Ambilabariâ Nouiogalaticos uer Senoagalatibi
A Nouiogalatis Commentary on the Senogalatîs (Ancient Gauls)
By Suturcos Nouiogalation
A special shout-out to Branos Carnutodrûidon for the inspiration and idea to write this.
For the uninterrupted full audio reading of this paper, click here.
English audio readings are done by Caromâros Caitogabros.
- Cintagedâ (Preface)
- Regentiâ Regentioi Anson (Ancestors of Our Ancestors)
- Aisson Isarnon (The Iron Age)
- Senogalatîs (The Ancient Gauls)
- Catus (Battle)
- Cerdâs (Arts)
- Biuos Tegicos Senogalation (Domestic Life of the Senogalatîs)
- Uariniâ (Society)
- Iextis (Language)
- Dugiion (Worship)
- Clauiâ (Conclusion)
Audio reading of this section (English)
The Senogalatîs, in our bessus (custom, practice), the term we use for the Ancient Galatîs, were great and proud peoples. In Greco-Roman sources, they were called Galatai and Keltoi (Greek), Galli and Celtae (Roman). In English, they’re normally called Gauls. It is based on the likely Gaulish rendering of Galatis that the name we use to refer to ourselves, the Nouiogalatîs (New Galatîs) was developed. A Galatis (the singular form of Galatîs) again — in our parlance were those who spoke the language known today as Gaulish. They were of a historical material culture known as the La Tène culture. As well as worshipping beings known as Dêuoi in the Gaulish tongue. Such beings are named in that same Gaulish language.
We typically do not use the term “Gaul”, because it is at times interpreted as having broader contexts that don’t always match the people that we’re discussing here. However, in many cases, the term does fit. It is often used especially in an academic context. Rest assured, we will go over these terms in the hopes that even one who didn’t previously know anything about the Senogalatîs will have an understanding of them by the time we’re done here.
So the Senogalatîs were the people who spoke the language known today as Gaulish. In Bessus Nouiogalation (BNG) we call this tongue Senogalaticos (Ancient Gaulish), to contrast with the reconstructed dialect we use, Nouiogalaticos. As Nouiogalatîs, the Senogalatîs are our ancestors. For Bessus Nouiogalation as a toutâ (a people) the Senogalatîs are the cultural, linguistic, and religious inspiration for our existence as a group. Individually, some of us are highly likely to have genetic ancestry from them, others not. But this does not matter. A Nouiogalatis is a Nouiogalatis regardless of genetic ancestry. We do not conform to the Western understanding of ancestry as being solely genetic and we never will. From wherever an individual Nouiogalatis traces their ancestry, the Senogalatîs number among their ancestors as well.
It should be said that while research is heavily utilised in this commentary, the main focus of it is to provide a touch of Nouiogalaticos to the understanding of and reckoning with the history of the Senogalatîs. We don’t claim some “unbroken line” or what have you from them to us, and don’t need to. The truth, that the Senogalatîs – their history, their material culture, their language, their spiritual beliefs, their ethics, their worldview – have been so resounding that people even today seek out and revive many aspects of it is good enough. That it remains able to inspire not only us, but many others in a myriad of ways is a far more interesting story. The truth in this case may be stranger (to some) than fiction, but it is also far more interesting and compelling than any fantastical fictional claim or tale.
With that said, we will begin.
Regentiâ Regentioi Anson (Ancestors of Our Ancestors)
Audio reading of this section (English)
The Senogalatîs (Ancient Gauls) obviously didn’t emerge from nowhere. Countless peoples came and went long before them, just as many have come and gone before us today. It is important to note that we speak of cultures when it comes to ancestry and not necessarily genetics. Sometimes we can find genetic relations in older cultures which can at times be helpful in understanding the diffusion of cultures over time, but quite often just like with the Senogalatîs, you’ll find diversity genetically.
Just as there are no “unbroken lines” between the Senogalatîs of the past and Nouiogalatîs today, there aren’t always clear lines of cultural diffusion (they’re often not of a genetic nature), and there doesn’t need to be. Genetics do not equal culture. A series of mixtures of peoples and cultures – and overlapping times – led to the existence of the Senogalatîs. For our part, what we’re doing in this section is simply covering some of them. There were certainly many.
Worth stating here as well is that while we will attempt to encapsulate different eras of history and the cultures within, we shouldn’t think of any of them as monolithic. Each group and the many subgroups within would have had their own histories, interactions, influences, and varying speeds of change. This also applies to the Senogalatîs. They weren’t one monolithic people, but a diverse array of peoples who shared some things, but were distinct in others. Keep this in mind as you read.
It would be obviously quite taxing to attempt to list them all, but we’ll start with those who are thought to have brought the Proto-Indo-European language (from which Senogalaticos, the Gaulish language, descends) to Europe. We find such people on the north shore of the Black Sea, on the steppes of what is now Russia and Ukraine. Their time was roughly 2750-2050 SA (according to our calendar), or about 3300-2600 BCE. This is considered the early part of the Aisson Cassês (Bronze Age).
Audio reading of this section (English)
In Nouiogalaticos, they are called the Cauologioi for what we call the Caulogâ (“pit grave” – in academia – Yamnaya, meaning the same) culture. A brief article on them can be found here. With them came domesticated horses, wheeled vehicles (chariots, wagons), metallurgy (copper), and are thought to have brought Proto-Indo-European language to Europe. The concept of roving warbands of young fighters looking for new lands are thought to come from them as well.
Extent of the Cauologâ (Yamnaya) Culture. Mostly from the steppes of what are now Russia and Ukraine. [Wikimedia Commons]
They were generally pastoralists, meaning that their food supply was reliant on livestock and managing herds of animals. In this case most likely cattle and sheep. As they moved west into Europe, they mixed with farmers and hunter gatherers that were already there. Which then developed a new culture…
More reading on the Cauologâ (Yamnaya) culture:
– The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, by David W. Anthony
Sinâdus (Corded Ware)
Audio reading of this section (English)
We call these peoples in Nouiogalaticos Sinâdioi people for what we call the Sinâdus (“cord pot” – in academia, the Corded Ware) culture. They were mainly known for the “corded” patterns on their pottery. Overlapping with their predecessors, their time was from roughly 2320-1770 SA (according to our calendar) or about 2900-2350 BCE. At this point, these descendants of the Cauologioi (Yamnaya) peoples had mixed with the indigenous farmers.
Extent of the Sinâdus (Corded Ware) Culture. They covered much of Northern and Central Europe.
It is thought that they spread Proto-Indo-European language further north and west as they migrated and settled. Seemingly continuing the tradition from their ancestors of wandering warbands of young men helps explain the cultural diffusion process. With their wives from farming families bringing agricultural knowledge with them.
More reading on the Sinâdus (Corded Ware) culture:
– Re-theorising mobility and the formation of culture and language among the Corded Ware Culture in Europe, by Kristian Kristiansen, Morten E. Allentoft, Karin M. Frei, Rune Iversen, Niels N. Johannsen, Guus Kroonen, Łukasz Pospieszny, T. Douglas Price, Simon Rasmussen, Karl-Göran Sjögren, Martin Sikora, and Eske Willerslev
Cloccogandnon (Bell Beaker)
Audio reading of this section (English)
While the Sinâdus (Corded Ware) culture lasted for quite some time, they were overlapped by roughly 2220 SA (by our calendar), or around 2800 BCE. For around 500 years, another culture asserted itself. As opposed to coming from the east, it came from the west. From Iberia people known in Nouiogalaticos as the Cloccogandnatîs, brought their Cloccogandnon (“the bell beakers” – in academia “Bell Beaker”) culture in a vast east and northward spread that covered (not all of, but certainly the southern part of Scandinavia) Europe from what is now the eastern border of Poland and everything west of it. Even into parts of Northwestern Africa.
The spread of Cloccogandnon (Bell Beaker) culture was quite impressive. [Wikimedia Commons]
It would be unwise to assume that the entire area this culture covered spoke Proto-Indo-European languages, many didn’t. But some likely did. Proto-Indo-European speakers were certainly affected by it. The main thing this culture was known for were their bell shaped vessels, or beakers.
Vessels like this are emblematic of the Cloccogandnon (Bell Beaker) culture. [Wikimedia Commons]
They were experts in working copper, knew how to work gold, and they were already working with bronze in small amounts. Though the age is called the Bronze Age, much of the mastery of working with it in Western and Central Europe hadn’t quite taken off.
More reading on the Cloccogandnon (Bell Beaker) culture:
– Corded Ware and Bell Beaker burial mounds in Central Europe, by Jan Turek
– Bell Beaker metal and metallurgy in Western Europe, by Matthieu Labaune
Cassiberios (Únětice) Culture
Audio reading of this section (English)
Around 1720-1100 SA (by our calendar) or about 2300-1680 BCE, the next group emerged returning to the usual pattern of emerging from the east. In Nouiogalaticos, the culture is called Cassiberios (“bronze bearer” – in academia, the Únětice culture). This culture came from what is now the Czech Republic, the culture being named from the village where the earliest remains from it were found, Únětice. The Nouiogalaticos name Cassiberios has no relation linguistically to the village of Únětice.
It is this culture that excelled at working with bronze proper. This culture also appears to be one of the first to wear the ever enigmatic torcs for which in later times, the Senogalatîs are known for wearing as well. While certainly situated in Central Europe, they had access to continent wide trade networks that reached all the way to Ireland. They were also importing amber from the Baltic region. Like the Senogalatîs much later, we also see thatch roofed, wattle and daub style housing constructions. Another inherited trait is the fortified market town.
It is with the Cassiberios (Únětice) culture that we begin to see the enigmatic torcs. [Wikimedia Commons]
The well known Nebra Sky Disk is another artefact of the Cassiberios (Únětice) culture. [Wikimedia Commons]
More reading on the Cassiberios (Únětice) culture:
– The Beginning of the Bronze Age in South Bohemia, by Daniel Hlásek and Ondřej Chvojka
– Social processes in ancient Europe and changes in the use of ore and alloys in metallurgical production, by Stanislav Grigoriev
Dumiatis (Tumulus) Culture
Audio reading of this section (English)
Around 1020-620 SA (by our calendar) or approximately 1600-1200 BCE, the Cassiberios (Únětice) culture gave way to the Dumiatis (“they of the mounds” – in academia, the Tumulus) culture. The word tumulus, more often known as a (round) burial mound, describes the methodology in which these people interred their dead. Spirits of mounds feature in the folklore of the mediaeval and early modern era. The Aisson Dumiation (age of the Dumiatîs, or Tumulus culture) being one source – though not the only – of these mounds.
An example of the garb worn by women of the time period. [Wikimedia Commons]
Of material interest, we see the Bronze Age in full swing. The material being used for weaponry, yes (such as the palstave axes, and the flange hilted swords from the era), but also for many bracelets and brooch pins symbolic of this age. Vast Eurasian trade networks emerged to account for and disperse the components of bronze across the continents. International trade certainly is not solely the provenance of modernity. The next age will manifest itself archaeologically from a difference in burial style from these ancestors.
A palstave style axe from the European Bronze Age. [Wikimedia Commons]
More reading on the Dumiatis (Tumulus) culture:
– Moving metals IV: Swords, metal sources and trade networks in Bronze Age Europe, by Johan Ling, Eva Hjärthner-Holdar, Lena Grandin, Zofia Stos-Gale, Kristian Kristiansen, Anne Lene Melheim, Gilberto Artioli, Ivana Angelini, Rüdiger Krause, and Caterina Canovaro
– The Oxford Illustrated Prehistory of Europe, by Barry Cunliffe (more general but a good introduction)
Ulumagos (Urnfield) Culture
Audio reading of this section (English)
Around 720-170 SA (according to our calendar), otherwise 1300-750 BCE entered the Ulumagos (“ash plain” – or in academia, the Urnfield) culture. The name given (likely obviously) because they buried their dead in urns and placed them in fields. This culture yields a few particularly interesting innovations that hadn’t been seen in central Europe, one such innovation was that of the spoke wheeled chariot. Which had at long last made its way from its place of origin, central Asia, some 1200 years before. We find evidence of them in early Ulumagos (Urnfield) burials.
Bronze chariot wheels from the Ulumagos (Urnfield) culture. [Wikimedia Commons]
By the grave goods found, and being the Aisson Cassês (Bronze Age) cuirasses made of bronze sheets, as well as bronze swords are often found around the urns that hold the ashes of the deceased. It wasn’t all about war of course. Elaborate bronze pins and bracelets, as well as brooches, and offering dishes are frequent accompaniments. These being far more common finds than weaponry and armour. It is considered possible by some linguists that Senocelticos (the Proto-Celtic language), the hypothetical ancestral language to all Celtic languages began to form during this period.
A particularly interesting find from this period are four golden hats (from Berlin, Avanton, Schifferstadt, and Ezelsdorf-Buch). They are thought to be of religious and/or of royal significance. The designs on these hats are thought to be calendrical (in something of a Metonic fashion) in nature. This demonstrates the prevalence of lunisolar timekeeping, where both the position of the sun, and the phases of the moon are accounted for in calculating the year.
Golden Hat of Ezelsdorf-Buch [Wikimedia Commons]
More reading on the Ulumagos (Urnfield) Culture:
– Breaking and Making the Ancestors. Piecing together the urnfield mortuary process in the Lower-Rhine-Basin, ca. 1300 -400 BC, by Arjan Louwen
– Mobility and Social Dynamics in Bavaria and North Tyrol in the Urnfield Culture, by Silviane Scharl and Birgit Gehlen
– Der bronzezeitliche Goldkegel “Berlin” – eine mitteleuropäische Wissensgeschichte, by Katharina Mosig
Iextis Senocelticos (The Proto-Celtic Language)
Audio reading of this section (English)
Next comes the question of iextis (language). At some point in the Ulumagos (Urnfield) period Senocelticos (Proto-Celtic) was starting to be spoken, though some claim even earlier. It is the language that in the Isarnoberios (Hallstatt) period, whom we will also discuss later, started off speaking. Most likely early on and as this culture progressed through time, the languages descended from it began to develop. Proto-Celtic gave rise to many languages, known as the Celtic family of Proto-Indo-European languages. Some other families of Proto-Indo-European languages are Indo-Iranian, Germanic, Balto-Slavic, Italic, Hellenic, Armenian, and Albanian. All emerged at different times and places as the “split off” from the “mother language”.
In the Celtic family of these Proto-Indo-European languages, Senocelticos (Proto-Celtic) emerged during either the Ulumagos (Urnfield) period. Exactly when in it is unknown. We see Lepontic (a Celtic language) inscriptions being found in the area of the Golasecca culture which is contemporary to the Isarnoberios (Hallstatt) culture, from which the Senogalatîs and their language emerge. Thus it is thought that Senocelticos is spoken by the Ulumagos (Urnfield) period into the Isarnoberios (Hallstatt) period, probably splitting off into early descendant languages like Lepontic, Celtiberian, and Senogalaticos. As the Celtic languages spread, in whichever era they may have, it splits into several languages.
Lepontic was one of the earliest known languages coming from Proto-Celtic (in Northern Italy). Celtiberian (in what is now Central Spain), Senogalaticos – Gaulish (much of what is now France, Belgium, Switzerland, Northern Italy, Southern Germany – also parts of Southern England, parts of Austria, parts of the Balkan region, and what is now Central Turkey), Brittonic (from Britain, in what is now England, Wales, Southern and Central Scotland, possibly Eastern and Northern Scotland if Pictish is also a Brittonic language, possibly the Isle of Mann early on), Goidelic (Ireland, Western Scotland) all descend from Proto-Celtic. Many of these languages unfortunately (save for the last two branches) did not survive long enough to leave descendants in the present.
The Celtic languages that are spoken today come from the Brittonic and Goidelic languages. Not all descendants of either survived. From Brittonic the ones that did survive are Cymraeg (Welsh – from Wales), Brezhoneg (Breton – spoken in Brittany), one that had effectively died for a bit over a century but was revived and is spoken again today is Kernewek (Cornish – in Cornwall). From Goidelic there are also three languages spoken today. Those are Gaeileg (Irish – from Ireland), Ghàidhlig (spoken in parts of Scotland), and Gaelg (spoken in the Isle of Mann – also revived after a period of death). As such, six languages from the Celtic family continue to be spoken, and in spite of many challenges that these languages face due to history of repression by English speakers (except Brittany, where French does this) efforts by the speakers of these six languages continue to preserve, teach, and carry them into the future.
For the focus of this piece of course, we will look at the time Senogalaticos (the Ancient Gaulish) language begins to emerge. Toward the middle or end of the time of the Isarnoberios (Hallstatt) culture, to hit its stride in the next era.
For a taste of what some words in Senocelticos may have been:
– English – Proto-Celtic Word List, a research project from the University of Wales
Aisson Isarnon (The Iron Age)
Audio reading of this section (English)
Not long before the Senogalatîs, their ancestors entered the Aisson Isarnon (Iron Age). This period covers their immediate ancestors, the Isarnoberios (“iron bearer” – in academia, Hallstatt) culture as well as the Senogalatîs themselves. Now that we have talked a little about some of the people that got the Senogalatîs to their place in history, we have just one more to go. Let us explore a little about the people from which they emerged.
Isarnoberios (Hallstatt) Culture
Audio reading of this section (English)
Around 220 SA-130 AAC (according to our calendar) or roughly 800-450 BCE we enter the period of the Isarnoberios (“iron bearer” – in academia, Hallstatt) culture. The start of this period was characterised by finds of iron weapons, which demonstrated that the metal was in the ascendant. Though at the earlier stages, bronze was still more common and iron was being worked like bronze. It took a length of time before they would figure out ironworking for its own sake.
Trade with the Mediterranean world had far reaching significance. It is thought that elite status had much to do with control of the flow of goods from the south. Imported goods are often found in graves from this age. One of the most famous being that of the Vix Krater, found in a grave of a wealthy (probably royal) woman.
The famous Vix Krater. [Wikimedia Commons]
The most common occupation of people by this point in history was certainly farming. Spelt, barley, emmer wheat, lentils, broad beans, peas (grains and legumes) are known to have been cultivated. Along with flax, camelina, and other plants for making fabric, flavouring food, and medicine. Pigs, cattle, sheep, and goats provided most of the meat. Transhumance (the following of herds though their cycle of pastures throughout the year was still practised in some cases, but sedentary farming was more common. Hunting at this time was not yet the proclivity of mostly elites, and regardless, fish was widely available.
Salt mining, while it certainly existed in previous ages, was quite prolific by this time. This would have led to other occupations such as folks who would cure meats to preserve them. Metalworking was quite advanced when compared to their contemporaries. Tools and sacred items being common finds with quality craftsmanship. With the development of large fortified sites like Heuneburg (numbered around 5000 people) proto-urbanisation was already starting to happen.
A fine example of Isarnoberios (Hallstatt) artwork, the Strettweg Cult Wagon. Within, you can also see masculine, feminine, and what we might think of as non-binary (in today’s terms) people. [Wikimedia Commons]
An artistic reconstruction of the proto-city at Heuneburg. [Designed by Kenny Arne, Lang Antonsen, and Jimmy John Antonsen]
In the western areas of this culture (from which is the main part in which the Senogalatîs emerged) iron swords were common in princely and warrior graves. In the east, it was mostly daggers. Tools, pottery (though decreasingly over time), jewellery, belts, and other clothes accompanied people who were by this point as much buried as cremated in the west, where the east held on more to cremation as their own ancestors did. Spindle whorls and items related to textile work are also found. Much of the precursor to the Senogalatîs is found in this culture. Very rarely, statues are also found. Such as one called the “Warrior of Hirschlanden”.
The Warrior of Hirschlanden. [Wikimedia Commons]
The Mediterranean world certainly had an influence on this culture, but it was by no means a copy of it. When ideas and art styles arrived from the south it did not take long for the Isarnoberios (Hallstatt) peoples to reinterpret motifs in the context of their local cultures. As can also be seen with Etruscan influence on their arts. The importing of wine became common due to this exchange.
