The Celts were a group of peoples that occupied lands stretching from the British Isles to Gallatia. The Celts had many dealings with other cultures that bordered the lands occupied by these peoples, and even though there is no written record of the Celts stemming from their own documents, we can piece together a fair picture of them from archeological evidence as well as historical accounts from other cultures.
The first historical recorded encounter of a people displaying the cultural traits associated with the Celts comes from northern Italy around 400 BC, when a previously unkown group of barbarians came down from the Alps and displaced the Etruscans from the fertile Po valley, a displacment that helped to push the Etruscans from history's limelight. The next encounter with the Celts came with the still young Roman Empire, directly to the south of the Po. The Romans in fact had sent three envoys to the beseiged Etruscans to study this new force. We know from Livy's The Early History of Rome that this first encounter with Rome was quite civilized:
[The Celts told the Roman envoys that] this was indeed the first time they had heard of them, but they assumed the Romans must be a courageous people because it was to them that the [Etruscans] had turned to in their hour of need. And since the Romans had tried to help with an embassy and not with arms, they themselves would not reject the offer of peace, provided the [Etruscans] ceded part of their seperfluous agricultural land; that was what they, the Celts, wanted.... If it were not given, they would launch an attack before the Romans' eyes, so that the Romans could report back how superior the Gauls were in battle to all others....The Romans then asked whether it was right to demand land from its owners on pain of war, indeed what were the Celts going in Etruria in the first place? The latter defiantly retorted that their right lay in their arms: To the brave belong all things.
The Roman envoys then preceded to break their good faith and helped the Etruscans in their fight; in fact, one of the envoys, Quintas Fabius killed one of the Celtic tribal leaders. The Celts then sent their own envoys to Rome in protest and demand the Romans hand over all members of the Fabian family, to which all three of the original Roman envoys belonged, be given over to the Celts, a move completely in line with current Roman protocol. This of course presented problems for the Roman senate, since the Fabian family was quite powerful in Rome. Indeed, Livy says that:
The party structure would allow no resolution to be made against such noblemanm as justice would have required. The Senate...therefore passed examination of the Celts' request to the popular assembly, in which power and influence naturally counted for more. So it happened that those who ought to have been punished were instead appointed for the coming year military tribunes with consular powers (the highest that could be granted).
The Celts saw this as a mortal insult and a host marched south to Rome. The Celts tore through the countryside and several battalions of Roman soilders to lay seige to the Capitol of the Roman Empire. Seven months of seige led to negotiations wherby the Celts promised to leave their seige for a tribute of one thousand pounds of gold, which the historian Pliny tells was very difficult for the entire city to muster. When the gold was being weighed, the Romans claimed the Celts were cheating with faulty weights. It was then that the Celts' leader, Brennus, threw his sword into the balance and and uttered the words vae victis "woe to the Defeated". Rome never withstood another more humiliating defeat and the Celts made an initial step of magnificent proportions into history.
Other Roman historians tell us more of the Celts. Diodorus notes that:
Their aspect is terrifying...They are very tall in stature, with ripling muscles under clear white skin. Their hair is blond, but not naturally so: they bleach it, to this day, artificially, washing it in lime and combing it back from their foreheaads. They look like wood-demons, their hair thick and shaggy like a horse's mane. Some of them are cleanshaven, but others - especially those of high rank, shave their cheeks but leave a moustache that covers the whole mouth and, when they eat and drink, acts like a sieve, trapping particles of food...The way they dress is astonishing: they wear brightly coloured and embroidered shirts, with trousers called bracae and cloaks fastened at the shoulder with a brooch, heavy in winter, light in summer. These cloaks are striped or checkered in design, with the seperate checks close together and in various colours.Diodorus also describes how the Celts cut off their enemies' heads and nailed them over the doors of their huts, as Diodorus states:
[The Celts] wear bronze helmets with figures picked out on them, even horns, which made them look even taller than they already are...while others cover themselves with breast-armour made out of chains. But most content themselves with the weapons nature gave them: they go naked into battle...Weird, discordant horns were sounded, [they shouted in chorus with their] deep and harsh voices, they beat their swords rythmically against their shields.
In exactly the same way as hunters do with their skulls of the animals they have slain...they preserved the heads of their most high-ranking victims in cedar oil, keeping them carefully in wooden boxes.Diodorus Siculus, History.
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. It is from the greek Keltoi that Celt is derived. Since no soft c exists in greek, Celt and Celtic and all permutations should be pronounced with a hard k sound.
It is interesting to note that when the British Empire was distinguishing itself as better and seperate from the rest of humanity, it was decided that British Latin should have different pronunciation from other spoken Latin. Therefore, one of these distinguishing pronunciational differences was to make many of the previously hard k sounds move to a soft s sound, hence the Glasgow and Boston Celtics. It is the view of many today that this soft c pronunciation should be reserved for sports teams since there is obviously nothing to link them with the original noble savegery and furor associated with the Celts.
There was a unifying language spoken by the Celts, called not suprisingly, old Celtic. Philogists have shown the descendence of Celtic from the original Ur-language and from the Indo-European language tradition. In fact, the form of old Celtic was the closest cousin to Italic, the precursor of Latin.
The original wave of Celtic immigrants to the British Isles are called the q-Celts and spoke Goidelic. It is not known exactly when this immigration occurred but it may be placed somtime in the window of 2000 to 1200 BC. The label q-Celtic stems from the differences between this early Celtic tounge and Italic. Some of the differences between Italic and Celtic included that lack of a p in Celtic and an a in place of an the Italic o.
At a later date, a second wave of immigrants took to the British Isles, a wave of Celts referred to as the p-Celts speaking Brythonic. Goidelic led to the formation of the three Gaelic languages spoken in Ireland, Man and later Scotland. Brythonic gave rise to two British Isles languages, Welsh and Cornish, as well as surviving on the Continent in the form of Breton, spoken in Brittany.
The label q-Celtic stems from the differences between this early Celtic tounge and the latter formed p-Celtic. The differences between the two Celtic branches are simple in theoretical form. Take for example the word ekvos in Indo-European, meaning horse. In q-Celtic this was rendered as equos while in p-Celtic it became epos, the q sound being replaced with a p sound. Another example is the Latin qui who. In q-Celtic this rendered as cia while in p-Celtic it rendered as pwy. It should also be noted that there are still words common to the two Celtic subgroups.
As an aside, take note that when the Irish expansion into Pictish Britain occurred (see below), several colonies were established in present day Wales. The local inhabitants called the Irish arrivals gwyddel savages from which comes geídil and goidel and thus the Goidelic tounge.
Ireland used to be divided up into five parts, the five fifths. There was a northern fifth, Ulster, a western fifth, Connaught, a southern fifth, Munster, an eastern fifth, Leinster and a middle fifth, Mide. Click here to see a map of the five fifths.
The Ulster Cycle is a set of stories which are grounded in the five fifths. Indeed, they are primarily concerned with Cú Chulainn, the Ulster hero and his king, Conor Mac Nessa in their wars against the king and queen of Connaught, Ailill and Maeve. These figures play a prominent role in the what may be the greatest story of the Ulster Cycle, the Táin Bó Cúailnge, The Cattle Raid of Cooley.
Sometime after 300 AD, Ulster became steadily less important in status among the five farthings and the ruling family of Mide, the Uí Néill Sons of Niall started to take over large parts of Connaught and most of Ulster. A similar move was made in Muster by the ruling family of Munster, the Eoganachta family. Thus was Ireland divided almost entirely into two halves.
The people of Ulster were pushed to a small coastal strip bordering the Irish Sea. The kingdom changed it's name to Dál Riata. Yet eventually Dál Riata fell under the rule and influence of the Uí Néill. This family, not content with the boundry presented by the sea, launched colonies across the Irish Sea into then Pictish Britain. Thus was Scotland founded, for it was these Uí Néill that the Romans called Scotti, not the original Picts.
Indeed, it was this Irish Expansion which led to Christianity in Scotland in 563 AD. St. Columba, the patron saint of Scotland, was a member of a powerful family in Dál Riata and in order to keep his ties in Ireland he settled on an island that was close to both Scotland and Ireland, Iona. Of course, even more bizarre is the fact that St. Patrick, the man responsible for bringing Christianity to Ireland in the first place, was from Wales.
The name 'Celt' has been messed about with over the
years to the point that the true meaning has all but disappeared.
In the first instance the Greeks and the Romans knew of a tribe called Keltoi. From that point, all the people that looked or behaved the same were called 'Keltoi', regardless of the true name of the individual tribal group.
Over the centuries the name changed with the languages until it was shortened to Kelt ( with a hard 'K'). This name persisted into the 20th century with books in the 1920's-30's calling the people Kelts and the word celt (pronounced selt) being the name for axe-heads of various kinds.
With the upsurge in interest of our origins the words merged and now we call the people Celts (pronuonced Kelt).
The racial group that we now call Celt were in fact an Indo-European
people whose culture spread rapidly across the whole of Europe, up into
Scandinavia, down into the Spanish peninsula; and modern thought points to a
spread over the Asian sub-continent as far as the borders of China.
This does not mean the people expanded and took over, but that their culture was strong enough to dominate and be adopted by other peoples in the area.
ORIGINS OF THE CELTS
Two new groups of people emerge in Central Europe during the late Neolithic (New Stone Age) period, one certainly immigrant. Each group may be distinguished archaeologically by characteristic artifacts found in their respective burial sites. One was a Bell Beaker or drinking vessel. We now refer to this group as the Beaker folk. There is still some doubt as to the origins of the Beaker folk, some say Iberia, and some say Central Europe itself. Never-the-less it is believed that they emerge as an independent cultural group around 3000 B.C.E..
The second group is characterized by a perforated battle-axe of stone. Similarly, we now refer to this group as the Battle-Axe folk. Evidence points towards origins in the steppe-lands of southern Russia, between the Caucasus and the Carpathian mountains. The Battle-Axe folk may be attributed with the initial spread of the Indo-European group of languages. The Indo-European group of languages encompasses most of those current in present-day Europe. In Central Europe the Beaker folk and Battle-Axe folk fused to become one European people. Shortly thereafter began the Bronze Age in Europe. It is unclear whether the arrival of the two groups influenced the arrival of the Bronze Age or not. Many think that contact with the Mediterranean and beyond may have influenced this.
From this period onwards the line of continuity which leads directly to the historic Celts may be traced from the archaeological evidence. This is identified by the successive Únêtice, Tumulus and Urnfield cultures of the Central European Bronze Age. The Únêtice culture appears to have emerged from the fusion of Battle-Axe and Beaker peoples and their immediate descendants. The Únêtice culture became the pre-eminent culture in Central Europe by the middle of the second millennium B.C.E.. Because of rich mineral deposits and control of trade routes between the south-east (early Mediterranean cultures) and the more distant parts of Europe, the Únêtice people prospered.
The Tumulus culture which followed the Únêtice, and from which they descended, dominated Central Europe during much of the second part of the second millenium B.C.E.. As the name implies, the Tumulus culture is distinguished by the practice of burying the dead beneath burial mounds. During this period trade contacts with the south-east remained intact and were probably expanded. The Tumulus culture flourished without any disruption of local peoples by large-scale immigration. This was to end, however, toward the close of the second millennium B.C.E., when there is evidence of wide-spread disruption which affected the "higher civilizations" to the south-east and curbed trade.
With the emergence of the Urnfield culture of Central Europe, there appear a people whom some scholars regard as being 'proto-Celtic', in that they may have spoken an early form of Celtic. As the name suggests, the people of the Urnfield culture cremated their dead and placed the remains in urns which were buried in flat cemeteries without any covering mound. The period of the Urnfield culture, like that of the Tumulus culture, was one of expansion, particularly during the first millennium B.C.E. It is during the period of the Urnfield culture that the Bronze Age was at its peek in Central Europe. They produced weapons, tools, eating and cooking vessels, etc. all out of Bronze. From the Urnfield Culture, the Celts emerge as an agricultural people.
Whereas the Urnfield people may justifiably be considered to have been proto-Celtic, their descendants in Central Europe, the people of the Hallstatt culture, were certainly fully Celtic. The Hallstatt culture and its successor, that of La Tène, together represent the iron-using prehistoric peoples of much of Europe. These are the Keltoi, the Galli and Galatae of classical writers. The two cultures are named after sites at which were found archaeological artifacts now considered to be representative of a particular stage of each culture. Hallstatt is a village in Central Austria at which was found an important cemetery; La Tène is near the north-eastern end of Lake Neuchâtel, in western Switzerland. In rough terms the Hallstatt culture existed from approximately 1200 to 500 B.C.E., with some overlap of the Urnfield culture. The La Tène culture in the parts of Europe which would soon become part of the Roman Empire ended with the arrival of the Romans. Beyond the Empire, such as Ireland and Northern Britain (modern day Scotland) the La Tène culture flourished until about 200 C.E..
I n 1824 came the first signs of the existence archaeologically of an important Iron Age cemetery at Hallstatt, a small village in Upper Austria. Since much was lost about the Celts through the centuries, archaeology, just developing as a science in the 19th century, became a chief source of knowledge about the Celts in Europe. From 1846 until 1963, when excavations stopped at the cemetery, anywhere from 1000 to 2000 graves (My sources conflict) were excavated. The cemetery mostly dates to the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.E., and includes graves of many different classes.
