A Guide to
||Bronze age Urnfield
culture exists across Europe.
||Iron age Celtic
culture appears across Europe, and begins to expand. Following a major
archaeological find in Austria in 1876, this culture is labelled HALLSTATT.
Periplus is written in the Greek port of Massilia (Marseille),
describing two distant islands, IERNE (Ireland) and ALBION (England).
||The Hochdorf Prince
and the Princess of Vix are buried in Southern Germany. Meanwhile in
Southern Britain, hundreds of hillforts are being built, including DANEBURY
RING in Hampshire.
||Celtic culture is
endemic throughout Britain, France, Western Spain, South Germany, North
Italy and a broad belt stretching East to the Black Sea, including a
beachead in Central Turkey (the Galatians).There is trade between the
Celts and the Etruscans. The Greek Hecateus describes the KELTOI. A new
culture evolves. Following a major archaeological find in Switzerland
in 1858 this culture is labelled LA TENE.
the Celts in Western Spain, and around the source of the Danube.
||Celts cross the Alps
and invade Italy
||Celts sack Rome.
Their leader Brennus exacts a huge bounty of gold with the words "Vae
Victis" (woe to the defeated). This is the peak of the Celtic
fight in the army of Syracuse.
||Celts from the
Adriatic meet Alexander the Great, who is impressed.
||The voyage of the
Massilian Pytheas, who describes the PRETANIC islands
||A Celtic tribe from
Turkey, the Galatae or GALATIANS, sack the temple of Apollo at
The GALATIANS are defeated by Greeks at the battle of
Pergamon in Turkey. The Greeks celebrate by casting THE DYING
GAUL in bronze and carving the Pergamon reliefs.
GAESATAE) are defeated by Romans at the battle of Telamon in Italy
(8,000 captured, 25,000 killed). Romans celebrate by copying The Dying
Gaul in marble, and Polybius writes about it. From now on its mostly
all down hill.
||Celts ally with
Carthage in the second Punic war.
||Posidonius the Greek
visits Gaul and describes druids. All his writings are later lost.
||Cimbri and Teutones
defeat Romans at Arausio (Orange) in Gaul.
Romans destroy Cimbri and Teutones at Campi Raurii (60,000 captured,
120,000 killed). Romans celebrate by carving the triumphal
arch at Orange.
abandoned, reason unknown.
||Diodorus the Sicilian
writes about the Celts.
invades Gaul. He attacks 368,000 emigrating Helvetii (the entire Swiss
Celtic tribe including women and children) at Toulon-sur-Arroux,
killing 238,000 of them (his own estimates).
||The quisling Celtic
chief Dumnorix is murdered by Genocide Julius.
uprisings. ACCO leads a revolt amongst the Senones and
Carnutes tribes and is caught, flogged and executed before Roman
troops, but Ambiorix escapes never to be seen again.
||VERCINGETORIX, son of
Celtillus of the royal house of the Averni, rallies Gaullish forces and
attacks Julius Caesar. Caesar lays seige to him in Avaricum, killing
40,000 Gauls, but Vercingetorix and 800 men escape to GERGOVIA.
Caesar attacks, but is routed. Now there was a battle.
Finally Caesar traps Vercingetorix at THE SEIGE OF ALESIA.
Vercingetorix surrenders and is taken prisoner. This is the end of
resistance in Gaul, which becomes a Roman province (but Britain is
still free). Caesar cashes in by writing the best seller DE BELLO
GALLICO (The Gallic Wars).
paraded through Rome, then executed.
is stabbed to death by his friends in the toilets
behind a theatre. HAH !
||Strabo (quoting the
lost chronicles of Posidonius) and Livy write about the Celts.
Meanwhile in Ireland (according to the Annals of Tigernach) Conor Mac
Nessa is King of Ulster. Legends told centuries later by bards and
written down centuries later still by monks will describe his champion CUCHULAINN
- the Hound of Ulster.
||3 entire Roman
legions (15,000 soldiers) led by Varus are wiped out to a man
in the TEUTOBERG FOREST by natives led by Herman the
German. Although a Roman expeditionary force later retrieves the lost
legions' standard (this is the
scene at the beginning of Ridley Scott's Gladiator) Varus' crushing defeat ends Roman expansion in
Cunobelinus, Shakespeare's "Cymbeline") is chief of the Catuvellaunii
and King of the Britons in Colchester.
||Under CARADOC (also
known as Caratacus, son of Cunobelin) the Catuvellaunii tribe begin to
conquer their neighbours. The quisling Verica of the Atrebates invites
Rome to cross the channel and do something about it. The Roman emperor Claudius
(the one with the stutter) invades Britain by
elephant and four legions led by Aulus Plautius, and after
three days of combat defeats Caradoc at THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER
MEDWAY in Kent. Caradoc escapes and starts a guerilla war.
