Friday, 1 September 2017

A geographical entity II

 It’s not known how or when the languages that we choose to call 'Celtic', arrived - they were already long established and had diversified into several tongues, when our evidence begins. Certainly, there is no reason to link the coming of 'Celtic' language with any great 'Celtic invasions' from Europe during the Iron Age, because there is no hard evidence to suggest there were any. Nor does language  determine ethnicity. If it did, then we wouldn't be English but German, since English is classified as a Germanic tongue.
Archaeologists widely agree the British Iron Age’s many regional cultures grew out of the preceding local Bronze Age, not from waves of continental 'Celtic' invaders. Calling the British Iron Age 'Celtic' is so misleading that it is best abandoned. There are cultural similarities and connections between Britain, Ireland and continental Europe, but the same could be said for many other periods of history.
The things we have labelled 'Celtic' icons - such as hill-forts and art, weapons and jewellery - were more about aristocratic, political, military and religious connections than common ethnicity.
The Roman conquest of Britain in AD 43 shows the profound cultural and political impact that small numbers of people can have. The Romans did not colonise the islands of Britain to any significant degree. Their army, administration and carpet-baggers added only a few per cent to a population of around three million.

 It was the indigenous wealthy people adopting the new international culture of power who built the province's towns and villas. The islanders became Romans, both culturally and legally (Roman citizenship was more a political status than an ethnic identity). By AD 300, almost everyone in 'Britannia' was Roman, legally and culturally, even though of indigenous descent and still mostly speaking 'Celtic' dialects. Roman rule saw profound cultural change, but without any mass migration.
However, “Scotland” remained beyond Roman government, although the nearby presence of the empire had major effects. The kingdom of the Picts appeared during the third century AD, the first of a series of statelets which developed through the merging of the 'tribes' of earlier times.
In western and northern Britain, the end of Roman power saw the reassertion of linguistic and cultural trends reaching back to before the Iron Age. Yet in the long term, societies gradually tended towards larger states. The Irish-ruled kingdom of Dalriada merged in the ninth century with the Pictish kingdom to form Scotland.
The western-most parts of the old province created small kingdoms which developed into the Welsh and Cornish regions.
The Romans left Britannia around c.410 AD and bBy the sixth century, most of the country had been taken over by 'Germanic' kingdoms. It was once believed that the Romano-British were slaughtered or driven west by hordes of invading Anglo-Saxons. However, there was no such simple displacement of 'Celts' by 'Germans'.
How many settlers actually crossed the North Sea to Britain is disputed, but it is clear that they  mixed with indigenous populations which, in many areas, apparently formed the majority.

The new Anglo-Saxon kingdoms formed from indigenous and immigrant populations drew their cultural inspiration, and their dominant language, from across the North Sea. These people became the English. 
Contrary to the traditional idea that Britain originally possessed a 'Celtic' uniformity, in reality Britain has always been home to multiple peoples. While its population has shown strong biological continuity over millennia, the identities the islanders have chosen to adopt have undergone some remarkable changes. Many of these have been due to contacts and conflicts across the seas, not least as the result of episodic, but often very modest, arrivals of newcomers.

(Please click here  for  the link to the original article.)

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