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Celtic Radio Community > The Celts > Insular Celts

Posted by: Andy88 16-Mar-2010, 07:28 AM

This may seem like a stupid question to most of you, but I am completely new to this sort of thing and, as such, I have become rather confused about certain terms.

I have read about Insular Celts and Continental Celts, but I can't quite grasp the difference. Are the Insular Celts just a branch of the Continentals which came over to Britain, and then developed different languages?

Any information you can give me is much appreciated.


Posted by: Camac 16-Mar-2010, 08:56 AM

If memory serves right "Insular Celt" refers mainly to the languages that evolved in the British Isles as separate and distinct form the Continental Language. Scots Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Welsh, Manx, Breton,and Cornish.


PS. Insular: - Isolated.

Posted by: Andy88 16-Mar-2010, 09:28 AM
QUOTE (Camac @ 16-Mar-2010, 09:56 AM)

If memory serves right "Insular Celt" refers mainly to the languages that evolved in the British Isles as separate and distinct form the Continental Language. Scots Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Welsh, Manx, Breton,and Cornish.


PS. Insular: - Isolated.


So why then are both groups called "Celts"? Where's the connection if they are two distinct and unrelated peoples with different ancestry?

I heard that the majority of British people are perhaps partially descended from Insular Celts. In that case, would that mean that these people are unrelated to mainland Europeans?

Posted by: Camac 16-Mar-2010, 09:58 AM

The Celts were not a single people. They were groups or tribes of people united by a common culture and language but not necessarily by Blood. The Scots are Celtic but different from the Welsh who are also Celtic. The Scots are related more closely to the Irish than the Cornish or Bretons.


Posted by: Andy88 16-Mar-2010, 10:08 AM
QUOTE (Camac @ 16-Mar-2010, 10:58 AM)

The Celts were not a single people. They were groups or tribes of people united by a common culture and language but not necessarily by Blood. The Scots are Celtic but different from the Welsh who are also Celtic. The Scots are related more closely to the Irish than the Cornish or Bretons.


I see. That's what I was unsure about. That would presumably mean that Insular Celts and Continental Celts share no common ancestry whatsoever.

Thanks for your help.

Posted by: Camac 16-Mar-2010, 12:00 PM

No they would share a common ancestry. They are Indo-European who migrated voluntarily or forced across Europe. The Celts of Ireland, including the Scots are said to have come from the Iberian Peninusla (Spain/Potugal) The Celts of Britain traded and inter married with the Celts of what is now France.


Posted by: Andy88 16-Mar-2010, 01:29 PM
QUOTE (Camac @ 16-Mar-2010, 01:00 PM)

No they would share a common ancestry. They are Indo-European who migrated voluntarily or forced across Europe. The Celts of Ireland, including the Scots are said to have come from the Iberian Peninusla (Spain/Potugal) The Celts of Britain traded and inter married with the Celts of what is now France.


Oh right, so even those who were to become Insular Celts were originally from mainland Europe but split off from the Continentals?

Posted by: Andy88 16-Mar-2010, 01:33 PM
Or they both just share a common origin?

Posted by: Camac 16-Mar-2010, 01:35 PM

Yes. You know there are many fine books out there to read on the subject plus 1000s of web sites. Mayhaps they would be a better source than I am as I am relying on memory of things I read and learned years ago.


Posted by: Andy88 16-Mar-2010, 01:55 PM
Fair enough. Thanks very much for your help.

