic languages. Whether Goidelic and Brythonic are descended from a common Insular-Celtic language, or reflect two separate waves of migration, is disputed. Either way, the La Tène culture can be associated with the Gauls, but its dates are entirely too late for it to be a candidate for the Proto-Celtic culture.

The Hallstatt culture was succeeded by the La Tène culture, and during the final stages of the Iron Age gradually transformed into the explicitly Celtic culture of early historical times. The La Tène culture was distributed around the upper reaches of the Danube, Switzerland, Austria, southern and central Germany, northern regions of Italy, eastern France, Bohemia, Moravia, Spain,Slovakia and parts of Hungary and Ukraine. The technologies, decorative practices and metal-working styles of the La Tène were to be very influential on the continental Celts. The La Tène style was highly derivative from the Greek, Etruscan and Scythian decorative styles with whom the La Tène settlers frequently traded.

Additional forays into Greece and central Italy during the historical period did not result in settlement, though the same movement that brought Celtic invaders to Greece pushed on through to Anatolia, where they settled as the Galatians.

As there is no archaeological evidence for large scale invasions in some of the other areas, one current school of thought holds that Celtic language and culture spread to those areas by contact rather than invasion. However, the Celtic invasions of Italy, Greece, and western Anatolia are well documented in Greek and Latin history. Examine the Map of Celtic Lands for more information.[6]

Pliny the Elder affirms that Celtica (the country of origin of the Celts) was in the delta of the river Guadalquivir in the south of Spain "praeter haec in Celtica Acinippo, Arunda, Arunci, Turobriga, Lastigi, Salpesa, Saepone, Serippo. altera Baeturia, quam diximus Turdulorum et conventus Cordubensis, habet oppida non ignobilia Arsam, Mellariam, Mirobrigam Reginam, Sosintigi, Sisaponem".[4]

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« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2007, 11:44:20 pm »

Celts in Britain and Ireland



The indigenous populations of Britain and Ireland today may be primarily descended from the ancient peoples that have long inhabited these lands, before the coming of Celtic and later Germanic peoples, language and culture. As to the original culture and language, little is known but remnants may remain in the naming of some geographical features, such as the rivers Clyde, Tamar and Thames whose etymology is unclear but may certainly derive from a pre-Celtic substrate. By the Roman period, however, most of the inhabitants of the isles of Ireland and Britain (the ancient Britons) were speaking Goidelic or Brythonic languages, close counterparts to Gallic languages spoken on the European mainland. Historians explained this as the result of successive invasions from the European continent by diverse Celtic-speaking peoples over the course of several centuries. In 1946 the Celtic scholar T. F. O'Rahilly published his extremely influential model of the early history of Ireland which postulated four separate waves of Celtic invaders. It is still not known what languages were spoken by the peoples of Ireland and Britain before the arrival of the Celts.



Celtic dagger found in Britain.Later research indicated that the culture had developed gradually and continuously. In Ireland little archaeological evidence was found for large intrusive groups of Celtic immigrants, suggesting to historians such as Colin Renfrew that the native late Bronze Age inhabitants gradually absorbed European Celtic influences and language. The very few continental La Tène culture style objects which had been found in Ireland could have been imports, the possessions of a few rich immigrants, or the result of selectively absorbing cultural influences from outside elites, further supporting this theory of cultural exchange rather than migration.

Julius Caesar wrote of people in Britain who came from Belgium (the Belgae), but archaeological evidence which was interpreted in the 1930s as confirming this was contradicted by later interpretations. The archaeological evidence is of substantial cultural continuity through the first millennium BCE, although with a significant overlay of selectively-adopted elements of La Tène culture. There is numismatic and other evidence of continental-style states appearing in southern England close to the end of the period possibly reflecting in part immigration by élites from various Gallic states such as those of the Belgae. However, this immigration would be far too late to account for the origins of Insular Celtic languages. In the 1970s the continuity model was taken to an extreme, popularised by Colin Burgess in his book The Age of Stonehenge which theorised that Celtic culture in Great Britain "emerged" rather than resulted from invasion and that the Celts were not invading aliens, but the descendants of the people of Stonehenge. The existence of Celtic language elsewhere in Europe, however, and the dating of the Proto-Celtic culture and language to the Bronze Age, makes the most extreme claims of continuity impossible.

More recently a number of genetic studies have also supported this model of culture and language being absorbed by native populations. The study by Cristian Capelli, David Goldstein and others at University College, London showed that genes associated with Gaelic names in Ireland and Scotland are also common in certain parts of Wales and are similar to the genes of the Basque people, who speak a non-Indo-European language. This similarity supported earlier findings in suggesting a largely pre-Celtic genetic ancestry, possibly going back to the Paleolithic. They suggest that 'Celtic' culture and the Celtic language may have been imported to Britain by cultural contact, not mass invasions around 600 BC.

