Sunday, March 10, 2013

Who Were the Celtic People?


Scrutiny reveals the fact that Celtic-speaking peoples are of differing types—short and dark as well as tall and fairer Highlanders or Welshmen, short, broad-headed Bretons, various types of Irishmen. Men with Norse names and Norse aspect "have the Gaelic." But all alike have the same character and temperament, a striking witness to the influence which the character as well as the language of the Celts, whoever they were, made on all with whom they mingled. Ethnologically there may not be a Celtic race, but something was handed down from the days of comparative Celtic purity which welded different social elements into a common type, found often where no Celtic tongue is now spoken. It emerges where we least expect it, and the stolid Anglo-Saxon may suddenly awaken to something in himself due to a forgotten Celtic strain in his ancestry.
Two main theories of Celtic origins now hold the field:
                                                             Celtic Alpine Race
(1) The Celts are identified with the progenitors of the short, brachycephalic "Alpine race" of Central Europe, existing there in Neolithic times, after their migrations from Africa and Asia. The type is found among the Slavs, in parts of Germany and Scandinavia, and in modern France in the region of Cæsar's "Celtæ," among the Auvergnats, the Bretons, and in Lozère and Jura. Representatives of the type have been {9}found in Belgian and French Neolithic graves.6 Professor Sergi calls this the "Eurasiatic race," and, contrary to general opinion, identifies it with the Aryans, a savage people, inferior to the dolichocephalic Mediterranean race, whose language they Aryanised.7 Professor Keane thinks that they were themselves an Aryanised folk before reaching Europe, who in turn gave their acquired Celtic and Slavic speech to the preceding masses. Later came the Belgæ, Aryans, who acquired the Celtic speech of the people they conquered.8
Broca assumed that the dark, brachycephalic people whom he identified with Cæsar's "Celtæ," differed from the Belgæ, were conquered by them, and acquired the language of their conquerors, hence wrongly called Celtic by philologists. The Belgæ were tall and fair, and overran Gaul, except Aquitaine, mixing generally with the Celtæ, who in Cæsar's time had thus an infusion of Belgic blood.9 But before this conquest, the Celtæ had already mingled with the aboriginal dolichocephalic folk of Gaul, Iberians, or Mediterraneans of Professor Sergi. The latter had apparently remained comparatively pure from admixture in Aquitaine, and are probably the Aquitani of Cæsar.10
But were the short, brachycephalic folk Celts? Cæsar says the people who call themselves "Celtæ" were called Gauls by the Romans, and Gauls, according to classical writers, were tall and fair.11 Hence the Celtæ were not a short, dark race{10}and Cæsar himself says that Gauls (including Celtæ) looked with contempt on the short Romans.12 Strabo also says that Celtæ and Belgæ had the same Gaulish appearance, i.e. tall and fair. Cæsar's statement that Aquitani, Galli, and Belgæ differ in language, institutions, and laws is vague and unsupported by evidence, and may mean as to language no more than a difference in dialects. This is also suggested by Strabo's words, Celtæ and Belgæ "differ a little" in language.13 No classical writer describes the Celts as short and dark, but the reverse. Short, dark people would have been called Iberians, without respect to skulls. Classical observers were not craniologists. The short, brachycephalic type is now prominent in France, because it has always been so, eliminating the tall, fair Celtic type. Conquering Celts, fewer in number than the broad and narrow-headed aborigines, intermarried or made less lasting alliances with them. In course of time the type of the more numerous race was bound to prevail. Even in Cæsar's day the latter probably outnumbered the tall and fair Celts, who had, however, Celticised them. But classical writers, who knew the true Celt as tall and fair, saw that type only, just as every one, on first visiting France or Germany, sees his generalised type of Frenchman or German everywhere. Later, he modifies his opinion, but this the classical observers did not do. Cæsar's campaigns must have drained Gaul of many tall and fair Celts. This, with the tendency of dark types to out-number fair types in South and Central Europe, may help to explain the growing prominence of the dark type, though the tall, fair type is far from uncommon.14
(2) The second theory, already anticipated, sees in Gauls and Belgæ a tall, fair Celtic folk, speaking a Celtic language, 
{11}and belonging to the race which stretched from Ireland to Asia Minor, from North Germany to the Po, and were masters of Teutonic tribes till they were driven by them from the region between Elbe and Rhine.15 Some Belgic tribes claimed a Germanic ancestry,16 but "German" was a word seldom used with precision, and in this case may not mean Teutonic. The fair hair of this people has made many suppose that they were akin to the Teutons. But fairness is relative, and the dark Romans may have called brown hair fair, while they occasionally distinguished between the "fair" Gauls and fairer Germans. Their institutions and their religions (pace Professor Rh[^y]s) differed, and though they were so long in contact the names of their gods and priests are unlike.17 Their languages, again, though of "Aryan" stock, differ more from each other than does Celtic from Italic, pointing to a long period of Italo-Celtic unity, before Italiotes and Celts separated, and Celts came in contact with Teutons.18 The typical German differs in mental and moral qualities from the typical Celt. Contrast an east country Scot, descendant of Teutonic stock, with a West Highlander, and the difference leaps to the eyes. Celts and Germans of history differ, then, in relative fairness, character, religion, and language.