The Celts   or Kelts were an ethno-linguistic group of tribal societies in Iron Age and Medieval Europe who spoke Celtic languages and had a similar culture,  although the relationship between the ethnic, linguistic and cultural elements remains uncertain and controversial.

The earliest archaeological culture that may justifiably be considered as Proto-Celtic is the Late Bronze Age Urnfield culture of central Europe from the last quarter of the second millennium BC.  Their fully Celtic descendants in central Europe were the people of the Iron Age Hallstatt culture (c. 800-450 BC) named for the rich grave finds in Hallstatt, Austria.  By the later La Tène period (c. 450 BC up to the Roman conquest), this Celtic culture had expanded over a wide range of regions, whether by diffusion or migration: to the British Isles(Insular Celts), France and The Low Countries (Gauls), Bohemia, Poland and much of Central Europe, the Iberian Peninsula (Celtiberians,Celtici and Gallaeci) and northern Italy (Golaseccans and Cisalpine Gauls)  and following the Gallic invasion of the Balkans in 279 BC as far east as central Anatolia (Galatians).

In recent years, tentative evidence has been adduced for a Celtic language in the Tartessian inscriptions of south Portugal and southwestSpain (dating 7th-5th centuries BC). Up until then, the earliest direct examples of a Celtic language had been the Leponticinscriptions, beginning from the 6th century BC. Continental Celtic languages are attested only in inscriptions and place-names. Insular Celtic is attested from about the 4th century in ogham inscriptions, although it is clearly much earlier. Literary tradition begins with Old Irish from about the 8th century. Coherent texts of Early Irish literature, such as the Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), survive in 12th-century recensions.

By mid 1st millennium AD, following the expansion of the Roman Empire and the Great Migrations (Migration Period) of Germanic peoples, Celtic culture and Insular Celtic had become restricted to Ireland, to the western and northern parts of Great Britain (Wales,Scotland, Cornwall and the Isle of Man), and to northern France (Brittany). Between the fifth and eighth centuries the Celtic-speaking communities of the Atlantic regions had emerged as a reasonably cohesive cultural entity. In language, religion, and art they shared a common heritage that distinguished them from the culture of surrounding polities. The Continental Celtic languages ceased to be widely used by the 6th century.

Insular Celtic culture diversified into that of the Gaels (Irish, Scottish and Manx) and the Brythonic Celts (Welsh, Cornish, and Bretons) of the medieval and modern periods. A modern "Celtic identity" was constructed in the context of the Romanticist Celtic Revival in Great Britain, Ireland, and other European territories, such as Portugal and Spanish Galicia.  Today Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, and Bretonremain spoken in parts of their historical territories, and both Cornish and Manx are currently undergoing revival.

The first recorded use of the word Celts (Κελτοί) to refer to an ethnic group was by Hecataeus of Miletus, the Greek geographer, in 517 BC,  when writing about a people living near “Massilia” (Marseille). According to the testimony of Julius Caesar and Strabo, the Latin name Celtus (pl. Celti or Celtae) and the Greek  were borrowed from a native Celtic tribal name.  Pliny the Elder referred it as being used in Lusitania as a tribal surname which epigraphic findings confirm.

Latin Gallus might originally be from a Celtic ethnic or tribal name, perhaps borrowed into Latin during the Celtic expansions into Italy of the early 5th century BC. Its root may be the Common Celtic *galno, meaning power or strength. Galli, Gallaeci and Galatae most probably go with Old Irish gal ‘boldness, ferocity’ and Welshgallu ‘to be able, power’. The Greek Galatai seems to be based on the same root, borrowed directly from the same hypothetical Celtic source which gave us Galli(the suffix -atai is an Ancient Greek inflection)  

The English word Celt is modern, attested from 1707 in the writings of Edward Lhuyd whose work, along with that of other late 17th-century scholars, brought academic attention to the languages and history of these early inhabitants of Great Britain.  The English form Gaul (first recorded in the 17th century) and Gaulishcome from the French Gaule and Gaulois, which translate Latin Gallia and Gallus, -icus respectively. In Old French, the words gualeis, galois, walois (Northern French phonetics keeping /w/) had different meanings: Welsh or the Langue d'oïl, etc. On the other hand, the word Waulle (Northern French phonetics keeping /w/) is recorded for the first time in the 13th century to translate the Latin word Gallia, while gaulois is recorded for the first time in the 15th century, and the scholars use it to translate the Latin words Gallus, Gallicus. The word comes from Proto-Germanic *Walha- (see Gaul: Name). The English word Welsh originates from the word wælisċ, theAnglo-Saxon form of *walhiska-, the reconstructed Proto-Germanic word for ‘foreign’ or ‘Celt’ (South German Welsch(e) ‘Celtic speaker’, ‘French speaker’, ‘Italian speaker’; Old Norse valskr pl. valir ‘Gaulish’, ‘French’), that is supposed to be derived of the name of the Volcae, a Celtic tribe who lived first in the South of Germany and emigrated then to Gaul.

The notion of an identifiable Celtic cultural identity or "Celticity", though problematic, generally centres on language, art and classical texts,  though can also include, material artifacts, social organisation, homeland and mythology.  Earlier theories were that this indicated a common racial origin but more recent theories are reflective of culture and language rather than race. Celtic cultures seem to have had numerous diverse characteristics but the commonality between these diverse peoples was the use of a Celtic language.

Celtic refers to a family of languages and, more generally, means 'of the Celts or 'in the style of the Celts." Several archaeological cultures are considered Celtic in nature, based on unique sets of artifacts. The link between language and artifact is aided by the presence of inscriptions.    for other applications of the term.)

Today, the term Celtic generally refers to the languages and respective cultures of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, and Brittany, also known as theSix Celtic Nations. These are the regions where four Celtic languages are still spoken to some extent as mother tongues. The four are Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic,Welsh, and Breton; plus two recent revivals, Cornish (one of the Brythonic languages) and Manx (one of the Goidelic languages). There are also attempts to reconstruct the Cumbric language (a Brythonic language from North West England and South West Scotland). Celtic regions of Continental Europe are those whose residents claim a Celtic heritage, but where no Celtic language has survived; these areas include the western Iberian Peninsula, i.e. Portugal, and north-central Spain(Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Castile and León, Extremadura).

Continental Celts are the Celtic-speaking people of mainland Europe and Insular Celts are the Celtic-speaking peoples of the British and Irish islands and their descendants. The Celts of Brittany derive their language from migrating insular Celts, mainly from Wales and Cornwall, and so are grouped accordingly.

The Celtic languages form a branch of the larger Indo-European family. By the time speakers of Celtic languages enter history around 400 BC, they were already split into several language groups, and spread over much of Western continental Europe, the Iberian Peninsula, Ireland and Britain.

Some scholars think that the Urnfield culture of Western Middle Europe represents an origin for the Celts as a distinct cultural branch of the Indo-European family.  This culture was preeminent in central Europe during the late Bronze Age, from ca. 1200 BC until 700 BC, itself following the Unetice and Tumulus cultures. The Urnfield period saw a dramatic increase in population in the region, probably due to innovations in technology and agricultural practices. The Greek historian Ephoros of Cyme in Asia Minor, writing in the 4th century BC, believed that the Celts came from the islands off the mouth of the Rhine and were "driven from their homes by the frequency of wars and the violent rising of the sea".

The spread of iron-working led to the development of the Hallstatt culture directly from the Urnfield (ca. 700 to 500 BC). Proto-Celtic, the latest common ancestor of all known Celtic languages, is considered by this school of thought to have been spoken at the time of the late Urnfield or early Hallstatt cultures, in the early 1st millennium BC. The spread of the Celtic languages to Iberia, Ireland and Britain would have occurred during the first half of the 1st millennium BC, the earliest chariot burials in Britain dating to c. 500 BC. Other scholars see Celtic languages as covering Britain and Ireland, and parts of the Continent, long before any evidence of "Celtic" culture is found in archaeology. Over the centuries the language(s) developed into the separate Celtiberian, Goidelic and Brythonic languages.

The Hallstatt culture was succeeded by the La Tène culture of central Europe, which was overrun by the Roman Empire, though traces of La Tène style are still to be seen in Gallo-Roman artefacts. In Britain and Ireland La Tène style in art survived precariously to re-emerge inInsular art. Early Irish literature casts light on the flavour and tradition of the heroic warrior elites who dominated Celtic societies. Celtic river-names are found in great numbers around the upper reaches of the Danube and Rhine, which led many Celtic scholars to place theethnogenesis of the Celts in this area.

Diodorus Siculus and Strabo both suggest that the heartland of the people they called Celts was in southern France. The former says that the Gauls were to the north of the Celts, but that the Romans referred to both as Gauls (in linguistic terms the Gauls were certainly Celts). Before the discoveries at Hallstatt and La Tene, it was generally considered that the Celtic heartland was southern France, see Encyclopædia Britannica for 1813.
          The Proto-Celtic language is usually dated to the Late Bronze Age.  The earliest records of a Celtic language are the Lepontic inscriptions of Cisalpine Gaul, the oldest of which still predate theLa Tène period. Other early inscriptions are Gaulish, appearing from the early La Tène period in inscriptions in the area of Massilia, in the Greek alphabet. Celtiberian inscriptions appear comparatively late, after about 200 BC. Evidence of Insular Celtic is available only from about 400 AD, in the form of Primitive Irish Ogham inscriptions. Besides epigraphical evidence, an important source of information on early Celtic is toponymy. 

Before the 19th century, scholars  assumed that the original land of the Celts was west of the Rhine, more precisely in Gaul, because it was where Greek and Roman ancient sources, namely Caesar, located the Celts. This view was challenged by Jubainville  who placed the land of origin of the Celts east of the Rhine. Jubainville based his arguments on a phrase of Herodotus´ that placed the Celts at the source of the Danube, and argued that Herodotus had meant to place the Celtic homeland in southern Germany. The finding of the prehistoric cemetery of Hallstat in 1846 by Johan Ramsauer and almost ten years later the finding of the archaeological site of La Tène by Hansli Kopp in 1857 draw attention to this area. The concept that the Hallstatt and La Tene cultures could be seen not just as chronological periods but as “Culture Groups”, entities composed of people of the same ethnicity and language, started to grow by the end of the 19th century. In the beginning of the 20th century the belief that those “Culture Groups” could be thought in racial or ethnic terms was strongly held by Gordon Childe whose theory was influenced by the writings of Gustaf Kossinna.  Along the 20th century the racial ethnic interpretation of La Tene culture rooted much stronger, and any findings of “La Tene culture” and “flat inhumation cemeteries” were directly associated with the celts and the celtic language.  The Iron Age Hallstatt (c. 800-475 BC) and La Tène (c. 500-50 BC) cultures are typically associated with Proto-Celtic and Celtic culture.