Other than wine, beer was produced locally and was a widely consumed drink. Products made of beeswax were also very common according to the analysis of pottery at Mont Lassois (a major early Iron Age excavation site in France) often containing it. Toward the end of this age, however, this society entering the age of iron started to change rapidly, and the old structures started to collapse. It is in this period of decline that we see the emergence of the Senogalatîs.
Further reading on the Isarnoberios (Hallstatt) Culture:
– The Human Body in Early Iron Age Central Europe, by Katharina Rebay-Salisbury (who so kindly and freely shares this entire book)
– Local elites globalized in death: a practice approach to Early Iron Age Hallstatt C/D chieftains’ burials in northwest Europe, by David Fonijin and Sasja van der Vaart-Verschoof
– New insights into Early Celtic consumption practices: Organic residue analyses of local and imported pottery from Vix-Mont Lassois, by Maxime Rageot, Angela Mötsch, Birgit Schorer, David Bardel, Alexandra Winkler, Federica Sacchetti, Bruno Chaume, Philippe Della Casa, Stephen Buckley, Sara Cafisso, Janine Fries-Knoblach, Dirk Krausse, Thomas Hoppe, Philipp Stockhammer, and Cynthianne Spiter
Senogalatîs (The Ancient Gauls)
Audio reading of this section (English)
We have spoken a bit about the ancestors of the Senogalatîs throughout three ages. Now we are going well into the Aisson Isarnon (Iron Age), to the Senogalatîs themselves. Addressing the complexities of the time period in which they emerged requires a bit of care and nuance in our analysis. The descendants of the early Isarnoberios (Hallstatt) peoples didn’t just lead to the Senogalatîs. The culture that emerged is that which scholars often attribute to the Laticos (Heroic) culture, it is also named in academia as the LaTène culture. Many cultures known as Celtic emerged at this time.
Celtoi etic Galatîs (Celts and Gauls)
Audio reading of this section (English)
Historically, at least some Senogalatîs themselves and some Mediterranean writers use the term Celtoi (Κελτοί – Keltoi, from an Ancient Greek entry) to refer to the Senogalatîs. Other times, the Senogalatîs are referred to as Galatîs (Γαλάται – Galátai, another name the Greeks used for them) and that term as well has origins in Celtic languages. While not directly attested in Senogalaticos (Ancient Gaulish) it has even been reconstructed in Proto-Celtic, and is confidently of Celtic origin. As such it can be ruled quite likely that the Greeks got the term from a group of Senogalatîs.
The reason Nouiogalatîs then use the term Galatîs over Celtoi when referring to ourselves is because it yielded the term Celtic, which is a term used by those in living Celtic cultures to refer to themselves. So we use Celtoi to refer to historical Celts in general, much like it is today, and Galatîs to refer to the Senogalatîs specifically. In singular Celtos and Galatis respectively. In order to prevent confusion and possible offence, in Nouiogalaticos Celtoi = Celts, Galatîs = Gauls of the Iron Age and early Roman period. We are however aware that the historical context is that both terms were used to refer to those we call the Senogalatîs.
Of course, the focus of this commentary is on the Senogalatîs, as is the purview of Bessus Nouiogalation. It is best left to those who know far more about the contemporary peoples to the Senogalatîs to cover them. As with all of the previous cultures discussed, none were homogenous. This is certainly the case in the Laticos (LaTène) period, where great differences were seen in regional varieties of material culture. As was also the case as Senocelticos (Proto-Celtic) diverged into different languages that were then seen in these areas as years went by.
As opposed to going into every detail of this culture and period, since we have already discussed the ancestors of the Senogalatîs, we will discuss this period as it relates to them specifically. However, a few sources on contemporary groups of people from this period will be listed below:
– The Ancient Celts (Second Edition), by Barry Cunliffe
– Beyond Elites: Reassessing Iron Age Archaeology, by Brian Dolan (about Ireland)
– Rolling in their Graves: Chariots and Connectivity in Iron Age Britain, by Emma Biggs (about Britain)
– Celtiberian Ideologies and Religion, by Gabriel Sopeña (about Hispano-Celtic peoples)
Senouissus Senogalation (History of the Senogalatîs) – Cintus (Start)
Audio reading of this section (English)
It is now that we can begin to talk of the Senogalatîs in earnest. These are the people who could look a mighty general like Alexander the Great in the eye and tell him that they feared nothing (he was hoping they’d say him) – save for the sky falling upon them! They wore bright strong colours, and spread the cross checked pattern throughout western Europe. Famous for the neck rings, torcoi – torcs that adorned the necks of several of them. Famous for their long moustaches, irreverence, and mystery. Famous for their fierce and strong women. Innovators and inventors in their own right, and challengers of many of Europe’s earliest great powers. Their enigmatic Druides engendered wonder, admiration, and fear among those who knew them, and who did not know them alike. Sought after from many diverse powers for their bravery and skill in battle. Among the best metalworkers in ancient history. They lived in a vast swathe of Europe – from the tip of southern Britain to the highlands of Anatolia. Their culture inspires people even to this day. The Senogalatîs are all of these things and more.
As we venture into the history of the Senogalatîs, we have not yet departed from the Isarnoberios (Hallstatt) period. Our ancestors emerged during a time of great changes that were taking place in Europe in their day. Great conflicts and changes taking place in Greece and the Near East led to civil unrest and migrations westward. As Greeks moved west, Etruscans expanded north, and the Phonecians were holding on to their west Mediterranean trading posts – at least until their homeland was conquered by the Babylonians – which led to Carthaginians establishing their own posts, plus the rise of the Roman Republic, the earliest Senogalatîs would be affected by these changes.
The story of the earliest Senogalatîs is a story of rivers. Rivers that are now called the Rhine, the Marne, the Danube, the Loire, the Moselle, the Seine. It was along these rivers, and because of them that opportunities for trade and wealth were established. The Greeks, having established a colony at Massalia (today Marseilles) in what is now along the shores of southeastern France, still a major port city to this day, brought the Senogalatîs a near neighbour to the exotic Mediterranean world. This occurred in approximately 20 SA, around 600 BCE. To their more immediate south were the Etruscans with cities like Vulci supplying the Senogalatîs with even more exotic items. Often these were things like highly decorated drinking vessels and amphorae, which held much coveted wine. Contrary to Mediterranean custom, the Senogalatîs did not water down their wine. Thus the way they drank wine won out and people today consume it likewise.
All of this suggests an economy centred around prestige goods. In exchange the Senogalatîs provided civilisations to their south with raw materials like gold, iron, timber, and furs. It is so that while trade with foreign powers was indeed important, it also galvanised our ancestors to produce goods that would be desirable to their neighbours. Their own trade networks extended out to the Baltic region from which they imported amber. Tin was traded further south due to the Senogalatîs having long established trade links with the Britons to their north. So it was that the Senogalatîs were not merely people on the fringe or passively being traded to. They were massive producers themselves. Their goods were widely sought. Mediterranean people generally sought raw materials which were then used to create works, some of which ended up making their way back north to Senogaliâ (Ancient Gaul).
To gain power, it was necessary to be positioned near the rivers that granted access to these trade highways. Those that were, enjoyed great wealth and power. Two major zones of power and influence had developed by this time in the lands of the Senogalatîs. An eastern zone in what is now the Czech Republic, which would birth the Bouioi (Boii) people known in later Roman accounts, and a western zone mostly in what is now eastern France and southwestern Germany. This could possibly be where the Bituriges originally came from. Their Rix, the leader of their people – Ambicatus – is the farthest back Senogalatis that we know of. Worth saying that’s in record, though the writing mentioning him is not the oldest record of the Senogalatîs themselves that we have.
Both of these zones of power in the old lands were north of the original Isarnoberios (Hallstatt) core, which was further south. We don’t have a definitive answer for why these power zones had shifted, but it’s possible that being further north, away from the trade centres to the south meant slim pickings of prestige goods in economies governed by them. Fending off raiders from their east meant they’d have acquired a higher aptitude for battle than those in the more peaceful core. As such it’s then possible that lured by greater access to trade goods, and thus wealth gave an impetus for exerting influence militarily. Essentially to “cut out the middleman”. We can only speculate, but the change in power happened, and greater plans were made, as we shall soon see with Ambicatus.
It is perhaps through Ambicatus that we can learn something about this early period of history. He would have seen much of what we already described. The changes in the centres of power (according to legend, he was a major player in it!), he would have known about Massaliâ and may well have been a frequent source of business for them. The account of him is as follows, from the historian Titus Livius in ‘History of Rome’ (5.34) states this:
“About the passage of the Gauls into Italy we have received the following account: while Tarquinius Priscus was king of Rome, the supreme power amongst the Celts, who formed a third part of the whole of Gaul, was in the hands of the Bituriges; they used to furnish the king for the whole Celtic race. Ambigatus was king at that time, a man eminent for his own personal courage and prosperity as much as for those of his dominions. During his sway the harvests were so abundant and the population increased so rapidly in Gaul that the government of such vast numbers seemed almost impossible. He was now an old man, and anxious to relieve his realm from the burden of over-population. With this view he signified his intention of sending his sister’s sons Bellovesus and Segovesus, both enterprising young men, to settle in whatever locality the gods should by augury assign to them. They were to invite as many as wished to accompany them, sufficient to prevent any nation from repelling their approach. When the auspices were taken, the Hercynian forest was assigned to Segovesus; to Bellovesus the gods gave the far pleasanter way into Italy.”
Ambicatus (as his name would be rendered in Senogalaticos, Ancient Gaulish) occupies a place where history and legend blur to the point that it is unknown which is which. Let’s indulge ourselves a little and temporarily suspend scepticism, to assume truth in the account. Being a contemporary of Tarquinius Priscus, who reigned in Rome from 33 SA to 5 AAC, or 616 to 578 BCE, it means that Ambicatus reigned during the last century or so of the Isarnoberios (Hallstatt) period. Advanced in age, he is looking back on a life of accomplishments. HIs name translated means “he who fights in both (or different) directions”. We may then be charitable and say that perhaps he is one of those kings of the western Isarnoberios (Hallstatt) power zone who through skill in battle managed to actually consolidate his rule over it.
This is done often through battle, oaths of allegiance won through valour and skill that granted him authority and tribute. It is maintained however, by his proven ability to bring prosperity to his peoples. The account mentions an age of plenty, of prosperity under his rule. This would maybe mean he was well aware of maintaining the channels of trade in all directions: from the Britons in the north, the Germans and Balts in the east, the Etruscans and Greeks to the south, and the Atlantic networks to the west. Wealth in trade, and likely good seasons that led to good harvests.
Especially with the latter, a people would naturally see a boom in population. With the level of technology they had, though, the land could only provide for so much. If new inventions aren’t forthcoming – and quickly – it is of course imperative to figure out how to provide for all of these new young people. At that time, again lacking the technological advancements we enjoy today, the salient option was to send the youth of combat age out to scour new lands. The practical consideration accounted for that would help him maintain his own position, securing what he struggled to gain. Accounting for what may happen to his lands after he passed on into the next life.
So he picked his nephews, a common practice in ancient Celtic societies, but also other societies to be a foster parent to your sibling’s children, to go out to new lands. Likely it was a Uatis (a sort of seer, interpreter of messages in divination) who read the omens of bird flights – performing augury – interpreting the direction the Dêuoi (the beings they worship) intended for them to go. So it was that Segouesus was to go east, through the Hercynian Forest, and Bellouesus to Italy. Accounts of these nephews never recounted whether or not they succeeded. But we know one thing for sure: the Senogalatîs later on in fact did. Their expansion in these two directions laid much of the groundwork for accounts of them!
It is after Ambicatus that we Nouiogalatîs named the current era. AAC is an abbreviation for Areambicatû or “that which is beyond Ambicatus”. While the first year was picked during a time near the end of his life, 1 AAC is roughly (as the year doesn’t start at the same time as the Gregorian) 582 BCE – 582-581 BCE. A humble attempt to immortalise Ambicatus’ memory, for whom the Senogalatîs entered recorded history.
A bit of a controversy follows. It is known that a bit less than 200 years after Ambicatus’ time that the Senogalatîs made a firm entry into Italy. It is possible, that in Ambicatus’ lifetime, that some Senogalatîs had in fact settled in Italy. These would have been the kind of warrior bands that predate the Senogalatîs by so much that their distant ancestors would recognise the process. The Insubrioi (Insubres) had already been settled in Italy, and it is said that they shared the name of a canton of the Aiduoi (Aedui). Whether this similarity is from linguistic happenstance or representative of that legendary migration of Bellouesus is unknown. But the story goes that it was he who founded Mediolanon (Mediolanum – today, Milan). And so, whether it was so, or nearly 200 years later, the Senogalatîs did in fact make it to Italy and establish a presence for centuries.
Nearly 200 years later serves the narrative of Segouesus, the brother of Bellouesus. Segouesus was allotted a migration eastward, through the Hercynian Forest. We know of such an eastward expansion occurring around the same more solid date we do for the expansion of the Senogalatîs into Italy. The Bouioi (Boii) people did in fact expand eastward. The land of Bohemia bearing their name. Again, this occurred at the same time, third to fourth centuries AAC, or fifth to fourth centuries BCE. As Nouiogalatîs, we can take succor in the idea that whether or not these three ancestors Ambicatus, Bellouesus, and Segouesus existed or not literally, they seem to have had a place in the lore of our ancestors. All representing different parts of the world of the Senogalatîs.
Ambicatus, of the homeland of the Senogalatîs: ancient, prosperous, and mighty. From where the intrepid souls of his sister’s sons made new homelands in the south and east. They don’t have to have existed in the material, historical sense for the lore to be of value. That they represent the hopes, trials, tribulations, good and bad actions of our ancestors, is plenty enough that all Nouiogalatîs should know the tale.
Senouissus Senogalation (History of the Senogalatîs) – Aisson Laticon (Heroic Age – LaTène Period)
Audio reading of this section (English)
Our journey through the time of the Senogalatîs now takes us to the completion of the shift in power to the new groups that were led into this new period over a century after folks like Ambicatus. Roughly 120 AAC or around 450 BCE, in a period that the Nouiogalatîs call Aisson Laticon, or the age of heroes. Otherwise, called the LaTène period. The former for the simple fact that most recorded deeds by Senogalatis heroes occurred in this age. The latter is named for the location in which the first artefacts related to this period were discovered. Another Nouiogalaticos name for the age is Aisson Uection – the age of raids/voyages. A fitting description of the times!
At this point, much of the documented happenings of the Senogalatîs in their homeland is extremely sparse. The Senogalatîs could write. There are a few scripts (North Italic, Greek, and Latin) that they would use at different places and times. However, these were generally for inscriptions related to the Dêuoi (the beings they worshipped), or for graves and transactions. The kind of historical chronicling present in the Mediterranean world is as of yet (to our knowledge) nonexistent among the Senogalatîs. For this reason, virtually all accounts of them relate specifically to the interactions Greek and Roman societies had to them. This means that these accounts can in many cases shed light on our ancestors. However, this also means that they’re accounts of outsiders writing of a foreign people.
This means the biases of Greek and Roman writers certainly shine through in many of these accounts. They have to be taken with a “grain of salt”. Just as any discerning mind does with any source written of one group of people by another. Critical thinking is necessary for engagement with these sources. As is to be expected, mistakes and wrongs of the Senogalatîs are likely to be exaggerated while their own are either set to blaming an individual or excusing it some other way. Their own achievements were often exaggerated or overblown, with the Senogalatîs either minimised in theirs or of course written negatively as it came at the expense of one or the other group doing the writing. That is not to say the Senogalatîs didn’t do wrong by ancient or modern standards at times. Simply that we should not consider Greek or Roman sources to be objective, any more than we should consider writings from the Senogalatîs had they too been into making chronicles or writing histories. Everyone has biases, this was as true then as it is now.
We could hazard a guess that in their homeland, raiding, trading, and periods of peace went on as it always had. Though, if burial records tell us anything, with less people around to do these things. The appeal of traversing other lands appears to have had quite an effect. From many of the old nations, young fighters and sometimes whole nations embarked on voyages to new lands. Activity certainly did not stop as archaeological finds have confirmed, we simply have far less written record to describe what had happened there. The bulk of accounts focus mainly on two fronts of expansion: to the east, culminating in great waves of movement to and through what is now the Balkan region – as well as to the south, Italy. We will start with the latter.
Senogalatîs in Italî
Audio reading of this section (English)
The expansion of the Senogalatîs into Italiâ – Italy is fairly well documented. It also lends credible arguments that it started much sooner than some of the accounts say. Two interesting points can be made here. First, that the Senogalatîs were not the only Celtic peoples in the area, and they were not the first. A language similar to in many ways, but not Senogalaticos was that of Leponticos (Lepontic). The Lepontic peoples were wrote inscriptions which they did utilising a North Italic alphabet. Perhaps learned from the Etruscans, but was common enough in Northern Italy at the time that it cannot be certain from whom they got it. This way of writing, which was mainly used for inscriptions actually was passed down to some of the Senogalatîs in Italy, with some small modifications that meant they had their own way of writing using it.
The following link below will demonstrate a variety of North Italic Scripts that were used. The one furthest on the right was that which the Senogalatîs in Italy were found to have used. (Courtesy of the folks at the University of Vienna working on a project known as Lexicon Leponticum)
The environment changed once the Senogalatîs made their way south and they had an effect on the peoples in their immediate vicinity. The Insubrioi (Insubres) being one such people who were of a Celtic culture before the arrival of the Senogalatîs. They were perhaps related to the Lepontic and Ligurian peoples in the area, and over time became Gallicised. Due to this, they too numbered among the Senogalatîs because, and it cannot be overstated, a people could do this regardless of ancestry. They spoke the language, and adopted a material culture like that of other Senogalatîs. Of course, they retained their distinct character as well, as their style of burial indicates. As to how the Insubrioi were Gallicised, a tantalising hint is possibly offered by Titus Livius in his ‘History of Rome’ at the end of the section 5.34:
“…After crossing the Alps by the passes of the Taurini and the valley of the Douro, they defeated the Tuscans (Etruscans) in battle not far from the Ticinus, and when they learnt that the country in which they had settled belonged to the Insubres, a name also borne by a district of the Aedui (Aiduoi), they accepted the omen of the place and built a city which they called Mediolanum (Mediolanon, today known as Milan).”
This would have occurred during the life of Ambicatus, around 600 BCE. Perhaps Bellouesus was there after all? While fun to speculate, it is at least known that the founding of Mediolanon happened around this time and so we have the first connection of the Senogalatîs to Italiâ this way. Even at this early date, Mediolanon was a great trading post. Its central location gave the Insubrioi access to much of Italy for both raiding and trading. From this place, the Insubrioi grew to be among the most powerful groups of Senogalatîs in Italy for centuries. However, in the course of those centuries, the Insubrioi were not alone. Peoples such as the Bouioi (Boii) and the Cenomanoi (Cenomani) joined them, in the process challenging the Etruscans for whom as the Senogalatîs were expanding south, they were expanding north.
The sought prize in this case was the Po River valley. Its fertile farmland, central location, and immediate access to a major river granted not only an easy route for trade, but the ability to construct stations along it to exact tolls. The winters were also less harsh there, another reason to fight to call this place their own.
In the ensuing centuries, the conflicting expansions between the Senogalatîs and the Etruscans were coming to a head. One example of this was in 193 AAC, 390 BCE. A fight was brewing between Senonoi, a nation of the Senogalatîs and the Etruscans of the city of Clusium. In the process, this led to the city being sieged. During this, the Etruscans of Clusium called upon their allies, the city state of Rome. The Senonoi wanted to settle an unused portion of land. The Romans asked them by what right they had to ask for this, they said it was worn on their belts, referring to their swords. Then one of these Romans, Quintus Fabius decided during negotiations with the Senonoi, he chose to charge at one of the Riges (chieftains), killing him. The Senonoi demanded justice and recompense but were denied. Needless to say, that caused the Senonoi to change their focus and set their sights on Rome.
