Conflict & Celts: The Creation of Ancient Galatia

Conflict & Celts: The Creation of Ancient Galatia

Galatia was the most long-lasting and powerful Celtic settlement outside of Europe. It was the only kingdom of note to be forged during the Celtic invasions of the Mediterranean in the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. From its foundation, Galatia was a formidable power in Asia Minor, capable of demanding tribute from powerful states like the Kingdom of Pergamon.

Galatia was situated in eastern Phrygia, a region now within modern-day Turkey. From this stronghold, the Galatians raided and pillaged their neighbours in Asia Minor and the Aegean. This aggressive stance brought it into conflict with several Hellenistic powers, and eventually even the Roman Republic. Despite a staggering defeat in the Galatian War of 189 BCE, the Celtic communities of Galatia maintained their identity well into Late Antiquity.

The Celtic Exodus

When the Galatian tribes arrived, Anatolia was already teeming with different peoples, including many other transplanted communities.

At first, small groups began raiding further and further afield, to regions like Italy and the Middle Danube. This eventually snowballed into large-scale population movements into the Mediterranean basin during the 4th and 3rd Centuries BCE. Ancient Roman authors are probably correct in surmising that migrating Celts were partly motivated by their appetite for Mediterranean luxuries like wine and olive oil.

A large coalition of Celtic tribes led by a king named Brennus invaded Greece in the 3rd century BCE. Brennus and his Celts were defeated at Delphi after a few initial victories, after which the allied tribes were scattered. However, a splinter group detached from this coalition and invaded Thrace before laying siege to Byzantium. Two chiefs, Leonorius and Lutarius, led this splinter group of three tribes, the Tolistobogii, the Tectosages, and Trocmi. Only about half of their number were fighting men, the rest were women and children. This mass of settlers relied on raiding and pillaging to support themselves but was in dire need of a secure home in the short term.

The followers of Leonorius and Lutarius were destined for something more impressive than the fate which befell the tribes led by Brennus. It was these Celts who became known to history as the Galatians after crossing into Asia Minor.

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Entry Into Anatolia

Nicomedes I of Bithynia (r. 278-255 BCE) invited Leonorius and Lutarius into Anatolia as his allies in exchange for their martial assistance. Nicomedes I was at that time vying against both his brother Zipoetes II of Bithynia and the Seleucid king Antiochus I Soter (r. 281-261 BCE). The Celts proved to be valuable allies, and Nicomedes I came out victorious in his battles. This alliance allowed Leonorius and Lutarius to bring their people into a new and promising land.

When the Galatian tribes arrived, Anatolia was already teeming with different peoples, including many other transplanted communities. Greeks had long since established colonies and city-states in Asia Minor, and Thracian tribes had emigrated to the peninsula even before that. Many of the tribes and most of the cities were somewhat Hellenized, having been influenced by, and in turn influencing, Greece for centuries.

Galatia, a Celtic Kingdom in Asia Minor

For some time the Celts were able to rampage over Asia Minor without challenge. From their initial footholds in the Near East, they staged raids against the surrounding cities. This brief period of free reign was brought to an end by Antiochus I Soter at the “Elephant Battle” of 275 BCE. The Celts facing Antiochus had never before seen elephants, and the battle turned into a crushing defeat.

After the Elephant Battle, the Celtic tribes made an alliance with Mithridates I of Pontus (r. 281-266 BCE). Around 232 BCE, the Celts settled around the city of Ankara, in a part of Phrygia. The Hellenistic kings who divided Asia Minor were in agreement about the need to resolve the Celtic problem, and settling the marauding tribes in the barren hills of Central Anatolia seemed like a fitting solution. Eventually, this region became known as Galatia, deriving from Galatae, a Greek name for Celts.

The Celts who settled in Galatia brought with them their pastoral lifestyle. While some major cities like Ankara were used as tribal headquarters, the Celts built no new cities of their own and even destroyed some of those which already existed. Galatian tribes built hillforts, known as oppida (sing. oppidum), to protect their farmsteads and settlements. Tribal groups staked out their own territories, and competition between Celtic Galatian chiefs quickly resumed.

The Roman geographer Strabo (c. 64 BCE - c. 24 CE) described the history of Galatia's political organization:

The three tribes spoke the same language and differed from each other in no respect; and each was divided into four portions which were called tetrarchies, each tetrarchy having its own tetrarch, and also one judge and one military commander, both subject to the tetrarch, and two subordinate commanders. The Council of the twelve tetrarchs consisted of three hundred men, who assembled at Drynemetum, as it was called. Now the Council passed judgment upon murder cases, but the tetrarchs and the judges upon all others. Such, then, was the organisation of Galatia long ago, but in my time the power has passed to three rulers, then to two, and then to one, Deïotarus, and then to Amyntas, who succeeded him. But at the present time the Romans possess both this country and the whole of the country that became subject to Amyntas, having united them into one province.

(Geography, 12.5.1)

While Celts did not immigrate to Asia Minor in large enough numbers to displace the local populations, they did become the ruling caste. Celtic culture seems to have permeated the lower levels of society and was assimilated into local traditions.

Rivalry with the Kingdom of Pergamon

The Galatians did not sit idly by after establishing themselves in Galatia, they soon resumed their raids in the rest of Asia Minor. Galatian raids against Aegean cities intensified in the 3rd century BCE, spurred on by the vast wealth and political instability of the Hellenistic cities.

The Attalid Dynasty, based in their capital of Pergamon, was the great power in the region and the most powerful enemy of the Galatians. Eumenes I of Pergamon (r. 263-241 BCE) paid the Galatians tribute in exchange for peace, as the other rulers of Asia did. Eumenes I's successor Attalus I (r. 241-197 BCE) had no intention of appeasing the Galatians with treasure. Instead, Attalus I went to war with the Galatians to assert his power.

Attalus I eventually defeated the Galatians at the Springs of Kaikos in 233 BCE, a dramatic victory that became his crowning achievement. Pausanias (c. 110-180 BCE) recounted a Greek legend that Attalus and his defeat of the Galatians had been prophesied.

That the Celtic army would cross from Europe to Asia to destroy the cities there was prophesied by Phaennis in her oracles a generation before the invasion occurred:

'Then verily, having crossed the narrow strait of the Hellespont,

The devastating host of the Gauls shall pipe; and lawlessly

They shall ravage Asia; and much worse shall God do

To those who dwell by the shores of the sea

For a short while. For right soon the son of Cronos

Shall raise them a helper, the dear son of a bull reared by Zeus,

Who on all the Gauls shall bring a day of destruction.'

(Paus. 10.15.2-3)

Attalus I took on the epithet 'Soter' ('the Saviour') to commemorate his defeat of barbarians who threatened the Hellenistic cities of Asia Minor. Attalus I Soter commissioned artwork depicting his defeat of the Galatians. It was around this time that the Galatian or Gallic warrior became the archetypal barbarian of the Greek imagination.

The Galatian War

In the aftermath of the Galatian War, the Roman Republic forced the Galatians to cease all raiding in western Asia Minor.

In the early 2nd century BCE, Galatia was dragged into the conflicts between the Roman Republic and the Seleucid Empire. Antiochus III (223-187 BCE) employed large numbers of Galatian troops in his wars with the Kingdom of Pergamon. These Galatians were present for Antiochus III's defeat at the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BCE by a Roman-Pergamene alliance. Galatian involvement in the conflict was used by the Roman Republic as a casus belli for the Galatian War in 189 BCE. The year after the Battle of Magnesia, a Roman general named Gnaeus Manlius Vulso was tasked with conquering the kingdom of Galatia. Attalus I assisted the Romans in this war against their mutual enemies.

In preparation for war, the Tectosages gathered their forces around the city of Ankara. The Tolistobogii and the Trocmi amassed their numbers around Mount Olympus (modern Uludağ) in Galatia, not to be confused with the more famous mountain in Greece. The Roman-Pergamene alliance defeated the Galatians at Mount Olympus, effectively conquering two of the three tribes in Galatia.

It was not easy to get at the number of those killed, for the flight and the carnage extended over all the spurs and ravines of the mountain, and a great many losing their way had fallen into the deep recesses below; many, too, were killed in the woods and thickets. Claudius, who states that there were two battles on Olympus, puts the number of killed at 40,000; Valerius Antias, who is usually more given to exaggeration, says that there were not more than 10,000. The prisoners, no doubt, amounted to 40,000, because they had carried with them a multitude of both sexes and all ages, more like emigrants than men going to war.

(Livy, Roman History, 38.23)

Gnaeus Manlius Vulso followed up this victory by defeating the Tectosages at Ankara later that year, effectively bringing all of Galatia to heel. In the aftermath of the Galatian War, the Roman Republic forced the Galatians to cease all raiding in western Asia Minor. However, the Romans also prevented the Pergamon from dominating Galatia.

Propaganda & Power on the Pergamon Altar

Eumenes II commissioned four monumental works to commemorate his triumphs over the Celts on the Pergamene Acropolis. These monuments paid homage the triumphs of the Attalid dynasty, including Eumenes II's defeat of the Galatians c. 166 BCE. Legendary events like the founding of Pergamon by Telephus, and the Gigantomachy from Greek mythology were the most prominently portrayed themes, but other incidents from myth and history were also portrayed.

The monuments have since been lost, but several large marble blocks from the 2.48 meter base of the monument have been excavated. An inscription from one of these blocks reads:

King Attalos having conquered in battle the Tolistobogii Gauls around the springs of the river Kaikos [set up this] thank-offering to Athena. (Pollitt, 85)

The famous 'Dying Gaul' (in the Capitoline Museums) and the 'Ludovisi Gaul' (in the Museo Nazionale di Roma) are some of a few Roman copies of 2nd-century BCE Hellenistic art that may have originally been a part of this monument.

Legacy of Galatia

Galatia emerged from a period of heavy migration as the only great kingdom born from the Celtic diaspora. The strength of its armies secured its place in the violent world of the Hellenistic Period. Galatians were widely used as mercenaries in the ancient world, and Celtic tribes from Europe continued to migrate to the Mediterranean where they found work as mercenaries.

Galatians were used by all the great Hellenistic armies and fought in the wars of the Seleucids and Ptolemies. Celtic mercenaries had a reputation of being capable but unreliable warriors. Despite their value as mercenaries, Galatians were often mistrusted for their foreign ways and their lack of loyalty to the kings who purchased their services.

The nation of the Gauls, however, was at that time so prolific, that they filled all Asia as with one swarm. The kings of the east then carried on no wars without a mercenary army of Gauls; nor, if they were driven from their thrones, did they seek protection with any other people than the Gauls. Such indeed was the terror of the Gallic name, and the unvaried good fortune of their arms, that princes thought they could neither maintain their power in security, nor recover it if lost, without the assistance of Gallic valour.

(Marcus Junianus Justinus, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, 25.2)

Galatia was heavily influenced by Asiatic, Greek, and Roman cultures in antiquity, but the region also maintained a strong Celtic tradition in the local language and the Celtic heritage of its ruling families. The most well-known reference to ancient Galatia is Saint Paul's Epistle to the Galatians in the New Testament. In the 4th century CE, Saint Jerome (347 - 420 CE) remarked upon similarities between the language of the Galatians and the Celts in Treverorum (Trier).

  • Previously published as Celts in Asia Minor: Part 4 of Celtic History Explained on Magna Celtae

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Galatians (people) (W)

The Galatians ( Γαλάται , romanized: Galátai Latin: Galatae, Galati, Gallograeci Greek: Γαλάτες , romanized: Galátes, lit. 'Gauls') were a Gallic (Celtic) people of the Hellenistic period that dwelt mainly in the north central regions of Asia Minor or Anatolia, in what was known as Galatia, in today's Turkey. In their origin they were a part of the great migration which invaded Macedon, led by Brennus. The originals who settled in Galatia came through Thrace under the leadership of Leotarios and Leonnorios c. 278 BC. They consisted mainly of three tribes, the Tectosages, the Trocmii, and the Tolistobogii, but there were also other minor tribes. They spoke a Celtic language, the Galatian language, which is sparsely attested.

In the 1st century AD, many Galatians of the Roman Empire were Christianized by Paul the Apostle's missionary activities. The Epistle to the Galatians by Paul the Apostle is addressed to Galatian Christian communities and is preserved in the Bible (i.e. the New Testament).

Seeing something of a Hellenized savage in the Galatians, Francis Bacon and other Renaissance writers called them Gallo-Graeci ('Gauls settled among the Greeks') and the country Gallo-Graecia, as had the 3rd century AD Latin historian Justin. The more usual term was Ancient Greek: Ἑλληνογαλάται , romanized: Hellēnogalátai of Diodorus Siculus' Bibliotheca historica v.32.5, in a passage that is translated ". and were called Gallo-Graeci because of their connection with the Greeks", identifying Galatia in the Greek East as opposed to Gaul in the West.

Brennus invaded Greece in 281 BC with a huge war band and was turned back before he could plunder the temple of Apollo at Delphi. At the same time, another Gaulish group of men, women, and children were migrating through Thrace. They had split off from Brennus' people in 279 BC, and had migrated into Thrace under their leaders Leonnorius and Lutarius. These invaders appeared in Asia Minor in 278-277 BC others invaded Macedonia, killed the Ptolemaic ruler Ptolemy Ceraunus but were eventually ousted by Antigonus Gonatas, the grandson of the defeated Diadoch Antigonus the One-Eyed.

The invaders came at the invitation of Nicomedes I of Bithynia, who required help in a dynastic struggle against his brother. Three tribes crossed over from Thrace to Asia Minor. They numbered about 10,000 fighting men and about the same number of women and children, divided into three tribes, Trocmi, Tolistobogii and Tectosages. They were eventually defeated by the Seleucid king Antiochus I, in a battle where the Seleucid war elephants shocked the Celts. While the momentum of the invasion was broken, the Galatians were by no means exterminated.

Instead, the migration led to the establishment of a long-lived Galatian territory in central Anatolia, which included the eastern part of ancient Phrygia, that became known as Galatia. There they ultimately settled once strengthened by fresh accessions of the same clan from Europe, they overran Bithynia and supported themselves by plundering neighbouring countries.

The Galatians invaded the eastern part of Phrygia on at least one occasion.

The constitution of the Galatian state is described by Strabo: conformably to custom, each tribe was divided into cantons, each governed by a tetrarch with a judge under him, whose powers were unlimited except in cases of murder, which were tried before a council of 300 drawn from the twelve cantons and meeting at a holy place, twenty miles south-west of Ancyra, written in Ancient Greek: Δρυνεμετον , romanized: Drunemeton/Drynemeton, lit. 'holy place of oak'. It is likely it was a sacred oak grove, since the name means 'sanctuary of the oaks' in Gaulish: *dru-nemeton (from drus, lit. 'oak', and nemeton, lit. 'sacred ground'). The local population of Cappadocians were left in control of the towns and most of the land, paying tithes to their new overlords, who formed a military aristocracy and kept aloof in fortified farmsteads, surrounded by their bands.

These Galatians were warriors, respected by Greeks and Romans (illustration, below). They were often hired as mercenary soldiers, sometimes fighting on both sides in the great battles of the times. For years the chieftains and their war bands ravaged the western half of Asia Minor as allies of one or other of the warring princes without any serious check — until they sided with the renegade Seleucid prince Antiochus Hierax, who reigned in Asia Minor. Hierax tried to defeat Attalus, the ruler of Pergamon (241-197 BC), but instead the Hellenized cities united under Attalus' banner and his armies inflicted several severe defeats upon Hierax and the Galatians in c. 232, forcing them to settle permanently and to confine themselves to the region to which they had already given their name. The theme of the Dying Gaul (a famous statue displayed in Pergamon) remained a favourite in Hellenistic art for a generation.

Their right to the district was formally recognized.

The king of Attalid Pergamon employed their services in the increasingly devastating wars of Asia Minor another band deserted from their Egyptian overlord Ptolemy IV after a solar eclipse had broken their spirits.

In 189 BC, Rome sent Gnaeus Manlius Vulso on an expedition against the Galatians, the Galatian War, defeating them. Galatia was henceforth dominated by Rome through regional rulers from 189 BC onward. Galatia declined, at times falling under Pontic ascendancy. They were finally freed by the Mithridatic Wars, during which they supported Rome.

In the settlement of 64 BC, Galatia became a client-state of the Roman empire, the old constitution disappeared, and three chiefs (wrongly styled 'tetrarchs') were appointed, one for each tribe. But this arrangement soon gave way before the ambition of one of these tetrarchs, Deiotarus, the contemporary of Cicero and Julius Caesar, who made himself master of the other two tetrarchies and was finally recognized by the Romans as 'king' of Galatia.

