maturitní otázky, seminárky a referáty

Angličtina - Celts

Autor: David Kuthan

1. Short introduction

Everything what we know about the Celts is from archaeology and from old written sources of Romans, Greeks and other civilizations, which were in some connection with the Celts (business, fighting…). But all these civilizations considered the Celts for barbarians, they saw Celts through their civilizated eyes and sometimes are in their works figments. The Celts didn’t have their own written works till coming of Christianity. But that doesn’t mean, that they couldn’t write. It was their custom to remember all myths and pieces of knowledge and druids(someone as priest of their religion) refused to leave some written relicts.

2. The origin of Celtic culture

The racial group that we now call Celt were in fact an Indo-European people whose culture spread rapidly across the whole of Europe, up into Scandinavia, down into the Spanish peninsula, to the Romans Italy and also into Panonia and Asia Minor.This does not mean the people expanded and took over, but that their culture was strong enough to dominate and be adopted by other peoples in the area.

The earliest found archaeological evidence associated with the Celts places them in what is now France and western Germany in the late Bronze Age around 1200 BC. In this time connected two culture: first culture of people of tumulus and second culture of people of urnfields. In the early Iron Age, they are associated with the Halstatt culture (8th-6th cent. bc) named for an archaeological site in Upper Austria. They probably began to settle in the British Isles during this period.

The word Celt is derived from Keltoi, the name given to these people by Herodotus and other Greek writers. To the Romans, the Continental Celts were known as Galli, or Gauls; those in Britain were called Britanni.

3. Very shortly about Europe

Between the 5th and 1st centuries BC , their influence extended from what is now Spain , the islands of the British Isles to the shores of the Black Sea , from the Ukraine to Turkey. This huge land/cultural region ( never an Empire ) encompassing the areas mentioned influenced much of the continent of Europe.

The later Iron Age phase of Celtic Culture is called La Tene, after a site in Switzerland and dates from the previously mentioned 5th to 1st centuries BC. Evidence from this period suggests that the Celts were the first peoples of Europe to actively use and work with iron.

In the 4th century BC the Celts invaded the Greco-Roman world, conquering northern Italy and sacking Rome, whilst also conquering Macedonia and Thessaly. They plundered Rome in 390, sacked Delphi in 279, and penetrated Asia Minor, where they were known as Galatians.

The "Cisalpine Gauls" of northern Italy were conquered by the Romans in the 2nd century BC. Transalpine Gaul (modern France and the Rhineland) was subdued by Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC and most of Britain came under Roman rule in the 1st century AD. In the same period the Celts of central Europe being fragmented came under the domination by the Germanic peoples. In medieval and modern times the Celtic tradition and languages survived in Brittany ( Western France), Cornwall, Galicia ( North Western Spain) , Galatia ( Central Turkey), Wales, the Scottish Highlands, Isle of Man and Ireland, and to a lesser extent in the Norse/Celtic culture of Iceland.

Lot of scientists suppose that in the Europe was very long ago one communal language and that was Indoeuropean language. And as the time went on, there began to appear some differences and we can differentiate two dialects. First older group were Goidels or Q-Celts and second were P-Celts. (Q-Celts held open kw as q and P-Celts had q as p.) Q-Celts are now Irishmen and Scots and P-Celts are in Wales and Brittany.

4. History of Celts in Britain

There were old Iberians tribes before Celts in Britain and from them are there megalitic monuments. After them came Celts in Britain. But it was in few phases of immigrations. First were Goidels from the west part of France-Britanny on beginning of Bronz Age, second were Pikts in Middle Bronze Age, third were Brittones (beginning of La Téne) and the last Belgs in 2th century AD.

