The Celtiberians (or Celt-Iberians) [The term "Celtiberi" appears in accounts by Diodorus Siculus, Appian and Martial who recognized a mixed Celtic and Iberian people; Strabo saw the Celts as the more dominant group in this blend.] were a Celtic people of Hallstatt culture living in the Iberian Peninsula, chiefly in what is now north central Spain, before and during the Roman Empire. The group originated when Celts migrated from Gaul (now France) and integrated with the local Pre-Indo-European populations of Iberia (probably the Iberian people in this zone of the Peninsula).

The Celtiberian language is attested from the first century BCE. Other, possibly Celtic languages, like Lusitanian, were also spoken in pre-Roman Iberia. The Lusitani gave their name to Lusitania, the Roman province name covering current Portugal and Extremadura. Extant tribal names include the "Arevaci, Belli, Titti," and "Lusones".


According to the theory developed by Bosch Gimpera ("Two Celtic Waves in Spain", 1943), the earliest Celtic presence in Iberia was that of the southeastern Almería Culture of the Bronze Age; in the tenth century BCE, a fresh wave of Celts migrated into the Iberian peninsula and penetrated as far as Cadiz, bringing aspects of Hallstatt culture (fifth century BCE) with them and adopting much of the culture they found. This basal Indo-European culture was of seasonally transhumant cattle-raising pastoralists protected by a warrior elite, similar to those in other areas of Atlantic Europe, centered in the hill-forts, locally termed "castros", that controlled small grazing territories. These settlements of circular huts survived until Roman times across the north of Iberia, from Northern Portugal, Asturias and Galicia to the Basque Country.

Celtic presence in Iberia likely dates to as early as the sixth century BCE, when the "castros" evinced a new permanence with stone walls and protective ditches. Almagro-Gorbea and Lorrio recognize the distinguishing iron tools and extended family social structure of developed Celtiberian culture as evolving from the archaic "castro" culture which they consider "proto-Celtic".Mute archaeological finds identify the culture as continuous with the culture reported by Classical writers from the late third century onwards (Almagro-Gorbea and Lorrio). The ethnic map of Celtiberia was highly localized however, composed of different tribes and "nationes" from the third century centered upon fortified "oppida" and representing a wide ranging degree of local assimilation with the autochthonous cultures in a mixed Celtic and Iberian stock.

The cultural stronghold of Celtiberians was the northern area of the central "meseta" in the upper valleys of the Tagus and Douro east to the "Iberus" (Ebro) river, in the modern provinces of Soria, Guadalajara and Teruel. There, when Greek and Roman geographers and historians encountered them, the established Celtiberians were controlled by a military aristocracy that had become a hereditary elite. The dominant tribe were the Arevaci, who dominated their neighbors from powerful strongholds at Okilis (Medinaceli) and who rallied the long Celtiberian resistance to Rome. Other Celtiberians were the Belli and Titti in the Jalón valley, and the Lusones to the east. Excavations at the Celtiberian strongholds Botorrita, Segeda, Tiernes [ [http://www.archaeospain.com/tiermes/tiermes1.htm The Site of Tiermes] , official website] complement the grave goods found in Celtiberian cemeteries, where aristocratic tombs of the sixth-fifth centuries give way to warrior tombs with a tendency from the third century for weapons to disappear from grave goods, either indicating an increased urgency for their distribution among living fighters or, as Almagro-Gorbea and Lorrio think, the increased urbanization of Celtiberian society. Many late Celtiberian "oppida" are still occupied by modern towns, inhibiting archeology.

Metalwork stands out in Celtiberian archeological finds, partly from its indestructible nature, emphasizing Celtiberian articles of warlike uses, horse trappings and prestige weapons. The two-edged sword adopted by the Romans was previously in use among the Celtiberians, and Latin "lancea", a thrown spear, was a Hispanic word, according to Varro. Celtiberian culture was increasingly influenced by Rome in the two final centuries BCE.

