Atlas of the Celtic World

Atlas of the Celtic World


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Atlas of the Celtic World by John Haywood, Barry Cunliffe

In a series of stunning full-color maps, covering 3,000 years and spanning the whole of Europe, this first-ever atlas of the Celts charts their dramatic history from Bronze Age origins to present-day diaspora. Taking into account the latest research and academic controversies over the historical identity of the Celts, the atlas examines the Continental Celts, the Atlantic Celts (Britain and Ireland) and the Celtic identity in the modern world.

The Continental Celts maps the Hallstatt and La Tene cultures in Central Europe, the migrations into Italy, Iberia, Greece and Anatolia and the beginnings of state formation and urbanization; Roman domination and the fate of Celtic culture under Roman rule; and the foundation and fortunes of Brittany and the Bretons from the Dark Ages to their absorption by France.

The Atlantic Celts begins with Iron Age Britain and Ireland, and goes on to map the ultimate failure of the Roman conquest; the resurgence of Celtic civilization in the Dark Ages; King Arthur; the history of Gaelic Ireland, from its conversion to Christianity to the Plantations; the history of the Welsh princedoms to the English conquest; and the making of Scotland.

The Modern Celts examines the revival of the Celtic identity, from the Celtomania of the 18th century, through the growth of nationalism, language issues, the global diaspora and the current state of Celtic culture. Each map is accompanied by an authoritative text and supporting illustrations. Ranging over archaeology and military, cultural, literary and political history, the Atlas of the Celtic World is a superb volume for home reference and an ideal introduction to one of Europe's most inventive and influential people.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780500051092
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Publication date: 11/01/1901
Pages: 144
Product dimensions: 8.80(w) x 11.37(h) x 0.85(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Continental Celts

There is reliable contemporary written evidence of Celtic migrations into Italy, eastern Europe and Anatolia. The diffusion of the central European Hallstatt and La Tène art styles can be interpreted as evidence of similar, but undocumented, migrations in western Europe. Recently, however, this picture has changed. Archaeology and DNA analysis have been producing an increasing body of evidence of a marked degree of cultural and genetic continuity in western Europe which appears to be at odds with the accepted migration-based interpretation of Celtic history. It may actually be that Celtic-speaking peoples emerged over a much wider area of central and western Europe than has generally been thought, and at a much earlier time, perhaps in the Neolithic (c. 6000-2000 BC). Central Europe, France and the British Isles may have been part of this ancestral Celtic-speaking area.

    If this was the case, the spread of cultures in prehistoric western Europe can be explained by everyday contacts between peoples who already had much in common, including language, rather than by great folk movements. Though accepted by many archaeologists, this view of the origins of the Celtic languages has not found favour among linguists. For obvious reasons, the study of the prehistory of languages cannot be an exact science, so the best that can be said at present is that there is still considerable uncertainty about the ultimate origins of the Celts.

Chiefdoms and Trade Routes

The Celts whom the early Greek writerswere referring to were the Hallstatt Celts of central Europe. During the early Hallstatt period, c. 700 BC, central and northern Europe lacked any large-scale centralized societies; the largest power-centres were the occasional small hillforts of petty chieftains. Long-distance trade routes for the exchange of essential commodities such as tin and copper (the ingredients of bronze) and salt (used as a food preservative) were already well established, however.

    Beginning in the 8th century, a more aristocratic society began to emerge in central and western Europe. Small numbers of richly furnished burials begin to appear in cemeteries, indicating the emergence of a class of people who wished to distinguish themselves by their wealth even in death. Over the next zoo years, increasing numbers of hillforts were built north of the Alps and rich burials appear further and further west. These were made even more distinctive from those of the ordinary folk by being marked with earth barrows. The patronage of this social elite led to the development of the exquisite traditions of craftsmanship in bronze and precious metals for which the ancient Celts are so justly renowned. The social changes are probably linked to the introduction of iron technology, though it is far from clear how.

    In the last century of the Hallstatt period there is a notable shift of wealth and power towards southwestern Germany, the Rhineland and eastern France. Spectacular graves, furnished with valuable Mediterranean imports and locally made luxury metalwork, cluster around a small number of pre-eminent hillforts, probably the seats of powerful regional chieftains. This shift may well have been a consequence of the foundation of the Greek colony of Massalia (Marseille), c. 600 BC, which caused trans-Alpine trade routes to decline in favour of a new route that followed the River Rhône upstream from the coast.

