Celts and Germans - A Roman's Definition

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Celts and Germans - A Roman's Definition

Postby Nerva on Wed Aug 06, 2008 8:43 pm

Salvete Omnes!

I must admit to being a bit of a Tacitus fan. On the theme of 'What Defines a Celt', here are a few words from Tacitus on Germans...

"The Germans themselves I should regard as aboriginal, and not mixed at all with other races through immigration or intercourse. For, in former times it was not by land but on shipboard that those who sought to emigrate would arrive; and the boundless and, so to speak, hostile ocean beyond us, is seldom entered by a sail from our world. And, beside the perils of rough and unknown seas, who would leave Asia, or Africa for Italy for Germany, with its wild country, its inclement skies, its sullen manners and aspect, unless indeed it were his home? In their ancient songs, their only way of remembering or recording the past they celebrate an earth-born god Tuisco, and his son Mannus, as the origin of their race, as their founders. To Mannus they assign three sons, from whose names, they say, the coast tribes are called Ingaevones; those of the interior, Herminones; all the rest, Istaevones. Some, with the freedom of conjecture permitted by antiquity, assert that the god had several descendants, and the nation several appellations, as Marsi, Gambrivii, Suevi, Vandilij, and that these are nine old names. The name Germany, on the other hand, they say is modern and newly introduced, from the fact that the tribes which first crossed the Rhine and drove out the Gauls, and are now called Tungrians, were then called Germans. Thus what was the name of a tribe, and not of a race, gradually prevailed, till all called themselves by this self-invented name of Germans, which the conquerors had first employed to inspire terror."

The Germanica: The Inhabitants. 0rigins of the Name Germany

Caesar, writing on the Gauls (Celt's) said:

"All Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which the Belgae inhabit, the Aquitani another, those who in their own language are called Celts, in our Gauls, the third. All these differ from each other in language, customs and laws. The river Garonne separates the Gauls from the Aquitani; the Marne and the Seine separate them from the Belgae. Of all these, the Belgae are the bravest, because they are furthest from the civilization and refinement of [our] Province, and merchants least frequently resort to them, and import those things which tend to effeminate the mind; and they are the nearest to the Germans, who dwell beyond the Rhine, with whom they are continually waging war; for which reason the Helvetii also surpass the rest of the Gauls in valor, as they contend with the Germans in almost daily battles, when they either repel them from their own territories, or themselves wage war on their frontiers. One part of these, which it has been said that the Gauls occupy, takes its beginning at the river Rhone; it is bounded by the river Garonne, the ocean, and the territories of the Belgae; it borders, too, on the side of the Sequani and the Helvetii, upon the river Rhine, and stretches toward the north. The Belgae rises from the extreme frontier of Gaul, extend to the lower part of the river Rhine; and look toward the north and the rising sun. Aquitania extends from the river Garonne to the Pyrenaean mountains and to that part of the ocean which is near Spain: it looks between the setting of the sun, and the north star."

Caesar: The Gallic Wars, Book 1 Chapter 1

So I ask this, are modern historians overly complicating the organisation and definition of a 'Celtic' culture/nation. As we can see from classical descriptions the Romans took a much looser definition of these peoples. Basically, if you we're not a 'German' and lived west of the Rhine you were a Celt. Yes, there are many common themes in art etc. between peoples distributed over a large geographical area in Western Europe, but that is even more the case today and I would not describe myself as a German (not after what Tacitus had to say about them :lol: ) or a Spaniard even though, apart from language, we are pretty much the same. The same is true of Ancient times is it not if you read Caesars description.

Of course deep down there are fundamental differences between European peoples, but was that not also the case with the 'Gaulish' tribes in Caesars times?
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Re: Celts and Germans - A Roman's Definition

Postby Neil on Wed Aug 06, 2008 9:51 pm

I read a very interesting book on the Druids before, will have to dig it up to get the name. But it basically looked at the order across the entire "Celtic Civilisation" if I can be permitted to use the term just for simplicity and laziness. Was quite well researched from what I can gather and used a lot of Roman and Greek sources. But the basic premis of the book was that the "Celts" as a people did seem to be made up of a wide variety of different peoples with differnet languages and often differing customs. But one thing they did seem to have in common was their order of priests and lawmakers, the Druids. There were several different classes of druids and they did seem to act as ambassadors between the different Celtic tribes speaking several different languages and all being well versed in the law of their societies. In many ways they do seem to have been a one single unifying factor when looking at what made you a celt though they probably would never as others have said called themselves that.