Warriors' graves made up only about a quarter of the Hallstatt cemetery. Women's graves tended to have masses of clanking jewelry and bulky fibulae. Rich graves in the cemetery often contained impressive sets of bronze vessels - buckets, situlae (buckets with rims turned inward), bowls, and cups, presumably imported from the Mediterranean. Hallstatt remains one of the richest known cemeteries of its kind, with a wide range of weapons, brooches, pins, and pottery. From these excavations, we can develop a comprehensive picture of who the early Celts were.
The individuals buried at Hallstatt came from an early Iron Age community, whose lives depended on the mining of nearby rock-salt deposits, an important commodity in those days for preserving food. Salt also effectively preserves organic remains. Investigations of the mines themselves yielded clothing, equipment and even the body of a miner, perfectly preserved by salt. Around 600 B.C.E. another big salt mine opened not far from Hallstatt, at Hallein (near modern day Salzburg), a site that was more easily accessible. Hallstatt then went into decline. From the 5th century on it had fewer and fewer well furnished graves. In the fourth century B.C.E., Hallstatt was devastated by a vast landslide.
As stated in the Origins section, the Hallstatt culture, together with La Tène, represent archaeologically the iron-using prehistoric peoples of Central, Western and, temporarily at least, some other parts of Europe. The Hallstatt culture is now thought to span a period from 1200 to 500 B.C.E.. From about 1200 to about 800 B.C.E. there is some overlap with the Urnfield culture as Europe was moving from the Bronze Age into the Iron Age. There are many similarities between the Urnfield and Hallstatt cultures, and it hard to determine when one left off and the other began. One thing is for certain, the first truly Celtic culture saw its beginnings in the Hallstatt culture.
The Hallstatt era is divided into four phases: A, B, C, and D, by modern day archaeologists. Approximately, Hallstatt A and B correspond to the late Bronze Age, c. 1200-800 B.C.E.; Hallstatt C refers to the very early Iron age, c. 800-600 B.C.E.; and Hallstatt D ranges from c. 600-500 B.C.E.. During Hallstatt A and B there is an apparent lack of large scale political organization. Until the eighth century, the known settlements suggest no more than petty chiefdoms. It is during the Hallstatt C period that we start to see fortified settlements on hilltops north of the Alps with greater frequency. Consequently, many burial mounds mark the graves of the rising noble classes, who no doubt had the hillforts built. Increased trade volumes seem to have contributed to the rise of these nobles. In the last phase, Hallstatt D, the richest graves are more concentrated in the west than previously. Resulting, seemly from the wishing to be closer to trade routes to the newly founded Greek colony of Massalia (Marseilles), near the mouth of the Rhône. Reaching the Greek world via Massalia, stories about the 'barbarian' chiefdoms were in all likelihood one of the earliest sources for tales of the people called Keltoi.
The fifth century B.C.E. began with a sudden extinction of the rich chiefdoms of the Hallstatt D. Hillforts all over Central Europe were abandoned, and rich burials ceased. At about the same time, wealthy warrior societies were developing, mostly to the north of the old Hallstatt centers. Almost certainly Celtic speakers, these peoples founded a unique culture and developed an artistic style unlike anything previously seen. This then is the developement of the La Tène culture.
Located on the nothern edge of Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland, La Tène was identified as an archaeological site in 1857 when amatuer archaeologist, Hansli Kopp, found some ancient iron weapons and timber piles driven into the bed of the lake. Draining and dredging the section of the lake in the 1860's and 1880's revealed an exceptional wealth of artifacts, including human remains, swords, spearheads, tools, and shields. The extraordinary quantity of artifacts recovered since then have convinced archaeologists that La Tène is a representative site for the period of greatest Celtic development and expansion.
Whereas the Hallstatt culture probably consisted of many different peoples and language groups, the La Tène culture can truly be termed "Celtic". The La Tène culture evolved during the fifth century B.C.E. in part of the Hallstatt area. There are several reasons for distniguishing archaeologically between the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures. One most important and distictively different feature of the La Tène culture is the unique art-style, usually represented in their metal-work. This style most likely developed between the Meuse, Neckar, and Main, and had spread quite rapidly. The era in which it flourished begins around 500 B.C.E. and ends, on the European continent at least, around 50 B.C.E.
La Tène Culture lifts the Celts from being just another of the many European tribal peoples. La Tène truly establishes the Celts as a real 'civilization'. La Tène Culture generated some of the ancient world's most stunningly beautiful pieces of decorative art. The use of animals, plants, and spiral patterns in the art eventually epitomized and perpetuated the legend of the Celts.
La Tène society seems to have risen to prominence through trade with the Mediterranean, with the Greeks and Etruscans, and later the Romans. La Tène Culture finds the Celts amonst wealth and glory and expression. In general, the technological level of the La Tène Celts, with very few exceptions, was equal to, and in some cases surpassed. that of the Romans.
It was inevitable, however, that in any conflict between the Celts and Romans, the superior powers of organization, discipline, and orderliness of the Roman culture were bound to overcome the passionate and undisciplined Celts. But before the Romans were able to conquer the greater part of Celtic-dominated areas of continental Europe, the Celts during the La Tène period were to achieve their most widespread expansion. They spread into and beyond those areas previously held by the Urnfield and Hallstatt cultures. They forced their way into Greek and Roman history by sacking Rome in 390 B.C.E. and Delphi around 279 B.C.E..
With the La Tène Culture, the Celts came of age and marked a major cultural presence in Europe. Through La Tène, European peoples saw them as important, powerful, and something to be feared. Their spread across the continent and their impressive pressence, made them a force to be reckoned with. From Germany and Eastern Europe they spread southward into the balkans and Italy, and westward into France and Iberia. Before the La Tène culture of the Celts was finally destroyed by Roman conquest and culture, some of its elements had travelled beyond the continent into the British Isles. Ireland remained (at least no evidence suggests) untouched by the Romans.
With the La Tène culture, the Celts had given themselves definition, acquired a considerable presence, and earned respect from all the peoples of Europe at that time.
Who were the Druids?
While religion was a major element in the social and political structure of the Celts it constituted only one aspect of the pan-Celtic association known as the priesthood of the Druids. This society succeeded in uniting many scattered Celtic tribes into a cohesive people through similarity of beliefs and laws. The Druids formed a large clergy which had many diverse and specialized functions. They are known to us by long passages in the works of the Greek and Latin historians and polygraphers: Caesar, Diodoros, Strabo, and Ammianaus Marcellinus, who enumerated their functions and powers. These writers, however, owe most of their information to Poseidonios and Timagenes. ( Being unfamiliar with Latin and Greek myself, I must rely on the translations of true scholars such as Joyce, Dobie, Rhys, and others.)
A great number of Irish epic texts speak of the Druids. There are also many legal texts regarding the functions and powers of the “Fili" (poets and men of letters), who formed a corporation parallel and to some extent rivaling that of the Druids. The two bodies, however, lived side by side, were complementary to each other and, in earlier times, were associated in their organizations and privileges. Even so, Christianity spared the Fili but wrought total havoc with the Druids.
Where are the Druids from?
There is historical evidence of Druids in Ireland, Britain, and Gaul. Although we have no direct confirmation of Druids in the Celtic settlements of Spain, Italy, Galatia, and the Danube valley, there seems no reason for denying that they existed among those branches of the race. The travels and meetings of the Druids cemented the union of the Celtic peoples and encouraged a sense of kinship which might have given birth to unity. Some students believe that Druidism had its origin west of the Celtic counties. These scholars have said that Druidism is not Celtic at all but originated with those peoples whom the Celts found established in the west of Europe, the builders of the megalithic monuments. Caesar tells us that Druidism first started in Britain, and that the Druids of Gaul used to go to Britain to visit famous schools and sanctuaries. British Druidism had an equally high reputation in Ireland, and the Irish Druids went to Britain to complete their education. The Gauls of Italy had among them persons described as "Vates" (a word borrowed from the Celtic), who were similar to the Druids and organized like them. A comparative study of the druidic institution shows that it was indeed pan-Celtic and an essential part of the organization of Celtic society.
History shows clearly enough that Druidism emerged as an element of resistance to the Romans in Gaul and Britain and to Christianity in Ireland. It was assailed as an enemy with attacks taking the form of persecution in Gaul ( as evidenced by the campaigns of the Roman generals against sanctuaries in Britain ) and by a kind of degradation in Ireland. It becomes apparent, then, that Druidism was an element of resistance because it was an element of cohesion. This fact lends further credence to the notion that druidism transcended both geographic boundaries and clan or tribal delineation.
The literature and law of Ireland was not written down until after the advent
of Christianity. This work was performed by the Fili who, therefore, appear in a
more favorable light than the Druids. However, if we boldly fill in the gaps in
our knowledge of the Druids using what is known of the Fili, we get a picture of
the Druids of Ireland which corresponds at every point to that of the Druids of
Gaul. From this we obtain a check on the accuracy of both portraits and a strong
presumption that we are dealing with a common institution dating from the
most distant past of the two peoples.
There are many questions arising as to what calendrical practice was used by the Celtic people. Regarding this issue there are three primary schools of thought. These three theories all attempt to offer us a better understanding of the Celtic calendar. To use the term 'Celtic calendar' is somewhat inaccurate, as it were the Druids who were primarliy concerned with calendar-keeping.
One of the most commonly accepted beliefs holds that the year was divided into thirteen months with an extra day or so the end of the year used to adjust the calendar. This theory states that the months correspond to the vowels of the Ogham or Celtic Tree Alphabet. For every of the months there was a designated tree. From this a 'tree calendar' wheel emerged
Most archaeologist and historians accept another calendar. This calender is represented by the surviving fragments of a great bronze plate, the Coligny Calendar, which originally measured 5 feet by 3-1/2 feet. This plate, found in eastern France, was engraved in the Gaulish language (similar to Welsh) in Roman-style letters and numerals. It depicts a system of time keeping by lunar months, showing 62 consecutive months with 2 extra months inserted to match the solar timetable. They appear to have worked with a 19-year time cycle that equaled 235 lunar months and had an error of only half a day.
The third school of thought is an amalgam of both of the others. The proponents of this last theory believe that the first calendar pre-dates the Coligny discovery.
It is from ancient writers such as Caesar that we learn that the Celts were to have counted by nights and not days and in reckoning birthdays and new moon and new year their unit of reckoning is the night followed by the day.
Ancient Celtic philosophy believed that existence arose from the interplay between darkness and light, night and day, cold and warmth, death and life, and that the passage of years was the alternation of dark periods (winter, beginning November 1) and light periods (summer, starting May 1). The Druidic view was that the earth was in darkness at its beginning, that night preceded day and winter preceded summer a view in striking accord with the story of creation in Genesis and even with the Big Bang theory. Thus, Nov. 1 was New Year's Day for the Celts, their year being divided into four major cycles. The onset of each cycle was observed with suitable rituals that included feasting and sacrifice. It was called The Festival of Samhain - linked with Halloween.
The Celts measured the Solar year on a wheel, circle or spiral, all of which symbolize creation and the constant movement of the universe Ð growth and development.
To the ancients, the Heavens appeared to wheel overhead, turning on an axis which points to the north polar stars. At the crown of the axis, a circle of stars revolved about a fixed point, the Celestial Pole, which was believed to be the location of Heaven. At the base of the axis was the Omphalos, the circular altar of the Goddess' temple. The universe of stars turning on this axis formed a spiral path, or stairway, on which souls ascended to Heaven.
This Sunwise, clockwise, or deiseal (Gaelic), motion of the spirals represented the Summer Sun. The continuous spirals with seemingly no beginning or end signified that as one cycle ended another began Ð eternal life. The spiral's never-ending, always expanding, motion also symbolized the ever- increasing nature of information and knowledge. Many of these symbols often also appeared in triplicate, a sign of the divine.
In addition, the seasons of the year were thought to be part of this cycle. In Gaelic, the names of the four seasons date back to pre-Christian times: 1) Earrach for "Spring," 2) Samhradh for "Summer," 3) Foghara for "Harvest" which refers to Autumn, and 4) Geamhradh for "Winter."
The basic economy of the Celts was mixed farming, and, except in times of unrest, single farmsteads were usual.
Owing to the wide variations in terrain and climate, cattle raising was more important than cereal cultivation in some regions.
Textiles in ancient times were fairly advanced. Weaving is a very basic technology and was quite advanced as early as 5,000 BCE, and brightly colored dyes were readily available. If we met our Celtic ancestors, they would probably look as gaudy to us as they did to the Romans, since they were very fond of bright colors and ornamentation.
There aren't a lot of textile remains found for Celtic clothing from prehistoric times through the 16th century; we mostly have to rely on manuscripts and descriptions of what was worn at various times. However, I will make some educated guesses based on textile construction techniques from the few Celtic finds available, as well as evidence from the bog finds in Denmark, which could arguably be either Celtic or Teutonic. Obviously, fashions varied from place to place and time to time, so Celtic clothing wasn't universally the same in all places over the thousand or so years I'm spanning; however, similar techniques of constructing and decorating clothing were used throughout Europe, and results can be inferred from these.
Hill forts provided places of refuge, but warfare was generally open and consisted of single challenges and combat as much as of general fighting.
