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History Notes: The Celts

The Romans tried very hard to conquer Britain. The Romans called the people living in Britain barbarians. We refer to these people today as the ancient Celts.

The Romans never succeeded in conquering all of Britain. The Roman Emperor Hadrian built a wall in Britain to mark the Celt territory from the Roman.

The Iron Age Celts were a tribe of people who lived all over Europe about two thousand years ago. At one time, tribes of Celts were in modern day Spain, France, Italy and Russia.

Around 500 BCE, the ancient Celts settled in modern day Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the Isle of Man.

They lived in farming communities. They never built cities. They were fierce warriors. The Celts were a proud and honourable people. They were also very clean. The Celts invented soap!

They loved music. They loved to boast and make up stories, especially stories about fairies, elves and leprechauns. Their culture lives on today in music, dance, story and song.

The Fine

The smallest group in Celtic society was the Fine. A fine is an extended family group that included grandparents and parents and their kids, and could include aunts, uncles, cousins and their kids. The fine was a unit, treated like one person.

*If one member stole, all were punished

*Everything belonged to everyone in the fine

*If one member was victorious in battle, the fine was victorious

The Clan

The next step up was the Clan. Each clan was made up of several fines. You were a part of a clan for life and beyond.

Each clan had a leader. You did not inherit leadership from your father. Any male could be chosen as long as he was blood-related to the clan.

Leaders had to be strong warriors. They had to be able to work out disagreements with other clans. They had to be rich enough to throw good festivals. PARTY!!!!!

Clans stuck together. Members of a clan supported each other. This is one of the reasons Celts never developed an empire. To have an empire, you need a central government, with one leader. The clans each had a leader who were equal to each other.

Who's Who

Inside each clan, there were three major groups of people:

  1. At the top were nobles which included warrior leaders and landowners.

  2. In the middle were the artisans (craftsmen), druids (priests and teachers) and the bards (musicians and storytellers; entertainers)

  3. At the bottom were the common people, the peasants.

Whatever their position is society, all people lived well. Everyone in Celtic society belonged to a clan. Everyone belonged to a fine. And, everyone had a job to do.


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