Will have to dig it up and put up the name. But just a thought . . . . :)
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Re: Celts and Germans - A Roman's Definition

Postby Nerva on Wed Aug 06, 2008 9:53 pm

Salve Neil!

As Inspecor Cleuso would say "Vwry Interesting", please dig the book up and get back to us :!:
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Re: Celts and Germans - A Roman's Definition

Postby Neil on Fri Aug 08, 2008 7:00 pm

Found the book!
Druids: Preachers of Immortality - Anne Ross ISBN:0752425765
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Re: Celts and Germans - A Roman's Definition

Postby Leinsterman on Mon Aug 11, 2008 11:40 am

The argument that the Celts were a 'race' or not will run and run. There is significant evidence that the tribal peoples of Western Europe North of the Med, South of the area occupied by the 'Teutonic' peoples and roughly in a line from the Black Sea to these islands, shared a similar language, musical tradition, religious beliefs, political system, dress codes, pastoral economy, artistic and horse loving way of life. That this relative uniformity had evolved from 3500 to 2000 years ago with the spread of the use of Iron is probably true. It is a given that all 'empires' evolve by holding on to the 'best bits' of assimilated tribes to achive a uniformity some what different to where it started out... if you get my drift. The Romans left sufficient records of how they did it for us to see the process at work.
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Re: Celts and Germans - A Roman's Definition

Postby Nerva on Mon Aug 11, 2008 1:18 pm

Salve Kevin,

The argument that the Celts were a 'race' or not will run and run. There is significant evidence that the tribal peoples of Western Europe North of the Med, South of the area occupied by the 'Teutonic' peoples and roughly in a line from the Black Sea to these islands, shared a similar language, musical tradition,
.

A couple of things there Kevin. There is no written evidence that the Celts shared a similar language. Caesar himself makes reference to having different interpreters. While you may very well be right, but there is no evidence to support such a statement. As for music, again there is no classical reference that I'm aware of, in existence which supports this statement.

Now your remaining statements
religious beliefs, political system, dress codes, pastoral economy, artistic and horse loving way of life
I would fully agree with. In all classical references to Gaul’s or Celts the Druids are the glue that holds these peoples together. That may well infer a similar language, but we simply don't know. Probably the two most significant common threads running between all of these peoples is religion and art, at least we have physical evidence of their art.

That this relative uniformity had evolved from 3500 to 2000 years ago with the spread of the use of Iron is probably true
.

How does this work? I could be totally missing the point of your argument Kevin (that's would be normal practice for me :D ) but, are you saying that the integration of these peoples went hand in hand with the introduction of Iron? Why then did other Irong age peoples not become part of this european wide Celtic integration? The only classical reference say theses peoples were confined to Gaul and Asia (As Asia was then, eastern anatolia) yet virtually all european and north africal civilisations were using Iron as well, but maintained a very differient cultural identity.
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Re: Celts and Germans - A Roman's Definition

Postby Leinsterman on Mon Aug 11, 2008 2:17 pm

Hi Martin. Thanks for the quick response. I was hoping if I bounced this particular ball someone would would pull on it. More later, but for now - your reference to 'written'' resources betrays a very 'Classical' viewpoint. What about placename evidence?
Your point about Caesar needing interpreters - I'm relatively fluent in the Gaelic but I would need an interpreter in North Wales.
As to the spread of Celtic culture across Europe you need to delve into some of Peter Beresford Ellis for the flip side of that one.
I admit finding clues to the make up of Europe two and a half thousand years ago from people with no written record of their own is not easy. Here is one I toyed with - get a map of Europe and write on each country 'Motherland' or 'Fatherland' according to how each nationality refers to their country today.
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Re: Celts and Germans - A Roman's Definition

Postby Nerva on Mon Aug 11, 2008 10:29 pm

Hi Kevin

More later, but for now - your reference to 'written'' resources betrays a very 'Classical' viewpoint.


Not at all. We are talking about the classical period here, so it's natural to look for evidence in the writings of the time, or in the record of physical evidence.

What about placename evidence?


I personally think this is an important source of information, but most acedemics would say speculative at best.

I'm relatively fluent in the Gaelic but I would need an interpreter in North Wales.


The same can be said for Friesian and English, but were not the same people.

As to the spread of Celtic culture across Europe you need to delve into some of Peter Beresford Ellis for the flip side of that one.


