Period I newsletter

Keltisches Schiff Neuenburger See, 1. Jhr. v. Chr. Laténium Museum Hauterive. Foto: TES.

The Celts and Switzerland

The Celtic name comes from Greek and Roman (Galatoi, Keltoi, Galli, Celtae). The Celts have never called themselves so and were divided into numerous tribes and spoke different Celtic languages, but there was a Celtic culture with religious and social mores. The Celtic peoples inhabited much of the continent, Ireland and the British Isles, but have never been a political unity. The economic base consisted mainly of agriculture, handicrafts, trade and cattle breeding. The period of the pre-Roman Iron Age, the Latène period (2nd century B.C.) takes its name from an area on Lake Neuchâtel (the Laténium Museum presents this history, www.latenium.ch). These Celts maintained trade relations with Greek colonies, including Massalia (Marseille), Etruscans from central and northern Italy, Rome and other Italians.

In the 2nd and 1st centuries, B.C. significant changes took place in the political, economic and social structures of the Celtic peoples of Central Europe, new trade relations with the cultures of the Mediterranean and the Roman military advance (122 B.C. Roman conquest from Southeast France to Geneva). After the Roman conquest of Gallia and the Swiss area (58 – 13 B.C.) the Celts managed to preserve part of their cultural heritage, despite the romanisation. That led to a new culture, Gallo-Roman. However, the Celtic language gave way to Latin, which would gradually develop into French, except in the regions where the Alemanni settled in Switzerland in a process of centuries from about the fourth century onwards. (Source: B. Maier, Die Kelten. Ihre Geschichte von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart (München 2016).