Celtiberians were Celtic-speaking people of the Iberian
Peninsula in the final
Iberian Peninsula at about 200
The group originated when Celts
migrated from Gaul
integrated with the local pre-Indo-European
particular the Iberians
Archaeologically, the Celtiberians
participated in the Hallstatt
culture in what is now north-central Spain.
appears in accounts by Diodorus Siculus
recognized a mixed Celtic and Iberian people; Strabo
saw the Celts as the more dominant group in
this blend. Extant tribal names include the Arevaci, Belli,
The Celtiberian language
attested from the first century BC. Other possibly Celtic
languages, like Lusitanian
spoken in pre-Roman Iberia. The Lusitani gave
their name to Lusitania, the Roman
province name covering current Portugal and Extremadura.
Celts migrated into the Iberian peninsula and penetrated as far as
Cadiz, bringing aspects of Hallstatt culture in the sixth to fifth
centuries BC, adopting much of the culture they found.
basal Indo-European culture was of seasonally transhumant
protected by a warrior elite, similar to those in other areas of
, centered in the
hill-forts, locally termed castros
, that controlled small
grazing territories. These settlements of circular huts survived
until Roman times across the north of Iberia, from Northern
Portugal, Asturias and Galicia to the Basque
Celtic presence in Iberia likely dates to as early as the sixth
century BC, when the castros
evinced a new permanence with
stone walls and protective ditches. Archaeologists Martín Almagro Gorbea
Alvarado Lorrio recognize the distinguishing iron tools and
extended family social structure of developed Celtiberian culture
as evolving from the archaic castro culture
which they consider
Archaeological finds identify the culture as continuous with the
culture reported by Classical writers from the late 3rd century
onwards (Almagro-Gorbea and Lorrio). The ethnic map of Celtiberia
was highly localized however, composed of different tribes and
from the third century centered upon fortified
and representing a wide
ranging degree of local assimilation with the autochthonous
cultures in a mixed Celtic and Iberian stock.
cultural stronghold of Celtiberians was the northern area of the
in the upper valleys of the Tagus and Douro east to the
Iberus (Ebro) river, in the modern
provinces of Soria, Guadalajara, Zaragoza and Teruel.
There, when Greek and Roman geographers and
historians encountered them, the established Celtiberians were
controlled by a military aristocracy that had become a hereditary
dominant tribe were the Arevaci, who
dominated their neighbors from powerful strongholds at Okilis
(Medinaceli) and who rallied the long Celtiberian resistance to
Other Celtiberians were the Belli
in the Jalón
valley, and the Lusones
to the east. Excavations at the Celtiberian strongholds
Kontebakom-Bel Botorrita, Sekaisa Segeda,
Tiermes complement the grave goods found in Celtiberian cemeteries,
where aristocratic tombs of the 6th to 5th centuries give way to
warrior tombs with a tendency from the 3rd century for weapons to
disappear from grave goods, either indicating an increased urgency
for their distribution among living fighters or, as Almagro-Gorbea
and Lorrio think, the increased urbanization of Celtiberian
Many late Celtiberian oppida
occupied by modern towns, inhibiting archeology.
Metalwork stands out in Celtiberian archeological finds, partly
from its indestructible nature, emphasizing Celtiberian articles of
warlike uses, horse trappings and prestige weapons. The two-edged
sword adopted by the Romans was previously in use among the
Celtiberians, and Latin lancea
, a thrown spear, was a
Hispanic word, according to Varro
culture was increasingly influenced by Rome in the two final
From the third century, the clan
as the basic Celtiberian political unit by the oppidum
, a fortified organized city with a
defined territory that included the castros
settlements. These civitates
as the Roman historians
called them, could make and break alliances, as surviving inscribed
hospitality pacts attest, and minted coinage. The old clan
structures lasted in the formation of the Celtiberian armies,
organized along clan-structure lines, with consequent losses of
strategic and tactical control.
Celtiberians were the most influential ethnic group in pre-Roman
Iberia, but they had their largest impact on history during the
Second Punic War, during which they
became the (perhaps unwilling) allies of Carthage in its conflict with Rome, and crossed
the Alps in the mixed forces under Hannibal's command.
As a result of the
defeat of Carthage, the Celtiberians first submitted to Rome in
years 182 to 179 pacifying (as the Romans put it) the Celtiberians;
however, conflicts between various semi-independent bands of
Celtiberians continued. After the city of Numantia was finally taken and destroyed by Scipio Aemilianus Africanus the
younger after a long and brutal siege that ended the Celtic
resistance (154 - 133 BC), Roman cultural influences increased;
this is the period of the earliest Botorrita inscribed plaque; later plaques,
significantly, are inscribed in Latin.
The war with Sertorius
, 79 - 72 BC, marked the last formal
resistance of the Celtiberian cities to Roman domination, which
submerged the Celtiberian culture.
The Celtiberian presence remains on the map of Spain in hundreds of
. The archaeological
recovery of Celtiberian culture commenced with the excavations of
Numantia, published between 1914 and 1931.
- Celtiberian manners and customs in Diodorus Siculus v.33-34;
Diodorus relies on lost texts of Posidonius..
- Appian of Alexandria, Roman History.
- Bilbilis was the
birthplace of Martial.
- According to the theory developed by Bosch Gimpera (Two
Celtic Waves in Spain, 1943), the earliest Celtic presence in
Iberia was that of the southeastern Almería culture of the Bronze Age
in the tenth century BC.
- The Site of Tiermes, official website
- Francisco Burillo Mozota, Los Celtíberos, etnias y
estados (Crítica, 1998).
- Antonio Arribas, The Iberians 1964.
- Barry Cunliffe, 'Iberia and the Celtiberians' in "The Ancient
Celts" (Penguin Books, 1997), ISBN 0-14-025422-6* J. P. Mallory,
In Search of the Indo-Europeans (Thames & Hudson,
1989), ISBN 0-500-05052-X
- Alberto J. Lorrio and Gonzalo Ruiz Zapatero, "The Celts in
Iberia: An Overview" in e-Keltoi 6
- Jesús Martín-Gil, Gonzalo Palacios-Leblé, Pablo Martín-Ramos
and Francisco J. Martín-Gil, "Analysis of a Celtiberian protective
paste and its possible use by Arevaci warriors". e-Keltoi
5, pp 63–76.
- Simon James, The Atlantic Celts: Ancient people or modern
invention? (British Museum Press), 1999