In various[clarification needed] academic disciplines the Celts were considered a Central European Iron Age phenomenon, through the cultures of Hallstatt and La Tène. However, archaeological finds from the Halstatt and La Tène culture were rare in the Iberian Peninsula, in southwestern France, northern and western Britain, southern Ireland and Galatia and did not provide enough evidence for a cultural scenario comparable to that of Central Europe. It is considered equally difficult to maintain that the origin of the Peninsular Celts can be linked to the preceding Urnfield culture, leading to a more recent approach that introduces a 'proto-Celtic' substratum and a process of Celticisation having its initial roots in the Bronze Age Bell Beaker culture.

The La Tène culture developed and flourished during the late Iron Age (from 450 BC to the Roman conquest in the 1st century BC) in eastern France, Switzerland, Austria, southwest Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. It developed out of the Hallstatt culture without any definite cultural break, under the impetus of considerable Mediterranean influence from Greek, and later Etruscan civilisations. A shift of settlement centres took place in the 4th century.

The western La Tène culture corresponds to historical Celtic Gaul. Whether this means that the whole of La Tène culture can be attributed to a unified Celtic people is difficult to assess; archaeologists have repeatedly concluded that language, material culture, and political affiliation do not necessarily run parallel. Frey notes that in the 5th century, "burial customs in the Celtic world were not uniform; rather, localised groups had their own beliefs, which, in consequence, also gave rise to distinct artistic expressions".  Thus, while the La Tène culture is certainly associated with the Gauls, the presence of La Tène artefacts may be due to cultural contact and does not imply the permanent presence of Celtic speakers.
Historical evidence

Polybius published a history of Rome about 150 BC in which he describes the Gauls of Italy and their conflict with Rome.Pausanias in the 2nd century AD says that the Gauls "originally called Celts", "live on the remotest region of Europe on the coast of an enormous tidal sea". Posidonius described the southern Gauls about 100 BC. Though his original work is lost it was used by later writers such as Strabo. The latter, writing in the early 1st century AD, deals with Britain and Gaul as well as Hispania, Italy and Galatia. Caesar wrote extensively about his Gallic Wars in 58-51 BC. Diodorus Siculus wrote about the Celts of Gaul and Britain in his 1st-century history.
Minority views

Myles Dillon and Nora Kershaw Chadwick accepted that "the Celtic settlement of the British Isles" might have to be dated to the Beaker period concluding that "There is no reason why so early a date for the coming of the Celts should be impossible".  Martín Almagro Gorbea  proposed the origins of the Celts could be traced back to the 3rd millennium BC, seeking the initial roots in the Bell Beaker culture, thus offering the wide dispersion of the Celts throughout western Europe, as well as the variability of the different Celtic peoples, and the existence of ancestral traditions an ancient perspective. Using a multidisciplinary approach Alberto J. Lorrio and Gonzalo Ruiz Zapatero reviewed and built on Almagro Gorbea's work to present a model for the origin of the Celtic archaeological groups in the Iberian Peninsula (Celtiberian, Vetton, Vaccean, the Castro Culture of the northwest, Asturian-Cantabrian and Celtic of the southwest) and proposing a rethinking the meaning of "Celtic" from a European perspective. More recently, John Koch and Barry Cunliffe  have suggested that Celtic origins lie with the Atlantic Bronze Age, roughly contemporaneous with the Hallstatt culture but positioned considerably to the West, extending along the Atlantic coast of Europe.

Stephen Oppenheimer  points out that Herodotus seemed to believe the Danube rose near the Pyrenees.

At the dawn of history in Europe, the Celts then living in what is now France were known as Gauls to the Romans. The territory of these peoples probably included the low countries, the Alps and what is now northern Italy. Their descendants were described by Julius Caesar in his Gallic Wars. Eastern Gaul was the centre of the western La Tène culture. In later Iron Age Gaul, the social organisation was similar to that of the Romans, with large towns. From the 3rd century BC the Gauls adopted coinage, and texts with Greek characters are known in southern Gaul from the 2nd century.

Greek traders founded Massalia in about 600 BC, with exchange up the Rhone valley, but trade was disrupted soon after 500 BC and re-oriented over the Alps to the Po valley in Italy. The Romans arrived in the Rhone valley in the 2nd century BC and encountered a Gaul that was mostly Celtic-speaking. Rome needed land communications with its Iberian provinces and fought a major battle with the Saluvii at Entremont in 124-123 BC. Gradually Roman control extended, and the Roman Province of Gallia Transalpina was formed along the Mediterranean coast. The remainder was known as Gallia Comata - "Hairy Gaul".

In 58 BC, the Helvetii planned to migrate westward but were forced back by Julius Caesar. He then became involved in fighting the various tribes in Gaul, and by 55 BC, most of Gaul had been overrun. In 52 BC, Vercingetorix led a revolt against the Roman occupation but was defeated at the siege of Alesia and surrendered.

Following the Gallic Wars of 58-51 BC, Caesar's Celtica formed the main part of Roman Gaul. This territory of the Celtic tribes was bounded on the south by the Garonne and on the north by the Seine and the Marne. Place and personal name analysis and inscriptions suggest that the Gaulish Celtic language was spoken over most of what is now France.

Until the end of the 19th century, traditional scholarship dealing with the Celts did acknowledge their presence in the Iberian Peninsula  as a material culture relatable to the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures. However, since according to the definition of the Iron Age in the 19th century Celtic populations were supposedly rare in Iberia and did not provide a cultural scenario that could easily be linked to that of Central Europe, the presence of celtic culture in that region was generally not fully recognised. Three divisions of the Celts of the Iberian Peninsula were assumed to have existed: the Celtiberians in the mountains near the centre of the peninsula, the Celtici in the southwest, and the celts in the northwest (in Gallaecia and Asturias).

Modern scholarship, however, has clearly proven that Celtic presence and influences were most substantial in what is today Spain and Portugal (with perhaps the highest settlement saturation in Western Europe), particularly in the central, western and northern regions.  The Celts in Iberia were divided into two main archaeological and cultural groups,  even though that division is not very clear:
One group was spread out along Galicia  and the Iberian Atlantic shores. They were made up of the Proto / Para-Celtic Lusitanians (in Portugal)  and the Celtic region that Strabo calledCeltica in the southwestern Iberian peninsula, including the Algarve, which was inhabited by the Celtici, the Vettones and Vacceani peoples (of central-western Spain and Portugal), and the Gallaecian, Astures and Cantabrian peoples of the Castro culture of northern and northwestern Spain and Portugal.
The Celtiberian group of central Spain and the upper Ebro valley.  This group originated when Celts (mainly Gauls and some Celtic-Germanic groups) migrated from what is now France and integrated with the local Iberian people.

The origins of the Celtiberians might provide a key to understanding the Celticisation process in the rest of the Peninsula. The process of Celticisation of the southwestern area of the peninsula by the Keltoi and of the northwestern area is, however, not a simple Celtiberian question. Recent investigations about the Callaici  and Bracari  in northwestern Portugal are providing new approaches to understanding Celtic culture (language, art and religion) in western Iberia.

John T. Koch of the University of Wales-Aberystwyth suggested that Tartessian inscriptions of the 8th century BC might already be classified as Celtic. This would mean that Tartessian is the earliest attested trace of Celtic by margin of more than a century.

It had been known for some time that there was an early, although apparently somewhat limited, Celtic (Lepontic, sometimes called Cisalpine Celtic) presence in Northern Italy since inscriptions dated to the 6th century BC have been found there.

The site of Golasecca, where the Ticino exits from Lake Maggiore, was particularly suitable for long-distance exchanges, in which Golaseccans acted as intermediaries between Etruscans and the Halstatt culture of Austria, supported on the all-important trade in salt.

In 391 BC Celts "who had their homes beyond the Alps streamed through the passes in great strength and seized the territory that lay between theAppennine mountains and the Alps" according to Diodorus Siculus. The Po Valley and the rest of northern Italy (known to the Romans as Cisalpine Gaul) was inhabited by Celtic-speakers who founded cities such as Milan.[63] Later the Roman army was routed at the battle of Allia and Rome was sacked in 390 BC by the Senones.

At the battle of Telamon in 225 BC a large Celtic army was trapped between two Roman forces and crushed.

The defeat of the combined Samnite, Celtic and Etruscan alliance by the Romans in the Third Samnite War sounded the beginning of the end of the Celtic domination in mainland Europe, but it was not until 192 BC that the Roman armies conquered the last remaining independent Celtic kingdoms in Italy.

The Celts also expanded down the Danube river and its tributaries. One of the most influential tribes, the Scordisci, had established their capital at Singidunum in 3rd century BC, which is present-day Belgrade, Serbia. The concentration of hill-forts and cemeteries shows a density of population in the Tisza valley of modern-day Vojvodina, Serbia, Hungary and into Ukraine. Expansion into Romaniawas however blocked by the Dacians.

Further south, Celts settled in Thrace (Bulgaria), which they ruled for over a century, and Anatolia, where they settled as the Galatians(see also: Gallic Invasion of Greece). Despite their geographical isolation from the rest of the Celtic world, the Galatians maintained their Celtic language for at least 700 years. St Jerome, who visited Ancyra (modern-day Ankara) in 373 AD, likened their language to that of the Treveri of northern Gaul.

For Venceslas Kruta, Galatia in central Turkey was an area of dense celtic settlement.

The Boii tribe gave their name to Bohemia, Bologna and possibly Bavaria, and Celtic artefacts and cemeteries have been discovered further east in what is now Poland and Slovakia. A celtic coin (Biatec) from Bratislava's mint was displayed on the old Slovak 5-crown coin.

As there is no archaeological evidence for large-scale invasions in some of the other areas, one current school of thought holds that Celtic language and culture spread to those areas by contact rather than invasion.[64] However, the Celtic invasions of Italy and theexpedition in Greece and western Anatolia, are well documented in Greek and Latin history.

There are records of Celtic mercenaries in Egypt serving the Ptolemies. Thousands were employed in 283-246 BC and they were also in service around 186 BC. They attempted to overthrow Ptolemy II.

All Celtic languages extant today belong to the Insular Celtic languages, derived from the Celtic languages spoken in Iron Age Britain. They were separated into a Goidelic and a Brythonic branch from an early period.

