Early History of the Celts



INTRODUCTION
The Ancient Celts were not an illiterate people, but they transferred their knowledge orally. They had an alphabet of twenty letters called Ogham. Each letter was named after a tree from the land where they lived. Ogham was used on standing stones, primarily on graves and boundary markers.
The primary sources of information about the Celts are, in that light, the texts written by the Romans who were in touch with them and Christian monks, who lived in Irish monasteries in the Middle Ages. Caesar, Livy and Tacitus, wrote about their contemporaries who lived in a way different than themselves and therefore were considered barbarians, but even though they did not have a positive attitude towards them, they still left some useful information about Celtic society, religion, way of life, and so on. One of the problems that arise from this is that many things in these writings are romanised, e.g. Caesar interprets Celtic gods and calls them by the names of their Roman equivalents:
They worship as their divinity, Mercury, in particular, and have many images of him, and regard him as the inventor of all arts, they consider him the guide of their journeys and marches, and believe him to have great influence over the acquisition of gain and mercantile transactions. Next to him they worship Apollo, and Mars, and Jupiter, and Minerva; respecting these deities they have for the most part the same belief as other nations: that Apollo averts diseases, that Minerva imparts the invention of manufactures, that Jupiter possesses the sovereignty of the heavenly powers; that Mars presides over wars.
The second type of sources are the books written from 6th - 13th century on by Christian monks in Ireland and Celtic Britain. These books were written several centuries later, so the oral tradition might have changed and much of the information was under Christian influences.
The Celts were one of the most significant and powerful peoples in Europe from fourth until first century BC, and their culture one of the most influential. From then on they had a turbulent history, and their legacy continues to live even today.
The following pages will be an attempt to
MAIN PART
Today, Celtic is a family of languages of the Indo European group. The Celts are, by definition, all the people who spoke or speak one of the Celtic languages. A unifying Celtic language existed probably somewhere between 1200 and 750 BC, in the Bronze Age, when Urnfield culture was at its peak. This people spoke a language that would later develop into Celtic. Their ur- Celtic developed in two dialects, first Goidelic (or Q Celtic) and later Brythonic (or P Celtic). The P/Q differentiation came from the diverse pronunciations of an Indo European sound /kw/. In Goidelic it became /k/, in Brythonic /p/. Goidelic transformed into the languages spoken in Ireland, Isle of Man and Scotland; Brythonic into Welsh, Cornish and Breton.
The next period of Celtic history is connected with Hallstatt culture, which existed approximately from 700 to 500 BC. The later Iron Age phase of Celtic culture is called La Tne, after a site in western Switzerland and dates from 5th to 1st century BC. The Celts almost certainly began to expand to the British Isles during this period. Their influence extended from what are now France, Spain, and British Isles to the shores of the Black Sea from the Ukraine to Turkey. When the Romans came to these territories, they ended the La Tne culture, but in the places they did not occupy, like as Ireland and Scotland, the La Tne culture prospered until about 200 AD.
The word Celt comes from Keltoi, the name that Greek writers gave to these people. To the Romans, the Continental Celts were known as Galli and Galatae, or Gauls and they called those in Britain Pritanni. In the 4th century BC the Celts invaded the world in possession of the Greeks and Romans, conquering northern Italy and sacking Rome, while also conquering Macedonia and Thessaly. They raided Rome in 390 (or 387), conquered southern Italy between 282 and 272, sack Delphi in 279, and the Gauls came to Asia Minor in 278/277. After the height of their power, the Celts (the first Indo-European group