Warrior Culture

The Hallstatt chiefdoms abruptly disappeared c. 450 BC. The reasons for this are in part connected with a decline in trade with Marseille, perhaps cutting off the supply of prestige goods which underpinned the chiefs' status. Another factor was the rise of the new La Tène culture to the north. Characterized by its amazingly complex, swirling, geometrical designs, the art of the La Tène culture is instantly recognizable. The style's influence persisted for well over a thousand years and has been successfully revived by modern jewellers. Like the Hallstatt culture, the La Tène culture was the product of an aristocratic chieftainly society. It is possible that competition from the emergent La Tène chiefdoms may have been an additional factor in the decline of the Hallstatt chiefdoms.

    With the appearance of the La Tène culture, the Celts begin to move more fully into the light of history. Archaeological evidence is now supplemented not just by the occasional throwaway remark, but by detailed accounts of their way of life by Greek and Roman writers. These writers often used the terms Galatian or Gaul interchangeably with Celt: all three are possibly derived from names which Celtic-speaking peoples used to describe themselves, rather than names given to them by outsiders. The Greeks and Romans were not, on the whole, very interested in the barbarian peoples of northern Europe, but the La Tène Celts could not be ignored: these barbarians were quite literally at the gates. Beginning c. 400 BC, when several tribes burst over the Alps and swept into Italy, the Celtic peoples of central Europe began a series of spectacular migrations which carried them deep into the Mediterranean world. In 390 BC the Celts sacked Rome and refused to leave until the Romans handed over a vast amount of treasure.

    It was a traumatic experience for a small city-state which was just emerging from the domination of its Etruscan neighbours, and it turned the Romans into implacable enemies of the Celts.

Celts and the Hellenistic World

Later in the same century other groups of Celts began to migrate east along the Danube, pushing into the foothills of the Carpathians and the Balkans. By 336 BC they were on the northern border of Macedonia, where they had a famous encounter with Alexander the Great. When he asked them what it was that they were most afraid of, the king was deeply disappointed to be told that it was that the sky might fall on them: Alexander had hoped they would say that it was him. Alexander's early death threw the Greek world into chaos as his generals fought among themselves over his vast empire. Taking advantage, the Celts began raiding into Macedonia in 298 BC, and in 281 BC they killed its king, Ptolemy Ceraunos, in battle. Head-hunting was an integral part of Celtic warfare and Ptolemy's head finished up being displayed on the point of a spear.

    This was merely the prelude to what is the best documented Celtic migration. Encouraged by their victory over Ptolemy, the Celts launched a massive invasion of Greece in 279 BC. They headed for the sacred city of Delphi, where many Greek states had their treasuries, but bad weather, constant harassment by the Greeks and divine intervention by Apollo forced them to turn back short of their objective. The Greeks, who had not had much to shout about since they were conquered by Macedonia 60 years before, compared this success to their victory over Xerxes' Persians in 480-479 BC. Heavy though their losses were said to be, this still left a lot of Celts in the Balkans. Some retreated to the middle Danube lands, others founded a robber-kingdom on the shores of the Black Sea, still others settled on the steppes of the southern Ukraine. The largest group accepted an invitation to serve in the army of King Nicomedes of Bithynia in northwest Anatolia. The Celts eventually settled in central Anatolia c. 275 BC, in a region which became known as Galatia from the alternative Greek name for the Celts.

    It should be stressed that these migrations did not create a 'Celtic empire' in any meaningful sense. Though individual tribes did form alliances for the purpose of conquering territory, the Celts as a whole were never a single, united people, capable of conceiving of, let alone carrying out, a grand imperial master plan. The migrations were, rather, a haphazard response to the violent competitiveness which lay at the heart of La Tène society. Small-scale warfare was endemic in the Celtic world. The Celtic warrior elite positively needed war as the best means to gain wealth and prestige by bringing home plunder and the heads of defeated enemy warriors. The Celts were locked in an endless cycle of raid and reprisal. There was competition not just between tribes but between individual warriors within tribes. The stereotypical view of drunken boastful warriors fighting to the death over the hero's portion at a feast has much truth in it. In central Europe, a rising population reinforced this inherent competitiveness of Celtic society, creating internal tensions which could only be defused by the migration of part of, or even the whole of, a tribe to a new homeland.

