Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Celts (Lat. Cettae, Gr. celtai), a great Aryan-speaking nation of antiquity, who still form a constituent element of the populations throughout South-Central and West Europe and the British Isles; first mentioned by Herodotus, who places them in the extreme west, and "beyond the pillars of Hercules." But Plutarch extends their domain from the Palus Maeotis (Sea of Azov) to the Atlantic, and there can be no doubt that in the course of their migrations, probably from the Russian steppes up the Danube Valley westwards, they made more or less permanent settlements in Bohemia, Helvetia, North Italy (Gallia Cisalpina), and many other intervening lands. But shortly before the new era the bulk of the Celts proper appear to have been already confined mainly to Central Gaul between the Garonne and Seine (Ceesar's Gallia Celtica), and to the British Isles. They were not, however, the first inhabitants of these regions, which had already been occupied by men of the early and later stone ages (pre-glacial and post-glacial epochs), who were partly exterminated, partly absorbed, by the intruding Celts. And thus began that intermingling of races long before the dawn of history, which, combined with the one-sided and often antagonistic theories of anthropologists, philologists, antiquaries, and national prejudice, has tended to involve Celtic ethnology in almost hopeless confusion. The word Celt itself has received as many meanings as the standpoints from which it has been studied, while the secondary or associated terms Gallii, Belgee, Britanni, Picts, Scots, Gadhaelians, and Kymrians, are differently interpreted according to the different views or sentiments of British, Irish, and Continental writers. These questions cannot here be discussed; but those who desire to approach their study with unbiassed minds should at least keep in view the first principles of anthropology, as, for instance, that race and language are not convertible terms, consequently that all peoples now or formerly speaking Celtic idioms are not necessarily Celts. From the remotest times the Celtic language was already split into two main divisions. But it would be absurd to conclude from this that the Celtic race was also split into two distinct physical groups. Being admittedly a branch of the primitive Aryan stock, the early Celts could present but one physical type, that common to the other early Aryan peoples, until they became modified by later interminglings with non-Aryan populations. Owing to these interminglings there are now not one but several physical varieties, which seem to have but little reference to the two varieties of Celtic speech. In Ireland alone there are the dubh ("black") and the ruadh ("red"), both speaking the same Gadhaelic form of Celtic. So in France and Belgium we have the small, dark, round-headed Savoyards, Auvergnats, and Bretons, quite different from the tall, fair, long-headed Walloons, some speaking neo-Latin tongues, some the Kymric form of Celtic, but all alike supposed to be "Celts." Here, however, some French anthropologists (Broca and his school) distinguish two types, the Celtic proper (Caesar's Celtae) represented by the dark Auvergnats and Bretons, and the Gallic (Ceesar's Belgae) represented by the fair Walloons. But thus to separate Gauls from Celts is already sufficiently embarrassing, and the same irreconcilable dualism is met in the whole field of Celtic ethnology. Its cause lies in the primitive dual elements (dark and fair) of the Caucasic race itself, the explanation being that after separating from the parent Aryan stem, the Celts (originally tall and fair) became more or less assimilated to the dark non-Aryan peoples of Central and West Europe, on whom they imposed their Aryan speech. Hence the primitive Celtic man has been mainly effaced or absorbed in the Ligurian, Silurian, Iberian, and other primitive European populations, and little remains except the primitive Celtic speech.