A Brief Chronology of Ancient Bronze Age European and Celtic History

Ca. 7000 BC Earliest farming villages in Europe.
Ca. 5000 BC Agriculture reaches Iberia.
Ca. 4500 BC Copper metallurgy reaches the Balkans.
Ca. 4000 BC Copper metallurgy introduced in Europe.
Ca. 3500 BC Construction of Megalithic tombs and circles in Atlantic coastal areas.
Ca. 3500 BC The cart and plow spread across Europe.
Ca. 3000 BC Bronze metallurgy begins in Europe.
Ca. 3000 BC Nomadic Indo-European settlers colonize large areas of Europe.
Ca. 2000 BC Stonehenge built.
Ca. 1800 BC Proto-Celts begin moving into Western Europe and the British Isles.
1300-1000 BC Urnfield culture begins and spreads throughtout Europe.
1100 BC Earliest hilltop fort sites in Europe.
1000-800 BC Urnfield culture penetrates Iberia.
1000-800 BC Hallstatt culture begins in Central Europe.
Ca. 700 BC Iron metallurgy begins in Celtic Danube regions.
650 BC Hallstatt Celtic wagon burials in Bohemia and Bavaria.
600 BC Iberian Celts are cut off from France by Iberians.
550 BC Celtic contact with Greek colony of Massalia in Southern France.
500 BC Hallstatt Celts migrate to Britain.
450 BC Herodotus describes the Celts
400 BC La Tène begins its frist phase, Celts settle the Po Valley in Northern Italy, conflict with Etruscans.
400 BC Celts become known to the Greeks and Romans (Greek: Keltoi, Latin: Galli)
390 BC Battle of Allia, Celts (Senones) sack the city of Rome.
368 BC Celtic mercenaries employed by Syracuse.
334 BC Romans sign a peace treaty with the Senones.
298 BC Celts invade Thrace and are defeated at Mt. Haemus.
285-282 BC Roman defeat the Senones.
279 BC Celts under Brennus invade Greece and sack Delphi.
278 BC Celts invade and settle in Anatolia (Galatia).
274 BC Celts are employed in the armies of the Seleucids and Ptolemies.
264-241 BC Celts involved in the First Punic War.
240 BC Attalos defeats the Gauls of Asia Minor, erects victory monuments.
225 BC Celts are defeated at Telamon in Tuscany, Celtic expansion begins to wane.
216 BC Celts assist in Hannibal's invasion of Italy and the Carthaginian victory at Cannae.
Ca. 200 BC Germans begin to dominate Central Europe.
125 BC Roman conquest of Southern Gaul.
123 BC Romans annex Gallia Narbonensis.
121 BC Domitius Ahenobarbus routs Allobroges at Arveni.
113 BC War between Romans and Celtic Iberians.
106 BC Romans annex Tolosa (Tolouse).
105 BC Roman forces are defeated by the Germanic Cimbri and Teutones at Orange.
101 BC Romans defeat the Cimbri and Teutones at Vercelli.
Ca. 100 BC Final phase of La Tène culture.
100 BC Belgic Gauls migrate into Britain.
88 BC Mithradates IV slaughters the leaders of Celtic Galatia.
58 BC Julius Caesar begins to subjugate Gaul.
55-54 BC Rome sends expeditionary force to Britain.
52 BC Vercengetorix leads a Gallic rebellion, defeated at the siege of Alesia by Julius Caesar.
9 BC Illyricum becomes a Roman province.
7 BC Victory monument at La Turbie, Provence.
9 AD Arminius leads northern German tribes in a complete annihilation of three Roman legions at Teutoberg Forest.
43 AD Romans under Claudius invade Britain.
61 AD British revolt led by Queen Boudicca of the Iceni is defeated.
69 AD Southern Britain is Romanized.
84 AD Romans defeat the Caldonians in Northern Britain.


The first recorded use of the name of Celts – as Κελτοί (Keltoi) in Greek – to refer to an ethnic group was by Hecataeus of Miletus, the Greek geographer, in 517 BC, [19] when writing about a people living near Massilia (modern Marseille). [20] In the fifth century BC, Herodotus referred to Keltoi living around the head of the Danube and also in the far west of Europe. [21] The etymology of the term Keltoi is unclear. Possible roots include Indo-European *kʲel 'to hide' (present also in Old Irish ceilid), IE *kʲel 'to heat' or *kel 'to impel'. [22] Several authors have supposed it to be Celtic in origin, while others view it as a name coined by Greeks. Linguist Patrizia De Bernardo Stempel falls in the latter group, and suggests the meaning "the tall ones". [23]

In the 1st century BC, Julius Caesar reported that the people known to the Romans as Gauls (Latin: Galli) called themselves Celts, [24] which suggests that even if the name Keltoi was bestowed by the Greeks, it had been adopted to some extent as a collective name by the tribes of Gaul. The geographer Strabo, writing about Gaul towards the end of the first century BC, refers to the "race which is now called both Gallic and Galatic," though he also uses the term Celtica as a synonym for Gaul, which is separated from Iberia by the Pyrenees. Yet he reports Celtic peoples in Iberia, and also uses the ethnic names Celtiberi and Celtici for peoples there, as distinct from Lusitani and Iberi. [25] Pliny the Elder cited the use of Celtici in Lusitania as a tribal surname, [26] which epigraphic findings have confirmed. [27] [28]

Latin Gallus (pl. Galli) might stem from a Celtic ethnic or tribal name originally, perhaps one borrowed into Latin during the Celtic expansions into Italy during the early fifth century BC. Its root may be the Proto-Celtic *galno, meaning "power, strength", hence Old Irish gal "boldness, ferocity" and Welsh gallu "to be able, power". The tribal names of Gallaeci and the Greek Γαλάται (Galatai, Latinized Galatae see the region Galatia in Anatolia) most probably have the same origin. [29] The suffix -atai might be an Ancient Greek inflection. [30] Classical writers did not apply the terms Κελτοί (Keltoi) or Celtae to the inhabitants of Britain or Ireland, [6] [7] [8] which has led to some scholars preferring not to use the term for the Iron Age inhabitants of those islands. [6] [7] [8] [9]

Celt is a modern English word, first attested in 1707, in the writing of Edward Lhuyd, whose work, along with that of other late 17th-century scholars, brought academic attention to the languages and history of the early Celtic inhabitants of Great Britain. [31] The English form Gaul (first recorded in the 17th century) and Gaulish come from the French Gaule and Gaulois, a borrowing from Frankish *Walholant, "Roman land" (see Gaul: Name), the root of which is Proto-Germanic *walha-, "foreigner, Roman, Celt", whence the English word Welsh (Old English wælisċ < *walhiska-), South German welsch, meaning "Celtic speaker", "French speaker" or "Italian speaker" in different contexts, and Old Norse valskr, pl. valir, "Gaulish, French"). Proto-Germanic *walha is derived ultimately from the name of the Volcae, [32] a Celtic tribe who lived first in the south of Germany and in central Europe and then migrated to Gaul. [33] This means that English Gaul, despite its superficial similarity, is not actually derived from Latin Gallia (which should have produced **Jaille in French), though it does refer to the same ancient region.

Celtic refers to a family of languages and, more generally, means "of the Celts" or "in the style of the Celts". Several archaeological cultures are considered Celtic in nature, based on unique sets of artefacts. The link between language and artefact is aided by the presence of inscriptions. [34] The relatively modern idea of an identifiable Celtic cultural identity or "Celticity" generally focuses on similarities among languages, works of art, and classical texts, [35] and sometimes also among material artefacts, social organisation, homeland and mythology. [36] Earlier theories held that these similarities suggest a common racial origin for the various Celtic peoples, but more recent theories hold that they reflect a common cultural and language heritage more than a genetic one. Celtic cultures seem to have been widely diverse, with the use of a Celtic language being the main thing they had in common. [6]

Today, the term Celtic generally refers to the languages and respective cultures of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, and Brittany, also known as the Celtic nations. These are the regions where four Celtic languages are still spoken to some extent as mother tongues. The four are Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, and Breton plus two recent revivals, Cornish (one of the Brittonic languages) and Manx (one of the Goidelic languages). There are also attempts to reconstruct Cumbric, a Brittonic language from North West England and South West Scotland. Celtic regions of Continental Europe are those whose residents claim a Celtic heritage, but where no Celtic language has survived these areas include the western Iberian Peninsula, i.e. Portugal and north-central Spain (Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Castile and León, Extremadura). [37]

Continental Celts are the Celtic-speaking people of mainland Europe and Insular Celts are the Celtic-speaking peoples of the British and Irish islands and their descendants. The Celts of Brittany derive their language from migrating insular Celts, mainly from Wales and Cornwall, and so are grouped accordingly. [38]

The Celtic languages form a branch of the larger Indo-European family. By the time speakers of Celtic languages entered history around 400 BC, they were already split into several language groups, and spread over much of Western continental Europe, the Iberian Peninsula, Ireland and Britain. The Greek historian Ephorus of Cyme in Asia Minor, writing in the 4th century BC, believed that the Celts came from the islands off the mouth of the Rhine and were "driven from their homes by the frequency of wars and the violent rising of the sea".

Borders of the region known as Celtica at time of the Roman conquest c. 54 BC they soon renamed it Gallia Lugdunensis.

Hallstatt culture

Some scholars think that the Urnfield culture of western Middle Europe represents an origin for the Celts as a distinct cultural branch of the Indo-European family. [10] This culture was preeminent in central Europe during the late Bronze Age, from circa 1200 BC until 700 BC, itself following the Unetice and Tumulus cultures. The Urnfield period saw a dramatic increase in population in the region, probably due to innovations in technology and agriculture.

The spread of iron-working led to the development of the Hallstatt culture directly from the Urnfield (c. 700 to 500 BC). Proto-Celtic, the latest common ancestor of all known Celtic languages, is considered by this school of thought to have been spoken at the time of the late Urnfield or early Hallstatt cultures, in the early 1st millennium BC. [39] [40] [41] The spread of the Celtic languages to Iberia, Ireland and Britain would have occurred during the first half of the 1st millennium BC, the earliest chariot burials in Britain dating to c. 500 BC. Other scholars see Celtic languages as covering Britain and Ireland, and parts of the Continent, long before any evidence of "Celtic" culture is found in archaeology. Over the centuries the language(s) developed into the separate Celtiberian, Goidelic and Brittonic languages.

The Hallstatt culture was succeeded by the La Tène culture of central Europe, which was overrun by the Roman Empire, though traces of La Tène style are still to be seen in Gallo-Roman artefacts. In Britain and Ireland La Tène style in art survived precariously to re-emerge in Insular art. Early Irish literature casts light on the flavour and tradition of the heroic warrior elites who dominated Celtic societies. Celtic river-names are found in great numbers around the upper reaches of the Danube and Rhine, which led many Celtic scholars to place the ethnogenesis of the Celts in this area.

Diodorus Siculus and Strabo both suggest that the heartland of the people they called Celts was in southern France. The former says that the Gauls were to the north of the Celts, but that the Romans referred to both as Gauls (in linguistic terms the Gauls were certainly Celts). Before the discoveries at Hallstatt and La Tène, it was generally considered that the Celtic heartland was southern France, see Encyclopædia Britannica for 1813.

Atlantic seaboard theory

Myles Dillon and Nora Kershaw Chadwick accepted that "the Celtic settlement of the British Isles" might have to be dated to the Bell Beaker culture concluding that "There is no reason why so early a date for the coming of the Celts should be impossible". [42] [43] Martín Almagro Gorbea [44] proposed the origins of the Celts could be traced back to the 3rd millennium BC, also seeking the initial roots in the Beaker period, thus offering the wide dispersion of the Celts throughout western Europe, as well as the variability of the different Celtic peoples, and the existence of ancestral traditions and ancient perspective. Using a multidisciplinary approach, Alberto J. Lorrio and Gonzalo Ruiz Zapatero reviewed and built on Almagro Gorbea's work to present a model for the origin of the Celtic archaeological groups in the Iberian Peninsula (Celtiberian, Vetton, Vaccean, the Castro culture of the northwest, Asturian-Cantabrian and Celtic of the southwest) and proposing a rethinking of the meaning of "Celtic" from a European perspective. [45] More recently, John Koch [46] and Barry Cunliffe [47] have suggested that Celtic origins lie with the Atlantic Bronze Age, roughly contemporaneous with the Hallstatt culture but positioned considerably to the West, extending along the Atlantic coast of Europe.

Stephen Oppenheimer [48] points out that the only written evidence that locates the Keltoi near the source of the Danube (i.e. in the Hallstatt region) is in the Histories of Herodotus. However, Oppenheimer shows that Herodotus seemed to believe the Danube rose near the Pyrenees, which would place the Ancient Celts in a region which is more in agreement with later classical writers and historians (i.e. in Gaul and the Iberian peninsula).

Celtic origins from (Gaul/France)

Celticist Patrick Sims-Williams (2020) argues for an origin of Celtic in a region, neither in central Europe nor the Atlantic, but in between, i.e. within modern France not far from the Alps. [49]

Linguistic evidence

The Proto-Celtic language is usually dated to the Late Bronze Age. [10] The earliest records of a Celtic language are the Lepontic inscriptions of Cisalpine Gaul (Northern Italy), the oldest of which predate the La Tène period. Other early inscriptions, appearing from the early La Tène period in the area of Massilia, are in Gaulish, which was written in the Greek alphabet until the Roman conquest. Celtiberian inscriptions, using their own Iberian script, appear later, after about 200 BC. Evidence of Insular Celtic is available only from about 400 AD, in the form of Primitive Irish Ogham inscriptions.

Besides epigraphical evidence, an important source of information on early Celtic is toponymy. [50]

Genetic evidence

Historically many scholars postulated that there was genetic evidence of a common origin of the European Atlantic populations i.e.: Orkney Islands, Scottish, Irish, British, Bretons, and Iberians (Basques, Galicians). [51]

More recent genetic evidence does not support the notion of a significant genetic link between these populations, beyond the fact that they are all West Eurasians. Sardinian-like Neolithic farmers did populate Britain (and all of Northern Europe) during the Neolithic period, however, recent genetics research has claimed that, between 2400BC and 2000BC, over 90% of British DNA was overturned by a North European population of ultimate Russian Steppe origin as part of an ongoing migration process that brought large amounts of Steppe DNA (including the R1b haplogroup) to North and West Europe. [52] Modern autosomal genetic clustering is testament to this fact, as both modern and Iron Age British and Irish samples cluster genetically very closely with other North European populations, and somewhat limited with Galicians, Basques or those from the south of France. [53] [54] Such findings have largely put to rest the theory that there is a significant ancestral genetic link (beyond being Europeans) between the various 'Celtic' peoples in the Atlantic area instead, they are related in that male lines are brother R1b L151 subclades with the local native maternal line admixture explaining the genetic distance noted.

Archaeological evidence

Before the 19th century, scholars [ who? ] assumed that the original land of the Celts was west of the Rhine, more precisely in Gaul, because it was where Greek and Roman ancient sources, namely Caesar, located the Celts. This view was challenged by the 19th-century historian Marie Henri d'Arbois de Jubainville [ citation needed ] who placed the land of origin of the Celts east of the Rhine. Jubainville based his arguments on a phrase of Herodotus' that placed the Celts at the source of the Danube, and argued that Herodotus had meant to place the Celtic homeland in southern Germany. The finding of the prehistoric cemetery of Hallstat in 1846 by Johan Ramsauer and the finding of the archaeological site of La Tène by Hansli Kopp in 1857 drew attention to this area.

The concept that the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures could be seen not just as chronological periods but as "Culture Groups", entities composed of people of the same ethnicity and language, had started to grow by the end of the 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century the belief that these "Culture Groups" could be thought of in racial or ethnic terms was strongly held by Gordon Childe whose theory was influenced by the writings of Gustaf Kossinna. [55] As the 20th century progressed, the racial ethnic interpretation of La Tène culture became much more strongly rooted, and any findings of La Tène culture and flat inhumation cemeteries were directly associated with the Celts and the Celtic language. [56] The Iron Age Hallstatt (c. 800–475 BC) and La Tène (c. 500–50 BC) cultures are typically associated with Proto-Celtic and Celtic culture. [57]

In various [ clarification needed ] academic disciplines the Celts were considered a Central European Iron Age phenomenon, through the cultures of Hallstatt and La Tène. However, archaeological finds from the Halstatt and La Tène culture were rare in the Iberian Peninsula, in southwestern France, northern and western Britain, southern Ireland and Galatia [59] [60] and did not provide enough evidence for a cultural scenario comparable to that of Central Europe. It is considered equally difficult to maintain that the origin of the Peninsular Celts can be linked to the preceding Urnfield culture. This has resulted in a more recent approach that introduces a 'proto-Celtic' substratum and a process of Celticisation, having its initial roots in the Bronze Age Bell Beaker culture. [61]

The La Tène culture developed and flourished during the late Iron Age (from 450 BC to the Roman conquest in the 1st century BC) in eastern France, Switzerland, Austria, southwest Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. It developed out of the Hallstatt culture without any definite cultural break, under the impetus of considerable Mediterranean influence from Greek, and later Etruscan civilisations. A shift of settlement centres took place in the 4th century.

The western La Tène culture corresponds to historical Celtic Gaul. Whether this means that the whole of La Tène culture can be attributed to a unified Celtic people is difficult to assess archaeologists have repeatedly concluded that language, material culture, and political affiliation do not necessarily run parallel. Frey notes that in the 5th century, "burial customs in the Celtic world were not uniform rather, localised groups had their own beliefs, which, in consequence, also gave rise to distinct artistic expressions". [62] Thus, while the La Tène culture is certainly associated with the Gauls, the presence of La Tène artefacts may be due to cultural contact and does not imply the permanent presence of Celtic speakers.

Historical evidence

Polybius published a history of Rome about 150 BC in which he describes the Gauls of Italy and their conflict with Rome. Pausanias in the 2nd century AD says that the Gauls "originally called Celts", "live on the remotest region of Europe on the coast of an enormous tidal sea". Posidonius described the southern Gauls about 100 BC. Though his original work is lost it was used by later writers such as Strabo. The latter, writing in the early 1st century AD, deals with Britain and Gaul as well as Hispania, Italy and Galatia. Caesar wrote extensively about his Gallic Wars in 58–51 BC. Diodorus Siculus wrote about the Celts of Gaul and Britain in his 1st-century history.

