The Celts by Adam Ryder

According to The College Board all Civilizations share a number of similarities:
1) They create a surplus of food thus allowing for specialized labor
2) The presence of cities
3) complex social, political, and religious hierarchies
4) organized long distance trade
celtic map.png
Map showing the extent of Celtic influence

Celtic Europe (1000-50 B.C.E.):
The Celtic people barely qualify for an early civilization according to the definition of the College Board. Though they spread far, there was never unification between the tribes: All that they shared was a common culture. They never had traditional cities and instead used military hill forts as hubs for society and as safe storage for food surpluses Their society was stratified with a warrior class at the apex and a peasant class at the bottom. They engaged in trade with both the Romans and the Greeks from as far away as England.

The Celtic people originated in central Europe around 1000 B.C.E. but did not begin to spread in earnest until around 500 B.C.E. The Celts were an agrarian people who were quite fond of warfare both between tribes and with neighboring civilization. Though warfare eventually brought an end to their dominance of european culture, many of their group became integrated with the Roman Empire. To this day the culture remains relevant in parts of Ireland, Britain and Northwest France.

-Kings headed a number of Celtic tribes, though over time there was a shift towards chosen public officials.
-Nobles were essentially liege-lords to whom commoners swore allegiance, each side with obligations to help the other.
- Warriors held most of the wealth and the power in Celtic society. They owned land and flocks both of which were tended to by commoners. Warriors held the most power because the Celts gained power and wealth through raiding other tribes and claiming spoils. Some warriors added to their intimidation by choosing to fight naked.
- Druids were the spiritual leaders of Celtic societies and were entrusted with societies traditions as well as a number of social functions. Druids spent years learning the proper rituals and prayers. They learned and passed down oral histories and traditions. They acted as judges of crimes and would often mediate disputes between tribes.
-Commoners worked the land farming and tending to the warriors' and nobles flocks of sheep or cattle.
-Women were responsible for raising children, crafting goods and producing food. Women had more power in Celtic society than they would have elsewhere in this time period: They could inherit land the same as men and marriage was considered a partnership. A few tribes were even headed by queens during the first century C.E.

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Celtic hill fort
Humans and their environment:
The celts did not have cities in a traditional sense, however they did have hill forts which are somewhat comprable. These forts were created by digging out the sides of hills to create trenches and walls turning the strategically defensible landmarks into far more secure places. According to Bulliet, "They served as centers of administration, gathering points for Celtic armies, manufacturing centers, storage depots for food and trade goods, and places of refuge"(Bulliet, 56). Hundreds of these centers were scattered across Europe and their functionality certainly supports the idea that the Celts were a civilization. The fact that the Celts had surplus food and specialized workers in these forts all indicate the groundwork for a civilization.

The Celtic Culture was shared by all of the tribes across Europe. This Culture was defined by their common religion and practices. The Celts were Polytheists who worshipped predominantly gods of natural things. Rather than erect temples the Celts preferred to worship wherever in nature they felt closest to the gods. Druids were untouchable by any tribe because of their religious significance. This fact allowed them to serve as mediators between tribes that otherwise would have resorted to violence. The druids taught that after death the soul was reincarnated in a new body. Despite this elite members of society were buried with many material possessions: Bulliet suggests that this may mean that Celts also believed in an afterlife. Celtic culture celebrated the warrior. It was commonplace that Celtic warriors would remove the heads of their enemies for trophies. This shows a glorifying of violence and desire to prove skill in combat.

The Celtic elits were trading with Mediterranean societies before 500 B.C.E.
The Gundestrup Cauldron
for commodities like wine and other crafts not made by the Celts themselves. This trade developed to be more complex and extensive over time as the Celts spread across Europe and developed their own trade goods. They developed extensive trade networks along rivers with routes all the way from England to Greece. One desirable commodity they traded in was tin and there skill as metalworkers surpassed the people of the

Kings headed their tribes and later small "nations" of tribes. Kingship was not always hereditary as the king could nominate a successor. The king and nobles made the major decisions for their societies and established legal code. However judiciary responsibilities where split with the Druids who were responsible for legal matters between tribes. Political power was centered around hill forts, using them as administrative bases from which authority radiated.

Works Cited:
Bulliet, Richard W. "Chapter 2." The Earth and Its People: A Global History. Boston, MA: Cengage Wadsworth, 2011. 54-58. Print.

Conway, D.J. "CELTIC HISTORY; BRIEFLY." CELTIC HISTORY; BRIEFLY... N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2012. <>.