The Seeds of Decline

The settlement of Galatia was the high-water mark of Celtic expansion. New powers were rising in Europe that would challenge the Celtic domination of the continent. Only a few years previously the Romans had begun the conquest of Italy's Celts, and in the next two centuries the Germans and the Dacians to the north and east would emerge as expansionist powers. By around the time of Christ, the Continental Celts had all been conquered by one or other of these peoples. Yet the last three centuries of Celtic independence saw some of their most brilliant achievements in arts, crafts and technology. Largely due to their skill as farmers, the Celts became prosperous and numerous. This, and increasing contact with the Mediterranean world, led to the beginnings of urbanization and state formation. By the 1st century BC many tribes had developed monarchies or were ruled by councils and elected magistrates. Given time, there is no doubt that the Celts would have gone on to develop a sophisticated, literate, urban civilization, comparable to those of Greece and Rome. Ironically, however, it was this growing sophistication which made the Celts vulnerable.

    States can marshal resources more efficiently than simpler forms of society. This can make them formidable in war, but their centralized institutions also make them easier to subjugate if they are the victims of aggression by a stronger state. If an aggressor can either replace the ruling elite or win, one way or another, its co-operation, controlling the conquered population is relatively easy. In the case of the Celts, the similarities between their political institutions and those of the Romans made their assimilation all the easier. In simpler decentralized societies, this is not possible, as there is no pre-eminent leadership to negotiate with, no institutions to take control of: pacification can often only be achieved using methods close to genocide. This goes a long way towards explaining why the Romans were able to conquer the Celts but failed to conquer the politically less sophisticated Germans. History has dozens of similar examples. The Romans did not, of course, conquer the Celts just because they could, they did it because Celtic wealth made it financially worthwhile and because they could never quite bring themselves to believe that the events of 390 BC would not be repeated while any Celts remained who were not under Roman rule.

    It might be asked why the Celts did not unite against the common enemy? The answer is simple, the Celts not only did not but could not perceive the Romans as the common enemy because they themselves did not share a sense of common identity. Celtic tribes simply did not see it as being in their interests to fight in support of their traditional rivals. Even the greatest of Celtic war leaders, Vercingetorix, could not mobilize all the Gauls against Caesar's legions. Independence was all well and good for the stronger tribes, but for the weaker ones — the ones whose warriors' heads adorned the spears of the stronger tribes — Roman rule represented security of status and ownership for the elite and made little practical difference to the dependent peasantry. The Celts were also handicapped by their individualistic tradition of war-making. Roman generals shared the Celtic warrior's thirst for glory and the status that came with it, but the rank and file fought for pay. The reckless headlong Celtic charge was terrifyingly effective against inexperienced opponents, but if this did not work the Celtic army became simply a disorganized mass of individual warriors, suddenly vulnerable to a better-disciplined opponent.

Romanization of the Celts

The Romans did not set out to destroy Celtic culture and identity — so long as they had obedience, they were tolerant of cultural and religious diversity — but they were convinced that their own ways were the best and they encouraged their subjects to adopt them. For their part, the Celtic elite were hardly hostile to the Roman way of life — for centuries being able to drink wine like a Roman had been the ultimate status symbol. After the conquest, the Celtic elite quickly became highly Romanized in their appearance and behaviour. And to satisfy the elite's Romanized tastes, Celtic craftsmen soon adapted their own native styles to follow Classical models. The elite quickly learned to speak Latin, but many were still bilingual even in the 3rd century AD. Eventually local vernacular forms of Latin were adopted by the peasantry too and, except in Armorica (modern Brittany), Celtic languages had become extinct in continental Europe by c. 400. Celtic religions continued to flourish under Roman rule — the modern myth of the otherworldly Celt has obscured how similar Celtic and Roman religious beliefs really were. What killed off this aspect of Celtic culture was an eastern mystery religion called Christianity. Whatever was left of the ancient Celtic identity was swept away by the Germanic invasions which caused the collapse of the western Roman empire in the 5th century.