||Caradoc is driven
North and seeks sanctuary with Queen CARTIMANDUA of the Brigantes
tribe. She arrests him and hands him over to
Rome. He and his family are dragged in chains before Claudius and the
senate where he makes such an impressive speech that his life is spared
and he is given a farm. Also around this time the Roman poet Lucan
visits Gaul and writes his poem "Pharsalia" in which he slanders the
druids. Shortly after this Claudius declares all druids outlawed
and to be executed on sight.
leads 2 legions into North-West Wales, attacking the druid stronghold
on Mona (Anglesey).
King of the Iceni tribe around Suffolk, dies. His widow BOUDICCA
is refused Roman recognition as queen, is
flogged, and her daughters raped. She leads a rebellion, sacking the
Claudian temple at Camulodonum (Romanised Colchester), then
slaughtering the entire Roman populations of Londinium (London)
and Verulamium (St Albans), and a few legions here and there.
Paullinus is forced to abandon the slaughter of the druids on Anglesey
and leading the 14th and 20th legions faces her near Lichfield. With an
army of 10,000 Paullinus defeats Boudicca's army of 100,000 killing
80,000 of them (according to Tacitus, his son-in-law), but Boudicca
escapes never to be seen again. Paullinus conducts a punitive reign of
terror across Britain. All resistance is crushed, and Britain becomes a
Roman province (but Ireland and Scotland are still free). Meanwhile in
Turkey, St Paul the Apostle is writing his epistle to the Galatians.
||The military governor
of Britain, Julius Agricola, reaches the Mull of Kintyre and
decides not to invade Ireland.
North to face the last free British Celtic Army. He defeats Calgacus
and 30,000 Caledonian warriors at Mons
Graupius (according to Tacitus). However, this is as far North as
Rome gets, and the rest of Scotland remains free.
is built to keep out the Picts.
|The last Roman
legions leave Britain for good as their sordid empire collapses.
first king of Tara in Ireland.
arrives in Pagan Celtic Ireland. Elsewhere on the island, the last free
Celtic warriors are performing feats that will inspire hero-myths that
will last millenia, inspired themselves by hero-myths older still.
||The first scraps of
ancient Irish legends, passed on verbally by bards for centuries, are
finally written down on a calf skin belonging to the early Christian
monk St Ciaran.
St Ciaran's work in the monastery of Clonmacnoise as THE BOOK OF
THE DUN COW, the oldest surviving copy of THE TAIN BO CUAILNGE
(The Cattle Raid of Cooley), the hero-myths of CUCHULAINN and
the warriors of the Red Branch of Ulster. Elsewhere the
Book of Leinster is also being written, covering events prior to
the cattle raid.
||The Yellow Book of
Lecan is written down, adding more detail.
||The Books of Lecan
(not yellow, presumably) and Lismore are made.
||A shallow part of
Lake Neuchatel (La Tene) in Switzerland is found to be full of
ancient Celtic artefacts dating from the 6th century BC.
||An ancient salt mine
dating from the 9th century BC is excavated in Hallstatt,
||William Butler Yeats
writes "The Rose", a collection of poems based on ancient Irish legend,
including "Fergus and the Druid".
||In an atmosphere of
Celtic revivalism, Lady Eleanor Hull writes "The Cuchulainn Saga".
||The Easter Rising in
||T.G.E. Powell writes
iron-age Celtic re-enactment society, is formed.
||Brigantia take part
in the making of the first accurate video of BOUDICCA for WH
Smith, and appear on Barrymore.
The iron age
Celts of Europe and Britain were considered
superstitious and inclined to magic even by the pagan
Greeks and Romans (who were pretty superstitious
themselves). Their priests were
mysterious characters known as druids, and although we have
found hundreds of images of Celtic
warriors all over Europe and Britain, we have never found an image of a
druid and we will probably never know what they looked like. To learn
more about them, visit Lugodoc's
Guide to Druids.
descriptions we have of the druids come from ancient Greek and Roman
chroniclers who met them. Pliny described men wearing white robes
gathering sacred misletoe with golden sickles, but Tacitus described
women in black robes cursing the Roman soldiers at The Siege Of
Anglesey. Early Greeks said they were great philosophers, but Julius
Caesar said they were priveleged noblemen who performed human sacrifice.
time in Lunar months, and in order to bring the lunar and solar years
into agreement would add an extra month to the year every three or four
years. They considered the waxing half of the lunar month to be
auspicious for beginning new undertakings, and the waning half to be
were immensely powerful, almost as powerful as the kings they served,
and besides conducting all public ritual they would also learn and
speak law and judge legal disputes. It was their job to record the
history of the tribe and its heroes by composing and memorising epic
poems, and they did all this from memory - they were forbidden to write
anything down. It was said that druids began their training at the age
of five, and would take twenty years to learn the basic epic poems and
canons of law. It was said that a druid could stand between two Celtic
armies on the verge of battle and order them not to fight. It was also
their responsibility to choose kings, sometimes by means of magic.
