Celtic Characteristics – The Assignment

Since this is something I did for school you’ll have to excuse the kind of formal way I wrote it..


According Cunliffe’s book, the view we have of the Celts today would be very different if we didn’t have the musings and writings of Greek and Roman writers. If we only looked at the Celts from an archaeological point of view, we would see a warrior society from central Europe with stratified burial customs. These writings should always be taken with a grain of salt as the writers often used such musings to further their own political interests.

It is also because of these writers we probably know that they’re even called Celts or Gauls as they most often call themselves. A fun side note is that I haven’t truly connected the Celts/Gauls with Asterix & Obelix until now.


When it comes to culture, the Celts were very adamant about their status and demonstrated this often. There are talks about them taking the heads of their enemies, preserving with the help of cedar oil and stored them carefully in chests to later proudly show to their guests. The more heads and the more valuable they were the more status the owner got. Also, the larger sum of gold you refused from relatives of the “heads”, the more status you got from those around you. They were known for being melodramatic and boastful, but also admired for their intellect.

According to one of these ancient writers, the Celts often hosted big feasts and the bravest of them got the choicest part of the meat. They would also be served the food by adolescents and discussions and arguments were encouraged to later escalate into brawls and duels to the death. Strangers invited as guests to these feasts were never, as a principle, asked about whom they were or what they were doing until after the dinner had been held.


The Celts were known for wearing dyed shirts, trousers called bracae and chequered and striped cloak and during battle to wear only a loincloth or even run naked, not fearing death. They were not always naked though, and to battle they would wear helmets and wooden or bronze shields the size of a human, both with animal figures as decorations and also aides in the fights (the figures protruding from the shields and harming those coming too close).

On the topic of battle comes how the Celts behaved in warfare and military strategies. They were truly a warrior society, always on the move for raids and combat (as I described in the first assignment). The heads I mentioned before were not only stored in chests but also hanged around their horse’s necks. They would also hang spoils of war like jewellery or other valuables to the walls of their homes to show off. While an eager, bloodthirsty warrior, the Celt was also selfish and an unpredictable warrior, only being supportive and fighting if things seemed to go well.


Celtic religion is a very interesting topic. According to ancient writers the Celts were very devoted to their beliefs and the only thing they fear was that the sky would fall down upon them. There have also been tales of human sacrifice, that the Celts would among other things build large effigies and then stuff it with living beings, both humans and animals, to later set on fire like a large sacrificial bonfire.

They would never do any kind of rituals or sacrifices without the druids present, druids which we today think of as long-bearded men with white cloaks gathering herbs and hanging around Stonehenge. Another practice was striking a man with the sword and then telling prophecies by looking at the death spasms.


Today we see the Celts from behind a kaleidoscope. We see the archaeological evidence of a warrior tribe, the Roman-Graeco view filled romanticism and political propaganda. Even later influences also take part in this colourful clutter of views and objectivism. They have been used as symbols of origin when countries and nations began to grow. Their kind-of nomadic lifestyles and several migrations fell into the limelight during the Imperial Age and the time of colonization. This is but a few point of views that’s been had about the Celtic world and culture.

Personally I’ve always seen them as a mystical people with religion and far more intelligence they’re given credit for. I’m also enthusiastic when it comes to the fantasy genre and that have painted my thoughts on the subject. My influences on the Celtic people have been the book Barbarians by Terry Jones and the fantasy series about the land Deverry by Katharine Kerr.

How far from the truth my view is, is irrelevant. Who’s to say history’s right and I’ve got it wrong? If you think about it, the Romans and Greeks used the Celts as fodder for their muses of imagination. Who’s to say their writings aren’t as made up as my opinions and thoughts? It’s worth thinking about.

History is a fickle thing, but it’s a ride I truly enjoy, so why get off just because it’s not built according to the blueprints?

Blessed Be


  1. Diandra said,

    September 18, 2011 at 8:29 am

    This was a very good summary of about everything we know about the Celts. ^^

    • Vaettr said,

      September 18, 2011 at 1:36 pm

      Thanks! It’s a summary of the first chapter in my coursebook, The Ancient Celts by Cunliffe.
      Glad you liked it!

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