Interesting Facts About The Celts
From around 750 BC to 12 BC, the Celts were the most powerful people in central and northern Europe. There were many tribes of Celts, all speaking a vaguely common dialect. However, no one called the people living in Britain during the Iron Age, Celts until the eighteenth century. They were called Britons, so the name Celt is a relatively modern one, at least by comparison.
Here are 10 interesting facts you should know about Celts:
#1 The Celts Weren’t Just In Ireland or Scotland
The Celts were actually in Asturias, between Galicia and Cantabria in northern Spain, Brittany on France’s northwest coast, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales. Each region has its own culture and language, but oddly enough, the Celts never lived in Ancient Britain. It makes their title,” the Britons” seem a bit uninformed.
Still, research shows the Celts tended to prefer the coastlines of both Spain and France, and even had smaller settlements in Turkey.
#2 The Celts Loved to Trade
Perhaps of their locations and access to great ingredients and tools, the Celts loved to trade. Around 600 BC, the Greeks established a trading colony (Marseilles), and it paved the way for trading with the Celts.
Ancient tribes sampled Greek olive oil and grapes, as well as the wine. Meanwhile, the Celts brought furs, tin, salt, and amber, which were gratefully received by the Greeks since these items were painfully rare in the Mediterranean. It was mutually beneficial, to say the least.
#3 They Didn’t Fight Naked
Contrary to popular belief, the Celts did not fight naked. That myth actually came from the Romans, who loved to exaggerate quite a bit. Most of what is known about the Celts comes from the Romans, so anytime you hear something that doesn’t quite make sense, like going into battle without armor, believe it at your own risk.
Take note, the Celts were alive in the Iron Age, so they has swords, axes, javelins, as well as leather armor. Even chainmail and leather padding.
#4 They Had Druids
That’s right the Celtic druids were the people to aspire to be back in 750 - 12 BC. They had long, white robes, offered human sacrifices, advised chiefs and kings, suggested new laws, and even acted as judges to enforce those laws.
They were considered wise, because they spent a whopping 20 years training for their positions. Their knowledge ranged from astronomy to Celtic lore and even natural philosophy. And since they were so wise, they also told people when to plant their crops, and predicted futures.
One of their traditions is one we still keep to this day. Druids believed mistletoe was holy, much like oak trees. That’s why Christians believe you should kiss under the mistletoe.
#5 They Were Filthy Rich
History often depicts the Celts as barbaric, and savage, but in reality, they had their cultures, customs, language, and methods of making money. Like trading! It proved to be the wisest thing they ever really did, trading.
Since they were among the first to utilize iron, they traded a lot of highly prized, useful stuff to neighboring peoples, including the Greeks.
More so, gold was so abundant about their Celt regions, that they even used it in their armor, weaponry, and art. Silver and bronze was also used, especially to make jewelry, which they also traded.
#6 Women Had Rights
The Celts were very progressive for their time. They were a patriarchal, tribal society, but they were also a society where women could rise to power. They could become warriors or dignitaries. They could even lead tribes, as was the case with Boudica, one of the Celtic women who rose to power and led her people as queen of her tribe. She led her warriors to battle against the Roman Empire.
Women were also allowed to show interest in other womens, should men not suit their fancy. Likewise, men were allowed to show interest in other men.
#7 They Totally Hunted Heads
So, the Celts weren’t complete savages. They had progressive views, they had leadership and laws, they were wealthy and knew how to carry on with their neighbors, except the Romans, of course. But they did have a thing for hunting heads…
To be clear, it was primarily driven by religion. The Celts believed that the head contained a warrior’s soul, so by taking the head, you’re essentially capturing that soul.
But that’s just one reason. Because every Celtic tribe had their own culture, each one had their own justification for headhunting. Some may have just enjoyed the act of collecting heads, for all we know.
#8 They Created A Road Network Before the Romans
Rome gets the credit for having the first road network, but that’s not true. Remember, their worst enemies were the Celts, so they weren’t about to give them the credit. But the Celts created a trading center of their own near the source of the Danube river in 625 BC, which became the most important trading location in the Celtic world for 150 years.
And they expanded this network throughout Europe. They traded high-end, luxury goods! Remember, they were wealthy.
One of their most famous roads was the Tin Road, which began in Massalia and spread to Britain. They also had the Amber Road, which went through the Moravian Gate and into what is now considered Danzig.
#9 They Might Have Been Red Headed
Some genetic tests have revealed that the red hair gene may have actually stemmed from the Ancient Celtic populations of the Iron Age. This, of course, sparked some controversy, since many scientists and historians believe the red hair gene is a Norse trait, that that it most likely appeared in the southern part of Norway.
Some theories include that the two groups may have travelled far enough to breed, or that one of these “findings” is incorrect, and it really only stems from one of these groups (Celtic or Norse).
The truth is that no one really knows where it comes from, just that it’s caused by a genetic mutation in the MC1R gene, predominantly in Ireland and Scotland.
#10 They Overtook The Romans
In the end, the Celts may have lost to the Romans, but at a massive cost. The battle/war really wrecked havoc on Rome, and left them in a much weaker state. And as we all know, Rome eventually fell.
But before all that, the Celts beat them to the road network, were smarter when it came to women’s rights (they could own land and even divorce if they wanted to), and all had massive wealth. In Rome, not everyone was rich. Many lived in shabby, squalid houses what could collapse or burn up at any moment.