After the Roman
emperor Claudius ordered their destruction after AD 50 they
disappeared, but some say that they cast off their robes and became
poor minstrels and wandering story-tellers, hiding in plain sight and
passing on the ancient wisdom hidden in fairy tales and stories of
ancient heroes. To learn more about these ancient myths, visit Lugodoc's Guide
to Celtic Mythology.
The Four main
Festivals of the Celtic year
seem to have had little interest in solstices and equinoxes, instead
presiding at great feasts held four times during the year - Imbolc,
Beltayne, Lughnasad and Samhain.
Because the Celts
considered that their day
began at sunset (and not at midnight like we do today) they would begin
their feasts at sundown on
the evening before the holy day. So, for example, the celebration of
Samhain would begin at sunset on October 31st.
strong associations with fertility and birth, and any farmer will tell
you that it coincides with the lambing season and the time when ewes
come into milk.
festival is also associated with the Goddess Brigid. In her
different aspects, she has power in the areas of healing, ironworking,
and poetry. Poets regarded her as the root of literary insiration and
her intervention was frequently sought by mothers in childbirth. In
Ireland she was much revered by the 'Filidh' or Sages, who recognized
her gift of prophecy. The cult of Brigid is thought to be connected
with the worship of the British Goddess Brigantia, who also
gave her name to the northern tribe of the Brigantes, and of
course to Brigantia - the Iron Age Celtic re-enactment society.
is the most well known of the great Celtic festivals (also known as May
Day), and is coinsidered to be the start of Summer and the opening of
the pasture to livestock. The name comes from 'Bel-tinne' (The fires of
Bel), this suggests that the festical is associated with the God Belenus.
The latter is a Gaulish sun God, worshipped under many different guises
througout the Ancient world. The Romans likened him to Apollo, and
classical authors linked him with shines in Provence, Burgundy and
thought to be of
The God Belenus
His memory also
survives in a host of proper names, among them 'Cymbeline' (or
Cunobelin, hound of Belenus) immortalised by Shakepeare in a play of
the same name. Billingsgate in London also derives its name from this
source. Beltayne is a fire festival, which is marked with bonfires on
hilltops and at other sacred places. In Ireland, it was customary to
drive cattle between two Bel fires, to gain protection from disease.
a summer festival and appears to be linked to the gathering in of the
harvest. This connection is maintained in the Christian feast of lammas
(Loaf Mass) which superseded it.
Pagan festival owes its origins to Lugh, a sun God whose name
means 'The Shining One'. According to legend, he established a series
of funeral games in honour of his foster mother, an agricultural
Goddess called Tailtu, who had died after clearing the forest of Breg.
These games were held regularly, along the lines of the early Greek
olympics. Lugh was worshipped by many Celtic peoples in Gaul, for
example he was known as Lugus and gave his name to Lyon (Lugdunum).
Stone head from the Isle of Anglesey said to represent
The Divine Hero Lug
He was also
credited with many powers. In Irish tradition, he was revered both as a
formidable warrior and a master magician. Lugh helped the Danaan craft Gods to forge their magic weapons in their battle against the Fomor, and much
later aided his half-mortal son Cu-Chulainn in his struggles
against the Connacht forces. Later, his craftsman's role became more
emphasized and he was known as Lugh Chromain ('Little stooping Lugh')
or, in its anglicized form, the prototype of the Leprechaun.
an important fire festival which marks
the begining of the Celtic new year.
Old fires are extinguished and are then ceremonially relit from a
sacred flame offered by the Druids.
taken from the Gundestrup Cauldron
Because this festival lies between the old and the new year it was
thought that it was an inbetween-time, when spirits could move through
the gap between the years and therefore also between their world and
ours. Therefore Samhain is also the festival of the dead. At the end of
the year the souls of the departed returned to the land of the living
and warmed themselves at the hearths of their former homes. Less
friendly spirits were also released and had to expelled or appeased
with sacrifice. Today Samhain survives as Halloween, observed on the
evening of October 31st.