There are many modern 'politically correct' problems surrounding exactly what is Celtic and what is not. The most common error is to talk of 'Celtic knotwork', that complicated and elaborate interlacing of lines, curves and geometric shapes which seems to be appearing everywhere nowadays.
This style of design and decoration was in fact brought to Britain in the 6th century AD by Saxon Christian monks and was used exclusively to illuminate the handwritten Christian Gospels. The Saxon people used some of the art for personal decoration. Any of the knotwork that has animal shapes incorporated shows influence from the Vikings. It is indeed a very attractive and distinctive style of decoration - but it is not Celtic.
In Pre-Celtic Britain, there are many ancient places that were elaborately and painstakingly decorated and carved with many different styles of spiral, zig-zag, diamond, line and curve but nowhere do these separate symbols and designs overlap or interlace and nowhere is there to be found an example of knotwork. It should also be noted that these elaborate designs and symbols are not Celtic either. They were carved into the rocks by an unknown race of megalith builders thousands of years before the Celtic culture arrived.
It is also a common practice for modern day Celtic groups to employ various symbols, such as the Crescent and V-Rod, the Switch, the Two Worlds etc, as part of their Celtic regalia and ritual but, once again, these ancient symbols are not Celtic they are Pictish. The Picts were a scandinavian people and the only places where these symbols are to be found, carved on stones etc, are in the North East of Scotland and they are, therefore, as foreign to the British tribes as the 'Celtic' knotwork is.
Another modern addition to this confusing collection of symbolism is the ubiquitous pentagram which is unquestionably non-Celtic - Jewish, from the seals of Solomon.
What, then, were the symbols used by the Celts? It is true that they greatly admired all art-forms and decorative styles and that they used these to a great extent on just about everything from household utensils to battle-chariots. But the symbols they used are the ones that are still all round us today :-the trees, the birds, the animals, the hills and lakes and all the other manifestations of the life-force on Earth.
The Celts were a warlike, passionate people with a love of art. Truly, Celtic art is distinguished for its extensive curves and intricate knot work which is used to form complex decorations for weapons, jewelry and body tattooing. Along with the extensive use of body tattooing the Celts highlighted their naturally fair hair by washing it in lime-water. This fondness for art and personal decoration was merged with acts of barbarism, such as beheading their enemies and carrying the severed heads around the necks of their horses. The head was the ultimate source of spiritual power; to posses the enemies head, was to posses his spirit. Riding naked on fast moving, light chariots, shreiking and swinging large hacking swords and throwing spears was a most effective method of warfare for instilling terror into their enemies.
Celtic warriors were drawn from what we would describe as the middle and upper class. The warrior class did the actual fighting: the free poor served as chariot drivers. The Celt was a warrior in the heroic sense. Everything had to be larger than life. He lived for war. His glorification of bravery often led him to recklessness. Part of a warriors ritual was to boast of his victories, and fighting between warriors was an important part of life.
Most Celts scorned the use of armour and before about 300 B.C. preferred to fight naked. Some Celtic tribes still fought naked at the battle of Telamon in 225 B.C. The Celt was renowned as a swords-man but he also used javelins and spears. Two spears which were found at La Tene in Switzerland were nearly 2.5m long. His only protection was his large shield which was usually oval. The suggestion that the Celt wore heavy bracelets in battle has to be questioned, as it is hard to understand how they would stay on his arm whilst he wielded his sword. Dionysius tells us that in battle the Celts whirled their swords above their heads, slashing the air from side to side, then struck downwards at their enemies as if chopping wood. It was this use of the sword that so terrified their enemies. The Celts did not fight in a rabble as is so often supposed. They were organized in companies. This can be proved by their use of standards.
The Celt was a head-hunter. In battle he would cut off the head of his fallen enemy and often hang it from his horse's neck. After battle he would display the severed head at the entrance to his temple. The severed head is a constant theme in Celtic art. At the battle of Beneventumin 214 B.C. the Roman general Gracchus had to order his army of freed slaves (presumably Celts) to stop collecting heads and get on with the fighting. After a battle the Celts would often dedicate their enemies weapons to the gods and throw them into a river or lake. The hundreds of weapons that have been dredged from the Lake of Neuchatel at La Tene were such offerings. In fact the site at La Tene has revealed so many Celtic artifacts that its name has been given to the whole Celtic culture.
The chiefs and the wealthiest Celts often did wear armour particularly when they came into contact with the Greeks and Romans. They often adopted items of Greek or Roman armour. A pair of greaves were found in the chieftain's grave at Ciumesti. Several graves have been found in Northern Italy which contain Etruscan armour and Celtic weapons. Before a battle the chiefs would ride out, in front of the army clashing their weapons on their shields, proclaiming their great deeds and challenging the enemy to single combat. Caesar describes the British as dressed in skins (meaning leather) and decorated with woad, a blue dye. Some tattooed skin from a Scythian grave of this period suggests that the Britons were tattooed in blue.
Runes are an alphabetic script used by the peoples of Northern Europe from the first century c.e. until well into the Middle Ages. In addition to their use as a written alphabet, the runes also served as a system of symbols used for magic and divination. Runes fell into disuse as the Roman alphabets became the preferred script of most of Europe, but their forms and meanings were preserved in inscriptions and manuscripts.
Older than the New Testament, the Runes have lain fallow for more than 400 years. The Runes were last in current use in Iceland during the Middle Ages. The wisdom of the Rune Masters died with them. Little remains but the standing Rune stones, the sagas, the far-flung fragments of runic lore, and the 24 Runes themselves.
The influence of the Runes on their time is incontestable. When the high chieftains and wise counselors of Anglo-Saxon England met in conclave, they called their secret deliberations "Ruenes". When Bisop Wulfila made his translation of the Bible into fourth century Gothic, he rendered St. Mark's "the mystery of the kingdom of God" using "runa" for "mystery.
Eight centuries earlier, when Greek historian Herodotus traveled around the Black Sea, he encountered descendants of Scythian tribesmen who crawled under blankets, smoked themselves into a stupor, and cast marked sticks in the air and "read" them when they fell. These sticks were used as Rune sticks.
There is no firm agreeement among scholars as to where and when runic writing first made its appearance in Western Europe. Before Germanic peoples possessed any form of script, they used pictorial symbols that they scratched onto rocks.
Especially common in Sweden, these prehistoric rock carvings, are dated back to 1300BC and were probably linked to Indo- European fertility and sun cults.
The practice of divination (sortilege) was cultivated among Northern Italic as well as Germanic peoples, one using letters the other symbols. Numerous runic standing stones can be seen in the British Isles, in Germany and throughout Scandinavia.
From the beginning Runes took on a ritualistic meaning, serving for the casting of lots, for divination, and to evoke higher powers that could influence the lives and fortunes of the people. The craft of "runemal" touched every aspect of life, from the most sacred to the most practical. There were Runes and spells to influence the weather, the tides, crops, love, healing, fertility, cursing and removing curses, birth and death.
Runes were carved on amulets, drinking cups, battle spears, over the lintels of dwellings and onto the prows of Viking ships.
The Rune castors of the Teutons and Vikings wore startling garb that made them easily recognizable. Honored, welcomed and feared these shamans were familiar figures in tribal circles. There is evidence that a fair number of runic practitioners were women.
Runic symbols have been carved into pieces of hardwood, incised on metal or cut into leather that was then stained with pigment.
The most common Runes were smooth flat stones or pebbles with symbols or glyths painted on one side. The practicioner would keep them in a pouch, shake them and scatter the pebbles on the ground. Those falling with glyphs upward were then interpreted.
Bt 100 AD the Runes were already becoming widely known on the European Continent. They were carried from place to place by traders, adventurers, and warriors, and eventually by Anglo-Saxon missionaries.
For this dispersion to occur a common alphabet was required, the alphabet that became known as "futhark" after after its first 6 letters.
Although later Anglo-Saxon alphabets expanded to include as many as 33 letters in Britian, the traditional Germanic futhark is comprised of 24 Runes. These were divided into 3 families of 8 Runes each, 3 and 8 being numbers credited with special potency. The 3 groups, known as "aettir" were named for the Norse Gods "Freyr" "Hagal" and "Tyr.
Folklore and History
The history of the Celtic people is quite a long one, ranging from the initial tribes of Celts back in Sigmar's time to the present day. The origins are very shady and hard to find exactly what happened, as a lot of the Celtic mythology is mixed in with the historical fact of what the Celts call the Dawntime, when Tír na nÓg was formed. The best sources of what happened are The Táin and the Sacred Texts of the Dawntime. These manuscripts tell of the oldest heroes and the formation of Celtic society, whether they are completely trustworthy is unsure. According to the Táin, the origins of the first Celts can be dated back to the Tuatha Dé Dannan, a clan of Celt like people who lived in the Grey Mountains. Further North, past the Grey mountains in the area which today is known as the Reikland lived a similar tribe who shared many customs and traditions with the Tuatha Dé Dannan and were called the Nemedians after their great leader Nemed.
On the year 100 before the formation of the Empire, Nuada, the legendary leader of the Tuatha Dé Dannnan, was roaming the forests f his demesne on his own. Although he believed he was on completely safe from intruders in this forest, a mysterious shadowy figure approached him and beckoned him to follow. The figure moved very quickly through the woods, and Nuada had to run to keep up with him. Eventually they reached a clearing and the figure stopped and turned around, and Nuada could see it clearly. Initially he was frightened and wanted to run or attack, because the figure looked like some twisted Goblin or some spawn of Chaos. It was like a Centaur with four legs and an animal body but with a humanoid torso and arms at the front. He was mostly green with dark-grey smooth skin. He had large scales over his armidilloe like body, and had not a single hair on his head. "Do not be afraid "the creature whispered, barely moving his lips "I am a Zoat, one of the holy creatures of the goddess sent to tell you of your fate." Nuada listened intently as the zoat told him of the oncoming Empire, that would unify the tribes of man into one united empire under his leadership. The tribes of Nuada's race could not join this Empire as their destiny lied along another path, they were different, the sacred race of the goddess, and would have to be led to their real home. The Zoat told him of The land of the Young, a group of islands off the mainland to the North-West and that he must lead his tribe there. Nuada did not no what to say, and before he could put a word in edgeways, the Zoat darted off through the woods and was never seen again.
At first Nuada hesitated for a few years, as he did not feel he could trust the mysterious visitor, and his advisors told him not to trust this probable spawn of chaos. Even so, it built up in the back of his mind, and constantly niggled at him. In his heart he knew he had to leave, and two years later he mustered the clan Dé Dannan and headed off to find a new home.
After wandering across what is in modern days Bretonia, they gathered a fleet of ships and set sail for the islands that the zoat had told Nuada about. At first they completely went the wrong way and ended up in Norsca. They stayed here for a few years but Nuada knew that this was not their spiritual home. They left and eventually found Alba, and Nuada found it to his liking. He knew he had finally found the land of the young. After 15 years of living in alba, he left some of his clan behind and crossed the channel of water and arrived in Eriu. By the bank of the river Boyne the clan Dé Dannan settled and prospered for many years.
While Nuada and the Tuatha Dé Dannan where settling in at the Boyne valley, a tribe of Celtic like people who already lived in Eriu, the Portholóin, were preparing for war. To the North of Eriu lay a small island, known as Tory island. On this island was a gateway between worlds, a gateway to the place the Celts call the el worlds, a spiritual land where both the gods and demons live. A race of such Demons, the fomorians, were hardly known to the rest of the Old World because they spent most of their time harrassing Eriu and trying to enslave its population. They were known as Sea Demons, large green or brown monsters that were largely deformed in human terms of view and were fierce and brutal warriors. At this time they inhabited the whole Northern half of Eriu, the present day tuathamhóir of Ulster. And so the Portholóin clan were readying to launch a massive assault against the fomorians to get them out of Eriu. They met the Cessair clan, another tribe that had arrived in Eriu who had come from Albion, and together they succeeded in driving the fomorians away.
About twenty years later, the Nemedians saw that the whole time the tuatha Dé Dannan were right as they saw the hero Sigmar was uniting the tribes of men, and under Nemed the clan journeyed to Eriu. But when they got near in their fleet of ships, a surprise attack of a
large fomorian fleet destroyed half the ships and they were lucky to get any of them to safety. In the battle, Nemed was killed by the fomorian leader, Connan and Nemed's son Fergus demanded vengeance. Together with the newly found friends of the portholóin clan and the tuatha Dé Dannan, they mounted a large assault on tory island where Connan had his large fortress. The tribes overwhelmed the fortress guard and Fergus killed Connan in a mighty duel. With the death of Connan, the fomorians couldn't cope and they fled through the gateway back to the El Worlds. The tribes were happy and lived in peace together in different parts of Eriu and Alba.
Ten Years later in the Empire, Sigmar with the aid of the dwarves finally drove off the marauding orc and goblin hordes and united the tribes of the Old World into one Empire. In that same year, a large event happened in the Celtic lands. Lured under the false pretenses of an emergency, the chieftains of the Dé Dannan, Portholóin, Cessair and Nemedian clans were drawn to a hill called Uisneach in the middle of Eriu. Baffled at what had happened, and trying to retrace their steps to see who had caused this, in case it might be a fomorian ambush, the four leaders discussed amongst themselves. And as if an answer to their problems, five of the mythical creatures that Nuada had called zoats came out of the woods. While the other leaders stood baffled, Nuada stepped forward and greeted them in the tongue of his clan. The Zoats made them sit down and for forty-eight hours non-stop they taught the chieftains of Tír na nÓg of who they were, who the Gods were, what the gods wanted them to do and how they all should live as one nation. The scribes who had come with the lords hurriedly scribbled down everything the zoats said, and these texts are still preserved today and are known as the sacred writings of the dawntime. The zoats told them of Lugh, the sun god, of Danu the goddess of the earth and her three different forms, of magic and how to use it, and the way of life that they should live by. After forty eight hours, the zoats said they must leave and informed them to study what they had said and to return after 6 months. As quick as lightning, the zoats disappeared back into the woods.