About Britain we know already from the 5th century BC from merchants. Britain was one of the European sources of tin. So Greeks very often called Britain as a Tin Islands (=Kassiteridés). The first mention is from merchant Pýtheás, 4th century BC. Polybios, Strabón and Avienus brought up about Pretan Island, so they called the people there Pretani. In the period of Romans ascendancy over Britain were the people called Brittones-that’s why is Britain called Britain. So before coming of Brittones were in Britain main Q-Celtic and with Brittones came P-Celtic. Pýtheás said too, that Celts had refused coins and they had prefered a change. Coins came in Britain in the 2th century BC. Archaeologists found lot of articles which said us, that between Celts and Romans had been very fresh trade before coming of Caesar. In this time was namely Britain very prosperous country. Its agriculture prospered, they had advanced crafts, they produced wool and canvas, and they used lathe and jewellery. Their woolly products were even exported to Rome and their coat sagum pertained to fashion of upper social class in Rome. Also metallurgy was of course very developed.

Julius Caesar-Expeditions to Britain 55-54 BC

Caesar s first visit was very short. Before he had progressed very far inland, a storm destroyed half his ships, so he hastily repaired the rest and got back before he was cut off altogether.

The following year he started earlier in the summer, and a larger force. He pushed his way into the Thames basin, where he won a battle against a British chief named Cassivelaunus. But he was again recalled by a mishap to his fleet - this time an attack by the Southern tribes.

As he withdrew, he accepted a promise of tribute from the local chiefs, and returned to Gaul. He never came again.

During the following years he was engaged in a war with his leading rival, Pompey; and then, just as he was on the point of becoming Emperor, he was assassinated by political opponents, 10 years after his first visit to Britain.

Caesar had to return to Gaul, because there passed over lot of rebellion against Roman ascendancy. But Gallic protest was aimless. During some decade Romans put down all abomination. After this was already time for new invasion to Britain. Although trade between Britain and Rome was still better and better and lot of people in Rome knew that it was preferable to lay by Britain self-contained than to make from Britain province of Rome, so Augustus Octavianus wanted to continue in way of his uncle Caesar. But “unfortunately” he couldn’t because of some rebellion in his empire. In this time already from 10th AD was Celtic king Cunobelinos (= Dog of Got Belen) (In English literature is his name Cymbelin by Shakespeare). Octavianus though, that Cunobelinos would come to Rome and that he would submit to him, as it was common by other countries. But Cunobelinos hadn’t any cause.

After Octavianus reigned Caligula, but for his madness he had done nothing. And then during reign of Claudius Cunobelinos died. It was maybe the main impulse for Rome to begin to act. The second invasion of Romans began. After death of Cunobelinos followed Caratacos. There passed over lot of battles once prevailed Romans over Celts and once counter. But overall was victory nearer to Plautius (army-leader of Claudius). Romans slowly advanced and Caratacos withdrew to his steadiness Camulodunum. This steadiness was forced and Caratacos with his family escaped. In Camulodunum was the main centre of Romans and Claudius, who had came, when the victory over this part of Britain had been unerring, received these Celtic chiefs of some tribes, who wanted to accept Claudius reign. After these ceremonies Claudius went back to Rome and Plautius had to guarantee what they had forced. Romans went on in the middle Britain and they won lot of battles. One of them was conquest of Maidun. Archaelogical rulings say us, that Romans had to break down this unprepared steadiness during one day and from graves (they were very barren and quickly done) we know, that Romans massacred all people there. Woman, children, all.. Meantime made Caratacos new army and attacked. Romans wanted to penalize this defeat and they went to break him down. Then followed great battle, where Caratacos was broken down. He escaped to tribe of Brittones and wanted to make an army again, but queen of Brittones Cartimandua abused laws of hospitality and she got him out to Romans.

So was the south of Britain closely in hands of Romans and they ruled there till coming of Anglo-Saxons tribes (about 400 AD).

But of course to the end of this chapter I cannot forget on British national heroine Boudica.


Boudica was the wife of Prasutagus, king of the Iceni, a British tribe, at a time when Britain was a Roman province. When Prasutagus died he willed half of his kingdom to the Roman empire and half to Boudica and their two daughters, Camorra and Tasca. British law allowed royal inheritance to be passed to daughters in the absence of male heir, but Roman law did not. The Roman administrator ignored the will and proceded to take over the entire kingdom.

