The name Celts comes from the Greek name for the inhabitants of most of Europe and Western Asia, Keltoi. The Romans called them Gaels. The Greeks are identifiable in history as a seriously aggressive culture from about 400 BC. Long before 400 B.C., the People who were later to be called Keltoi had an established society that appears to have been in place for several consecutive millennia. Their own name for themselves? The People, regardless of district or dialect. The rest of this article deals with the Celts as direct decendants of the People who existed prior to Greek and Roman times.
There is little doubt that the writers of history have done grave disservice to the Celtic Nations existent long before history was written. Talented, inventive, master craftsmen, highly individualistic, freedom loving, Celtic people were in many areas significantly advanced over the Romans and Greeks of the same era. Far more peaceful, the so called wars against Rome were in fact justifiable retaliations for Roman and Greek military excursions and slave raids into Celtic (and their allies) territory. History notes that in the Punic war, Hannibal's advancing army swelled in size as it swept towards Rome. Volunteers from every city and village joined in the march. This suggests that rather than war, it was rebellion. However, the writers of history gloss over the obvious facts about the fight for freedom from Roman tyranny.
The Celts did not call themselves Celts. The single name to denote such a diversity of amalgamated cultures is simply not accurate. The preferred image of European Celts is that of land bound, sedentary farmers, uneducated, backward louts and brawlers. This is not accurate. Their society was based on millennia of practical experience and had evolved close to nature. The nearly universal religion was, again contrary to preferred standards, basically monotheistic. The specialized sub-gods acted in similar fashion and relationship to modern Christianity's saints, intercessors to the main creator-God. The organizer of the governmental version of Christianity, Constantine, incorporated many facets and tenants of the Celtic religion into his new religion to ease the forced transition. It is not coinsidence that many features of the historic religious figure, Jesus Christ, match the older pagan deity, Lugh. Constantine deliberately included the older Celtic tenents into his government for the expressed purpose of involving the Celtic populace.
What is neglected to mention is that Celts were a People of education and letters. In Gaul, they wrote and conducted business with "the letters of the Greeks". In Iberia, they used a version of Punic script. The quality and variants of these scripts found in pre and post Roman Celtic archaeological sites suggests the schooling was patronymic, or learned while on the job. Underlying all is the much older Ogam, in a variety of forms, used everywhere by the Druids for messages, incantations and funeral inscriptions.
The Celts knew their background, who they were and where they came from. Their history was kept in memory as songs and verses. There was no need to write it down, this scheme had worked for millennia. History does note that to achieve the Order of Druidae, memorization of thousands of lines of verse (history?) was required. The ultimate murder of all the Druids, bards and poets was something totally unimaginable. The nature of their religion, that is a reverence and respect for living things and God, gave them no need for government as we know it. They knew freedom like few other societies.
The technology and wealth of the culture was well known to the Romans. During the conquest of Europe the Romans went to great effort to loot the sacred places, repositories of tithed offerings. This was in reality the national treasury. These personally offered possessions ranged from common household items to functional artworks of gold and silver. What made the historical notes was the huge quantity of the precious objects "recovered" by the Romans. At the same time, it not unimaginable that soldiers were specially rewarded for the capture (for enslavement) of craftsmen, smiths and ironworkers. Celts were using iron for hunting weapons, tools and chariot wheel hoops before Rome was anything more than a tiny village.
In his book, "America B. C.", Dr. Fell brought out the fact that Cesar was very impressed with the size and construction of the Atlantic based maritime Celts. Not because of his admiration, but his military campaign of conquest called for the destruction of these open ocean craft. This skill in shipbuilding, along with an accurate knowledge base of astronomy and geometry makes the idea of cross Atlantic capabilities much more reasonable. The recognition of Celtic writings, lore and imagery on the western side of the Atlantic by enlightened scholars makes it fact.
The Celtic nations had alliances with other nations for commerce, trade and mutual protection. These were necessary because of political competition. Druids were very important in this process, because these were regulated by religious convention, Lugh, as lawfather, reigned supreme. Of more significance is a more general alliance with the maritime Punic people of Carthage, North Africa, Tarshish and Cadiz (Gades) on the Atlantic coast. It is curious that the reputation for great seafaring was retained with the Phonecians and totally forgotten or lost for their equally adventurous allies. This is probably another case of the writers of history being very selective for political purpose. Even in this day and age, Celtic Nationalism still exists. Two thousand years of impressed "civilization" has not eradicated the desire for freedom.
The antiquity of Celtic Society is beyond history and subjectively (as a matter of enforced policy) misinterpreted by archaeology. Many clues point to the assemblers of Stonehenge as being Celtic. This is not a very well liked hypothesis because it places the Celts and their direct ancestors as being assemblers and builders of megalithic monuments elsewhere. They probably were. What history doesn't like is the fact that the practice of this craft has left evidence all over Europe, North Africa, India, Japan,the United States and South America. The Celts (or their predecessors) were there and left their enduring monuments and marks in Ogam. They were far beyond the ignorant sedentary farmers that history portrays them.
It is no secret that most of what we think we know about Celts and Celtic society comes from the British Isles and Ireland. What doesn't get mentioned is the fact that these lands were and are subject to the rewriters of history and the effects thereof. It was not a mighty army that felled the last European stronghold of freedom, it was the agressive monks of St. Patrick who "chased the snakes" from the land.
The "snakes" is a metaphor for the Druids, the priests and organizers of society under the guidance of Lugh. Where they fled or even if they lived to flee is not recorded. The European knowledge base is even smaller due to several hundred years of successive conflicts where once united Celtic Europe was divided and re-divided. After Constantine's Roman army was converted by decree to his cause, no Druid, shrine or sacred place survived. The association with snakes and Druids is time honored and ancient. The snake is the sign of renewal and the "keeper of wisdom". The intertwined snakes on a modern medical doctor's symbol have an ancient connection with the Earth Mother cults that existed in Indo-European culture during the copper age.
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