Continental Celts

The Romans knew the Celts then living in present-day France as Gauls. The territory of these peoples probably included the Low Countries, the Alps and present-day northern Italy. Julius Caesar in his Gallic Wars described the 1st-century BC descendants of those Gauls.

Eastern Gaul became the centre of the western La Tène culture. In later Iron Age Gaul, the social organisation resembled that of the Romans, with large towns. From the 3rd century BC the Gauls adopted coinage. Texts with Greek characters from southern Gaul have survived from the 2nd century BC.

Greek traders founded Massalia about 600 BC, with some objects (mostly drinking ceramics) being traded up the Rhone valley. But trade became disrupted soon after 500 BC and re-oriented over the Alps to the Po valley in the Italian peninsula. The Romans arrived in the Rhone valley in the 2nd century BC and encountered a mostly Celtic-speaking Gaul. Rome wanted land communications with its Iberian provinces and fought a major battle with the Saluvii at Entremont in 124–123 BC. Gradually Roman control extended, and the Roman province of Gallia Transalpina developed along the Mediterranean coast. [63] [64] The Romans knew the remainder of Gaul as Gallia Comata – "Hairy Gaul".

In 58 BC the Helvetii planned to migrate westward but Julius Caesar forced them back. He then became involved in fighting the various tribes in Gaul, and by 55 BC had overrun most of Gaul. In 52 BC Vercingetorix led a revolt against the Roman occupation but was defeated at the Siege of Alesia and surrendered.

Following the Gallic Wars of 58–51 BC, Caesar's Celtica formed the main part of Roman Gaul, becoming the province of Gallia Lugdunensis. This territory of the Celtic tribes was bounded on the south by the Garonne and on the north by the Seine and the Marne. [65] The Romans attached large swathes of this region to neighboring provinces Belgica and Aquitania, particularly under Augustus.

Place- and personal-name analysis and inscriptions suggest that the Gaulish Celtic language was spoken over most of what is now France. [66] [67]


Until the end of the 19th century, traditional scholarship dealing with the Celts did acknowledge their presence in the Iberian Peninsula [68] [69] as a material culture relatable to the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures. However, since according to the definition of the Iron Age in the 19th century Celtic populations were supposedly rare in Iberia and did not provide a cultural scenario that could easily be linked to that of Central Europe, the presence of Celtic culture in that region was generally not fully recognised. Modern scholarship, however, has clearly proven that Celtic presence and influences were most substantial in what is today Spain and Portugal (with perhaps the highest settlement saturation in Western Europe), particularly in the central, western and northern regions. [70] [71]

In addition to Gauls infiltrating from the north of the Pyrenees, the Roman and Greek sources mention Celtic populations in three parts of the Iberian Peninsula: the eastern part of the Meseta (inhabited by the Celtiberians), the southwest (Celtici, in modern-day Alentejo) and the northwest (Gallaecia and Asturias). [72] A modern scholarly review [73] found several archaeological groups of Celts in Spain:

  • The Celtiberian group in the Upper-Douro Upper-Tagus Upper-Jalón area. [74] Archaeological data suggest a continuity at least from the 6th century BC. In this early period, the Celtiberians inhabited in hill-forts (Castros). Around the end of the 3rd century BC, Celtiberians adopted more urban ways of life. From the 2nd century BC, they minted coins and wrote inscriptions using the Celtiberian script. These inscriptions make the Celtiberian Language the only Hispano-Celtic language classified as Celtic with unanimous agreement. [75] In the late period, before the Roman Conquest, both archaeological evidence and Roman sources suggest that the Celtiberians were expanding into different areas in the Peninsula (e.g. Celtic Baeturia).
  • The Vetton group in the western Meseta, between the Tormes, Douro and Tagus Rivers. They were characterised by the production of Verracos, sculptures of bulls and pigs carved in granite.
  • The Vaccean group in the central Douro valley. They were mentioned by Roman sources already in the 220 BC. Some of their funerary rituals suggest strong influences from their Celtiberian neighbours.
  • The Castro Culture in northwestern Iberia, modern day Galicia and Northern Portugal. [76] Its high degree of continuity, from the Late Bronze Age, makes it difficult to support that the introduction of Celtic elements was due to the same process of Celticization of the western Iberia, from the nucleus area of Celtiberia. Two typical elements are the sauna baths with monumental entrances, and the "Gallaecian Warriors", stone sculptures built in the 1st century AD. A large group of Latin inscriptions contain linguistic features that are clearly Celtic, while others are similar to those found in the non-Celtic Lusitanian language. [75]
  • The Astures and the Cantabri. This area was romanised late, as it was not conquered by Rome until the Cantabrian Wars of 29–19 BC.
  • Celts in the southwest, in the area Strabo called Celtica [77]

The origins of the Celtiberians might provide a key to understanding the Celticisation process in the rest of the Peninsula. The process of Celticisation of the southwestern area of the peninsula by the Keltoi and of the northwestern area is, however, not a simple Celtiberian question. Recent investigations about the Callaici [78] and Bracari [79] in northwestern Portugal are providing new approaches to understanding Celtic culture (language, art and religion) in western Iberia. [80]

John T. Koch of Aberystwyth University suggested that Tartessian inscriptions of the 8th century BC might be classified as Celtic. This would mean that Tartessian is the earliest attested trace of Celtic by a margin of more than a century. [81]

Alps and Italy

The Canegrate culture represented the first migratory wave of the proto-Celtic [82] [83] population from the northwest part of the Alps that, through the Alpine passes, had already penetrated and settled in the western Po valley between Lake Maggiore and Lake Como (Scamozzina culture). It has also been proposed that a more ancient proto-Celtic presence can be traced back to the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age, when North Westwern Italy appears closely linked regarding the production of bronze artefacts, including ornaments, to the western groups of the Tumulus culture. [84] La Tène cultural material appeared over a large area of mainland Italy, [85] the southernmost example being the Celtic helmet from Canosa di Puglia. [86]

Italy is home to Lepontic, the oldest attested Celtic language (from the 6th century BC). [87] Anciently spoken in Switzerland and in Northern-Central Italy, from the Alps to Umbria. [88] [89] [90] [91] According to the Recueil des Inscriptions Gauloises, more than 760 Gaulish inscriptions have been found throughout present-day France – with the notable exception of Aquitaine – and in Italy, [92] [93] which testifies the importance of Celtic heritage in the peninsula.

In 391 BC, Celts "who had their homes beyond the Alps streamed through the passes in great strength and seized the territory that lay between the Apennine Mountains and the Alps" according to Diodorus Siculus. The Po Valley and the rest of northern Italy (known to the Romans as Cisalpine Gaul) was inhabited by Celtic-speakers who founded cities such as Milan. [94] Later the Roman army was routed at the battle of Allia and Rome was sacked in 390 BC by the Senones.

At the battle of Telamon in 225 BC, a large Celtic army was trapped between two Roman forces and crushed.

The defeat of the combined Samnite, Celtic and Etruscan alliance by the Romans in the Third Samnite War sounded the beginning of the end of the Celtic domination in mainland Europe, but it was not until 192 BC that the Roman armies conquered the last remaining independent Celtic kingdoms in Italy.

Expansion east and south

The Celts also expanded down the Danube river and its tributaries. One of the most influential tribes, the Scordisci, had established their capital at Singidunum in the 3rd century BC, which is present-day Belgrade, Serbia. The concentration of hill-forts and cemeteries shows a density of population in the Tisza valley of modern-day Vojvodina, Serbia, Hungary and into Ukraine. Expansion into Romania was however blocked by the Dacians.

The Serdi were a Celtic tribe [95] inhabiting Thrace. They were located around and founded Serdika (Bulgarian: Сердика , Latin: Ulpia Serdica, Greek: Σαρδῶν πόλις ), now Sofia in Bulgaria, [96] which reflects their ethnonym. They would have established themselves in this area during the Celtic migrations at the end of the 4th century BC, though there is no evidence for their existence before the 1st century BC. Serdi are among traditional tribal names reported into the Roman era. [97] They were gradually Thracianized over the centuries but retained their Celtic character in material culture up to a late date. [ when? ] [ citation needed ] According to other sources they may have been simply of Thracian origin, [98] according to others they may have become of mixed Thraco-Celtic origin. Further south, Celts settled in Thrace (Bulgaria), which they ruled for over a century, and Anatolia, where they settled as the Galatians (see also: Gallic Invasion of Greece). Despite their geographical isolation from the rest of the Celtic world, the Galatians maintained their Celtic language for at least 700 years. St Jerome, who visited Ancyra (modern-day Ankara) in 373 AD, likened their language to that of the Treveri of northern Gaul.

For Venceslas Kruta, Galatia in central Turkey was an area of dense Celtic settlement.

The Boii tribe gave their name to Bohemia, Bologna and possibly Bavaria, and Celtic artefacts and cemeteries have been discovered further east in what is now Poland and Slovakia. A Celtic coin (Biatec) from Bratislava's mint was displayed on the old Slovak 5-crown coin.

As there is no archaeological evidence for large-scale invasions in some of the other areas, one current school of thought holds that Celtic language and culture spread to those areas by contact rather than invasion. [99] However, the Celtic invasions of Italy and the expedition in Greece and western Anatolia, are well documented in Greek and Latin history.

There are records of Celtic mercenaries in Egypt serving the Ptolemies. Thousands were employed in 283–246 BC and they were also in service around 186 BC. They attempted to overthrow Ptolemy II.

Insular Celts

All Celtic languages extant today belong to the Insular Celtic languages, derived from the Celtic languages spoken in Iron Age Britain and Ireland. [100] They were separated into a Goidelic and a Brythonic branch from an early period.

Linguists have been arguing for many years whether a Celtic language came to Britain and Ireland and then split or whether there were two separate "invasions". The older view of prehistorians was that the Celtic influence in the British Isles was the result of successive invasions from the European continent by diverse Celtic-speaking peoples over the course of several centuries, accounting for the P-Celtic vs. Q-Celtic isogloss. This view has been challenged by the hypothesis that the Celtic languages of the British Isles form a phylogenetic Insular Celtic dialect group. [101]

In the 19th and 20th centuries, scholars commonly dated the "arrival" of Celtic culture in Britain (via an invasion model) to the 6th century BC, corresponding to archaeological evidence of Hallstatt influence and the appearance of chariot burials in what is now England. Some Iron Age migration does seem to have occurred but the nature of the interactions with the indigenous populations of the isles is unknown. According to this model, by about the 6th century (Sub-Roman Britain), most of the inhabitants of the Isles were speaking Celtic languages of either the Goidelic or the Brythonic branch. Since the late 20th century, a new model has emerged (championed by archaeologists such as Barry Cunliffe and Celtic historians such as John T. Koch) which places the emergence of Celtic culture in Britain much earlier, in the Bronze Age, and credits its spread not to invasion, but due to a gradual emergence in situ out of Proto-Indo-European culture (perhaps introduced to the region by the Bell Beaker People, and enabled by an extensive network of contacts that existed between the peoples of Britain and Ireland and those of the Atlantic seaboard. [102] [103]

Classical writers did not apply the terms Κελτοί (Keltoi) or "Celtae" to the inhabitants of Britain or Ireland, [6] [7] [8] leading a number of scholars to question the use of the term Celt to describe the Iron Age inhabitants of those islands. [6] [7] [8] [9] The first historical account of the islands of Britain and Ireland was by Pytheas, a Greek from the city of Massalia, who around 310–306 BC, sailed around what he called the "Pretannikai nesoi", which can be translated as the "Pretannic Isles". [104] In general, classical writers referred to the inhabitants of Britain as Pretannoi or Britanni. [105] Strabo, writing in the Roman era, clearly distinguished between the Celts and Britons. [106]

Under Caesar the Romans conquered Celtic Gaul, and from Claudius onward the Roman empire absorbed parts of Britain. Roman local government of these regions closely mirrored pre-Roman tribal boundaries, and archaeological finds suggest native involvement in local government.

The native peoples under Roman rule became Romanised and keen to adopt Roman ways. Celtic art had already incorporated classical influences, and surviving Gallo-Roman pieces interpret classical subjects or keep faith with old traditions despite a Roman overlay.

The Roman occupation of Gaul, and to a lesser extent of Britain, led to Roman-Celtic syncretism. In the case of the continental Celts, this eventually resulted in a language shift to Vulgar Latin, while the Insular Celts retained their language.

There was also considerable cultural influence exerted by Gaul on Rome, particularly in military matters and horsemanship, as the Gauls often served in the Roman cavalry. The Romans adopted the Celtic cavalry sword, the spatha, and Epona, the Celtic horse goddess. [107] [108]

To the extent that sources are available, they depict a pre-Christian Iron Age Celtic social structure based formally on class and kingship, although this may only have been a particular late phase of organization in Celtic societies. Patron-client relationships similar to those of Roman society are also described by Caesar and others in the Gaul of the 1st century BC.

In the main, the evidence is of tribes being led by kings, although some argue that there is also evidence of oligarchical republican forms of government eventually emerging in areas which had close contact with Rome. Most descriptions of Celtic societies portray them as being divided into three groups: a warrior aristocracy an intellectual class including professions such as druid, poet, and jurist and everyone else. In historical times, the offices of high and low kings in Ireland and Scotland were filled by election under the system of tanistry, which eventually came into conflict with the feudal principle of primogeniture in which succession goes to the first-born son.

Little is known of family structure among the Celts. Patterns of settlement varied from decentralised to urban. The popular stereotype of non-urbanised societies settled in hillforts and duns, [109] drawn from Britain and Ireland (there are about 3,000 hill forts known in Britain) [110] contrasts with the urban settlements present in the core Hallstatt and La Tène areas, with the many significant oppida of Gaul late in the first millennium BC, and with the towns of Gallia Cisalpina.

Slavery, as practised by the Celts, was very likely similar to the better documented practice in ancient Greece and Rome. [111] Slaves were acquired from war, raids, and penal and debt servitude. [111] Slavery was hereditary [ citation needed ] , though manumission was possible. The Old Irish and Welsh words for 'slave', cacht and caeth respectively, are cognate with Latin captus 'captive' suggesting that the slave trade was an early means of contact between Latin and Celtic societies. [111] In the Middle Ages, slavery was especially prevalent in the Celtic countries. [112] Manumissions were discouraged by law and the word for "female slave", cumal, was used as a general unit of value in Ireland. [113]

Archaeological evidence suggests that the pre-Roman Celtic societies were linked to the network of overland trade routes that spanned Eurasia. Archaeologists have discovered large prehistoric trackways crossing bogs in Ireland and Germany. Due to their substantial nature, these are believed to have been created for wheeled transport as part of an extensive roadway system that facilitated trade. [114] The territory held by the Celts contained tin, lead, iron, silver and gold. [115] Celtic smiths and metalworkers created weapons and jewellery for international trade, particularly with the Romans.

The myth that the Celtic monetary system consisted of wholly barter is a common one, but is in part false. The monetary system was complex and is still not understood (much like the late Roman coinages), and due to the absence of large numbers of coin items, it is assumed that "proto-money" was used. This included bronze items made from the early La Tène period and onwards, which were often in the shape of axeheads, rings, or bells. Due to the large number of these present in some burials, it is thought they had a relatively high monetary value, and could be used for "day to day" purchases. Low-value coinages of potin, a bronze alloy with high tin content, were minted in most Celtic areas of the continent and in South-East Britain prior to the Roman conquest of these lands. Higher-value coinages, suitable for use in trade, were minted in gold, silver, and high-quality bronze. Gold coinage was much more common than silver coinage, despite being worth substantially more, as while there were around 100 mines in Southern Britain and Central France, silver was more rarely mined. This was due partly to the relative sparsity of mines and the amount of effort needed for extraction compared to the profit gained. As the Roman civilisation grew in importance and expanded its trade with the Celtic world, silver and bronze coinage became more common. This coincided with a major increase in gold production in Celtic areas to meet the Roman demand, due to the high value Romans put on the metal. The large number of gold mines in France is thought to be a major reason why Caesar invaded.

There are only very limited records from pre-Christian times written in Celtic languages. These are mostly inscriptions in the Roman and sometimes Greek alphabets. The Ogham script, an Early Medieval alphabet, was mostly used in early Christian times in Ireland and Scotland (but also in Wales and England), and was only used for ceremonial purposes such as inscriptions on gravestones. The available evidence is of a strong oral tradition, such as that preserved by bards in Ireland, and eventually recorded by monasteries. Celtic art also produced a great deal of intricate and beautiful metalwork, examples of which have been preserved by their distinctive burial rites.

In some regards the Atlantic Celts were conservative: for example, they still used chariots in combat long after they had been reduced to ceremonial roles by the Greeks and Romans. However, despite being outdated, Celtic chariot tactics were able to repel the invasion of Britain attempted by Julius Caesar.

According to Diodorus Siculus:

The Gauls are tall of body with rippling muscles and white of skin and their hair is blond, and not only naturally so for they also make it their practice by artificial means to increase the distinguishing colour which nature has given it. For they are always washing their hair in limewater and they pull it back from the forehead to the nape of the neck, with the result that their appearance is like that of Satyrs and Pans since the treatment of their hair makes it so heavy and coarse that it differs in no respect from the mane of horses. Some of them shave the beard but others let it grow a little and the nobles shave their cheeks but they let the moustache grow until it covers the mouth.


During the later Iron Age the Gauls generally wore long-sleeved shirts or tunics and long trousers (called braccae by the Romans). [116] Clothes were made of wool or linen, with some silk being used by the rich. Cloaks were worn in the winter. Brooches and armlets were used, but the most famous item of jewellery was the torc, a neck collar of metal, sometimes gold. The horned Waterloo Helmet in the British Museum, which long set the standard for modern images of Celtic warriors, is in fact a unique survival, and may have been a piece for ceremonial rather than military wear.

Gender and sexual norms

Very few reliable sources exist regarding Celtic views on gender divisions and societal status, though some archaeological evidence does suggest that their views of gender roles may differ from contemporary and less egalitarian classical counterparts of the Roman era. [117] [118] There are some general indications from Iron Age burial sites in the Champagne and Bourgogne regions of Northeastern France suggesting that women may have had roles in combat during the earlier La Tène period. However, the evidence is far from conclusive. [119] Examples of individuals buried with both female jewellery and weaponry have been identified, such as the Vix Grave, and there are questions about the gender of some skeletons that were buried with warrior assemblages. However, it has been suggested that "the weapons may indicate rank instead of masculinity". [120]

Among the insular Celts, there is a greater amount of historic documentation to suggest warrior roles for women. In addition to commentary by Tacitus about Boudica, there are indications from later period histories that also suggest a more substantial role for "women as warriors", in symbolic if not actual roles. Posidonius and Strabo described an island of women where men could not venture for fear of death, and where the women ripped each other apart. [121] Other writers, such as Ammianus Marcellinus and Tacitus, mentioned Celtic women inciting, participating in, and leading battles. [122] Posidonius' anthropological comments on the Celts had common themes, primarily primitivism, extreme ferocity, cruel sacrificial practices, and the strength and courage of their women. [123]

Under Brehon Law, which was written down in early Medieval Ireland after conversion to Christianity, a woman had the right to divorce her husband and gain his property if he was unable to perform his marital duties due to impotence, obesity, homosexual inclination or preference for other women. [124]

Classical literature records the views of the Celts' neighbours, though historians are not sure how much relation to reality these had. According to Aristotle, most "belligerent nations" were strongly influenced by their women, but the Celts were unusual because their men openly preferred male lovers (Politics II 1269b). [125] H. D. Rankin in Celts and the Classical World notes that "Athenaeus echoes this comment (603a) and so does Ammianus (30.9). It seems to be the general opinion of antiquity." [126] In book XIII of his Deipnosophists, the Roman Greek rhetorician and grammarian Athenaeus, repeating assertions made by Diodorus Siculus in the 1st century BC (Bibliotheca historica 5:32), wrote that Celtic women were beautiful but that the men preferred to sleep together. Diodorus went further, stating that "the young men will offer themselves to strangers and are insulted if the offer is refused". Rankin argues that the ultimate source of these assertions is likely to be Posidonius and speculates that these authors may be recording male "bonding rituals". [127]

The sexual freedom of women in Britain was noted by Cassius Dio:

. a very witty remark is reported to have been made by the wife of Argentocoxus, a Caledonian, to Julia Augusta. When the empress was jesting with her, after the treaty, about the free intercourse of her sex with men in Britain, she replied: "We fulfill the demands of nature in a much better way than do you Roman women for we consort openly with the best men, whereas you let yourselves be debauched in secret by the vilest." Such was the retort of the British woman. [128]

There are instances recorded where women participated both in warfare and in kingship, although they were in the minority in these areas. Plutarch reports that Celtic women acted as ambassadors to avoid a war among Celts chiefdoms in the Po valley during the 4th century BC. [129]

Celtic art

Celtic art is generally used by art historians to refer to art of the La Tène period across Europe, while the Early Medieval art of Britain and Ireland, that is what "Celtic art" evokes for much of the general public, is called Insular art in art history. Both styles absorbed considerable influences from non-Celtic sources, but retained a preference for geometrical decoration over figurative subjects, which are often extremely stylised when they do appear narrative scenes only appear under outside influence. Energetic circular forms, triskeles and spirals are characteristic. Much of the surviving material is in precious metal, which no doubt gives a very unrepresentative picture, but apart from Pictish stones and the Insular high crosses, large monumental sculpture, even with decorative carving, is very rare possibly it was originally common in wood. Celts were also able to create developed musical instruments such as the carnyces, these famous war trumpets used before the battle to frighten the enemy, as the best preserved found in Tintignac (Gaul) in 2004 and which were decorated with a boar head or a snake head. [130]

The interlace patterns that are often regarded as typical of "Celtic art" were characteristic of the whole of the British Isles, a style referred to as Insular art, or Hiberno-Saxon art. This artistic style incorporated elements of La Tène, Late Roman, and, most importantly, animal Style II of Germanic Migration Period art. The style was taken up with great skill and enthusiasm by Celtic artists in metalwork and illuminated manuscripts. Equally, the forms used for the finest Insular art were all adopted from the Roman world: Gospel books like the Book of Kells and Book of Lindisfarne, chalices like the Ardagh Chalice and Derrynaflan Chalice, and penannular brooches like the Tara Brooch and Roscrea Brooch. These works are from the period of peak achievement of Insular art, which lasted from the 7th to the 9th centuries, before the Viking attacks sharply set back cultural life.

In contrast the less well known but often spectacular art of the richest earlier Continental Celts, before they were conquered by the Romans, often adopted elements of Roman, Greek and other "foreign" styles (and possibly used imported craftsmen) to decorate objects that were distinctively Celtic. After the Roman conquests, some Celtic elements remained in popular art, especially Ancient Roman pottery, of which Gaul was actually the largest producer, mostly in Italian styles, but also producing work in local taste, including figurines of deities and wares painted with animals and other subjects in highly formalised styles. Roman Britain also took more interest in enamel than most of the Empire, and its development of champlevé technique was probably important to the later Medieval art of the whole of Europe, of which the energy and freedom of Insular decoration was an important element. Rising nationalism brought Celtic revivals from the 19th century.

Tribal warfare appears to have been a regular feature of Celtic societies. While epic literature depicts this as more of a sport focused on raids and hunting rather than organised territorial conquest, the historical record is more of tribes using warfare to exert political control and harass rivals, for economic advantage, and in some instances to conquer territory. [ citation needed ]

The Celts were described by classical writers such as Strabo, Livy, Pausanias, and Florus as fighting like "wild beasts", and as hordes. Dionysius said that their

"manner of fighting, being in large measure that of wild beasts and frenzied, was an erratic procedure, quite lacking in military science. Thus, at one moment they would raise their swords aloft and smite after the manner of wild boars, throwing the whole weight of their bodies into the blow like hewers of wood or men digging with mattocks, and again they would deliver crosswise blows aimed at no target, as if they intended to cut to pieces the entire bodies of their adversaries, protective armour and all". [131]

Such descriptions have been challenged by contemporary historians. [132]

Polybius (2.33) indicates that the principal Celtic weapon was a long bladed sword which was used for hacking edgewise rather than stabbing. Celtic warriors are described by Polybius and Plutarch as frequently having to cease fighting in order to straighten their sword blades. This claim has been questioned by some archaeologists, who note that Noric steel, steel produced in Celtic Noricum, was famous in the Roman Empire period and was used to equip the Roman military. [133] [134] However, Radomir Pleiner, in The Celtic Sword (1993) argues that "the metallographic evidence shows that Polybius was right up to a point", as around one third of surviving swords from the period might well have behaved as he describes. [135]

Polybius also asserts that certain of the Celts fought naked, "The appearance of these naked warriors was a terrifying spectacle, for they were all men of splendid physique and in the prime of life." [136] According to Livy, this was also true of the Celts of Asia Minor. [137]

Head hunting

Celts had a reputation as head hunters. According to Paul Jacobsthal, "Amongst the Celts the human head was venerated above all else, since the head was to the Celt the soul, centre of the emotions as well as of life itself, a symbol of divinity and of the powers of the other-world." [138] Arguments for a Celtic cult of the severed head include the many sculptured representations of severed heads in La Tène carvings, and the surviving Celtic mythology, which is full of stories of the severed heads of heroes and the saints who carry their own severed heads, right down to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, where the Green Knight picks up his own severed head after Gawain has struck it off, just as St. Denis carried his head to the top of Montmartre. Physical evidence exists for the ritual importance of the severed head at the religious centre at Roquepertuse (southern France), destroyed by the Romans in 124 BC, where stone pillars with prominent niches for displaying severed heads were found.

A further example of this regeneration after beheading lies in the tales of Connemara's St. Feichin, who after being beheaded by Viking pirates carried his head to the Holy Well on Omey Island and on dipping the head into the well placed it back upon his neck and was restored to full health.

Diodorus Siculus, in his 1st-century History had this to say about Celtic head-hunting:

They cut off the heads of enemies slain in battle and attach them to the necks of their horses. The blood-stained spoils they hand over to their attendants and striking up a paean and singing a song of victory and they nail up these first fruits upon their houses, just as do those who lay low wild animals in certain kinds of hunting. They embalm in cedar oil the heads of the most distinguished enemies, and preserve them carefully in a chest, and display them with pride to strangers, saying that for this head one of their ancestors, or his father, or the man himself, refused the offer of a large sum of money. They say that some of them boast that they refused the weight of the head in gold.

In Gods and Fighting Men, Lady Gregory's Celtic Revival translation of Irish mythology, heads of men killed in battle are described in the beginning of the story The Fight with the Fir Bolgs as pleasing to Macha, one aspect of the war goddess Morrigu.


Like other European Iron Age tribal societies, the Celts practised a polytheistic religion. [139] Many Celtic gods are known from texts and inscriptions from the Roman period. Rites and sacrifices were carried out by priests known as druids. The Celts did not see their gods as having human shapes until late in the Iron Age. Celtic shrines were situated in remote areas such as hilltops, groves, and lakes.

Celtic religious patterns were regionally variable however, some patterns of deity forms, and ways of worshipping these deities, appeared over a wide geographical and temporal range. The Celts worshipped both gods and goddesses. In general, Celtic gods were deities of particular skills, such as the many-skilled Lugh and Dagda, while goddesses were associated with natural features, particularly rivers (such as Boann, goddess of the River Boyne). This was not universal, however, as goddesses such as Brighid and The Morrígan were associated with both natural features (holy wells and the River Unius) and skills such as blacksmithing and healing. [140]

Triplicity is a common theme in Celtic cosmology, and a number of deities were seen as threefold. [141] This trait is exhibited by The Three Mothers, a group of goddesses worshipped by many Celtic tribes (with regional variations). [142]

The Celts had hundreds of deities, some of which were unknown outside a single family or tribe, while others were popular enough to have a following that crossed lingual and cultural barriers. For instance, the Irish god Lugh, associated with storms, lightning, and culture, is seen in similar forms as Lugos in Gaul and Lleu in Wales. Similar patterns are also seen with the continental Celtic horse goddess Epona and what may well be her Irish and Welsh counterparts, Macha and Rhiannon, respectively. [143]

Roman reports of the druids mention ceremonies being held in sacred groves. La Tène Celts built temples of varying size and shape, though they also maintained shrines at sacred trees and votive pools. [139]

Druids fulfilled a variety of roles in Celtic religion, serving as priests and religious officiants, but also as judges, sacrificers, teachers, and lore-keepers. Druids organised and ran religious ceremonies, and they memorised and taught the calendar. Other classes of druids performed ceremonial sacrifices of crops and animals for the perceived benefit of the community. [144]

Gallic calendar

The Coligny calendar, which was found in 1897 in Coligny, Ain, was engraved on a bronze tablet, preserved in 73 fragments, that originally was 1.48 metres (4 feet 10 inches) wide and 0.9 metres (2 feet 11 inches) high (Lambert p. 111). Based on the style of lettering and the accompanying objects, it probably dates to the end of the 2nd century. [145] It is written in Latin inscriptional capitals, and is in the Gallic language. The restored tablet contains 16 vertical columns, with 62 months distributed over 5 years.

The French archaeologist J. Monard speculated that it was recorded by druids wishing to preserve their tradition of timekeeping in a time when the Julian calendar was imposed throughout the Roman Empire. However, the general form of the calendar suggests the public peg calendars (or parapegmata) found throughout the Greek and Roman world. [146]

Roman influence

The Roman invasion of Gaul brought a great deal of Celtic peoples into the Roman Empire. Roman culture had a profound effect on the Celtic tribes which came under the empire's control. Roman influence led to many changes in Celtic religion, the most noticeable of which was the weakening of the druid class, especially religiously the druids were to eventually disappear altogether. Romano-Celtic deities also began to appear: these deities often had both Roman and Celtic attributes, combined the names of Roman and Celtic deities, and/or included couples with one Roman and one Celtic deity. Other changes included the adaptation of the Jupiter Column, a sacred column set up in many Celtic regions of the empire, primarily in northern and eastern Gaul. Another major change in religious practice was the use of stone monuments to represent gods and goddesses. The Celts had only created wooden idols (including monuments carved into trees, which were known as sacred poles) previously to Roman conquest. [142]

Celtic Christianity

While the regions under Roman rule adopted Christianity along with the rest of the Roman empire, unconquered areas of Ireland and Scotland began to move from Celtic polytheism to Christianity in the 5th century. Ireland was converted by missionaries from Britain, such as Saint Patrick. Later missionaries from Ireland were a major source of missionary work in Scotland, Anglo-Saxon parts of Britain, and central Europe (see Hiberno-Scottish mission). Celtic Christianity, the forms of Christianity that took hold in Britain and Ireland at this time, had for some centuries only limited and intermittent contact with Rome and continental Christianity, as well as some contacts with Coptic Christianity. Some elements of Celtic Christianity developed, or retained, features that made them distinct from the rest of Western Christianity, most famously their conservative method of calculating the date of Easter. In 664, the Synod of Whitby began to resolve these differences, mostly by adopting the current Roman practices, which the Gregorian Mission from Rome had introduced to Anglo-Saxon England.

Genetic studies on the limited amount of material available suggest continuity between Iron Age people from areas considered Celtic and the earlier Bell Beaker culture of Bronze Age Western Europe. [150] [151] Like the Bell Beakers, ancient Celts carried a substantial amount of steppe ancestry, which is derived from pastoralists who expanded westwards from the Pontic-Caspian steppe during late Neolithic and early Bronze Age. [152] Examined individuals overwhelmingly carry types of the paternal haplogroup R-M269, [147] [148] [149] while the maternal haplogroups H and U are frequent. [153] These lineages are associated with steppe ancestry. [147] [153] The spread of Celts into Iberia and the emergence of the Celtiberians is associated with an increase in north-central European ancestry in Iberia, and may be connected to the expansion of the Urnfield culture. [154] The paternal haplogroup haplogroup I2a1a1a has been detected among Celtiberians. [155] There appears to have been significant gene flow between among Celts of Western Europe during the Iron Age. [156] Modern populations of Western Europe, particularly those who still speak Celtic languages, display substantial genetic continuity with the Iron Age populations of the same areas. [157] [158]

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GALATIANS & The rarely known Celtic background of its inhabitants is another example of Paul’s custom of reaching out to rebels and outcasts.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When we talk about the Galatians, we think of them as the inhabitants of just another city in the region. But they were a city of displaced rebels, who after attacking and failing to subdue the Greek city of Delphi, retreated to this part of Asia Minor and set up an enclave of barbaric Celtic culture. For Paul to include them in his churches and mentor them was an example of reaching out to the outcasts of the Roman Empire. Read this background for more insights.

Background of inhabitants, by BORJA PELEGERO, National Geographic, 4/10/21.

A century later, Celtic armies had another prize in their sight: In 279 B.C., after settling areas of the Balkans, Celtic forces attempted to capture the riches of the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. They were defeated by the Greeks, but some of the scattered army, along with other Balkan Celts, went on to found the area in central Turkey known by the Greeks as Galatia, derived from the Greek word for “Gaul.” Later, Galatia’s earliest Christians were the subject of a missive in around A.D. 50, a document that is now the ninth book of the New Testament: St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.

With settlements stretching from Ireland to Turkey, this Iron Age culture used their metalworking skills to build extensive trade networks with ancient Greece and Rome.

Settlement and Redefinition: Celtic East and Galatian East

Tribes in Thrace. Celtic peoples, including the Gauls of Tylis. / Wikimedia Commons

The foundation of the eastern Celtic states lay in the Grand Celtic migration in 279 BCE. As a group of exiles, those Celtic immigrants were displaced from their native homeland. Therefore, their settlement in the eastern Mediterranean world signified the creation of a new Celtic political identity. However, the Galatians were not the first group to construct this new political identity in the Celtic world. The Kingdom of Tylis was their precedent. According to Polybius, those Gauls, who were driven from their home with Brennus’s leadership, conquered the Thracians and established the Kingdom of Tylis under the leadership of Comontorius.[23] Polybius’s statement here clarifies two crucial facts. First, those Celtic immigrants were expelled from their homeland and thereby lost their original political identity. Based on this fact, Polybius points out that their political identity was reestablished thanks to the foundation of Tylis and the successful leadership of Comontorius. These two facts together suggest that the foundation of Tylis restored the Celtic identity of those homeless Celtic exiles by promoting a Pan-Celtic identity. That is, Tylis was established in the eastern Mediterranean world as a “Celtic state” which welcomed all the Celts regardless of their previous tribal identities.

