In this article we will talk a little about the Celts, who from about the middle of the VIII century. BC e. and until the turn of the old and new eras were the real masters of Europe.
At the peak of their expansion, the Celtic tribes occupied the territory of France, Belgium, Switzerland, the British Isles, northern regions of Italy, significant parts of Germany, Spain, and the Balkan Peninsula. On this map, we see the European regions inhabited by the Celts. The area where, according to many historians, the very first Celtic tribes settled is highlighted in yellow:
Resettlement of the Celts
It is believed that it was the Celts who were the first in Europe to learn how to make iron tools. In addition, it is believed that they were the first Europeans to wear pants.
We can judge about the appearance of the Celts by the message of the Roman historian Polybius, who wrote:
"These people are tall and hardy, beautiful and blue-eyed."
Diodorus of Siculus reports that a distinctive feature of the appearance of the Celtic warriors was bright motley clothing (often striped or checkered), a long mustache and hair that stood upright, like a horse's mane (for this the Celts moistened them in lime).
The main occupation of the Celts was agriculture and cattle breeding.
The Celts reached the peak of their power in the IV-III centuries. BC e. In 390 (according to another version - in 387), they even sacked Rome. In the battle at the Allia River, Brenn, the leader of the Celtic (Gallic) Senone tribe, decided to attack not the main forces of the Romans, but their reserve units, located on one of the hills. The proud quirits, deciding that the Gauls had surrounded them, fled from the battlefield.
Titus Livy reports:
"No one was killed in the battle, all those killed were stabbed in the back when the crush began, and the crowd made it difficult to escape."
The panic was such that most of the inhabitants of Rome fled from the city, the remaining 7 months were hiding in the fortress of the Capitol. It was then that "the geese saved Rome." And then Brenn, throwing his sword on the scales, uttered his famous phrase: "Woe to the vanquished."
Paul Jamin. Brenn and some of his trophies, painting 1893
However, the Celts never created a strong centralized state.
The first information about the Celts
The first surviving mentions of the Celts are contained in the works of Herodotus, a historian who lived in the middle of the XNUMXth century. BC e. It was he who called the tribes living in the north and west of Hellas Celtic. Later authors already give the names of individual tribes. The Celts who attacked Macedonia, Greece and Asia Minor were known as the Galatians.
Greek horseman fights with foot Galatians, fragment of the Bithinian stele from Kutluk, beginning of the XNUMXrd century. BC e.
The Celts in the British Isles were called Britons, Britons and Scots. And the Celts who occupied the territories of modern France and Northern Italy were called Aquitanians, Aedui and Helvetians. The Romans called the Celts "roosters" - that is, Gauls. They received this nickname for their warlike, pugnacious nature and love for bright, conspicuous clothing.
But the Greeks and Romans were especially surprised by the custom of the Celts to lend with the condition of paying off the debt after death - in the afterlife. For example, the Roman historian Valery Maxim wrote about this.
Settling in new territories, the Celts gradually mixed with other tribes: Iberians, Ligurs, Illyrians, Thracians. On this map, we see how the expansion of the Celtic tribes took place.
Only a few of the Celtic tribes retained their identity for a long time. These were, for example, lingons and boi. Their paucity was the price to pay. So, Gaius Julius Caesar argued that in 58 BC. e. there were only 32 thousand pure-blooded Celts of the Boyi tribe, while the Helvetians - 263 thousand people (among other numerous tribes, the Belgi and Arverni are called). In the end, the Boi were driven out by the Romans from Cisalpine Gaul (Northern Italy) and settled on the territory of modern Bohemia (central and northwestern parts of it), giving these lands the name Bohemia (Boiohaemum). Here they met with the Slavs and were assimilated by them.
Other Celtic tribes in northern Italy and southern France, even before the complete conquest of these areas by Rome, underwent significant Romanization.
But what did these natives of ancient Europe look like?
Most of our contemporaries imagine them like this.
Shot from the TV series "Mists of Avalon", 2001
In the worst and worst case, the Celts appear in this guise.
Meanwhile, the Istanbul Archaeological Museum has an image of a Celtic warrior from the XNUMXnd century BC. e.
Galatian mercenary of the Ptolemies. Gravestone stele from Sidon, XNUMXnd century BC e. Archaeological Museum, Istanbul
And here are other images of Celtic warriors.
Celtic warrior, bronze figurine from southern France. XNUMXth century BC e.
Terracotta figurine of a Celtic warrior. II – III centuries BC e.
In 1876, a double Celtic burial with a chariot was found in La Gorges Maille (France), which was dated to the XNUMXth century. BC e.
Double burial with a chariot at La Gorges Maila
Specialists of the laboratory of visual forensics under the leadership of Philippe Frosch carried out the reconstruction of the faces of the soldiers buried in it.
This man was given the code name Vellokat - "He who fights."
And this one was called Katumaros - “the great fighter”.
And here is how the Northern European Celtic warrior is presented on one of the historical reconstructions.
Ordinary weapons Celts Diodorus of Siculus calls a long sword, which they carried on a chain on their right side, a spear or darts.
Sword found at the bottom of a river, Northern France, XNUMXst century BC e.
Celtic spear tips
Not everyone wore chain mail and a bronze helmet; many fought naked.
Sculpture III century BC e., found in northern Italy - a Celtic warrior in a horned helmet.
"On their heads, they (the Celts) wear bronze helmets, with large protruding parts around them, making their wearers look like giants: some of the helmets have horns attached, others have hammered protomes of birds or four-legged animals."
Horned helmet III century. BC e. can be seen in the city of Parma (National Archaeological Museum)
And this is the horned god of the Celts, Cernunnos. The image was found during excavations in the basements of the Parisian temple of Notre Dame. Probably, it was he who was imitated by the Celts who wore horned helmets.