Posted by: Andy88 16-Mar-2010, 02:45 PM
I found this helpful:

Posted by: Mailagnas maqqas Dunaidonas 24-Mar-2010, 03:04 PM
The Insular Celts are the Celts of the British Isles. The Celts were a diverse group of tribes with a common culture and language. It should be noted that it is unclear at what point the indigenous tribes of Great Britain acquired Celtic culture and language. DNA studies have shown a continuity of the same people living in the British Isles since shortly after the end of the last Ice Age. During the Bronze Age and/or Iron Age they acquired Celtic culture and language, even though there is no evidence for large-scale migration from the continent. In what is now England, the Celtic tribes (then known as Britons--they did not refer to themselves as Celts) first became Romano-Britons, after the Roman conquest, then they became Anglo-Saxon (after the poorly-documented Anglo-Saxon conquest), then Anglo-Norman, then English. In the process, the English lost much or most of their Celtic heritage and are no longer considered Celts.
Because the Irish resisted foreign occupation far longer than other Celtic peoples and never became "Anglicized" even after being conquered by the English, they have retained far more of their Celtic identity than other peoples with a Celtic heritage.

Posted by: Antwn 03-Jul-2010, 05:33 PM
QUOTE (Mailagnas maqqas Dunaidonas @ 24-Mar-2010, 04:04 PM)
Because the Irish resisted foreign occupation far longer than other Celtic peoples and never became "Anglicized" even after being conquered by the English, they have retained far more of their Celtic identity than other peoples with a Celtic heritage.

Celtic identity is a dubious term, yet that said, I think you'd offend quite a few Welsh with your statement, maybe Scots too. Neither are English nor consider themselves to today. The Welsh have retained their language, a hallmark of culture if there ever was one, since the 6th century and retained it throughout all the conquests you mentioned to the present. If there were not Brythonic, proto-Welsh or whatever you want to call it during the Roman occupation, and had it not survived, there would be no Welsh today. There are between 500,000 and 700,000 Welsh speakers today. Welsh was spoken throughout much of England and north into Scotland. Taliesin and Aneirin, 6th century Welsh poets, both lived in Scotland. Llywarch Hen was another Middle Welsh poet and king of a land in England not Wales. Resisting occupation is one thing, resisting cultural integration and destruction is another, and it can be argued that the Welsh have done better than either Irish or Scots in that regard, particularly with regard to language preservation. That is about all that's left in practical terms of a Celtic identity.

The Angles and Saxons were invaders, not indigenous to Britain any more than the Norse invaders who eventually settled in NE England were. They came in the 5th century and Celtic or proto Celtic languages were already being spoken. The Romans left Britain in 410 when the Emperor Honorious told the Britons they could no longer depend on Roman protection. Since the Romans had been fighting the Celts since they came, even built Hadiran's wall to keep invading Pictish in Scotland, I think we can assume Celts were well established before Angles, Saxons and Norse came almost a century later. The Norman conquest wasn't completed until 1066. I don't see how any of these invaders could be considered any more Insular Celts than the Romans could. They did not speak a Celtic tongue, nor did they ever acquire one. Anglo-Saxon or Old English is of the Germanic branch not the Celtic. English acquired many words from Old Norse in about the 7th or 8th centuries as well as grammatical changes, but had no significant influence from the Celtic tongues, which might suggest a certain lack of involvement with them, and certainly not an acquisition of their culture.

Posted by: Camac 03-Jul-2010, 06:13 PM
Your argument in regards to the Brythonic, and the Welsh will also find backing in the historical references of southern and south-western Scotland as the language was also spoken there. The Legendary Arthur, although those of the MacArthur clan will argue that he was not a legend but their progenitor, spoke Welsh and claimed kingship of three realms in that area.The argument that the Irish resisted Anglicization longer than the other celtic peoples of the island is a bit rocky. Not only the Welsh, but the Highlanders of Scotland and the Cornish and the Manxmen have resisted to this day despite the attempts to erase both the language and the culture.


Posted by: Antwn 03-Jul-2010, 08:33 PM
Hiya Camac!! Good to see you...well like this anyway.

Yes, that's what I was saying too, that's why I brought up the Welsh poets Taliesin and Aneirin who lived in Scotland. One can find in placenames in Scotland names of Brythonic origin as well, but don't ask me what they are...forgot. Ravages of age.

Be well my Cannuck friend. Don't spend all your loonies in one place!

