The Celts. Mrs. Norberry. Gaul Before the Romans.
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Julius Caesar, in the first lines of his Commentaries on the Gallic War, sets the stage for all subsequent historic discussion of Gaul in the 1st century BC: "All Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which the Belgae inhabit, the Aquitani another, the third, those who in their own language are called Celts, and in ours, Gauls.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 people the bravest are the Belgae. They are the furthest away from the culture and civilized ways of the Roman Province, and are least often visited by the merchants who bring luxuries which tend to make people soft; also they are nearest to the Germans across the Rhine and are continually at war with them."
Between 600 and 450 BC, Western Hallstatt (Early Iron Age) cultures in Gaul traded widely for Greek, Etruscan, and Massalian luxury items, including amphorae, bronze drinking vessels, and small objects of gold, ivory, and amber often found as grave goods. Greek trade also reached inside the native strongholds, with Greek and Etruscan pottery and Massalian coins found at the Celtic hillfort at Ensérune by 550-425 BC.
While the Gauls originated in central Europe, in 386 BC invading Gallic Senonestribesmen spread as far south as Rome, sacking and burning the city before being driven out.
By 378 BC Rome had built a protective city wall against future attacks. During the next century, Gauls remained a constant threat to the Romans. In the last Samnite war of 295 BC, Gallic tribes joined with Samnites and Etruscans attempting to stop Rome's rise to power. Only after putting down several revolts by 282 BC did Rome reduce this threat of Gallic invasions.
In 218 BC, Gauls joined with Hannibal as he crossed the Rhône to invade Italy. Upon Hannibal's defeat in 202 BC, the Gauls again tried to organize against Rome, but the Boii, then the dominant Gallic tribe, were subdued by 191 BC. Thereafter, the Gauls were never again able to successfully challenge the Roman military. In the years following Hannibal's defeat, the Romans expanded throughout the Mediterranean. After reinforcing the northern colonies of Placentia and Cremona in 203 BC, Roman troops expanded into Cisalpine Gaul north of the Po River valley. They waged costly, drawn-out campaigns against Gallic and Iberian tribes, adding Spain (201 BC), Greece, and Carthage (both, in 146 BC) to their control. Finally, in 121 BC, the Gauls were defeated on the lower Rhône, opening southern France to Roman rule.
Ancient Rome was a civilization that grew out of a small agricultural community founded on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 10th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it became one of the largest empires in the ancient world.
In its centuries of existence, Roman civilization shifted from a monarchy to an oligarchic republic to an increasingly autocratic empire. It came to dominate South-Western Europe, South-Eastern Europe/Balkans and the Mediterranean region through conquest and assimilation.
The Romans were sticklers for tradition as well as for order.
The term virtus describes a male quality of steadfastness. Women, as well as men, were expected to possess to a considerable degree that essentially Roman quality of pietas, which is untranslatable except as a combination of duty, devotion, and loyalty, especially to the gods, but also to one’s country, parents, and other relatives. The Romans also prized gravitas, which, too, implies a sense of duty, but in the context of dignified reserve and integrity. Its opposite, levitas, frequently had the meaning of inconstancy.
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As the learned priests of the Gauls, Druids also served as judges and teachers. Caesar reports that the Gauls were "extremely devoted to superstitious rites" and that many human sacrifices were conducted, generally according with Strabo's accounts: "...they who are troubled with unusually severe diseases, and they who are engaged in battles and dangers... think that unless the life of a man be offered for the life of a man, the mind of the immortal gods can not be rendered propitious..." [BG 6.16].
Caesar paints one particularly vivid picture of sacrifices involving wood frameworks, involving "...figures of vast size, the limbs of which... they fill with living men, [when] set on fire, the men perish... in the flames." [BG 6.16]. The Druids also took up to twenty years memorizing verses, not because they lacked writing (since the Gauls used the Greek alphabet), but to train their memories and because, in Caesar's view, " ...they did not desire their doctrines divulged among the mass of the people. "[BG 6.14]
Brigindo was the Gallic goddess, also called Brigandu. She was a popular goddess throughout the Celtic world. Brigindo was the goddess of arts, crafts, fertility, and possibly of war. Her name means "Exalted One" or "High One".
The Imbolc was a pagan spring festival held in her honour on February 1.
Brigit or Brigid was the Irish equivalent of Brigindo. In Britain she was called Brigantia, where the Celts living in northern region of England was named after her. The Romans had identified her as Minerva (Athena).
Cernunnos was the Horn One, because he worn antlers of the stag on his head. He was often called the "Lord of the Wild Things".
He was clearly a god of nature, and probably of fertility of animals and agriculture. Cernunnos was also god of grains and fruits.
Cernunnos was equated with another god with stag-like antlers on his head, Belatucadnos, a British god of war. The Romans associated Cernunnos with their god Mercury (Hermes), though Julius Caesar associated him with Dis Pater, chthonic god of the underworld. The early Christians associated Cernunnos as the Devil or Anti-Christ, because of pagan ritual.
The worship of Cernunnos can be found in the France, Alps, Italy, and in Britain. The most famous depiction of Cerrunnos can be found on the Gundestrup Cauldron (c. 1st century BC).
Lugus was one of the most popular deities to Celts. Several cities were named after him, Lugdunum (Lyon) in southern France, LugdunumBatavorum (Leiden) in the Netherland, and Luguvallium (Carlisle) in northern England. Lugus was also worshipped in several sites on the Spanish province of Tarraconensis (including the tribes of Gallaeci, Astures, Cantabri and Celtiberians).
Lugus was the god of light or of the sun. With skill in many crafts, he was identified as the Roman god, Mercury (Hermes).
Lughnasadhis a traditional Gaelic holiday celebrated on 1 August. It is in origin a harvest festival. The Lughnasadh festival is said to have been begun by the god Lugh (the Irish version of Lugus), as a funeral feast and games commemorating his foster-mother, Tailtiu, who died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture.
Arduinna was the Gallic goddess of the forest and hunting, which the Romans had identified her with Diana (Artemis). Arduinna had been depicted in art, riding on the back of a wild boar. She seemed to be popular around the Ardennes region.
Belenus was one of the most ancient of Celtic gods. His fire festival, Beltaine, was held on May 1.
Beltaine was the spring-time festival of optimism. Fertility rituals were important, in part perhaps connecting with the waxing power of the sun, symbolized by the lighting of fires through which livestock were driven, and around which the people danced in a sunwise(clockwise) direction.
Great bonfires would mark a time of purification and transition, heralding in the season in the hope of a good harvest later in the year, and were accompanied with ritual acts to protect the people from any harm by otherworldly spirits.
Belenus’ name means "Bright One", which suggests that he was a fire or sun god.
The Romans equated Belenus with the Greek/Roman god, Apollo, who was also the god of light and healing.
Artaius or Artio was the bear god in Gaul (France), particularly in present-day Switzerland. The Romans had identified Artaius with Mercury.
Some scholars believed that King Arthur may have originally been a god, and was derived from the Gallic god Artaius.
The female form of this deity was Artio or DeaArtio, the bear-goddess. There's a Roman statuette of Artio, now housed in the Historisches Museum, in Bern. The art depicted the goddess seated, facing a bear.