Enraged Boudica joined Iceni forces with another tribe, the Trinovantes, and together they fought back. They attacked and conquered the Roman colony Camulodunum (now Colchester) and burned the temple dedicated to Claudius. The Romans retaliated against the insurgents by sending a whole division of soldiers, but they were defeated.

The insurgents then marched on London, which they sacked, and killed its Roman population, as well as their sympathizers. They did the same at Verulamium (now St. Albans) and other settlements.

Finally, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, the Roman governor of Britain, gathered all the Roman troops in the south of Britain and attacked the British in a narrow valley so that the superior numbers of rebel force would be of no advantage against the smaller Roman army.

Tacitus reported that Boudica was seen riding her chariot and inspiring her troops before the battle. However, this time the Romans were victorious, and slaughtered the rebel troops. Boudica and her daughters escaped but then poisoned themselves rather than allow capture.

Roman retribution for rebellion was swift and cruel but the British kept up the fight for another year, when Suetonius was succeeded by Publius Petronius Turpilianus, who changed the policy toward the native population to one of appeasement, which remained in use for three hundred more years of Roman occupation of Britain.

5. Celtic history in Ireland

Celts in Ireland had fortune, that they had lived on island. Romans shouldn´t force them. About their history before coming of Christianity we know very little. As in another Celtic countries was here everything passed on further generation oraly.

We know, that in Ireland have existed agrarian settlements since 3000 years BC and in this time have started up the oldest megalitic monuments. With Bronz Age, which began about 1500 BC, began also export of Irish products to Europe. On beginning of Bronz Age we date also beginning of Celtic culture. Of course exist more theories about time of coming of Celts, but these theories derive from Greek and Roman sources, which have very often incorrect allegations (for example about location of Ireland,..). More historians prefer to derive from mythology, because although was it handed down only oraly and for long time, men who had done it, were professional group of historians. From mythology we know lot of kings and queens, but it is not safe, that they really existed. Although was first law-book “Brehon’s law-book” written in young Christian time, from its elaboration we can see, that it had got long long tradition and years of experience. On contrary of Roman law-books, this one was built on Indo-European base. (Somewhere had been this laws till 17th century in some districts.)

One of interesting rulers was queen Macha Mong Ruadh (=Macha Red-haired). It is said she reigned from 377 BC and that she built first Irisch hospital Brong Bherg (=House of Mourning), which had been existing till 22 AD.

Brehon’s law-book contains immensely complex rubrics about medical practices and about safekeeping of hospitals. According to Brehon’s law-book there could work only qualified personnel in hospitals, they should not be indebted and they should serve up benefit to all bed-rid, feeble and overripe people and also to orphans. So in early Irish society nobody had not to be afraid, that he would be alone in his ill or old age.

Also in Middle Ages Europe recognized accomplishment of long Irish medical tradition. Prowess of Irish medicinmen was famous. The best medical school in Europe was based in 5th century AD in Tuaim Breacain (nowadays Tomregan, county Cavan). Till the beginning of 19th century is preserved medical literature in Irish as the largest lexicon of medical literature in the whole world.

When were Romans in Britain, they had to build Hadrian’s wall because of brave fight of Celts from Caledonia. These Celts assured, that Romans hadn’t fought against Celts from Ireland.

But Ireland was connected with the other world through trade.

In half of 3th century advanced Irish tribes Britain through Wales to Scotland and because were these tribes called Scotts gave they name to this land.

795 AD were Irishmen endangered by Vikings, but already 1041 AD the Irish king Brían Boroimhe broke down Norsemen and this danger was warded off forever.

In 5th AD expanded in Ireland Christianity. Ireland became centre of scholarship and monks left Ireland to vivify Christianity in Europe and far in the east. It is quite ironic that Ireland kept alive Greek and Roman learning till Renaissance. And just Ireland gave to ancestors of Englishmen Christianity and literacy.

6. The oldest language and written works

As I have already said we can divide Celts in two basic groups Q-Celts and P-Celts. During decades and centuries changed languages after countries where people lived. Changes are between islands and continent. For example Caesar divided Gauls into three groups:-Belgs, Aquitans and Gauls, these three tribes had different language and customs. But it is hard to say how did Celtic language look like and what differences had it. Of course still now exist some countries, where is Celtic language, but before thousands years was everything otherwise.