Posted by: Camac 04-Jul-2010, 05:38 AM

HAPPY 4TH. Hope you have a safe wonderful Holiday. What other country in the world would have money that is called a Loonie and a Toonie ($2). As the saying goes "Only in Canada". Good to hear from you and it's good to be back. Kinda missed all you guys.

We have to keep an eye on the Irish. They'll steal all our thunder.


Posted by: Mailagnas maqqas Dunaidonas 04-Jul-2010, 06:48 AM
You are totally right. Thank you for correcting the oversight. I should have included Wales and Scotland with the Irish when contrasting the insular Celts who kept much of their Celtic identity while the Celts living in what is now England pretty much lost their Celtic identity following the successive waves of Roman, Anglo-Saxon,, Viking, a nd Norman invasions, and now consider themselves English, not Celts.
My apologies for creating confusion by overlooking the Scots and Welsh (I must have been really tired at the tlime, given my own Scots heritage).

Posted by: Antwn 04-Jul-2010, 07:50 AM
No problem friend. Besides the Welsh are commonly overlooked especially in the States. The Irish and Scots fever is so strong, not that there's a problem with that, I have Scottish ancestry too! Be well sir, and thanks for your information, its a fascinating subject, no? Wish we knew more about it. Maybe more archeological sites will be discovered and shed some light sometime in the future. At least the languages are still around.

Posted by: Camac 04-Jul-2010, 09:04 AM
Antwn & Mailagnas maqqas Dunaidonas;

You have piqued my interest in this subject so I am about to take the plunge and do some research. I do hope I will be forgiven if a certain amount of bias creeps in. I am after all a Scot by birth and a MacArthur by adoption.

The three ancient celtic kingdoms of Dariada, Strathclyde, and Rheged, covered most of the west coast of the Britain from the Isle of Skye to Wales and parts of Northern Ireland. The inhabitants spoke Brythonic Gaelic which is closley akin to Old Welsh. These people are the "Scotti" of Roman Britain and would eventually assimilate the Picts to become the modern day Scots. As I mentioned before the Clan MacArthur claims descent from the legendary Arthur who united the Kingdoms. On the Coat of arms of the MacArthur Chief you will see the three crowns representing these kingdoms. So up until the eventual conquest of England by the Saxons we were all the same people speaking the same language and following pretty well the same customs.

Of course to-day the mixture is quite different with the influx of the Norse, Danes, Angles, Saxons, and Norman. I will do more research into this part of our common history.


Posted by: Antwn 04-Jul-2010, 12:32 PM
One problem Camac, Brythonic is not Gaelic. Brythonic is one of the two branches of Celtic languages and also the name given to a language no one knows much about but which they suspect preceded the Brythonic branch languages, which are Welsh, Breton and Cornish. The other branch is the Goidelic which includes Gaelic, Scots Gaelic and Manx. The two branches are distinct but share some gramatical similarities such as lenition, or initial consonant mutation and I believe VSO word order, which Welsh has. Many people (including the site admin people here apparantly) think all the Celtic languages are Gaelic languages. That is not so.

Posted by: Camac 04-Jul-2010, 02:50 PM

My mistake I meant to say Brythonic Celt. Hey I'm an old fart and the minds not what it use to be. rolleyes.gif angel_not.gif

Posted by: Antwn 04-Jul-2010, 04:38 PM
QUOTE (Camac @ 04-Jul-2010, 03:50 PM)

My mistake I meant to say Brythonic Celt. Hey I'm an old fart and the minds not what it use to be. rolleyes.gif angel_not.gif

Oh I understand, I really do. I'm pushing...well, I won't say, but definitely been drafted by Nature to serve within the territory of Old Fartdom. My youth has gone bye-bye and I've acquired a deep affection for sleep. Silly me, I've been studying another language (Welsh) for a number of years and forget as much vocabulary as I learn sometimes. So "I meant to says" are becomming more commonplace for me too. Sigh.

