Page images

Throughout Lusitania and the north-western part of Spain, fortresses bearing Celtic names remained, though the people were Iberians. These facts lead us to the inference, that Celtic tribes once occupied a great part, namely the western half of the peninsula, before the Euskaldunes gained possession of it and while the latter were the inhabitants of Bætica, Turdetania and the other eastern and southern provinces, where the Celts appear never to have had the least footing. If, then, we follow the evidence of facts, and of facts alone, we should conclude that the Celta were the oldest inhabitants of the west and the Iberians of the eastern parts of Spain. The question, which people arrived first in the peninsula is thus stripped of its chief interest, but we find the prevalent ideas of the vast antiquity of the Iberian people reduced on this view of the subject within much narrower limits. It is fair to conclude that the Euskaldunes cannot have preceded the Celts by many ages, since otherwise they would have spread themselves over the whole peninsula, which, on this hypothesis, they did not. Now the arrival of the Celts is almost an historical event, since we trace the Celtic race from the East by philological proofs.

Whence then originated the Euskaldunes, since they also are to be regarded as foreigners, and not among those races whom, for want of direct proof to the contrary, we admit, pending the discusssion, to have been indigenous? With regard to this question we have hardly grounds for a probable conjecture: all that remains to us for the early history of the Iberians is, that people of that race once inhabited a country which afterwards became the abode of the Ligurians. This very ancient tradition, recorded as we had seen by many writers, directs us to the confines of Gaul and Italy. In parts of Italy M. de Humboldt has traced what appear to be vestiges of the Euskarian language in the names of ancient towns. As the alphabet used in early times in different parts of Spain, and termed perhaps erroneously Celtiberian, is allied, as Gesenius has shown, to the old Oscan and Etruscan letters, we seem to find in this fact another connecting link between ancient Spain and Italy, and that country, or the adjoining and southern part of Gaul, presents the most specious claim to be regarded as the

mother-land of the Euskaldunes. But we shall be disappointed in any attempt to trace the kindred of this race among the old Italic nations, or to find any dialect akin to the Euskarian, among the known languages of the Italian tribes.*

• An insurmountable difficulty opposes, as it has been observed by a late writer, the supposition newly maintained, that the Celts preceded the Iberians in the possession of Spain. Had that been the fact, valiant bands of hardy Celtic mountaineers could never have been expelled from the fastnesses of the Pyrenees by the less warlike Iberians. Yet this whole tract of mountains was occupied solely by tribes of the pure race of the Euskaldunes. See Diefenbach's Versuch einer genealogischen Geschichte der Kelten. Stuttgart, 1840.



SECTION I.-General Survey.-Extension of the Celtic Race-Celtic Dialects.

THE Celtic race, termed Celti, or Kɛλroì, and Galatæ * by the Greeks, and by Roman writers Celtæ and Galli, or Gauls, was in former ages of the world as widely spread, and acted as conspicuous a part on the theatre of the European nations as the German or Teutonic people have performed in later times. To that race, according to the testimony of ancient writers, belonged at one period not only the whole country reaching in Gaul from the Mediterranean and the Garonne to the Rhine, but likewise many other parts of Europe and Asia. Of Spain, as we have already seen, they appear to have possessed a considerable part, comprehending, not only the central provinces,

By most Greek writers the terms Kɛλroi and Faλáraɩ, which may be considered as corresponding with the Celte and Galli of Latin authors, are used as interchangeable. Diodorus, however, attempted to distinguish their application. He says that the Keλroì, Celti, were properly the inhabitants of the inland country above Marseilles and the districts near the Alps and the Pyrenees, thus making the limits of Celtica Proper nearly those of the Roman province. This we shall see was the opinion of some geographers, including Strabo. "The people of the northern parts of Gaul towards the Ocean and the Hercynian forest, and the country reaching thence eastward, towards Scythia,"-meaning evidently the southern parts of Germany," are called by the Greeks Taλárai.'-The Romans, however, included all these nations under the last name, as a general appellation." Diodorus means the name of Galli or Gauls, which the Romans used generally for all the natives of Gaul. It is plain that this distinction laid down by Diodorus is founded on no ethnographical limitation. All that we learn from it, is the original local application of the name Celti. See Diodor. Sic. lib. v. cap. 32.