But we can see this language or its remainders in names of rivers, towns and cities, ranges, and so on. It is very amazing that although in England were after Celts Romans, Anglo-Saxons tribes, Danish tribes, Norman, is lot of Celtic names in England yet. For example names of rivers-Aire, Avon, Axe, Dee, Derwent, Don, Esk, Exe, Ouse, Sever, Stour, Tees, Thames, .., or towns and cities as London, names of districts Kent.

The oldest memorial volumes arose of course in Ireland. To the oldest handwriting belong Ogam, it is composed from pixels and tallies (we can find it on gravestones ,etc.). With coming of Christianity came also Latin and in the 8th and 9th century is Latin text accompanied by Irish notations. As a first memorial volume is considered Book of Invasions = Lebhar na Gabála and it speaks about immigrations to British Islands. Then also Brehon’s law-book. And in Britain The song of Boewulf (it is said, that author was learned in Ireland).

7. Celtic society and its structure

The various Celtic tribes were bound together by common speech, customs, and religion, rather than by any well defined central governments. Their government was through the use of a feudal system with each tribe being headed by a king/chief and was divided by class into Druids (priests), warrior nobles, and commoners/freemen and slaves . Politically there was a great degree of democracy within the society with both men and women being treated equally and all important decisions being made at tribal gatherings in which women had an equal voice. Rulers were subject to removal at these gathering if found unsatisfactory or incompetent and succession was not necessarily hereditary. The absence of any large scale political unity amongst the tribes contributed substantially to the extinction of their way of life, making them vulnerable to their enemies. Their economy was pastoral and agricultural and they had no real urban life however trade played a large part in there economy . The nobles fought on foot with swords and spears and were fond of feasting and drinking. Celtic mythology, which included earth gods, various woodland spirits, and sun deities, was particularly rich in elfin demons and tutelaries, beings that still pervade the lore of peoples of Celtic ancestry.

In family living could they to divorce after agreement and upbringing of boys had got in hands mothers till the age, in which could boys fight. Then brought them up their fathers or druids.

8. Military structure-how did they fight

(Polybius, 2nd century BC .):"The Romans... were terrified by the fine order of the Celtic host, and the dreadful din, for there were innumerable horn -blowers and trumpeters, and... the whole army were shouting their war-cries... Very terrifying too were the appearance and the gestures of the naked warriors in front, all in the prime of life and finely built men, and all in the leading companies richly adorned with gold torcs and armlets."

I wanted to begin with this quotation of Polybius, because from it we can easy see, how did fight with the Celts look like. But on the beginning, when the Celts precipitated, they had not got good weapons. With development of iron and its metalurgy developed also their weapons. They required weapons to fight with another tribe and later to arm against Roman and German tribes. Because of defence built they oppidum, toughen fortress. Their weapons were long swords, shields, spears and huge axes.

Celtic chariots were a form of warfare that the Romans had serious problems with. It took them some time to find a way of dealing with the devastating the effect the chariot had. Polybius, in his accounts of the lead up to the battle of Telamon in 225 BC., reports that the Gauls had 20,000 cavalry and chariots. This was the last reference to the use of chariots on the mainland. By the time Caesar encountered them in Britain, the method of fighting against the chariot had been forgotten. Diodorus said that the chariot was drawn by two horses, and could carry a driver and a warrior. In battle the driver controlled the chariot, whilst the warrior would throw javelins at his opponents.

Latter on were the Celts hired into Roman and another soldiery because of their pugnacity. Also Hannibal had soldiery composed majority of the Celts. They were so bellicose and brave because of religion or philosophy, in which they believed. (I will clear it up in another point.)

9. Economy, how did they looked like

Economic base was an agriculture and a breeding of cattle. They cultivated barley (for a bread, beer and mash), then beet, flax, hemp and other plants, some of them needful for coloration. For grinding down of corn had they got rotary pulper.

