Collective term for a people that once inhabited large parts of western, central and south-eastern Europe and Asia Minor. The name means "the brave", "the sublime" or "the high", in Greek they were called "Keltoi", in Latin "Celtae" or "Galli". They came as far as Palestine and were the enemies of the Israelites mentioned in the Bible as "Galatians". The Celts, however, were never a united people with supreme leadership, but consisted of many tribes, often competing with each other. These were for example Allobroger, Arverner, Biturigen, Boier, Helvetier, Häduer and Sequaner. The Celtic tribes living in present-day France were collectively called "Gauls". The supreme power among the tribes was held by the Equites (knighthood) and the druids. The earliest mention of the Celts was in the 5th century BC by Herodotus (482-425 BC). At this time they began to migrate to the Italian Po Valley and the Balkans.
In Italy there were warlike conflicts with the Etruscans. The Celts occupied what is now Lombardy and founded Milan. The cities of Paris, London and Budapest also go back to Celtic foundations. In 387 B.C. they also defeated the Romans in the Battle of Allia and plundered Rome. From the beginning of the 3rd century BC, the Romans extended their dominion to the Celtic-populated areas of northern Italy. Julius Caesar's (100-44 BC) battles in Gaul led to the complete subjugation of the Celts and incorporation of their territory into the Roman Empire as "Gallia cisalpina". In 16 B.C. the Romans began the conquest of the later provinces of Noricum (Lower Austria), Pannonia (Hungarian lowlands) and Raetia (Alps and southwest Germany). This meant that the remaining Celtic tribes also gradually lost their independence. Many Celts then joined the Roman army as legionaries.
The Celts had great craftsmanship in wood and metalworking and possessed a highly developed culture of art, music and literature. A Celtic script was never developed, but it is not clear whether there was a common language. At their royal courts, wine enjoyment with rituals played an important role during lavish feasts, as evidenced by many archaeological artefacts from Celtic tombs from the 6th century BC. In many places in Germany and France, cauldrons, jugs and craters (for mixing wine with water) have been found, which are very similar to the vessels used by the Greeks at symposia (feasts). The most famous and largest find is the famous crater of Vix.
Unlike the Romans, however, the Celts drank unmixed wine, which later Roman authors found incomprehensible and uncivilised. The historian Livius (59 B.C.-17 A.D.) claims that the Celts' passion for wine was the reason for their invasion of the Mediterranean in the 4th century B.C. For some tribes, however, the consumption of wine was forbidden because they feared for their manhood. And the druids were in principle critical of the drink. The Celts living in Gaul probably learned the art of winegrowing from the Greeks (and later also the Romans), who settled in Provence in southern France around 600 BC near Massalia (lat. Massilia = Marseille). In the rest of Gaul, there was probably only sporadic viticulture at that time.
At least around 600 BC the Celts were already using wooden barrels for transport on a large scale. These later replaced the amphorae that had been common until then, which were produced in large quantities by the Greeks around Massalia. Especially the Celts in today's area of Cahors (southwest France) were excellent coopers. The Greeks and later also the Romans adopted this art from the Celts. From the 5th century BC the Gallic Celts began to import wine in large quantities from Greece and later also from Italy. The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (90-21 B.C.) wrote full of astonishment and admiration about the efficiency of the Italic merchants: "For an amphora of wine they trade a slave and thus exchange the drink for the cupbearer". This was therefore certainly not the true value.
Whether the Celts were already involved in viticulture before the Greeks is disputed by historians, but according to their many other skills, it is very likely to conclude. The Roman scholar Pliny the Elder (23-79) writes in his work "Naturalis Historia" that the Gauls mastered the art of grafting(grafting) the vine. Celtic wine culture is attested to by numerous archaeological artefacts in many countries, especially in France. Very old finds were also found, for example, in the Austrian communities of Stillfried (Lower Austria) and Zagersdorf (Burgenland). See also under the keywords ancient wines and ancient grape varieties and drinking culture.