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  • One summer evening in 335 BCE, Alexander the Great

  • was resting by the Danube River after a day of fighting the Scythian tribes

  • when a band of strangers approached his camp.

  • Alexander had never seen anything like these tall,

  • fierce-looking warriors with huge golden neck rings and colorful cloaks

  • so he invited them to feast with him.

  • They proudly said they were Keltoi or Celts who came from the far-away Alps.

  • Alexander asked what they feared the most in the world,

  • hoping they would say him.

  • They laughed and said they feared nothing at all.

  • This is one of the earliest stories about the ancient Celts.

  • While we don't know where the first Celts came from,

  • by Alexander's time they had spread across Europe

  • from Asia Minor in the east to Spain

  • and the Atlantic islands of Britain and Ireland in the west.

  • The Celts were never one unified empire, and they didn't build cities or monuments.

  • Instead, they were hundreds of independent tribes who spoke the same language.

  • Each had its own warrior-king and religious center.

  • The tribes fought each other

  • as enthusiastically as they fought their enemies.

  • Few armies could stand up to them.

  • Somewhat unusually for the time, the Celts believed in reincarnation

  • that they would be reborn on Earth to live and feast and fight again,

  • which may have contributed to their fearlessness in battle.

  • Some of them fought naked, scoffing at their enemies' armor.

  • The greatest trophy a Celtic warrior could possess

  • was the severed head of a foe.

  • They preserved these heads in jars of cedar oil

  • and showed them to guests who visited their homes.

  • Celtic warriors were so valued in the ancient world

  • that foreign kings often hired them as mercenary soldiers

  • to serve in their armies.

  • But the Celts were much more than just warriors.

  • Among them were many skilled craftsmen, artists, and great poets called bards.

  • The bards sang of the brave deeds of their ancestors

  • and praised the accomplishments of warrior kings

  • and composed biting satires about cowardly or selfish leaders.

  • The Celts worshipped many gods,

  • and priests known as druids oversaw this worship.

  • Anyone could become a druid,

  • but the training required many years of study and memorization

  • the druids were not allowed to record any of their teachings in writing.

  • Druids supervised religious practices and sacrifices to the gods,

  • but they were also teachers, healers, judges, and scientists.

  • They were so respected that they could step between warring tribes

  • in the middle of a battle and call an end to the fighting.

  • No Celt would dare to harm a druid, or question their decisions.

  • In the 2nd century BCE, the Romans began to encroach on Celtic territory,

  • conquering the tribes of northern Italy.

  • Rather than unite against the Roman legions in response to this defeat,

  • the Celts maintained their tribal divisions.

  • The tribes of Spain fell soon after.

  • In the 1st century BCE, Julius Caesar marched his armies across France,

  • using bribery, threats, and lies to turn tribes against each other.

  • Only in the closing days of this great war

  • did the Celts unite against their common enemy

  • under the leadership of king Vercingetorix,

  • but it was too late.

  • Countless warriors and their families died or were enslaved

  • as the Romans conquered France.

  • Protected by the surrounding waters,

  • the Celtic tribes of Britain and Ireland were the last holdouts.

  • When the Romans finally invaded Britain,

  • the queen Boudicca united her tribe in a revolt after her husband was killed.

  • She almost succeeded in driving the Roman legions out of Britain

  • before dying as she led a final battle against the enemy.

  • By the end of the 1st century CE, Ireland alone, far out at sea,

  • remained unconquered by Rome.

  • There, the ways of the ancient Celts survived untouched by the outside world

  • long after Rome itself lay in ruins.

One summer evening in 335 BCE, Alexander the Great

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The rise and fall of the Celtic warriors - Philip Freeman

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/12/03
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