Some recent studies have suggested that, contrary to long-standing beliefs, the Germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons) did not wipe out the Romano-British of England but rather, over the course of six centuries, conquered the native Brythonic people of what is now England and south east Scotland and imposed their culture and language upon them, in a manner similar to how Irish possibly spread over the west of Scotland. Still others maintain that the picture is mixed and that in some places the indigenous population was indeed wiped out while in others it was assimilated. According to this school of thought the populations of Yorkshire, East Anglia, Northumberland and the Orkney and Shetland Islands are those populations with the fewest traces of ancient (Celtic) British continuation.[7]

For obvious reasons the question of whether or not England originated with a Genocide against the indigenous, culturally Celtic, population is highly controversial and has clear political overtones - particularly with the contemporary emergence of strong Nationalist movements in Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall and the ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland.

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« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2007, 11:46:50 pm »



A map of Gaul in the 1st century BC, showing the relative positions of the Celtic tribes.
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« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2007, 11:50:47 pm »

Gaul (Latin: Gallia) was the name given, in ancient times, to the region of Western Europe comprising present-day northern Italy, France, Belgium, western Switzerland and the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the west bank of the Rhine river.

In English, the word Gaul (French: Gaulois) may also refer to a Celtic inhabitant of that region, although the expression may be used more generally for all ancient speakers of the Gaulish language (a derivative of early Celtic) who were widespread in Europe and extended even into central Anatolia by Roman times. In this way, "Gaul" and "Celt" are sometimes used interchangeably.

Gauls under Brennus sacked Rome circa 390 BC. In the Aegean world, a huge migration of Eastern Gauls appeared in Thrace, north of Greece, in 281 BC. Another Gaulish chieftain named Brennus, at the head of a large army, was only turned back from desecrating the Temple of Apollo at Delphi at the last minute — he was alarmed, it was said, by portents of thunder and lightning.[1] At the same time a migrating band of Celts, some 10,000 fighting men, with their women and children and slaves, were moving through Thrace. Three tribes of Gauls crossed over from Thrace to Asia Minor at the express invitation of Nicomedes I, king of Bithynia, who required help in a dynastic struggle against his brother. Eventually they settled down in eastern Phrygia and Cappadocia in central Anatolia, a region henceforth known as Galatia.

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« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2007, 11:51:46 pm »

Pre-Roman Gaul

The early history of the Gauls is predominantly a work in archeology — there being little written information (save perhaps what can be gleaned from coins) concerning the peoples that inhabited these regions — and the relationships between their material culture, genetic relationships (the study of which has been aided, in recent years, through the field of archaeogenetics), and linguistic divisions rarely coincide.

Many cultural traits of the early Celts seem to have been carried northwest up the Danube Valley, although this issue is contested. It seems as if they derived many of their skills (like metal-working), as well as certain facets of their culture, from Balkan peoples. Some scholars think that the Bronze Age Urnfield culture represents an origin for the Celts as a distinct cultural branch of the Indo-European-speaking peoples (see Proto-Celtic). The Urnfield culture was preeminent in central Europe during the late Bronze Age, from ca. 1200 BC until 700 BC. The spread of iron-working led to the development of the Hallstatt culture (ca. 700 to 500 BC) directly from the Urnfield. Proto-Celtic, the latest common ancestor of all known Celtic languages, is considered by some scholars to have been spoken at the time of the late Urnfield or early Hallstatt cultures.

The Hallstatt culture was succeeded by the La Tène culture, which developed out of the Hallstatt culture without any definite cultural break, under the impetus of considerable Mediterranean influence from the Greek, and Etruscan civilizations. The La Tène culture developed and flourished during the late Iron Age (from 450 BC to the Roman conquest in the 1st century BC) in France, Switzerland, Austria, southwest Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. Farther to the north extended the contemporary Pre-Roman Iron Age culture of Northern Germany and Scandinavia.

 
A map of Gaul in the 1st century BC, showing the relative positions of the Celtic tribes.By the second century BC, Celtic France was called Gaul (Gallia Transalpina) by the Romans. In his Gallic Wars, Julius Caesar distinguishes among three ethnic groups in Gaul: the Belgae in the north (in what is present-day Belgium), the Celts in the centre, and the Aquitani in the southwest. While some scholars believe that the Belgae were a mixture of Celtic and Germanic elements, their ethnic affiliations have not been resolved. The Aquitani may have been the ancestors of the Vascons. In addition to the Gauls, there were other peoples living in Gaul, such as the Greeks and Phoenicians who had established outposts such as Massilia (present-day Marseille) along the Mediterranean coast. Also, along the southeastern Mediterranean coast, the Ligures had merged with the Celts to form a Celto-Ligurian culture.

