The Celts encompassed many tribes of peoples who spoke the Celtic languages and, at one time, populated a large portion of central Europe. By 400BC, the Celts spread over much of Western continental Europe, the Iberian Peninsula, Ireland and Britain. These tribes reached the height of their expansion around 275 BC. Their languages included Welsh, Irish, Breton, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, and Manx. The later two being extinct or near extinct in the modern day.
How did they come to be called Celts in the first place?
The Greek geographer, Hecataeus of Miletus, is credited with giving us the modern name for this ethnic group around 517 BC. “Celtic” turns out to have originally been a tribal surname, belonging to a tribe encountered by Ceaser himself.
“During the later Iron Age the Gauls generally wore long-sleeved shirts or tunics and long trousers (called braccae by the Romans). Clothes were made of wool or linen, with some silk being used by the rich. Cloaks were worn in the winter. Brooches and armlets were used, but the most famous item of jewellery was the torc, a neck collar of metal, sometimes gold. The horned Waterloo Helmet in the British Museum, which long set the standard for modern images of Celtic warriors, is in fact a unique survival, and may have been a piece for ceremonial rather than military wear.” - Wikipedia
Art of the Celts
The La Tene era (500BC-15BC) is known for metalwork; weaponry, tools, and general ornamentation. The Celtic Knotwork we think of today as “Celtic” may have actually been introduced during the Germanic **Migration Period and influenced by the Roman world. These flowing geometric patterns are referred to as Insular Art.
“Insular art, also known as Hiberno-Saxon art, is the style of art produced in the post-Roman history of the British Isles. The term derives from insula, the Latin term for "island"; in this period Britain and Ireland shared a largely common style different from that of the rest of Europe. Arts historians usually group insular art as part of the Migration Period art movement as well as Early Medieval Western art, and it is the combination of these two traditions that give the style its special character” - Wikipedia
“… the [La Tene] culture was more militaristic and its burial sites reveal an abundance of swords, spearheads, shields and protective armour, as well as everyday items such as cauldrons, yokes, and razors. Jewellery is also common, and some pieces are exquisite - notably the finely made gold torcs. La Tene designwork, found on a wide range of objects is more mature and more complex. It includes the elaborate swirling patterns of Celtic knotwork which reached their apogee during this period.” Visual Arts Cork
**“Migration Period art is the artwork of Germanic peoples during the Migration period of 300 to 900. It includes the Migration art of the Germanic tribes on the continent, as well the start of the Insular art or Hiberno-Saxon art of the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic fusion in the British Isles. It covers many different styles of art including the polychrome style and the animal style. Migration Period art is one of the major periods of medieval art.” - Wikipedia
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