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Celtic Society

The Celts were people who spoke Celtic languages and had cultural similarites. They settled large parts of Europe, particularly on the British Isles, Gaul and Hispania, but were found as far as Galatia on the Anatolian peninsula.

As Rome expanded many Celts became increasingly Romanized and vice versa Rome was influenced by the Celts. There was also considerable cultural influence exerted by Gaul on Rome, particularly in military matters and horsemanship, as the Gauls often served in the Roman cavalry. The Romans adopted the Celtic cavalry sword, the spatha, and Epona, the Celtic horse goddess. The Roman occupation of Gaul, and to a lesser extent of Britain, led to Roman-Celtic syncretism. In the case of the continental Celts, this eventually resulted in a language shift to Vulgar Latin, while the Celts on the British Isles retained their language.


Celtic societies were divided into three groups: a warrior aristocracy, an intellectual class including professions such as druids, and everyone else.

Patterns of settlement varied from decentralised to urban. Settlement patterns ranged from small hillforts and duns, to large oppida and towns.

Celtic Women

Celtic women had a considerable amount of freedom, more than their comptemporary Romans and Greeks. A woman had the right to divorce her husband and gain his property if he was unable to perform his marital duties due to for example impotence, or preference for other women. Some women were even part of the Warrior class, particularly among the Celts on the British Isles.


Slavery was practised by the Celts and was similar to the ways practiced in Rome and Greece. Slaves were acquired from war, raids, and penal and debt servitude. Slavery was hereditary, though manumission was possible.


The Celts did have a monetary system, though it was quite complex, and included bronze items, which were often in the shape of axeheads, rings, or bells.


During the later Iron Age the Gauls generally wore long-sleeved shirts or tunics and long trousers called braccae by the Romans.

Clothes were made of wool or linen, with some silk being used by the rich. Cloaks were worn in the winter. Brooches and armlets were used, but the most famous item of jewellery was the torc, a neck collar of metal, sometimes gold.

Celtic Warfare

Tribal warfare was a regular feature of Celtic societies. Tribes tribes used warfare to exert political control and harass rivals, for economic advantage, and in some instances to conquer territory.

The principal Celtic weapon was a long bladed sword or spatha which was used for hacking edgewise rather than stabbing.

Some Celts fought naked and these fanatical warriors worked themselves into a frenzy.

Celts had a reputation as head hunters. The head of a defeated rival was a mark of status.

Celtic Religion

The Celts practised a polytheistic religion and had many gods. Rites and sacrifices were carried out by priests known as druids. Celtic shrines were situated in remote areas such as hilltops, groves, and lakes.