Along with the establishment of a new national identity, Tylis was also known for its treaties with the Byzantines. Polybius introduces that during the reign of Comontorius, the Byzantines paid three thousand, five thousand and ten thousand gold coins to Tylis as tribute in order to protect their territories from raids.[24] At this point, Polybius clearly portrays Comontorius as a leader who understood the political situation and knew how to utilize it to his advantage. On one hand, instead of using violence directly, he menaced the Byzantines by the fame of warlike Celts and thus acquired a continuous financial source for Tylis. On the other hand, he knew that the Thracians were hostile toward the Tylis Celts as well as the Byzantines. On this matter, Tylis and Byzantium were oriented by their mutual political need: fighting against the Thracians. As a result, the Byzantines provided money while Tylis supported with manpower. Therefore, as Polybius points out, the Byzantines and Tylis eventually reached a long-term treaty in which the Byzantines would pay eighty talents annually to Tylis for protection.[25] These pieces of evidence show that the Tylis Gauls were not simply a group of barbarians in the traditional sense. On the contrary, they were governed by a deliberate monarch who not only helped create a new Celtic identity for the Tylis Gauls but also utilized the renown of Celtic ferocity to the advantage of Tylis to participate in the geopolitics of the northern Balkans during the third century BCE.

The foundation of the Galatian state marked the end of the Celtic migration in 278 BCE. Similar to the Tylis Gauls, the Galatians also took advantage of the fierce reputation of the Celtic nation and significantly influenced the politics in Asia Minor. According to Livy, the Celtic immigrants, who were commanded by Leonnorius and Lutarius, penetrated into the country of the Byzantines. They demanded tributes and ships from them so that they could cross the Bosporus Strait.26 From Livy’s depiction, it is clear that the predecessors of the later so-called “Galatians” also realized the military weakness of Byzantium. Therefore, they seized it as their
opportunity to break into Asia Minor.

After these Celts entered Asia Minor, their bravery and ferocity gained them great opportunity. Livy mentions that King Nicomedes I of Bithynia highly endorsed the intrepidity of these Celts and hired them for his own purposes. After receiving aid from these Celts, Nicomedes defeated his brother and controlled all of Bithynia. The Celts were rewarded with lands to settle.[27] Livy’s description highlights the fierce characteristics of these Celts. Like the Tylis Celts, the Galatians also preserved their identity as fearless warriors. This identity was highly valued by the Hellenistic states like Byzantium and Bithynia. The successful migration of the Tylis Celts and Galatians into the Hellenistic world enriched the mercenary warfare and political complexity in Anatolia. On one hand, the Hellenistic states in the eastern Mediterranean could now use money to hire those fearsome Celtic soldiers to achieve their military goals. On the other hand, those states might need to be cautious because those settled Celts could also be their worst enemies. In other words, due to the presence of the Galatians in Anatolia, the previous political balance of Asia Minor was dramatically altered.

The foundation of the Pan-Celtic identity of the Galatians slightly differed from that of the Tylis Celts. The three groups which eventually became the Galatian nation had different backgrounds. According to Strabo, the origin of the Tectosages could be directly traced back to their home tribe in southern Gaul, whereas the Tolistobogii and Trocmi were named after their leaders.[28] Strabo’s statement here clarifies that the foundations of the Tolistobogii and Trocmi followed the Tylis mode which allowed them to form new tribal identities solely based on the ethnicity of their members. In other words, their previous identities did not matter to them anymore since they were led by their new leaders and founded new tribes on the basis of a new grouping of individuals who were united by a sense of a broader shared Celtic identity. However, the foundation of the Galatian Tectosages was not modeled in this way. Their previous tribal identity was not yet abandoned by the time they arrived in Anatolia because they still used their old tribal name to symbolize their new identity. Therefore, the Tylis mode was not universally adopted by all of the eastern Celts in reforming their tribal identities.

Although the identities of three Galatian tribes were reformed depending on the specifics of their individual situation, their Galatian identity as a whole was modeled from the Tylis mode. In other words, a Pan-Celtic identity was promoted within the state of Galatia. Strabo notes that the Tectosages, Tolistobogii and Trocmi together ruled their country (τὴν χωράν) as Galatians (οἱ Γαλάται).[29] That is to say, in a broad sense, the state of Galatia itself symbolized a Pan-Celtic identity which contained the people who still defined themselves as the descendants of their old tribes (Tectosages) and those who had already considered themselves as the members of new clans (Tolistobogii and Trocmi). Hence, the ethnic identity of the Galatians was established on the Pan-Celtic identity among those Celtic immigrants although this identity still had variations among their individual tribes.

The forms of new Celtic identities in Tylis and Galatia were also profoundly related to their constant warfare with the armies of the Successor Kingdoms. According to Pausanias, during the Celtic invasion of Delphi, Antigonus Gonatas sent his troops to assist the Athenians and successfully defended Greece.[30] By showing Antigonus’s intervention in the repulsion of the Celts, Pausanias clearly illustrates that the support from Antigonus’s Successor army played a pivotal role in repelling the Celtic invasion in 279 BCE.

After the Celtic force marched north, they were soon defeated by Antigonus’s army a second time. In The Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Diogenes Laertius notes that Antigonus led his army and vanquished the Celtic invaders near the town of Lysimachia in Thrace. After this, he returned to Macedonia as a king.[31] Diogenes’s statement clarifies that Antigonus’s triumph after the battle of Lysimachia qualified him as a capable defender of Greece and helped him claim the throne of Macedon. The remnants of the defeated Celts, however, were forced to move further into Thrace and eventually became the founders of the eastern Celtic states.[32] With all these pieces together, it is clear that Antigonus’s successful campaigns were a crucial factor that helped end the Celtic invasion of Greece in 279 BCE. By repelling the Celtic invasion force twice in Greece, Antigonus proved himself a force to be reckoned with in the Balkan Peninsula. In other words, his military successes forced the Celts to think of a way to remain in the eastern Mediterranean world without provoking Macedon.

Therefore, the foundation of Tylis was a consequence of this consideration. As Polybius describes, the Tylis Celts were allied with Byzantium and fought against the Thracians.[33] That is, although the Tylis Celts still preserved their expansionist nature, they already defined themselves as a regional power in Thrace after they had settled in the Balkans. In other words, the crushing defeats which Antigonus had inflicted upon the Tylis Celts continued to be influential for them throughout their history. Hence, they would rather choose to fight against their fierce Thracian neighbors than confront Antigonus’s Macedonian army again. That is to say, although the Tylis Celts did not lose their Celtic identity as warriors, Antigonus’s military prowess still forced them to adapt to Thracian geopolitics. For these reasons, the political identity of the Tylis Celts appears to be a “Celtic-Thracian state”.

The growth of Anatolian Galatia was also not a peaceful process. The aggressive nature of Gallic warriors frequently clashed with Hellenistic powers in Asia Minor. Appian writes in Syrian Wars that Antiochus I successfully defeated the invasion of Gauls/Galatians (Γαλάται) and thus gained the surname Soter.[34] Here, Appian points out that the Galatians, as a group of warlike Celts, still preserved their ferocity and aggressiveness by fighting against the Seleucid Empire. Like their Celtic fellows in Tylis, the Galatians also perceived their neighbors as non- Celts. Therefore, hostile actions toward these people were justified. At this point, the same shared feature of Celticness could be clearly observed between the Tylis Celts and Galatians. Nevertheless, unlike Antigonus Gonatas, Antiochus I failed to overpower the Galatians by demonstrating the prowess of his Hellenistic army. According to Aelian, Antiochus I died in another battle fighting against the Galatians in 261 BCE.[35] Therefore, compared to the Tylis Celts, the Galatians were not compelled to adapt to a new environment. They successfully defended themselves from the wars against the Seleucid Empire and thereby survived as a major geopolitical power in Asia Minor. That is, their political identity in Anatolia emerged from their victory against a Successor power. By killing Antiochus I and defeating his army, the Galatians secured their position in Hellenistic Asia Minor and eventually became a “Hellenic-Celtic” state. Based on this evidence, it is clear that the ethnic identity of the eastern Celtic states remained intact after their immigrations. However, their political identities changed over time due to their conflicts with Successor states. For this reason, the political identities of the eastern Celts were substantially related to the geopolitics of the areas in which they had settled.


The earliest human remains found in Bulgaria were excavated in the Kozarnika cave, with an approximate age of 1,6 million BC. This cave probably keeps the earliest evidence of human symbolic behaviour ever found. A fragmented pair of human jaws, which are 44,000 years old, were found in Bacho Kiro cave, but it is disputed whether these early humans were in fact Homo sapiens or Neanderthals. [6]

The earliest dwellings in Bulgaria – the Stara Zagora Neolithic dwellings – date from 6,000 BC and are amongst the oldest man-made structures yet discovered. [7] By the end of the neolithic, the Hamangia and Vinča culture developed on what is today Bulgaria, southern Romania and eastern Serbia. [8] [9] The earliest known town in Europe, Solnitsata, was located in present-day Bulgaria. [10] The Durankulak lake settlement in Bulgaria commenced on a small island, approximately 7000 BC and around 4700/4600 BC the stone architecture was already in general use and became a characteristic phenomenon that was unique in Europe.

The eneolithic Varna culture (5000 BC) [11] represents the first civilization with a sophisticated social hierarchy in Europe. The centrepiece of this culture is the Varna Necropolis, discovered in the early 1970s. It serves as a tool in understanding how the earliest European societies functioned, [12] principally through well-preserved ritual burials, pottery, and golden jewellery. The golden rings, bracelets and ceremonial weapons discovered in one of the graves were created between 4,600 and 4200 BC, which makes them the oldest gold artefacts yet discovered anywhere in the world. [13] The Karanovo culture developed simultaneously with the one in Varna, and its earth layers serve as a stratigraphical gauge for the prehistory of the wider Balkans region.

Some of the earliest evidence of grape cultivation and livestock domestication is associated with the Bronze Age Ezero culture. [14] The Magura Cave drawings date from the same era, although the exact years of their creation cannot be pin-pointed.

The Thracians Edit

The first people to leave lasting traces and cultural heritage throughout the Balkan region were the Thracians. Their origin remains obscure. It is generally proposed that a proto-Thracian people developed from a mixture of indigenous peoples and Indo-Europeans from the time of Proto-Indo-European expansion in the Early Bronze Age [15] when the latter, around 1500 BC, conquered the indigenous peoples. [16] Thracian craftsmen inherited the skills of the indigenous civilisations before them, especially in gold working. [17]

The Thracians were generally disorganized, but had an advanced culture despite the lack of their own proper script, and gathered powerful military forces when their divided tribes formed unions under the pressure of external threats. They never achieved any form of unity beyond short, dynastic rules at the height of the Greek classical period. Similar to the Gauls and other Celtic tribes, most Thracians are thought to have lived simply in small fortified villages, usually on hilltops. Although the concept of an urban Center wasn't developed until the Roman period, various larger fortifications which also served as regional market centres were numerous. Yet, in general, despite Greek colonization in such areas as Byzantium, Apollonia and other cities, the Thracians avoided urban life. The first Greek colonies in Thrace were founded in the 8th century BC. [18]

Thracian tribes remained divided and most of them fell under nominal Persian rule from the late 6th century till the first half of the 5th century, [19] until King Teres united most of them in the Odrysian kingdom around 470 BC, probably after the Persian defeat in Greece, [20] which later peaked under the leadership of King Sitalces (431–424 BC) and of Cotys I (383–359 BC). At the commencement of the Peloponnesian war Sitalces entered into alliance with the Athenians, and in 429 BC he invaded Macedon (then ruled by Perdiccas II) with a vast army that included 150,000 warriors from independent Thracian tribes. Cotys I on the other hand, went to war with the Athenians for the possession of the Thracian Chersonese. Thereafter the Macedonian Empire incorporated the Odrysian kingdom [21] and Thracians became an inalienable component in the extra-continental expeditions of both Philip II and Alexander III (the Great).

Achaemenid Persian rule Edit

Ever since the Macedonian king Amyntas I surrendered his country to the Persians in about 512-511 BC, Macedonians and Persians were strangers no more. [2] Subjugation of Macedonia was part of Persian military operations initiated by Darius the Great (521–486 BC). In 513 BC - after immense preparations - a huge Achaemenid army invaded the Balkans and tried to defeat the European Scythians roaming to the north of the Danube river. [2] Darius' army subjugated several Thracian peoples, and virtually all other regions that touch the European part of the Black Sea, such as parts of nowadays Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, and Russia, before it returned to Asia Minor. [2] [22] Darius left in Europe one of his commanders named Megabazus whose task was to accomplish conquests in the Balkans. [2] The Persian troops subjugated gold-rich Thrace, the coastal Greek cities, as well as defeating and conquering the powerful Paeonians. [2] [23] [24] Finally, Megabazus sent envoys to Amyntas, demanding acceptation of Persian domination, which the Macedonian accepted. [2] Following the Ionian Revolt, the Persian hold over the Balkans loosened, but was firmly restored in 492 BC through the campaigns of Mardonius. [2] The Balkans, including what is nowadays Bulgaria, provided many soldiers for the multi ethnic Achaemenid army. Several Thracian treasures dating from the Persian rule in Bulgaria have been found. [25] Most of what is today Bulgaria remained firmly under the Persian sway until 479 BC. [2] [26] The Persian garrison at Doriscus in Thrace held out for many years even after the Persian defeat, and reportedly never surrendered. It remained as the last Persian stronghold in Europe. [27] [ self-published source ]

The Celts Edit

In 298 BC, Celtic tribes reached what is today Bulgaria and clashed with the forces of Macedonian king Cassander in Mount Haemos (Stara Planina). The Macedonians won the battle, but this did not stop the Celtic advancement. Many Thracian communities, weakened by the Macedonian occupation, fell under Celtic dominance. [28]

In 279 BC, one of the Celtic armies, led by Comontorius, attacked Thrace and succeeded in conquering it. Comontorius established the kingdom of Tylis in what is now eastern Bulgaria. [29] The modern-day village of Tulovo bears the name of this relatively short-lived kingdom. Cultural interactions between Thracians and Celts are evidenced by several items containing elements of both cultures, such as the chariot of Mezek and almost certainly the Gundestrup cauldron. [30]

Tylis lasted until 212 BC, when the Thracians managed to regain their dominant position in the region and disbanded it. [31] Small bands of Celts survived in Western Bulgaria. One such tribe were the serdi, from which Serdica - the ancient name of Sofia - originates. [32] Even though the Celts remained in the Balkans for more than a century, their influence on the peninsula was modest. [29] By the end of the 3rd century, a new threat appeared for the people of the Thracian region in the shape of the Roman Empire.

Roman period Edit

In 188 BC, the Romans invaded Thrace, and warfare continued until 46 AD when Rome finally conquered the region. In 46 AD, the Romans established the province of Thracia. By the 4th century, the Thracians had a composite indigenous identity, as Christian "Romans" who preserved some of their ancient pagan rituals. Thraco-Romans became a dominant group in the region, and eventually yielded several military commanders and emperors such as Galerius and Constantine I the Great. Urban centres became well-developed, especially the territories of Serdika, what is today Sofia, due to the abundance of mineral springs. The influx of immigrants from around the empire enriched the local cultural landscape temples of Osiris and Isis have been discovered near the Black Sea coast. [33]

Sometime before 300 AD, Diocletian further divided Thracia into four smaller provinces. Later in the 4th century, a group of Goths arrived in northern Bulgaria and settled in and around Nicopolis ad Istrum. There the Gothic bishop Ulfilas translated the Bible from Greek to Gothic, creating the Gothic alphabet in the process. This was the first book written in a Germanic language, and for this reason at least one historian refers to Ulfilas as "the father of Germanic literature". [34] The first Christian monastery in Europe was founded in 344 by Saint Athanasius near modern-day Chirpan following the Council of Serdica. [35]

Due to the rural nature of the local population, Roman control of the region remained weak. In the 5th century, Attila's Huns attacked the territories of today's Bulgaria and pillaged many Roman settlements. By the end of the 6th century, Avars organized regular incursions into northern Bulgaria, which were a prelude to the en masse arrival of the Slavs.

During the 6th century, the traditional Greco-Roman culture was still influential, but Christian philosophy and culture were dominant and began to replace it. [36] From the 7th century, Greek became the predominant language in the Eastern Roman Empire's administration, Church and society, replacing Latin. [37]

The Slavs Edit

The Slavs emerged from their original homeland (most commonly thought to have been in Eastern Europe) in the early 6th century and spread to most of eastern Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Balkans, thus forming three main branches - the West Slavs, the East Slavs and the South Slavs. The easternmost South Slavs settled on the territory of modern Bulgaria during the 6th century.

Most of the Thracians were eventually Hellenized or Romanized, with the last remnants surviving in remote areas until the 5th century. [38] [39] A portion of the eastern South Slavs assimilated most of them, before the Bulgar élite incorporated these peoples into the First Bulgarian Empire. [40]

Bulgars Edit

The Bulgars (also Bolgars or proto-Bulgarians [41] ) were a semi-nomadic people of Turkic descent, originally from Central Asia, who from the 2nd century onwards dwelled in the steppes north of the Caucasus and around the banks of river Volga (then Itil). A branch of them gave rise to the First Bulgarian Empire. The Bulgars were governed by hereditary khans. There were several aristocratic families whose members, bearing military titles, formed a governing class. Bulgars were polytheistic, but chiefly worshiped the supreme deity Tangra.