Storming southward joined by members of the Bouioi and Insubrioi, they smashed through the Roman troops at the Battle of the Allia. After winning that battle, they marched on and sacked the city of Rome. Accounts of this are somewhat contradictory. It is agreed upon that the city was sacked, but all accounts are made centuries after the event occurred. The most pedestrian of the accounts is that offered by Diodorus Siculus in his ‘Library of History’ (14.114-116):
“At the time that Dionysius was besieging Rhegium, the Celts who had their homes in the regions beyond the Alps streamed through the passes in great strength and seized the territory that lay between the Apennine mountains and the Alps, expelling the Tyrrhenians who dwelt there. These, according to some, were colonists from the twelve cities of Tyrrhenia; but others state that before the Trojan War Pelasgians fled from Thessaly to escape the flood of Deucalion’s time and settled in this region. Now it happened, when the Celts divided up the territory by nations, that those known as the Sennones received the area which lay farthest from the mountains and along the sea. But since this region was scorching hot, they were distressed and eager to move; hence they armed their younger men and sent them out to seek a territory where they might settle. Now they invaded Tyrrhenia, and being in number some thirty thousand they sacked the territory of the Clusini. At this very time the Roman people sent messengers into Tyrrhenia to spy out the army of the Celts. The ambassadors arrived at Clusium, and when they saw that a battle had been joined, with more valour than wisdom they joined the men of Clusium against their besiegers, and one of the messengers was successful in killing a rather important commander. When the Celts learned of this, they dispatched messengers to Rome to demand the person of the envoy who had thus commenced an unjust war. The senate at first sought to persuade the envoys of the Celts to accept money in satisfaction of the injury, but when they would not consider this, it voted to surrender the accused. But the father of the man to be surrendered, who was also one of the military tribunes with consular power, appealed the judgement to the people, and since he was a man of influence among the masses, he persuaded them to void the decision of the senate. Now in the times previous to this the people had followed the senate in all matters; with this occasion they first began to rescind decisions of that body.
The ambassadors of the Celts returned to their camp and reported the reply of the Romans. At this they were greatly angered and, adding troops from their fellow tribesmen, they marched swiftly upon Rome itself, numbering more than seventy thousand men. The military tribunes of the Romans, exercising their special power, when they heard of the advance of the Celts, armed all the men of military age. They then marched out in full force and, crossing the Tiber, led their troops for eighty stades along the river; and at news of the approach of the Galatians they drew up the army for battle. Their best troops, to the number of twenty-four thousand, they set in a line from the river as far as the hills and on the highest hills they stationed the weakest. The Celts deployed their troops in a long line and, whether by fortune or design, stationed their choicest troops on the hills. The trumpets on both sides sounded the charge at the same time and the armies joined in battle with great clamour. The élite troops of the Celts, who were opposed to the weakest soldiers of the Romans, easily drove them from the hills. Consequently, as these fled in masses to the Romans on the plain, the ranks were thrown into confusion and fled in dismay before the attack of the Celts. Since the bulk of the Romans fled along the river and impeded one another by reason of their disorder, the Celts were not behind-hand in slaying again and again those who were last in line. Hence the entire plain was strewn with dead. Of the men who fled to the river the bravest attempted to swim across with their arms, prizing their armour as highly as their lives; but since the stream ran strong, some of them were borne down to their death by the weight of the arms, and some, after being carried along for some distance, finally and after great effort got off safe. But since the enemy pressed them hard and was making a great slaughter along the river, most of the survivors threw away their arms and swam across the Tiber.
The Celts, though they had slain great numbers on the bank of the river, nevertheless did not desist from the zest for glory but showered javelins upon the swimmers; and since many missiles were hurled and men were massed in the river, those who threw did not miss their mark. So it was that some died at once from mortal blows, and others, who were wounded only, were carried off unconscious because of loss of blood and the swift current. When such disaster befell, the greater part of the Romans who escaped occupied the city of Veii, which had lately been razed by them, fortified the place as well as they could, and received the survivors of the rout. A few of those who had swum the river fled without their arms to Rome and reported that the whole army had perished. When word of such misfortunes as we have described was brought to those who had been left behind in the city, everyone fell into despair; for they saw no possibility of resistance, now that all their youth had perished, and to flee with their children and wives was fraught with the greatest danger since the enemy were close at hand. Now many private citizens fled with their households to neighbouring cities, but the city magistrates, encouraging the populace, issued orders for them to bring speedily to the Capitoline grain and every other necessity.
When this had been done, both the acropolis and the Capitoline were stored not only with supplies of food but with silver and gold and the costliest raiment, since the precious possessions had been gathered from over the whole city into one place. They gathered such valuables as they could and fortified the place we have mentioned during a respite of three days. For the Celts spent the first day cutting off, according to their custom, the heads of the dead. And for two days they lay encamped before the city, for when they saw the deserted walls and yet heard the noise made by those who were transferring their most useful possessions to the acropolis, they suspected that the Romans were planning a trap for them. But on the fourth day, after they had learned the true state of affairs, they broke down the gates and pillaged the city except for a few dwellings on the Palatine. After this they delivered daily assaults on strong positions, without, however, inflicting any serious hurt upon their opponents and with the loss of many of their own troops. Nevertheless, they did not relax their ardour, expecting that, even if they did not conquer by force, they would wear down the enemy in the course of time, when the necessities of life had entirely given out.
While the Romans were suffering from such difficulties, the neighbouring Tyrrhenians advanced and made a raid with a strong army on the territory of the Romans, capturing many prisoners and not a small amount of booty. But the Romans who had fled to Veii, falling unexpectedly upon the Tyrrhenians, put them to flight, took back the booty, and captured their camp. Having got possession of arms in abundance, they distributed them among the unarmed, and they also gathered men from the countryside and armed them, since they intended to relieve the siege of the soldiers who had taken refuge on the Capitoline. While they were at a loss how they might reveal their plans to the besieged, since the Celts had surrounded them with strong forces, a certain Cominius Pontius undertook to get the cheerful news to the men on the Capitoline. Starting out alone and swimming the river by night, he got unseen to a cliff of the Capitoline that was hard to climb and, hauling himself up it with difficulty, told the soldiers on the Capitoline about the troops that had been collected in Veii and how they were watching for an opportunity and would attack the Celts. Then, descending by the way he had mounted and swimming the Tiber, he returned to Veii. The Celts, when they observed the tracks of one who had recently climbed up, made plans to ascend at night by the same cliff. Consequently, about the middle of the night, while the guards were neglectful of their watch because of the strength of the place, some Celts started an ascent of the cliff. They escaped detection by the guards, but the sacred geese of Hera, which were kept there, noticed the climbers and set up a cackling. The guards rushed to the place and the Celts, deterred, did not dare proceed farther. A certain Marcus Mallius, a man held in high esteem, rushing to the defence of the place, cut off the hand of the climber with his sword and, striking him on the breast with his shield, rolled him from the cliff. In like manner the second climber met his death, whereupon the rest all quickly turned in flight. But since the cliff was precipitous they were all hurled headlong and perished. As a result of this, when the Romans sent ambassadors to negotiate a peace, they were persuaded, upon receipt of one thousand pounds of gold, to leave the city and to withdraw from Roman territory.”
This was but the beginning of centuries of conflicts between the Senogalatîs and Romans. Conflicts with them became a defining factor in the history of the Senogalaîs, the Romans would prove to be a constant threat to the Senogalatîs due to their own desire to expand. In spite of this, the Senogalatîs would be a consistent presence in Italy for centuries to come.
While occupying lands mostly in the north of present day Italy – and the usual raiding and trading that came with it – they were also frequently courted for mercenary work. With or without the Senogalatîs, the Italian peninsula was a place of constant battles both from without and within. This allowed for opportunities to sell their skills in warfare. Such a practice was common among ancient cultures. Moreso when there were many young warriors who needed an outlet to prove their skill and valour, as well as older ones not content with a more settled life.
The Senogalatîs were often solicited for mercenary service in Italy. Dionysius of Syracuse hired them so often that he had a colony post built in the lands of the Senonoi at Ancona, which lasted for around a generation. The Carthaginians, from Hamilcar to Hannibal employed them as mercenaries in the Punic Wars against the Romans. The Romans also hired Senogalatis mercenaries at times as they engaged in wars for supremacy over the Italian peninsula. They were an ever present force in those lands.
Their time there was filled with alliances and friendships as much as enmities. The Etruscans were allies and friends in some engagements, as were Samnites and Venetians. The thing about ancient peoples is that an enemy in one generation could be a friend in the next. Histories written sometimes forget this. Alliances were made and broken on the simple premises of profit and survival. Sometimes more complex ones relating to long term security, expansion, and subjugation of common foes. History focuses often on wars and battles which is understandable. They are terrible but dynamic and powerful events. But it is worth noting that decades of peace often were established between them. During which periods of trade and exchange, learning and understanding happened.
Battles were often fought to pursue loot. This was a common practice in Italy as it was everywhere else. Senogalatîs, Etruscans, Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, Venetians and others all fought to grow their coffers with one another’s wealth (often on thin pretexts), which was usually taken from one of the others! All participated in objectionable and unnecessarily violent actions, and perhaps this is why alliances could change so quickly. Grudges are harder to hold when your people are just as guilty as the next. The Roman people were seeking greater control over the peninsula and while they were doing that the, Etruscans and Senogalatîs looted Roman settlements as they did in 281 AAC (302 BCE), which was successful but then the two groups turned on each other, also par for the course in those times. The Romans would do likewise as they would levy legions north to the Senogalatis and Etruscan settlements, as well as south to raid fellow Italic peoples often taking not only loot but their land and sovereignty as well.
The Senogalatîs (Senonoi specifically) were hired by Etruscans and Samnites in what is called the Third Samnite War in 285 AAC (298 BCE), which was fought against an alliance of Romans, Campanians, and various other Latin nations. The Senonoi won a battle at Clusium and lost at Sentium, the Samnites ultimately lost and were absorbed into the Roman fold. Thus the centre of the Italian peninsula was lost to the ravages of Rome – a nation that was posing an ever growing threat to the peoples to their north.
In a conflict between Senogalatîs (the Senonoi specifically) and the Etruscans fourteen years later, the Romans again proceeded to intervene during the siege of Arretium. The Romans were defeated in a battle that is poorly documented. Continued Roman meddling in Senogalatis affairs led to the Senonoi to overreact, wrongly (if this occurred at all, this battle is poorly documented) slaying those who came seeking the release of captured Romans. Other versions account not for the Battle of Arretium, but for unrelated reasons the Romans demanded recompense because Senonoi mercenaries were involved in battles against the Romans. Likely hired by Etruscans, Bruttians, or Samnites. In turn, the Romans marched in force to defeat the Senonoi once and for all. They killed many of them, enslaved many others and drove the Senonoi out of their lands after defeating them in a later battle. This in turn led to the Bouioi and Etruscans, fearful that the Romans would attempt to dispose of them as well to march on them. This was rebuffed at Lake Vladimo, where the Etruscans bore the brunt of the Roman slaughter. In time, an uneasy peace was made between the Romans and the Etruscans and Bouioi. But the intention of the Romans to control all of Italiâ was clear.
Skirmishes would continue, without a clear winner sporadically until about 345 AAC, 238 BCE. After this, a period of peace existed between the Senogalatîs and the Romans. This changed in 358 AAC, 225 BCE. In the years prior, the Romans began annexing formerly Senogalatis lands and transplanting Roman citizens to occupy it. This led to anger among the Bouioi and Insubrioi. Rekindling old anxieties about the purpose of the Romans in northern Italy. The Bouioi in the times of peace prior had kept to their own areas, in fact they even repelled another group of Senogalatîs who attempted to migrate across the Alps into Italy. In essence, doing the job the Romans assigned to themselves for them. This annexation of land and the replacement of the old Senonoi lands with Romans, who like the Senogalatîs did, were more than happy to plunder their neighbours, did not bode well in the spirit of this fragile peace.
This led to an escalation as the Bouioi and Insubrioi hired the now famous Gaisatîs (their more well known Latin name Gesatae) from the old lands to come down and give aid to them in a battle against the Romans. As Polybius notes in his ‘Histories’ (2.22):
“Accordingly the two most extensive nations, the Insubres and Boii, joined in the despatch of messengers to the nations living about the Alps and on the Rhone, who are called Gaesatae from the Celtic word which means “mercenary.” [This is incorrect: it actually means “spear-men.”] To their kings Concolitanus and Aneroetes they offered a large sum of gold on the spot; and, for the future, pointed out to them the greatness of the wealth of Rome, and all the riches of which they would become possessed, if they took it. In these attempts to inflame their greed and induce them to join the expedition against Rome they easily succeeded. For they added to the above arguments pledges of their own alliance; and reminded them of the campaign of their own ancestors in which they had seized Rome itself, and had been masters of all it contained, as well as the city itself, for seven months; and had at last evacuated it of their own free will, and restored it by an act of free grace, returning unconquered and unharmed with the booty to their own land. These arguments made the leaders so eager for the expedition, that there never at any other time came from that part of Gaul a larger host, or one consisting of more notable warriors. Meanwhile, the Romans, informed of what was coming, partly by report and partly by speculation, were in such a state of constant alarm and anticipation, that they hurriedly enrolled legions, collected supplies, and sent out their forces to the frontier, as though the enemy were already in their territory, before the Gauls had stirred from their own lands.”
This act guaranteed the battle that was to come. And so it did. The first battle was fought at Faesulae. In which the Bouioi, Insubrioi, and the hired Gaisatîs won a pitched battle against the Romans. As the allied Senogalatîs marched through the land of the Etruscans, the Romans met them at Clusium. Pulling off a master stroke, the Bouioi and Insubrioi made camp near them the night before the battle was to take place, when the Roman troops awoke they were gone. As such they pursued the Senogalatis cavalry, believing that they had retreated. However, they had worked their way around enemy lines to attack from behind, winning the battle.
Polybius recorded this after that battle (2.26):
“At this very time Lucius Aemilius, who was in command of the advanced force near the Adriatic, on hearing that the Celts had invaded Etruria and were approaching Rome, came in haste to help, fortunately arriving in the nick of time. He encamped near the enemy, and the fugitives on the hill, seeing his camp-fires and understanding what had occurred, immediately plucked up courage and dispatched by night some unarmed messengers through the wood to announce to the commander the plight they were in. On hearing of it and seeing that there was no alternative course under the circumstances, the latter ordered his Tribunes to march out the infantry at daybreak, he himself proceeding in advance with the cavalry towards the hill mentioned above.
The leaders of the Gauls, on seeing the camp-fires at night, surmised that the enemy had arrived and held a council at which the King Aneroëstes expressed the opinion, that having captured so much booty (for it appears that the quantity of slaves, cattle and miscellaneous spoil was enormous), they should not give battle again nor risk the fortune of the whole enterprise, but return home in safety, and having got rid of all their encumbrances and lightened themselves, return and, if advisable, try issues with the Romans. It was decided under the circumstances to take the course recommended by Aneroëstes, and having come to this resolution in the night, they broke up their camp before daybreak and retreated along the sea-coast through Etruria. Lucius now took with him from the hill the survivors of the other army and united them with his other forces. He thought it by no means advisable to risk a general battle, but decided to hang on the enemy’s rear and watch for times and places favourable for inflicting damage on them or wresting some of the spoil from their hands.”
The next battle, where the Gaisatîs famously went into battle in the nude, for that reason and others, fared quite poorly for the Senogalatîs, at the Battle of Telamon. This is in no small part because it was not just Romans that they were fighting. Several other nations (the Etruscans, Umbrians, Sabines, Venetians, and yes other Senogalatîs – the Cenomanoi) allies of Rome, came to bolster the numbers of the battle. Both sides had several different groups fighting alongside them and this is important to know. An account of this is again offered by Polybius (2.27-30):
“Just at this time, Gaius Atilius, the other Consul, had reached Pisa from Sardinia with his legions and was on his way to Rome, marching in the opposite direction to the enemy. When the Celts were near Telamon in Etruria, their advanced foragers encountered the advance guard of Gaius and were made prisoners. On being examined by the Consul they narrated all that had recently occurred and told him of the presence of the two armies, stating that the Gauls were quite near and Lucius behind them. The news surprised him but at the same time made him very hopeful, as he thought he had caught the Gauls on the march between the two armies. He ordered his Tribunes to put the legions in fighting order and to advance thus at marching pace in so far as the nature of the ground allowed the attack in line. He himself had happily noticed a hill situated above the road by which the Celts must pass, and taking his cavalry with him, advanced at full speed, being anxious to occupy the crest of the hill before their arrival and be the first to begin the battle, feeling certain that thus he would get the largest share of credit for the result.
The Celts at first were ignorant of the arrival of Atilius and imagined from what they saw, that Aemilius’ cavalry had got round their flank in the night and were engaged in occupying the position. They therefore at once sent on their own cavalry and some of their light-armed troops to dispute the possession of the hill. But very soon they learnt of Gaius’ presence from one of the prisoners brought in, and lost no time in drawing up their infantry, deploying them so that they faced both front and rear, since, both from the intelligence that reached them and from what was happening before their eyes, they knew that the one army was following them, and they expected to meet the other in their front.
Aemilius, who had heard of the landing of the legions at Pisa but had not any idea that they were already so near him, now, when he saw the fight going on round the hill, knew that the other Roman army was quite close. Accordingly, sending on his cavalry to help those who were fighting on the hill, he drew up his infantry in the usual order and advanced against the foe. The Celts had drawn up facing their rear, from which they expected Aemilius to attack, the Gaesatae from the Alps and behind them the Insubres, and facing in the opposite direction, ready to meet the attack of Gaius’ legions, they placed the Taurisci and the Boii from the right bank of the Po.
Their wagons and chariots they stationed at the extremity of either wing and collected their booty on one of the neighbouring hills with a protecting force round it. This order of the Celtic forces, facing both ways, not only presented a formidable appearance, but was well adapted to the exigencies of the situation. The Insubres and Boii wore their trousers and light cloaks, but the Gaesatae had discarded these garments owing to their proud confidence in themselves, and stood naked, with nothing but their arms, in front of the whole army, thinking that thus they would be more efficient, as some of the ground was overgrown with brambles which would catch in their clothes and impede the use of their weapons. At first the battle was confined to the hill, all the armies gazing on it, so great were the numbers of cavalry from each host combating there pell-mell. In this action Gaius the Consul fell in the mellay fighting with desperate courage, and his head was brought to the Celtic kings; but the Roman cavalry, after a stubborn struggle, at length overmastered the enemy and gained possession of the hill. The infantry were now close upon each other, and the spectacle was a strange and marvellous one, not only to those actually present at the battle, but to all who could afterwards picture it to themselves from the reports.
For in the first place, as the battle was between three armies, it is evident that the appearance and the movements of the forces marshalled against each other must have been in the highest degree strange and unusual. Again, it must have been to all present, and still is to us, a matter of doubt whether the Celts, with the enemy advancing on them from both sides, were more dangerously situated, or, on the contrary, more effectively, since at one and the same time they were fighting against both their enemies and were protecting themselves in the rear from both, while, above all, they were absolutely cut off from retreat or any prospect of escape in the case of defeat, this being the peculiarity of this two-faced formation. The Romans, however, were on the one hand encouraged by having caught the enemy between their two armies, but on the other they were terrified by the fine order of the Celtic host and the dreadful din, for there were innumerable horn-blowers and trumpeters, and, as the whole army were shouting their war-cries at the same time, there was such a tumult of sound that it seemed that not only the trumpets and the soldiers but all the country round had got a voice and caught up the cry. Very terrifying too were the appearance and the gestures of the naked warriors in front, all in the prime of life, and finely built men, and all in the leading companies richly adorned with gold torques and armlets. The sight of them indeed dismayed the Romans, but at the same time the prospect of winning such spoils made them twice as keen for the fight.
But when the javelineers advanced, as is their usage, from the ranks of the Roman legions and began to hurl their javelins in well-aimed volleys, the Celts in the rear ranks indeed were well protected by their trousers and cloaks, but it fell out far otherwise than they had expected with the naked men in front, and they found themselves in a very difficult and helpless predicament. For the Gaulish shield does not cover the whole body; so that their nakedness was a disadvantage, and the bigger they were the better chance had the missiles of going home. At length, unable to drive off the javelineers owing to the distance and the hail of javelins, and reduced to the utmost distress and perplexity, some of them, in their impotent rage, rushed wildly on the enemy and sacrificed their lives, while others, retreating step by step on the ranks of their comrades, threw them into disorder by their display of faint-heartedness. Thus was the spirit of the Gaesatae broken down by the javelineers; 6 but the main body of the Insubres, Boii, and Taurisci, once the javelineers had withdrawn into the ranks and the Roman maniples attacked them, met the enemy and kept up a stubborn hand-to‑hand combat.
