The Celts were a European cultural group first evident in the 7th or 8th century BC.
However, exactly who they were and where they came from is still a source of some debate.
The term ‘Celtic’ is a relatively modern one, used in the 19th century as a catch all term for peoples who share the same language, culture and ethnic identity.
One theory suggests that the people we now call ‘Celts’ came from Austria or Central Europe, but that’s just one theory.
DNA studies on Celtic populations in Britain suggest that they are not a unique genetic group.
Those of Celtic ancestry in Scotland and Cornwall more similar to the English than they are to other Celtic groups elsewhere in the world.
The Romans called the Celts the Galli and the Greeks called them Keltoi- both meaning barbarians.
Their maximum expansion was in the Third to Fifth Centuries BC, when they occupied much of Europe north of the Alps.
The Celts were a European cultural group first evident in the 7th or 8th century BC. However, exactly who they were and where they came from is still a source of some debate
The Celts arrived in Britain by the Fourth or Fifth Centuries BC. They had reached Ireland by the Second or Third Centuries BC and possibly even earlier, displacing earlier people who were already on both islands.
The Gaels, Gauls, Britons, Irish, and Gallations were all Celtic people.
Celtic culture survived longer in these areas than in continental Europe. In many ways it still survives today.
On the continent, the expanding Romans defeated various Celtic groups and subsumed their culture.
Julius Ceaser conducted a successful campaign against the Gauls in 52 to 58 BC, and as part of that campaign invaded Britain in 54 BC, but was unsuccessful in conquering the island.
Ninety-seven years later, in 43 AD, the Romans invaded Britain again, pushing the Britons to the west – into Wales and Cornwall – and north into Scotland.
Hadrian’s Wall was built beginning in 120 AD to protect the Romans from the northern Celtic tribes.
The Romans never occupied Ireland, nor did the Anglo-Saxons who invaded Britain after the Romans withdrew in the Fifth Century.
Celtic culture survived more strongly in Ireland than elsewhere – partly because of hill forts.
Christianity came to Ireland in the Fourth Century, with St Patrick arriving later in 432 AD and facilitating its spread.
Many of the Celtic cultural elements integrated with Christianity.
The most “religious” aspect of Celtic culture, Druidic practice, diminished, and many say that the Druids were systematically suppressed and killed.
However, many cultural elements lasted, including ancient oral stories which were recorded by Irish monks in both Irish and Latin – without much editorial interference.
Viking invasions in the Seventh to Ninth Centuries AD interrupted the Irish culture and destroyed many cultural elements, including many manuscripts lost in plundered monasteries.
The Vikings founded several Irish cities, such as Belfast and Dublin. However, they never really took over the island.
Ireland was not truly occupied by another nation until 1160, when the Normans invaded from England.
British occupation of Ireland lasted until 1922 – five northern counties – known as Northern Ireland – are still part of Britain.
Even under English occupation many elements of Celtic culture survived, so in many ways Celtic culture has been continuous in Ireland for 2,400 years or more.