Old Great Bulgaria Edit

In 632, Khan Kubrat united the three largest Bulgar tribes: the Kutrigur, the Utugur and the Onogonduri, thus forming the country that now historians call Great Bulgaria (also known as Onoguria). This country was situated between the lower course of the Danube river to the west, the Black Sea and the Azov Sea to the south, the Kuban river to the east and the Donets river to the north. The capital was Phanagoria, on the Azov.

In 635, Kubrat signed a peace treaty with emperor Heraclius of the Byzantine Empire, expanding the Bulgar kingdom further into the Balkans. Later, Kubrat was crowned with the title Patrician by Heraclius. The kingdom never survived Kubrat's death. After several wars with the Khazars, the Bulgars were finally defeated and they migrated to the south, to the north, and mainly to the west into the Balkans, where most of the other Bulgar tribes were living, in a state vassal to the Byzantine Empire since the 5th century.

One of the successors of Khan Kubrat, Kotrag led nine Bulgar tribes to the north along the banks of the river Volga in what is today Russia, creating the Kingdom of the Volga Bulgars in the late 7th century. This kingdom later became the trade and cultural centre of the north, because it stood on a very strategic position creating a monopoly over the trade among the Arabs, the Norse and the Avars. The Volga Bulgars were the first to ever defeat the Mongolic horde and protected Europe for decades, but after countless Mongol invasions the Kingdom of the Volga Bulgars was destroyed and most of its citizens slaughtered or sold as slaves in Asia.

Another successor of Khan Kubrat, Asparuh (Kotrag's brother) moved west, occupying today's southern Bessarabia. After a successful war with Byzantium in 680, Asparuh's khanate conquered initially Scythia Minor and was recognised as an independent state under the subsequent treaty signed with the Byzantine Empire in 681. That year is usually regarded as the year of the establishment of present-day Bulgaria and Asparuh is regarded as the first Bulgarian ruler. Another Bulgar horde, led by Asparuh's brother Kuber, came to settle in Pannonia and later into Macedonia. [42] [43] )

During the late Roman Empire, several Roman provinces covered the territory that comprises present-day Bulgaria: Scythia (Scythia Minor), Moesia (Upper and Lower), Thrace, Macedonia (First and Second), Dacia (Coastal and Inner, both south of Danube), Dardania, Rhodope and Haemismontus, and had a mixed population of Byzantine Greeks, Thracians and Dacians, most of whom spoke either Greek or variants of Vulgar Latin. Several consecutive waves of Slavic migration throughout the 6th and the early 7th centuries led to a dramatic change of the demographics of the region and its almost complete Slavicisation.

After the reign of Asparuh, his son and heir Tervel, becomes ruler. In the beginning of 8th century Byzantine emperor Justinian II asked Khan Tervel for assistance in recovering his throne, for which Tervel received the region Zagore from the Empire and was paid large quantities of gold. He also received the Byzantine title "Caesar". Years later, the emperor decided to betray and attack Bulgaria, but his army was crushed in the battle of Anhialo. After the death of Justinian II, the Bulgarians continue their crusades against the empire and in 716 they reach Constantinople. The threat of both the Bulgarians and the Arab menace in the east, force the new emperor Theodosius III, to sign a peace treaty with Tervel. The successor, Leo III the Isaurian has to deal with an army of 100,000 Arabs led by Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik and a fleet of 2,500 ships that are laying siege on Constantinople in the year 717. Relying on his treaty with Bulgaria, the emperor asks Khan Tervel to help him deal with the Arab invasion. Tervel accepts and the Arabs are decimated outside the walls of the city. The fleet is heavily damaged with the help of Greek fire. The remaining ships are destroyed by a storm, in an attempt to flee. So the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople ended. After the reign of Tervel, there were frequent changes in the ruling houses, which lead to instability and political crisis.

Decades later, in 768, Khan Telerig of house Dulo, ruled Bulgaria. His military campaign against Constantine V in the year 774, proved to be unsuccessful. Thrilled with his success against Telerig, the Byzantine Emperor dispatched a fleet 2,000 ships loaded with horsemen. This expedition proved to be a failure, because of strong northern winds near Mesembria. Telerig was aware of the increased presence of spies in the capital Pliska. To decrease this Byzantine influence, he sent a letter to the emperor in which he asks for refuge in Constantinople and wants to know which Byzantine spies can help him. Knowing their names, he slaughters every agent in the capital. His rule marked the end of the political crisis.

Under the warrior Khan Krum (802–814) Bulgaria expanded north-west and south, occupying the lands between the middle Danube and Moldova rivers, all of present-day Romania, Sofia in 809 and Adrianople in 813, and threatening Constantinople itself. Krum implemented law reform intending to reduce poverty and strengthen social ties in his vastly enlarged state.

During the reign of Khan Omurtag (814–831), the northwestern boundaries with the Frankish Empire were firmly settled along the middle Danube. A magnificent palace, pagan temples, ruler's residence, fortress, citadel, water mains and baths were built in the Bulgarian capital Pliska, mainly of stone and brick.

Omurtag pursued policy of repression against Christians. Menologion of Basil II, glorifies Emperor Basil II showing him as a warrior defending Orthodox Christendom against the attacks of the Bulgarian Empire, whose attacks on Christians are graphically illustrated.

Christianization Edit

Under Boris I, Bulgaria became officially Christian, and the Ecumenical Patriarch agreed to allow an autonomous Bulgarian Archbishop at Pliska. Missionaries from Constantinople, Cyril and Methodius, devised the Glagolitic alphabet, which was adopted in the Bulgarian Empire around 886. The alphabet and the Old Bulgarian language that evolved from Slavonic [44] gave rise to a rich literary and cultural activity centered around the Preslav and Ohrid Literary Schools, established by order of Boris I in 886.

In the early 9th century, a new alphabet — Cyrillic — was developed at the Preslav Literary School, adapted from the Glagolitic alphabet invented by Saints Cyril and Methodius. [45] An alternative theory is that the alphabet was devised at the Ohrid Literary School by Saint Climent of Ohrid, a Bulgarian scholar and disciple of Cyril and Methodius.

By the late 9th and early 10th centuries, Bulgaria extended to Epirus and Thessaly in the south, Bosnia in the west and controlled all of present-day Romania and eastern Hungary to the north reuniting with old roots. A Serbian state came into existence as a dependency of the Bulgarian Empire. Under Tsar Simeon I of Bulgaria (Simeon the Great), who was educated in Constantinople, Bulgaria became again a serious threat to the Byzantine Empire. His aggressive policy was aimed at displacing Byzantium as major partner of the nomadic polities in the area. By subverting the principles of Byzantine diplomacy and political culture, Simeon turned his own kingdom into a society-structuring factor in the nomadic world. [46] [47]

Simeon hoped to take Constantinople and become emperor of both Bulgarians and Greeks, and fought a series of wars with the Byzantines through his long reign (893–927). At the end of his rule the front had reached the Peloponnese in the south, making it the most powerful state in contemporary Southeast Europe. [47] Simeon proclaimed himself "Tsar (Caesar) of the Bulgarians and the Romans", a title which was recognised by the Pope, but not by the Byzantine Emperor. The capital Preslav was said to rival Constantinople, [48] [49] the new independent Bulgarian Orthodox Church became the first new patriarchate besides the Pentarchy and Bulgarian translations of Christian texts spread all over the Slavic world of the time. [50]

After Simeon's death, Bulgaria was weakened by external and internal wars with Croatians, Magyars, Pechenegs and Serbs and the spread of the Bogomil heresy. [51] [52] Two consecutive Rus' and Byzantine invasions resulted in the seizure of the capital Preslav by the Byzantine army in 971. [53] Under Samuil, Bulgaria somewhat recovered from these attacks and managed to conquer Serbia and Duklja. [54]

In 986, the Byzantine emperor Basil II undertook a campaign to conquer Bulgaria. After a war lasting several decades he inflicted a decisive defeat upon the Bulgarians in 1014 and completed the campaign four years later. In 1018, after the death of the last Bulgarian Tsar - Ivan Vladislav, most of Bulgaria's nobility chose to join the Eastern Roman Empire. [55] However, Bulgaria lost its independence and remained subject to Byzantium for more than a century and a half. With the collapse of the state, the Bulgarian church fell under the domination of Byzantine ecclesiastics who took control of the Ohrid Archbishopric. [56]

No evidence remains of major resistance or any uprising of the Bulgarian population or nobility in the first decade after the establishment of Byzantine rule. Given the existence of such irreconcilable opponents to the Byzantines as Krakra, Nikulitsa, Dragash and others, such apparent passivity seems difficult to explain. Some historians [57] explain this as a consequence of the concessions that Basil II granted the Bulgarian nobility to gain their allegiance.

Basil II guaranteed the indivisibility of Bulgaria in its former geographic borders and did not officially abolish the local rule of the Bulgarian nobility, who became part of Byzantine aristocracy as archons or strategoi. Secondly, special charters (royal decrees) of Basil II recognised the autocephaly of the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid and set up its boundaries, securing the continuation of the dioceses already existing under Samuil, their property and other privileges. [58]

After the death of Basil II the empire entered into a period of instability. In 1040, Peter Delyan organized a large-scale rebellion, but failed to restore the Bulgarian state and was killed. Shortly after, the Komnenos dynasty came into succession and halted the decline of the empire. During this time the Byzantine state experienced a century of stability and progress.

In 1180 the last of the capable Komnenoi, Manuel I Komnenos, died and was replaced by the relatively incompetent Angeloi dynasty, allowing some Bulgarian nobles to organize an uprising. In 1185 Peter and Asen, leading nobles of supposed and contested Bulgarian, Cuman, Vlach or mixed origin, led a revolt against Byzantine rule and Peter declared himself Tsar Peter II. The following year, the Byzantines were forced to recognize Bulgaria's independence. Peter styled himself "Tsar of the Bulgars, Greeks and Wallachians".

Resurrected Bulgaria occupied the territory between the Black Sea, the Danube and Stara Planina, including a part of eastern Macedonia, Belgrade and the valley of the Morava. It also exercised control over Wallachia [59] Tsar Kaloyan (1197–1207) entered a union with the Papacy, thereby securing the recognition of his title of "Rex" although he desired to be recognized as "Emperor" or "Tsar" of Bulgarians and Vlachs. He waged wars on the Byzantine Empire and (after 1204) on the Knights of the Fourth Crusade, conquering large parts of Thrace, the Rhodopes, Bohemia, and Moldovia as well as the whole of Macedonia.

In the Battle of Adrianople in 1205, Kaloyan defeated the forces of the Latin Empire and thus limited its power from the very first year of its establishment. The power of the Hungarians and to some extent the Serbs prevented significant expansion to the west and north-west. Under Ivan Asen II (1218–1241), Bulgaria once again became a regional power, occupying Belgrade and Albania. In an inscription from Turnovo in 1230 he entitled himself "In Christ the Lord faithful Tsar and autocrat of the Bulgarians, son of the old Asen".

The Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarchate was restored in 1235 with approval of all eastern Patriarchates, thus putting an end to the union with the Papacy. Ivan Asen II had a reputation as a wise and humane ruler, and opened relations with the Catholic west, especially Venice and Genoa, to reduce the influence of the Byzantines over his country. Tarnovo became a major economic and religious centre—a "Third Rome", unlike the already declining Constantinople. [60] As Simeon the Great during the first empire, Ivan Asen II expanded the territory to the coasts of three seas (Adriatic, Aegean and Black), annexed Medea - the last fortress before the walls of Constantinople, unsuccessfully besieged the city in 1235 and restored the destroyed since 1018 Bulgarian Patriarchate.

The country's military and economic might declined after the end of the Asen dynasty in 1257, facing internal conflicts, constant Byzantine and Hungarian attacks and Mongol domination. [40] [61] Tsar Teodore Svetoslav (reigned 1300–1322) restored Bulgarian prestige from 1300 onwards, but only temporarily. Political instability continued to grow, and Bulgaria gradually began to lose territory. This led to a peasant rebellion led by the swineherd Ivaylo, who eventually managed to defeat the Tsar's forces and ascend the throne.

Ottoman incursions Edit

A weakened 14th-century Bulgaria faced a new threat from the south, the Ottoman Turks, who crossed into Europe in 1354. By 1371, factional divisions between the feudal landlords and the spread of Bogomilism had caused the Second Bulgarian Empire to split into three small tsardoms—Vidin, Tarnovo and Karvuna—and several semi-independent principalities that fought among themselves, and also with Byzantines, Hungarians, Serbs, Venetians and Genoese.

The Ottomans faced little resistance from these divided and weak Bulgarian states. In 1362 they captured Philippopolis (Plovdiv), and in 1382 they took Sofia. The Ottomans then turned their attentions to the Serbs, whom they routed at Kosovo Polje in 1389. In 1393 the Ottomans occupied Tarnovo after a three-month siege. In 1396 the Tsardom of Vidin was also invaded, bringing the Second Bulgarian Empire and Bulgarian independence to an end.

In 1393, the Ottomans captured Tarnovo, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, after a three-month siege. In 1396, the Vidin Tsardom fell after the defeat of a Christian crusade at the Battle of Nicopolis. With this the Ottomans finally subjugated and occupied Bulgaria. [38] [62] [63] A Polish-Hungarian crusade commanded by Władysław III of Poland set out to free Bulgaria and the Balkans in 1444, but the Turks emerged victorious at the battle of Varna.

The new authorities dismantled Bulgarian institutions and merged the separate Bulgarian Church into the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople (although a small, autocephalous Bulgarian archbishopric of Ohrid survived until January 1767). Turkish authorities destroyed most of the medieval Bulgarian fortresses to prevent rebellions. Large towns and the areas where Ottoman power predominated remained severely depopulated until the 19th century. [64] [ page needed ]

The Ottomans did not normally require the Christians to become Muslims. Nevertheless, there were many cases of forced individual or mass Islamization, especially in the Rhodopes. Bulgarians who converted to Islam, the Pomaks, retained Bulgarian language, dress and some customs compatible with Islam. [38] [63] [ page needed ] .

Ottoman rule Edit

The Ottoman system began declining by the 17th century and at the end of the 18th had all but collapsed. Central government weakened over the decades and this had allowed a number of local Ottoman holders of large estates to establish personal ascendancy over separate regions. [65] During the last two decades of the 18th and first decades of the 19th centuries the Balkan Peninsula dissolved into virtual anarchy. [38] [66]

Bulgarian tradition calls this period the kurdjaliistvo: armed bands of Turks called kurdjalii plagued the area. In many regions, thousands of peasants fled from the countryside either to local towns or (more commonly) to the hills or forests some even fled beyond the Danube to Moldova, Wallachia or southern Russia. [38] [66] The decline of Ottoman authorities also allowed a gradual revival of Bulgarian culture, which became a key component in the ideology of national liberation.

Conditions gradually improved in certain areas in the 19th century. Some towns — such as Gabrovo, Tryavna, Karlovo, Koprivshtitsa, Lovech, Skopie — prospered. The Bulgarian peasants actually possessed their land, although it officially belonged to the sultan. The 19th century also brought improved communications, transportation and trade. The first factory in the Bulgarian lands opened in Sliven in 1834 and the first railway system started running (between Rousse and Varna) in 1865.

Bulgarian nationalism was emergent in the early 19th century under the influence of western ideas such as liberalism and nationalism, which trickled into the country after the French Revolution, mostly via Greece. The Greek revolt against the Ottomans which began in 1821 also influenced the small Bulgarian educated class. But Greek influence was limited by the general Bulgarian resentment of Greek control of the Bulgarian Church and it was the struggle to revive an independent Bulgarian Church which first roused Bulgarian nationalist sentiment.

In 1870, a Bulgarian Exarchate was created by a firman and the first Bulgarian Exarch, Antim I, became the natural leader of the emerging nation. The Constantinople Patriarch reacted by excommunicating the Bulgarian Exarchate, which reinforced their will for independence. A struggle for political liberation from the Ottoman Empire emerged in the face of the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee and the Internal Revolutionary Organisation led by liberal revolutionaries such as Vasil Levski, Hristo Botev and Lyuben Karavelov.

April Uprising and Russo-Turkish War (1870s) Edit

In April 1876, the Bulgarians revolted in the April Uprising. The revolt was poorly organized and started before the planned date. It was largely confined to the region of Plovdiv, though certain districts in northern Bulgaria, in Macedonia, and in the area of Sliven also took part. The uprising was crushed by the Ottomans, who brought in irregular troops (bashi-bazouks) from outside the area. Countless villages were pillaged and tens of thousands of people were massacred, the majority of them in the insurgent towns of Batak, Perushtitsa, and Bratsigovo, all in the area of Plovdiv.

The massacres aroused a broad public reaction among liberal Europeans such as William Ewart Gladstone, who launched a campaign against the "Bulgarian Horrors". The campaign was supported by many European intellectuals and public figures. The strongest reaction, however, came from Russia. The enormous public outcry which the April Uprising had caused in Europe led to the Constantinople Conference of the Great Powers in 1876–77.

Turkey's refusal to implement the decisions of the conference gave Russia a long-waited chance to realise her long-term objectives with regard to the Ottoman Empire. Having its reputation at stake, Russia declared war on the Ottomans in April 1877. The Bulgarians also fought alongside the advancing Russians. Russia established a provisional government in Bulgaria. The Russian army and the Bulgarian Opalchentsi decisively defeated the Ottomans at Shipka Pass and Pleven. By January 1878 they had liberated much of the Bulgarian lands.

