Our still traditional image of the Celts, as naked barbarians invading from central Europe, was construed from their victors, classical Rome, the only side which left writings and monuments to glorify its Hellenistic civilization. Recent archaeological finds however prove the Celtic cultures, like the one named after Hallstadt in Austria, also reached a respectable level of material, even artistic culture and trade long before its decisive duel with Rome started with tribal warlord Brennus's triumphant invasion over the Alps. Artefacts, trade routes and writings in adopted alphabets -having none themselves- suggest earlier contacts, notably with Phoenicians, and a plausible alternative their culture may have originated from the Atlantic west, where their languages survive, and spread east to the continent. Written by KGF Vissers
Nuestra tradicional imagen fija de los celtas, como bárbaros desnudos invasores de Europa central, nos viene de sus vencedores, la Roma clásica, el única parte de esa contienda que dejó escritos y monumentos para glorificar su civilización helenística. Sin embargo, algunos hallazgos arqueológicos recientes, demuestran las culturas celtas, como la que recibió su nombre por Hallstadt en Austria, también alcanzó un respetable nivel material, incluso una cultura artística y comercial mucho antes de que su duelo decisivo con Roma comenzase con la invasión triunfante del señor de la guerra tribal Brennus sobre los Alpes. Artefactos, rutas comerciales y escritos en alfabetos adoptados -no tuvieron uno propio- sugieren contactos anteriores, en particular con fenicios, y una alternativa plausible su cultura puede tener su origen en el Atlántico oeste, donde sobreviven sus lenguas, desde donde se extendió al este del continente. (KGF Vissers)
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This first episode of THE CELTS had Neil Oliver and Alice Roberts tramping around various areas of Britain and northern Europe in search of the origins of the Celtic race. They visited archaeological sites, fingered various finds and talked to those responsible for discovering them, interviewed historians of varying degrees of reliability, some of whom offered fanciful theories as to the Celtic race, while others inclined towards greater plausibility.
In short, this was a typical BBC documentary of ancient history, relying on the expertise of two youngish presenters (age is important here, to show that archeology is not the preserve of gray-haired boffins) plus interviews with various experts, interspersed with computerized technology. The narrative of the program is straightforward enough, but some of the descriptions offered about the Celtic race could equally well apply to other races - the Saxons, Romans or Norsemen, for example.
In short, what we are offered here is not necessarily a culture- specific history but a transhistorical reconstruction of ancient times, emphasizing a combination of barbarism and civility. Celtic peoples were at once different from yet similar to ourselves; through the program we can understand where we came from while feeling quietly complacent that our civilization has developed to such an extent that we do not have to follow their primitive lifestyles.
THE CELTS is a good program of its kind, but left us wishing that the BBC and other television companies could find alternative ways of presenting ancient history.