All four of the chieftains, including Nuada, were blown away and did not know how to react. They quietly left and went back to their homes and most spent the whole six months reading over everything the zoats had said and trying to live life the way the zoats said it should be lived. After six months they all returned and signed a binding agreement that they would unite their clans as one nation with no one ruler. The zoats kept on teaching them and instructed them to build a holy city called Tara at the hill of Uisneach. This they did and they all lived there together, ruling their clans from the city of Tara. On and off the zoats returned, teaching them of the gods, teaching them a common language and a way of writing. They initiated a Cult of druids, these druids became teachers of the holy way and learned how to channel the magical energy of the gods through them, priests in one sense and wizards in another.
And so the basis of Celtic society was gradually formed, and many druids and teachers spread across the land to teach the way of the Gods to the people.
Nuada of the Silver-Arm
Twenty-nine years later, when most of Eriu was peaceful and calm, the fomorians returned to harrass the celts. But this time they found a united kingdom that was strong and poweful. However there was some unrest within the kingdom as the small Fír Bolg clan was demanding thier chieftain to be given the same respect and rights as the other four chieftains. Under the new law this was not permitted and the Fír bolg was prepared to go to war about it. They first attacked the lands of the Dé Dannan clan, and Nuada, now an old man, mustered his army to put out this little civil war. At the place known as Moy Tura below the forest of Choillmharnach the two armies met and faught large battle. The tuatha Dé Dannan were victorious but lost a lot of men, and Nuada himself lost his arm in the fight. Under one of the strange provisions of the new Brehon laws, a warrior chieftain couldn't rule if he was mutilated in any way (this often resulted in enemies or relations purposely mutilating chieftains), and Nuada was forced to abdicate.
In his stead, his Nephew Breas became chieftain and ruled over the clan. However Breas was a tyrannical ruler and did not rule with generosity and kindness that was demanded of a Celtic chieftain. He gave in to the new fomorian oppression, rather than fight and defend his clan like a true Celtic sun hero. The fomorians put immense pressure on the tuatha Dé Dannan and they were forced to pay huge taxes to the fomorians. Meanwhile, Nuada couldn't stand staying around and watching Breas destroy his kingdom, so he left to wander Eriu. He eventually found the great forest of choillmharnach that was on the edge of his old lands. He travelled for days into the centre of the wood and eventually he stumbled on a small wooded village where a band of zoats lived. They explained to him that he was the rightfull ruler and the gods hadn't intended for Breas to rule. He was then visited by Dianceacht, the god of healing who gradually restored his arm for him. Over seven years he grew back and arm of silver that heis legendary for having. On the seventh year, his arm was fully healed and he prayed to Dianceacht and then rode back to the tuatha Dé Dannan to be restored as king.
The clan rejoiced as Nuada returned with a new silver arm and seemed to have the strength of his youth back with him. He denied the fomor taxes and mustered his army ready for war. At the second bloody battle of Moy tura, the small Dé Dannan army defeated the large fomorian force in a bloody and savage battle. Half of the Dé Dannan army were killed including Nuada himself. The clan were freed and began to live life again, and they buried Nuada in a massive passage tomb along in the valley of the Boyne river. Nuada had died in battle at the age of 156 and although this may not be historical fact, it shows that the Celts lived a lot longer than other men, while in Tír na nÓg. The fomorians that were left retreated back to Tory island and started plotting revenge and made a secret pact with the Chaos Gods for help.
The Celtic people lived in normal peace wihout any oppression from enemies for a long while after that, but were without a great leader like Nuada for nearly one hundred and fifty years. This new great leader was Sláine MacRoth.
The tale of Sláine
Sláine was born to the Cessair clan in the Imperial year of 185. He wasn't noble-born and was a strong and handsome young lad. He could fight better than any other lad his age and his reputation quickly spread. He was disowned at the age of 16 when he slept with one of the chieftain's own concubines and was cast out of the clan. He was forced to roam the land as a travelling mercenary, and he fell in with a twisted dwarf companion named Ukko. He travelled south pas the areas of Cil Mhaintáin and eventually reached the great inland lake, loch Mheasa. There he had a vision from the Gods and was brought to their kingdom in the El worlds. In their sacred hall, the Sun God Lugh informed him that he was to be the High King of Tír na nÓg, and Sláine laughed at the idea in response. Not caring, Lugh told him that he must collect the four magical treasures of Tír na nÓg that Nuada never collected. Out of a crystal door came the father God, Dagda who gave Sláine one of the magical treasures, the cauldron of Dagda that would feed anyone who came before it. Slaine was startled and before he could think of something to say the vision faded and he was back by the lake in the physical world holding the Cauldron of Dagda and facing a barrage of questions from the puzzled Ukko. Sláine did not want to betray the Gods and so set out to find the treasures of Tír na nÓg, first by heading back to his clan.
While Sláine was wandering in exile, his cousin Ragall had become the chieftain of the Cessair clan and was a charchter much like Breas. On the winter beforehand, the fomorians had returned in great numbers and Ragall stood down, accepting their enslavement and paying their large taxes. A large disgusting fomorian who looked like a giant fish was set to constantly stay at the chieftain's court and collect the taxes. If the taxes were not paid by an individual he would cut their nose off, and if they failed a second time he would kill them and rob all their possesions. Ragall was fearing Samhain (November), the start of the Celtic year, when the fomorian enslavers demanded two thirds of the whole clan's money, crops and livestock be offered to them as a sign of fealty. The clan were extremely poor as it was and had little to live on, most were poor and had little crops to feed on, let alone pay the taxes. Ragall's new wife, Megrim was controlling the kingdom through the broken man and she was secretly a witch-priestess, a worshipper of the worm god Crom-Cruach (It is possible that Crom-Cruach and Nurgle are the same God from the two different mythologies). By the Brehon laws, a chieftain had to rule atleast for seven years before he could volunntarily abdicate, and if he wanted to step down before the first seven years then he would have to be ritually sacrificed. Ragall could not take the situation anymore and chose to be sacrificed. Megrim was furious, as the lands would not be handed down to her that way. In a ritual sacrifice, whoever the chieftain's blood trickled towards was destined by the gods to become the new chieftain. That was one of the only ways for a common-born to become chieftain. As Cathbad, the high druid slit his throat, the followers of the clan gathered round him in the morbid hope that they would be the next chieftain. The blood trickled away from all of them to a gap in the circle. And just when everyone started cursing the Gods, Sláine came up the hill and the blood rolled to his feet. The crowd cheered at their returned hero who was the new chieftain, and in his dying moments Ragall apologised to Sláine for what he had done to the clan. That night for the first time in years they had a huge feast, the largest feast in the whole kingdom due to the cauldron of Dagda. The tax collector was beheaded and his large fish like head was stuck on a spear and put in front of the clan's dún as a warning to any fomorians.
After a long and ardous task, Sláine gathered the four treasured items of Tír na nÓg; the Cauldron of Dagda,The Spear of the Sun, the Sword of the Moon and Lia Fáil, the stone of destiny. He already had the Cauldron of Dagda, and he set out getting the Spear of the Sun and the Sword of the Moon from the chieftains that possesed them. The Sword of the Moon is a giant rending blade that can kill the mightiest foe with one blow, which Sláine got from King Gann. The Spear of the Sun is Lugh's own mighty weapon that when released you can name a target and it will fly from your hands and plunge into your opponent, killing it instantly. Reluctantly King Rudraige handed over the Spear and slaine went in search of the Stone of Destiny. When Sláine finally found it it was in the hands of the avanc, the last of a race of monstrous beaver folk and Sláine had to kill it to get the stone. The stoneis said in the ancient legends to shriek out a long wailing note if the rightfull High King of Tír na nÓg stands on it with the other four treasured items.
And so he had all the treasures, and he summoned the four chieftains to the hill Uisneach in Tara, also kown as Bolg Danu, the Belly of the Goddess. On its summit was placed the Stone of Destiny and before the stone was placed the Cauldron of Dagda. Each of the four Chieftains took their turn at standing on it with the Sword and the Spear but nothing happened until Sláine stood on it. The stone shrieked like a banshee, and out of the Cauldron came the Goddess Danu herself, in the form of Blodwuedd, the maiden. Holding a massive Crowned Helm, she crowned Sláine the first High King of Tír na nÓg, the king if kings.
Slaine was a good and fair High King and ruled with a concious mind. Although he was High King he still recognised the chieftains of the clans as rulers of thier kingdoms. But the peaceful reign did not last long as war with the Fomorians was inevitable. This time the fomorians had made a pact with the Drune Lords (the Celts called the Chaos Lords of the North Drune Lords). Leading the army was Balor of the evil eye, a Drune Lord who worshipped the darkest of Gods and came from the wastes of the North. He got his name from his left eye which was nearly always close. If he opened the eye it would be lethal to anyone in his glare, a thin beam of dark magic that destroyed anything in its path. Together with fomorian allies, Balor prepared a massive invasion of the Old World through Eriu, where the other nations of the Old World would not notice the horde approaching. Fortunately for the races of men that the Drune Lords completely underestimated the Celts under High King Sláine.
After three massive battles against the Drune Lords, the Celts pushed them back and eventually they fled. During the battles Sláine went into a battle frenzy, calling the bloodlust of the Goddess onto his body and he slew over a hundred fomorians on his own in the space of ten minutes. In the last battle, Slaine faced Balor in single combat. Balor thought Sláine would be an easy kill, but his underestimation was his undoing. He believed the Celts to be a stupid and savage race and when he open his eye, he fired the beam of pure dark magic at Sláine but Slaine was prepared and used the Sword of the Moon to stop the Ray and reflect it back at Balor, killing himself. When Balor died, he exploded in a blast of Dark Magic that Sláine was lucky to escape from and all that was left behind was a large crater that filled up with water and is known today as Loch na Súil (lake of the eye) near the border of Chonnacht and Ulster.
After the defeat of the Fomor, who fled back to the El Worlds, the Clets lived in a time of prosperity where feasts and merry-making was common. However Sláine was often unhappy because the woman he loved, Níamh was married to King Rudraige. Níamh was the king's concubine who Sláine originally dishonoured and unbeknownst to him, she was pregnant and when he returned Sláine was ready to start a new life with her and their little son Kai. However Níamh still hated Sláine and no matter how much he tried she just ran away from him, and eventually she had a marriage of convenience with Rudraige of the portholóin. In her hatred of Sláine she sent their son Kai to train to be a druid so that he would never succeed Sláine as the High King. Two years after the defeat of Balor, Megrim, who's real name was Medb tried to assasinate Sláine, but he was saved just in time by Níamh who realised what Medb was up to.
After about ten years, Slaine eventually married the fair maiden Nest, who loved him dearly and she became Queen. Although he did love her and had a peaceful marriage with her, he was still distraught because Níamh hated him so much. It was then another six years till another Assasination attempt happened and this time it unfortunately succeeded. Medb broke free from her prison and enscorcelled the young kitchen maid Ethne to kill Sláine in his sleep. Once the news broke out, the whole nation went into mourning at the loss of such a great leader, and Medb was captured and burnt at the stake. Níamh herself cried at the grave of Slaine, which was just a simple tombstone, unlike the large passage tombs of the older kings which was a sign of Sláine's modesty. Nest and Ukko then spent years creating a manuscript that contained the life story of Sláine MacRoth and his rise to power and his troublesome last years. Sláine may have died unhappy, but he united the kingdom, dove away the fomorians, killed the evil Drune Lord Balor and initiated an era of peace.
The time of Civil Wars
Since there had never been a High King before Sláine, the high Druids debated for hours and then decided that the kingship should be passed down through the lineage. Kai, Sláine's bastard son couldn't accept the kingship no matter how much he wanted to because he was a druid. So it was onto Kai's cousin Conn that the High Kingship passed. Conn never stood on the Lia Fáil and crowned king by the earth goddess, but nevertheless he was a very good High King. He followed Sláine's example and didn't rule with an iron will but rather as a generous father to the land, and let the chieftains still rule their lands. He was a fair and honest man, and had his intentions on his eldest son Connla becoming the next king. He trained Connla the ways of ruling and war, and he loved him the most out of his three sons. However, one day on patrolling the West Coast with a friend, Connla was enchanted by a beautiful fairy who wanted to take him away to her land. She was irresistable and he left Tír na nÓg, never to be seen again. Conn was deeply saddened by the loss of his son and did not what to do. He spent months searching for Connla, and the stress and worry brought him to an early grave. So Conn's second son Sengann had to take the throne, and it was clear from the outset that Sengann was not a rightful High King. It was well known that Sengann was a wierd and unstable man, and it turned out that he was possible insane. He made some bad decisions and the different chieftains of the clans were furious and wanted to replace him quickly. When they asked for him to stand on the Lia Fáil, he sent his armies to burn down their lands and soon an all out civil war began.
