Celtiberians were a group of
Celts or Celticized peoples
inhabiting the central-eastern
Iberian Peninsula during the final
centuries BC. They were explicitly mentioned as being
Celts by several
classic authors (e.g. Strabo). These tribes spoke the Celtiberian
language and wrote it by adapting the Iberian alphabet. The
numerous inscriptions discovered, some of them extensive, allowed
scholars to classify the
Celtiberian language as a Celtic language,
possibly one of the Hispano-Celtic (also known as Iberian Celtic)
languages that were spoken in pre-Roman and early Roman Iberia.
Archaeologically, many elements link
Central Europe, but also show large differences with both the
Hallstatt culture and La Tène culture.
There is no complete agreement on the exact definition of Celtiberians
among classical authors, nor modern scholars. The
Ebro river clearly
divides the Celtiberian areas from non-Indoeuropean speaking
peoples. On the other directions, the demarcation is less clear.
Most scholars include the Arevaci, Pellendones, Belli, Titti and
Lusones as Celtiberian tribes, and occasionally the Berones, Vaccaei,
Olcades or Lobetani.
1 Origin of the term
2.1 Early history
2.2 Late period
3 See also
6 External links
Origin of the term
Celtiberi appears in accounts by Diodorus Siculus,
Appian and Martial who recognized intermarriage between Celts
Iberians after a period of continuous warfare, though Barry
Cunliffe says "this has the ring of guesswork about it." Strabo
just saw the
Celtiberians as a branch of the Celti. Pliny the Elder
thought that the original home of the
Celts in Iberia was the
territory of the
Celtici in the south-west, on the grounds of an
identity of sacred rites, language, and the names of cities.
Main language areas, peoples and tribes in
Iberian Peninsula c. 300
BC., according to epigraphy and toponymy, based on the map by Luís
Strabo cites Ephorus's belief that there were
Celts in the Iberian
peninsula as far as Cadiz, bringing aspects of Hallstatt culture
in the 6th to 5th centuries BC, adopting much of the culture they
found. This was a culture 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.
Settlements of circular huts survived until Roman times across the
north of Iberia, from Northern Portugal,
Asturias and Galicia through
Cantabria and northern Leon to the
Celtic presence in Iberia likely dates to as early as the 6th century
BC, when the castros evinced a new permanence with stone walls and
protective ditches. Archaeologists
Martín Almagro Gorbea
Martín Almagro Gorbea and Alvarado
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".
Archaeological finds identify the culture as continuous with the
culture reported by Classical writers from the late 3rd century
onwards (Almagro-Gorbea and Lorrio). The ethnic map of Celtiberia was
highly localized however, composed of different tribes and nations
from the 3rd 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.
Territory of the
Celtiberi with possible location of tribes
The cultural stronghold of
Celtiberians was the northern area of the
central meseta in the upper valleys of the
Douro east to the
Iberus (Ebro) river, in the modern provinces of Soria, Guadalajara,
Zaragoza and Teruel. There, when Greek and Roman geographers and
historians encountered them, the established
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
Belli and Titti in the Jalón valley, and the
Lusones to the
Excavations at the Celtiberian strongholds Kontebakom-Bel Botorrita,
Sekaisa Segeda, Tiermes complement the grave goods found in
Celtiberian cemeteries, where aristocratic tombs of the 6th to 5th
centuries BC give way to warrior tombs with a tendency from the 3rd
century BC 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 archaeology.
Bronze Celtiberian fibula representing a warrior (3rd–2nd century
Metalwork stands out in Celtiberian archaeological 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 BC.
From the 3rd 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.
Celtiberians were the most influential ethnic group in Iberia when
the Mediterranean powers (
Carthage and Rome) started its conquest. In
220 BC, the Punic army was attacked when preparing to cross the Tagus
river by a coalition of Vaccei,
Carpetani and Olcades. Despite these
clashes, during the
Second Punic War
Second Punic War the
Celtiberians served most
often as allies or mercenaries of
Carthage in its conflict with Rome,
and crossed the
Alps in the mixed forces under Hannibal's command.
Under Scipio, the Romans were able to secure alliances and change the
allegiances of many Celtiberian tribes, using these allied warriors
against the Carthaginian forces and allies in Spain.
After the conflict,
Rome took possession of the Punic empire in Spain,
Celtiberians soon challenged the new dominant power that
loomed in the borders of its territory. Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus
spent the years 182 to 179 pacifying the Celtiberians; however,
conflicts between various semi-independent bands of Celtiberians
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 BC), Roman cultural
influences increased; this is the period of the earliest Botorrita
inscribed plaque; later plaques, significantly, are inscribed in
Latin. The Sertorian War, 80 – 72 BC, marked the last formal
resistance of the Celtiberian cities to Roman domination, which
submerged the Celtiberian culture.
Botorrita plaque: one of four bronze plates with inscriptions.
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
A Roman army auxiliary unit, the Cohors I Celtiberorum, is known from
Britain, attested by 2nd century AD discharge diplomas.
Pre-Roman peoples of the Iberian Peninsula
^ a b Strabo. Geography. Book III Chapter 4 verses 5 and 12.
^ Cremin, Aedeen (2005). "Celtiberian Language". In Koch, John. Celtic
Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. Volume I: A–Celti. Santa
Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. pp. 363–364.