The Treaty of San Stefano was signed on 3 March 1878 and set up an autonomous Bulgarian principality on the territories of the Second Bulgarian Empire, including the regions of Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia, [67] [68] though the state was de jure only autonomous but de facto functioned independently. However, trying to preserve the balance of power in Europe and fearing the establishment of a large Russian client state in the Balkans, the other Great Powers were reluctant to agree to the treaty. [67]

As a result, the Treaty of Berlin (1878), under the supervision of Otto von Bismarck of Germany and Benjamin Disraeli of Britain, revised the earlier treaty, and scaled back the proposed Bulgarian state. The new territory of Bulgaria was limited between the Danube and the Stara Planina range, with its seat at the old Bulgarian capital of Veliko Turnovo and including Sofia. This revision left large populations of ethnic Bulgarians outside the new country and defined Bulgaria's militaristic approach to foreign affairs and its participation in four wars during the first half of the 20th century. [67] [69] [70]

Alexander of Battenberg, a German with close ties to the Russian Tsar, was the first prince (knyaz) of modern Bulgaria from 1879. Everyone had assumed Bulgaria would become a Russian ally. To the contrary, it became a bulwark against Russian expansion, and cooperated with the British. [71] Bulgaria was attacked by Serbia in 1885, but defeated the invaders. It thereby gained respect from the great powers and defied Russia. In response Russia secured the abdication of Prince Alexander in 1886. [72]

Stefan Stambolov (1854-1895) served 1886-1894 first as regent and then prime minister for the new ruler, Ferdinand I of Bulgaria (prince 1887–1908, tsar 1908-1918). Stambolov believed that Russia's liberation of Bulgaria from Turkish rule had been an attempt by Czarist Russia to turn Bulgaria into its protectorate. His policy was characterized by the goal of preserving Bulgarian independence at all costs, working with both the Liberal majority and Conservative minority parties. During his leadership Bulgaria was transformed from an Ottoman province into a modern European state. Stambolov launched a new course in Bulgarian foreign policy, independent of the interests of any great power. His main foreign policy objective was the unification of the Bulgarian nation into a nation-state consisting of all the territories of the Bulgarian Exarchate granted by the Sultan in 1870. Stambolov established close connections with the Sultan in order to enliven Bulgarian national spirit in Macedonia and to oppose Russian-backed Greek and Serbian propaganda. As a result of Stambolov's tactics, the Sultan recognised Bulgarians as the predominant people in Macedonia and gave a green light to the creation of a strong church and cultural institutions. Stambolov negotiated loans with western European countries to develop the economic and military strength of Bulgaria. In part, this was motivated by his desire to create a modern army which could secure all of the national territory. His approach toward western Europe was one of diplomatic manoeuvring. He understood the interests of the Austrian Empire in Macedonia and warned his diplomats accordingly. His domestic policy was distinguished by the defeat of terrorist groups sponsored by Russia, the strengthening of the rule of law, and rapid economic and educational growth, leading to progressive social and cultural change, and development of a modern army capable of protecting Bulgaria's independence. Stambolov was aware that Bulgaria had to be politically, militarily, and economically strong to achieve national unification. He mapped out the political course which turned Bulgaria into a strong regional power, respected by the great powers of the day. However, Bulgaria's regional leadership was short-lived. After Stambolov's death the independent course of his policy was abandoned. [73]

Bulgaria emerged from Turkish rule as a poor, underdeveloped agricultural country, with little industry or tapped natural resources. Most of the land was owned by small farmers, with peasants comprising 80% of the population of 3.8 million in 1900. Agrarianism was the dominant political philosophy in the countryside, as the peasantry organized a movement independent of any existing party. In 1899, the Bulgarian Agrarian Union was formed, bringing together rural intellectuals such as teachers with ambitious peasants. It promoted modern farming practices, as well as elementary education. [74]

The government promoted modernization, with special emphasis on building a network of elementary and secondary schools. By 1910, there were 4,800 elementary schools, 330 lyceums, 27 post-secondary educational institutions, and 113 vocational schools. From 1878 to 1933, France funded numerous libraries, research institutes, and Catholic schools throughout Bulgaria. In 1888, a university was established. It was renamed the University of Sofia in 1904, where the three faculties of history and philology, physics and mathematics, and law produced civil servants for national and local government offices. It became the center of German and Russian intellectual, philosophical and theological influences. [75]

The first decade of the century saw sustained prosperity, with steady urban growth. The capital of Sofia grew by a factor of 600% - from 20,000 population in 1878 to 120,000 in 1912, primarily from peasants who arrived from the villages to become laborers, tradesman and office seekers. Macedonians used Bulgaria as a base, beginning in 1894, to agitate for independence from the Ottoman Empire. They launched a poorly planned uprising in 1903 that was brutally suppressed, and led to tens of thousands of additional refugees pouring into Bulgaria. [76]

The Balkan Wars Edit

In the years following independence, Bulgaria became increasingly militarized and was often referred to as "the Balkan Prussia", with regard to its desire to revise the Treaty of Berlin through warfare. [77] [78] [79] The partition of territories in the Balkans by the Great Powers without regard to ethnic composition led to a wave of discontent not only in Bulgaria, but also in its neighbouring countries. In 1911, Nationalist Prime Minister Ivan Geshov formed an alliance with Greece and Serbia to jointly attack the Ottomans and revise the existing agreements around ethnic lines. [80]

In February 1912 a secret treaty was signed between Bulgaria and Serbia and in May 1912 a similar agreement was sealed with Greece. Montenegro was also brought into the pact. The treaties provided for the partition of the regions of Macedonia and Thrace between the allies, although the lines of partition were left dangerously vague. After the Ottoman Empire refused to implement reforms in the disputed areas, the First Balkan War broke out in October 1912 at a time when the Ottomans were tied down in a major war with Italy in Libya. The allies easily defeated the Ottomans and seized most of its European territory. [80]

Bulgaria sustained the heaviest casualties of any of the allies while also making the largest territorial claims. The Serbs in particular did not agree and refused to vacate any of the territory they had seized in northern Macedonia (that is, the territory roughly corresponding to the modern Republic of North Macedonia), saying that the Bulgarian army had failed to accomplish its pre-war goals at Adrianople (to capture it without Serbian help) and that the pre-war agreement on the division of Macedonia had to be revised. Some circles in Bulgaria inclined toward going to war with Serbia and Greece on this issue.

In June 1913, Serbia and Greece formed a new alliance against Bulgaria. The Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pasic promised Greece Thrace to Greece [no reference] if it helped Serbia defend the territory it had captured in Macedonia the Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos agreed [no reference]. Seeing this as a violation of the pre-war agreements, and privately encouraged by Germany and Austria-Hungary, Tsar Ferdinand declared war on Serbia and Greece on June 29.

The Serbian and Greek forces were initially beaten back from Bulgaria's western border, but they quickly gained the advantage and forced Bulgaria to retreat. The fighting was very harsh, with many casualties, especially during the key Battle of Bregalnitsa. Soon afterward, the Romania entered the war on the side of Greece and Serbia, attacking Bulgaria from the north. The Ottoman Empire saw this as an opportunity to regain its lost territories and also attacked from the south-east.

Facing war on three different fronts, Bulgaria sued for peace. It was forced to relinquish most of its territorial acquisitions in Macedonia to Serbia and Greece, Adrianapole to the Ottoman Empire, and the region of Southern Dobruja to Romania. The two Balkan wars greatly destabilized Bulgaria, stopping its hitherto steady economic growth, and leaving 58,000 dead and over 100,000 wounded. The bitterness at the perceived betrayal of its former allies empowered political movements who demanded the restoration of Macedonia to Bulgaria. [81]

World War I Edit

In the aftermath of the Balkan Wars Bulgarian opinion turned against Russia and the Western powers, by whom the Bulgarians felt betrayed. The government of Vasil Radoslavov aligned Bulgaria with the German Empire and Austria-Hungary, even though this meant becoming an ally of the Ottomans, Bulgaria's traditional enemy. But Bulgaria now had no claims against the Ottomans, whereas Serbia, Greece and Romania (allies of Britain and France) held lands perceived in Bulgaria as Bulgarian.

Bulgaria sat out the first year of World War I recuperating from the Balkan Wars. [82] Germany and Austria realized they needed Bulgaria's help in order to defeat Serbia militarily thereby opening supply lines from Germany to Turkey and bolstering the Eastern Front against Russia. Bulgaria insisted on major territorial gains, especially Macedonia, which Austria was reluctant to grant until Berlin insisted. Bulgaria also negotiated with the Allies, who offered somewhat less generous terms. The Tsar decided to go with Germany and Austria and signed an alliance with them in September 1915, along with a special Bulgarian-Turkish arrangement. It envisioned that Bulgaria would dominate the Balkans after the war. [83]

Bulgaria, which had the land force in the Balkans, declared war on Serbia in October 1915. Britain, France and Italy responded by declaring war on Bulgaria. In alliance with Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans, Bulgaria won military victories against Serbia and Romania, occupying much of Macedonia (taking Skopje in October), advancing into Greek Macedonia, and taking Dobruja from Romania in September 1916. Thus Serbia was temporarily knocked out of the war, and Turkey was temporarily rescued from collapse. [84] By 1917, Bulgaria fielded more than a quarter of its 4.5 million population in a 1,200,000-strong army, [85] [86] and inflicted heavy losses on Serbia (Kaymakchalan), Great Britain (Doiran), France (Monastir), the Russian Empire (Dobrich) and the Kingdom of Romania (Tutrakan).

However, the war soon became unpopular with most Bulgarians, who suffered great economic hardship and also disliked fighting their fellow Orthodox Christians in alliance with the Muslim Ottomans. The Russian Revolution of February 1917 had a great effect in Bulgaria, spreading anti-war and anti-monarchist sentiment among the troops and in the cities. In June Radoslavov's government resigned. Mutinies broke out in the army, Stamboliyski was released and a republic was proclaimed.

Interwar years Edit

In September 1918, Tsar Ferdinand abdicated in favour of his son Boris III in order to head off anti-monarchic revolutionary tendencies. Under the Treaty of Neuilly (November 1919) Bulgaria ceded its Aegean coastline to Greece, recognized the existence of Yugoslavia, ceded nearly all of its Macedonian territory to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and had to give Dobruja back to Romania. The country had to reduce its army to no more than 22,000 men and pay reparations exceeding $400 million. Bulgarians generally refer to the results of the treaty as the "Second National Catastrophe." [87]

Elections in March 1920 gave the Agrarians a large majority and Aleksandar Stamboliyski formed Bulgaria's first peasant government. He faced huge social problems, but succeeded in carrying out many reforms, although opposition from the middle and upper classes, the landlords and officers of the army remained powerful. In March 1923, Stamboliyski signed an agreement with the Kingdom of Yugoslavia recognising the new border and agreeing to suppress Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO), which favoured a war to regain Macedonia from Yugoslavia. [88]

This triggered a nationalist reaction and the coup d'état of 9 June 1923 eventually resulted in Stamboliykski's assassination. An extreme right-wing government under Aleksandar Tsankov took power, backed by the army and VMRO, which waged a White terror against Agrarians and Communists. In 1926, after the brief War of the Stray Dog, the Tsar persuaded Tsankov to resign, a more moderate government under Andrey Lyapchev took office and an amnesty was proclaimed, although the Communists remained banned. A popular alliance, including the re-organised Agrarians, won the elections of 1931 under the name "Popular Bloc". [88]

In May 1934 another coup took place, removing the Popular Bloc from power and establishing an authoritarian military régime headed by Kimon Georgiev. A year later, Tsar Boris managed to remove the military régime from power, restoring a form of parliamentary rule (without the re-establishment of the political parties) and under his own strict control. The Tsar's regime proclaimed neutrality, but gradually Bulgaria gravitated into alliance with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

World War II Edit

Upon the outbreak of World War II, the government of the Kingdom of Bulgaria under Bogdan Filov declared a position of neutrality, being determined to observe it until the end of the war, but hoping for bloodless territorial gains, especially in the lands with a significant Bulgarian population occupied by neighbouring countries after the Second Balkan War and World War I. [ citation needed ] But it was clear that the central geopolitical position of Bulgaria in the Balkans would inevitably lead to strong external pressure by both sides of World War II. [ citation needed ] Turkey had a non-aggression pact with Bulgaria. [ citation needed ]

Bulgaria succeeded in negotiating a recovery of Southern Dobruja, part of Romania since 1913, in the Axis-sponsored Treaty of Craiova on 7 September 1940, which reinforced Bulgarian hopes for solving territorial problems without direct involvement in the war. However, Bulgaria was forced to join the Axis powers in 1941, when German troops that were preparing to invade Greece from Romania reached the Bulgarian borders and demanded permission to pass through Bulgarian territory. Threatened by direct military confrontation, Tsar Boris III had no choice but to join the fascist bloc, which was made official on 1 March 1941. There was little popular opposition, since the Soviet Union was in a non-aggression pact with Germany. [89] However the king refused to hand over the Bulgarian Jews to the Nazis, saving 50,000 lives. [90]

Bulgaria did not join the German invasion of the Soviet Union that began on 22 June 1941 nor did it declare war on the Soviet Union. However, despite the lack of official declarations of war by both sides, the Bulgarian Navy was involved in a number of skirmishes with the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, which attacked Bulgarian shipping. Besides this, Bulgarian armed forces garrisoned in the Balkans battled various resistance groups. The Bulgarian government was forced by Germany to declare a token war on the United Kingdom and the United States on 13 December 1941, an act which resulted in the bombing of Sofia and other Bulgarian cities by Allied aircraft.

On 23 August 1944, Romania left the Axis Powers and declared war on Germany, and allowed Soviet forces to cross its territory to reach Bulgaria. On 5 September 1944 the Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria and invaded. Within three days, the Soviets occupied the northeastern part of Bulgaria along with the key port cities of Varna and Burgas. Meanwhile, on 5 of September, Bulgaria declared war on Nazi Germany. The Bulgarian Army was ordered to offer no resistance. [91]

On 9 September 1944 in a coup the government of Prime Minister Konstantin Muraviev was overthrown and replaced with a government of the Fatherland Front led by Kimon Georgiev. On 16 September 1944 the Soviet Red Army entered Sofia. [91] The Bulgarian Army marked several victories against the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen (at Nish), the 22nd Infantry Division (at Strumica) and other German forces during the operations in Kosovo and at Stratsin. [92] [93]

During this period the country was known as the "People's Republic of Bulgaria" (PRB) and was ruled by the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP). The BCP transformed itself in 1990, changing its name to "Bulgarian Socialist Party".

Communist leader Dimitrov had been in exile, mostly in the Soviet Union, since 1923. Although Stalin executed many other exiles he was close to Dimitrov and gave him high positions. Dimitrov was arrested in Berlin and showed great courage during the Reichstag fire trial of 1933. Stalin made him head of the Comintern during the period of the Popular Front' [94]

After 1944 he was also close to the Yugoslav Communist leader Tito and believed that Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, as closely related South Slav peoples, should form a federation. This idea was not favoured by Stalin. There have long been suspicions that Dimitrov's sudden death in Moscow in July 1949 was not accidental, although this has never been proven. It coincided with Stalin's expulsion of Tito from the Cominform and was followed by a "Titoist" witch hunt in Bulgaria. This culminated in the show trial and execution of Deputy Prime Minister Traicho Kostov (died 16 December 1949). The elderly Prime Minister Vasil Kolarov (born 1877) died in January 1950 and power then passed to a Stalinist, Vulko Chervenkov (1900–1980).

Bulgaria's Stalinist phase lasted less than five years. Under his leadership, agriculture was collectivised, peasant rebellions were crushed, and a massive industrialisation campaign was launched. Labor camps were set up and at the height of the repression housed about 100,000 people. Thousands of dissidents were executed under communist rule and many died in labor camps. [95] [96] [97] The Orthodox Patriarch was confined to a monastery and the Church placed under state control.

In 1950 diplomatic relations with the U.S. were broken off. But Chervenkov's support base in the Communist Party was too narrow for him to survive long once his patron Stalin was gone. Stalin died in March 1953 and in March 1954 Chervenkov was deposed as Party Secretary with the approval of the new leadership in Moscow and replaced by Todor Zhivkov. Chervenkov stayed on as Prime Minister until April 1956, when he was dismissed and replaced by Anton Yugov.

During the 1960s, Zhivkov initiated reforms and passed some market-oriented policies on an experimental level. [98] By the mid-1950s standards of living rose significantly, and in 1957 collective farm workers benefited from the first agricultural pension and welfare system in Eastern Europe. [99] Lyudmila Zhivkova, daughter of Todor Zhivkov, promoted Bulgaria's national heritage, culture and arts on a global scale. [100] An assimilation campaign of the late 1980s directed against ethnic Turks resulted in the emigration of some 300,000 Bulgarian Turks to Turkey, [101] [102] which caused a significant drop in agricultural production due to the loss of labor force. [103]

By the time the impact of Mikhail Gorbachev's reform program in the Soviet Union was felt in Bulgaria in the late 1980s, the Communists, like their leader, had grown too feeble to resist the demand for change for long. In November 1989 demonstrations on ecological issues were staged in Sofia and these soon broadened into a general campaign for political reform. The Communists reacted by deposing Zhivkov and replacing him by Petar Mladenov, but this gained them only a short respite.