For, though being almost cut to pieces, they held their ground, equal to their foes in courage, and inferior only, as a force and individually, in their arms. The Roman shields, it should be added, were far more serviceable for defence and their swords for attack, the Gaulish sword being only good for a cut and not for a thrust (This is untrue: Archaeological finds have demonstrated that the swords of the Senogalatîs were actually very well made.) But finally, attacked from higher ground and on their flank by the Roman cavalry, which rode down the hill and charged them vigorously, the Celtic infantry were cut to pieces where they stood, their cavalry taking to flight.”
Often large battles this far back in time become oversimplified. It was not as simple as Senogalatîs fighting Romans. It was two sides that included many different peoples fighting alongside each other against their foes. Neither group normally fought in major battles like Telamon alone. But it is indeed after this battle that is the beginning of the end of freedom and sovereignty for Senogalatîs in Italy. In the following years, more large armies would be sent north and the Romans would then displace the Bouioi and Insubrioi and settle Roman citizens on those lands. While not entirely absorbed at this point, centuries of Senogalatîs making a home in Italy was essentially over.
It is worth noting when we talk about these battles that in their time in Italy, the Senogalatîs like the Romans could be ruthless and cruel to their enemies. In most cases, Italy in this time period was full of shifting alliances that formed temporarily at different points and times. The more observant reader has likely noticed that in the recitation of conflicts that powers such as the Etruscans were sometimes allies, sometimes enemies. This was the case with Latin nations like the Samnites, Umbrians, and Romans as well. These peoples all fought alongside each other in some battles, and against each other in others. This was the normal course of things in places like Italy and Greece, as well as Anatolia (roughly modern day Turkey) where there were many competing peoples with frequently changing and conflicting interests. Who was “good” and who was “bad” is often simply in the eyes of the interests each group had. All powers in Italy at that time were capable of both rights and wrongs and often did both. There is certainly bias in all writings related to such conflicts. Much of Western society paints the Romans in a more favourable light. And here, of course there is bias toward the Senogalatîs. Never, however, be mistaken that all sides in these ancient conflicts didn’t do wrongs. Whether overreacting to various slights, engaging in acts of banditry and plunder, or other wanton acts of violent aggression.
All of the major players in these conflicts did just that. The Senogalatîs, the Etruscans, the Romans, the Venetians, and in other instances, the Carthaginians and more. All were players in the “game” of battle for land and wealth to secure future generations of their people in a place that was optimal to do it. This is where we will leave the story of the Senogalatîs in this part of the world for now. We will now turn our attention to the east.
Senogalatîs in Arê (In the East)
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While everything was going on in Italy with the sacking of Rome, and the complex power plays in that land, it was certainly not the only direction in which the Senogalatîs were going. From their ancient homeland in west central Europe they set their sights to the east. In this place too, the Senogalatîs would find themselves in the middle of struggles between powers in this direction. They went east for the same reason they went to Italy: land to hold their rapidly growing populations. In the late second century AAC, early fourth century BCE, the Senogalatîs made their move.
There were already Senogalatîs living in southern Germany. One of the peoples there, the Bouioi (Boii) are from whom Bavaria and Bohemia are named. The Bouioi held the eastern zone of Laticos (LaTène) power and influence. When the migrations both south and east started, a menagerie of people from many different nations came along. This is part of why there was a sharp reduction in high end burials in the homelands of the Senogalatîs. This was to be expected in a culture that raised so many warriors. To prevent the kind of collapse that in essence ended the last age, Isarnoberios (Hallstatt), it was necessary to give young warriors and their entourages something to do. Going out to find new lands was generally seen as the best option. This both preserved order in the homelands – less competition for current land – and increased prestige in new lands, opening up opportunities for glory and trade.
The eastern expansion began along the Danube. Some of the first eastern stops were where Slovakia and Hungary are today. These places weren’t far from Scythian lands, and moreover they set the stage for the next areas of expansion: the Carpathian Basin and later, the Balkans. Much of the settlements were in the western part of the Carpathian Basin. This is at the least where the most finds related to the Senogalatîs occur in eastern Europe. Their expansion and settlement there mostly escaped mention in Mediterranean records. Presumably because they weren’t fighting with Greeks or Romans at this point. So we rely mostly on archaeological records to prove or disprove their presence there.
A story that survives is that of one group of east moving migrants led by Onomaris. Like what originally set most Senogalatîs looking for land to the east was scarcity in the homeland. The problem was that when looking for someone to lead them, no one stepped up. Including the warriors, who were normally men. Onomaris however, stepped up. The people followed her lead. First of which was to redistribute the wealth of the group, this ensured everyone had the ability to trade for things they would need along the way. She led her people through forests and swamps, as well as into battle. Eventually, they were able to find good land on which to settle. There aren’t very many details known of the events. We don’t know exactly what nation she was from or where they ended up. But what we can see here is the kind of determination and decision making skills a leader of such migrant bands needed to have.
Though caution has to be taken when speaking of at least some of the eastern migrations because movement of materials and changes in material culture don’t always mean movement of people. Even when it does, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they were the dominant or most numerous people in the area. Local, indigenous acculturation could easily still have made up the bulk of the population in the Carpathian region. All said, this doesn’t rule out large-scale migration either. From this point, expansion into the western Carpathian Basin, moving southward, the Senogalatîs without a doubt came into contact with several groups. The Getae, the Dacians, Illyrians, and Thracians to name a few.
The Senogalatîs took advantage of the lack of cohesion among the Illyrian nations and their battles against the Greeks to settle in among their lands, defeating some Illyrian groups. An example of this follows in Athenaeus’s ‘The Depinosophists’ (10.443):
“In his second book of his History of Philip, Theopompus says that the Illyrians dine and drink seated, and even bring their wives to parties […] The people of Ardia [in what is now Montenegro] own 300,000 bondsmen whose status is between freemen and slaves. They get drunk every day and have parties, and are too uncontrolled in their addiction to eating and drinking. Hence the Celts, when they made war on them, knowing the lack of self-control of the Ardiaeans, ordered their troops to prepare a dinner in their tents with the utmost possible splendour, but to put into the food a certain poisonous herb which irritates the bowels and causes them to empty themselves. When this was done, some of the Ardiaeans were overcome and killed by the Celts, and others threw themselves into the rivers, being unable to bear the pain in their intestines.”
Mainly in Pannonia did the Senogalatîs spread their influence. In effect, this led to Gallicisation of some of the Pannonian population. At this stage of expansion, they mainly focused on Illyria. They were however coming into more contact with Thracians and Macedonians. An envoy of Senogalatîs even met the Macedonian leader Alexander the Great. Flavius Arrianus mentions the encounter in his ‘Discourses of Epictetus’, (chapter 4):
“There ambassadors came to him from Syrmus, king of the Triballians, and from the other independent nations dwelling near the Ister. Some even arrived from the Celts who dwelt near the Ionian gulf. These people are of great stature, and of a haughty disposition. All the envoys said that they had come to seek Alexander’s friendship. To all of them he gave pledges of amity, and received pledges from them in return. He then asked the Celts what thing in the world caused them special alarm, expecting that his own great fame had reached the Celts and had penetrated still further, and that they would say that they feared him most of all things.
But the answer of the Celts turned out quite contrary to his expectation; for, as they dwelt so far away from Alexander, inhabiting districts difficult of access, and as they saw he was about to set out in another direction, they said they were afraid that the sky would some time or other fall down upon them. These men also he sent back, calling them friends, and ranking them as allies, only adding the remark that the Celts were braggarts.”
Also mentioned in Strabo’s ‘Geography’ (7.3.8):
“Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, says that during this campaign some Celts living near the Adriatic arrived seeking goodwill and friendship. Alexander received them warmly and while they were sharing a drink asked them what they feared the most, thinking they would say him. They answered that they feared nothing except that the sky might fall down on them, but that they honoured the friendship of a man like him more than anything”
The assumption of Arrianus is certainly uncharitable. Bold indeed to assume that the Senogalatîs would have spoken differently in any other situation. The point that can be made is that while the Senogalatîs were smart enough to sort of scope out the power of the Macedonians, and were able to recognise the successes of Alexander’s exploits, they still did not show fear. They knew well how to speak kindly to their host without compromising their sense of virtue and courage. Even under the spell of their wine!
Regardless, based on that respect, or if Arrianus was correct, being aware of an enemy they perhaps couldn’t beat (hard to imagine from the people who would later fight the Greeks) they did refrain from expanding into Macedonia during Alexander’s lifetime. However, this wouldn’t last forever. They soon set their eyes on Macedonia.
It was a group of Senogalatis fighters that turned their sights on that land. But not before waging war on the Dardanians. The Senogalatîs were riding a hot winning streak against the Illyrians, but the Dardanians and Triballi did defeat them, giving Illyrian nations a respite from previous defeats. Another defeat was handed to our ancestors by the Macedonian general Cassander as the Senogalatîs attempted a grab at Macedonia and Thrace. However, this battle proved useful because another Senogalatis leader, Cambaulos, marched on Thrace victoriously, capturing a good portion of land. It is in fact the Serdoi (Serdi) people, who were Senogalatîs, whose name was given to the city of Serdica which is today Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.
Sometime after the death of Alexander, a young king Ptolemy Keraunos of Macedonia had a visit from raiding Senogalatîs – attested to in Marcus Junianus Justinus’ ‘Epitome of the Phillipic History of Pompeius Trogus’ (24.4-5):
“The Gauls, when the land that had produced them was unable, from their excessive increase of population, to contain them, sent out three hundred thousand men, as a sacred spring, to seek new settlements. Of these adventurers part settled in Italy, and took and burnt the city of Rome; and part penetrated into the remotest parts of Illyricum under the direction of a flight of birds (for the Gauls are skilled in augury beyond other nations) making their way amidst great slaughter of the barbarous tribes, and fixed their abode in Pannonia. They were a savage, bold, and warlike nation, and were the first after Hercules (to whom that undertaking procured great admiration for his valour, and a belief in his immortality), to pass the unconquered heights of the Alps, and places uninhabitable from excess of cold. After having subdued the Pannonians, they carried on various wars with their neighbours for many years. Success encouraging them, they betook themselves, in separate bands, some to Greece, and some to Macedonia, laying waste all before them with the sword. Such indeed was the terror of the Gallic name, that even kings, before they were attacked, purchased peace from them with large sums of money. Ptolemy alone, the king of Macedonia, heard of the approach of the Gauls without alarm, and, hurried on by the madness that distracted him for his unnatural crimes, went out to meet them with a few undisciplined troops, as if wars could be dispatched with as little difficulty as murders. An embassy from the Dardanians, offering him twenty thousand armed men, for his assistance, he spurned, adding insulting language, and saying that “the Macedonians were in a sad condition if, after having subdued the whole east without assistance, they now required aid from the Dardanians to defend their country; and that he had for soldiers the sons of those who had served under Alexander the Great, and had been victorious throughout the world.” This answer being repeated to the Dardanian prince, he observed that “the famous kingdom of Macedonia would soon fall a sacrifice to the rashness of a raw youth.”
He met them blustering and swaggering and his head ended up on a pike. Following this, they raided Macedonia. They won some victories there other than a defeat from the general Sosthenes. Another Senogalatis leader, Brennos (not to be confused with the one who led the sack of Rome about a century earlier) decided it was time to make a raid on Greece. Brennos and Acicoros, as it was in 304 AAC, 279 BCE, made their move.
Staging their raid from Macedonia, they moved south to Greece. It was in particular the treasures of the temple at Delphi that they sought. Their first move was through Thermopylae, taking a route similar to that the Persians had in the more well known battle referring to that place. Pausanias recounts the more pedestrian and less mythologically loaded of the events that occured during this raid in his book ‘Description of Greece’ (1.4.2-4):
“But the Athenians, although they were more exhausted than any of the Greeks by the long Macedonian war, and had been generally unsuccessful in their battles, nevertheless set forth to Thermopylae with such Greeks as joined them, having made the Callippus I mentioned their general. Occupying the pass where it was narrowest, they tried to keep the foreigners from entering Greece; but the Galatai, having discovered the path by which Ephialtes of Trachis once led the Persians, overwhelmed the Phocians stationed there and crossed Oeta unnoticed by the Greeks.
Then it was that the Athenians put the Greeks under the greatest obligation, and although outflanked offered resistance to the foreigners on two sides. But the Athenians on the fleet suffered most, for the Lamian gulf is a swamp near Thermopylae—the reason being, I think, the hot water that here runs into the sea. These then were more distressed; for taking the Greeks on board they were forced to sail through the mud weighted as they were by arms and men.
So they tried to save Greece in the way described, but the Galatai, now south of the Gates, cared not at all to capture the other towns, but were very eager to sack Delphi and the treasures of the god. They were opposed by the Delphians themselves and the Phocians of the cities around Parnassus; a force of Aetolians also joined the defenders, for the Aetolians at this time were pre-eminent for their vigorous activity. When the forces engaged, not only were thunderbolts and rocks broken off from Parnassus hurled against the Gauls, but terrible shapes as armed warriors haunted the foreigners. They say that two of them, Hyperochus and Amadocus, came from the Hyperboreans, and that the third was Pyrrhus son of Achilles. Because of this help in battle the Delphians sacrifice to Pyrrhus as to a hero, although formerly they held even his tomb in dishonor, as being that of an enemy.”
After a victory against the Greeks at Thermopylae, the combined forces of several Greek peoples succeeded in holding the Senogalatîs off at Delphi. Brennos, who led the expedition took his own life after a combination of being wounded and the major defeat. Some accounts say that all of the raiding Senogalatîs were wiped out. After the defeat, they were harassed until they gave up on raiding Greece. This much is believable.
It is more likely that some did survive, however, and would have likely either returned home, or continued east to a place where many of their fellows were going – Galatia. One such group of survivors of the battle are mentioned by Polybius in his historical commentary (4.46):
“These Gauls left their country with Brennus. Having survived the battle at Delphi they made their way to the Hellespont, instead of crossing to Asia, and were captivated by the beauty of the district around Byzantium, so they settled there…”
Galatia itself is a word that’s hard to understand if you aren’t used to discerning Greek sources. Historical Gaul was also called Galatia as it basically means “land of the Gauls”, in Greek. The Senogalatîs were normally called Galatai (formerly they were called Keltoi by them). In this case, we refer to the later understanding which was the lands in what is now central Turkey in which the Senogalatîs settled. They indeed came as raiders at first. As newcomers in ancient times often did. While living in this far flung land, they were raiders, settlers, and as was often the case – mercenaries.
The beginning of their time in Anatolia stemmed from the splitting off of some of the troops of Brennos who instead of going on the ill-fated raid on Delphi moved east through Thrace. Some did stay in Thrace, founding a kingdom that lasted for about a century or so. The bulk of them, under Lutarios and Leonorios made their way across into Anatolia. Here, they would raid and sometimes occupy various places along the coast. This didn’t sit well with the Greek city-states of the area. They attempted to keep the Senogalatîs out, but as was often the case the Greek city-states were constantly struggling against each other. It didn’t take long for some of them to start hiring Senogalatîs for their battles.
It was this that allowed them to cross the Hellespont into what is now Turkey. Specifically a power struggle between Nicomedes of Bythinia and his brother Zipotes. Hiring around 20,000 Senogalatis mercenaries, Nicomedes let in the first wave of Senogalatîs that would come to call the region home. When they weren’t fighting battles on behalf of this or that power in the region, they were conducting their own raids. It took a battle on the plains of Sardis where the commander used elephants in the battle to get the Senogalatîs to settle in the region that became known as Galatia, in what is now north central Turkey. From there it was an easy base for conducting raids and for contact with other groups who would either trade with them or solicit their services for wars. The main three were the Tolistobogioi, Trocmioi, and the Textosagioi (in sources Tolistobogii, Trocmii, and Tectosages).
Those who went to the Anatolian Highlands were different from those who went with Brennos to Delphi. A large number of them weren’t warriors, but immigrants. While mercenary work got their foot in the door so to speak, many of them were primarily looking for a new place to settle. This line of work saw them serving all over the region, as well as in Egypt. Thus Senogalatis mercenaries even saw the pyramids at the time. As newcomers, they were considered an unruly bunch. Though it should be known that the Greeks conquered several areas in Anatolia, and it was a frequent battleground for other powers in the area such as the Pergamenes and eventually the Romans as well started raiding and grabbing land through involvement in political struggles in the region.
Combinations of these other powers were eventually able to confine the three Senogalatis nations to the north central highlands. Here they remained for several centuries, in some ways assimilating to the Greek, Roman, and Anatolian neighbours that they had, but also preserving enough of their own identity that they maintained their tongue for over 600 years.
Anton? (The End?)
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For centuries, the Senogalatîs spread out across Europe, inhabiting places as far apart as southern Britain to north central Turkey. Back in their homeland, their civilisation had advanced with developed road and infrastructure networks, and the spread of dunâ (oppida), along with the continued development of craft and trade, evident in their metalworking for example. The land wasn’t enough to sustain its original population, but it was far from barren. So those who stayed behind prospered. This prosperity, wealth, and good land drew the gaze of covetous eyes. Germanic nations would, like the Senogalatîs before, seek out wealth from raids and land to settle.
They achieved more of the former than the latter. Raiding settlements throughout Senogaliâ (Ancient Gaul), and further south where they smashed through a Roman legion, but later fell and were decimated by the Romans. This pretext, Germanic warriors streaming across the Rhine gave the Romans a reason to involve themselves in Senogalatis affairs. Their involvement wasn’t entirely unwelcome. Nations like the Aiduoi (Aedui) forged alliances with them because having the friendship of a growing power gave them an edge in struggles against other nations. The problem is that the commander of the Roman legions in the area had other plans in mind.
A debt riddled general named Julius Caesar was struggling with paying off his creditors and needed money. When the Eluuetioi (Helvetii) sought to migrate not east, but west, this gave Caesar his chance to intervene. The Eluuetioi, as most migrating nations had, sucked up the resources wherever they went. This wasn’t welcomed by those whose lands they would have to pass through to get to where they wanted to go. For themselves, they were used to fighting battles with Germanic raiders. Moving west would give them a large buffer against these constant battles. Undoubtedly, this would come at the expense of nations like the Secuanoi (Sequanni), and those in the centre of Senogaliâ, such as the Aiduoi.
This gave the pretext needed. After defeating the Eluuetioi, in 525 AAC (58 BCE), thus drawing in the Germanic Suebi nation as well (led by Ariouistus, a curiously Senogalaticos name) giving yet another pretext for another nation to battle. Much of the Catoues Romanicî (The Roman Wars – called in Western parlance the Gallic Wars) went along this way. The internal divisions that held sway over the different nations proved their greatest vulnerability. Especially salient when even at the point most nations agreed that it was best to fight, they’d sometimes try to fight the Romans on their own.
The problem with that was that they weren’t fighting a city-state. The Romans controlled much of the Italian peninsula and several territories outside of it, including the stretch of land between Rome and Spain. They had access to a formidable number of people and resources. It was not a small state against a collection of nations but two large groups going to war. The Senogalatîs early on did not understand this. The year after the beginning of the invasion the lands of the Bolgoi (Belgae) were invaded. Of whom the Neruoi (Nervii) fell in a close battle. With the exception of the Remoi (Remi) that sided with the Romans, the rest fell in small coalitions or one by one. But not without a daring struggle led by the two leaders of the Eburones – Ambiorix and Catuuolcos (Catuvolcus).