By late Iron Age most clothing was made of wool. The cloth was woven using looms, and was decorated by weaving checks and stripes into the material. The checks were bold but not constructed like a modern tartan . There were also various ways of weaving other than the standard tabby (over-under-over-under). Some of the looms were advanced enough to produce dogs-tooth check, and herring-bone weave. Most clothing was sewn together using a needle, and wool or linen thread. Needles were made of bone, bronze, and iron. The seam, on all pieces found so far, is on the inside. The only exception is in the use of leather or skins, where the seam is on the outside, to maintain water-proofing. The only items which were not sewn were summer cloaks (just a piece of cloth draped on), and the peplum, which was woven as a tube.

Most of what we call jewellery is in fact clothes fasteners. Very few pieces were worn just for decoration, most of it had a very practical purpose. The classical piece that everyone thinks of at the first mention of Celtic is a Torc. This is a neck ring made of gold, silver, bronze, or iron. Some of them are highly decorative, whilst some are very simple. They were only worn by high ranking members of the tribe and were a status symbol, or badge of office. You had to be a warrior, a land owner or member of the ruling class to own and wear one. Clothes that are made without modern tailoring, need pulling in and pinning to make them fit. Over the Iron Age period a number of methods were used.

The first pins were simple straight spikes that were pushed through the cloth and held there by friction. They were made of bone or antler, with some decoration around the head.

When metals were discovered, bronze pins came into use. As the use of bronze spread, it s qualities were exploited.

10. Celtic art

Celtic art is considered the first great contribution to European art made by non Mediterranean peoples. Its roots go back to the artisans of the Urnfield culture and the Hallstatt culture (8th-6th cent. BC) at the beginning of the Iron Age. It flowered in the period of the La Tene culture. Although Celtic art was influenced by ancient Persian, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman art and by that of the nomads of the Eurasian steppes it developed distinctive characteristics. These are evident in its major artefacts-weapons, vessels, and jewelry in bronze, gold, electrum and occasionally silver. Many of these objects were made for chieftains in southern Germany and France and were recovered from their tombs. The Celtic style is marked by a preference for stylised plant motifs, usually of Greek origin, and fantastic animals, derived from the Scythians and other steppe peoples; however the human figure tended to play a secondary role. Other favourite motifs are elliptical curves and opposing curves. spirals, and chevrons, also derived from steppe art. These elements were combined in dynamic yet balanced, intricate geometrical patterns carried out in relief engraving, or red, yellow, blue, and green champleve enamel on shields, swords, sheaths, helmets, bowls, and jewelry. They also appeared on painted pottery cinerary urns, food vessels, incense bowls, and drinking cups. Examples of Celtic art include torcs, or neck rings, with the two open ends ornamented with animal heads, the silver repousse Cundestorp cauldron (c. 400 BC National Museum, Copenhagen), a bronze lozenge-shaped shield with circular medallions and small enamel circles (1st cent. BC - 1st cent. AD ), and a bronze mirror with enamelled decoration (1st cent. BC) (both British Museum. London). Also surviving are roughly carved stone monuments and wooden objects. During the period of Roman domination of Western Europe in and after the 1st century bc the art of Celtic peoples on the Continent gradually lost its distinctive style. The Celts of Ireland continued to work with traditional motifs but as Christianity took hold, they combined them with Christian motifs and employed their skills in the service of the church.

11. Celtic religion and customs

What did the Celts believe in? We know, again from lot of sources, that the Celts had lot of gods and hero. It was very often, that their gods were heroes and their heroes were gods. Their sanctuaries were in nature, they venerated lot of gods of nature. Their sacral tree was oak and when was there mistletoe was it better. They also used old megalitic monuments to their rituals. Very often sacrificed they human oblation. But not only people, they gave to gods also treasures, which they wrestled. When they buried they gave into graves lot of postmortem kit.

The Celts also believed, that with death nothing end. They believed, that after death went they in another world and when they die there, they would bornd again in this world. That is why they were so brave in fighting. They also did not so much celebrite, when someone was borned, because it was death in the second world. Some historians say, that this philosophy is from Greece, but that is only theory.