but also extensive territories in both of the western corners of the peninsula, where a population either wholly or partly of Celtic descent remained at the period of the Roman conquest. The British isles are generally supposed to have derived their original population from the Celts. In Italy, at an early period after the building of Rome, the Celtæ dispossessed the Etruscans and the Umbrians of the northern parts of their respective countries, which thenceforward obtained the name of Cisalpine Gaul. In Germany, it is difficult to conjecture the extent of their dominions. Helvetia and the Hercynian forest are said to have afforded a path to numerous hordes emigrating from Gaul towards the north and the east ; and Bohemia and Bavaria still bear names which they derived from the tribes of Celtic Boii, who formerly inhabited them. From Bohemia there is reason to believe that some bodies of the Celtic race almost reached the banks of the Vistula. It has been disputed, whether the Cimbri in Denmark were of the Celtic or German family, but there are strong grounds, as we shall find, for believing them to have been a branch of the former race. The countries on the Danube, Noricum and Pannonia were the seats of powerful Celtic communities. Thrace was long in the possession of the Celta. Under a second Brennus they followed the footsteps of Xerxes into Greece, and like the Persian despot attempted to plunder the temple of Delphi. Lastly, Asia Minor was long under their sway from the high countries in the interior, which were the abode of a Celtic population, they exacted tribute from the surrounding states, after dividing them by lot under their several clans.

Such was the extension of the Celtic race, before their power became broken in their contest with the Roman arms, whose ascendency prepared them for a final subjugation under the Teutonic conquerors of Europe. The earlier history of the Celtic people is a subject of great interest but of difficult investigation. Were they the aborigines of Gaul or of Germany? According to all the testimony of history, or rather of ancient tradition collected by the writers of the Roman empire, the migrations of the Gauls were always from west to east; the Celtic nations in Germany as well as in Italy and in the East were supposed to have been colonies from Gaul, and the Celta

have been considered as the immemorial inhabitants of western Europe. But the remains of the Celtic language prove them to have been a branch of the Indo-European stock; they came therefore from the East, and as we find so many parts of Germany overspread by them in early times, whence they were afterwards expelled by German tribes, a strong suspicion forces itself upon our minds, that a part of the Celtic population may have always remained to the eastward of the Rhine, which perhaps received accessions from tribes of the same race returning in a later age from Gaul. The Cimbri appear to have remained in the North until the period of their celebrated expedition, and for the Boii who were so widely spread in Germany, no exact position or primitive seat can be discovered among the proper inhabitants of Gaul.*

It is impossible to determine with certainty, whether the west of Europe was wholly uninhabited at the era when the Celtæ first occupied it. If, as it is probable, they preceded the Teutonic tribes in the north of Germany, they must have come, on the shores of the Baltic, into contact with the Jotuns or Finns, whom the Teutonic people afterwards found in possession of Scandinavia. Whether the same people, or any other race foreign to the Indo-European family, was expelled from Gaul and Britain by the Celts, or conquered and amalgamated with themselves, are as yet matters of conjecture; and the only resources for elucidating such an inquiry are by a comparison of the vocabularies of the Celtic dialects with those of the Finnish and Lapponic nations. +

Paragraph 2.

Of the language of the ancient Celts there exists no undoubted relic on the continent of Europe, except the numerous

• From the name of their leader Boiorix, we might conjecture the Cimbri to have been connected with the Boii. Boiorix seems to mean supreme over the Boii. Mannert supposes the original seat of the Boii to have been in Pannonia.-See Mannert's Geographie der Griechen und Römer.

+ By Arndt and some other writers, it has been supposed that the Celtæ are in part a Finnish race. There is no resemblance whatever in the grammatical structure of their respective languages, and I believe that the vocabularies will be found to contain very few common or analogous words.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »