Some History of the Celts in Europe and Galicia

In the 7th and 8th centuries it is claimed that a people of Celtic origin entered northern Spain via the Pyrenees mountains (through its western pass) and controlled and inhabited much of what is now Galicia and Portugal. This also led to these people being described as "Celtibeian", or hybrids of the Celts and Iberians (now Spaniards).

The Romans also referred to a people, now known as Celts, as barbarians and it is widely accepted that these tribes inhabited large sections of northern and central Europe for several centuries.

One problem with establishing irrefutable evidence of the Celts existence in Galicia is the absence of contemporary historic records. This can be put down to the fact that the Celts never learnt to read or write and consequently were unable to record their own history. As a result, real time documented evidence only occurs during later periods when the Romans, and indeed Irish and Scottish writers of the day, made their vague references.

Another problem with establishing detailed information on the Galician Celts results from the fact that the Celts never worked as a unified invading and conquering force. They never possessed an empire and never rallied massive armies and therefore there is an absence in history of a ruling Celtic province or empire. You never hear of any Celtic invasion!

How the Celts existed

The Celts were really a large number of small and relatively independent tribes that coexisted uneasily, but would rally together against a common foe.

Each tribe had a leader, or "chieftain" and one of the problems with merging these tribes was agreeing on which chieftain would lead the combined force. That said there are records of large Celtic armies fighting under a single banner and numbering in their tens of thousands.

Where the Celts started

There is little doubt that the origins of the Celts sprouted in France between 1000BC and 1500BC in an area now known as "Alsace-Lorraine" and they saw through the transition from the bronze to iron age. This probably explains their success in battle, where their weapons will have been superior to many of their enemies.

Over the next thousand or so years, the Celts dominated most of Europe, including Germany and the central states and as time advanced towards the birth of Christ their influence was strong in Spain, Ireland and Northern Britain.

The other Galitia

During the period around 300BC, the Celts took control of, the then "Asia Minor" and established what they called "Galitia" in what is now modern day Turkey.

The success of the Celts started to diminish some time after 100BC, the main reason being the Roman Empire, but Germanic tribes were also pushing out the Celts. Furthermore, as with all tribes, cross marriages, and the natural assimilation of people from one race into another took its toll and the Celts gradually slid out of history.

Today Celtic connections remain strong in Scotland, Ireland, the parts of France formerly known as "Gaul" and of course Galicia.

It is also interesting to note the similarities between the words, Galicia (there is also another one in Poland), Galitia (Turkey), Gaul (France), and Gailes (the Irish Celts). All appear to have a similar root in a common language reinforcing the once dominance of the Celtic people across Europe’s boundaries.

An alternative view

The content of both this page and the page entitled, Are Galicians Celts, have provoked a number of emails, the majority disagreeing with much of what appears above. In order to keep a balance and put forward an alternative (and more thoroughly researched) view of the Galician claim to Celticity, here are a couple of the responses we have received. The final one has been edited to a degree.

JLP's email

CAB's email

If you would like to add your view, or support any of the arguments put forward, email us with your thoughts.

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