The Christian faith was well established in Celtic Britain by the 4th century ad, but in the 5th century the Saxons and other Germanic peoples invaded the country, driving most of the Celtic Christians into Wales and Cornwall. At the same time. St. Patrick and other British missionaries founded a new church in Ireland, which then became the centre of Celtic Christianity. The Irish church developed a distinctive organization in which bishops were subordinate to the abbots of monasteries .The Irish monks, devoted to learning as well as religion, did much to preserve a knowledge of ancient Roman literature in early medieval Europe. Between the late 6th and the early 8th centuries, Irish missionaries were active in Christianizing the Germanic peoples that had conquered the Western Roman Empire, and they founded numerous monasteries in present-day France, Germany, Switzerland , and Italy. Celtic Christianity in Ireland was weakened by the Viking invasions of the 9th and 10th centuries, and by the 12th century its characteristic institutions, which were incompatible with those of the dominant Roman church, had largely disappeared from Europe.

The Celtic year was divided into four main parts based on the farming cycle.

Starting the New Year with the festival of SAMHAIN, when the world starts to darken into winter. The veil between the human world and the world of the dead becomes very thin. This gives you the opportunity to invite your ancesters over the veil to join in the feast. The following day in the calendar has no name, this is to stop the spirits from being trapped in our world, and to make the journey back over the veil much easier. The modern date for this is 31 October, and goes a long way to explaining the depiction of the ghosts and ghouls at Halloween (All Hallows Eve). The Christian church was unable to stop this festival, so they tacked on All Souls Day, and All Saints Day, to try to counter the effects following Halloween.

The end of winter and the start of the awakening of the world is marked by IMBOLC, which translated from the Celtic languages is the lactation of the ewes . The birth of the first lamb means that there is once again fresh milk available, and the proof of new life returning. The modern date for this is 2 February, which in the Christian calendar is Candlemass.

The most lively festival of all is BELTAIN, the first day of summer. It was marked by the appearance of the first May blossom. A time of partnerships and fertility. New couples would proclaim their love for each other on this day. Writings from the puritanical elements during the English civil war show the festival was alive and well in the 17th century. We have quotes such as- "Couples would go into the woods at night and ne er a third returned undefiled!"

In the present however, the festival has been highjacked by the left wing of politics and May 1st was declared a national holiday in many countries. (The Christians have no equivelant date at this time of year!)

The last major festival is the bringing in of the harvest, starting on the feast of LUGNASA. The festival lasts for a whole moon and was a celebration of the Gods providing all that was needed. The Culmination of the festival is Harvest Home. This is the last load coming in from the fields, and the capturing of the goddess of the cereal. The hang-over from this is the making of a corn dolly , originally in the shape of a woman. This was the home of the goddess over the winter and was put back into the ground in the first furrow of the plough in the spring.

The festival of Oester is for the Spring Goddess. It is celebrated on the first full moon after the spring. The Spring Goddess is represented by the hare, because of the mating rituals, and the egg, symbol for new life.

The Christians took the festival and put it on the next Sunday. The name has corrupted to Easter, and the hare has given way to the rabbit! - But - eggs are still exchanged, continuing the old custom.

12. Who are the Celts now

I have said lot of about Celtic history, customs, religion, etc. But exist they also nowadays? Yes. But their being is endangered by globalization and by cumulative influence of nations, between them they live.

We can find Celtic descendants in whole Europe, but only in few countries can we hear Celtic language. These countries are: CORNWALL ( Kernow ), BRITTANY (Fr Bretagne), GALICIA (anc. Gallaecia or Callaecia), GALATIA, WALES, ( Independent Principality within the United Kingdom), ICELAND, IRELAND,SCOTLAND, ( Independent Kingdom within United Kingdom), Isle of Man.

We can only hope, that their nice culture and customs will not go under.

13. Used literature

Jan Filip…..Celtic civilization and its heritage

Peter Berresford Ellis….First millennium of Celtic History (1000 BC-51 AD)

Annalena Staudte-Lauber….Celts


Mabinogi-Celtic legen