Linguists have been arguing for many years whether a Celtic language came to Britain and Ireland and then split or whether there were two separate "invasions". The older view of prehistorians was that the Celtic influence in the British Isles was the result of successive invasions from the European continent by diverse Celtic-speaking peoples over the course of several centuries, accounting for the P-Celtic vs. Q-Celtic isogloss. This view has fallen into disfavour , to be replaced by the model of a phylogenetic Insular Celtic dialect group.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, scholars commonly dated the "arrival" of Celtic culture in Britain (via an invasion model) to the 6th century BC., corresponding to archaeological evidence of Hallstatt influence and the appearance of chariot burials in what is now England. Some Iron Age migration does seem to have occurred but the nature of the interactions with the indigenous populations of the isles is unknown. In the late Iron Age. According to this model, by about the 6th century (Sub-Roman Britain), most of the inhabitants of the Isles were speaking Celtic languages of either the Goidelic or theBrythonic branch. Since the late 20th century, a new model has emerged (championed by archaeologists such as Barry Cunliffe and Celtic historians such as John T. Koch) which places the emergence of Celtic culture in Britain much earlier, in the Bronze Age, and credits its spread not to invasion, but due to a gradual emergence ''in situ'' out of Proto-Indo-European culture (perhaps introduced to the region by the Bell Beaker People, and enabled by an extensive network of contacts that existed between the peoples of Britain and Ireland and those of the Atlantic seaboard.

Under Caesar the Romans conquered Celtic Gaul, and from Claudius onward the Roman empire absorbed parts of Britain. Roman local government of these regions closely mirrored pre-Roman tribal boundaries, and archaeological finds suggest native involvement in local government.

The native peoples under Roman rule became Romanised and keen to adopt Roman ways. Celtic art had already incorporated classical influences, and surviving Gallo-Roman pieces interpret classical subjects or keep faith with old traditions despite a Roman overlay.

The Roman occupation of Gaul, and to a lesser extent of Britain, led to Roman-Celtic syncretism. In the case of the continental Celts, this eventually resulted in a language shift to Vulgar Latin, while the Insular Celts retained their language.

There was also considerable cultural influence exerted by Gaul on Rome, particularly in military matters and horsemanship, as the Gauls often served in the Roman cavalry. The Romans adopted the Celtic cavalry sword, the spatha, and Epona, the Celtic horse goddess.

To the extent that sources are available, they depict a pre-Christian Iron Age Celtic social structure based formally on class and kingship, although this may only have been a particular late phase of organization in Celtic societies. Patron-client relationships similar to those of Roman society are also described by Caesar and others in the Gaul of the 1st century BC.

In the main, the evidence is of tribes being led by kings, although some argue that there is also evidence of oligarchical republican forms of governmenteventually emerging in areas which had close contact with Rome. Most descriptions of Celtic societies portray them as being divided into three groups: a warrior aristocracy; an intellectual class including professions such as druid, poet, and jurist; and everyone else. In historical times, the offices of high and low kings in Ireland and Scotland were filled by election under the system of tanistry, which eventually came into conflict with the feudal principle ofprimogeniture in which succession goes to the first born son.

Little is known of family structure among the Celts. Patterns of settlement varied from decentralised to urban. The popular stereotype of non-urbanised societies settled in hillforts and duns,  drawn from Britain and Ireland (there are about 3,000 hill forts known in Britain)  contrasts with the urban settlements present in the core Hallstatt and La Tene areas, with the many significant oppida of Gaul late in the first millennium BC, and with the towns of Gallia Cisalpina.

Slavery, as practised by the Celts, was very likely similar to the better documented practice in ancient Greece and Rome. Slaves were acquired from war, raids, and penal and debt servitude. Slavery was hereditary[citation needed], though manumission was possible. The Old Irish word for slave,cacht, and the Welsh term caeth are likely derived from the Latin captus, captive, suggesting that slave trade was an early venue of contact between Latin and Celtic societies. In the Middle Ages, slavery was especially prevalent in the Celtic countries.  Manumissions were discouraged by law and the word for "female slave", cumal, was used as a general unit of value in Ireland.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the pre-Roman Celtic societies were linked to the network of overland trade routes that spanned Eurasia. Archaeologists have discovered large prehistoric trackways crossing bogs in Ireland and Germany. Due to their substantial nature, these are believed to have been created for wheeled transport as part of an extensive roadway system that facilitated trade.  The territory held by the Celts contained tin, lead, iron, silver and gold.  Celtic smiths and metalworkers created weapons andjewellery for international trade, particularly with the Romans.

The myth that the Celtic monetary system consisted of wholly barter is a common one, but is in part false. The monetary system was complex and is still not understood (much like the late Roman coinages), and due to the absence of large numbers of coin items, it is assumed that "proto-money" was used. This included bronze items made from the early
 La Tene period and onwards, which were often in the shape of axeheads, rings, or bells. Due to the large number of these present in some burials, it is thought they had a relatively high monetary value, and could be used for "day to day" purchases. Low-value coinages of potin, a bronze alloy with high tin content, were minted in most Celtic areas of the continent and in South-East Britain prior to the Roman conquest of these lands. Higher-value coinages, suitable for use in trade, were minted in gold, silver, and high-quality bronze. Gold coinage was much more common than silver coinage, despite being worth substantially more, as while there were around 100 mines in Southern Britain and Central France, silver was more rarely mined. This was due partly to the relative sparcity of mines and the amount of effort needed for extraction compared to the profit gained. As the Roman civilisation grew in importance and expanded its trade with the Celtic world, silver and bronze coinage became more common. This coincided with a major increase in gold production in Celtic areas to meet the Roman demand, due to the high value Romans put on the metal. The large number of gold mines in France is thought to be a major reason why Caesar invaded.

There are only very limited records from pre-Christian times written in Celtic languages. These are mostly inscriptions in the Roman and sometimes Greek alphabets. The Ogham script, an Early Medieval alphabet, was mostly used in early Christian times in Ireland and Scotland (but also in Wales and England), and was only used for ceremonial purposes such as inscriptions on gravestones. The available evidence is of a strong oral tradition, such as that preserved by bards in Ireland, and eventually recorded by monasteries. The oldest recorded rhyming poetry in the world is of Irish origin  and is a transcription of a much older epic poem, leading some scholars to claim that the Celts invented rhyme. Celtic art also produced a great deal of intricate and beautiful metalwork, examples of which have been preserved by their distinctive burial rites.

In some regards the Atlantic Celts were conservative: for example, they still used chariots in combat long after they had been reduced to ceremonial roles by the Greeks and Romans. However, despite being outdated, Celtic chariot tactics were able to repel the invasion of Britain attempted by Julius Caesar.

According to Diodorus Siculus:
The Gauls are tall of body with rippling muscles and white of skin and their hair is blond, and not only naturally so for they also make it their practice by artificial means to increase the distinguishing colour which nature has given it. For they are always washing their hair in limewater and they pull it back from the forehead to the nape of the neck, with the result that their appearance is like that of Satyrs and Pans since the treatment of their hair makes it so heavy and coarse that it differs in no respect from the mane of horses. Some of them shave the beard but others let it grow a little; and the nobles shave their cheeks but they let the moustache grow until it covers the mouth.
—Diodorus Siculus
During the later Iron Age the Gauls generally wore long-sleeved shirts or tunics and long trousers (called braccae by the Romans). Clothes were made of wool or linen, with some silk being used by the rich. Cloaks were worn in the winter. Brooches and armlets were used, but the most famous item of jewellery was the torc, a neck collar of metal, sometimes gold. The horned Waterloo Helmet in the British Museum, which long set the standard for modern images of Celtic warriors, is in fact a unique survival, and may have been a piece for ceremonial rather than military wear.

According to Aristotle, most "belligerent nations" were strongly influenced by their women, but the Celts were unusual because their men openly preferred male lovers. H. D. Rankin in Celts and the Classical World notes that "Athenaeus echoes this comment (603a) and so does Ammianus . It seems to be the general opinion of antiquity." In book XIII of his Deipnosophists, the Roman Greek rhetorician and grammarian Athenaeus, repeating assertions made by Diodorus Siculus in the 1st century BC (Bibliotheca historica 5:32), wrote that Celtic women were beautiful but that the men preferred to sleep together. Diodorus went further, stating that "the young men will offer themselves to strangers and are insulted if the offer is refused". Rankin argues that the ultimate source of these assertions is likely to be Poseidonius and speculates that these authors may be recording male "bonding rituals".

The sexual freedom of women in Britain was noted by Cassius Dio:
...a very witty remark is reported to have been made by the wife of Argentocoxus, a Caledonian, to Julia Augusta. When the empress was jesting with her, after the treaty, about the free intercourse of her sex with men in Britain, she replied: "We fulfill the demands of nature in a much better way than do you Roman women; for we consort openly with the best men, whereas you let yourselves be debauched in secret by the vilest." Such was the retort of the British woman.
—Cassius Dio

There are instances recorded where women participated both in warfare and in kingship, although they were in the minority in these areas. Plutarchreports that Celtic women acted as ambassadors to avoid a war among Celts chiefdoms in the Po valley during the 4th century BC.

Very few reliable sources exist regarding Celtic views towards gender divisions and societal statues, though some archaeological evidence does suggest that their views towards gender roles may differ from contemporary and less egalitarian classical counterparts of the Roman era.
There are some general indications from Iron Age burial sites in the Champagne and Bourgogne regions of Northeastern France suggesting that women may have had roles in combat during the earlier La Tène period. However, the evidence is far from conclusive. Examples of individuals buried with both female jewellery and weaponry have been identified, such as the Vix Grave, and there are questions about the gender of some skeletons that were buried with warrior assemblages. However, it has been suggested that "the weapons may indicate rank instead of masculinity".

Among the insular Celts, there is a greater amount of historic documentation to suggest warrior roles for women. In addition to commentary by Tacitusabout Boudica, there are indications from later period histories that also suggest a more substantial role for "women as warriors", in symbolic if not actual roles. Posidonius and Strabo described an island of women where men could not venture for fear of death, and where the women ripped each other apart. Other writers, such as Ammianus Marcellinus and Tacitus, mentioned Celtic women inciting, participating in, and leading battles. Poseidonius' anthropological comments on the Celts had common themes, primarily primitivism, extreme ferocity, cruel sacrificial practices, and the strength and courage of their women.

Under Brehon Law, which was written down in early Medieval Ireland after conversion to Christianity, a woman had the right to divorce her husband and gain his property if he was unable to perform his marital duties due to impotence, obesity, homosexual inclination or preference for other women.

Celtic art is generally used by art historians to refer to art of the La Tène period across Europe, while the Early Medieval art of Britain and Ireland, that is what "Celtic art" evokes for much of the general public, is called Insular art in art history. Both styles absorbed considerable influences from non-Celtic sources, but retained a preference for geometrical decoration over figurative subjects, which are often extremely stylised when they do appear; narrative scenes only appear under outside influence. Energetic circular forms, triskeles and spirals are characteristic. Much of the surviving material is in precious metal, which no doubt gives a very unrepresentative picture, but apart from Pictish stones and the Insular high crosses, large monumental sculpture, even with decorative carving, is very rare; possibly it was originally common in wood.