The first war split the kingdom into six different kingdoms, each chieftain claiming a right to the throne and bitter wars were fought between them. After roughly fifty years, the wars got worse as the smaller chieftains within the kingdoms started fighting and eventually the land of eriu was broken down into nearly three hundred separate kingdoms, which provided the framework for the small tuathaí that exist today. Around the Imperial Year of 400, the all out civil wars died down as the country's resources were completely depleted, and so the three hundred or so different Chieftains tried to live together peacefully. Even so clan blood feuds and cattle raids were still very frequent and shifts in power were common. This setup lasted for hundreds of years.
The Time of Plague
It was probably the disorganisation of the kingdom at that time which let the plague spread so rapidly through Tír na nÓg. It initially started in Alba when a mysterious green ship colided into the port liscrannagh. When the local militia investigated, hundreds of teeming rats poured out from the ship into the city. They quickly spread a disease amongst the people of liscrannagh and it was not long before many towns in Alba and the whole of albion were also overrun with the plague. The rats multiplied by the hundreds and once some got across the channel on some boats, the plague swept Eriu like wildfire. Once the plague had really set in and people were dying in droves, the skaven launched their attack. They overran Eriu easily and started qiping out entire towns and cities at a time. Their plan was to copletely cover Eriu and Albion with pestilence and disease in a few short years and claim them for themselves. When the kingdom was on the brink of utter destruction, one young lad killed over two hundred skaven with a simple sword and helps drive them out of Ulster. The precocious young Noble lad, Cormac MacÁide, united the whole of Eriu behind him, the ancient dividing lines not mattering anymore as survival was the most important thing. In a hidden meeting at the hill of Uisneach in Tara, it was confirmed that he should be the next High King as the Lia Fáil wailed out for him in the moonlit impromptu meeting. And so the new High King Cormac united the people of Tír na nÓg and fought valiantly with his depleted army and drove the Skaven out of Eriu. Although Eriu was recovering, Alba was still being attacked by the Skaven, so Cormac led his force across the channel in seven mighty ships as he always valued the loyalty of Alba through the years. With the combined force of the army of Alba, they quickly rid the Northern province of the Skaven. After a year or so, once the country tried to get itself back on its feet, Cormac died of the plague and was a great loss to his nation as without him, Eriu fell back into disarray and the kingdom was still split into over three hundred tuathaí.
The Hound of Culann
It wasn't until nearly the Imperial Year 1200 that the fomorians dared to venture back into this world. The Drune Lords would not help them after the last disastrous attempt and the fate of Balor, but the fomorians had found a new ally across the ocean, the Dark Elves.
Tír na nÓg had completely recovered from the terrible Skaven invasion by this time but the nation was still pretty much as it was before the coming of the plague. In the area that is now known as Ulster, there was a good and rihgteous King named Conchobar who had managed to unite many of the different Clans and was a few steps away from becoming total King of Ulster. But it was not Conchobar who would become known for uniting Ulster, but his young Nephew, Setanta. There are many stories surrounding the birth of Setanta and most agree that Devlin, Conchobar's Sister was his mother and that his Father was unknown. Other more romantic stories (and most likely untrue) say that Setanta was the son of Lugh himself and given to Devlin to care for and raise into the world. Whether this is true or not, it is a popular theory across Tír na nÓg.
One day when Setanta was seven, he was on his way over to see his uncle in the neighbouring town. Along the road he was playing with his Hurley and sliotar, and got delayed (a hurley is a long wooden stick used in the celtic sport known as hurling, and a sliotar is the small leather ball that is hit by the hurley in the game). Conchobar was taking with the local blacksmith, Culann, and was in deep discussion and forgot about Setanta. When it started getting late, as his usual precaution, Culann locked his gate and set his large hound out to guard the entrance. Setanta hurried along when he realised how dark it was getting and he rushed to the smithy once he entered the town. Setanta never noticed the hound and when he banged on the gate the hound came from around the side and lunged at his back. As quick as a fox Setanta darted around and used his Hurley to blast the sliotar at the Hound. The sliotar struck him full force in the head and killed the hound instantly. When Conchobar and Culann came out, Setanta was very apologetic and claimed he would get a new hound just as good. But Culann didn't care and was amazed that such a young boy could kill a vicous trained hound. And from that day, Setanta was renamed Cúchulainn, the Hound of Culann.
This was the first incident of many that showed Cúchulainn to be a Strong and skillful young warrior. By the age of seventeen he had gained himself the position as head of his uncle, the king's army. In a daring raid, he led the army on a massive cattle raid against CúChulainn's worst enemy queen Maeve of the tuath Cooley in North Chonnacht. They pulled off the cattle raid perfectly and managed to steal the prized black bull of the Queen herself. At this stage in Celtic history it had developed that the amount of cattle you had was a status symbol, much like gold in the Empire. So now Cúchulainn was reknowned as a major warrior with great power. It was when he was plotting a similar raid against Queen Maeve one day in the forests of West Ulster when he was approached by a zoat. He was initially startled as he had only heard of these mythical creatures in legends of his forefathers. The zoat told him that he must reunite the peoples of Tír na nÓg and re-establish the glorious kingdom that was. When he replied that he had little power and wasn't even king himself, the Zoat replied that soon he would be and that he had to use his powers to seek out the hidden four treasures and claim highkingship. At this Cúchulainn laughed and quickly the zoat vanished back into the woods and he left the place wondering if he had been dreaming. Once he reached the open road he was approcahed by a scout. He was told that Conchobar had killed his wife in a mad fit of passion as he found her sleeping with another man. He was filled with rage and killed every living member of his wife's family with his large axe. As punishment to his crimes, he was to be hung the next day and Cúchulainn would suceed him in kingship. Cúchulainn plunged into deep thought at this news and rushed back to Dún féirste where Conchobar was to be hung. Cúchulainn arrived too late and the king was already dead. When Cúchulainn recieved the new crown he immediately decided to seek out the four treasured items.
After three years of hunting for the items among the hundreds of small tuathaí in Eriu, Cúchulainn arrived in Tara and stood on the hill of uisneach with high expectations. No others opposed him and only the high druids stood to witness the event. He stood on the stone of destiny and it proclaimed him as the High King of Tír na nÓg. He met the earth goddess and she gave him the secret helm that was last worn by the late King Cormac, she told him to re-unite her broken people of Eriu and re-establish the former glory, the feasts and the merry-making that was. The druids announced the news and the majority cheered and feasted that night in CúChulainn's honour, a few were displeased with the news.
A month later Cúchulainn released the news of how he was going to govern his kingdom and re-unite the peoples. He divided the kingdom into five, the current day tuathaímhóra of Ulster, Chonnacht, Laighean, Mumhan and Alba. He stated that each province would have an ArdRí to govern it, and the smaller tuathaí would stay the same. When he announced that Queen Maeve would be the ruler of Chonnacht she was geniunely grateful as initially she was opposed to his kingship except when she saw his generosity at letting his sworn enemy rule a fifth of his kingdom she instantly forgot their differences and swore fealty to him. Although this setup worked extremely well and most people were pleased at the clever way that the land was being re-united some of the older clans were unhappy.
It was Daingean, king of the ancient Clan of the Cessair that opposed the new system. He claimed that this was not the way and that the old four ruling clans should be reinstated to rule. He claimed that Cúchulainn was not the rightful High King and that he himself shoudl be king as he was the direct descendant of Sláine MacRoth himself. Cúchulainn had no other option than to take this as a direct challenge to his authority and declared Daingean and his clan outlawed and if they resisted, they would be killed. He also added that if Daingean wish to apologise that Cuchulainn would accept it, this was very big of a Celtic king, as Cúchulainn did not want to return to the time when civil war was rampant throughout the land.
Daingean realised he would be totally outnumbered so opted for a quick strike at the heart of Cúchulainn's kingdom, the holy city of Tara. A small warband of Daingean's most elite force brok into the city and spread riot amongst its inhabitants. They started a fire and with imported cannon's from Albion, they blew holes into the holy Dún that surrounded the hill of Uisneach. After shelling the Dún, the set fire to it and then fled the city just as Cúchulainn's army was arriving back. On seeing what they had done to the holy city Cúchulainn's men went beserk and completely slaughtered the army that had attacked Tara. All but a few were killed and Cúchulainn was raging because Daingean himself had escaped. Cúchulainn would not let his men rest untill they found and killed Daingean.
Daingean and his men retreated to the Boyne valley where he would summon all he had left and attempt a last stand. The army of Eriu marched with great speed and reached the ford of the river Boyne in two days. When they arrived there was just Daingean himself, ready for a one on one fight with Cúchulainn. His entire army had deserted him, wishing to except the new way of life rather than follow this mad leader to his death. He wanted a one on one fight with Cúchulainn himself for the entire kingdom. Amazingly Cúchulainn accepted this challenge and fought the fifty fifty odds for his kingdom. In a valiant struggle Daingean nearly beat him, but the god-touched warrior ultimately won, killing the rebel with the holy sword of the moon. Peace was restored to the kingdom and the new way of life was accepted and the polictical system has not changed since then. Also a bridge was built over the Boyne, as no one would cross over the ford, believing it cursed with the spirit of the rebel Daingean.
Ten years after the civil war, Cúchulainn again claimed glory as the strong united Tír na nÓg drove off the repeated attacks of the combined Dark Elf and Fomorian forces. Eventually Cúchulainn defeated the leader of the horde himself, the Fomorian Lord Nardul. The Fomorians fled and decided to attack Norsca instead, but the Dark Elves had found a new island to try and conquer and over the next few hundred years, Dark elf raids on the west coast were common.
Cúchulainn lived for another seventy years and remained youthfull to the very end. He was reknowned as the only High King to die of natural causes and not killed by another hand. With his help, the druids fully established the Brehon Laws and some of the more stranger clauses were removed. He died a happy man, and he died with no heir except the nation itself which he had brought back from the storm and re-united.
It was also around this period when the Norrans first invaded Albion. The Norrans were an offset of the Norse who didn't want to stay in the cold harsh conditions of their homeland and left to go and conquer someone else's land. They easily overran the not quite Celtic Albion mainland, and whatever Celts there were left in Albion fled North to Alba. The Norrans were a week and greedy race that enjoyed conquering other lands. They initially despised the Celts for giving such harsh resistance but eventually they lived to co-exist peacefully, but many Norrans still plotted an invasion into Eriu.
One such chance came along when the Norrans captured the large port of Dubh-Linn on the East coast of Eriu. It was already a trader's port set up initially by the Norse, so the Norrans felt they had the right to take it. Since most Celts didn't like Dubh-Linn and it's people they let it go by but they didn't realise they had made a serious mistake. About fifty years later, the Imperial Year of 1345 to be precise, the Norrans launched a full scale invasion. Like many races beforehand, they completely underestimated the power of the Celtic army and although they held a large area of Laighean for about twenty years, they were gradually pushed back and they retreated to Dubh-Linn. After the fiasco of that colony attempt, many Norrans left Dubh-Linn for Albion and in their place came many Celts and Dubh-Linn grew more Celtic. However many of the Norrans, ashamed at their defeat never forgot that colony attempt and wanted revenge. Nearly a century later, the ArdRí of Laighean, king Rudraige declared Dubh-Linn the new príomhrath of Laighean in a very controversial move. He wanted to strengthen the city that left them opento attack, but many Celts saw Rudraige leaving Cúchulainn's old town to another one which they felt was Norran.
Fionn and the Fianna
A few centuries later, there was a great leader named Cumhal in Ulster. After the death of the ArdRí of Ulster who left no heir, there was a great conflict to see who would be the next king. The two chieftains who had the most support were Cumhal and Morraithe of the Borán clan. By the brehon laws, if there was no heir to the throne, the Ardrí would declare his Tánaiste, a second in command who would succeed him. It was said that in the old king Duncan's last few hours he declared his tanaiste to be Cumhal and signed a legal document with his consent. Morraithe was furious at this news and he hired a band of warriors to break into the king's dún and destroy the document so that noone would know that Cumhal was to be the next king.
When the document was destroyed, Cumhal defended his honour and declared a blood feud with the Borán clan. However, Cumhal was doomed with this challenge, as the Borán clan were much bigger and had a much larger warband. His fate was worsened when his druid told him that he had a curse upon his fate and that if he ever married, the day after he would die. And so with a sad head Cumhal went off with his small warband to defend his honour and possibly kill Morraithe whom he hated so much. During one of the small skirmishes it was announced that Cumhal had died and his clan was shocked. A triumphant Morraithe marched in on his home town, razed his dún and claimed the clan's land as his own.
Cumhal's two sisters were intrigued by Cumhal's sudden death and set about investigating at what had happened to him. They visited the battlefield where he had been slain and on finding his body they gave him a proper grave. They then began retracing his steps the fe days before the battle. Following his tracks the realised he ahd taken a detour into a wood nearby, they followed the tracks and found a small farmers house at the edge of the wood. The farmer shouted to them to get off his lands but they protested saying that they were Cumhal's sisters. At this news he brought them in and introduced Cumhal's siters to the farmers daughter, who was a fair young maiden. On asking who she was, the girl replied that she was Cumhal's wife. The shocked sisters couldn't believe it, but they had to sice the prophecy had come through. Cumhal's wife explained that they had married in secret to hide the knowledge so hopefully the prophecy would not come true, and then she broke down and started to cry, blaming herself for Cumhal's death. The farmer told the sisters that members of the borán clan had similar thoughts and had come investiagting several times over the last couple of days. So to keep Cumhal's wife, Lurien, safe the sister's took her with them. They found a forest on the edge of the old lands of Cumhal and built a house there to live in secrecy from the Borán clan.