^ Roman History, Book XVIII "Cato sailed away and reached Spain, where
he learned that all the inhabitants as far as the Iberus (
had united in order to wage war against him in a body. After
organizing his army he attacked and defeated them and forced them to
submit to him, since they feared that otherwise they might lose their
cities at a single stroke. At the time he did them no harm, but later,
when some of them incurred his suspicion, he deprived them all of
their arms and caused the natives themselves to tear down their own
walls. For he sent letters in all directions with orders that they
should be delivered to everybody on the same day; and in these he
commanded the people to raze their walls immediately, threatening the
disobedient with death. The officials upon reading the letters thought
in each case that message had been written to them alone, and without
taking time for deliberation they all threw down their walls. Cato now
crossed the Iberus, and though he did not dare to contend with the
Celtiberian allies of the enemy on account of their number, yet he
handled them in marvellous fashion, now persuading them by a gift of
larger pay to change front and join him, now admonishing them to
return home, and sometimes even announcing a battle with them for a
stated day. The result was that they broke up into separate factions
and became so fearful that they no longer ventured to fight with him."
Celts in Iberia: An Overview, e-Keltoi: Volume 6
^ Celtiberian manners and customs in
Diodorus Siculus v. 33–34;
Diodorus relies on lost texts of Posidonius.
Appian of Alexandria, Roman History.
^ Bilbilis was the birthplace of Martial.
^ Cunliffe, Barry (2003). The Celts: a very short introduction. Oxford
University Press. p. 52. ISBN 0-19-280418-9.
^ Sir William Smith (1854), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography,
Volume 2, Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
Strabo (1923). The Geography of Strabo; with an English translation
by Horace Leonard Jones. II, book IV, chapter 4 (Loeb Classical
Library ed.). London: Heinemann.
^ Koch, John, ed. (2005). "Iberian Peninsula,
Celts on the". Celtic
Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. Volume I: A–Celti. Santa
Barbara, CA: ABL-CLIO. p. 950. ISBN 978-1-85109-440-0.
Retrieved June 9, 2010.
^ The Site of Tiermes Archived January 12, 2005, at the Wayback
Machine., official website
Guy de la Bédoyère
Guy de la Bédoyère Eagles over Britannia: the Roman Army in
Britain. Stroud: Tempus, 2001 ISBN 0-7524-1923-4; p. 241.
Ángel Montenegro et alii, Historia de España 2 – colonizaciones y
formación de los pueblos prerromanos (1200–218 a.C), Editorial
Gredos, Madrid (1989) ISBN 84-249-1386-8
Antonio Arribas, The Iberians, Thames & Hudson, London (1964)
Francisco Burillo Mozota, Los Celtíberos, etnias y estados, Crítica,
Barcelona (1998, revised edition 2007) ISBN 84-7423-891-9
Barry Cunliffe, "Iberia and the Celtiberians" in The Ancient Celts,
Penguin Books, London (1997) ISBN 0-14-025422-6
Alberto J. Lorrio, Los Celtíberos, Universidad Complutense de Madrid,
Murcia (1997) ISBN 84-7908-335-2
Alberto J. Lorrio and Gonzalo Ruiz Zapatero, "The
Celts in Iberia: an
Overview" in e-Keltoi 6
J. P. Mallory, In Search of the Indo-Europeans, Thames & Hudson,
London (1989) ISBN 0-500-05052-X
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,
J. Alberto Arenas Esteban, & Mª Victoria Palacios Tamayo, El
origen del mundo celtibérico, Excmº Ayuntamiento de Molina de
Aragón (1999) ISBN 84-922929-1-1
Media related to
Celtiberians at Wikimedia Commons
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
Júdice Gamito, Teresa (September 2005). "The
Celts in Portugal".
e-Keltoi. Center for Celtic Studies, University of
Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 6: The
Celts in the Iberian Peninsula:
Lorrio, Alberto J.; Ruiz Zapatero, Gonzalo (February 2005). "The Celts
in Iberia: An Overview". e-Keltoi. Center for Celtic Studies,
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 6: The
Celts in the Iberian
Rodríguez Ramos, Jesús (March 17, 2006). "Iberian Epigraphy Page".
Archived from the original on December 27, 2008. Retrieved
Botorrita 1". Quellentexte (in German). Vienna: *indegermanistik
wien: Institutsteil des Instituts für Sprachwissenschaft der
Universität Wien. 2002. Archived from the original on September 29,
2009. Retrieved November 30, 2008.
Almagro-Gorbea, Martín; Lorrio, Alberto J. (October 2004). "War and
Society in the Celtiberian World" (PDF). e-Keltoi. Center for Celtic
Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 6: The
Celts in the
Iberian Peninsula: 73–112.
James Grout: The Celtiberian War, part of the Encyclopædia Romana
Detailed map of the Pre-Roman Peoples of Iberia (around 200 BC)
Dálriata / Alba
Iron Age Britain /
Roman Britain / Sub-Roman Britain
Gaul / Roman
Gaul / Brittany
Brigantia (ancient region)
Warfare (Gaelic warfare)
Modern Celtic nations
Pan-Celticism (Celtic Congress
English words of Celtic origin
Spanish words of Celtic origin
Galician words of Celtic origin
French words of Gaulish origin