The interlace patterns that are often regarded as typical of "Celtic art" were in fact introduced to Insular art from the animal Style II of GermanicMigration Period art, though taken up with great skill and enthusiasm by Celtic artists in metalwork and illuminated manuscripts. Equally, the forms used for the finest Insular art were all adopted from the Roman world: Gospel books like the Book of Kells and Book of Lindisfarne, chalices like theArdagh Chalice and Derrynaflan Chalice, and penannular brooches like the Tara Brooch. These works are from the period of peak achievement of Insular art, which lasted from the 7th to the 9th centuries, before the Viking attacks sharply set back cultural life.

In contrast the less well known but often spectacular art of the richest earlier Continental Celts, before they were conquered by the Romans, often adopted elements of Roman, Greek and other "foreign" styles (and possibly used imported craftsmen) to decorate objects that were distinctively Celtic. After the Roman conquests, some Celtic elements remained in popular art, especially Ancient Roman pottery, of which Gaul was actually the largest producer, mostly in Italian styles, but also producing work in local taste, including figurines of deities and wares painted with animals and other subjects in highly formalised styles. Roman Britain also took more interest in enamel than most of the Empire, and its development of champlevétechnique was probably important to the later Medieval art of the whole of Europe, of which the energy and freedom of Insular decoration was an important element.

Tribal warfare appears to have been a regular feature of Celtic societies. While epic literature depicts this as more of a sport focused on raids and hunting rather than organised territorial conquest, the historical record is more of tribes using warfare to exert political control and harass rivals, foreconomic advantage, and in some instances to conquer territory.
The Celts were described by classical writers such as Strabo, Livy, Pausanias, and Florus as fighting like "wild beasts", and as hordes. Dionysius said that their "manner of fighting, being in large measure that of wild beasts and frenzied, was an erratic procedure, quite lacking in military science. Thus, at one moment they would raise their swords aloft and smite after the manner of wild boars, throwing the whole weight of their bodies into the blow like hewers of wood or men digging with mattocks, and again they would deliver crosswise blows aimed at no target, as if they intended to cut to pieces the entire bodies of their adversaries, protective armour and all". Such descriptions have been challenged by contemporary historians.

Polybius (2.33) indicates that the principal Celtic weapon was a long bladed sword which was used for hacking edgewise rather than stabbing. Celtic warriors are described by Polybius and Plutarch as frequently having to cease fighting in order to straighten their sword blades. This claim has been questioned by some archaeologists, who note that Noric steel, steel produced in Celtic Noricum, was famous in the Roman Empire period and was used to equip the Roman military.  However, Radomir Pleiner, in The Celtic Sword (1993) argues that "the metallographic evidence shows that Polybius was right up to a point", as around one third of surviving swords from the period might well have behaved as he describes.

Polybius also asserts that certain of the Celts fought naked, "The appearance of these naked warriors was a terrifying spectacle, for they were all men of splendid physique and in the prime of life."  According to Livy this was also true of the Celts of Asia Minor.

Celts had a reputation as head hunters. According to Paul Jacobsthal, "Amongst the Celts the human head was venerated above all else, since the head was to the Celt the soul, centre of the emotions as well as of life itself, a symbol of divinity and of the powers of the other-world."  Arguments for a Celtic cult of the severed head include the many sculptured representations of severed heads in La Tène carvings, and the surviving Celtic mythology, which is full of stories of the severed heads of heroes and the saints who carry their decapitated heads, right down to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, where theGreen Knight picks up his own severed head after Gawain has struck it off, just as St. Denis carried his head to the top of Montmartre.

A further example of this regeneration after beheading lies in the tales of Connemara's St. Feichin, who after being beheaded by Viking pirates carried his head to the Holy Well on Omey Island and on dipping the head into the well placed it back upon his neck and was restored to full health.

Diodorus Siculus, in his 1st century History had this to say about Celtic head-hunting:
They cut off the heads of enemies slain in battle and attach them to the necks of their horses. The blood-stained spoils they hand over to their attendants and striking up a paean and singing a song of victory; and they nail up these first fruits upon their houses, just as do those who lay low wild animals in certain kinds of hunting. They embalm in cedar oil the heads of the most distinguished enemies, and preserve them carefully in a chest, and display them with pride to strangers, saying that for this head one of their ancestors, or his father, or the man himself, refused the offer of a large sum of money. They say that some of them boast that they refused the weight of the head in gold

In Gods and Fighting Men, Lady Gregory's Celtic Revival translation of Irish mythology, heads of men killed in battle are described in the beginning of the story The Fight With The Fir Bolgs as pleasing to Macha, one aspect of the war goddess Morrigu.

Like other European Iron Age tribal societies, the Celts practised a polytheistic religion.  Many Celtic gods are known from texts and inscriptions from the Roman period. Rites and sacrifices were carried out by priests known as druids. The Celts did not see their gods as having human shapes until late in the Iron Age. Celtic shrines were situated in remote areas such as hilltops, groves, and lakes.

Celtic religious patterns were regionally variable; however, some patterns of deity forms, and ways of worshipping these deities, appeared over a wide geographical and temporal range. The Celts worshipped both gods and goddesses. In general, Celtic gods were deities of particular skills, such as the many-skilled Lugh and Dagda, while goddesses were associated with natural features, particularly rivers (such as Boann, goddess of the River Boyne). This was not universal, however, as goddesses such as Brighid and The Morrígan were associated with both natural features (holy wells and the River Unius) and skills such as blacksmithing and healing.
Triplicity is a common theme in Celtic cosmology, and a number of deities were seen as threefold.  This trait is exhibited by The Three Mothers, a group of goddesses worshipped by many Celtic tribes (with regional variations).
The Celts had literally hundreds of deities, some of which were unknown outside a single family or tribe, while others were popular enough to have a following that crossed lingual and cultural barriers. For instance, the Irish god Lugh, associated with storms, lightning, and culture, is seen in similar forms as Lugos in Gaul and Lleu in Wales. Similar patterns are also seen with the continental Celtic horse goddess Epona and what may well be her Irish and Welsh counterparts, Macha and Rhiannon, respectively.

Roman reports of the druids mention ceremonies being held in sacred groves. La Tène Celts built temples of varying size and shape, though they also maintained shrines at sacred trees and votive pools.

Druids fulfilled a variety of roles in Celtic religion, serving as priests and religious officiants, but also as judges, sacrificers, teachers, and lore-keepers. Druids organised and ran religious ceremonies, and they memorised and taught the calendar. Other classes of druids performed ceremonial sacrifices of crops and animals for the perceived benefit of the community.

The Coligny calendar, which was found in 1897 in Coligny, Ain, was engraved on a bronze tablet, preserved in 73 fragments, that originally was 1.48 m wide and 0.9 m high (Lambert p. 111). Based on the style of lettering and the accompanying objects, it probably dates to the end of the 2nd century.  It is written in Latin inscriptional capitals, and is in the Gallic language. The restored tablet contains 16 vertical columns, with 62 months distributed over 5 years.

The French archaeologist J. Monard speculated that it was recorded by druids wishing to preserve their tradition of timekeeping in a time when the Julian calendar was imposed throughout the Roman Empire. However, the general form of the calendar suggests the public peg calendars (or parapegmata) found throughout the Greek and Roman world.

The Roman invasion of Gaul brought a great deal of Celtic peoples into the Roman Empire. Roman culture had a profound effect on the Celtic tribes which came under the empire's control. Roman influence led to many changes in Celtic religion, the most noticeable of which was the weakening of the druid class, especially religiously; the druids were to eventually disappear altogether. Romano-Celtic deities also began to appear: these deities often had both Roman and Celtic attributes and combined the names of Roman and Celtic deities. Other changes included the adaptation of the Jupiter Pole, a sacred pole which was used throughout Celtic regions of the empire, primarily in the north. Another major change in religious practice was the use of stone monuments to represent gods and goddesses. The Celts had only created wooden idols (including monuments carved into trees, which were known as sacred poles) previously to Roman conquest.
       While the regions under Roman rule adopted Christianity along with the rest of the Roman empire, unconquered areas of Ireland and Scotland moved from Celtic polytheism to Christianity in the 5th century. Ireland was converted under missionaries from Britain, such as Patrick. Later missionaries from Ireland were a major source of missionary work in Scotland, Saxon parts of Britain, and central Europe.   . Celtic Christianity, the forms of Christianity that took hold in Britain and Ireland at this time, have carried traditions distinct from the rest of Western Christianity. The development of Christianity in Ireland and Britain brought an early medieval renaissance of Celtic art between 390 and 1200 AD.  Many of the styles now thought of as typically "Celtic" developed in this period, and are found throughout much of Ireland and Britain, including the northeast and far north of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland. Notable works produced during this period include the Book of Kells and the Ardagh Chalice. Antiquarian interest from the 17th century led to the term Celtbeing extended, and rising nationalism brought Celtic revivals from the 19th century.


Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria (modern day Bodrum, Turkey) and lived in the fifth century BC (c.484 – 425 BC). He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a well-constructed and vivid narrative. The Histories—his masterpiece and the only work he is known to have produced—is a record of his "inquiry"  historía, a word that passed into Latin and acquired its modern meaning of "history"), being an investigation of the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars and including a wealth of geographical and ethnographical information. Although some of his stories were fanciful, he claimed he was reporting only what had been told to him. Little is known of his personal history.

The Histories, otherwise known as The Researches or The Inquiries, were divided by later Alexandrian editors into nine books, named after the nineMuses: the "Muse of History", Clio, representing the first book, then Euterpe, Thaleia, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Erato, Polymnia, Ourania andCalliope for books 2 to 9, respectively. At its simplest and broadest level of meaning, The Histories is structured as a dynastic history of four Persian kings:
Cyrus, 557–530 BC: Book 1;
Cambyses, 530–522 BC: Book 2 and part of Book 3;
Darius, 521–486 BC: the rest of Book 3 then Books 4, 5 and 6;
Xerxes, 486–479 BC: Books 7, 8 and 9.

