The Celt, also spelled KELT, Latin CELTA, plural Celtae, a member of
an early Indo-European people who from the 2nd millennium BC to the 1st century
BC spread over much of Europe. The people who made up the various tribes of
concern were called Galli by the Romans and 'Galatai' or 'Keltoi' by the Greeks,
terms meaning 'barbarian' (Celts, Celt, Celtic civilization). It is from the Greek 'Keltoi' that 'Celt' is derived.
1000-750BC - Proto-Celtic people of the Urnfield culture dominate much of
Continental Europe. Also start to spread out over northern Asia as far as the
frontiers of China. Development of the deliberate smelting of iron in the Middle
East and China around the same time. Prompting the title 'The Iron Age' for this
700-500 - Hallstatt culture developes in Austria.
700BC - Early Celts in Austria bury iron swords with their dead.
600BC - Greeks found the colony of Massilia, opening up trade between the
Celts of inland Europe and the Mediterranean. First evidence of Britain having a
name - Albion - (albino, white - called after the chalk-cliffs of Dover). A
major rebuild of old Bronze Age defences, and construction of new hillforts
takes place in Britain.
550-500 -A princess in Vix (Burgundy) is buried with a 280 gallon bronze
Greek vase, the largest ever made. 60 miles away a prince is buried layed out on
bronze chais-lounge in a hugh chamber tomb.
500 - Trade between the Etruscans and the Celts begins. La Tene phase of
Celtic culture speads through Europe and into mainland Britain. The Greeks
record the name of a major tribe - The KELTOI - and this becomes the common name
for all of the tribes.
500 - Celts (the Gaels - from Galicia) arrive in Ireland from Spain.
400-100BC - La Tene culture spreads over Europe and into the British Isles.
400 - Celts invade Italy and Cisalpine Gaul.
400 - Celts atack the Etruscan city of Clusium.
390 - Raiding Celtic tribes under the leadership of Brennus ravage Rome and
occupy the city for three months. Offended by the dirty conditions of the city
(they were country boys at heart) they demand a ransome to leave the Romans
alone. Brennus demands his weight in gold and when the Romans complain he throws
his sword on the scales to be weighed as well with the cry "VAE VICTUS" - (Woe
to the Vanquished).
335 - Alexander recieves envoys from the Celts, and exchange pledges of
alliance. Large numbers of Celtic Warriors join the Greeks in a war against the
323 - Alexander dies and the Celts push into Macedonia.
279 - Celtic tribes invade Greece.
Their tribes and groups eventually ranged from the British Isles and northern
Spain to as far east as Transylvania, the Black Sea coasts, and Galatia in
Anatolia and were in part absorbed into the Roman Empire as Britons, Gauls,
Boii, Galatians, and Celtiberians.
Linguistically they survive in the modern Celtic speakers of Ireland,
Highland Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales, and Brittany.
The oldest archaeological evidence of the Celts comes from Hallstatt,
Austria, near Salzburg. Excavated graves of chieftains there, dating from about
700 BC, exhibit an Iron Age culture (one of the first in Europe) which received
in Greek trade such luxury items as bronze and pottery vessels.
It would appear that these wealthy Celts, based from Bavaria to Bohemia,
controlled trade routes along the river systems of the Rhone, Seine, Rhine, and
Danube and were the predominant and unifying element among the Celts. In their
westward movement the Hallstatt warriors overran Celtic peoples of their own
kind, incidentally introducing the use of iron, one of the reasons for their own
For the centuries after the establishment of trade with the Greeks, the
archaeology of the Celts and Celtic civilization can be followed with greater precision. By the mid-5th
century BC the La Tene culture, with its distinctive art style of abstract
geometric designs and stylized bird and animal forms, had begun to emerge among
the Celts centred on the middle Rhine, where trade with the Etruscans of central
Italy, rather than with the Greeks, was now becoming predominant.
Between the 5th and 1st centuries BC the La Tene culture accompanied the
migrations of Celtic tribes into eastern Europe and westward into the British
Although Celtic bands probably had penetrated into northern Italy from
earlier times, the year 400 BC is generally accepted as the approximate date for
the beginning of the great invasion of migrating Celtic tribes whose names
Insubres, Boii, Senones, and Lingones were recorded by later Latin historians.
Rome was sacked by Celts about 390, and raiding bands wandered about the whole
peninsula and reached Sicily. The Celtic territory south of the Alps where they
settled came to be known as Cisalpine Gaul (Gallia Cisalpina), and its warlike
inhabitants remained an ever-constant menace to Rome until their defeat at
Telamon in 225.
Dates associated with the Celts in their movement into the Balkans are 335
BC, when Alexander the Great received delegations of Celts living near the
Adriatic, and 279, when Celts sacked Delphi in Greece but suffered defeat at the
hands of the Aetolians. In the following year, three Celtic tribes crossed the
Bosporus into Anatolia and created widespread havoc.
By 276 they had settled in parts of Phrygia but continued raiding and pillage
until finally quelled by Attalus I of Pergamum about 230. In Italy, meanwhile,
Rome had established supremacy over the whole of Cisalpine Gaul by 192 and, in
124, had conquered territory beyond the western Alps--in the provincia
The final episodes of Celtic independence were enacted in Transalpine Gaul
(Gallia Transalpina), which comprised the whole territory from the Rhine River
and the Alps westward to the Atlantic. The threat was twofold: Germanic tribes
pressing westward toward and across the Rhine, and the Roman arms in the south
poised for further annexations.
The Germanic onslaught was first felt in Bohemia, the land of the Boii, and
in Noricum, a Celtic kingdom in the eastern Alps. The German assailants were
known as the Cimbri, a people generally thought to have originated in Jutland
(Denmark). A Roman army sent to the relief of Noricum in 113 BC was defeated,
and thereafter the Cimbri, now joined by the Teutoni, ravaged widely in
Transalpine Gaul, overcoming all Gaulish and Roman resistance. On attempting to
enter Italy, these German marauders were finally routed by Roman armies in 102
There is no doubt that, during this period, many Celtic tribes, formerly
living east of the Rhine, were forced to seek refuge west of the Rhine; and
these migrations, as well as further German threats, gave Julius Caesar the
opportunity (58 BC) to begin the campaigns that led to the Roman annexation of
the whole of Gaul.