From the third century, the clan was superseded as the basic Celtiberian political unit by the "oppidum", a fortified organized city with a defined territory that included the "castros" as subsidiary settlements. These "civitates" as the Roman historians called them, could make and break alliances, as surviving inscribed hospitality pacts attest, and minted coinage. The old clan structures lasted in the formation of the Celtiberian armies, organized along clan-structure lines, with consequent losses of strategic and tactical control.

The Celtiberians were the most influential ethnic group in pre-Roman Iberia, but they had their largest impact on history during the Second Punic War, during which they became the (perhaps unwilling) allies of Carthage in its conflict with Rome, and crossed the Alps in the mixed forces under Hannibal's command. As a result of the defeat of Carthage, the Celtiberians first submitted to Rome in 195 BCE; T. Sempronius Gracchus spent the years 182 to 179 pacifying (as the Romans put it) the Celtiberians; however, conflicts between various semi-independent bands of Celtiberians continued. After the city of Numantia was finally taken and destroyed by Scipio Aemilianus Africanus the younger after a long and brutal siege that ended the Celtic resistance (154 - 133 BCE), Roman cultural influences increased; this is the period of the earliest Botorrita inscribed plaque; later plaques, significantly, are inscribed in Latin. The war with Sertorius, 79 - 72 BCE, marked the last formal resistance of the Celtiberian cities to Roman domination, which submerged the Celtiberian culture.

The Celtiberian presence remains on the map of Spain in hundreds of Celtic place-names. The archaeological recovery of Celtiberian culture commenced with the excavations of Numantia, published between 1914 and 1931.



* Antonio Arribas, "The Iberians" 1964.
* Barry Cunliffe, 'Iberia and the Celtiberians' in "The Ancient Celts" (Penguin Books, 1997), ISBN 0-14-025422-6* J. P. Mallory, "In Search of the Indo-Europeans" (Thames & Hudson, 1989), ISBN 0-500-05052-X
*Alberto J. Lorrio and Gonzalo Ruiz Zapatero, "The Celts in Iberia: An Overview" in " [http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/celtic/ekeltoi/volumes/vol6/6_4/lorrio_zapatero_6_4.html e-Keltoi" 6]
*Jesús Martín-Gil, Gonzalo Palacios-Leblé, Pablo Martín-Ramos and Francisco J. Martín-Gil, "Analysis of a Celtiberian protective paste and its possible use by Arevaci warriors". "e-Keltoi" 5, pp 63-76.

Further reading

*Simon James, The Atlantic Celts: Ancient people or modern invention? (British Museum Press), 1999

ee also

*Portuguese people
*Spanish people
*Pre-Roman peoples of the Iberian Peninsula

External links

* [http://www.celtiberia.net/ Celtiberia.net, in Spanish]
* [http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/celtic/ekeltoi/volumes/vol6/6_11/gamito_6_11.html e-Celtoi: vol 6: Teresa Júdice Gamito, "The Celts in Portugal"]
* [http://www.fanaticus.org/DBA/armies/dba52.html Ancient Spanish Armies]
* [http://www.webpersonal.net/jrr/index.htm Jesus Rodriquez Ramos, Iberian Epigraphy website] sets the Celtiberian language in historical and context understandable to the average reader.
* [http://www.univie.ac.at/indogermanistik/quellentexte.cgi?41 Botorrita 1 transcription]
* [http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/celtic/ekeltoi/volumes/vol6/6_2/gorbea_lorrio_6_2.pdf Martín Almagro-Gorbea and Alberto J. Lorrio, "War and Society in the Celtiberian World"] in "e-Keltoi" Volume 6: 73-112: includes a full bibliography on Celtiberian culture
* [http://www.archaeospain.com/tiermes/tiermes1.htm "The Celtiberian and Roman city of Tiernes"] : an on-going excavation
* [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/hispania/celtiberianwar.html James Grout: "The Celtiberian War", part of the Encyclopædia Romana]
* [http://www.arqueotavira.com/Mapas/Iberia/Populi.htm Detailed map of the Pre-Roman Peoples of Iberia (around 200 BC)]

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