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

The Celts

The name Celts were written down by Greek and Roman authors (Galatoi, Keltoi, Galli, Celtae).

These tribes inhabited a large part of the European continent, Ireland and the British Isles. They have never been a political unity, however. Their economic activities consisted mainly of agriculture, handicrafts, trade and cattle breeding.

The period of the pre-Roman Iron Age, the La Tène period (2nd century B.C.), takes its name from the area La Tène on the shores of Lake Neuchâtel (the Laténium Museum presents this history, www.latenium.ch).

They were traders and maintained trade relations with Greek colonies, including Massalia (Marseille), Etruscans, Rome and other Italian cities.

Bremgarten, Oppidum (Reconstruction)

Significant changes occurred in the political, economic and social structures in the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C., particularly after the Roman military advance after 122 BC and the conquest of the southeast of France and Geneva.

After the Roman conquest of Gallia and today’s Swiss territory (58 – 13 B.C.), the Celtic tribes preserved some of their cultures, despite romanisation. This assimilation is called Gallo-Roman nowadays. The Celtic language disappeared, though. (vulgar) Latin replaced it.

This language gradually developed into French, except in the regions where the Alemanni settled, and the Romansh people kept their culture after the fifth century.

(Source: B. Maier, Die Kelten. Ihre Geschichte von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart (München 2016).