Not long after this, the northwestern portion of Senogaliâ fell, after a series of naval battles with nations like the Osismoi (Osismi) and Uenetioi (Veneti). After this there were two expeditions to Britain that led to the securing of clientages but not really conquests. In the second campaign, there were victories, but these didn’t have much of an effect beyond those clientages. Upon Caesar’s return to Senogaliâ, the Senogalatîs seemed to have found a will to fight. One such example is the Carnutes, who were clients of the Remoi nation that allied with the Romans immediately. A puppet king, Tasgetios was installed to rule over the Carnutes. He didn’t last more than a couple of years, because he was assassinated. After this, the Carnutes rose in rebellion – led by Cotuatos and Conetodunos – against the Romans. They slaughtered and expelled Roman merchants, and did the same to Roman troops and officers stationed there.
This was retaliated against by the burning and destruction of Cenabon (Cenabum), in which the inhabitants were all either killed or sold into slavery. It was this incident that set the stage for a widespread revolt. In the course of forming a response to the tragedy, a leader emerged – Uercingetorix (Vercingetorix). The high warrior king. He was a leader of the Aruernoi (Arverni) people. Son of Celtilos (Celtillus), he set about rallying the Senogalatîs to rid their lands of the Roman yoke. In this effort he had a bit more success than Ambiorix, who was able to gather a number of the Bolgoi nations about a year or so prior.
This was certainly not done without resistance. His father was killed for his ambitions of uniting the Senogalatîs. Among his own people, there was great resistance. His uncle Gobanitos and other noblemen of the Aruernoi exiled Uercingetorix and his followers. War was normally the purview of this class. But instead of the usual rounding up of fellow members of the warrior class for an upcoming fight, Uercingetorix enlisted commoners. It was truly a people’s army, but that isn’t all: he understood that this wasn’t the same as a battle between his own countrymen. The old rules which governed their conduct did not apply because the Romans themselves wouldn’t abide by such conventions. They once had, but times had changed. This meant utilising more contemporary (to his time) tactics and enforcing the strict discipline that came with them.
Strategically, he took advantage of natural fortifications and utilised a “slash and burn” approach ahead of Roman advances to deny them usage of the land as they moved through it. This was a problem for the Bituriges people of Auaricon (Avaricum), who didn’t want their city to be a part of that kind of strategy. Unfortunately, this left them wide open for the siege tactics of the Romans, who then proceeded to slaughter most of the town’s inhabitants. Sparing only roughly 800 out of about 40,000.
But Uercingetorix had, in harassing the Roman troops with guerilla attacks, earned more and more of a reputation. This allowed him to march back into the capital of his fellow Aruernoi who expelled him before, Gergouiâ (Gergovia). Afterwards came the Catus Gergouiâs (Battle of Gergovia). The Romans enlisted the Aiduoi (Aedui) for assistance. This was common in the course of this war because some nations were loyal to Rome (such as the Remoi) and others at the least had significant pro-Roman factions, such as the Aiduoi, who were generously bribed (a common tactic). Fortunately for Uercingetorix, there was also an anti-Roman faction as well. As the Romans were chasing the Senogalatîs, they left some Aiduoi in charge of their supplies. This wasn’t a good move, as they were part of the latter faction. This slowed the Roman advance, though at the cost of these daring Aiduoi warriors.
This pursuit led to the showdown at Gergouiâ. While the Romans prepared to put the city under siege, the rebellious Aiduoi attacked and damaged the complex Roman logistical structure. After struggling with the baggage issues having to use four of his six available legions to quash the Aiduoi revolt, Caesar conducted a raid to block the water supply of the countryside. This worked, but Uercingetorix was ready in Gergouiâ herself. Caesar tried several manoeuvres to get Uercingetorix away from the high ground that his troops held.
In the heat of the moment, the legions ignored or misheard (allegedly) orders and attempted to attack the city. They attempted to scale the walls, but they lacked an important tool to do so – ladders. Needless to say, this was unsuccessful.10,000 Aiduoi who supported Caesar attempted to join in the battle against Uercingetorix, but the legions confused them for enemies and attacked them!
It was the noise of this battle that got the attention of Uercingetorix. Taking advantage of this unusual opportunity, he led his epotes (knights, cavalrymen) on a charge that shattered the Roman ranks. Caesar did all he could to cover the retreat. In his ‘Commentaries on the Gallic War’, he vastly downplayed the casualties of this failed siege. It is quite likely he lost thousands in the attempt. Uercingetorix and his troops routed the legions. Gergouiâ was a great victory that shattered the façade of Roman invincibility. Quite impressive for a war leader in his twenties.
Uercingetorix had the right idea of pursuing the retreating enemy, to destroy Caesar’s army and as such preserve the freedom and independence of the Senogalatîs. However, Caesar got lucky. His lieutenant, Titus Labienus was marching from the north. Caesar also was able to employ Germanic cavalrymen. These combined forces defeated those of Uercingetorix at Vingeanne. This forced the ill fated retreat of Uercingetorix to Alisiâ (Alesia). The Romans built their siegeworks as was the norm for them. Uercingetorix made two mistakes that cost him dearly. The first is that he sent all of his cavalry out to gather reinforcements. The second is that he did not charge the hills on which the siege was being conducted to stop it with as many troops as he could muster.
In the most dire of straights, due to these unfortunate mistakes, he surrendered the noncombatants of Alisiâ. However, there was no interest for Caesar in accepting them, undoubtedly for slaves as was usual in warfare at that time. Instead, these poor souls starved between the lines. The legions were after the complete submission of the Senogalatîs, and the defeat of Uercingetorix. On 17 Ogroniî, 531 AAC (3 October, 52 BCE), Caesar received the latter. Uercingetorix surrendered and the last great resistance of the Senogalatîs to Roman rule was at an end. The tragic hero who won his great victory prior at Gergouiâ met his defeat that day. It is said that a few years later, after being paraded like a trophy animal in the streets of Rome, he was strangled to death in his prison cell.
To get a piece of the feeling of those who fought against the Romans at Alisiâ, there is this which Casear recorded in a rare showing of generosity to the defenders in his Commentaries. Or was it perhaps an attempt to demonstrate the “barbarity” of a people valiantly resisting subjugation by any means necessary? We can never know. A speech by one of the leaders, Critognatos (7.77):
“I shall pay no attention to the opinion of those who call a most disgraceful surrender by the name of a capitulation; nor do I think that they ought to be considered as citizens, or summoned to the council. My business is with those who approve of a sally: in whose advice the memory of our ancient prowess seems to dwell in the opinion of you all. To be unable to bear privation for a short time is disgraceful cowardice, not true valor.
Those who voluntarily offer themselves to death are more easily found than those who would calmly endure distress. And I would approve of this opinion (for honor is a powerful motive with me), could I foresee no other loss, save that of life; but let us, in adopting our design, look back on all Gaul, which we have stirred up to our aid. What courage do you think would our relatives and friends have, if eighty thousand men were butchered in one spot, supposing that they should be forced to come to an action almost over our corpses?
Do not utterly deprive them of your aid, for they have spurned all thoughts of personal danger on account of your safety; nor by your folly, rashness, and cowardice, crush all Gaul and doom it to an eternal slavery. Do you doubt their fidelity and firmness because they have not come at the appointed day? What then? Do you suppose that the Romans are employed every day in the outer fortifications for mere amusement? If you can not be assured by their dispatches, since every avenue is blocked up, take the Romans as evidence that there approach is drawing near; since they, intimidated by alarm at this, labor night and day at their works.
What, therefore, is my design? To do as our ancestors did in the war against the Cimbri and Teutones, which was by no means equally momentous who, when driven into their towns, and oppressed by similar privations, supported life by the corpses of those who appeared useless for war on account of their age, and did not surrender to the enemy: and even if we had not a precedent for such cruel conduct, still I should consider it most glorious that one should be established, and delivered to posterity. For in what was that war like this? The Cimbri, after laying Gaul waste, and inflicting great calamities, at length departed from our country, and sought other lands; they left us our rights, laws, lands, and liberty. But what other motive or wish have the Romans, than, induced by envy, to settle in the lands and states of those whom they have learned by fame to be noble and powerful in war, and impose on them perpetual slavery?
For they never have carried on wars on any other terms. But if you know not these things which are going on in distant countries, look to the neighboring Gaul, which being reduced to the form of a province, stripped of its rights and laws, and subjected to Roman despotism, is oppressed by perpetual slavery.”
These are the words reflective of the sentiments of a desperate people doing everything they possibly could to maintain that ever precious sovereignty.
While this would not be the last of the rebellions, nor technically the end of the war, it was in essence the end of the free Senogalatîs. Luxterios (Lucterius) of the Catuturcoi (Cadurci) nation, in alliance with Drapeð ( ð = ts in this case, Drapes in Roman records) of the Senonoi (Senones, the same who often fought the Romans in Northern Italy) prepared to hold the stronghold of Uxellodunon (Uxellodunum) against a Roman siege nearly two years after the ill fated battle of Alisiâ. They held out for some time, but after their defeat the hands of all who bore arms were cut off in an attempt to make an example of those who rebelled against Roman rule. Sadly for Luxterios, he didn’t enjoy the widespread support that Uercingetorix had. But he too should be remembered as holding onto that spirit of the proud and free Senogalatîs. As should Cotuatos, Ambiorix, and Uercingetorix.
The question begged by the title of this subsection is if it’s truly the end. It wasn’t necessarily. It was certainly the beginning of the end of free Senogaliâ. But it was also the beginning of the Gallo-Roman age, which had its own developments, and though it is true that eventually the Senogalatîs essentially ceased to exist as they were after centuries of Roman exploitation and conquest, it wasn’t the end of everything. Eventually Latin did replace Senogalaticos. The Gallo-Roman age eventually brought Christianity with it as that belief system spread throughout what became the Roman Empire. But not before a people melded of two prior ones – the Senogalatîs and the Romans had a culture, customs, and history of its own. So, while it wasn’t truly the end, it is beyond the scope of this commentary. A story probably better told by those who feel more connected to it.
|Note from the Author |
The point of course, isn’t whether or not the Romans were “bad”. Some of the tactics they used were normal for the time, and others were not. Obviously, this entire piece is written from a point of view centring on the Senogalatîs. It’s not a condemnation of the entirety of ancient Roman history or society. But what they did in this particular instance was not going to be “sugar coated”. Western society has a love for ancient Rome, and I don’t share it myself.
Anyone expecting lip-service to it is going to be disappointed, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that is seen as an issue in some spaces. Though I certainly find ancient Roman history interesting to learn about, that’s just not enough to warrant “love” or “hate”. Obviously, the descendants of and those who practice Roman customs today are not responsible for what happened over 2,000 years ago, and a grudge over something that doesn’t directly affect anyone alive today would be foolish. Everyone has biases and only a fool or a scientist (not always even then) can claim pure objectivity. My bias in favour of the Senogalatîs is far outweighed in the other direction by the society in which I live and throughout most of the “Western” world.
In other words: if I can read through many ancient accounts denigrating the Senogalatîs, and modern romanticisation of ancient Rome (often at the expense of the Senogalatîs and countless others that they subjugated), any potential critic will survive reading a few paragraphs that are critical of a stretch of the times the Romans meddled in the affairs of the Senogalatîs, mostly (but not always) unwarranted and unnecessarily. There are plenty of great achievements the Romans did. The fact I even have to make this note, shows the level of reverence they are granted to this very day.
For further reading on the history of the Senogalatîs (some sources are repeats, but for good reason):
- ‘The Ancient Celts – Second Edition’ by Barry Cunliffe
- ‘Les Gaulois – Vérìtés et légendes’ by Jean-Louis Brunaux
- ‘Les Gaulois’ by Jean-Louis Brunaux
- ‘The Gallic Wars’ by Gaius Julius Caesar and Aulus Hirtius, translated by W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn
- ‘The Philosopher and the Druids – A Journey Among the Ancient Celts’ by Phillip Freeman
- UNC’s Exploring Celtic Civilisations course is available for free and is loaded with source quotes, responsible for many of them in this paper.
Museum Websites :
Audio reading of this section (English)
The Senogalatîs were certainly known for their presence in battle. It is the Senogalatîs in battle that form the majority of accounts about them. Leaving very little written records themselves, our sources about the Senogalatîs are generally from the accounts of Mediterranean peoples such as the Greeks and Romans. Often as enemies in battle. Due to this, such sources should be scrutinised closely. Much like today, such accounts are generally one sided and are prone to exaggeration. This is not to say the Senogalatîs did not do things worth frowning upon, but their wrongs are more likely to be embellished and the wrongs of those writing of their own people are more likely to be diminished.
As they were involved in many different battles and wars, it would be an unwieldy commentary to talk of each of them. Mostly, we will focus on equipment, tactics, and approaches to battle. Expect a few accounts of battles to be here, however. Since we’re dealing with the subject of war, reader discretion is advised.
Early on in their warfare, swords were the more common weapon. This suggests (as swords were quite expensive for millennia) that most battles were fought among specific groups of well off warrior types. This lends support to the idea that warfare in this very early time of the Senogalatîs (the end of the Isarnoberios – Hallstatt era) was conducted as relatively small-scale affairs. It would be some time before they would see massive, large-scale battles.
This is an example of a sword wielded by a Senogalatis. It dates roughly to the 4th or 5th century AAC, the 3rd or 2nd century BCE.
This cladios (sword) dates from the early 6th century AAC, or mid 1st century BCE. Showing again, an anthropomorphic design on the hilt.
Cladioi (swords) certainly didn’t fall out of use as the years went on. Into the Laticos (or LaTène) period, warfare simply included more people. Including those who probably couldn’t afford something so expensive as a sword. This is the time gaisoi (spears) start to take precedence as a weapon of foot soldiers. While swords reamined the province of a wealthier warrior class. Another Senogalaticos (Ancient Gaulish) word lanciâ gives birth to the word ‘lance’. Of course, in Gaulsh that c would have been “hard”, not “soft”.
Spearheads used by the Senogalatîs. [Photo from mauiceltic.com]
There were other weapons of course. They simply didn’t have metal components and so would not have survived by the time archaeologists would have been able to dig them up. For example, we know they had archers as is evidenced in Julius Caesar’s ‘Di Bello Gallico’ (7.31) when speaking of Uercingetorix (Vercingetorix) recruiting armies to defend Senogaliâ (Ancient Gaul) against the Roman invasion:
“…At the same time, that his diminished forces should be recruited, he levies a fixed quota of soldiers from each state, and defines the number and day before which he should wish them brought to the camp, and orders all the archers, of whom there was a very great number in Gaul, to be collected and sent to him…”
Iron and bronze arrowheads have been found in a few tombs, further correlating that they had bows and arrows (as many other peoples across the world did), and late in their time did use them in battle. Without a doubt, they were used in hunting.
In the defence of the dunâ (fortified towns), it is known that they also utilised slings. One Senogalatis apparently fired one successfully in a battle against Julius Caesar’s men, noted in ‘Di Bello Gallico’ (5.35):
“…L. Cotta, the lieutenant, when encouraging all the cohorts and companies, is wounded full in the mouth by a sling.”
Clubs, axes and knives are also known. The former is depicted on iconography of a number of Dêuoi (beings worshipped by the Senogalatîs) but their use in battle is unknown, and probably extremely rare if it happened at all. The latter two as tools, with again no proof that the Senogalatîs used them as weapons of war.
For defence, it varied by what one could likely afford (or loot). This affected both the type of armour, if any, and the quality of it. The body could be covered by thick woollen clothes, or in rare cases chainmail (possibly an invention of the Senogalatîs). In a few cases we have warriors who went to battle in the nude. This was accounted for with the Gaisatoi (Gaesatae). However, this notion of naked Senogalatis warriors became a hugely common misconception. In almost all cases, the Senogalatîs were at the least clothed going into battle. Though sometimes without a tunic.
According to the Histories by Polybius of Megalopolis, (2.31):
“When the men who were armed with the javelin advanced in front of the legions, in accordance with the regular method of Roman warfare, and hurled their javelins in rapid and effective volleys, the inner ranks of the Celts found their jerkins and leather breeches of great service…”
As such, we have a record of them wearing clothes of leather and jerkins. It was common that cloaks were worn (in general, not just in battle) and they often had ovular shields that covered much of their bodies.
Diodorus Siculus, in his ‘Library of History’ describes the Senogalatîs in clothing and armour as such (5.30):
“The clothing they wear is striking — shirts which have been dyed and embroidered in varied colours, and breeches, which they call in their tongue bracae; and they wear striped coats, fastened by a fibula on the shoulder, heavy for winter wear and light for summer, in which are set checks, close together and of varied hues. For armour they use long shields, as high as a man, which are wrought in a manner peculiar to them, some of them even having the figures of animals embossed on them in bronze, and these are skillfully worked with an eye not only to beauty but also to protection. On their heads they put bronze helmets which have large embossed figures standing out from them and give an appearance of great size to those who wear them; for in some cases horns are attached to the helmet so as to form a single piece, in other cases images of the fore-parts of birds or four-footed animals. Their trumpets are of peculiar nature and such as barbarians use, for when they are blown upon they give forth a harsh sound, appropriate to the tumult of war. Some of them have iron chain-mail, but others are satisfied with the armour which Nature has given them and go into battle naked. In place of the short sword they carry long broad-swords which are hung on chains of iron or bronze and are worn along the right flank. And some of them gather up their shirts with belts plated with gold or silver. The spears they brandish, which they call lanciae, have iron heads a cubit in length and even more, and a little under two palms in breadth; for their swords are not shorter than the javelins of other peoples, and the heads of their javelins are larger than the swords of others. Some of these javelins come from the forge straight, others twist in and out in spiral shapes for their entire length, the purpose being that the thrust may not only cut the flesh, but mangle it as well, and that the withdrawal of the spear may lacerate the wound.”
A couple of misconceptions are here. Nudity was not a common occurrence in battle among the Senogalatîs, which we have already discussed. The second has to do with helmets. While indeed very elabourate helmets have been found that belonged to them, these were more for ceremonial purposes. (According to Jean-Louis Brunaux in ‘Guerre et Religion en Gaule’ p.56)
A “Coolus” type helmet (left). [Musée du Cinquantenaire, Brussels] An “Agen” type helmet (centre). [St-Germain-en-Laye] A helmet from Manching in Bavaria (right). [Celtic Museum Manching] All representatives of the kinds of helmets the Senogalatîs actually wore in battle. [Musée du Cinquantenaire, Brussels]
In summation, we can imagine the typical Senogalatis warriors. Often with a spear, but sometimes a sword. With a bronze or iron helmet if they wore one. The large cloaks of linens or wool, woollen pants that are sometimes supported with leather. Straps of leather for a little extra protection, but mainly relying on their large ovular shields.
Armour and garb typical of the Senogalatîs, a design based on accounts. [Museum Kelten-Keller]
We have spoken of what the cingetos – warrior – looked like. Now we will talk about a couple of other items related to battle. The first will be that of the standard. We don’t have very many of these as per finds, but there is a gorgeous one dating to the 4th-5th century AAC (1st century BCE) that is a brass boar. Boars feature prominently in Senogalatis art. Through this artefact, we can see that they utilised standards.
The brass boar standard from Soulac-sur-Mer. [Hallein Keltenmuseum]
Another enigmatic item, used for what essentially amounted to psychological warfare was a large and beautiful instrument, the carnux (carnyx). This was also presumably used in rituals, but certainly had use for war. The characteristically unique sound from this large wind instrument was frightening to those not familiar with its sound, and rousing to those who did know it. The height of this instrument, and that it was played with the instrument in an upright position meant that it could be heard over the din of battle.
The famous Tintignac Carnyx, found in Corrèze, France. [Wikimedia Commons]
Here is a link to a song played on a replica of the Tintignac Carnux (carnyx) by John Kenny Read of the European Music Archaeology Project:
Pulse – Tintignac Carnyx
Typically speaking, warfare to the Senogalatîs was smaller in scale compared to the great wars of peoples to their south. These were usually done in the form of raids – one side doing the raiding, the other defending against it. Thus they favoured loose formations that allowed warriors to individually show off their abilities and demonstrate their courage in battle. In some cases, this meant single combat. A warrior chosen from each side to determine the outcome of the battle. There is no copy of course of the codes which bound the different Senogalatis nations to such terms. We then do not know how often they were held to or broken, but there does appear to be some idea of how battle is supposed to be done. Though we of course do not know for certain the specifics.