Your right, I have read too little on Gaulish or Celtic culture other than the direct ancient sources (notice how I skillfully avoided saying 'Classical' sourches :lol: )

Here is one I toyed with - get a map of Europe and write on each country 'Motherland' or 'Fatherland' according to how each nationality refers to their country today.


Do you know, thats a bloody good point :!:
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Re: Celts and Germans - A Roman's Definition

Postby Nerva on Tue Aug 12, 2008 11:00 am

Actually, you raise an interesting point. In these days of political correctness gon mad, are we still allowed to use the terms 'Motherland' or 'Fatherland'?...probably have to use the term 'Parentland'...
Vale

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Re: Celts and Germans - A Roman's Definition

Postby Billy on Tue Aug 12, 2008 2:25 pm

The argument that the Celts were a 'race' or not will run and run. There is significant evidence that the tribal peoples of Western Europe North of the Med, South of the area occupied by the 'Teutonic' peoples and roughly in a line from the Black Sea to these islands, shared a similar language, musical tradition,

A couple of things there Kevin. There is no written evidence that the Celts shared a similar language. Caesar himself makes reference to having different interpreters. While you may very well be right, but there is no evidence to support such a statement. As for music, again there is no classical reference that I'm aware of, in existence which supports this statement.


I think the argument for music can be safely discounted. I know of no evidence at all for a Celtic musical tradition.
As for language, it's a bit of a complex point, but I think that the fact that people spoke a series of languages derived from a common tongue does not necessarily indicate anything about ethnic unity.




religious beliefs, political system, dress codes, pastoral economy, artistic and horse loving way of life
I would fully agree with. In all classical references to Gaul’s or Celts the Druids are the glue that holds these peoples together. That may well infer a similar language, but we simply don't know. Probably the two most significant common threads running between all of these peoples is religion and art, at least we have physical evidence of their art.



Some aspects may have been similar, say art style and certain aspects of religious belief. On this last note though, there's not that much evidence for the Cult of the Druids outside of Gaul, Britain and Ireland. Where are the Czech druids, or the Galatian ones? They may not be the unifying force some portray them to be. And even though some deities appear in more than one country, what does this say about individual religious groups, cults and belief systems. I would suggest religious hetrogony was the reality, certainly far more than books on the Celts like to portray. This can be evidenced from the variety of burial traditions, and the hundreds of possible deities uncovered in Gaulish and Romano-British evidence.

Political systems vary wildly in both place and time, and 'Celtic' areas show differences, from princedoms, to Oppida based tribal organisations, to greater or lesser hierarchies. Power and organisation can be seen to be vary different amongst groups people consider to be Celts.

Was not vast areas of Europe basically pastoralist at this period? It certainly was an economic backbone in many of the cultures of this time.To me, it says little of cultural unity. And even at that, certain economies considered Celtic were not very pastoralist.

As for a common dress code, I know of little evidence to back this up. It might be inferred somewhat by jewellery and weaponry, but I suggest the idea is far more the product of Pan-Celtic books and reenactorisms than any archaeological or historical evidence.

That this relative uniformity had evolved from 3500 to 2000 years ago with the spread of the use of Iron is probably true

How does this work? I could be totally missing the point of your argument Kevin (that's would be normal practice for me ) but, are you saying that the integration of these peoples went hand in hand with the introduction of Iron? Why then did other Irong age peoples not become part of this european wide Celtic integration? The only classical reference say theses peoples were confined to Gaul and Asia (As Asia was then, eastern anatolia) yet virtually all european and north africal civilisations were using Iron as well, but maintained a very differient cultural identity.


I'm afraid I'd have to agree. I thinkk the use of Iron may have been responsible for certain technological and even political advances, but I don't see the consolidation of a Pan European Celtic identity as being inherently tied in with Iron use.

As for looking back as far as 3500 BC for the beginnings of what people call Celtic culture, well this may help explain some of the unanswered questions. Looking back this far, we may begin to unravel questions of linguistic spread, and the establishment of trade routes and connections that could have facilitated the later spread of certain aspects of culture, like art, technology and religious ideas, which may or may not have involved the movement of significant amounts of people.

One more thing to consider, and getting back to the original point, it's not always useful to consider Classical sources from the first century alongside manuscript sources from twelfth century Ireland, and hold them to be of equal contextual value. Not that anyone has specifically done that here, but it's always something that clouds our thinking on this issue.

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