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ON THE PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY OF THE ANCIENT CELTS

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pergamon__dying_gaul

GaulThe  two  more  renowned  sculptures  of  the  Pergamene  School  on  the  Gauls/Galatians:  the  ‘Dying  Gaul’  and  the  ‘Gaul  who  commits  suicide  after  having  killed  his  wife’.

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By  Periklis  Deligiannis

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This  paper is actually a part of my published  book  The Celts (Γαλάτες), Periscope publ., Athens 2008, unfortunately available only in Greek.

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  I have to refer to an old theory on the Celtic physical anthropology, which even today has a great number of supporters although it is based mainly on a misunderstanding interpretation of the representation – especially of the physical type – of the Galatian warriors by the ‘Pergamene sculpture School’, of the reports of the ancient Greek and Latin authors on the Celts and of other secondary data. This theory is influenced by the ‘Teutonic School’ of physical anthropology in the 19th-early 20th centuries (the archaeologist Gustav von Kossinna and the anthropologist Hans Gunther being its last main representatives), which had a kind of obsession on discovering Nordic warrior nobilities as ruling elites on almost all the ancient European peoples, including the Mediterranean peoples, and also on the Iranians, the Indians, the Egyptians and others. According to the theories of that School, the Nordic noble warriors were the real creators of the Celtic, the Roman, the Greek, the Indian and other ancient civilizations.

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ON THE TRIBES OF ANCIENT GAUL

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Galatia-Gaul

By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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This  article is actually a sub-chapter of my published  book  ‘The Celts‘ (Γαλάτες), Periscope publ., Athens 2008, available only in Greek.

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After  the  sharp  diminution  of  the  Celts  of  Central  Europe  by  the  Germans  (58  BC)  and  the  Romans,  Greater  Gaul,  the  country  that  lies  between  the  Rhine,  the  Alps  and  the  Pyrenees,  became  the  main  Celtic  area  in  mainland  Europe.  Gaul  (as  it  is  usually  called  for  short,  because  of  the  Romans),  Noricum,  Raetia (partly) and Northwestern Pannonia in Central Europe,  Gallaicia  (Galicia), Asturia and Cantabria  in  the  Iberian  peninsula,  and  finally  the  British  islands,  were  the  last  independent  Celtic  areas.

Shortly  before  the  Roman  conquest  of  Gaul  (or  Galatia  in  ancient  Greek)  by  Julius  Caesar,  about  sixty  tribes  shared  its  territory.  The  largest  of  these  tribes  (the  Arverni,  Aedui,  Pictones  etc.)  occupied  each  one  a  territory  of  about  15-20,000  sq.  km.,  with  a  population  of  up  to  250,000  inhabitants.  The  Celtic  tribes  were  divided  into  sub-tribes  called  pagi.  The  60  Celtic  peoples  of  Gaul  included  a  total  of  300  sub-tribes.  Many  of  these  pagi  were  originally  independent  tribes  which  were  gradually  incorporated  in  the  largest  ones,  either  by  conquest  or  by  conciliation.
The  linguists  have  estimated  that  the  tribes  of  the  Volcae,  the  Helvii  (close  relatives  of  the  Helvetii  of  modern  Switzerland),  the  Turones,  the  Nervii,  the  Suessiones,  the  Veneti,  the  Venelli  and  the  Aulerci  were  the  oldest  that  were  formed,  because  the  etymology  of  their  national  names  is  rather  difficult.  Some  of  these  tribes  were  probably  formed  initially  in  Central  Europe,  mostly  in  the  north  of  the  Alps  (the  Celtic/Gallic  cradle).  The  peoples  with  tribal  names  of  numeric  type  are  considered  to  be  later  tribal  formations,  e.g.  The  Remi  (meaning  the  ‘first  ones’  in  Gallic  Celtic),  the  Petrokorii  (the  ‘four  tribes’)  the  Vocontii  (‘twenty  clans’).  The  same  goes  for  the  tribes  whose  national  names  are  annominations  or  epithets,  e.g.  the  Ruteni  (the  ‘blonde  ones’,  a  Proto-Indo-European  verbal  type  found  today  in  the  names  of  the    Russians  and  the  Ruthenians  of  Eastern  Europe),  the  Leuci  (the  ‘bright  ones’,  like  the  Greek  ‘leucos’  meaning  the  ‘white’), the  Belgae (the ‘thunders’,  Belgians),   the  Nemetes  (the  ‘sacred’),  the  Aedui  (the  ‘fiery’),  the  Pictones  (possibly  the  ‘painted  ones’  like  the  Picts  of  Pictland/Caledonia,  modern  Scotland),  the  Caleti  (the  ‘hardened’),  the  Lemovices  or  Lemovii  (‘warriors  of  the  elm’,  which  was  their  totemic  tree)  the  Medulli  (the  ‘mead  drinkers’)  etc.

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Celtic  warriors  in  an  impressive  artwork.  Note  the  two  naked  Gaesati/Gaesatae  warriors  in  the  frontline,  with  their  hair  stiffened  with  lime  or  lemon  juice.  Another  warrior  blows  the  ‘carnyx’,  the  Celtic  war  trumpet  (Copyright:  Zvezda  /Karatchuk  (artist)).

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