The Origins and History of the Ancient Celts

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4m May 22, 2021

The ancient Celts were various tribal groups living in parts of western and central Europe in the Late Bronze Age and through the Iron Age (c. 700 BCE to c. 400 CE). Given the name Celts by ancient writers, these tribes and their culture migrated and so they established a presence in territories from Portugal to Turkey.

Although diverse tribes and never a single unified state, the ancient Celts were connected by the Celtic language and marked similarities in art, modes of warfare, religion, and burial practices. Although the Celtic culture was absorbed within the Roman Empire from the 1st century BCE, Celts continued to thrive in more remote parts of Europe like Ireland and northern Britain where Celtic languages are still spoken today.

The ‘Celts’ - Definition & Problems

The term ‘Celts’ is commonly used to refer to peoples who lived in Iron Age Europe north of the Mediterranean region prior to the Roman conquest after ancient writers gave them that name. However, it is a problematic label. This is because these peoples were not part of a unified state but, rather, belonged to a multitude of tribes, many of which had no direct contact with each other. The term remains useful for its convenience but it does disguise the complex relations between different western and central European tribes, the overlapping of some cultural features in time and space, and the isolation and uniqueness of other such features. The European Iron Age was certainly a vibrant period of cultural interaction, trade relations, warfare, and migrations.

Description by Mark Cartwright from the World History Encyclopedia.

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