    The new Germanic monarchies of early medieval Europe looked to Christianity and the Roman empire for their social and political ideals, and for centuries to come the achievements of the ancient Celts were largely forgotten. Only in Brittany did a Celtic society survive into the modern period. In the 5th century the remaining Celtic-speaking population in this region was reinforced by an influx of Britons, perhaps fleeing the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain, perhaps merely taking advantage of the collapse of Roman power in Gaul to seize new lands. Despite having a mighty and expansionist neighbour in the kingdom of France, Brittany survived as an effectively independent principality until the end of the 15th century. It was through Brittany that the Celtic legends associated with King Arthur and his court became known in France, where they became a major influence on two of the most important cultural developments of medieval Europe: chivalry and courtly literature.

Origins of the Celtic Languages

For the purposes of this book the Celts are defined as a linguistic group. It is certain that the origins of the Celtic languages predate the first historical records of the Celts by at least 2000 years, but reconstructing the prehistory of a language is fraught with difficulties.

The Celtic languages are a branch of the Indo-European family of languages, the largest and most widespread of the world's language families. Though it now has the smallest number of speakers of any Indo-European language group, c. 300 BC Celtic was probably the most widespread language group in Europe. Celtic exists in two forms, q-Celtic, which in ancient times included Hispano-Celtic and Goidelic (the ancestor of the modern Irish and Scottish Gaelic languages), and p-Celtic, which included Gaulish, Eastern Celtic, Lepontic and Brithonic (the ancestor of modern Welsh and Breton).

    Indo-European languages were not indigenous to Europe. The earliest languages of Europe were non-Indo-European. Some, such as Etruscan and Iberian, are known from inscriptions, the existence of others is hinted at by place-names and by survivals in later languages such as Pictish, a Celtic language formerly spoken in Scotland. Modern Basque may be the lone survivor of these languages.

    In conventional accounts, Indo-European languages are usually said to have originated somewhere in western Central Asia. Around 4000 BC Indo-European was introduced from the east into Europe, where it diversified into the ancestral forms of the modern European languages. Celtic emerged in central Europe and was spread into western Europe, Britain and Ireland by migrants who displaced or assimilated the indigenous inhabitants.

     An alternative, and still highly controversial, account places the origin of Indo-European in Anatolia. According to this theory, Indo-European was

Excerpted from ATLAS OF THE CELTIC WORLD by JOHN HAYWOOD. Copyright © 2001 by Thames & Hudson Ltd. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introduction: the Celtic Identity12
Part 1The Continental Celts22
Origins of the Celtic Languages28
Early Bronze Age Europe and the Urnfield Culture30
The Hallstatt Culture in Central Europe32
The La Tene Culture in Central Europe34
The Celtic Migrations36
The Celtic Invasion of Greece38
Galatia: The Celts in Anatolia40
The Celts in Italy42
The Celtiberians44
Hillforts and Oppida46
Villages and Farms48
Trade Routes of Celtic Europe50
Celtic States of Late Iron Age Gaul52
The Roman Conquest of Gaul I54
The Roman Conquest of Gaul II56
The Gauls under Roman Rule58
Celts, Romans and Germans in Central Europe60
The End of Celtic Gaul62
Celtic Religion: Druids, Sanctuaries, Temples and Tombs64
The Origins of Brittany66
The Kingdom of Brittany68
The Decline of Celtic Brittany70
Part 2The Atlantic Celts72
Prehistoric Celtic Britain and Ireland78
Brochs and Duns80
The Roman Conquest of Britain82
The Celts and Roman Britain84
The Origins of the Picts86
Britain and the Britons88
King Arthur90
The Scots and the Picts92
The Origins of Wales94
Early Christian Ireland96
Ireland in the Golden Age98
Celtic Missionaries and Scholars in Europe100
Celt and Viking in Ireland102
The Kingdom of the Scots104
The Lordship of the Isles106
Wales in the Age of Llywelyn the Great108
The End of Welsh Independence110
Glyndwr's Revolt112
Ireland and the Anglo-Normans114
English and Gaelic Lordships in Later Medieval Ireland116
O'Neill's Rising and the Fall of Gaelic Ireland118
The Plantations in Ireland120
The Highlands and the Jacobite Rebellions122
The Highland Clearances124
Part 3The Modern Celts126
Celtomania and European Nationalism132
The Celtic Diaspora134
The Celtic Languages Today136
The Celtic Countries138
Further Reading140
Illustration Credits140

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