For a taste of the way the Senogalatîs engaged in battle among their own, Diodorus Siculus in his ‘Library of History’ offers this (5.29):
“In their journeyings and when they go into battle the Gauls use chariots drawn by two horses, which carry the charioteer and the warrior; and when they encounter cavalry in the fighting they first hurl their javelins at the enemy and then step down from their chariots and join battle with their swords. Certain of them despise death to such a degree that they enter the perils of battle without protective armour and with no more than a girdle about their loins. They bring along to war also their free men to serve them, choosing them out from among the poor, and these attendants they use in battle as charioteers and as shield-bearers.
It is also their custom, when they are formed for battle, to step out in front of the line and to challenge the most valiant men from among their opponents to single combat, brandishing their weapons in front of them to terrify their adversaries. And when any man accepts the challenge to battle, they then break forth into a song in praise of the valiant deeds of their ancestors and in boast of their own high achievements, reviling all the while and belittling their opponent, and trying, in a word, by such talk to strip him of his bold spirit before the combat. When their enemies fall they cut off their heads and fasten them about the necks of their horses; and turning over to their attendants the arms of their opponents, all covered with blood, they carry them off as booty, singing a tribute over them and striking up a song of victory, and these first-fruits of battle they fasten by nails upon their houses, just as men do, in certain kinds of hunting, with the heads of wild beasts they have mastered.
The heads of their most distinguished enemies they embalm in cedar oil and carefully preserve in a chest, and these they exhibit to strangers, gravely maintaining that in exchange for this head some one of their ancestors, or their father, or the man himself, refused the offer of a great sum of money. And some men among them, we are told, boast that they have not accepted an equal weight of gold for the head they show, displaying a barbarous sort of greatness of soul; for not to sell that which constitutes a witness and proof of one’s valour is a noble thing, but to continue to fight against one of our own race, after he is dead, is to descend to the level of beasts.”
It would appear, in reference to the final line that the removal of the enemy’s head, that it was not a continuation of the fight, but of cultural importance. Whatever judgement one may pass on them for this practice (it is certainly and obviously not done today) it pales in comparison to the many more objectionable practices of many others throughout history. It should also be mentioned that large scale battles among nations weren’t unheard of. But were – at least potentially – inferred by both their preferred method of battle coupled with a lack of mention in sources regarding large scale battles among Senogalatis nations, the exception rather than the rule.
Another account which speaks of another battle tactic of the trimarcisiâ. A move that allowed for constant rotation during conflict on horseback. In Pausanias’ ‘Description of Greece’ (10.19.11):
“I believe that the Galatai in adopting these methods copied the Persian regiment of the Ten Thousand, who were called the Immortals. There was, however, this difference: the Persians used to wait until the battle was over before replacing casualties, while the Galatai kept reinforcing the horsemen to their full number during the height of the action. This organization is called in their native speech trimarcisia, for I would have you know that marca is the Celtic name for a horse.”
Typically speaking, the Senogalatîs liked to lead charges into enemy lines. Formations were generally loose, allowing each combatant to demonstrate their prowess, courage, and spirit. We find in this a different attitude to warfare, as opposed to a deliberate lack of sophistication. The objective of warfare was generally to seize portable treasures and for glory, as opposed to a motive of conquest. That did happen at times, but doesn’t appear to be the norm. Overpowering another nation was generally to take valuables and potentially exact tribute. This is generally how nations acquired power. Larger nations like the Aruernoi (Arverni), the Aiduoi (Aedui), Eluetoi (Helvetii), and the Bituriges built power this way by a system of client nations who received protection from other large nations in exchange for tribute. This being a quite common method of smaller nations surviving in the presence of larger ones.
It was technically possible to change what nation a smaller nation was a client under. Both parties had strict, long embedded obligations to each other. Forms of this exist on a global scale even today – though the stakes reflect the scale. In part, this contributed to the fluctuations in primacy different nations had among the Senogalatîs. Attracting, or taking clients added to the power and influence of the larger nation. The client nation would be protected against encroachment from other nations. As notions of conquest seen in the Mediterranean and Middle East at the time were mostly (but not completely) foreign to them. Especially as the lands they were from were less and less able to support them. Remembering that they had next to nothing like the level of technology that we have today.
All in all, the Senogalatîs were an imposing presence on the field of battle. When they weren’t the active fighting force, they were mercenaries that were highly sought for their courage and skill. Even at the risks they sometimes presented, it was never enough to discourage their use.
Audio reading of this section (English)
The most defining archaeological feature of both the Senogalatîs and the Laticos (LaTène) period is their distinct styles of artwork. Marked often by the swirled, curved, and vegetal patterns common to their designs. One fine example is the Agris Helmet, which is gold plated and has exquisite detail. The vegetal and curved patterns on it being some of the trademarks of the age.
The gold plated Agris helmet, exemplary of Senogalatis art. [Wikimedia Commons]
The Mšecké Žehrovice Head exemplifies the rise in depictions of the human head in the art of the Senogalatîs. They were a favourite motif, and the aforementioned head has striking, wide eyes as well as the commonly sported moustache of the time period. At the base, the ever present torcos (torc) around his neck.
The Mšecké Žehrovice Head. [Wikimedia Commons]
The Senogalatîs were well in touch with the world around them and their art shows influence from many cultures contemporary to them: Greek, Etruscan, Roman, further out still Thracian and Scythian. Along with that, drawing upon their rich Isarnoberios (Hallstatt) heritage. However, even with all of these influences they were not dependent on any of them and it took little time for their own distinct artworks to develop regardless of influence. It is rare that they ever simply copied anything, save for perhaps at the beginning. After all, why copy what you’re already importing? They were curious enough to learn, but creative enough to develop their own styles based on whatever they may have learned and what they already knew.
The Basse Yutz Flagons. An example of the Seongalatîs employing Etruscan shape of the vessel, and Mediterranean motifs in a uniquely Galaticos (Gaulish) fashion. Thus, their ability to learn and utilise styles and techniques from other peoples to make their own original works. [British Museum]
One of the things the Senogalatîs were quite well known for artistically was their metalwork. Their coins for example convey a diverse array of motifs, though the horse is undoubtedly among the most popular of them. This could have to do with the utilisation of the horse and horse powered vehicles in the transport of goods. However, stylised heads as well as depictions of leaders and heroes were also quite commonly found on coins. Like many things about the Senogalatîs, similar ideas often yield diverse results in practice and expression.
Clockwise from top left: A coin from the Ambianoi (Ambiani) [Wikimedia Commons], the Parisioi (Parisii) [Cabinet des Médailles], Carnutes [wildwinds.com], Aruernoi (Arverni), head and tail [wildwinds.com], Elûetoi (Helveti) [coinarchives.com]
[In this short video by the Ambiani Project, you can see how coins were made back then.]
Another enigmatic piece of metalwork the Senogalatîs were known for was that of the torcos (torc, torque). For certain, they were not the only ones to wear them at the time, nor the only in history, but it is likely the most easily recognised and well known pieces of jewellery associated with them. Torcoi (torcs, torques) appear to have originated in the Aisson Cassês (Bronze Age) and are present in Celtic, Scythian, and Thracian finds, later on in Nordic ones. Torcoi appear to symbolise wealth, power, and are often depicted on the necks or in the hands of Dêuoi (the beings the Senogalatîs worshipped, and those that Nouiogalatîs do today).
Due to this consistent recurrence of torcs in their depictions and in finds where people wore them, we can safely assume that they were of great importance. As they were made of precious metals like gold, we know that they were quite valuable. They typically are made by bending one piece of metal that is tightly twisted and at the ends they have various shapes – discs, balls, animal heads, trumpet-like bell endings, etc.
Suex torcoi! (Six torcs!) Clockwise from the top left: bronze torc from Somme-Suippe, gold torc from Vix, silver torc from Trichtingen, bronze torc from the Prosnes tomb, gold torc from Marche, the golden Tayac torc. [All courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.]
For further reading on the artistic ornamentation of the Senogalatîs:
- Celtic Regionalities: Personal Ornaments from Southern Gaul, by Michel Feugére
Another style of art in which the Senogalatîs excelled was fibre arts. It is known that they practised a technique known as tablet weaving, which was invented by their immediate ancestors the Isarnoberios (in academia, the Hallstatt) peoples. While not the inventors, the Senogalatîs proliferated chequered and tartan patterns in their weavings. In Pliny the Elder’s ‘Natural History’ there are interesting quotes regarding the Senogalatîs and their textile works:
“The thick, fleecy wool has been esteemed for the manufacture of carpets from the very earliest times; it is quite clear, from what we read in Homer, that they were in use in his time. The Gauls embroider them in a different manner from that which is practised by the Parthians. Wool is compressed also for making a felt, which, if soaked in vinegar, is capable of resisting even iron; and, what is still more, after having gone through the last process, wool will even resist fire; the refuse, too, when taken out of the vat of the scourer, is used for making mattresses, an invention, I fancy, of the Gauls. At all events, it is by Gallic names that we distinguish the different sort of mattresses at the present day […]” – 8.73
“Babylon was very famous for making embroidery in different colours, and hence materials of this kind have obtained the name of “Babylonian.” The method of weaving cloth with more than two threads was invented at Alexandria; these cloths are called polymita; it was in Gaul that they were first used to create a chequered pattern.” – 8.74
“We know, too, that from plants are extracted admirable colours for dyeing; and, not to mention the berries of Galatia, Africa, and Lusitania, which furnish the coccus, a dye reserved for the military costume of our generals, the people of Gaul beyond the Alps produce the Tyrian colours, the conchyliated, and all the other hues, by the agency of plants alone.” – 22.3
For a little more on the fibre arts of the Senogalatîs, check out:
“Scutulis Dividere Gallia”: Weaving on Tablets in Western Europe, by Carolyn Priest-Dorman
The quotes from Pliny the Elder:
Biuos Tegicos Senogalation (Domestic Life of the Senogalatîs)
Audio reading of this section (English)
More research has been done on the domestic life of Senogalatîs in the past few decades. A refreshing thought as often the focus ends up on “elites” and what they did as opposed to how people lived day to day. By the time the various peoples of the Senogalatîs emerged, most people farmed. Agriculture and work related to it was the main “job” people had. So we apologise to those that thought the Senogalatîs were like Asterix and Obelix. Hunting for wild boar accounted for very little (virtually none) of the Senogalatîs diet! Though they were more than likely the first in Europe to invent the salted ham. They were at least the first Europeans documented making them.
On the matter of pork and the Senogalatîs, Marcus Terentius Varro says in his commentary, ‘On Agriculture’ (2.4.10) the following:
“The Gauls are reputed to put up not only the largest quantity but the best quality of pork: evidence of its quality being that even now hams, sausage, bacon and shoulders are imported every year from Gaul to Rome…”
The main sources of meat were hogs, however. Cattle, sheep, and goats filled out much of the rest. Local fish would have been available to those near waterways, and occasionally a fowl or two. Wild beasts like deer and boars are very rarely found in archaeological sites. Occasionally horse as a meat source is however, though it doesn’t appear very often and as such doesn’t seem to be a regular part of their diet. By about the fourth century AAC (second century BCE) we start to see a standardisation in the raising and culling of pigs and cattle, owing to the fast growing population and proto-urbanisation that was going on at the time.
More on the livestock of the Senogalatîs:
– Pigs and Cattle in Gaul: The Role of Gallic Societies in the Evolution of Husbandry Practices, by Delphine Frémondeau, Pauline Nuviala, and Colin Duval
– Standardized pork production at the Celtic village of Levroux Les Arènes (France, 2nd c. BC): Evidence from kill-off patterns and birth seasonality inferred from enamel δ18O analysis, by Delphine Frémondeau, Marie-Pierre Horard-Herbin, Olivier Buchsenschutz, Joël Ughetto-Monfrin, and Marie Balasse
For agriculture, grains were the most common food source. Wheat, barley, and spelt were the most common grains, but einkorn, oats, rye, and panic were known to the Senogalatîs as well. With these they made flatbreads, porridges, and used it in soups and stews. They could leaven bread using beer barm, but the loaves we know of today weren’t really known to them. At the least, as far as we know! Beyond this, legumes were the most commonly cultivated crops. Peas, lentils, broad beans, chickpeas, and vetch have been detected in finds. Also, they are known to have drunk milk from cows and to have made cheese and butter. The consumption of butter in particular was considered particularly strange to Mediterranean folks, especially the Romans who may have used it in poultices but didn’t think of eating it.
Regarding the harvesting methods related to grains, Pliny the Elder had this to say in ‘Natural History’ (18.72):
“The mode of getting in the harvest varies considerably. In the vast domains of the provinces of Gaul a large hollow frame, armed with teeth and supported on two wheels, is driven through the standing grain, the beasts being yoked behind it; the result being that the ears are torn off and fall within the frame. In other countries the stalks are cut with the sickle in the middle, and the ears are separated by the aid of paddle-forks. In some places, again, the corn is torn up by the roots; and it is asserted by those who adopt this plan, that it is as good as a light turning up for the ground, whereas, in reality, they deprive it of its juices. There are differences in other respects also: in places where they thatch their houses with straw, they keep the longest stalks for that purpose; and where hay is scarce, they employ the straw for litter. The straw of panic is never used for thatching, and that of millet is mostly burnt; barley-straw, however, is always preserved, as being the most agreeable of all as a food for oxen. In the Gaulish provinces panic and millet are gathered, ear by ear, with the aid of a comb carried in the hand.”
Apples, pears, plums, and sloes are known to have grown where the Senogalatîs lived. Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries would have been found, as well as grapes. Along with such fruits and berries, various types of nuts and seeds would have also been consumed such as hazelnuts, acorns, and mast – though the last was more often eaten by pigs.
A particularly interesting piece of farming technology is an ox powered harvester that garnered the admiration of contemporaries and later generations alike. It is mentioned in Pliny the Elder’s ‘Natural History’ (18.296):
“On their great estates the Gauls make use of a very large container with toothed sides and which is propelled by means of two wheels across a field of corn by a beast pushing in the contrary direction; the ears (of corn) cut off by this means fall
into the container.”
In the same book, Pliny notes another agricultural innovation was the fertilisation of the soil with marl and/or limestone. (17.4)
“There is another method, which has been invented both in Gaul and Britain, of enriching earth by the [use of] marl [loose spoil of clay and lime]. This soil is looked upon as containing a greater amount of fertilising properties, and acts as a fat in relation to the earth […] The Aedui and the Pictones have rendered their lands remarkably fertile by the aid of limestone, which is also found to be particularly beneficial to the olive and the vine.”
More on the agriculture of the Senogalatîs:
– Contribution à l’histoire de la boulangerie romaine : étude de « pains/galettes » découverts en Gaule, by Andreas G. Heiss, Véronique Matterne, Nicolas Monteix, Margaux Tillier and Camille Noûs
– Harvesting by the Gauls: The Forerunner of the Combine Harvester, by Leslie G. Matthews
– Cheese Production in Gaul during the Iron Age and Roman period: State of Knowledge and Analysis of its place in the Ancient World, by Alain Ferdière and Jean-Marc Séguier
Audio reading of this section (English)
The houses in which Senogalatîs lived were generally made from what is called wattle and daub which entails the weaving of branches together and binding them with mud, clay, and/or other filling material such as lime. The frames of their buildings were made of timber, and their roofs were normally made of thatch – though wooden shingles weren’t unknown. Multi-story buildings existed but were rare. Stone was rarely used but can be found in foundations occasionally. Bricks of mud aren’t unheard of either.
Left to right – Reconstruction of houses from the oppidum (fortified town) at Manching [Wikimedia Commons], interior of a reconstructed house at Bibracte [Bibracte Museum], an artistic rendering of the oppidum at Acy-Romance [National Museum of Archaeology (France)]
Usually houses were grouped together in small hamlets. While there are a few notable examples of proto-urbanisation, the majority of the Senogalatîs lived in much smaller settings with a few houses grouped together. Most social activity because of this took place in what can be thought of as a commons, a communal large yard between the residences. This is how most Senogalatîs lived. There wasn’t much individual ownership of land, or what we’d today call private property. There was certainly *personal* property, for example a family owned their home, but the land was generally speaking in the hands of the community.
The exception may be the more aristocratic housing, reminiscent of the Roman villas, that the most affluent had. This of course was more the exception than the rule. Though that system was undoubtedly growing in influence and power which was evident in the systems of clientage that was a predecessor of feudal holds in the mediaeval period. The dunon (oppidum) also appeared in several places scattered throughout the lands of the Senogalatîs. These were in essence fortified proto-cities. In most cases, they were built on the tops of hills for added defence.
The interiors of their homes were usually set with a fireplace or hearth in the centre, the smoke being let out often through the roof – an advantage of thatched roofs. There would have usually been some modest furnishings. Things like tables, jars and containers for food storage, as well as mattresses and benches. Small crafting projects and fixes for small equipment would have been attemptable in the home, but larger ones of course, outdoors. According to structures like the palace at Vix, homes could also be painted.
With all of this, it is easy to paint a picture of the Senogalatis era landscape: of the high dunâ (oppida, hillfort towns), the many rural settlements not far away in the magoi (fields), and the allatiâ (wild) of the forests, caves, and rivers touched quite well by then by road networks (to disabuse peoples of the “noble savage” romanticism of boar hunting woodland warbands). Without a doubt there were far more wilds then than there are now, but there was also much development. Indeed, the picture of a complex and varied society.
Further reading and exploration of the homes and towns of the Senogalatîs:
As opposed to the usual articles, there are a few websites of archaeological sites in France through the French Ministry of Culture and their National Museum of Archaeology, as well as other efforts from places in France that have sites and ruins from the Senogalatis age.
The Oppidum of Entremont
The Gauls of Acy-Romance
The Museum at Bibracte
And of course, a favourite book of the author: ‘Les Gaulois’ by Jean-Louis Brunaux
(A frequently cited work in this commentary.)
Cintoues etic Damicâs (Firsts and Important Items)
Audio reading of this section (English)
We will speak here of things invented (at least perhaps in Europe) by, independently or initially, or at the least items of import that were popularised by the Senogalatîs. As there are cases where while they didn’t invent something, its widespread use in Europe was attributed to them. This is of course not to diminish the importance of inventions by other peoples or their impact in their own areas or on the world. Simply to highlight the influence the Senogalatîs had in their region of the world as well. As often it is influences on the Senogalatîs that are noted – seldomly their contributions to other peoples or their own ingenuity.
One such instance is with that of soap. The Senogalatîs were not the first peoples to use soap (which was invented in Sumeria millennia before), but in Europe it appears they were the first known to do so. It is not known whether they invented it independently or if peoples between the Senogalatîs and the Near East simply did not use it. Pliny the Elder states in ‘Natural History’ (28.51)
“Soap, too, is very useful for this purpose, an invention of the Gauls for giving a reddish tint to the hair. This substance is prepared from tallow and ashes, the best ashes for the purpose being those of the beech and yoke-elm.”
Aretaeus also mentions it in his second book of ‘De Curatione Diuturnorum’ (2.7):
“There are many other medicines [missing text] of the Celts, which are men called “Gauls,” those alkaline substances made into balls, with which they cleanse their clothes, called “soap,” with which it is a very excellent thing to cleanse the body in the bath.”
As was alluded to briefly in the section on livestock and agriculture, the Senogalatîs invented a unique device for harvesting grains.
In Palladius Rutilius Taurus Aemilianus’s ‘Opus agriculturae’:
“They obviate much hand-labour and in a day an ox can get in the whole harvest. The vehicle (used) is mounted on two small wheels. Two flat sheets (of metal) are mounted on the vehicle towards the exterior, the smaller of the two being in the front of it. On these sheets are fixed recurred teeth. Two short shafts are attached to the front of the vehicle. An ox is harnessed with its head towards the vehicle. It must be a quiet animal so that it does not push too heavily. As it propels the machine across the field the ears of corn are gripped by the teeth, cut off, and fall into the vehicle, while the straw falls outside and the operator who is behind raises or lowers the machine. Thus by constantly going backwards and forwards across the field the whole crop is garnered. This is a good practice where the fields are level and where the straw is of no importance.”
