Top 10 Interesting Facts About The Celts
10. The Celts didn’t fight naked
As opposed to a widely spread misconception (stemming mostly from Roman texts), the Celts worn sophisticated armours and were quite skilful smiths as well. They were using leather padding and worn both metal plates and mailles. They also used a wide variety of weapons including swords (coming in all varieties, short, broad and long), javelins, two-handed hammers and bows.
9. The Druids
The Druids were the members of the educated class of the Celtic society. They were poets, law-makers, doctors and religious leaders. The English word for druid is derived from the Latin counterpart ‘druides’, thought by the Romans to be of Celtic Gaulish origin.
Although little is known about them (given the fact that there are no written accounts describing them in their own language and only a few Ancient Greek, Roman and Irish medieval texts), the Druids have been many times portrayed in the popular culture through films, books and computer games, but the vast majority of their portrayals are relying on inventions based on artistic license as well as various other misconceptions.
8. The Celts did wear horned and winged helmets
The Celts’ helms had indeed horns and wings attached to them. In Ciumești, Romania, 34 Celtic burial mounds were discovered. They most likely belonged to a Celtic chieftain and they included several artefacts with which he was inhumed. Among them, a rather bizarre helmet with a large bird of prey and two wings attached to it.
7. Celtic languages
The modern Celtic languages are: Irish (Gaeilge), Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig), Manx, Cornish (Kernowek), Welsh (Cymraeg), and Breton (Brezhoneg). Of all these languages, Manx got extinct during the late part of the 20th century, but, fortunately, plans for resurrecting it eventually paid off and to date there are roughly 2,000 native speakers.
Cornish also got extinct by the end of the 18th century, but has been undergoing a similar process of resurrection since the 20th century. Irish is spoken by 140,000 native speakers in Ireland, Scottish Gaelic by 57,000 native speakers in Scotland, Cornish by 20 native speakers, Welsh by 740,000 native speakers in the United Kingdom (both Wales and England) and Breton by 210,000 native speakers in Brittany, north-western France.
6. The etymology of the term Celt
The first known usage of the term ‘Celt’ appears in a text written by an Ancient Greek historian by the name Hecateus of Mileus, namely from a geographic work in which he described a people living in the proximity of modern day Marseille, France. They were referred to as ‘Keltoi’.
Another Ancient Greek scholar, Herodotus, wrote about the Celts, positioning them in Western Europe and around the head of the river Danube. Although the etymology of the word ‘Celt’ may still be unclear, according to linguist Patrizia De Bernardo Stempel, ‘Keltoi’ could have meant ‘the tall ones’.
5. Modern Celtic nations
The modern Celtic nations form the Celtic league or the the modern Celtic realm. The Celtic nations are the following ones:
- Isle of Man;
- Brittany (in north-western France);
- Galicia (located in north-western Spain).
4. Red hair gene
According to some genetic tests, it is believed that the gene for red hair might have actually stemmed from the Ancient Celtic populations of the Iron Age. Nevertheless, there’s an ongoing controversy on the matter, as an alternative theory had also been proposed in the meantime, a theory according to which the red hair gene is actually a Norse trait and that it most likely arose in the southern part of present-day Norway.
According to the second theory, it is believed that southwestern Norway might well be the place of origin for the red hair gene, which has subsequently been spread to the British Isles and Western Europe along with the incursions of the Norsemen during the early Middle Ages. Regardless of the exact geographic origin, red hair is caused by a genetic mutation, specifically the MC1R gene. Carriers of this gene are mainly found in Ireland and Scotland, where they both account for almost 13% of the total population.
Although there’s no evidence that could certainly indicate the primordial geographic origin of the Celts, it is known from Ancient Greek and Latin texts that they mostly resided in Western Europe (in Brittany, the Iberian peninsula as well as the British Isles) and on the course of the river Danube before eventually expanding eastward (namely to Central and Eastern Europe) throughout Late Antiquity.
2. Skilful traders
Various Celtic tribes traded with many peoples during the Iron Age in most of Central and Western Europe. The Celts proved to be very active merchants on the coastlines of the Mediterranean Sea as well, exchanging mostly iron tools, wine, and pottery. Additionally, a considerable number of Celtic artefacts which belonged to the Hallstatt culture were excavated on the territory of several Central European countries.
1. The Celts overtook the Romans in several regards
Although Romans are credited for building the first roads in Europe, The Celts actually overtook them at this chapter given the fact that they built a large network of wooden roads in many places throughout Europe several centuries earlier. This route of wooden roads would ensure the fact that Celtic settlements traded with each other.
Additionally, when it comes to women’s rights, the Celts were ahead of the Romans as well. Women had more rights in the Celtic society than in the Roman one. Thus, they were able of owning land, detaining power and social status and, last but not least, even divorce if they wished so. However, when it comes to ancient warfare, the Celts were subsequently subdued by the invading Roman legions in regions such as Gaul or ancient Britain.
Documentation sources and external links:
- 10 Awesome Facts About The Celts on www.listverse.com
- 10 Interesting Facts About The Celts on www.celtic-weddingrings.com
- Interesting facts about the ancient Celts on www.eupedia.com
- The genetic causes, ethnic origins and history of red hair on www.eupedia.com
- Red hair? It might be down to the weather as gloomy climate forces genetic adaptation to exploit sunny days on www.dailymail.co.uk
- Celts on www.wikipedia.org (in English)
- The Celts on www.ancient.eu
- History of the Celts on www.livescience.com
- Celtic Britain on www.britainexpress.com