Within this basic structure, the author traces the way the Persians developed a custom of conquest and shows how their habits of thinking about the world finally brought about their downfall inGreece. Some commentators have argued the story of the first three kings must have been originally planned as a history of Persia and the story of Xerxes, later added to it instead is a history of the Persian Wars.  Whatever the original plan might have been, the larger, historical account is often merely a background to a broad range of inquiries and, as Herodotus himself observes, "Digressions are part of my plan." (Book 4, 30)

The digressions can be understood to cover two themes: an account of the history of the entire known world as governed by the principle of reciprocity (or what today might be more commonly called an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and one good turn deserves another); and an account of the many astonishing reports and sights gained by the author during his extensive travels. The reader is therefore presented with a diversity of human experiences and settings within the context of an overarching historical order. The narrative structure allows for this diversity through simple stylistic devices such as the principle of ring composition, familiar since the time of Homer, in which the introduction and conclusion of a story or sub-plot is signalled by the repetition of some formulaic statement, facilitating the reader's comprehension of stories within stories in a kind of 'Chinese-box technique'—a structure that has no resemblance to the nine books artificially created by Alexandrian scholars.  Herodotus's method of enquiry presents a world where everything is potentially important —this at a time when philosophers increasingly sought to understand the world according to basic principles. The work in fact was something of an anachronism. Yet those who did not appreciate it as model of history could still admire the style of writing—as Dionysius of Halicarnassus praises its sweetness and charm (De Thuc. 23). Herodotus employs a deceptively simple narrative style, in which the original Greek is Ionian indialect, including some Homeric and other forms.

Herodotus announced the size and scope of his work at the beginning of his Researches or Histories:

Ἡροδότου Ἁλικαρνησσέος ἱστορίης ἀπόδεξις ἥδε, ὡς μήτε τὰ γενόμενα ἐξ ἀνθρώπων τῷ χρόνῳ ἐξίτηλα γένηται, μήτε ἔργα μεγάλα τε καὶ θωμαστά, τὰ μὲν Ἕλλησι, τὰ δὲ βαρβάροισι ἀποδεχθέντα, ἀκλεᾶ γένηται, τὰ τε ἄλλα καὶ δι' ἣν αἰτίην ἐπολέμησαν ἀλλήλοισι.[12]

Herodotus of Halicarnassus, his Researches are here set down to preserve the memory of the past by putting on record the astonishing achievements both of our own and of other peoples; and more particularly, to show how they came into conflict.[13]

His record of the achievements of others was an achievement in itself, though the extent of it has been debated. His place in history and his significance may be understood according to the traditions within which he worked. His work is the earliest Greek prose to have survived intact. However, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, a literary critic of Augustan Rome, listed seven predecessors of Herodotus, describing their works as simple, unadorned accounts of their own and other cities and people, Greek or foreign, including popular legends, sometimes melodramatic and naive, often charming - all traits that can be found in the work of Herodotus himself.[14] Modern historians regard the chronology as uncertain but, according to the ancient account, these predecessors included for example Dionysius of Miletus, Charon of Lampsacus, Hellanicus of Lesbos, Xanthus of Lydia and, the best attested of them all, Hecataeus of Miletus. Only fragments of the latter's work survive (and the authenticity of these is debatable)[15] yet they allow us glimpses into the kind of tradition within which Herodotus wrote his own Histories, as for example in the introduction to Hecataeus's work,Genealogies:

Hecataeus the Milesian speaks thus: I write these things as they seem true to me; for the stories told by the Greeks are various and in my opinion absurd.[16]

This points forward to the 'folksy' yet 'international' outlook typical of Herodotus. Yet, one modern scholar, reading between the lines, has described the work of Hecataeus as "a curious false start to history"[17] because, despite its critical spirit, it failed to liberate history from myth. Herodotus actually mentions Hecataeus in his Histories, on one occasion mocking him for his naive genealogy and, on another occasion, quoting Athenian complaints against his handling of their national history.[18] It is possible that Herodotus borrowed much material from Hecataeus, as stated by Porphyry in a quote recorded by Eusebius.[19] In particular, it is possible that he copied descriptions of the crocodile, hippopotamus and phoenix from Hecataeus's 'Circumnavigation of the Known World' (Periegesis/Periodos ges), even mis-representing the source as 'Heliopolitans' (Histories 2.73).[20] But unlike Herodotus, Hecataeus did not record events that had occurred in living memory, nor did he include the oral traditions of Greek history within the larger framework of oriental history.[21] There is no proof that Herodotus derived the ambitious scope of his own work, with its grand theme of civilizations in conflict, from any predecessor, despite much scholarly speculation about this in modern times.[17][22] Herodotus claims to be better informed than his predecessors, relying on empirical observation to correct their excessive schematism. For example, he argues for continental asymmetry as opposed to the older theory of a perfectly circular earth with Europe and Asia/Africa equal in size (Hist. 4.36 and 4.42). Yet, he retains idealising tendencies, as in his symmetrical notions of the Danube and Nile.[23]

His debt to previous authors of prose 'histories' might be questionable but there is no doubt that he owed much to the example and inspiration of poets and story-tellers. For example, Athenian tragic poets provided him with a world-view of a balance between conflicting forces, upset by the hubris of kings, and they provided his narrative with a model of episodic structure. His familiarity with Athenian tragedy is demonstrated, for example, in a number of passages echoing Aeschylus's Persae, including the epigrammatic observation that the defeat of the Persian navy at Salamiscaused the defeat of the land army (Hist. 8.68 ~ Persae 728). The debt may have been repaid by Sophocles because there appear to be echoes of The Histories in his plays, especially a passage in Antigone that resembles Herodotus's account of the death of Intaphernes (Histories 3.119 ~ Antigone 904-20)[24] - this however is one of the most contentious issues in modern scholarship.[25]

Homer was another inspirational source.

"In the scheme and plan of his work, in the arrangement and order of its parts, in the tone and character of the thoughts, in ten thousand little expressions and words, the Homeric student appears." - George Rawlinson[26]

Just as Homer drew extensively on a tradition of oral poetry, sung by wandering minstrels, so Herodotus appears to have drawn on an Ionian tradition of story-telling, collecting and interpreting the oral histories he chanced upon in his travels. These oral histories often contained folk-tale motifs and demonstrated a moral, yet they also contained substantial facts relating to geography, anthropology and history, all compiled by Herodotus in an entertaining style and format.[27] It is on account of the many strange stories and the folk-tales he reported that his critics in early modern times branded him 'The Father of Lies'.[28] Even his own contemporaries found reason to scoff at his achievement. In fact one modern scholar[29] has wondered if Herodotus left his home in Asiatic Greece, migrating westwards to Athens and beyond, because his own countrymen had ridiculed his work, a circumstance possibly hinted at in an epitaph said to have been dedicated to Herodotus at Thuria (one of his three supposed resting places):Herodotus the son of Lyxes hereLies; in Ionic history without peer;A Dorian born, who fled from Slander's brandAnd made in Thuria his new native land.[30]

Yet it was in Athens where his most formidable contemporary critics could be found. In 425 BC, which is about the time that Herodotus is thought by many scholars to have died, the Athenian comic dramatist, Aristophanes, created The Acharnians, in which he blames The Peloponnesian War on the abduction of some prostitutes - a mocking reference to Herodotus, who reported the Persians' account of their wars with Greece, beginning with the rapes of the mythical heroines Io, Europa, Medea and Helen.[31][32] Similarly, the Athenian historian Thucydides dismissed Herodotus as a 'logos-writer' or story-teller.[33] Thucydides, who had been trained in rhetoric, became the model for subsequent prose-writers as an author who seeks to appear firmly in control of his material, whereas Herodotus with his frequent digressions appeared to minimize (or possibly disguise) his auctorial control.[34] Moreover, Thucydides developed a historical topic more in keeping with the Greek lifestyle - the polis or city-state - whereas the interplay of civilizations was more relevant to Asiatic Greeks (such as Herodotus himself), for whom life under foreign rule was a recent memory.[33]

Although The Histories were often criticized in antiquity for bias, inaccuracy and plagiarism—Lucian of Samosata attacked Herodotus as a liar in Verae Historiae and went as far as to deny him a place among the famous on the Island of the Blessed—modern historians and philosophers take a more positive view of Herodotus's methodology, especially those searching for a paradigm of objective historical writing. A few modern scholars have argued that Herodotus exaggerated the extent of his travels and invented his sources[35] yet his reputation continues largely intact: "The Father of History is also the father of comparative anthropology",[28] "the father of ethnography",[36] and he is "more modern than any other ancient historian in his approach to the ideal of total history".[7]

"Before the Persian crisis history had been represented among the Greeks only by local or family traditions. The Wars of Liberation had given to Herodotus the first genuinely historical inspiration felt by a Greek. These wars showed him that there was a corporate life, higher than that of the city, of which the story might be told; and they offered to him as a subject the drama of the collision between East and West. With him, the spirit of history was born into Greece; and his work, called after the nine Muses, was indeed the first utterance ofClio."—Richard Claverhouse Jebb.[37]
[edit]As told by other "liars"

As mentioned earlier, Herodotus has sometimes been labeled "The Father of Lies" because of his tendency to report fanciful information. Much of the information that others subsequently reported about him is just as fanciful and some of it is vindictive or blatantly absurd, yet it is interesting and therefore worth reporting. Herodotus himself reported dubious information if it was interesting, sometimes adding his own opinion about its reliability.

Some "calumnious fictions" were written about Herodotus in a work titled On the Malice of Herodotus, by Plutarch, a Theban by birth, (or it might have been a Pseudo-Plutarch, in this case "a great collector of slanders"), including the allegation that the historian was prejudiced against Thebes because the authorities there had denied him permission to set up a school.[38] Similarly, in a Corinthian Oration, Dio Chrysostom (or yet another pseudonymous author) accused the historian of prejudice against Corinth, sourcing it in personal bitterness over financial disappointments[39] - an account also given by Marcellinus in his Life of Thucydides.[40] In fact Herodotus was in the habit of seeking out information from empowered sources within communities, such as aristocrats and priests, and this also occurred at an international level, with Periclean Athens becoming his principal source of information about events in Greece. As a result, his reports about Greek events are often coloured by Athenian bias against rival states - Thebes and Corinth in particular.[41] Thus the allegations promoted by 'Plutarch' and 'Chrysostom' may be regarded as 'pay-back'.