Another invention attributed to the Senogalatîs is that of chainmail. However, it is contested that it could have been the Etruscans. Regardless of this, their use of this ubiquitous armour was certainly associated with the Senogalatîs. This is mentioned by Marcus Terentius Varro in ‘De Lingua Latina’ (Book 5, paragraph 116) “… afterwards the Gallic corselet of iron was included under this name, an iron shirt made on links…” and Diodorus Siculus in his ‘Library of History’ (Section 5.30) “Some of them have iron chain-mail, but others are satisfied with the armour which Nature has given them…”, both noting its usage among the Senogalatîs. Chainmail remained popular for centuries after the Senogalatîs were gone.
The Vachères Warrior, depicted in chainmail. [Wikimedia Commons]
The Senogalatîs were also the first coopers in Europe, the first to make barrels on the continent. Like soap, another interesting case of something being invented farther afield that wasn’t used by anyone between the Senogalatîs and them. In this case, the first recorded barrels were from Egypt. The Senogalatîs were, according to Pliny the Elder, the first to use them in Europe. He says in ‘Natural History’ (27.21)
“The various methods of keeping and storing wines in the cellar are very different. In the vicinity of the Alps, they put their wines in wooden vessels hooped around…”
Through the Senogalatîs who lived in these Alpine areas (perhaps the Eluetios – Helvetii), the barrel spread throughout Europe.
In fact, that same book details a few more inventions of the Senogalatîs. Details on these inventions are a little more sparse but we shall go over them nonetheless. One that we still use to this day being that of the mattress. ‘Natural History’ (19.2)
“[Mattresses] are an invention for which we are indebted to the Gauls: the ancient usage of Italy is still kept in remembrance in the word stramentum, the name given by us to beds stuffed with straw.”
Yet another invention that Pliny attributes to our ancestors is that of a type of straining screen that back then was made of horsehair. ‘Natural History’ (18.28):
“The Gauls were the first to employ the bolter [straining screen] that is made of horse-hair.”
Audio reading of this section (English)
The social structure of the Senogalatîs was like others, rich and complex. There aren’t as many sources that dive too deeply into all of its complexities and so not as much is as recorded as we would like, but there are some. As usual, the matter revolves around attempting to parse fact from fiction, as well as bias or ignorance (accidental or intentional) from the secondary accounts. Another important thing to remember is that of course, there were variations among the different nations.
It is fair to say that like many Indo-European societies, that of the Senogalatîs had an ordered hierarchy. However, it isn’t so simple as something like a corporate “chain of command” and it would be unwise to attempt to compare them to a contemporary understanding of such structures. More important than notions of hierarchy are the ties of obligation that the different strata of society had to one another. The opportunity to hoard wealth simply wasn’t present. Doing so would tear apart the fabric of society (much as it is today).
The fundamental foundation of the social structure of the Senogalatîs is that of the ueniâ. That is, of the family and household. Be aware though that we aren’t talking about household in the same way it is thought of today: the atomised “nuclear family” sharing one dwelling. No, it encompasses several families bound by family lines plus clients and fosterages. The importance of mutual obligation is clear here. In exchange for the loyalty, assistance, and labours of the clients, the client is to be protected by the main family in the household (who is generally of warrior stock), as well as to receive wealth redistribution in the form of gifts and other benefits. In the kind of material conditions and social climes of the time, such is the system they devised.
As the population boomed during the emergence of the Senogalatîs, this meant that a lot of effort had to be invested into maintaining the loyalty of clients. If the leading family was stingy or cruel, this could lead to the clients seeking another household to serve. This kind of system of clientage extended not only to families and households, but entire nations. A whole nation could do the same as a family could. There would be in Senogaliâ some nations that would attract other nations as clients. Stronger nations like the Aruernoi (Arverni), Aiduoi (Aedui), Secuanoi (Sequanni), Remoi (Remi), and Eluuetioi (Helvetii) are fine examples of this. Each had other smaller nations that rendered service to them in exchange for protection and wealth distribution.
Such a system allowed for a degree of flexibility and choice. It was also somewhat volatile because in theory, a client could change sides and some must have as during the Roman invasion. The Remoi, for example, took clients that did not want to align with the rising Aiduoi. It is also marked in the fall of formerly powerful nations like the Bituriges (heirs of Ambicatus) who ended up becoming a client nation themselves as their power and prestige presumably declined.
Most people were farmers. This isn’t likely a surprise. Unless one’s first reading of the Senogalatîs was what they learned from Asterix! Hunting was a rarity and one usually reserved for the warrior class. The Senogalatîs were mainly farmers and they were quite good at it. So much so that they invented one of the best harvesters in the ancient world. Their skill at farming is what led to the great population boom that fuelled their age of expansion. They were so good at it that the population grew even beyond their capacity. Unfortunately, like most ancient cultures, there was also slavery. Slaves were usually people captured in battle or raids. It was possible to earn freedom and thus resettle in the society, but it is of course never a justifiable institution.
Another widespread group were those with specialised skills. Smiths, potters, carpenters, artists, and the like. Merchants could also be included in this group. These were the people that created much of the works that survived long enough for archaeologists to discover them. Without them we’d have only secondhand accounts of the Senogalatîs. Their skills were much coveted and it wasn’t uncommon for them to travel around taking on offers of payment from other towns and nations. This is how specific styles and trends emerged in the arts of the time.
The warrior classes were the epotes (knights, cavalrymen) and the cingetes (soldiers, infantry). It is among these classes that most sources talk about. Much of which was already related in the section on battle. These were of course the people who carried out most combat, though common free people were expected to contribute in major situations when it came to defence of the home front. Otherwise, it was these groups who carried out battles in raids against other nations. This kept their skills sharp and gave them opportunities to gain glory that the bardoi (bards) may sing about.
They often belonged to corioi (warbands), each having their own leadership and rituals. It was often they who offered protection to migratory groups and it was they who were enlisted as mercenaries. The latter had the effect of not only bringing back wealth to the nation, but new goods and ideas. As dirty as their work was, they were a vital part of the economic structure of the time. This holds true for many societies back then.
Leadership in Senogalaticos nations tended to be headed by a Rix (roughly translated to “king”). This role was a heavily sacred one. They were generally chosen by a council, as opposed to the hereditary kingship of the Middle Ages. In this rix was entrusted with the order and well being of the toutâ (people, nation). Poor rulership was thought to bring catastrophe and so a bad ruler could be punished, even killed if their rule brought hardship and suffering. The rix also governed with the aid of advisors, who could give the rix counsel on ruling matters.
Some, like the Aiduoi (Aedui), governed a bit differently. A rix was appointed for a term not to exceed one year, and no one from his family was allowed to take this position for as long as the rix lived. This was presumably put into place to prevent nepotism. There was also the position of the uergobreð (uergobrets) meaning something like “the one who works judgement”. Judging by the title (no pun intended), that of a supreme judge in the arbitration of disputes and administration of justice. These roles appear to be chosen by assemblies, we don’t know how open these were but we do know that those interested in leadership courted the support of as many people as possible.
One example that will dovetail quite nicely into the next group we’ll discuss is in the words of Athenaeus’ ‘Deipnosophists’ (4.37) and looking at the mention of Louernios, son of Bituis:
“And Posidonius continuing, and relating the riches of Lyernius the father of Bityis… says that ‘he, aiming at becoming a leader of the populace, used to drive in a chariot over the plains, and scatter gold and silver among the myriads of Celts who followed him; and that he enclosed a fenced space of twelve furlongs in length every way, square, in which he erected wine-presses, and filled them with expensive liquors; and that he prepared so vast a quantity of food that for very many days any one who chose was at liberty to go and enjoy what was there prepared, being waited on without interruption or cessation. And once, when he had issued beforehand invitations to a banquet some poet from some barbarian nation came too late and met him on the way, and sung a hymn in which he extolled his magnificence, and bewailed his own misfortune in having come too late: and Lyernius was pleased with his ode, and called for a bag of gold, and threw it to him as he was running by the side of his chariot; and that he picked it up, and then went on singing, saying that his very footprints upon the earth over which he drove produced benefits to men.’ These now are the accounts of the Celts given by Posidonius in the third and in the twentieth books of his History.”
Louernios made painstaking efforts to court the support of the people to secure leadership. This type of generosity was necessary if one wanted to be a leader of the Senogalatîs. Great gifts and great promises. As was mentioned before, we will use this same quote to talk about one of the esteemed and honoured kinds of people in the world of the Senogalatîs: the bardoi.
Those with an eye for etymology may notice that the word bardoi, the singular bardos, is quite close to the word bard. Sometimes those conclusions can be misleading, but in this case it is quite accurate. The bardoi were indeed known for their musical prowess, but they weren’t simply musicians. The Senogalatîs had those as well, but not everyone who picked up an instrument or sang was a bardos. The bardos was a lorekeeper, a poet, a musician, and held sacred responsibilities all in one. They could create great praises or crushing satires on the spot. Such skills undoubtedly required years of intensive training and was most likely a skill passed down in apprenticeships.
Bardoi in turn were normally in the employ of rulers and leaders of corioi (warbands). It was here that alongside praises and satires, they functioned as genealogists and recordkeepers. As such, among other things they had to be astute students of history. We can see here that the bardoi fulfilled a diverse array of functions. That isn’t to take away from the greatness of musicians. But it demonstrates that the role of the bardos was more complicated and intricately involved in the knowledge of traditional, history, and culture while being able to communicate these things in songs that were committed deeply in not only their own memory, but that of an entire people.
Another storied group of people that has to an extent captured the imagination is that of the uatîs. Singular: uatis, they too observed roles that stretched the limits of that aforementioned popular imagination. They are among the least understood of the trifecta of special classes: Bardoi, Uatîs, and Druides. The uatis is commonly interpreted as a seer. This much is true, but there is more to it than that. The uatis could divine messages in the entrails of sacrifice, the flashes of lightning in a storm, the flight patterns of birds, and many other means. In being able to do so, a uatis would have to have been well learned in disciplines of the natural world.
A uatis would have known physiology, meteorology, and would have had to know the correct ways to perform the actions they did. Uatîs were guardians of the ancient traditions behind sacrifice and the mysteries of the natural world. They were not simply fortune tellers, but those who possessed great knowledge and understanding of the world around them. This would have taken many years to master. Their skills may have as such extended into other areas that required great knowledge of the natural world, such as what we’d call herbalism. Being in such deep studies meant that they likely weren’t sitting around waiting for the next sacrifice, but were consistently honing their craft.
The next one hardly needs an introduction. For they are likely already at least known to the reader, the Druides. Singular: Druið (again the last letter making a “ts” sound). They have, since they were first written about, captured the imagination of ancient and contemporary minds alike. The Druides were such a special class that they were exempt from military service and taxes. The two mentioned before probably were as well, but we do not know for sure. The Druides would have known something of the mysteries of the world like the uatîs. However, what sets them apart is that they were first and foremost philosophers.
They were people who delved into a world equally as mysterious as any, ethics and humanity. This is why they were trusted to preside over disputes and were judges in those matters. They also guided and arbitrated matters of religious observances. It was also within their power to level one of what was considered the most severe punishment: banishment from communal religious observances. Thus similar to what is thought of excommunication in theory, and exile or shunning in practice. The reason this was so severe is because without attending those observances, they were in essence not a part of the community. They were basically all alone in the world. This was of course reserved for exceptionally severe offences.
The Druides were also known for their study of the skies, especially astronomy. Because of this, it’s assumed that it was they who kept a record of time. The Druides were in essence scientists, philosophers, judges, spiritual leaders, and recordkeepers all in one. The intelligentsia of Senogalaticos society, an order for whom great privilege was given but also great trust and responsibility was placed. They were adverse to writing, believing it weakened the mind and so their knowledge was transferred orally and committed to memory. It was said to have taken around twenty years of study to be counted as a Druið. They also had their own assembly in the land of the Carnutes yearly.
The lot of women in the world of the Senogalatîs was by and large better and freer than their Mediterranean counterparts, as well as for many ages that followed the Iron Age. However, it was still a patriarchal society. It would be vain and pointless romanticism to claim otherwise. Caesar claims that a man had power of life and death over his wife. Though it is hard to imagine the wife’s family (in a society where kinship was hugely important) would allow for such mistreatment. While this isn’t different from the Roman pater familias, it is still of course not something desirable or good about our ancestors society – if true. Nor is it so that if the husband died under questionable circumstances that the wife would be interrogated and possibly tortured or killed by the husband’s family. This is again a claim from Caesar and another from which it is an odd condemnation for one from a society where this was far from unheard of. Regardless, it is undoubtedly an ugly mark on any society, be it Senogalaticos or not, if indeed this was the case.
On the other side of the equation, many rights applied equally to women. A woman could inherit property, and upon marriage both spouses would contribute wealth to a shared account that would be inherited by the surviving spouse when one passed away. Women also had the right to choose their spouse. They also were not strangers to battle. Ammianus Marcellinus relates this in ‘Rerum Gestarum’ (15.12):
“…In fact, a whole band of foreigners will be unable to cope with one of them in a fight, if he call in his wife, stronger than he by far and with flashing eyes; least of all when she swells her neck and gnashes her teeth, and poising her huge white arms, proceeds to rain punches mingled with kicks, like shots discharged by the twisted cords of a catapult…”
The benâ Galaticâ (Gaulish woman) was mighty indeed! Another fine example of a mighty Senogalaticos woman is Onomaris, who, if remembered from the section on the Senogalatîs in the east, was a leader of her people on a great eastward migration: guiding, scouting, and fighting all the way. As such, the possibility remained open for women to assume roles of leadership. Although again, it was unfortunately uncommon. That struggle for equality is still far from realised.
It was also not at all uncommon for men to be involved with other men. This was a well known practice in the corioi (warbands). Diodorus Siculus relates this in his ‘Library of History’ (5.32):
“…Although their wives are comely, they have very little to do with them, but rage with lust, in outlandish fashion, for the embraces of males. It is their practice to sleep upon the ground on the skins of wild beasts and to tumble with a male lover on each side…”
It was not considered an issue nor looked down upon as it was in neighbouring cultures to be the passive partner either. While they certainly had a different understanding of human sexuality than Western culture today does, relations between men of that nature were generally not seen as a problem at all.
The society of the Senogalatîs was complex and multifaceted. Far deeper than what was thought of as barbarism. The hope of explaining their society and how it worked is that we can see that all societies have more to them than simple observations convey.
A few fine sources for learning more about Senogalaticos (and Iron Age Celtic more generally) societies is:
Space, Architecture, and Identity in Gaul in the 2nd/1st centuries BC by Sabine Rieckhoff
The Social Significance of Trade in Late Iron Age Europe by Greg Woolf
Audio reading of this section (English)
One of the most integral social institutions in Senogaliâ was the litus (feast). This shouldn’t be surprising as to this day many social and cultural events culminate in a feast. These were undoubtedly more than a simple get-together, potluck, or picnic. They were places where hierarchies are either affirmed, challenged, or changed. Loaded with ritual and social nuances, hospitality, entertainment, and in some cases violence. Serving to reaffirm the bonds of the attendees, and to sacrifice and redistribute wealth. Athenaeus in ‘Deipnosophists’ speaks of a Senogalaticos feast (4.36):
“And Posidonius the Stoic, in the Histories which he composed in a manner by no means inconsistent with the philosophy which he professed, writing of the laws that were established and the customs which prevailed in many nations, says: ‘The Celts place food before their guests, putting grass for their seats, and they serve it up on wooden tables raised a very little above the ground: and their food consists of a few loaves, and a good deal of meat brought up floating in water, and roasted on the coals or on spits. And they eat their meat in a cleanly manner enough, but like lions, taking up whole joints in both their hands, and gnawing them; and if there is any part which they cannot easily tear away, they cut it off with a small sword which they have in a sheath in a private depository. And those who live near the rivers eat fish also, and so do those who live near the Mediterranean sea, or near the Atlantic ocean; and they eat it roasted with salt and vinegar and cumin seed: and cumin seed they also throw into their wine. But they use no oil, on account of its scarcity; and because they are not used to it, it seems disagreeable to them. But when many of them sup together, they all sit in a circle; and the bravest sits in the middle, like the leader of a chorus; because he is superior to the rest either in his military skill, or in birth, or in riches: and the man who gives the entertainment sits next to him; and then on each side the rest of the guests sit in regular order, according as each is eminent or distinguished for anything. And their armour-bearers, bearing their large oblong shields, stand behind; and their spear-bearers sit down opposite in a circle, and feast in the same manner as their masters. And those who act as cup-bearers and bring round the wine, bring it round in jars made either of earthenware or of silver, like ordinary casks in shape. And their platters on which they serve up the meat are also made of the same material; but some have bronze platters, and some have wooden or plaited baskets. And the liquor which is drunk is, among the rich, wine brought from Italy or from the country about Marseilles; and this is drunk unmixed, but sometimes a little water is mixed with it. But among the poorer classes what is drunk is a beer made of wheat prepared with honey, and oftener still without any honey; and they call it corma. And they all drink it out of the same cup, in small portions, not drinking more than a ladle at a time; but they take frequent turns: and a slave carries the liquor round, beginning at the right hand and going on to the left; and this is the way in which they are waited on, and in which they worship the gods, always turning towards the right hand.’”
From what can be gathered, the Senogalaticos feast was filled with ritual and symbolism. Though some elements would change and obviously any attempt to recreate it would certainly omit anything relating to slaves, we can see that there was indeed a deep and far back reaching set of conventions tied to the feast. As for food, the centrepiece was a meat of some kind – usually pork, but could be beef or mutton. A choice cut of said meat was to be claimed by the bravest or most heroic of the guests. A fight or even duel could break out if that choice piece was contested. Of course, imagine going to a feast bringing your own cutlery! Athenaeus relates further in ‘Deipnosophists’ (4.40):
“But Posidonius, in the third, and also in the twentieth book of his Histories, says: ‘The Celts sometimes have single combats at their entertainments. For being collected in arms, they go through the exercise, and make feints at, and sometimes they even go so far as to wound one another. And being irritated by this, if the bystanders do not stop them, they will proceed even to kill one another. But in olden times,’ he continues, ‘there was a custom that a hind quarter of pork was put on the table, and the bravest man took it; and if any one else laid claim to it, then the two rose up to fight till one of them was slain. And other men in the theatre having received some silver or gold money, and some even for a number of earthen vessels full of wine, having taken pledges that the gifts promised shall really be given, and having distributed them among their nearest connexions, have laid themselves down on doors with their faces upwards, and then allowed some bystander to cut their throats with a sword.'”
It is quite good that the last thing mentioned fell out of favour! Having single combat as an entertainment was something the Etruscans and Romans did as well. The themes of wealth sacrifice and redistribution are made quite salient in the aforementioned quote. Such generosity was very much incumbent on the host. The litus, with its deep set of customs, was truly a worthy centre of Senogalaticos life and society.
For some extra reading on the feast:
‘Animal Sacrifice and Feasting in Celtic Gaul: Regional Variation, Costly Signaling, and Symbolism‘ by Brett Howard Furth (surname Lowry at the time)
Relevant quotes from Athenaeus’ ‘Deipnosophists‘ from the ‘Exploring Celtic Civilisations’ unit
Audio reading of this section (English)
One of, maybe the most important factors in even determining who was a Senogalatis was based on what language they spoke. Obviously, that was Senogalaticos (Gaulish). Senogalaticos simply means “Ancient Gaulish”. This language shares its ancestry with several other related languages. The roots of it lie in a language known today as Proto-Indo-European. There is of course no way nor record of what speakers of that language referred to it. It dates back to the Tritaisson Artuates (“Third Age of Sone” or Neolithic) and is thought to have been spoken in the Eurasian steppes, roughly western Russia and eastern Ukraine, extending south to the Caucasus region. There it resided until the Cauologâ (Yamnaya) peoples of the Early Bronze Age began to migrate and expand, bringing it out into the world.
Of course, Proto-Indo-European had predecessors as well. For the sake of preserving reasonable brevity however, we will start at this point in time. This language from this location spread off in mainly two directions: southeastward into what is now Turkey and Iran, eventually making its way down to northern India, and westward further into Europe. Thus how the language was named. At various times and places, the language evolved enough distinctions to be considered a different language by scholars. It is at that stage we witness the development of the ancestral languages of many of the “branches” of Indo-European languages. Examples are Proto-Indo-Iranian, Proto-Tocharian, Proto-Greek, Proto-Balto-Slavic, Proto-Italic, and yes, Senocelticos (Proto-Celtic) – the ancestor of Senogalaticos.
