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 the Greek and Roman language (Galatoi, Keltoi, Galli, Celtae).

The Celtic tribes inhabited a large part of the continent, Ireland and the British Isles. They have never been a political unity. Their economic activities 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).

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

Significant changes took place in the political, economic and social structures in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, in particular the Roman military advance in and after 122 BC and the conquest of the southeast of France and Geneva.

After the Roman conquest of Gallia and the present-day Swiss territory (58 – 13 BC) the Celtic tribes preserved some of their cultures, despite the romanisation. This assimilation is called Gallo-Roman nowadays.

The Celtic language disappeared, though. It was replaced by (vulgar) Latin.

This language gradually developed in a centuries long process into French, except in the regions where the Alemanni settled and the Romansh people stayed after the fifth century. (Source: B. Maier, Die Kelten. Ihre Geschichte von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart (München 2016).