Broyhill Family History

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The Celts

    From about 1,000 B.C. until the dawn of the Christian era, the Celts dominated much of western Europe north of the Alps. They did not belong exclusively to one of the three European races - Nordic, Alpine and Mediterranean - but were a mixture of the first two. They were descended in part from Battle Ax people who came from the north of Europe and in part from Beaker folk who had been living in the upper Danube Valley.
     The first Celts began crossing the Channel into Britain about 1,000 B.C. They were few in numbers and their move was more in the nature of migrating families. They made little impression on the Urn communities. About 750 B.C., Celts began invading Britain in far greater numbers. There were further invasions in the 5th, 3rd and 1st centuries B.C. The last Celtic invaders were the tribes of the Belgae who began coming to Britain about 75 B.C.
     Like their predecessors, the Celts in Britain were an agricultural people, living in farmsteads or village groupings among the fields they cultivated. Harvested grain was roasted and stored in the farmstead, either in timber granaries with raised floors or in deep pits. They raised pigs, goats, cattle and heep. They spun thread and weaved it into cloth. Their farms were largely self supporting except for metals, which they purchased from itinerant traders. Members of the various farm communities were loosely organized into tribes. Since they often fought with one another, the Celts fortified their settlements. Smaller ones were created by earth banks or palisades. Hundreds of such farmsteads, spanning several centuries have been documented. Tribal meetings were held at larger forts, often built on Skeletal remains, Celtic art and descriptions by classical writers  agree that the Celts were tall with fair skin, blue eyes and blond hair - considerably different from the shorter, darker men of the Mediterranean world. Celtic graves often contain remains of both long-headed and round-headed men. Archaeologists believe the former represents the Celtic type, the latter the descendants of the older Bronze Age population. The common burials prove they coexisted.

The Celtic hill fort Maiden Castle, seen from the air, reveals successive stages of development
from plateau enclosure to complex defense system.

 The Belgae maintained close connections with kinsmen in France, or Gaul, where Julius Caesar was pushing the Roman frontier northward. Caesar knew that the Celts in Gaul were receiving aid from the Celts in Britain, so in 55 and again in 54 B.C., he crossed the Channel to conduct punitive expeditions. These were the first Roman invasions of Britain. Caesar may have hoped for an easy conquest, but his expeditions were failures. The Celts considered personal bravery in battle, even recklessness, the highest virtue. They loved feasting and quarrelling, praise and boasting, personal adornment and bright colors. Caesar's first invasion was met by Celts fighting in chariots, on horseback and on foot. They proved so formidable that he returned to the continent. In his second expedition, he marched inland, stormed a Belgic hill fort near Canterbury, crossed the Thames near modern London, and after hard fighting obtained submission and a promise of tribute from the principal chieftains of southern Britain. He returned to Gaul knowing that Britain was still far from conquered.
     Circumstances never permitted him to make a third attempt, but his Commentaries reveal much about the Celts. Caesar reported that the population was large and the cattle numerous. The Celts used bronze or gold coins. The interior tribes lived on milk and meat and wore skins. They dyed themselves with woad, which produced a blue color that gave them a frightening appearance in battle. They had long hair and shaved their entire bodies except the head and upper lip. Celtic women also impressed classical writers. Diodorous recorded that like their men they were not only great in stature, but also their equals in courage. Ammianus Marcellinus wrote, "a whole band of foreigners would not be able to withstand a single Gaul if he called on the help of his wife, who is usually stronger than he and blue eyed."
     After Caesar's withdrawal, the British Celts remained fiercely independent for almost another century. During that time the Belgic princes grew stronger and extended their territory. They constantly fought among themselves and warred on other tribes. The resulting hatreds precluded the various tribes from effectively banding together to repel a major invasion.
The Dying Gaul. A very striking sculpture with the
 characteristic  flowing hair, moustache and torc
 of the Celt. This is a Roman copy of one of the statues
 which adorned the altar to Zeus at Pergamon.