Senocelticos likely arose in the Ulumagos (Urnfield) period. The culmination of the evolution from Proto-Indo-European spoken at its western extent. It is the ancestor of all Celtic languages. The living descendants continue to be spoken to this day: Welsh, Irish, Scots Gaelic, Breton, Cornish, and Manx. The latter two having been revived after a period of disuse. Notable ancient descendants include Lepontic, Celtiberian, and Senogalaticos (Gaulish).
Senogalaticos emerged as a language in the first century AAC, roughly 6th century BCE. It lasted for around 1,000 years. Noric, which was spoken in the old Isarnoberios (Hallstatt) heartland, and Galatian, which was spoken in central Anatolia were either very closely related or other dialects of Senogalaticos (especially Galatian). Thus the range of this language was from southern Britain to north central Turkey. Mirroring of course, the Senogalatîs themselves. A staggering distance for a people that were not a centralised polity!
One of the largest records of Senogalaticos is actually this calendar, the Coligny Calendar.
It is of course obvious that they spoke. But how did they write? The Senogalatîs to our knowledge didn’t invent a writing system. Assuredly if we ever find that they did, we at Bessus Nouiogalation will utilise it at lightspeed! There are three scripts that we’re aware of that they used throughout time. The first was a North Italic script that the Etruscans used, the Lepontoi (Lepontic) peoples, closely related to the Senogalatîs, utilised this script (evidenced in the alphabet of Lugano). In turn the Senogalatîs in northern Italy used it as well. Secondly, thanks to trade with the Greeks and due to their presence as neighbours in Massalia, many older inscriptions made by the Senogalatîs utilised ancient Greek script. Lastly, but certainly not least, interaction with and later subjugation by the Romans led to the usage of Latin script. The last of these is from which the majority of inscriptions are found.
All said, we don’t know how much they’d write because they didn’t, to our knowledge, leave behind books like their Mediterranean counterparts. It is also said that the Druides discouraged the use of writing, with the belief that it weakened memory. With the advent of the smartphone, we remember less and less phone numbers, so perhaps they had a point. As their order was great in power and influence, it is perhaps in part due to that that we see less Senogalaticos writing. They certainly did write, however.
The following images are courtesy of Mnamon: Ancient Writing Systems in the Mediterranean. Credits.
This is a Gallo-Etruscan inscription from Briona.
This is an example of a Gallo-Greek inscription. From Vaison-La-Romaine.
A Gallo-Latin inscription from La Graufesenque.
In the end, Senogalaticos was replaced by Vulgar Latin in some places, and Germanic languages in others. This took the course of about 4-500 years following the end of Senogalaticos independence. Thus, it didn’t go down easily or without resistance. The model within which it was replaced was a common one. The death of the language likely wasn’t intentional, it didn’t have to be. Simply enough, after independence the language of the nobility, government, and trade changed over time. Latin became the “prestige language” and knowledge of it was necessary for social advancement. It was adopted by the wealthier classes first, for whom though they were bilingual for a long time, gradually shifted to more and more Latin. This would eventually reach the common people and at that point the Latin they spoke would eventually evolve into Old French.
A few hundred words from the language survived into French, and as French speakers conquered England via the Normans, some of those words also made it into English. Such as ambassador from ambactos, car from carros, and budget from boudicos. About 1000 attested words are known of and more are being discovered to this day. Attempts are made to revive the language in different ways and forms for different purposes. Including of course Bessus Nouiogalation’s attempts.
More reading about the language of the Senogalatîs:
Gaulish: Language, Writing, Epigraphy by Alex Mullen and Coline Ruiz Darasse
from the point of view of glottochronology by Václav Blažek
Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise by Xavier Delamarre
Les Noms Gaulois by Xavier Delamarre
La Langue Gauloise by Pierre Yves-Lambert
Gaulish Inscriptions by Wolfgang Meid
Le Gaulois par les exemples by Gerard Poitrenaud
Audio reading of this section (English)
As this is a topic that is quite popular, and an extensive commentary of it would be worthy of an entire book itself, we will cover only some basics. It is also a topic loaded with opinions due to the myriad revivals of the spiritual practices of the Senogalatîs. Which is why it’s important to state that in this section, we’re mainly interested in talking about historically attested practices and interpretations thereof, so the intent is to tread lightly on speculation. I will do my level best to keep such speculations as light and uncontroversial as possible. They’re necessary because in some cases, there isn’t much to analyse based solely off of artefacts and linguistics. There is much that we don’t know and contemporary revivals (like our own) by necessity sometimes improvise and utilise comparative study, etc. The focus of this commentary however, is on historical ones we either know about, or can more safely deduce.
Without a doubt two currents underpin the theological content of the beliefs of the Senogalatîs. They were both polytheistic and animistic. They were polytheistic in that they gave worship to specific beings known as Dêuoi (singular: Dêuos), this is generally translated as “gods”. Many inscriptions refer to the Dêuoi of whom in the broad regional sense we have found such inscriptions referring to a total of over 300. It is worth noting however, that the majority are found only in one or two inscriptions, suggesting that many were Dêuoi only worshipped in certain areas or by certain nations or localities. They were animistic as well, which can be evidenced in fact that many of the Dêuoi are named from animals and natural formations. Of the over 300 inscriptions to various Dêuoi, the majority were mentioned but once, suggesting a localised amalgamation of beings either worshipped or otherwise interacted with. Various places and natural formations were imbued with spirits.
The argument of the “pantheon” is one that I remember being quite heated in my past dealings in Gaulish spaces. It is true that there was no unified Senogalaticos “pantheon”, but such lore based connections and relations between the Dêuoi of a people or place are quite likely when seeing that such was the case with other Indo-European peoples (and beyond). In other words, there wasn’t one group of Dêuoi for all Senogalatîs, but there likely was for different nations and groups of them. At the least a group of Dêuoi that these nations and localities would have known and probably related in their lore. Again, based on what is known of other Indo-European groups, plus the prevalence of inscriptions to several different Dêuoi in a given area.
The Senogalatîs also paid reverence to various natural places: rivers, caves, mountains, etc. Special reverence was given to certain animals (the boar being a good example). These support the conclusion that the Senogalatîs were animistic as well. Though it is worth noting that in their customs, the line between polytheistic and animistic (at least as per contemporary understanding) were quite heavily blurred and such modern terms would have held no importance to them at all. Such worship and reverence was simply what the people did. So while terms like polytheism and animism are helpful in an academic context, the Senogalatîs moved about the world of spirituality in a way that wouldn’t have paid any mind to those kinds of distinctions.
Their worldview would have greatly contrasted with more “world rejecting” spiritualities that came about and rose to prominence in later times. It would have had to, as the focal points of much of their reverence was in fact parts of the world itself. That said, terms like “nature spirituality” are only partly true. It often is a marker of romanticisation to claim that they “worshipped nature” (nature itself a concept that comes into play only in the early modern era). In the process of their growth and technological advancements, the Senogalatîs actually denuded considerable amounts of forest and other “natural” places. They did not solely worship outside of the villages and dunâ (oppida), they in fact built many places – nemetâ (singular: nemeton) which were surrounded by small walls with a temple inside those walls. Thus signifying the importance of the boundary and enclosure in their worship activities. Even the oft romanticised sacred groves were heavily manicured spaces that were all too familiar with the human touch.
Both of these types of worship took place. While this may seem contradictory to some contemporary observers, it is not. This is because both the wild and uncultivated and the manicured and controlled were inimical to the experience of life in their place of space and time. They understood their connection to the wild world as evidenced in their worship activities in such places, but also the world they had built for themselves to ensure their survival and growth evidenced in the nemetâ. These are as such not contradictions, but the complete panoply of the lives that they lived and the relationships that they cultivated. Like all peoples, they attempted to reconcile their material interests and their place in the great cosmic order of the world and existence. What degree of success they achieved or failures they had in that act can of course only be judged retrospectively, hindsight is the strongest sight our species has.
Words that the Senogalatîs left behind offer tantalising clues as to the cosmological and spiritual ideas that they had. One example is the word Antumnos (the other world, or “not world”). This word implies that they imagined a realm different than their own, the abode of their ancestors (likely temporarily, you’ll see why later) and perhaps of some of their Dêuoi. Certainly not all, as many Dêuoi were very much seen as part and parcel to this one.
Celestial, terrestrial, and chthonic cosmological “layers” can be gleaned from words like albios, bitus, and dubnos respectively. It’s also theorised by Xavier Delamarre, a noted historical linguist in Les Noms Gaulois that we can see an “axis” of these layers in the word Drus. Probably interpreted as a tree. This all allows for a basic cosmology to be constructed based on the words our ancestors left behind.
There is also, like in most other cultures, a belief in the soul as an entity residing in the body. Our ancestors, thanks to the doctrines of the Druides believed the soul to be indestructible and that it would pass from one body to another. For this reason, we can quite comfortably deduce that a belief in reincarnation was present. Enough Senogalatîs believed it that it was a constant subject of mentions related to the Druides. Alexander Cornelius Polyhistor says:
“The Pythagorean doctrine prevails among the Gauls’ teaching that the souls of men are immortal, and that after a fixed number of years they will enter into another body.”
It is unknown if the Druides knew of Pythagorean teachings or not. So it cannot be said that they learned it from him. It’s probably that this belief was understood by Mediterranean peoples as associated with Pythagoras. This belief in the transmigration of souls was a central tenet that the Druides taught.
An artistic conception of a nemeton (sanctuary) in watercolour by Jean-Claude Blanchet.
A nemeton is a sanctuary in which the Dêuoi were worshipped. This is a place where locals would gather for rites and sacrifices. Nemetâ (plural of nemeton) were known for being enclosed in a boundary wall. The reason for this is to delineate the purpose built area for engaging in public worship. Presumably to separate it from the realms of everyday life, ensuring a peaceful environment for the worship to take place. This type of sanctuary is quite common throughout the world, though the forms differ. People of course engaged in rites and worship outside of such places as well. The importance of this separation is not to denigrate daily life, but simply to put things in their respective places and contexts. Having a cordoned off place of worship allows for prayer and contemplation to take place uninhibited, and without distraction.
We’ve touched a bit on the basics of cosmological structure, and spoke of the Dêuoi a little. The way their relationship worked tended to be a matter of giving offerings in exchange for the blessings the Dêuoi provide (good harvests, victory in battle, healing, etc). Offerings and inscriptions related to the Dêuoi are often among those things which are found preserved. Giving in exchange for raton (grace, blessing) was generally the idea of interactions with the Dêuoi. On the surface, this looks more transactional than anything else. However, the exchange of gifts wasn’t something only done in relation to the Dêuoi, it was done between peoples and nations to signify mutual good will.
This is fairly common in most cultures even today, where ambassadors and envoys exchange gifts and of course we may do this with our friends and family. There isn’t an explicit expectation of something in return for the gift, but in accepting it, it’s implied that the receiving party will in turn when opportunity arises also give a gift. In a society whose economy relied on exchange of prestige goods, this was the normal mode of operation. Gifts weren’t always tangible, so service in battle, working land, etc were also included in this process. The return could be protection, hospitality, or it could be an exchange of goods. Just as these types of bonds instilled cantoi ratî (circles of gifting/grace) between people, households, settlements, regions, and nations, it did this for those entities and andonioi (non-human persons) as well as the Dêuoi.
There were certain protocols that were observed during their rites. One was to turn to the right, perhaps because the sun and the moon, and so day, night, the flow of time and the beginnings thereof all rise from the east. Thus the flow of rites would be from right to left. This is also why clockwise direction is stressed. To provide in part a quote previously shared from an earlier section, (which is a quote of a quote) Athenaeus quotes Poseidonius in his work ‘Deipnosophists’ (4.36) in reference to feasts, but it must be remembered that these were rituals:
“…beginning at the right hand and going on to the left; and this is the way in which they are waited on, and in which they worship the gods, always turning towards the right hand.”
The worship of ancestors played a strong role in the customs of the Senogalatîs. This may appear contradictory considering their belief in reincarnation, but it need not be. Regardless of where the souls of their ancestors ended up there are still the memories of their presence and deeds that lasted far longer than their lives. The Senogalatîs understood this very well. It was as such not uncommon that parts of their ancestors be removed and buried in places the family hoped they’d stand guard. Equally so, the heads of both ancestors and slain enemies held great prominence. So much so it is said that a head was worth more than its weight in gold. This has led some to believe that the Senogalatîs believed the soul to reside in the head and it is a fair assumption due to the prominence of heads in their art, their value placed on heads and the fact that it is the head that holds everything that makes us, us.
An important thing to know about things like worship in Senogalaticos society is that it generally wasn’t seen as a personal thing. Undoubtedly, this did occur, but it wasn’t at the centre of the experience. It was generally communal via the household, the locality, and in certain cases – centred on great public assemblies. There also wasn’t a distinction between what we now think of as culture and religion. The two were inextricably intertwined. This is a foreign concept to most Westerners today but well understood elsewhere. Attending the worship gatherings, sacrifices was simply a part of life as a member of a given household, locality, or nation. It probably wouldn’t have occurred to most to bother making such a distinction otherwise. The Dêuoi were ever present in the land and sky. As much so as the houses, forests, rivers, mountains around them. Also as much as the baker, blacksmith, farmer, Rix, and Druið.
Speaking of this, and of the last kind of person named – the Druið, they had an incredibly powerful presence in Senogalaticos society. They are perhaps the most enigmatic facet of Senogalaticos society, they who most capture the contemporary imagination as they did those of foreign writers of their time. But who were they? The popular imagination renders them a sort of group of sages living in the woods, ancient wise men fulfilling almost too conveniently the “noble savage” stereotype. The truth is, we don’t know as much about the Druides as we’d like. But what we know conflicts with this oversimplified imagery. This quote from Poseidonius (thanks to Phillip Freeman’s ‘The Philosopher and the Druids’ states:
“There are three groups among the Gauls who are given special honor—bards, vates, and Druids. The bards are singers and poets, while the vates supervise sacrifices and study the ways of nature. The Druids also study nature but devote themselves to morality as well. The Gauls consider the Druids the most just of all their people, and so they are given the role of judge in all public and private disputes. In the past, they were even able to halt battles and bring an end to wars. Murder cases are especially given to the Druids for judgment. The Gauls believe that when condemned criminals are sacrificed, then the land will prosper. The Druids and other Gauls all say that the soul is immortal and the universe is indestructible, but that at some time in the future, both fire and water will prevail.”
(Freeman, Philip. The Philosopher and the Druids: A Journey Among the Ancient Celts . Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.)
It’s certainly true that the Druides were seen as wise. That much is not in question. They were so esteemed by our ancestors that they were exempt from both military service and taxation (Caesar relates this in his book). In the matter of worship, the topic of this section, they also held a preeminent role. They served as intermediaries between the people and the Dêuoi. This may seem odd to Westerners in particular from Protestant cultural mores (after all, those folks literally rebelled against the notion) but it is not as strange as it may seem to such people. Much as if you are sick, you may go to a doctor. If your car breaks down, you may go to a mechanic. In short, we often turn to a professional when we need something done that requires a degree of technical knowhow or expertise. It was as much the same with Druides. You didn’t need them (and don’t now) to contact the Dêuoi per se. After all, people were doing so before and after (presumably also during) the time of the Druides. But it helped to have someone who was an expert in ritual practice and prayer. They understood the lore and traditions associated with the Dêuoi and knew how to speak to them in the most optimal way in prayer.
They also had the ability to counsel folks seeking their aid in the best courses of action. Their advice and suggestions were so valued that they also served as judges. Their harshest punishment not being death, but denial of attendance at sacrifices. To be cut off from these sacred rites was to in essence be shunned by the community. To be shunned in such a way meant that one was essentially a non-entity in their community. Without community, one’s chances of survival diminished and their lives would have been incredibly difficult. This is equally true today even if our more atomised world leads us to think otherwise. After all, most people do not build their own homes, grow their own food, and make literally everything that they need to survive. We may be far less connected to the sources of these things than our ancestors were, but that truth remains equally salient today.
Their prophesying of how the future fate of the world was also eerily foreboding. That fire and water would prevail. Even without the concerns posed by climate change, this would still be true. In the course of the sun’s expansion into becoming a red giant, our planet will become hotter, melting all ice (water) and eventually incinerating the planet (fire). This is predicted to happen millions of years from now. Let us all hope that our own species doesn’t make it happen sooner.
For the Bardoi and Uatîs, they were no less important, but certainly served very different functions. Bardoi in this case would have sung praises to the Dêuoi and would have well known the lore of their people. Uatîs would interpret the signs (divination) that the Dêuoi used sometimes to communicate, such as flight patterns of birds. A Uatis also knew the technical side of sacrifice and were entrusted with the work of performing them. The Druides, to close, were natural philosophers who were highly esteemed. It was said to take around 20 years to teach one how to be a Druið. As everything they taught had to be memorised. But for everyone else, Diogenes Laertius in his ‘Vitæ Philiosophorum’ says the Druides stressed three maxims to the people:
I. Worship the Dêuoi
II. Do no works of evil
III. Exercise valour
With that, this section comes to a close. There are several books about the subject of Senogalaticos spirituality that this humble commentary could only scratch the surface.
More reading on Senogalaticos spirituality:
– The Philosopher and the Druids by Phillip Freeman
– Sanctuaries and Ancestor Worship at the Origin of the Oppida by Manuel Fernández-Götz
– From Tomb to Temple : on the Role of Hero Cults in local religions in Gaul and Britain in the Iron Age and the Roman Period by Ralph Haussler
– How to Identify Celtic Religiion(s) in Roman Britain and Gaul by Ralph Haussler
– Water and Liminality in Pre-Roman Gaul by Aaron Irvin
Audio reading of this section (English)
In this commentary, we covered many of the basics of the lives of the Senogalatîs. Their lives are a worthy inspiration for any Nouiogalatîs. The reasons why one may feel called to be a Nouiogalatis are numerous, but inspiration from the lives our ancestors led is on the list. It is from these peoples that we draw our bessus from. We honour their triumphs, mourn their tragedies, and learn from both their achievements and mistakes. And it is this stretching out for wisdom from the Senogalatîs that is a big part of everything that we do in Bessus Nouiogalation. It’s important to remember that, and equally so to have a basic knowledge of the Senogalatîs. It is the least we can do if one, we take the name Nouiogalatis, two, if we feel called to revive aspects of their culture, including both the material and spiritual, and three, seek the kind of wisdom that gives us a sense of rootedness.
There are things that the Senogalatîs did that should remain in the past, no doubt: human sacrifice (though exceedingly rare) and slavery being two obvious ones.These things however are present including in many “free” societies. Penal slavery is legal in some places even when chattel slavery is not. People are sent to die in wars and left to die on the streets, victims of absolute neglect by some of the wealthiest societies known to humanity. Even many who think of animal sacrifice as barbaric seem to have no issue with industrial farms. It is true that present wrongs do not excuse past ones, but it is important to remember that our societies aren’t as “enlightened” as they tell us that they are. Even these off the cuff observations don’t dive into deeper issues that were completely unheard of to our ancestors. Modern warfare being far more deadly than even the Roman conquest of Senogaliâ, much less the battles that the Senogalatîs fought and of their raids.
There were wrongs, indeed. But there is also much knowledge, understanding, practices, and ethics that are worth reviving. If the ills of our current societies do not prevent us from being members of them, the ills of Senogalaticos societies too can serve as lessons we can learn from and strive to not repeat. Its good, its glories, and its truths however, those have the potential to last even longer than the torcs we have found preserved. They can outlast any ruin. They can inform and elevate our lives and hopefully do a little good in the world. We can help make that happen. There are in this world many many beautiful cultures, spiritualities, and wonders that help illuminate the people in it. They should all be preserved. Maybe this one too can have a place in that great tapestry. May the Dêuoi, wisdom, and courage of the Senogalatîs ever guide us.