In the second century BC, Mediterranean Gaul had an extensive urban fabric and was prosperous, while the heavily forested Northern Gaul had almost no cities outside of fortified compounds (or oppida) used in times of war. The prosperity of Mediterranean Gaul encouraged Rome to respond to pleas for assistance from the inhabitants of Massilia, who were under attack by a coalition of Ligures and Gauls. The Romans intervened in Gaul in 125 BC, and by 121 BC they had conquered the Mediterranean region called Provincia (later named Gallia Narbonensis). This conquest upset the ascendancy of the Gaulish Arverni tribe.

Further Roman expansion into northern Gaul occurred under Julius Caesar, who conquered regions as far north as present-day Belgium and raided Britannia and Germania during the Gallic Wars (58 BC - 51 BC). The war's turning point was the decisive Battle of Alesia in 52 BC, in which the Romans defeated a confederation of Gallic tribes united under the leadership of Vercingetorix of the Arverni.

The Gauls that Julius Caesar encountered during his campaigns were not Neolithic barbarians, as the vast wealth accumulated by Caesar during the Gallic Wars can attest. Rather, the Gauls in the last century before Christ ought to be regarded as "half-civilized." As the excavations of the Aeduan "oppidum" of Bibracte reveal, the Gauls were a wealthy people, well-acquainted with the use of gold, as well as silver and bronze, coinage. Furthermore, coins from Gaul have been found in Britain and vice versa, supporting Caesar's claim that trade existed between the two "nations."

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« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2007, 11:53:26 pm »



The Dying Gaul, an ancient Roman marble copy of a lost ancient Greek statue, thought to have been executed in bronze, commissioned some time between 230 BC–220 BC by Attalos I of Pergamon to honor his victory over the Galatians.
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« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2007, 11:54:46 pm »

Social structure and tribes
 
The Druids were not the only political force in Gaul, however, and the early political system was complex, if ultimately fatal to the society as a whole. The fundamental unit of Gallic politics was the tribe, which itself consisted of one or more of what Caesar called "pagi." Each tribe had a council of elders, and initially a king. Later, the executive was an annually-elected magistrate. Among the Aedui, a tribe of Gaul, the executive held the title of "Vergobret," a position much like a king, but its powers were held in check by rules laid down by the council.

The tribal groups, or pagi as the Romans called them (singular: pagus; the French word pays, "region", comes from this term) were organized into larger super-tribal groups that the Romans called civitates. These administrative groupings would be taken over by the Romans in their system of local control, and these civitates would also be the basis of France's eventual division into ecclesiastical bishoprics and dioceses, which would remain in place — with slight changes — until the French revolution.

Although the tribes were moderately stable political entities, Gaul as a whole tended to be politically-divided, there being virtually no unity among the various tribes. Only during particularly trying times, such as the invasion of Caesar, could the Gauls unite under a single leader like Vercingetorix. Even then, however, the faction lines were clear.

The Romans divided Gaul broadly into Provincia (the conquered area around the Mediterranean), and the northern Gallia Comata ("free Gaul" or "long haired Gaul"). Caesar divided the people of Gaulia Comata into three broad groups: the Aquitani; Galli (who in their own language were called Celtae); and Belgae. In the modern sense, Gaulish tribes are defined linguistically, as speakers of dialects of the Gaulish language. While the Aquitani were probably Vascons, the Belgae would thus probably be counted among the Gaulish tribes, perhaps with Germanic elements.

Julius Caesar's comments on these people from his book, Commentarii de Bello Gallico, are worth quoting:

Quote
All Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which the Belgae inhabit, the Aquitani another, those who in their own language are called Celts, in ours Gauls, the third.

All these differ from each other in language, customs and laws.

The river Garonne separates the Gauls from the Aquitani; the Marne and the Seine separate them from the Belgae.

Of all these, the Belgae are the bravest, because they are furthest from the civilization and refinement of [our] Province, and merchants least frequently resort to them, and import those things which tend to effeminate the mind; and they are the nearest to the Germanic people, who dwell beyond the Rhine, with whom they are continually waging war; for which reason the Helvetii also surpass the rest of the Gauls in valor, as they contend with the Germanic people in almost daily battles, when they either repel them from their own territories, or themselves wage war on their frontiers. One part of these, which it has been said that the Gauls occupy, takes its beginning at the river Rhone; it is bounded by the river Garonne, the ocean, and the territories of the Belgae; it borders, too, on the side of the Sequani and the Helvetii, upon the river Rhine, and stretches toward the north.

The Belgae rises from the extreme frontier of Gaul, extend to the lower part of the river Rhine; and look toward the north and the rising sun.

Aquitania extends from the river Garonne to the Pyrenaean mountains and to that part of the ocean which is near Spain: it looks between the setting of the sun, and the north star.




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"Often the test of courage is not to die but to live." — Vittorio Alfieri
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