What were the Celts called themselves


Celtic traces all over Europe

The Celts were neither a homogeneous people, nor an original European community, as they are sometimes glorified. They were never centrally organized, never had a leader or a state that was accepted by all sides.

Rather, the Celts were divided into many different tribes and tribal associations that had some cultural similarities. Many tribes lived in France, which Caesar summarized as Gauls.

The Helvetii, Sequanen and Rauriker lived in southern Germany and what is now Switzerland, and the Galatians in what is now Turkey, to name just a few examples.

The name Celts comes from the Greek "keltoi", which Herodotus first used around 450 BC. It should mean something like "the brave", "the bold".

However benevolent this term may sound, the ancient contemporaries were not particularly good at their neighbors from Central Europe. Roman and Greek authors often reduced the Celtic peoples to bloodthirsty barbarians who practiced cruel sacrificial rites.

"They cut off the heads of their fallen enemies and tie them to their horses' necks, they give the bloody armor to their servants and let them display to cheers and songs of victory. At home they nail these decorations on the wall, just as they had she killed a game while hunting. "

This is how the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus described the Celts in the first century BC. However, such negative representations from Roman or Greek pens are no wonder. After all, the Celts have been viewed as enemies of the civilized world since their attacks on Rome and Delphi.

Special role of the druids

Most of the traditions are not very flattering for the Celts, but some ancient works still provide important information about population structures and customs.

Julius Caesar, for example, wrote in his work "De bello gallico" about the conquest of Gaul around 50 BC that druids and noble warriors were at the head of Gallic society. The Roman general devoted a detailed description to the druids.

We learn from him that the druids were not only responsible for the religious rites, but also performed the duties of teachers and judges. According to Caesar, their high reputation was expressed, among other things, in the fact that they neither went to war nor had to pay taxes.

To the chagrin of historians, the druids did not pass on their knowledge in writing, only orally. The writing was only used by the Celts for practical purposes, not for religion or literature.

Social position of women

To call the Celtic woman equal would be going too far. As was customary in antiquity, the principle of patriarchy prevailed in families. Caesar reports that men were masters of the life and death of women and children.

However, there are some indications that women held a special position in Celtic society. Historical texts and archaeological finds prove that there were female princes.

In the princess grave in Reinheim near Saarbr├╝cken, which dates from around 400 BC, splendid additions made of gold were found, which indicate the high position of the buried.

The Celtic women probably also had a great influence on their own family planning. It is true that there were princes who married the women of their families according to dynastic interests - nothing unusual for the time.

But there are also reports that the brides were allowed to choose their future husbands themselves. Some authors and myths also tell of women who took part in fights and drinking parties.

The bustling economic life of the Celts

The Celts had a highly developed economic life very early on. They raised pigs and cattle and grew cereals and pulses such as lentils. They fertilized their fields both naturally with cattle manure and artificially with marl and lime.

The Celtic economy was particularly characterized by the metal industry. In addition to copper and tin, the Celts also mined gold and silver. The most important metal for them, however, was iron, which they used for all everyday things and also for weapon production.

In the 1st century BC, the Celtic iron industry was on the scale of large-scale operations. Another important raw material that the Celts extracted underground was salt. The tunnels of Hallstatt, which means something like "Salt City", were already in the 6th century BC, some of them being driven more than 200 meters deep into the earth.

With the help of their skills and the available raw materials, the Celts succeeded in building a widely branched trade network. The peoples of the Mediterranean area supplied them with goods such as amber and pewter.

According to the Roman author Pliny, Gallic women's clothes are also said to have been in great demand in Rome. Among the goods imported by the Celts were wine, bronze vessels, and other luxury items from the south.

Very early on, they were able to pay for these goods with money, as they had been minting coins based on Greek models since around 300 BC.

Craftsmanship and artistic streak

The Celts were not only clever businessmen, but also skilled craftsmen. They showed their skills as potters and weavers as well as in glass production and leather processing. They were already using their first machines, such as lathes, four or two-wheeled carts and lathes.

The Celts' artistic sense is shown by the decorations that are found on many archaeological finds. A particularly impressive example of this is the pompous helmet from Agris, which is equipped with sheet gold plating in which corals are inlaid.

Archaeologists have also found some Celtic stone sculptures, among which the "Celtic Prince of Glauberg" is probably one of the most famous.