This helmet has a plume mount, which was either feathers or ponytails.
But these bronze Celtic helmets from the Museum d'Archeologie nationale et Domaine national de Saint-Germain-en-Laye have no horns.
Bronze helmet, III century. BC eh
Bronze helmet, III century. BC eh
Gallic helmet of the XNUMXrd – XNUMXnd centuries BC e.
Varieties of Celtic helmets:
Celtic shields were long - human-sized. Sometimes they were decorated with relief bronze figurines.
Celtic bronze shield of the XNUMXth – XNUMXrd centuries. BC e., British Museum
Noble people fought on horseback or on war chariots, from which darts were thrown at the beginning of the battle.
The privates fought on foot.
And this is an attempt to imagine what a Celtic woman might look like.
Celtic woman, reconstruction
By the way, the Celts did not have a god of war - his place was taken by the warlike goddess Morrigan. And Celtic women often fought alongside men. This custom persisted for the longest time in Ireland, where only in 697 AD. e. a law was passed exempting women from military service. It was the Celtic women warriors who became the prototypes of all kinds of "Zen-warrior queens". This is how one of these heroines looks in the film "Warrior Queen" (in Russia this name was translated as "Queen against Rome"), 2003
And even M. Semyonova, who is considered the author of works in the style of "Slavic fantasy", apparently confusing the Slavs with the Celts, writes that the teacher of the Volkodav's martial arts was a woman - the priestess Kendarat. And also reports that Knesinka Elena is the daughter of a famous warrior who died in a battle with the local Vikings. There is also a warrior-maiden Ertan in the novel - where are we going without the "Slavic Amazons"?
Some researchers believe that the trials of the groom, which are told in many tales, are an echo of Celtic traditions. If no one objected to the marriage, the tasks were purely symbolic and formal. But when the bride's parents or the girl were against, the tests were appointed very serious.
If there were several suitors, so as not to offend or offend any of them, a competition was arranged. Sometimes it was just a puzzle, sometimes it was a competition in wrestling or running, archery, etc. Moreover, often it was required to win in some kind of competition not only the opponent, but also the bride (or - only the bride). As you can imagine, the contender, who was attractive to this girl, had much more chances of winning.
And sometimes they were given really dangerous tasks associated with a real risk to life. For example, bring 5 heads of warriors of a hostile tribe or steal cattle. In this case, friends could help the groom. Moreover, sometimes a girl took part in such expeditions, to whom the young man wooed: if the parents were against the marriage, and she was for.
The groom could refuse the test. And he no longer had a second chance to get married. But if the applicant fulfilled all the conditions, then neither the girl nor her parents had the right to refuse.
Celts against Rome
Diodorus reports that before the battle, the best warrior of the Celts usually challenged the bravest of opponents to battle. At the same time, he sang a song in which he praised his ancestors and his own exploits, insulted enemies. In case of victory, he cut off the head of the defeated enemy and hung it on the neck of his horse. The head of the Roman consul Lucius Postumus, who was killed in the Po valley in 216, was preserved and brought to one of the temples. The victor nailed the armor of the slain to the wall of his house.
History has preserved the names of some Romans who won such fights.
Titus Manlius, who defeated the huge Celtic, took off the gold jewelry (torques) from his neck, after which he received the nickname Torquat. Mark Claudius Marcellus, in the future - one of the opponents of Hannibal, in 222 BC. e. killed in a duel the Gallic leader Viridomar.
I must say that at the first clashes, the Celts struck the Romans with their ferocious appearance. Their appearance was so intimidating that the Roman legionaries were at first very reluctant to enter the battle.
However, it soon became clear that physically strong and hardy opponents have weaker weapons and are undisciplined. Yes, and they did not have a professional army: when the war began, everyone who was able to hold it, including women, took up arms. Polybius reports that, entering the war, the Celts did not have a campaign plan and were fighting under the influence of momentary impulses.
In general, faced with a well-organized and disciplined army led by an experienced general, the Celts generally had no chance of victory. But they turned out to be very good mercenaries and showed themselves excellently in Hannibal's army. And then they were actively attracted to the ranks of their troops by the Roman generals.
Where did the Celts disappear to?
The Celts were weakened not only by the constant onslaught of Rome (as well as the Germanic tribes), but also internecine wars. As a result, under the blows of the Germans, the Celts retreated beyond the Rhine. Julius Caesar in companies 58–51 BC e. captured Gaul. During the reign of Octavian Augustus, the Romans conquered lands along the upper Danube, northern Spain and Galatia. Under the Emperor Claudius, a part of Britain became part of the empire. The Celts either left the lands conquered by Rome, or lost their identity, undergoing assimilation and Romanization. Currently, the descendants of the Celts are considered the Irish, the Welsh (residents of Wales), the Highland Scots, the Bretons of France.
Having lost the historical competition to other peoples, the Celts and their descendants had a great influence on the development of Western European civilization. Thus, the Irish who adopted Christianity in the XNUMXth century in the XNUMXth-XNUMXth centuries "exported" many saints to Britain and various countries of mainland Europe.
115 Irish were declared saints in Germany, 45 in France, 44 in England, 36 in what is now Belgium, 25 in Scotland and 13 in Italy. Celtic traditions are an important part of European literature in the Middle Ages and Modern Times. But this influence was mutual. And Celtic legends have absorbed the folklore motives of the newcomer Scandinavians and the natives of the Pictish.
In the next articles we will continue the story about the Celts. Let's talk about druids and bards, then talk about King Arthur and some of his knights, about Merlin and fairies, as well as about the Holy Grail.