The celts are a group of tribes with origins in central Europe who shared similar traditions and cultures. In early 1200 B.C., their culture started to progress all over western Europe.
They started spreading throughout Britain, Ireland, France, and Spain. Even in the modern days, the existence of their hereditament can be seen most in Great Britain and Ireland. Their language and culture are still noticeable in those places.
However, the Anglo-Saxons came from northern Europe and settled in England in the 5th and 6th centuries. They started spreading in small groups in the different kingdoms and later came together in a single political territory during the reign of King Athelstan.
They inhabited the north sea coast of the Netherland, Denmark, and Germany. The Anglo-Saxon period came to an end when they lost the battle of hastings in 1066 with the Normans. Let’s get to know about Celts vs Saxons.
Celts vs Saxons – Culture, Similarities and History
The Celtic History
The Celtic language
The Celtic languages are a group of correlated languages that came from Porto-Celtic. Edward Lhuyd first described this language group as “Celtic” in 1707.
Later, Paul Yves Pezron first made this apparent link between the Celts, which was defined by classical writers.
Most of Europe and Anatolia used to speak the Celtic language during the first millennium B.C. Now this language has limited to the northwestern area of Europe and few migrated groups of people.
The official language of Wales is Welsh, and the official language of Ireland and the European Union is Irish. The only Celtic language that has not been considered endangered by UNESCO is the Welsh language.
In modern times the Cornic and Manx languages went extinct. The existing Celtic languages are divided into two subfamilies: the Goidelic and the Brythonic.
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Celtic people mainly were farmers, and some of them were skilled craftsmen. Some of them were forgers (working with iron), carpenters, and potters.
They could make gorgeous jewelry with gold and exquisite stones. They were also masters of making glass, and they used to make glass rosary.
Nobles headed chieftain used to be the class of celts society. Since metalworkers were influential in their community, the craftsmen’s position was considered below the chieftain. After that, the position of farmers was considered. As they also fought for their chieftain.
There was no political agreement in Celtic society. The Celts used to live in small tribes. They used to raise cattle and pigs. For their rationing, they grew crops in rectangular fields.
The Celts used metal bars as their currency initially, and later by about 50 B.C. they started using gold coins. Europe was their trading market. They used to export metal copper, iron, and tin from England.
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The ancient sources hint that the Celts were Christian along with the Roman. A poet named Lucan (A.D. 39-65) wrote about a forest or garden that was sacred to the Celts. Other sources confirm that human sacrifice used to practice in their time.
In 432 A.D, when Christianity started spreading in Ireland with the help of St. Patrick, many Celtic traditions were conjoined in the new religion. There is also some evidence of Celts being interested in Druidism.
Some historians say that Catholicism took over their land by killing Druids and their religious leaders of Gaels and became the main religion in their land. Even with Christianity’s new dominance, the precedent of Celtic culture remains.
The Shamrock is Ireland’s national symbol which indicates the Holy Trinity of Catholic tradition. The father, son, and the Holy Spirit.
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There is no written history of Celtic people by themselves. But in other’s history, they were described as barbaric! They fought against the Greeks and later with the Roman.
The Greeks mention the Celts’ name in their history as Keltoi. They grew a reputation in Greece as heavy-drinking and hard-fighting savages.
The Roman mentioned them as Galli or Gallia. Often they used to have clashed with the Celtic tribes. The Celts invaded the Roman outpost in Northern Italy.
One of the most dangerous warlords of Celts was Brennus. He sealed the barbaric reputation of the Celts by brutally killing the Rome senate with the sword.
The Celts intentionally choose not to write down their histories, stories, and laws to prevent their information from leaking to the enemies.
For example, sacrificing animals and humans to the gods, this occult knowledge was only known by the Celtic priest called Druids. The Celtic people orally carried this sacred information for generations.
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The End of the Celtic Era
The Celtic supremacy lasted only for a few centuries in western Europe. When the Roman attack took over most of the Celtic land, later Germanic tribes came and compressed the Celtic culture. It continued throughout the migration period around 300 to 600 A.C.
In Spain, the Carthaginians took over the Celts, and the German tribes repulse the Celts out of the Rhine Valley. After the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons incursion wiped out the Celts’ cultures from England.
They only manage to keep their entity of traits and language on the fringes of Europe. Their presence still survives in folklore and Scottish Gaelic, Irish and Welsh languages.
The Saxons History
The Anglo-Saxons Language
The Anglo-Saxons were the people who settled in England after the Roman left. The Anglo-Saxon language, which is also known as the Old English Language, is written and spoken in England before 1100.
It is the primary origin of middle English and modern English, in the 5th and 6th centuries, when the Angles, Saxons, and other tribes started occupying and invading England.
They were dialects of west German. From there, the English language started developing. At that time, the old English language or the Anglo-Saxon language was considerably different from modern English.
When the Norman conquest happened in 1066, the English language was replaced for a time for the people of upper classes by Anglo-Norman. This incident was noted as the end era of the old English language.
In this period, the English language was heavily influenced by the Anglo-Norman, and it developed into a new phase called middle English in England and Scotland.
The Anglo-Saxon Society
Almost every society that ever has been or is, has at least some form of hierarchy. Someone at the top, perhaps a king, and a large group of people at the bottom. Anglo-Saxon society is certainly no exception to this.
At the bottom of the social hierarchy were slaves, making up roughly 10% of the population. They could be bought and sold. They were considered as property.
For committing any crime, these slaves were punished less harshly not to lose the ability to work. But the Anglo-Normans believed that slaves ownership was barbaric. But for Anglo-Saxons, it was a normal part of life.
The next up in the hierarchy were the peasant farmers. They used to rent a farm from a lord, but before that, they had to work for the lord. If they didn’t work for him, they could risk losing their rights to use the land.
Moving up in the ladder, we find Thegns, aka local lord. There are some requirements before someone could become a Thegns, such as-
- Owning more than five hides of land
- Live in a manor with a tower and separate church
The Earls sat at the top of the hierarchy. Above Thegns and below of the king. They ruled over a vast area of lands and called it “earldoms.”
They used to compete with each other through loyalty and to be the most trusted and relied on by the king.
And at the top of the ladder, there was the king.
The Anglo-Saxon Religion
When the Anglo-Saxons first came to Britain, they were pagans. But as time changes, they deliberately converted to Christianity.
In the pagans’ religions, they used to pray to a different kind of god for their different types of needs. Every god controlled a particular part of their everyday life.
More than 1400 years ago, the Pope from Rome sent a preacher to the Anglo-Saxon society to persuade them to convert to Christianity.
The End of the Anglo-Saxon era
1066 A.D. was a momentous year in British history and it started with the death of a king. The battle of hastings and the Normans’ invasion of Britain closed the book of the Anglo-Saxon era forever and began a new chapter in the formation of England as we know it today.
After winning the battle of hastings, William went to London and received a warm welcome from the city. He was crowned the first Norman king of England. The English history of the Anglo-Saxon chapter came to an end.
After that, French became the primary language of the king’s court and slowly mixed up with the Anglo-Saxon tongue and gave birth to modern English.
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