Herodotus wrote his Histories in the Ionian dialect yet he was born in Halicarnassus, originally a Dorian settlement. According to the Suda (an 11th-century encyclopaedia of Byzantium which likely took its information from traditional accounts), Herodotus learned the Ionian dialect as a boy living on the island of Samos, whither he had fled with his family from the oppressions of Lygdamis, tyrant of Halicarnassus and grandson of Artemisia I of Caria. The Suda also informs us that Herodotus later returned home to lead the revolt that eventually overthrew the tyrant. However, thanks to recent discoveries of some inscriptions on Halicarnassus, dated to about that time, we now know that the Ionic dialect was used there even in official documents, so there was no need to assume like the Suda that he must have learned the dialect elsewhere.[42] Moreover, the fact that the Suda is the only source we have for the heroic role played by Herodotus, as liberator of his birthplace, is itself a good reason to doubt such a romantic account.[43]

It was conventional in Herodotus's day for authors to 'publish' their works by reciting them at popular festivals. According to Lucian, Herodotus took his finished work straight from Asia Minor to the Olympic Games and read the entire Histories to the assembled spectators in one sitting, receiving rapturous applause at the end of it.[44] According to a very different account by an ancient grammarian,[45] Herodotus refused to begin reading his work at the festival of Olympia until some clouds offered him a bit of shade, by which time however the assembly had dispersed - thus the proverbial expression "Herodotus and his shade" to describe any man who misses his opportunity through delay. Herodotus's recitation at Olympia was a favourite theme among ancient writers and there is another interesting variation on the story to be found in the Suda, Photius[46] and Tzetzes,[47] in which a young Thucydides happened to be in the assembly with his father and burst into tears during the recital, whereupon Herodotus observed prophetically to the boy's father: "Thy son's soul yearns for knowledge."

Eventually, Thucydides and Herodotus became close enough for both to be interred in Thucydides' tomb in Athens. Such at least was the opinion of Marcellinus in his Life of Thucydides.[48]According to the Suda, he was buried in Macedonian Pella and in the agora in Thurium.[49]
[edit]As told by other historians

Modern scholars generally turn to Herodotus's own writing for reliable information about his life,[50] very carefully supplemented with other ancient yet much later sources, such as the Byzantine Suda:

"The data are so few - they rest upon such late and slight authority; they are so improbable or so contradictory, that to compile them into a biography is like building a house of cards, which the first breath of criticism will blow to the ground. Still, certain points may be approximately fixed..." - George Rawlinson.[51]

Typically modern accounts of his life go something like this:[52][53] Herodotus was born at Halicarnassus around 484 BC. There is no reason to disbelieve the Suda's information about his family, that it was influential and that he was the son of Lyxes and Dryo, and the brother of Theodorus, and that he was also related to Panyassis, an epic poet of the time. The town was within the Persian empire at that time and maybe the young Herodotus heard local eye-witness accounts of events within the empire and of Persian preparations for the invasion of Greece, including the movements of the local fleet under the command of Artemisia. Inscriptions recently discovered at Halicarnassus indicate that her grandson Lygdamis negotiated with a local assembly to settle disputes over seized property, which is consistent with a tyrant under pressure, and his name is not mentioned later in the tribute list of the Athenian Delian League, indicating that there might well have been a successful uprising against him sometime before 454 BC. Herodotus reveals affection for the island of Samos (III, 39-60) and this is an indication that he might have lived there in his youth. So it is possible that his family was involved in an uprising against Lygdamis, leading to a period of exile on Samos and followed by some personal hand in the tyrant's eventual fall.

As Herodotus himself reveals, Halicarnassus, though a Dorian city, had ended its close relations with its Dorian neighbours after an unseemly quarrel (I, 144), and it had helped pioneer Greek trade with Egypt (II,178). It was therefore an outward-looking, international-minded port within the Persian Empire and the historian's family could well have had contacts in countries under Persian rule, facilitating his travels and his researches. His eye-witness accounts indicate that he travelled in Egypt probably sometime after 454 BC or possibly earlier in association with Athenians, after an Athenian fleet had assisted the uprising against Persian rule in 460-454 BC. He probably travelled to Tyre next and then down the Euphrates to Babylon. For some reason, probably associated with local politics, he subsequently found himself unpopular in Halicarnassus and, sometime around 447 BC, he migrated to Periclean Athens, a city for whose people and democratic institutions he declares his open admiration (V, 78) and where he came to know not just leading citizens such as the Alcmaeonids, a clan whose history features frequently in his writing, but also the local topography (VI, 137; VIII, 52-5). According to Eusebius[54] and Plutarch,[55] Herodotus was granted a financial reward by the Athenian assembly in recognition of his work and there may be some truth in this. It is possible that he applied for Athenian citizenship - a rare honour after 451 BC, requiring two separate votes by a well-attended assembly - but was unsuccessful. In 443 BC, or shortly afterwards, he migrated to Thurium as part of an Athenian-sponsored colony. Aristotle refers to a version of The Histories written by 'Herodotus of Thurium' and indeed some passages in the Histories have been interpreted as proof that he wrote about southern Italy from personal experience there (IV, 15, 99; VI 127). Intimate knowledge of some events in the first years of the Peloponnesian War (VI,91; VII,133,233; IX,73) indicate that he might have returned to Athens, in which case it is possible that he died there during an outbreak of the plague. Possibly he died in Macedonia instead after obtaining the patronage of the court there or else he died back in Thurium. Either way, there is nothing in the Histories that can be dated with any certainty later than 430 and it is generally assumed that he died not long afterwards, possibly before his sixtieth year.
[edit]Analysis and recent discoveries
Circumstances rule men; men do not rule circumstances.
—Herodotus, Histories 7.49

Reconstruction of the Oikoumene (inhabited world) - ancient map from Herodotus, c. 450 BC.

Herodotus provides much intriguing information about the nature of the world and the status of science during his lifetime, often engaging in private speculation.

Croesus Receiving Tribute from a Lydian Peasant, by Claude Vignon.

For example, he reports that the annual flooding of the Nile was said to be the result of melting snows far to the south, and he comments that he cannot understand how there can be snow in Africa, the hottest part of the known world, offering an elaborate explanation based on the way that desert winds affect the passage of the Sun over this part of the world (2:18ff). He also passes on dismissive reports from Phoenician sailors that, while circumnavigating Africa, they "saw the sun on the right side while sailing westwards". Owing to this brief mention, which is included almost as an afterthought, it has been argued that Africa was indeed circumnavigated by ancient seafarers, for this is precisely where the sun ought to have been. His accounts of India are among the oldest records of Indian civilization by an outsider.[56]

Gold dust and nuggets.

Discoveries made since the end of the 19th century have both added to and detracted from his credibility. His description of Gelonus, located in Scythia, as a city thousands of times larger thanTroy was widely disbelieved until it was rediscovered in 1975. The archaeological study of the now-submerged ancient Egyptian city of Heracleion and the recovery of the so-called "Naucratis stela" give extensive credibility to Herodotus's previously unsupported claim that Heracleion was founded during the Egyptian New Kingdom.

Other claims he made are inconsistent with archeological and cuneiform document evidence. For instance, his account of the Medes appears to accord poorly with Assyrian and Babylonian records and with archeological evidence.[citation needed]

One of the most recent developments in Herodotus scholarship was made by the French ethnologist Michel Peissel. On his journeys to India and Pakistan, Peissel claims to have discovered an animal species that may finally illuminate one of the most bizarre passages in Herodotus's Histories. In Book 3, passages 102 to 105, Herodotus reports that a species of fox-sized, furry "ants" lives in one of the far eastern, Indian provinces of the Persian Empire. This region, he reports, is a sandy desert, and the sand there contains a wealth of fine gold dust. These giant ants, according to Herodotus, would often unearth the gold dust when digging their mounds and tunnels, and the people living in this province would then collect the precious dust. Now, Peissel says that in an isolated region of northern Pakistan, on the Deosai Plateau in Gilgit–Baltistan province, there exists a species of marmot, (the Himalayan marmot), (a type of burrowing squirrel) that may have been what Herodotus called giant "ants". Much like the province that Herodotus describes, the ground of the Deosai Plateau is rich in gold dust. According to Peissel, he interviewed the Minaro tribal people who live in the Deosai Plateau, and they have confirmed that they have, for generations, been collecting the gold dust that the marmots bring to the surface when they are digging their underground burrows. The story seems to have been widespread in the ancient world, because later authors like Pliny the Elder mentioned it in his gold mining section of the Naturalis Historia.

Himalayan marmot in central Asia.

Even more tantalizing, in his book, The Ants' Gold: The Discovery of the Greek El Dorado in the Himalayas, Peissel offers the theory that Herodotus may have become confused because the old Persian word for "marmot" was quite similar to that for "mountain ant". Because research suggests that Herodotus probably did not know any Persian (or any other language except his native Greek), he was forced to rely on a multitude of local translators when travelling in the vast multilingual Persian Empire. Therefore, he may have been the unwitting victim of a simple misunderstanding in translation. As Herodotus never claims to have himself seen these "ant/marmot" creatures, it is likely that he was simply reporting what other travellers were telling him, no matter how bizarre or unlikely he personally may have found it to be. In the age when most of the world was still mysterious and unknown and before the modern science of biology, the existence of a giant ant may not have seemed so far-fetched. The suggestion that he completely made up the tale may continue to be thrown into doubt as more research is conducted.[57][58]

With that said, Herodotus did follow up in passage 105 of Book 3, with the claim that the "ants/marmots" are said to chase and devour full-grown camels; again, this could simply be dutiful reporting of what was in reality a tall tale or legend told by the local tribes to frighten foreigners from seeking this relatively easy access to gold dust. On the other hand, the details of the "ants" seem somewhat similar to the description of the camel spider (Solifugae), which are said to chase camels, have lots of hair bristles, and could quite easily be mistaken for ants. On account of the fear of encountering one, there have been "many myths and exaggerations about their size".[59] Images of camel spiders[60][61] could give the impression that this could be mistaken for a giant ant, but certainly not the size of a fox.

Hecataeus of Miletus

Hecataeus of Miletus (c. 550 BC – c. 476 BC )   named after the Greek goddess Hecate, was an early Greek historian of a wealthy family. He flourished during the time of thePersian invasion. After having travelled extensively, he settled in his native city, where he occupied a high position, and devoted his time to the composition of geographical and historical works. When Aristagoras held a council of the leading Ionians at Miletus to organize a revolt against the Persian rule, Hecataeus in vain tried to dissuade his countrymen from the undertaking.  In 494 BC, when the defeated Ionians were obliged to sue for terms, he was one of the ambassadors to the Persian satrap Artaphernes, whom he persuaded to restore the constitution of the Ionic cities.  Hecataeus is the first known Greek historian,  and was one of the first classical writers to mention the Celtic people.

Some have credited Hecataeus with a work entitled  "Travels round the Earth" or "World Survey'  written in two books. Each book is organized in the manner of a periplus, a point-to-point coastal survey. One, on Europe, is essentially a periplus of the Mediterranean, describing each region in turn, reaching as far north as Scythia. The other book, on Asia, is arranged similarly to the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea of which a version of the 1st century AD survives. Hecataeus described the countries and inhabitants of the known world, the account of Egypt being particularly comprehensive; the descriptive matter was accompanied by a map, based upon Anaximander’s map of the earth, which he corrected and enlarged. The work only survives in some 374 fragments, by far the majority being quoted in the geographical lexicon Ethnika compiled by Stephanus of Byzantium.