They soon discovered that Lurien was pregnant and she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, and just to add a final curse to the whole sorry affair, Lurien died while giving birth to the boy. The sisters were shocked and did not know what to do, and eventually took it to themselves to raise the boy in the forest. Like many a hero before him he was a strong and fit young lad. He could swim like an eel, run faster than a wild stag and wrestle a bear to death, he was truly blessed by the Gods. As he grew older he eventually learned of what had happened to his clan and especially his father. He decided at the age of twelve that he would leave the forest and stop being a burden to his gracious Aunts. In the end they let him go and before he left they realised his parents never gave him a name and so they gave him the nickname they had always called him, Fionn (which means fair headed) because of his shiny crop of blonde hair.
And so Fionn Mac Cumhal left the forest he was raised in and tred to make a life for himself, always hiding his true identity. He got many jobs here and there but always had to leave after a while because eventually people realised who he really was, or sometimes they just shunned him because he was usually better than most people at things, and they hated that.
Eventually he ended up wandering outside of Ulster trying to find any work he could. He travelled for months and eventually reached the river Boyne in Laighean. There he found the old poet Finegas. Finegas was a very old, but very respected man across Tír na nÓg. He was well known for being an intelligent man and a potent scholar and poet. He took Fionn under his wing and Fionn was honoured at being allowed to help such a great man. Fionn wondered why he was living a solitary life, fishing by the boyne and after weeks of building up the courage to ask Finegas why, he told the young lad that he was waiting to catch the Salmon of knowledge. Fionn thought this was nonsense or some sort of riddle but one day Finegas came back from the river to the little hut they lived in with a grin on his face an a massive rainbow coloured salmon in his arms. "This, my boy" he shouted "is the Salmon of knowledge! Anyone who eats from it will be able to forsee the future and have knowledge that surpasses even people like me..." he laughed and joked and Fionn was honestly surprised as he had never seen the old poet so happy. He was instructed to fry the salmon and not eat one tiny morsel of it, while Finegas went out to get more food for a feast. Fionn carried out his orders dutifully and fried the great salmon in a big frying pan and did not dare to try any. While it was cooking a blob of fat flew off the pan and burnt his thumb, Fionn jerked it back and stuck his thumb in his mouth to cool it. The instant he did it a vision filled his head, he saw himself, much older, leading a great army of Celts and on his head was the great crown of the High Kings. The vision faded and he knew what had happened, and when Finegas returned he explained the whole thing to him. "Then you know," he sighed " Yes, Fionn, you are destined to become High King of your land". Brooding with heavy thoughts they both ate the Salmon together as there was no preventing Fionn's gift now. A few days later he thanked the old poet and left for Tara.
Fionn throughout his life had never been a quitter, and now he realised he was destined to be a great lord, like his father could have been. He rode to Tara and realised there was a great feast going on. All were invited to the feats as the King of Laighean was celebrating a good harvest in the sacred hall, to join in the festivites both the king of Mumhan and Chonnacht were joining in the feast. At the feast Fionn met a member of his father's old warband, a veteran warrior named Ferdia who had been second in command after his father. They talked for hours about both warriors exploits as an exile and Ferdia showed Fionn the spear that he carried with him wherever he would go, he claimed it was his father's spear and that it rightfully should be Fionn's. Just as Ferdia passed over the spear, the gates of the hall burst open and in strode Morraithe and his elite warband. "I hear the three other tuathaímhóra have been having fun without me!" he cried out in laughter. Most of the other kings and chieftains disliked his company and he was purposely not invited to the feast. Fionn looked across the hall and he saw the man he was brought up to hate, the man who killed his father. Without thinking of it he lunged the spear across the hall and it landed straight through Morraithe's heart. The hall went completely silent and all eyes were on this young man who had just slain the high king of Ulster. The King of Laighean asked who he was and he claimed he was Fionn, son of Cumhal and the rightful heir to the High Kingship of Tír na nÓg. Many of the nobles laughed in response to this, but the high kings of the tuathaímhóra were silent. One by one they marched out into the courtyard and Fionn followed, confident from the vision he saw. The marched out of the hall and up to the hill at the centre by the newly built temple of the Druids. They followed the age old tradition and placed the stone and the Cauldron on the hill and then took turns to stand on the stone with the Sword and the Spear. The Lia Fáil kept silent until the true high King, Fionn MacCumhal stood on it.
When the four lords returned to the feast most were amazed to find the news that the land had a new high king, and many were upset especially because they hardly knew the new High King. However they were all in glad in some ways, especially because it gave them a reason to continue the feast long into the night! All the other previous High King's had rulled from the Dún in Tara and acted as an overlord in controlling the country. Since the dún was destroyed centuries beforehand by Daingean, and the city had become a religious centre, Fionn proposed another plan. He may have been noble born, but he knew nothing of etiquette and ruling a kingdom. Instead he knew he was a charismatic leader, a good fighter who knew what it was like to suffer and to face hardship. He thought that the separate kings could govern the land fine without him standing over their shoulders every other minute. And so he set up the Fianna, a small band of warriors that would be his elite warband and he would roam the land that he was the high king of, visit his people, help them in any way and help train new fighters into the natioanl army. And so it was that Fionn Mac Cumhal became a revolutionary new ruler, a diplomatic, strong man who could forsee the future and get in touch with the common born peasant. His warband, the Fianna did end up roaming the land and as they road from town to town getting every chieftain to swear loyalty and giving the commoners a chance to see their lord, every now and again they would find a hardened warrior who they thought was good enough to join the band. And so the Fianna built up, from a small band of twelve elite subjects to the king, to a small army of sixty riders.
This is a resume of the involvment of the Celtic peoples in Europe and the Romans in Britain.
Note:-The use of the name 'CELT' is to make understanding easier, and refers to the Indo-Europian Peoples.
|1200BC||Start of the Bronze Age Urnfield Culture in central Europe.|
|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 period.|
|700-500||Hallstatt culture developes in Austria.|
|700BC||Early Celts in Austria bury iron swords with thier 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. Lá Téne 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 Etruscans.|
|323||Alexander dies and the Celts push into Macedonia.|
|279||Celtic tribes invade Greece.|
|275||Celts establish the state of Galatia (Gauls across the alps) in northern Turkey.|
|230||Galatian Celts defeated in battle by Greek forces in Western Turkey.|
|225||Roman army routs invading Celtic Gauls at Telamon in central Italy.|
|200||The Celts establish permanent fortified settlements (Oppida, or towns).|
|191||Cisalpine Gaul is taken by the Romans.|
|121||Rome takes Provence.|
|100||Belgae tribes migrate to Britain to escape Roman domination.|
|70||Druids (a fire cult from the Middle East) arrive in Britain and gain control of the ruling classes.|
|58||Julius Caesar is made governor of Provence|
|58-51||Caesar's Gallic Wars|
|58||Helvettii in Switzerland are attacked by Germanic tribes led by Ariovistus and move to Gaul. Caesar follows them and defeats them at Toulon-sur-Arroux. Dumnorix of the Aedui tries to lead resistance against the Romans and fails.|
|57||Caesar then turned his attention to the tribes of the Belgae and lays seige to their territory. By autumn, Caesar claims that all the Gallic tribes are subjects of Rome.|
|56||The Veneti of Brittany seize two Roman envoys, and make a stand. After a long sea battle, Caesar executed the leaders and sold the men of the tribe into slavery.|
|55||Julius Caesar tries to land in Britain and is pinned down on a beachhead for two months. His cavalry was seasick and was sent back to Gaul. With the aproaching Autumn gales he withdraws from Britain.|
|54||Caesar prepares another expedition to Britain and attempts to take Dumnorix as a hostage. Dumnorix refuses and the Romans kill him. As he dies he cries "I am a freeman in a free state". Inspired by his actions, Ambiorix of the Eburones leads an attack against the Roman garrison and massacres them. Ambiorix recruits the Belgic tribes, the Nervii and Aduatuci, and lay seige to the garrison at Namur. The attack is so successful that Caesar himself had to lead the relieving army to drive them off.|
|53||The tribes of Gaul unite under the leadership of Indutiomarus of the Treveri. The Celtic army consisted of the Treveri, Senones, Carnutes, Nervii, Aduatuci and Eburones. Indutiomarus attacks Caesar's headquarters at Mouzon and lays seige. After a great fight, the Romans kill Indutiomarus. There then followed a number of uprisings among the tribes and Caesar has to work his way through the tribes putting down revolts. Acco of the Senones and the Carnutes was flogged and then put to death. Ambiorix was trailed by a Roman troop until he disappeared into the Ardennes forest, and was never heard from again.|
|52||A war leader called Vercingetorix ( « Read more about him) emerges to take control of the Celtic army. He maintains a running battle from three successive hill forts. The last one was called Aelisia and Ceasar laid siege for three months with no effect and had to defend himself from from constant attack by the Celtic warriors. Vercingetorix finely surrenders.|
|45||Caesar ordered that Vercingetorix was to be taken to Rome. He was paraded through the streets then executed as a dangerous enemy of Rome.|
|Birth of Christ. (Acording to the church of Rome under Constantine)|
|AD38||Caligula parades Celtic captives through Rome.|
|AD39||The Catevaulauni under the Kingship of Cunobelinus and his sons Caratacus and Togidubnus, expand into the Atrebate (Hampshire) and the Trinovante (Suffolk).|
|AD41||Petition put in to Rome for assistance, turned down because of the civil wars in Rome.|
|AD43||Verica of the Atrebates petitions Claudius to come to Britain to help against the Catevaulauni.|
|AD 43||Claudian invasion with four legions under Aulus Plautius. Defeat of Caratacus and capture of Camulodunum. Expansion into the midlands (XX Valeria Victrix and XIV Gemina) and in the east (IX Hispana). Frontier established west of Fosse Way. Caractacus escapes into the Welsh borders and fights the Romans using guerilla tactics. Once it is safe to do so, Claudius comes to Britain in person to claim it for Rome. He rides an elephant into the new town of Londinium, stays for two weeks, then goes back home.|
|New governor, Ostorius Scapula, governor, draws a frontier from the Trent to the Severn. Campaigns in the west (Legio II Augusta under Vespasian)|
|Colonia of Camulodonum (Colchester) founded. And Roman expansion starts into Wales|
|49- 50||Foundation of Colonia Victricensis at Camulodunum. Mendip lead mines already in Roman hands. Legionary fortresses at Glevum and Lindum. Invasion of South Wales.|
|Caratacus, finally defeated in North Wales, flees to Cartamandua, queen of the Brigantes, and is surrendered to the Romans.|
|New Governor, D. Gallus.|
|Didius Gallus, governor, intervenes on the side of Cartimandua in Brigantian civil war.|
|New Governor, Q. Veranius|
|New Governor, S. Paulinus, attack on N. Wales.|
|Suetonius clears Britain totally of the Druids, with a final stand on Anglsea.|
|Suetonius Paulinus, governor, attacks Anglesey.|
|Pratagustus of the Iceni dies, and the Romans take his lands away from Boudica.|
|Boudica is elected war leader and leads a revolt agianst the Romans. (Read the story) Icenian revolt under Boudica suppressed after sack of Camulodunum, Londinium and Verulamium|
|New Governor, T. Maximus.|
|Preparations for campaigns in Wales.|
|One legion (XIV Gemina) withdrawn from Britain.|
|68||Army in Britain refuses to join the governor, Trebellius Maximus, in revolt against Galba.|
|69||Romans fail to prevent the defection of the Brigantes.|
|69||Civil Wars, New Governor, V. Bolanus.|
|71||New Governor, P. Cerialis. Conquest of Brigantia, capture of Stanwick?|
|71-74||Petilius Cerealis, governor, with a new legion (II Adiutrix) conquers the Brigantes. Legionary fortress at Eburacum.|
|74-78||Sextus Julius Frontinus, governor, subdues Wales and plants garrisons there. Legionary fortresses at Isca and Deva.|
|78||Julius Agricola, governor, completes the conquest of North Wales and Anglesey.|
|79||Consolidation of Brigantian conquest.|
|80||Advance to the Central Lowlands.|
|81||Agricola advances to the Forth Clyde line.|
|82||Conquest of south-west Scotland.|
|83-84||Agricola advances north and defeats the Caledonians at the battle of Mons Graupius. Roman fleet circumnavigates Britain. Legionary fortress at Inchtuthil.|
|84||After the Battle of Mons Graupius, occupation of N.Scotland.|
|84-85||Agricola recalled by Domitian.|
|86||One legion (II Adiutrix) withdrawn from Britain.|
|c.90||Legionary fortress at Inchtuthil evacuated.|
|90-96||Foundation of Lindum Colonia at Lincoln.|
|96-98||Foundation of Colonia Nervia Glevensis at Gloucester.|
|99-100||Legionary fortress at Isca and many auxiliary forts in Wales rebuilt in stone. Scottish forts evacuated.|
|c103||Legionary fortress at Deva rebuilt in stone.|
|107-108||Legionary fortress at Eburacum rebuilt in stone.|
|117||Revolt in north Britain.|
|122||Hadrian visits Britain. Legio IX Hispana replaced by VI Victrix. Construction of Hadrian's Wall from Tyne to Solway begun by Aulus Platorius Nepos.|
|139-142||Q. Lollius Urbicus, governor under Antoninus Pius, advances into Scotland and builds the Antonine Wall across the Clyde-Forth isthmus.|
|155-158||Rebellion in north Britain suppressed by C. Julius Verus. Antonine Wall temporarily evacuated.|
