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Celtic history and influence in Britain spanned several centuries: between the 7th and 1st centuries BCE. The Celts originated in Central and Western Europe and they eventually migrated to the British Isles. The Celts would have a huge impact on early British linguistic and cultural development. They would later be considered adversaries of the Romans, who successfully dominated and nearly obliterated Celtic culture on the islands. After the downfall of the Roman Empire and waning Roman rule in Great Britain, Celtic culture enjoyed a small resurgence. However, Druidic religion and culture would be overshadowed by Christianity.
However, the lingering effects of Celtic culture remained strong throughout British history. Celtic influence on British culture focuses on language, weapons, culture, religion, and art. Language and cultural identity are inextricable from Celtic influence, and many Celtic languages are still spoken throughout the British Isles today including Welsh, Manx, and both Scottish and Irish Gaelic. Iron weapons, iron coins, iron tools, and iron for chariots were all major Celtic contribution to British society. The Celts also introduced the Druid religion and unique art forms including the flowing knot patterns of the Celtic design (Chapter 1).
Roman influence in Britain began soon after the Roman conquest of Gaul, modern day France. One of the primary reasons Emperor Caesar conquered Britain was to punish the Celts for supposedly aiding the Gaul cause (Chapter 2). Caesar also understood the potential for plundering the wealth of the island nations of Britannia. The Roman era of British history imparted the name Britannia to most of what is now Great Britain. A first Roman invasion occurred in 55-54 BCE. A second invasion took place in 43 CE and was initiated by Claudius (Chapter 2). Among Claudiu's motives were to bolster himself as a military leader but also to gain a political and military stronghold throughout the region. This meant suppressing, oppressing, and ultimately eliminating the Druidic Celts. Wales fell to the Romans in 78 CE. Hadrian's Wall demarcated the boundary of Roman Britannia in 122-128 CE. This boundary remains today to distinguish lands of England from Scotland. In the 2nd century CE, an era of relative peace ensued. By the 5th century CE, Roman influence globally declined. The Scots, the Picts, and the Saxons all helped drive the Romans away. Romans ultimately left Britain and facilitated the influx of the Anglo-Saxons.
The Romans did leave a lasting legacy in Great Britain: on social, political, and cultural institutions. For example, the Emperor appointed governors who oversaw public works and local governance. The Roman system of government laid the foundations for the future British system. Likewise, a system of taxation would be a lasting impact of Roman rule in Britain. Another important contribution of the Romans was engendering a strong sense of urban life and culture in Britain. This would pave the way for the development of London as a major hub. The Romans also cultivated many crops including grain, fostering the development of trade. One of the most important legacies of Roman rule in Britain was literacy: the use of Latin language in law, business, and culture meant that much of the populace was familiar with the language. Roman and Celtic words remain part of English. The most important legacy of Roman rule was the delivery of Christianity to the British Isles. Christianity would become fused with the Celtic aesthetic and culture in some parts of Britannia. By the 4th century, Christianity was the official faith of the region. Christianity was even brought to Ireland in 462 CE by St. Patrick. By the end of the 5th century, most of Britain was Christian (Chapter 2).
Rome gradually lost control of its British territories, due in part to invasions from Saxons and Angles. Known collectively as the Anglo-Saxons, they were a collection of Germanic tribes of pagan people who arrived in what is now the British Isles around the 5th century CE. The Angles and the Saxons were warrior-like people who were quite different from the literate and Christian Celts and Romans they would encounter. The Anglo-Saxons were pagan, not Christian, although later on they would convert. Their social structures were tribal and feudal, rather than republican in nature like the Romans were. Although the English people put up a fight against them, the Anglo-Saxons conquered…[continue]
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