The Bretons

Celtic Settlements Loire Region

all the other Gallic provinces of the Roman Empire. The five Celtic tribal areas were divided into civitates, local administrative regions, and their capitals became Roman provincial centers: Vorigum (Carhaix) for the Osismii; Fanum Martis (Corseulles) for the Curiosolitae; Condate (Rennes) for the Redones; Namnetes (Nantes) for the Namnetes; and Darioritum (Vannes) for the Venetii. These settlements became bastions of Roman power, where Gallo-Romano chieftains helped Rome administer the region.

In AI) 410, when the Romans left Britain, the local Romano-British militia were attacked by successive waves of Saxon barbarians. As the Saxons moved west, Romano-British refugees fled to Armorica in ever-increasing numbers. By 469 when the Emperor Anthemius raised an army to fight the Visigoths in Gaul, part of his force consisted of Britons, presumably recruited

In their invasion of Gaul, the Romans conquered the remote western Breton peninsula, which became Armorica. Its geographical isolation in the province meant that it was never Romanized to the same extent as the other Gallic regions. Following the fall of the Western Roman Fmpire in the fifth century AD, Armorica provided a haven for Celtic refugees, fleeing the Saxon and Visigothic invaders. By the sixth century AD the region had become Brittany, a Celtic enclave. Traces of this Celtic heritage can still be found today.

Below: Reconstructed Celtic Breton village of c.ad 1000 at Melrand. Brittany. France.

ive Gallic tribes lived in Brittany; the Venetii in the southwest, the Osismii to the north of them, with the Coriosolitae, Redones, and Nametes further to the east. Julius Caesar recorded that the Venetii were a maritime people, whose ships were exceptionally well-built. During the centuries of Roman rule, Armorica was administered in the same way as from among these settlers. By this stage the name of the old Roman province had been replaced with that of the resurgent Celtic state, which provided a haven for Gauls and Britons alike.

From the mid-fifth century for two centuries, Brittany attracted a stream of Celtic settlers, and the population ot the region swelled. Forests were cleared in the center of the peninsula to provide more arable land for the settlers. Trading links between Armorica and Britain, which had existed for centuries, helped bind southern Britain, Wales, and Brittany into a political and military union.

Slow war of attrition

Brittany was divided into three principal kingdoms; Domnonia, Cornouaille, and Bro Erech. Of these, little is known of the southern region of Cornouaille, but the northern Domnonia retained links with the British kingdom of Dumnonia, located directly across the English Channel. King Cunomorus of Domnonia was described in religious biographies of the period, as was his relationships with his Romano-British allies and his Frankish enemies. Bro Erech (the region ot the ancient Venetii tribe) was formed from south-eastern territories captured from the Franks, and it formed a battleground between Celt and Frank for centuries. The history of Celtic Brittany was one of an almost constant struggle for survival. A succession of Frankish (French) invasions from the early sixth century increased the instability.

At the Treaty of Tours (567) the Church recognized that Brittany was a separate entity from the rest of Gaul, which by that stage had become a Frankish State. The Merovingian Franks failed to subdue the Bretons, but religious links were forged between the Frankish and Celtic states. Charlemagne (768-814) established a "Breton March," a form of demilitarized buffer zone after his invasion attempts were thwarted in 786. His successors used it as a base from which to launch a series ot invasions that eventually overcame the last Breton resistance by the mid-ninth century AD. From that point on, Brittany became a semi-autonomous region of France, but its Celtic origins continued to influence Breton culture and society. Brittany was the last Celtic foothold

on the mainland of Europe. When its autonomy Above: Remains of was lost, the torch of Celtic culture was passed Breton farmstead at to the nations of the "Celtic fringe." Melrand, Brittany,

C.AD 1000.

British emigration into Amorica following the Anglo-Saxon invasions.

NORTH SEA

ORDOVICES Gwynedd

ATLANTIC OCEAN

Cornwall

Powys

Dyfedd

SILURES

Devon DOBUNI DUMNONI

CONOVII

\ Cornouaille Ota.

Saxon advances » Celtic land migrations first migrations second migrations final migrations ~ extent of Breton-speaking area c.ad 950

FRANKISH KINGDOM

Loire

Emporiae

Malta

Gades

Roman territory 500 bc ES Roman territory 300 bc □ Roman territory 218 bc 91 Carthaginian territory 218 bc

>fk Hannibal's Celtic recruitment ->• Hannibal's campaign 218-203 bc <Xi Roman defeats • Greek cities

Narbo

Tarraco

Saguntum

* Balearic Islands

Carthago Nova

The Ibeman CeLts

The Celts who migrated west and south during the early Iron Age eventually reached the Atlantic Coast of the Ihcrian Peninsula. Influxes of other trihes severed the link between these Celts and the rest of the Celtic world north of the Pyrenees, but the Iberian Celts maintained their identity'. This vibrant Celtiberian culture survived in Spain until the people were finally defeated by the Romans during the seeond century BC.

