Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Latin terms

Before the beginning of the Roman Empire, the territories occupied by the Celts eastward, included present day Turkey, known then by the name Galatae. Westward the Celts came to occupy Spain, then known as Iberia. Their culture and influence spread gradually along the Iberian peninsula, up the Atlantic coast to the channel that separated the mainland from the island known as Albion. Thus the "Celtiberians" became the major genetic root of those cultures yet to be established among those who where first to occupy the island. This genetic migration certainly appears to have occurred gradually with a mixture of Hallstatt and la Tene influence. Both bronze and iron appear in the weapons and art of the day. Certainly, the political, economic, and social order had been well established forming what came to be called Celtic society. Of course it would not be until the writers of history arrived some 300-400 years later that the Latin language and its vocabulary named those tribal groups formed over the centuries.

When these Latin writers arrived to the island, they recorded their own history through their own eyes. The first historian to arrive was Caesar, 55 BC. Caesar's regular word for large or political groupings was "civitas". This word became translated into English as "tribe". These tribes contained smaller groups for which Caesar's term was "pagus". It is unclear how Caesar used these terms in his own mind, for the Latin had other terms for family (gens), and people (populus). However, it is clear that when Caesar arrived, he saw distinct levels of our "Island society". First there was a large cultural group, geographically identified, which was then made up of much smaller units. These terms certainly applied to the concept of ethic groups centered upon distinct social and cultural organization and identity. Our JONES surname had it's roots hidden within these Latin terms.

1 comment:

  1. For those interested: A foundational work on Celtic Society is "The Celtic World, Edited By Miranda Green, Routledge, London, 1995.