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The Religion of the Ancient Celts

Page: 8

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.

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, 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.

The tall, blonde Teutonic type of the Row graves is dolichocephalic. Was the Celtic type (assuming that Broca's "Celts" were not true Celts) dolicho or brachy? Broca thinks the Belgæ or "Kymri" were dolichocephalic, but all must agree with him that the skulls are too few to generalise from. Celtic iron-age skulls in Britain are dolichocephalic, perhaps a {12} recrudescence of the aboriginal type. Broca's "Kymric" skulls are mesocephalic; this he attributes to crossing with the short round-heads. The evidence is too scanty for generalisation, while the Walloons, perhaps descendants of the Belgæ, have a high index, and some Gauls of classical art are broad-headed.19

Skulls of the British round barrows (early Celtic Bronze Age) are mainly broad, the best specimens showing affinity to Neolithic brachycephalic skulls from Grenelle (though their owners were 5 inches shorter), Selaigneaux, and Borreby. Dr. Beddoe thinks that the narrow-skulled Belgæ on the whole reinforced the meso- or brachycephalic round barrow folk in Britain. Dr. Thurnam identifies the latter with the Belgæ (Broca's Kymri), and thinks that Gaulish skulls were round, with beetling brows. Professors Ripley and Sergi, disregarding their difference in stature and higher cephalic index, identify them with the short Alpine race (Broca's Celts). This is negatived by Mr. Keane.22 Might not both, however, have originally sprung from a common stock and reached Europe at different times?

But do a few hundred skulls justify these far-reaching conclusions regarding races enduring for thousands of years? At some very remote period there may have been a Celtic type, as at some further period there may have been an Aryan type. But the Celts, as we know them, must have mingled with the aborigines of Europe and become a mixed race, though preserving and endowing others with their racial and mental characteristics. Some Gauls or Belgæ were dolichocephalic, {13} to judge by their skulls, others were brachycephalic, while their fairness was a relative term. Classical observers probably generalised from the higher classes, of a purer type; they tell us nothing of the people. But the higher classes may have had varying skulls, as well as stature and colour of hair, and Irish texts tell of a tall, fair, blue-eyed stock, and a short, dark, dark-eyed stock, in Ireland. Even in those distant ages we must consider the people on whom the Celts impressed their characteristics, as well as the Celts themselves. What happened on the Eurasian steppe, the hypothetical cradle of the "Aryans," whence the Celts came "stepping westwards," seems clear to some, but in truth is a book sealed with seven seals. The men whose Aryan speech was to dominate far and wide may already have possessed different types of skull, and that age was far from "the very beginning."


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