The other known work of Hecataeus was the Genealogiai, a rationally systematized account of the traditions and the myths of the Greeks, a break with the epic myth-making tradition, which survives in a few fragments, just enough to show what we are missing.

Hecataeus' work, especially the Genealogiai, shows a marked scepticism of oral history, opening with "Hecataeus of Miletus thus speaks: I write what I deem true; for the stories of the Greeks are manifold and seem to me ridiculous."

Herodotus (II, 143) tells a story of a visit by Hecataeus to an Egyptian temple at Thebes. It recounts how the priests showed Herodotus a series of statues in the temple's inner sanctum, each one supposedly set up by the high priest of each generation. Hecataeus, says Herodotus, had seen the same spectacle, after mentioning that he traced his descent, through sixteen generations, from a god. The Egyptians compared his genealogy to their own, as recorded by the statues; since the generations of their high priests had numbered three hundred and forty-five, all mortal men, they refused to believe Hecataeus's claim of descent from a god. Historian James Shotwell has called this encounter with the antiquity of Egypt an influence on Hecataeus's scepticism: he recognized that oral history is untrustworthy.

He was probably the first of the logographers to attempt a serious prose history and to employ critical method to distinguish myth from historical fact, though he accepts Homer and other poets as trustworthy authorities. Herodotus, though he once at least contradicts his statements, is indebted to Hecataeus for the concept of a prose history.


An itinerarium (plural: itineraria) was an Ancient Roman road map in the form of a listing of cities, villages (vici) and other stops, with the intervening distances. One surviving example is the Peutinger Table (Tabula Peutingeriana); another is the Antonine Itinerary.

The Romans and ancient travelers in general did not use maps. They may have existed as specialty items in some of the libraries, but they were hard to copy and were not in general use. On the Roman road system, however, the traveller needed some idea of where he was going, how to get there, and how long it would take. The itinerarium filled this need. In origin it was simply a list of cities along a road: "at their most basic, itinerariainvolve the transposition of information given on milestones, which were an integral feature of the major Roman roads, to a written script." It was only a short step from lists to a master list. To sort out the lists, the Romans drew diagrams of parallel lines showing the branches of the roads. Parts of these were copied and sold on the streets. The very best featured symbols for cities, way stations, water courses, and so on. The maps did not represent landforms but they served the purpose of a simple schematic diagram for the user.

The Roman government from time to time undertook to produce a master itinerary of all Roman roads. Julius Caesar and Mark Antonycommissioned the first known such effort in 44 BC. Zenodoxus, Theodotus, and Polyclitus, three Greek geographers, were hired to survey the system and compile a master itinerary. This task required over 25 years. The result was a stone engraved master itinerarium set up near thePantheon, from which travelers and itinerary sellers could make copies.

Archaeology has turned up some itinerary material in unexpected places. The Cups of Cadiz, four silver cups found by workmen excavating a foundation at Bracciano in 1852, are engraved with the names and distances of stations between Cadiz and Rome. The term itinerary changed meaning over the centuries. In the Itinerarium Burdigalense (Bordeaux Pilgrim, 333 AD), the itinerary is a description of what route to take to the Holy Land. The Itinerarium Alexandri is a list of the conquests of Alexander the Great. Today it means either a travel journal or a list of recommended stops.

The term also refers to medieval guide-books written by travellers: most of these are accounts of pilgrimages to the Holy Land. 


Phoenicia was an ancient Semitic civilization situated on the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent and centered on the coastline of modern Lebanon. All major Phoenician cities were on the coastline of the Mediterranean, some colonies reaching the Western Mediterranean. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550 BC to 300 BC. The Phoenicians used the galley, a man-powered sailing vessel, and are credited with the invention of the bireme. They were famed in Classical Greece and Rome as 'traders in purple', referring to their monopoly on the precious purple dye of the Murex snail, used, among other things, for royal clothing, and for their spread of the alphabet (or abjad), from which all major modern phonetic alphabets are derived.

Phoenicians are widely thought to have originated from the earlier Canaanite inhabitants of the region. In the Amarna tablets of the 14th century BC, people from the region called themselves Kenaani or Kinaani (probably same as Canaanites), although these letters predate the invasion of the Sea Peoples by over a century. Much later, in the 6th century BC, Hecataeus of Miletus writes that Phoenicia was formerly called χνα (Latinized: khna), a name Philo of Byblos later adopted into his mythology as his eponym for the Phoenicians: "Khna who was afterwards called Phoinix". Egyptian seafaring expeditions had already been made to Byblos to bring back "cedars of Lebanon" as early as the third millennium BC.

"Phoenicia" is really a Classical Greek term used to refer to the region of the major Canaanite port towns, and does not correspond exactly to a cultural identity that would have been recognised by the Phoenicians themselves. It is uncertain to what extent the Phoenicians viewed themselves as a single ethnicity and nationality. Their civilization was organized in city-states, similar to ancient Greece. However, in terms of archaeology, language, life style and religion, there is little to set the Phoenicians apart as markedly different from other Semitic cultures of Canaan. As Canaanites, they were unique in their remarkable seafaring achievements.

Each of their cities was a city-state which was politically an independent unit. They could come into conflict and one city might be dominated by another city-state, although they would collaborate in leagues or alliances. Though ancient boundaries of such city-centered cultures fluctuated, the city of Tyre seems to have been the southernmost. Sarepta (modern day Sarafand) between Sidon and Tyre is the most thoroughly excavated city of the Phoenician homeland.

The Phoenicians were the first state-level society to make extensive use of the alphabet. The Phoenician phonetic alphabet is generally believed to be the ancestor of almost all modern alphabets, although it did not contain any vowels (these were added later by the Greeks). From a traditional linguistic perspective, they spoke Phoenician, a Canaanite dialect. However, due to the very slight differences in language, and the insufficient records of the time, whether Phoenician formed a separate and united dialect, or was merely a superficially defined part of a broader language continuum, is unclear. Through their maritime trade, the Phoenicians spread the use of the alphabet to North Africa and Europe, where it was adopted by the Greeks, who later passed it on to the Etruscans, who in turn transmitted it to theRomans. In addition to their many inscriptions, the Phoenicians were believed to have left numerous other types of written sources, but most have not survived.

Evangelical Preparation by Eusebius of Caesarea quotes extensively from Philo of Byblos and Sanchuniathon.

The name Phoenicians, like Latin Poenī (adj. poenicus, later pūnicus), comes from Greek   (Phoínikes), attested since Homer and influenced by phoînix "Tyrian purple, crimson; murex" (itself from phoinós "blood red").  The word stems from Mycenaean po-ni-ki-jo, po-ni-ki, ultimately borrowed from Ancient Egyptian fnḥw (fenkhu) "Asiatics, Semites". The folk-etymologicalassociation of phoiniki with phoînix mirrors that in Akkadian which tied kinaḫni, kinaḫḫi "Canaan; Phoenicia" to kinaḫḫu "red-dyed wool". Note that there is no connection to the superficially similar phoenix, though this term is also ultimately from Ancient Egyptian, via Greek and Latin (hence the "ph" and "oe"). The land was natively known as knʿn (cf. Eblaite ca-na-na-um, ca-na-na), remembered in the 6th century BC by Hecataeus under the Greek form Chna (χνα), and its people as the knʿny (cf. Punic chanani, Hebrew kanaʿani).
 According to the Persians best informed in history, the Phoenicians began the quarrel. These people, who had formerly dwelt on the shores of the Erythraean Sea (the eastern part of the Arabia peninsula), having migrated to the Mediterranean and settled in the parts which they now inhabit, began at once, they say, to adventure on long voyages, freighting their vessels with the wares of Egypt and Assyria...

Strabo, the Greek historian, geographer and philosopher mentioned that the Phoenicians came from the eastern part of the Arabia peninsula where they have similar gods, cemeteries and temples. This theory was accepted by the 19th century German classicist Arnold Heeren who said that: “In the Greek geographers, for instance, we read of two islands, named Tyrus or Tylos, and Aradus, which boasted that they were the mother country of the Phoenicians, and exhibited relics of Phoenician temples.” The people of Tyre in particular have long maintained Persian Gulf origins, and the similarity in the words “Tylos” and “Tyre” has been commented upon.  However, there is little evidence of occupation at all in Bahrain during the time when such migration had supposedly taken place. Later classicist theories were proposed prior to modern archaeological excavations which revealed no disruption of Phoenician societies between 3200 B.C. and 1200 B.C.
 Archaeological Museum of Cádiz. The sarcophagus is thought to have been designed and paid for by a Phoenician merchant, and made in Greece with Egyptian influence.

Spencer Wells of the Genographic Project has conducted genetic studies that demonstrate that male populations of Lebanon, Syria,Malta, Sicily, Spain, and other areas settled by Phoenicians, as well as the main Jewish populations, including modern Israel, share a common m89 chromosome Y type.  m89 first arose around 40,000 years back; a lineage marker of 90 to 95 percent of all non-Africans who migrated out of Africa and settled in the fertile lands of the Middle East and beyond.

Pierre Zalloua and Wells (2004), under the auspices of a grant from National Geographic Magazine examined the origins of the Phoenicians. The debate between Wells and Zalloua was whether haplogroup J2 (M172) should be identified as that of the Phoenicians or that of its "parent" haplogroup M89 on the YDNA phylogenetic tree. Initial consensus suggested that J2 be identified with the Canaanite-Phoenician (Northwest Semitic) population, with avenues open for future research.  As Wells commented, "The Phoenicians were the Canaanites — and the ancestors of today's Lebanese" It was reported in the PBS description of the National Geographic TV Special on this study entitled "Quest for the Phoenicians" that ancient DNA was included in this study as extracted from the tooth of a 2500 year-old Phoenician mummy.

Based on the genetic dating methods utilized by Zalloua the J2 genetic marker dates back to around 12,000 years and stem from the Levant.  The National Geographic Genographic Project linked haplogroup J2 to some ancient towns such as Jericho, Tel el-Sultan, ca. 8500 BC and indicated that in modern populations, haplogroup J2 is found in North Africa, Southern Europe, and the Middle East.J2 alone is found at a frequency of (20%) in Southern Italians, and at lesser frequencies in Southern Spain (10%). Both haplogroup J, to whose descendants originally appeared exclusively in the Mediterranean area around 10,000 years ago, and its subgroup J2constitute a combined frequency of about (30%) among Jews.