In February 1990 the Party voluntarily gave up its claim on power monopoly and in June 1990 the first free elections since 1931 were held, won by the Communist Party, ridden of its hardliner wing and renamed the Bulgarian Socialist Party. In July 1991 a new Constitution was adopted, in which the system of government was fixed as parliamentary republic with a directly elected President and a Prime Minister accountable to the legislature.

Like the other post-Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria found the transition to capitalism more painful than expected. The anti-Communist Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) took office and between 1992 and 1994 the Berov Government carried through the privatisation of land and industry through the issue of shares in government enterprises to all citizens, but these were accompanied by massive unemployment as uncompetitive industries failed and the backward state of Bulgaria's industry and infrastructure were revealed. The Socialists portrayed themselves as the defender of the poor against the excesses of the free market.

The negative reaction against economic reform allowed Zhan Videnov of the BSP to take office in 1995. By 1996 the BSP government was also in difficulties and in the presidential election of that year the UDF's Petar Stoyanov was elected. In 1997 the BSP government collapsed and the UDF came to power. Unemployment, however, remained high and the electorate became increasingly dissatisfied with both parties.

On 17 June 2001, Simeon II, the son of Tsar Boris III and himself the former Head of state (as Tsar of Bulgaria from 1943 to 1946), won a narrow victory in elections. The Tsar's party — National Movement Simeon II ("NMSII") — won 120 of the 240 seats in Parliament. Simeon's popularity declined quickly during his four-year rule as Prime Minister and the BSP won the election in 2005, but could not form a single-party government and had to seek a coalition. In the parliamentary elections in July 2009, Boyko Borisov's right-centrist party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria won nearly 40% of the votes.

Since 1989 Bulgaria has held multi-party elections and privatized its economy, but economic difficulties and a tide of corruption have led over 800,000 Bulgarians, including many qualified professionals, to emigrate in a "brain drain". The reform package introduced in 1997 restored positive economic growth, but led to rising social inequality. The political and economic system after 1989 virtually failed to improve both the living standards and create economic growth. According to a 2009 Pew Global Attitudes Project survey, 76% of Bulgarians said they were dissatisfied with the system of democracy, 63% thought that free markets did not make people better off and only 11% of Bulgarians agreed that ordinary people had benefited from the changes in 1989. [104] Furthermore, the average quality of life and economic performance actually remained lower than in the times of communism well into the early 2000s (decade). [105]

Bulgaria became a member of NATO in 2004 and of the European Union in 2007. In 2010 it was ranked 32nd (between Greece and Lithuania) out of 181 countries in the Globalization Index. [106] The freedom of speech and of the press are respected by the government (as of 2015), but many media outlets are beholden to major advertisers and owners with political agendas. [107] Also see Human rights in Bulgaria. Polls carried out seven years after the country's accession to the EU found only 15% of Bulgarians felt they had personally benefited from the membership. [108]

The Celts in Asia Minor, Third Century BC to Fourth Century AD

The Celts who crossed the narrow strip of water between Europe and Asia were a varied group comprising three separate tribes, the Tolistobogii, the Tectosages, and the Trocmi. They had separated from the main force which attacked Delphi and were led by Leonorios and Lutorios. What is particularly interesting is that half their total number of 20,000 were non-combatants—the women, the children, and the aged. This suggests that, unlike the warriors who chose to follow Brennos on his raid, the groups who stayed with Leonorios and Lutorios were migrant populations in search of new land to settle.

In Asia Minor the various Celtic groups were referred to collectively as Galatians and their history was recorded in the lost books of Demetrios of Byzantium, which probably served as the source used by Polybius and Livy. Nicomedes employed the Celts in his conflict with Antiochos I, settling them in disputed territory between his own kingdom of Bithynia and that ruled by Antiochos. The period of instability which followed culminated in the defeat of the Celts in 275–274 bc in the famous ‘Elephant Battle’ in which Antiochos used elephants to overwhelm his enemy. Thereafter the Celts were moved to a barren highland area flanking the Halys. From here, for the next forty-five years or so, they became a scourge to the surrounding cities, organizing frequent raids from their home base particularly against the rich Hellenized cities, where plunder or bribes could easily be had. According to Livy, each of the three Galatian tribes had their own territory to raid: the Tolistobogii raided Aeolis, the Trocmi focused on the Hellespont, while the Tectosages regarded inland Asia Minor as their sphere of activity. Eventually an alliance with Mithridates I of Pontus encouraged them to move to a new land around Ancyra (Ankara).

From the middle of the third century the Celtic raids against the cities of the Aegean coastal area began to intensify, and Eumenes I of Pergamum (263–241 bc), now the prime power in the west, decided to buy them off. His successor, Attalus I (241–197 bc), however, chose instead to stand his ground, eventually winning a decisive battle at the Springs of Kaikos about 233 bc. It was to celebrate this victory that a monument was erected on the acropolis of Pergamum, some statues of which survive in Roman copies, the most famous being the Dying Gaul.

In the latter part of the third century Celts were used extensively as mercenaries in the armies of the Seleucid and Ptolemaic rulers, though from the fragmentary accounts that survive they appear to have been unruly and somewhat unreliable. One group who became demoralized at an eclipse of the moon had to be sent back with their wives and children to the Hellespont in case they had decided to change sides. The incident is interesting, because it shows that fresh groups of mercenaries were still arriving from Europe. It was during this period that Celtic warriors were in action as far afield as Egypt. In 218 Attalus II employed a Celtic tribe from Europe, the Aigosages, to take part in his campaigns in Aeolis and Phrygia, and afterwards gave them land on the borders of Phrygia, from where, at their own initiative, they began to carry out extensive raids until the entire tribe was slaughtered by Prusias of Bithynia in 217.

In 191 bc the Romans were drawn into the political turmoil of Asia Minor as allies of Pergamum against the Seleucid king Antiochos III. At Magnesia, in 190, the Seleucid army, together with its Galatian mercenaries, was soundly defeated by a combined Roman and Pergamene force, and the next year the new Roman commander Cn. Manlius Vulso set out for central Anatolia to deal with the Galatians in their home territory. In preparation for the onslaught the Tolistobogii and the fighting men of the Trocmi rallied at Mount Olympus, three days’ travel west of Ancyra, while the Tectosages and the families of the Trocmi made for Mount Magaba just east of Ancyra. In a lightning strike Manlius defeated first the Tolistobogii and the Trocmi, selling those he captured—40,000 men, women, and children—as slaves. He then moved quickly on to defeat the Tectosages. In the peace which was concluded, the Galatians agreed to stop all raids in the western parts of Asia Minor. Apart from an abortive attempt by Ortiagon, the Tolistobogian chief, to unite Galatia in a war on Pergamum, comparative peace prevailed, the Romans ensuring that the Galatians remained free from Pergamene control. However, in 167 the Galatian attacks began again and Eumenes II was forced to engage in vigorous campaigns against them. Two years later a new peace treaty was agreed.

The Pergamene victory was widely celebrated. At Pergamum a great sculptured frieze was added to the altar of Zeus, while on the Athenian acropolis a victory monument was dedicated by the Pergamenes proclaiming, in sculptured allegory, that the rulers of Pergamum, like the Greeks, were the saviours of the civilized world.

Thereafter raiding, so necessary for the maintenance of Celtic society, was deflected away from the territory controlled by the western powers towards other states. Cappadocia was first to suffer and later Pontus, but gradually the Celtic communities—known universally as the Galatians—absorbed the ways of Greece and Rome and of their Asiatic neighbours. When, in the middle of the first century ad, the Christian apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians, he treated them no differently from any other community in the now Roman world.

A sense of ethnic identity, perhaps earlier fostered by the practice of raiding, is implied by the widespread use of the name ‘Galatian’, which reflects the deep-rooted strength of Celtic traditions. An even more impressive reminder of this is the persistence of their language. When, in the fourth century ad, St Jerome offered the observation that the language used by the Galatians around Ancyra was similar to that he had heard among the Treveri at Trier, he was recognizing, though perhaps with the hindsight of a historian, the Celtic ancestry of both people.

The Galatians

The Galatians of Asia Minor provide an interesting example of Celtic communities retaining their ethnic integrity after the initial settlement in the early third century bc. Yet they appear to have adopted the material culture of their new homeland with little or no reference to that of their roots.

The history of the Galatians has been outlined above (Chapter 6), and need not be repeated here. Suffice it to say that the historical view records the movement of some 20,000 people, only half of whom were fighting men, into Asia Minor in 278–277 bc under the leadership of Leonorios and Lutorios. They came, we are told, at the invitation of King Nicomedes of Bithynia to serve the king in his conflicts with his neighbours. After fifty years or so as mercenaries in the service of different factions and as raiders in their own right, they were eventually settled in Phrygia in the vicinity of Ancyra.

Livy, no doubt following Polybius, gives an account of the migrants at the time of their arrival. They were divided into three tribal groups, the Tolistobogii, the Trocmi, and the Tectosages, all speaking the same language, with each of them laying claim to a territory over which to rampage and raid. It was in this mobile phase of their occupation that they provided mercenary services for any Hellenistic potentate willing to employ them. After a major defeat in about 232 bc, the Celtic peoples were compelled to concentrate in Phrygia. The Tectosages were already in the Ancyra region and the other two tribes were settled nearby. An agreement with the Pergamene king, Attalus, recognized the Celts’ right to the land they now occupied in return for an agreement to cease raiding the Pergamene kingdom and other spheres of Pergamene interest. In reality this left only the lands to the east as legitimate for exploitation and it was probably at this time that some territorial expansion took place east of the river Halys. The agreement with Attalus marks the point at which Galatia—the land of the Galatae—became a recognized territory, and we can henceforth speak of the inhabitants as Galatians.

The Galatians by this time must have become ethnically mixed. The elite lineages may well have been descended from the original migrant families of two generations past, but the indigenous population of Phrygia will now have been absorbed, if only in a subservient position, into the Galatian state.

The social structure of the Galatians seems to have remained little changed from its earlier form. According to Strabo, each of the three tribes was divided into four parts, which were called tetrarchies, and each had its own overall leader, a tetrarch, to whom a judge, a war leader, and two subordinate commanders were answerable. A council, representing the twelve tetrarchies and composed of 300 men, met at Drunemeton. Among its duties was to pass judgement on murder cases. The system has interesting similarities to the organization of the Celtic Gauls described by Caesar. There is the same separation of leadership between a civil and a military leader and the recognition of a distinct judicial class. A supreme council was also a feature of Gaulish society. Originally the Gaulish council met once a year under some form of Druidic authority in the territory of the Carnutes, but Augustus refounded it as the Consilium Galliarum and required it to meet at Lugdunum on 1 August at the Altar of Rome and Augustus. The name of the meeting place of the Galatians’ council—Drunemeton—also implies a religious focus, since nemeton is a Celtic word for a sacred place and is suggestive of a controlling religious authority.

How long this essentially Celtic system of social organization lasted among the Galatians is unrecorded. Strabo, writing about the turn of the millennium, specifically mentions that in his time power had passed first to three rulers, then to two, and finally to one, in contrast to ‘the organization of Galatia long ago’. This may have been, in part, a result of Roman encouragement or duress, but there are clear signs of change earlier. In 189 bc we learn that Ortagion, a chief of the Tolistobogii, wanted to unite the Galatians under his leadership, but his attempts met with little success and a few years later a number of social units are mentioned each with its own chief.

A century later the old system of tetrarchs still appears to have been in force. The glimpse is provided by a treacherous incident orchestrated by Mithridates IV. In 88 bc, in a bid to take control of Asia Minor, he effectively destroyed Galatian opposition by inviting the Galatian chiefs to meet him at Pergamum. Of the sixty who turned up all but one were massacred. Those who did not attend were picked off in individual attacks, only three tetrarchs managing to survive.

The massacre of the tetrarchs may well have been the deciding factor in bringing about far-reaching changes in the old social order. Not only did it greatly weaken the ruling elite, but it showed that divided leadership was ineffective in dealing with the problems of the rapidly changing world. The incident drove the Galatians to the Roman side, and it was in the interests of the Roman state to encourage a more unified leadership.

Very little is known of Galatian ritual or religion. The existence of Drunemeton is a hint that there were sacred locations, presided over, perhaps, by a Druidic priesthood, but there is no direct evidence of this. What is clear is that the indigenous cults were assimilated by the Celts. Such was the case of the worship of the Mother Goddess at Pessinus. In the late second century bc the high priest, known by the ritual name of Attis, was a Celt whose brother Aiorix bore a characteristically Celtic name. A later, Roman, inscription implies that half the college of priests at the temple were probably of Celtic birth. The sanctuary at Pessinus was, however, a thoroughly Hellenized place. Strabo refers to it as having been built by the Pergamene kings ‘in a manner befitting a holy place with a sanctuary and also with porticoes of white marble’. In spite of their acceptance of native cults and practices, the Galatians could revert to a more typically barbarous practice, as they did in 165 bc when, following the conclusion of a war with Eumenes, the most important of the prisoners were sacrificed to the gods, while the less favoured were dispatched by spearing. In this incident we may be witnessing a resurgence of the Celtic belief in the need to sacrifice the spoils of war to the deities.

The fighting practices of the Galatians were, as we have seen, vividly depicted by Pergamene artists in an array of victory monuments. Their fierceness and ferocity in battle were legendary. In 189 bc a Roman army, under the command of Cn. Manlius Vulso, moved against the Tolistobogii and Trocmi and won a decisive victory at Olympus near Pessinus. Livy gives a detailed account of the engagement, using the occasion to provide his reader with a series of familiar stereotypes about the Celt as a fighting man (Hist. 38. 19–30). Thus from the mouth of the commander, in his set-piece pre-battle oration, comes direct reference to incidents from the Celtic invasion of Italy in the fourth century. That Livy should emphasize the comparison in this way shows, at the very least, that he was acutely aware of the similarities of the two peoples, even though he may have overstressed or oversimplified them. Yet even allowing for these potential distortions, several interesting points emerge. The Galatians, it appears, were still using the rather archaic type of Celtic shield, ‘long, but not wide enough for the size of their bodies and … flat in surface’, and they still adopted the practice of fighting naked, a point lovingly described by Livy: ‘Their wounds were plain to see because they fight naked and their bodies are plump and white since they are never exposed except in battle.’ There is no reason to suppose that these observations were not specific to the event. Together they show that behaviour in battle had changed little, in spite of nearly a century of acclimatization in Asia Minor. Yet, Livy could report the Roman commander as saying: ‘The Gauls here are by now degenerate, a mixed race, truly described by their name Gallogrecians.’

In his brief review of Galatian territory, Strabo (Geog. 12. 5) makes no mention of towns. The Trocmi, he says, have ‘three walled garrisons’, Tavium, Mithridatium, and Danala the Tectosages command the fortress of Ancyra while the fortresses of the Tolistobogii are Blucium and Peïum, the former being the royal residence of king Deïotarus and the latter where he kept his treasure. Strabo’s use of ‘fortress’ is clearly intended to imply that these sites were not towns in the classical sense. He does, however, say that Tavium was ‘the emporium of the people in that part of the country’ and he uses the same word in describing Pessinus in the border region to the west of Galatia. By ‘emporium’ he was presumably seeking to stress the market functions of the two places. If we can accept Strabo’s distinctions, the implication is of an essentially non-urban society focused on a series of fortified enclosures and with an economy articulated at a few trading centres, at least one of them sited at a major shrine. The towns of the Phrygian indigenes were left to decay but by the time of the Roman annexation in 25 bc, Ancyra, Pessinus, and Tavium were sufficiently important to become the capitals of the three tribes.

Several Galatian fortresses have been located. Blucium has been tentatively identified, and the fortifications partially excavated, at Karalar, 35 kilometres north-west of Ankara. A nearby tomb with a funerary inscription showing it to have belonged to King Deïotarus (son of the king of the same name who was an ally of Rome) provided some assurance of the identification. Peïum, the second of the Tolistobogii strongholds mentioned by Strabo, is thought to lie in the meander of the river Girmir at Tabanliog˘lu Kale. The deeply incised river provides the site with more than adequate protection on three sides, while the neck of the promontory is defended by a wall protected by multi-angular bastions built in fine Hellenistic masonry. The strength of the defences would be entirely appropriate to a fortress guarding the king’s treasure. The quality of the architecture of Peïum (if correctly identified) is a reminder that the Galatian elite were well able to use Hellenistic building techniques, even if their fortified sites were typical Celtic hillforts in size and location.

The material culture of the Galatians has not been extensively studied, but sufficient is known to suggest that indigenous styles and technologies were adopted from the beginning. Distinctive items of La Tène metalwork are at present limited to a few bracelets and some twenty or so brooches from the whole of Asia Minor. While a few of these items were found, as would be expected, in Galatia and on the Aegean coast, the densest concentration lies in the south-east of the country in Cappadocia, a pattern which might suggest that Celtic raiding parties ranged over a wider territory than might be supposed from the classical sources

The Galatians provide a fascinating example of a Celtic people who maintained a high degree of ethnic identity over several centuries, even though they must have represented a minority in their territory. Their persistence as a recognizably Celtic people is the result of elite dominance. As a powerful warlike group, thrown together by migration and periods of mercenary service, they were able to maintain their identity without recourse to the material symbols of their ethnicity.

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