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They roamed around Europe for almost five hundred years until being subdued by the Romans, who called them barbarians after the ferocity of their warriors and customs. However, these barbarians contributed to the establishment of a solid cultural unity in the old continent.

No theory definitively accounts for the origin of the Celts, but the most accepted theory relates them with the Indo-European peoples and places their origin in southern Germany, between the Rhine and the Danube.

The first clear signs that they would be a dominant people appeared during the Mound Culture, in which the dead were buried under great mounds of earth, and which had its golden age towards 1200 B.C.

Nonetheless, the Celts, also called Gauls and Keltoi by the Romans and Greeks respectively, are more associated with the European Iron Age (1000 B.C. and the 1st Century A.D.) and especially with the Urn Field culture, where cadavers were cremated and their ashes were kept in ceramic vessels (12th to 8th Century B.C.).

This people’s first great expansion into Central Europe is thought to have taken place during this time.

The Hallsttat  and La Tène Cultures

The Hallsttat culture (8th Century B.C. until approximately the first half of the 5th Century) developed in a region of the same name located in what is currently Austria. At that time the Celts worked iron mines, using this material to make their weapons, thus giving birth to a dominant oligarchic class. This military force built fortified settlements in strategic sites, where they began to live.

The Halsttat Culture spread over Southeastern Germany, Northeastern France, Southeastern England and over a large part of the Iberian Peninsula. At this time, also named «The Age of the Princes», siderurgy, a geometric decorative art, and iron weaponry were developed. With the beginning of commercial contact with Mediterranean peoples such as the Etruscans, the La Tène Culture began (from around the 5th Century B.C until the 1st Century A.D). The name of this culture was taken from a place located near Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland and it represented the highest peak of Celtic influence and expansion. They were found from the Iberian Peninsula (Celtiberians) to the Black Sea. They had also penetrated the British Isles.

During this period Celts built their houses as much as possible in easily defendable sites which had difficult access for possible enemies, for instance on the shores of rivers.

As far as agriculture was concerned, this advanced greatly, since they turned up and fertilised land which had previously been uncultivated. They used barter in commerce and the products they exchanged included tin, wool, cattle, slaves, and occasionally gold.

The social structure solidified and the warriors increased their power over the nobles and managed the economy, imposing their authority over the commercial routes which crossed their territory. This economic boom was reflected in the minting of coins from the 4th Century onwards.


The Celts invaded Italy in the 4th Century B.C., probably due to the pressure of Germanic peoples. The main victim was the city of Rome, devastated and sacked by this race. Likewise, they fought against the Etruscans and they settled in what would later be called Cisalpine Gaul (on the Po river plain). They also settled in Eastern Europe, along the Danube, and established themselves in Northeastern Hungary and Southwestern Slovakia and in part of Romania.

The Celts continued to advance in their conquests during the 3rd Century B.C. until arriving in Greece where they destroyed the Delphic Temple in 279 B.C. Later they continued to Asia Minor, where the founded Galacia in the north of Turkey and made Ankara their capital. Nevertheless, they were overthrown by Attalus the First of Pergamon in 241 B.C. This led many Galatians to kill their families and themselves. Some also fled to the future Bulgaria which they named the kingdom of Tylis.

The unstoppable Celtic tide began to be contained by the Romans when they pushed the Keltoi out of Northern Italy in the 2nd Century B.C. Later in the 1st Century Julius Caesar conquered transalpine Gaul (a large part of Southern France), taking advantage of the lack of Celtic political unity. Furthermore, their warriors fought as individual heroes and they resisted bringing together their forces in the face of the disciplined Roman legions. In this way almost all of them were assimilated by the ascendant power: Rome. Despite this, the strength of their culture maintained itself in Brittany and the British Isles, enduring to this day.

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