Indo-European Studies 1, Requirement 3
Choose one Indo-European culture and describe briefly the influences that have shaped it and distinguish it from other Indo-European derived cultures. Examples include migration, contact with other cultures, changes in religion, language, and political factors. Is there any sense in which this culture can be said to have stopped being an Indo-European culture? (minimum 300 words)
The influences that have shaped Celtic cultures in the ancient world are many and varied, but they begin with the migration patterns that occur from our earliest ability to differentiate "Celtic" from other Indo-European groups.
The Celtic "homeland" is in the La Tene area, which covers much of Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, and Northern France. We can date the La Tene culture back to about 500 BC with accuracy, and we can date its predecessor, the Hallstat
culture back to around 1000 BC comfortably. (Mallory, 96, 105)
Expansion into Greece occurred around 400 BC, as did expansion into Iberia. Movement into the British Isles occurred, possibly, very early (more recent than 1,000 BC, but we're not sure how much more recent), which explains part of the difference in the P-Celtic Gauls and the Q-Celtic islanders.
Contact was another important influence, with Germany across the Rhine along the frontier. To the south, contact with Rome and Greece influenced the Gauls heavily. If we are to believe Diodorus, when the Greeks first encountered the Celts during the sack of Delphi, the Celts had no anthropomorphized gods, but we find that later, after contact with Rome, their deities are show in relief in very
Romanesque ways. The Celts also had a knowledge of Greek letters, and used them in a number of inscriptions.
The only change to religion that we can really trace the path of comes in the Gaulish adoption of Christianity, which occurs when the Romans change over in general (and likely sooner, as it was a frontier province, and the Christ-cult was most active in the legions). Unfortunately, we cannot trace the influence of Roman religion well, primarily because doing so relies on Roman sources, which generally treat the Roman influences as already being in place.
By the time Gaul becomes Christianized, though, there is nothing that would indicate that it is no longer an IE culture. In fact, it seems to have held onto the various hallmarks of such a culture for some time after conversion.
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