|161-165||Forts rebuilt by Calpurnius Agricola.|
|180-184||Further revolt in north Britain subdued by Ulpius Marcellus. Antonine Wall broken.|
|193||On the assassination of Commodus, Pertinax (lately governor of Britain) is chosen emperor by the Praetorian Guard but quickly killed. Empire auctioned to Didius Julianus, who is defeated by Severus.|
|196-197||Clodius Albinus, governor, takes troops from Britain to fight for the throne and is defeated by Severus. Hadrian's Wall, the fortress at Eburacum and many forts over run and destroyed by the Maeatae.|
|197||Virius Lupus restores the situation and rebuilds many forts.|
|200-208||Rebuilding of Hadrian's Wall by Alfenus Senecio.|
|208||Severus, Geld and Caracalla arrive in Britain and prepare for northern campaigning.|
|209||Severus and Caracalla campaign in Scotland and receive the surrender of the Caledonians.|
|210||Revolt of the Maeatae and second Scottish campaign.|
|211||Severus dies at York. Withdrawal to Hadrian's Walland organization of southern Scotland as a protectorate.|
|212||Caracalla extends Roman citizenship to all free provincials. Britain divided into two provinces.|
|259-214||Britain a part of the Gallic Empire of Postumus and his successors.|
|275-287||Saxon pirates in the Channel.|
|287||Commander of the British fleet, usurps the title of Emperor in Britain and Carausius, northern Gaul and is temporarily recognised by Diocletian and Maximian.|
|293||Carausius' continental possessions. Caesar reconquers Constantius.|
|294||Carausius murdered by Allectus, who succeeds him.|
|296||Britain restored to the legitimate emperors by Constantius, who crosses the Channel and defeats and kills Allectus. Barbarian inroads in the north. Hadrian's Wall and legionary fortresses at Eburacum and Deva rebuilt. Diocletian's reorganisation divides Britain into four provinces,separates the military from the civil administration and institutes new military offices.|
|306||Constantius, now emperor, with his son Constantine campaigns in Caledonia. Death of Constantius at Eburacum.|
|313||Edict of Milan grants toleration to the Christian Church.|
|314||Three British bishops attend the Council of Aries.|
|343||Constantine visits Britain and pacifies the Caledonian tribes.|
|360||Julian sends Lupicinus to repel raids of Picts and Scots.|
|364||Picts, Scots, Attacotti and Saxons raiding Britain.|
|367||Great invasion of Picts, Scots and Attacotti, aided by Saxon pirates and a simultaneous attack on Gaul by Franks.Treachery in the Wall garrison. Nectaridus, Count of the Saxon Shore, killed and Fullofaudes, Duke of Britain, routed.|
|369||Count Theodosius, sent by Valentinian I, clears Britain of invaders and restores the Wall. Signal stations built on Yorkshire coast.|
|383||Magnus Maximus, a military commander in Britain, revolts and conquers Gaul and Spain from Gratian. Hadrian's Wall swamped by invaders and not rebuilt.|
|388||Maximus defeated at Aquileia by Theodosius.|
|395||Stilicho improves the defences of Britain.|
|406||Constantine III, a usurper, strips Britain of troops for his conquest of Gaul and Spain.|
|410||Honorius tells the civitates of Britain to arrange for their own safety. Quote"...look to your own defences..."|
|c.446||Last appeal of the British civitates to Aetius.|
|From this point on - whether you like it or not -
Celtic Britain ends, or to be more precise Romano-British rule is no
more. The Celtic peoples had spent 400 years mixing and marrying with
the Romans and all the other peoples that came in smaller numbers from
the Empire. For the last 100 years the Saxons had settled the south of
England with the Roman forces unable to stop them. In fact the Romans
paid the Saxons to keep the peace. When the Empire collapsed and the
troops that remained were recalled, they had to run the gauntlet of
the Saxon warriors all the way down to the ships on the coast. Many of
them were robbed of their possessions on the way through, and some did
not make it at all!
What was left of the Romano-British in the south of Britain rallied around a military leader for a few years and kept the Saxons at bay. This shadowy figure is what all the Arthurian stories are based on.
|Society|| The Celts are traditionally ignored in
world history textbooks and course, but the Celtic way of life, Celtic
institutions, and the Celtic world view were superimposed onto Germanic
and classical culture. The later monolithic European culture is greatly
influenced by these early peoples.
Most of what we know about Celtic life comes from Ireland—the largest and most extensive of the Celtic populations, the Gauls in central and western Europe, we only know about through Roman sources—and these sources are decidedly unfriendly to the Gauls.
We know that the early Celtic societies were organized around warfare—this structure would commonly characterize cultures in the process of migration: the Celts, the Huns, and later the Germans. Although classical Greek and Roman writers considered the Celts to be violently insane, warfare was not an organized process of territorial conquest. Among the Celts, warfare seems to have mainly been a sport, focussing on raids and hunting. In Ireland, the institution of the fianna involved young, aristocratic warriors who left the tribal area for a time to conduct raids and to hunt. When the Celts came into contact with the Romans, they changed their manner of warfare to a more organized defense agains a larger army. It was these groups that the classical writers encountered and considered insane. The Celtic method of warfare was to stand in front of the opposing army and scream and beat their spears and swords against their shields. They would then run headlong into the opposing army and screamed the entire way—this often had the effect of scaring the opposing soldiers who then broke into a run; fighting a fleeing army is relatively easy work. If the opposing army did not break ranks, the Celts would stop short of the army, return to their original position, and start the process over agina.
Celtic society was hierarchical and class-based. Tribes were led by kings but political organizations were remarkably plastic. According to both Roman and Irish sources, Celtic society was divided into three groups: a warrior aristocracy, an intellectual class that included druids, poets, and jurists, and everyone else.
Society was tribal and kinship-based; one's ethnic identity was largely derived from the larger tribal group, called the tuath ("too-awth") in Irish (meaning "people") but ultimately based on the smallest kinship organizational unit, the clan, called the cenedl (ke-na-dl), or "kindred," in Irish. The clan provided identity and protection—disputes between individuals were always disputes between clans. Since it was the duty of the clan to protect individuals, crimes against an individual would be prosecuted against an entire clan. One of the prominent institutions among the Celts was the blood-feud in which murder or insults against an individual would require the entire clan to violently exact retribution. The blood-feud was in part avoided by the institution of professional mediators. At least an Ireland, a professional class of jurists, called brithem, would mediate disputes and exact reparations on the offending clan.
Even though Celtic society centered around a warrior aristocracy, the position of women was fairly high in Celtic society. In the earliest periods, women participated both in warfare and in kingship. While the later Celts would adopt a strict patriarchal model, they still have a memory of women leaders and warriors.
Celtic society was based almost entirely on pastoralism and the raising of cattle or sheep; there was some agriculture in the Celtic world, but not much. The importance of cattle and the pastoral life created a unique institution in Celtic, particularly Irish, life: the cattle-raid. The stealing of another group's cattle was often the proving point of a group of young warriors; the greatest surviving Irish myth, the Táin Bó Cualingne, or "The Cattle Raid of Cooley," centers around one such mythically-enhanced cattle-raid.
There was no urbanization of any kind among the Celts until the advent of Roman rule; in Ireland, urbanization did not occur until the Danish and Norwegian invasions. Society was not based on trade or commerce; what trade took place was largely in the form of barter. Celtic economy was probably based on the economic principle of most tribal economies: reciprocity. In a reciprocal economy, goods and other services are not exchanged for other goods, but they are given by individuals to individuals based on mutual kinship relationships and obligations. (A family economy is typical of a reciprocal economy—parents and children give each other material goods and services not in trade but because they are part of a family).
|Religion|| From the nineteenth century onwards,
Celtic religion has enjoyed a fascination among modern Europeans and
European-derived cultures. In particular, the last few decades have
seen a phenomenal growth not only interest in Celtic religion, but in
religious practices in part derived from Celtic sources. For all this
interest, however, we know next to nothing about Celtic religion and
practices. The only sources for Celtic religious practices were
written by Romans and Greeks, who considered the Celts little more
than animals, and by later Celtic writers in Ireland and Wales who
were writing from a Christian perspective. Simply put, although the
Celts had a rich and pervasive religious culture, it has been
permanently lost to human memory.
We can make some general comments about Celtic religion based on the often-hostile accounts of classical writers. The Celts were polytheistic; these gods were ultimately derived from more primitive, Indo-European sources that gave rise to the polytheistic religions of Greece, Persia, and India. The Romans in trying to explain these gods, however, linked them with Roman gods as did the Romanized Gauls—so we really have no idea as to the Celtic character of these gods and their functions. We do know that Celtic gods tended to come in threes; the Celtic logic of divinity almost always centered on triads. This triadic logic no doubt had tremendous significance in the translation of Christianity into northern European cultural models.
It is almost certain that the material world of the Celts was suffused with divinity that was both advantageous and harmful. Certain areas were considered more charged with divinity than others, especially pools, lakes and small groves, which were the sites of the cental ritual activities of Celtic life. The Celts were non-urbanized and according to Roman sources, Celtic ritual involved no temples or building structures—Celtic ritual life, then, was centered mainly on the natural environment.
Celtic ritual life centered on a special class, called the druides or "druids" by the Romans, presumably from a Gaulish word. Although much has been written about druids and Celtic ritual practice, we know next to nothing about either. Here's what we can gather. As a special group, the druids performed many of the functions that we would consider "priestly" functions, including ritual and sacrifice, but they also included functions that we would place under "education" and "law." These rituals and practices were probably kept secret—a tradition common among early Indo-European peoples—which helps to explain why the classical world knows nothing about them. The only thing that the classical sources attest is that the druids performed "barbaric" or "horrid" rituals at lakes and groves; there was a fair amount of consensus among the Greeks and Romans that these rituals involved human sacrifice. This may or may not be true; there is some evidence of human sacrifice among the Celts, but it does not seem to have been a prevalent practice.
According to Julius Caesar, who gives the longest account of druids, the center of Celtic belief was the passing of souls from one body to another. From an archaeological perspective, it is clear that the Celts believed in an after-life, for material goods are buried with the dead.
|The Gauls|| The earliest Celts who were major
players in the classical world were the Gauls, who controlled
an area extending from France to Switzerland. It was the Gauls who
sacked Rome and later invaded Greece; it was also the Gauls that
migrated to Asia Minor to found their own, independent culture there,
that of the Galatians. Through invasion and migration, they spread
into Spain and later crossed the Alps into Italy and permanently
settled the area south of the Alps which the Romans then named,
The Gauls were a tribal and agricultural society. They were ruled by kings, but individual kings reigned only over small areas. Occasionally a single powerful king could gain the allegiance of several kings as a kind of "over-king," but on the whole the Gauls throughout Europe were largely an ethnic continuity rather than a single nation.
Ethnic identity among the early Gauls was very fluid. Ethnic identity was first and foremost based on small kinship groups, or clans—this fundamental ethnic identity often got collapsed into a larger identity, that of tribes. The main political structures, that of kingship, organized themselves around this tribal ethnic identity. For the most part, the Gauls did not seem to have a larger ethnic identity that united the Gaulish world into a single cultural group—the "Gauls" as an ethnic group was largely invented by the Romans and the Greeks and applied to all the diverse tribes spread across the face of northern Europe. The Gauls did have a sense of territorial ethnicity; the Romans and Greeks tell us that there were sixteen separate territorial nations of Gauls. These territorial groups were divided into a series of pagi, which were military units composed of men who had voluntarily united as fellow soldiers.
The Gauls, however, were not the original Europeans. Beginning in an area around Switzerland, the Celts spread westward and eastward displacing native Europeans in the process. These migrations begin around 500 BC. The Gaulish invasion of Italy in 400 was part of this larger emigration. The Romans, however, pushed them back by the third century BC; native Europeans in the north, however, were not so lucky.
Two Celtic tribes, the Cimbri and the Teutones ("Teuton," an ethnic for Germans, is derived from the Celtic root for "people"), emigrated east and settled in territory in Germany. The center of Celtic expansion, however, was Gaul, which lay north of the Alps in the region now within the borders of France and Belgium and part of Spain.
The earliest account of the Gauls comes from Julius Caesar. In his history of his military expedition first into Gaul and then as far north as Britain, Caesar dexcribed the tribal and regional divisions among the Gauls, of which some seem to have been original European populations and not Celtic at all.