For identifying distinct Phoenicians male genetic traces in nowadays contemporary populations, Zalloua studied sites influenced by the Phoenicians on the basis of well-recorded historical documents, from which Y-chromosomal material was sampled, in conjunction with comparative data from the literature. Of the counterparts used were the coastal Lebanese heartland versus the rest of the Levant(Phoenician periphery), Phoenician Mediterranean colonies versus Phoenician trading centers, and trading centers versus Phoenician non-influenced sites sharing distance proximity. The research drew a conclusion upon the given and was that haplogroup J2, for the most part, and the six Y-STR haplotypes, in particular, exhibited the Phoenician distinguishable signature. Haplotypes PCS1+, a Phoenician colonization signal, through PCS6+ therefore represent lineages that have likely been spread by the Phoenicians.

In spite the fact that each STR+ comprises colonies established at distinct geographical sites across the Mediterranean, each remains rooted with high frequencies in the Phoenician heartland. This argues for a joint source of related lineages deep-rooted in Lebanon.
 Fernand Braudel remarked in The Perspective of the World that Phoenicia was an early example of a "world-economy" surrounded by empires. The high point of Phoenician culture and sea power is usually placed ca. 1200–800 BC.

 Many of the most important Phoenician settlements had been established long before this: Byblos, Tyre, Sidon, Simyra, Arwad, and Berytus, all appear in the Amarna tablets. Archeology has identified cultural elements of the Phoenician zenith as early as the third millennium BC.

The league of independent city-state ports, with others on the islands and along other coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, was ideally suited for trade between the Levant area, rich in natural resources, and the rest of the ancient world. During the early Iron Age, in around 1200 BC an unknown eventoccurred, historically associated with the appearance of the Sea Peoples from the north. They weakened and destroyed the Egyptians and the Hittitesrespectively. In the resulting power vacuum, a number of Phoenician cities rose as significant maritime powers.

The societies rested on three power-bases: the king; the temple and its priests; and councils of elders. Byblos first became the predominant center from where the Phoenicians dominated the Mediterranean and Erythraean (Red) Sea routes. It was here that the first inscription in the Phoenician alphabet was found, on the sarcophagus of Ahiram (ca. 1200 BC). Later, Tyre gained in power. One of its kings, the priest Ithobaal (887–856 BC) ruled Phoenicia as far north as Beirut, and part of Cyprus. Carthage was founded in 814 BC under Pygmalion of Tyre (820–774 BC). The collection of city-states constituting Phoenicia came to be characterized by outsiders and the Phoenicians as Sidonia or Tyria. Phoenicians and Canaanites alike were called Sidonians or Tyrians, as one Phoenician city came to prominence after another.

Cyrus the Great conquered Phoenicia in 539 BC. The Persians divided Phoenicia into four vassal kingdoms: Sidon, Tyre, Arwad, and Byblos. They prospered, furnishing fleets for the Persian kings. Phoenician influence declined after this. It is likely that much of the Phoenician population migrated toCarthage and other colonies following the Persian conquest. In 350 or 345 BC a rebellion in Sidon led by Tennes was crushed by Artaxerxes III. Its destruction was described by Diodorus Siculus.

Alexander the Great took Tyre in 332 BC after the Siege of Tyre. Alexander was exceptionally harsh to Tyre, executing 2,000 of the leading citizens, but he maintained the king in power. He gained control of the other cities peacefully: the ruler of Aradus submitted; the king of Sidon was overthrown. The rise of Hellenistic Greece gradually ousted the remnants of Phoenicia's former dominance over the Eastern Mediterranean trade routes. Phoenician culture disappeared entirely in the motherland. Carthage continued to flourish in North Africa. It oversaw the mining of iron and precious metals from Iberia, and used its considerable naval power and mercenary armies to protect commercial interests. Rome finally destroyed it in 146 BC, at the end of the Punic Wars.

Following Alexander, the Phoenician homeland was controlled by a succession of Hellenistic rulers: Laomedon (323 BC), Ptolemy I (320), Antigonus II(315), Demetrius (301), and Seleucus (296). Between 286 and 197 BC, Phoenicia (except for Aradus) fell to the Ptolemies of Egypt, who installed the high priests of Astarte as vassal rulers in Sidon (Eshmunazar I, Tabnit, Eshmunazar II).

In 197 BC, Phoenicia along with Syria reverted to the Seleucids. The region became increasingly Hellenized, although Tyre became autonomous in 126 BC, followed by Sidon in 111. Syria, including Phoenicia, were seized by king Tigranes the Great of Armenia from 82 until 69 BC, when he was defeated by Lucullus. In 65 BC Pompey finally incorporated the territory as part of the Roman province of Syria.

The Phoenicians were among the greatest traders of their time and owed much of their prosperity to trade. At first, they traded mainly with the Greeks, trading wood, slaves, glass and powdered Tyrian purple. Tyrian purple was a violet-purple dye used by the Greekelite to color garments. In fact, the word Phoenician derives from the ancient Greek word phoínios meaning "purple". As trading and colonizing spread over the Mediterranean, Phoenicians and Greeks seemed to have unconsciously split that sea in two: the Phoenicians sailed along and eventually dominating the southern shore, while the Greeks were active along the northern shores. The two cultures clashed rarely, mainly in Sicily, which eventually settled into two spheres of influence, the Phoenician southwest and the Greek northeast.

 In the centuries after 1200 BC, the Phoenicians were the major naval and trading power of the region. Phoenician trade was founded on the Tyrian purple dye, a violet-purple dye derived from the shell of the Murex sea-snail, once profusely available in coastal waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea but exploited to local extinction. James B. Pritchard's excavations at Sarepta in present-day Lebanon revealed crushed Murex shells and pottery containers stained with the dye that was being produced at the site. The Phoenicians established a second production center for the dye in Mogador, in present day Morocco. Brilliant textiles were a part of Phoenician wealth, and Phoenician glass was another export ware. They traded unrefined, prick-eared hunting dogs of Asian or African origin which locally they had developed into many breeds such as the Basenji, Ibizan Hound, Pharaoh Hound, Cirneco dell'Etna, Cretan Hound, Canary Islands Hound, and Portuguese Podengo.[citation needed] To Egypt, where grapevines would not grow, the 8th-century Phoenicians sold wine: the wine trade with Egypt is vividly documented by the shipwrecks located in 1997 in the open sea 30 miles west of Ascalon;  pottery kilns at Tyre andSarepta produced the big terracotta jars used for transporting wine. From Egypt, they bought Nubian gold.

From elsewhere, they obtained other materials, perhaps the most important being silver from the Iberian Peninsula and tin from Great Britain, the latter of which when smelted with copper from Cyprus created the durable metal alloy bronze. Strabo states that there was a highly lucrative Phoenician trade with Britain for tin. It was once thought that this was direct trade but it is now believed to have been indirect. Professor Timothy Champion, a specialist in this period found it likely that the trade of the Phoenicians with Britain was indirect and under the control of the Venetiof Brittany.
The Phoenicians established commercial outposts throughout the Mediterranean, the most strategically important being Carthage in North Africa, directly across the narrow straits. Ancient Gaelic mythologies attribute a Phoenician/Scythian influx to Ireland by a leader called Fenius Farsa. Others also sailed south along the coast of Africa. A Carthaginian expedition led by Hanno the Navigator explored and colonized the Atlantic coast of Africa as far as the Gulf of Guinea; and according to Herodotus, a Phoenician expedition sent down the Red Sea by pharaoh Necho II of Egypt (c. 600 BC) even circumnavigated Africa and returned through the Pillars of Hercules after three years. Using gold obtained by expansion of the African coastal trade following the Hanno expedition, Carthage minted gold staters in 350 BC bearing a pattern, in the reverse exergue of the coins, which some have interpreted as a map of the Mediterranean with America shown to the west.

In the Second Millennium BC, the Phoenicians traded with the Somalis. Through the Somali city-states of Mosylon, Opone, Malao, Sarapion, Mundus and Tabae, trade flourished.

From the 10th century BC, their expansive culture established cities and colonies throughout the Mediterranean. Canaanite deities like Baal and Astarte were being worshipped from Cyprus to Sardinia, Malta, Sicily, Spain, Portugal, and most notably at Carthage in modern Tunisia.

 The Phoenician alphabet was one of the first (consonantal) alphabets with a strict and consistent form. It is assumed that it adopted its simplified linear characters from an as-yet unattested early pictorial Semitic alphabet developed some centuries earlier in the southern Levant.  The precursor to the Phoenician alphabet was likely of Egyptian origin as Middle Bronze Age alphabetsfrom the southern Levant resemble Egyptian hieroglyphs, or more specifically an early alphabetic writing system found at Wadi-el-Hol in central Egypt. In addition to being preceded by proto-Canaanite, the Phoenician alphabet was also preceded by an alphabetic script of Mesopotamian origin called Ugaritic. The development of the Phoenician alphabet from the Proto-Canaanite coincided with the rise of the Iron Age in the 11th century BC.

This alphabet has been termed an abjad, a script that contains no vowels. The first four letters aleph, beth, jamal, and daleth gave the name to the alphabet.

 The oldest known representation of the Phoenician alphabet is inscribed on the sarcophagus of King Ahiram of Byblos, dating to the 11th century BC at the latest. Phoenician inscriptions are found in Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Cyprus and other locations, as late as the early centuries of the Christian Era. The Phoenicians are credited with spreading the Phoenician alphabet throughout the Mediterranean world.  Phoenician traders disseminated this writing system along Aegean trade routes, to Crete and Greece. The Greeks adopted the majority of these letters but changed some of them to vowels which were significant in their language, giving rise to the first true alphabet.

The Phoenician language is classified in the Canaanite subgroup of Northwest Semitic. Its later descendant in North Africa is termed Punic. In Phoenician colonies around the western Mediterranean, beginning in the 9th century BC, Phoenician evolved into Punic. Punic Phoenician was still spoken in the 5th century AD: St. Augustine, for example, grew up in North Africa and was familiar with the language.

Phoenician art lacks unique characteristics that might distinguish it from its contemporaries. This is due to its being highly influenced by foreign artistic cultures: primarily Egypt, Greece and Assyria. Phoenicians who were taught on the banks of the Nile and the Euphrates gained a wide artistic experience and finally came to create their own art, which was an amalgam of foreign models and perspectives.
He entered into other men's labors and made most of his heritage. The Sphinx of Egypt became Asiatic, and its new form was transplanted to Nineveh on the one side and to Greece on the other. The rosettes and other patterns of the Babylonian cylinders were introduced into the handiwork of Phoenicia, and so passed on to the West, while the hero of the ancient Chaldean epic became first the Tyrian Melkarth, and then the Herakles of Hellas.