Right: Bronze figurine of a woman found in M6rida, Spain, dating from 7th-4th centuries bc.

[round 2500 BC a new cultural group

_I emerged, a culturc whom archaeologists called the Beaker people, from the distinctive bell-shaped beakers or drinking vessels found in their collective gravesites. The Beaker people have been labeled as the forerunners of the proto-Celtic civilization known as the Urnfield culture. By the early Bronze Age the descendants of these people returned to the Iberian peninsula, although resistance from the Iberians of the eastern Iberian peninsula drove the Celts away from the Mediterranean coast.

By 550 BC the Iberians occupied halt of the peninsula, including much of the Pyrenees, which effectively cut the Celts in Iberia off from their Celtic neighbors in Gaul. The remains of fortified settlements and scattered artifacts have been found in northern Spain dating from the

Roman territory 500 bc ES Roman territory 300 bc □ Roman territory 218 bc 91 Carthaginian territory 218 bc

>fk Hannibal's Celtic recruitment ->• Hannibal's campaign 218-203 bc <Xi Roman defeats • Greek cities

Malta

After crossing the Alps, Hannibal treated the campaign in northern Italy as a "liberation" of the Gallic Celts from the tyranny of Rome, a position that ^ helped to swell his army with Cisalpine Gauls.

Narbo

Emporiae

Tarraco

The Iberian Celts, Carthage, and Hannibal's invasion of Roman territory between 218-203 bc.

__Mediolanum

f ricinus mvwa cisalpine

Gades

Saguntum

* Balearic Islands

Carthago Nova

Iberian Chariot Merida

Left: This bronze four-wheeled chariot and equestrian figure was a votive offering. It was found at Mérida in Spain, and dates from the 7th-4th centuries bc.

fifth century BC. These are strikingly similar to La Tene sites in Gaul, indicating a cultural connection to the Celts in southern Gaul.

By the third century BC the Carthaginians had established colonies along the Mediterranean coast of Iberia, and during the Punic Wars (264-218 BC) the Carthaginians hired Celtiberian mercenaries to help them in their struggle against the Roman Republic. However, earlier in the third century BC, the Carthaginians had launched a series of campaigns against the Celtiberians, driving them inland, away from the Mediterranean coast. It was Hannibal who altered Carthaginian policy. He courted the Celts by sending embassies to their settlements and offering financial rewards in exchange for an alliance. By emphasizing that Rome rather than Carthage was the traditional enemy of the Celts, Hannibal succeeded in recruiting large numbers of Celtic warriors into his polyglot army.

When Hannibal crossed the Alps into northern Italy in 218 BC, half of his army was made up of Celts. The Celtiberians and southern Gauls continued to play a significant part in the Punic campaigns until the end of the Second Punic War. While Hannibal was occupied in Italy, other Roman armies campaigned in Ilx-ria, driving the Carthaginians from the region. Following the final defeat of the Carthaginians at the Battle of Zama (203 BC), Rome was free to deal with the Celtiberians. However, a string of military embarrassments forced the Romans to adopt a placatory rather than a confrontational policy with them.

Celtic heritage survives

In 179 BC the Romans offered peace treaties and incentives if the Celts would agree to Roman political control. Many tribes refused, leading to a long campaign of subjugation. Celtiberian resistance was centered around the fortress town of Numantia, and a series of campaigns from 152 to 136 BC ended in either stalemate or Roman defeat. In 134 BC the Roman Senate sent I\iblius Cornelius Scipio with a fresh army to subdue the stronghold, and Numantia fell in 133 BC, after a bloody siege.

For the next 60 years Rome imposed its stamp on Celtiberian society, destroying the last vestiges of an independent Celtic land. By the time of Julius Caesar, the Celts of Iberia were no longer a political or social force, having become assimilated into the Roman province of Hispania. Despite this, some aspects of Celtic society and identity remained. Following the conquest of Gaul by Caesar in the mid-first century BC, a wave of Aquitanian refugees arrived in the former Celtiberian region of Galicia, in north-western Hispania. Today, this Celtic heritage is still evident in the Basque and Galatian regions of Spain, where the local population consider themselves to be the direct descendants of the Celtiberians.

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