The Gaulish tribes or territories frequently built fortifications that served as the military and political center of the region. These fortified centers took their names from the larger tribe—for instance, Paris took its name from the tribe of Parisi and Chartres was originally named after the tribe, the Carnuti, which had built it.
||Gaulish society, like all of Celtic society, was rigidly divided into a class system. Similar class systems predominated among the Indians as well with largely the same categories. According to Julius Caesar, the three classes of Gaulish society were the druides, equites, and plebs , all Roman words. The druids were the educated among the Gauls and occupied the highest social position, just as the Brahmin class occupied the highest social position among the Indians. The druids were responsible for cultural and religious knowledge as well as the performance of rituals, just as the Brahmins in India. However obscure these religious functions might be, the druids were regarded as powerful over both society and the world around them. The most powerful tool the druids had was the power of excommunication—when a druid excommunicated a member of a tribe, it was tantamount to kicking that person out of the society.|
|Britain|| The British did not appear in history
until Julius Caesar crosses the English Channel from northern Gaul and
began his failed conquest of Britain. The Romans returned in 43 AD
and began a systematic conquest of the island until they reached the
Pictish tribes in the Scottish highlands. Rome would abandon northern
England, however, in 117 AD
The Romans found a disunified group of tribal kingdoms organized around the same logic of warfare as the Gauls. Most of the tribes were new arrivals—the bulk of southern Britain had been conquered by the Belgae from northern Gaul. In the process of emigrating to the island, the Celts pushed the native populations north—these refugee tribal groups would become the cultural ancestors of the Picts, a mysterious culture that dominated Scotland until the Irish invasions.
Many of the tribes, particularly those in Wales, however, were restive. The Romans were beset by rebellions by some Celtic tribes and depredations by the northen Picts—throughout the fourth century, as the Roman empire was strained in every quarter, the Romans slowly lost control of Britain. The official break came in 446 when the Romans in response to a British plea for help against the Picts and the Scots, declared Britain independent.
As in Gaul, the Romans brought Roman urban and military culture; however, other than southern England, Roman institutions and culture were not enormously influential on the British Celts. The Celts in the north and in Wales fiercely resisted Roman culture, and the Romans never even set foot in Ireland. On the whole, the Romans more greatly respected and tolerated Celtic institutions and religions in Britain, so there was considerably less assimilation than in Gaul.
Because of this, when the Romans left Britain, there was a renaissance of Celtic culture. The British, however, had learned a very important concept from the Romans: political unity. The most famous of the Celtic princes was Vortigern, who ruled over eastern Britain. In order to fight against the Pictish invasions, he sent across the channel to get help from the Saxons, a Germanic tribe that had begun emigrating into western Europe in the fifth century. The Saxon mercenaries, however, grew in number as more and more Saxons came to Britain. Whether or not the story of Vortigern is true, Britain fell prey to the same Germanic emigrations and invasions that spread across Gaul, Spain, and Italy. The Saxon emigration began in eastern England until they spread entirely across lowland England. The mountainous areas to the west (Wales) and the north (Scotland), however, remained Celtic, as did Ireland. By the end of the fifth century AD, only Wales, Scotland, and Ireland remained of the great Celtic tribal kingdoms that had dominated the face of Europe.
|Ireland|| It was in Ireland that Celtic culture
and institutions lasted the longest—although Christianity was
introduced at an early date, Ireland did not suffer any major
invasions or cultural changes until the invasions of the Norwegians
and the Danish in the eighth century. The Irish also represent the
last great migration of Celtic peoples. In the fourth and fifth
centuries, the Irish crossed over into Scotland and systematically
invaded that territory until they politically dominated the Picts who
lived there. The settling of Scotland in the fifth century was the
very last wave of Celtic migration.
For Celtic culture, Ireland is much like Iceland was to the Norse. It was sufficiently removed from mainstream Europe to protect it from invasions and to isolate it from many of the cultural changes which wracked the face of early Europe. It allowed a singular perpetuation of pagan Celtic culture to fuse with Christian and the emerging European culture. This unique synthesis would provide the single most productive line of cultural transmission between Celtic culture and the European culture which grew out of classical and German sources.
Written history in Ireland began in the fifth century when Patrick came to Ireland and introduced literacy. Patrick came to the Celtic tribal kingdom of Tara, which was ruled by Leary, the son of Niall Noígallich. The sons of Niall ruled over two kingdoms in northern Ireland; these rulers formed a dynasty that would be called the Uí Néill; the south of Ireland was largely under the control of Munster. Patrick himself confined all of his activities to northern Ireland and the Uí Néill, particularly around the area of Armagh. Because he introduced the Irish to Christianity, European culture, and writing, he became the patron saint of Ireland.
In the 700's, Ireland became subject to Scandinavian raids and emigrations, just as most of the rest of Europe. The first to arrive were the Norwegians who attacked various islands and some of the headlands; in the 800's, however, the Norwegians began to attack the western coast of Ireland. In the mid-800's and all through the 900's, the Norse actively began to build fortified towns along the eastern coast of Ireland. In 841, they built the fortified town of Dublin (which the Irish called Ath Cliath, or, "the hurdle ford"), and would later establish fortifications at Cork, Waterford, and Wicklow, some of the central towns of later Irish history. Of these towns, however, Dublin was the center of all the Norse activity and served as their central base for raids all around Ireland and the Irish Sea.
The Irish at this time did not concentrate their population along the coast but lived inland—the Irish also did not live in large and fortified towns. The introduction of both fortifications and something resembling urban life was originally introduced by the Norse.
Eventually, however, the Norse would come in conflict with the Danish and the area around Dublin became part of the Danish kingdom that had been established in northern England. The Irish, however, lived in individual tribal groups that were not united—it wasn't until 1014 that Munster Irish under the leadership of Brian Bóruma defeated the Danish at Clontarf and finally expelled the Norse for good.
The Norwegians and the Danish, however, had largely stripped Irish culture of its greatest cultural artifacts. The only histories that were written of the Norse in Ireland were written by the Irish—these historians were far from sympathetic to the invaders! Ireland, however, gained a fundamental shift in its cultural and economic practices. The Irish inherited from the Danes and Norwegians fortified coastal towns and a new economy based on trade and commerce with other Europeans. They also gave to the Irish more sophisticated skills in ship-building and travel.
The most important legacy that the Irish bequeathed to Europe was Irish Christianity. When Patrick came to Ireland in the fifth century, Christianity had spread across the face of Celtic culture but hadn't really penetrated the various Celtic cultures. It was spread very thin and practiced by a perishingly small minority in Gaul and Britain. It was also assuming a new, distinct character among the Celts, who combined Christianity not only with native Celtic institutions and religions, but with a plethora of eastern mystery religions. (Much of what we call modern "paganism" which points to Celtic sources actually originates in eastern, mystery religions that had been imported into Celtic culture.) It was this Celticized version of Christianity that Patrick brought with him to Ireland.
The Saxon invasions, however, wiped out Christianity in England, but not in Wales or Ireland or Scotland, where the religion had been introduced by Columba, an Irish saint. It wasn't until the late sixth century that Christianity was reintroduced into Britain; this brand of Christianity, more aligned with the practices of the Roman church, came into conflict with Celtic Christianity and its unique practices. By the tenth century, the unique Celtic Christianity of Britain had largely been subordinated to Saxon Christianity.
It was in Ireland that Celtic Christianity thrived during the Germanic invasions and then the later subordination of Celtic Christian practices to Saxon practices.
The Christianity that Patrick brought to Ireland was episcopal or diocesan Christianity—the standard form of Christianity in Roman occupied territories. Episcopal Christianity is oriented around the organization of Christians as lay people under the spiritual and partiall secular control of a bishop ("episcopus" in Latin). Episcopal Christianity, however, was wholly unsuited to Ireland, for it relies on a certain level of urbanization. For the largely rural, disorganized, and tribal nature of early Irish society, the episcopal structure had nothing to work with. So Irish Christianity soon developed into monastic Christianity, which is oriented around the centralization of a small Christian community under the leadership of an abbot. This would become the uniquely Irish form of Christianity that in spirit and in practice was much different from the predominantly episcopal character of Roman Christianity.
The monastic centers became the areas where Irish Christian culture thrived—they also introduced some political stability and agriculture into Irish society. While they were nominally under the authority of Rome, because they were so removed they operated with relative independence. This would eventually bring them in severe conflict with the Roman church. Before that, however, Irish missionaries would spread Celtic culture and Christianity all over the face of Europe. Even though the Irish Christians eventually submitted to Roman pressures, Irish Christianity had diffused across the face of Europe.
This is because the most innovative and distinct feature of Irish Christianity was wandering, called perigrinatio in Latin. While many Christians became monks in monasteries, some became anchorites, that is, solitary monks. The Irish anchorites, however, saw their mission not as living in isolation, but as wandering around by themselves. These were not specifically missionary wanderings, but they had that effect. In the sixth century, one of Ireland's greatest saints, Columicille (or "Columba" in Latin), successfully introduced Christianity to Scotland.
As the middle ages progressed, however, the uniquely Celtic character of the Irish church, with its profoundly brilliant fusion of Celtic art with Christian art, its fusion of Celtic social organization and laws with monastic life, and its unique perigrinative character disappeared into the homogenizing trend of the higher middle ages
More than 4,000 years ago, the people of the Neolithic period decided to build a massive monument using earth, timber and eventually, stones, placing it high on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England -- about 137 kilometres southwest of London. Why anyone ever decided to build Stonehenge remains a mystery, with theories ranging from religion to astronomy. Some of what was Stonehenge still stands today, as mysterious and sacred as it must have been to the hundreds of people who helped build the site.
The stones of the main monument appear to form layers of circles and horseshoe patterns that slowly enclose the site. First there is an outer stone circle, now mostly in ruin. Within this are a smaller set of stones, also set in a circle. Within the centre of the monument are trilithons -- two pillar stones with one stone on top -- in the shape of a horseshoe. Within this is another smaller set of stones, also in a horseshoe.
But it is a monument made of more than just rocks. There is the henge, or a ditch and bank, that surrounds the stone circle. There is also a laneway that extends from the northeast side of the monument from the open horseshoe to the River Avon, a few kilometres away. Several stones mark this laneway, just outside the henge of the monument.
"The world seems to have gone through a kind of megalithic period where they were moving large stones around and putting them into various positions in the landscape," says Witcombe. "Stonehenge, compared to those, is a fairly sophisticated piece of architecture." The outside set of stone pillars, complete with linking top stones, called lintels, form a complete circle. How the builders would have known how to shape the lintels in such a way so that they remain flat but still form a gentle circle would be considered architecturally advanced for the time period. In addition to this, these top stones were attached to the pillars in a technique still being used by carpenters today -- by mortice-and-tenon joints. The top of the upright stone would have been shaped to have a protruding section that fit into a carved out slot in the lintel.
Jutting out from the green landscape of the English countryside, the circles of stones and outlying monuments emit a power that must have been ingrained in the site itself. But it is a magnetism that can't be explained by architecture alone. Much of Stonehenge's intrigue stems from the fact that the stones are so shrouded in mystery, a characteristic that is magnified by its age. "The very fact that [the stones] have survived must mean they are special in some way -- and we afford them that sort of quality," says Witcombe.
Although the site may not be as majestic as it once was, it still conveys a sense of power that seems to enclose people in its mystery, allowing no one to escape from the riddle of its purpose. Today, there is enough left of Stonehenge to speculate on its purpose, but not enough to say for sure why or how it was constructed. Astronomers, archaeologists and historians continue to debate theories on its construction and purpose, but the only thing that can be said for certain is a description of what still exists today.
On the outside of the main monument is a circle of 17 sarsen stones, or sandstones, left from a set of about 30. These rocks stand four metres high and weigh about 25 tonnes each. Some of them still retain their lintels, which would have been secured in a type of tongue-and-groove slot.
Within this is a larger sarsen stone horseshoe in the middle of the monument. There are remnants of what would have been five sets of two stones with a lintel on top -- called a trilithon after the Greek word for three stones. The tallest of these upright sarsen stones is about 7 metres tall with lintel, acting as a reminder that the word sarsen comes from "saracen", meaning heathenish, foreign and vaguely satanic.
These bluestones, now severely weathered and covered in lichen, may not appear blue. But if freshly broken, most would have a slaty-blue colour. There are five colour variations represented in the bluestones found at Stonehenge. Some contain crystals that have given them a different shade when broken, such as the spotted dolerite, named for its pink crystals, which emits a pinkish hue. Within the bluestone horseshoe is the Altar stone -- a blue-grey stone from the shores of Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire. It may have once stood upright but now lays underneath one of the great sarsen trilithons, and is about five metres long.
Along the Avenue, closer to the stone circles, is the "Slaughter Stone" that may have once been part of a pair of stones, forming a gate to the main monument. Shaped around the stone circles are two pillar stones, known as the "Station Stones." Originally there would have been four, placed in the shape of a rectangle.
A bank-and-ditch, or the henge of the monument, circles the main monument at about 91 metres in diameter. On the inside boundary of the henge are 56 pits, known as "Aubrey Holes" that can barely be seen. Closer to the stone circles are two other sets of pits, called "Z" and "Y" holes. These were the last additions to the monument and may have been carved out to accommodate more bluestones, but now lay empty.
"Clearly, a lot of trouble was taken by the builders to put those things up -- and some of the stones were brought from a long way away," says Witcombe. "Which also, incidently, signifies how important that spot on Salisbury Plain must be if they went to all that trouble to get those stones to that particular place."
"It's not the stones that make it sacred. It's the spot that's already sacred, or holy, and then the stones are built," says Witcombe.
And construction couldn't have been much easier than hauling those stones all that way.
ALL INFORMATION TAKEN FROM: