Despite the mispronunciation caused by the folks in Boston naming their basketball team in their honor, the Celts (pronounced with the funniest of all sounds in the English language, a hard “C” as in Cucamonga) have a proud history. Although there is no question that they were well ahead of the their times from a technological point of view, these founders of Europe must also deal with a reputation for being bloodthirsty warriors, as well as being far less unified than the writers of the history of the Celts would have us believe. It seems like any history of the world always comes back to the Romans and the history of the Celts is no exception; one of the spoils of victory awarded the Romans was the right to tell the story of the Celts.
No less a Roman personage than that guy who should have stayed home on March 15, Julius Caesar, left behind an account of Celtic warfare that has been instrumental in creating the myth of the these peoples. Julius Caesar had a run-in with Celtic warriors in England between 55 and 54 BC and his stories have been instrumental in painting a portrait of naked charioteers engaging in hand to hand combat while riding in these fast-moving vehicles. History also tells us that if you were unfortunate enough to lose in combat with the Celts you would lose not only face, but your head. (Yeah, you read right, Celtic warriors liked to battle while completely starkers.)
Long before Julius Caesar provided fodder for Shakespeare’s canon and lent his name to a particular type of salad, the Celts were laying the groundwork for myth and legend. (Actually, the Caesar Salad has no relation to Julius at all; it was actually named after its inventor, a 20th century Italian restaurant owner who emigrated to America but was working in Mexico!) Stone age archaeological finds have placed Celtic civilizations as far south as present day Austria. From that time they spread outward to settle across Europe from France to Portugal. The fact that we tend to think of the Celts as being a northern European civilizations stems from the fact that the Romans chased them in that direction. It ws the Roman conquest and annihilation of opposing cultures that chased the Celtics upwards toward England, Scotland and northern France. The written history of the Celts is a textbook case in how history is never completely objective but always contains an ideological perspective. If you go by what the ancient Greeks and Romans wrote about the Celts, you would think these people were nothing but warlike, ignorant savages. Archaeology has indicated otherwise, just as future archaeologists will reveal to future conservatives that Ann Coulter wasn’t actually a clever writer, but rather a delusional mental case with sociopathic tendencies.
The Celts were major players in the trade industry. Among the items bartered were salt, gold, win, furs, oil and even mirrors. The Celts traded with Greek civilizations along the Mediterranean as far back as 600 BC. The artistry of the Celts when it came to making gold jewelry and other metalworks quickly earned them the single greatest thing in the world for those taking part in a barter economy: repeat business. The Celts were such master metalworkers that they consistently found themselves with repeat customers. And repeat customers then and now means only one thing: they got rich. So rich did the Celts find themselves, in fact, that Celtic chieftains found themselves being sent off into the afterlife not unlike their Egyptian counterparts, surrounded by gold and bronze.
The Celts settled in Scotland, well known for their clans, and that may be a leftover of Celtic influence. The Celtic clans were based on ties of kin; blood ties, in other words. Celtic royalty, in the form of extraordinarily rich and powerful princes. Though an aristocracy, the Celtic social hierarchy was one based on warrior attributes; anyone rising to the position of Celtic leader had established himself as a great warrior. No wonder these guys kind of got positioned as the Klingons of the ancient world.