Posted by: englishmix 04-Jul-2010, 04:43 PM
Interesting post. Thanks one and all. Its a good read.

Posted by: Camac 05-Jul-2010, 12:01 PM

I studied Welsh for awhile. I had a knockout dropdead beautiful Welsh girlfriend named Lynne James. She came from some place near that town that has the longest name in the world.


PS: Anyway it's all Greek to me.

Posted by: Islesman 06-Jul-2010, 06:15 AM
I came across this article and list of Celtic Tribes of Europe recently and thought it might help with research on the subject.

Some detail of the various tribes would be interesting if the researchers could add their findings.

History of the Celts

The story of the Celts begins in prehistory, the time before written records were kept. Originating in what is now Eastern Europe, the Celts appear to have moved west along the main trading arteries of the time, especially the river Danube, into modern Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France. By the beginning of the classical period (about 500 BC), they were a large group of tribes and races spread over a wide area of Europe, from Scotland and Ireland in the north-west to Russia in the east, and to the Mediterranean in the south.

By the time the existence of the Celts was recorded by the Greek writer Ephorus in the fourth century B.C., they were so numerous that he named them as one of the four great barbarian peoples in the world. Their unity was not that of a nation or empire in the Greek or Roman sense, but was more cultural in nature, with no clear central authority. Celtic tribes dominated a huge area, and had their own individual identities, but they shared many common roots including similarities in language, religion, and lifestyle. They probably called themselves something similar to Celts, from which the Greeks got their word for 'stranger' - keltoi.

Much of what we know about the Celtic culture of this period comes from two great archeological sites - one near Lake Halstatt in Austria, and the other at La Tène on the river Thielle in Switzerland. These sites have been a rich source of artifacts, and have provided us with some of the most beautiful artistic works of the Pagan Celtic era.

It is around 800 BC, with the Halstatt culture, that we can see the emergence of a distinctive and highly developed culture of craft and decoration - the first Golden Age of Celtic art. The decorations on the jewelry and other artifacts found at Halstatt had already developed the characteristics that we associate with Celtic art - spirals, animal designs (zoomorphs), knotwork and fretwork were all in evidence. Styles developed rapidly as the tribes and their chieftains became richer, sometimes through conquest, but also through trade. One German chief of around 550 BC was buried wearing a silk cloak which must have come originally from China.

From 500 BC to 100 AD, in what we now know as the La Tène period, the rate of stylistic development and innovation slowed, while the number of decorated items being produced increased greatly. This implies a small number of innovators and a lot of copiers, as the style became more popular and the general population wealthier. Oddly, the majority of artifacts are weapons, though this was not a time of great wars. Many of those which have survived were offerings, thrown into sacred wells and other shrines. This may mean that the weapons were not needed for real wars, especially if offering them to the gods kept the peace.

La Tène culture was profoundly affected, and in some areas completely displaced, by the advance of the Roman Empire. But the Celtic tribes survived, and in some cases thrived, during the Roman occupation - while most tribes initially fought against the Roman incursion, most were quickly defeated, and their people assimilated into the new Roman society. But in the furthest reaches of the Empire, the Celtic tribes resisted more firmly, especially in western areas of Britain, France and Asia Minor, where the tribes retained much of their culture and independence. And despite subsequent invasions, occupations and population displacement, this continuity of Celtic culture is maintained right through to the present day by the Celtic languages, which are still spoken in these areas. This is why our modern perspective associates the term Celtic with Wales, Ireland, Scotland, western England, and Brittany. It is also a major reason why the later Christian flowering of Celtic art arose in the British Isles.

Aduatuci- L Meuse River.
Aeduii- Mid-France, between Loire and Saône Rivers.
Allobroges- SE France near Lake Geneva
Ambarri- Mid-France kinsmen of Aedui
Ambiani- N France, near Amiens
Ambiliati- Allies of Veneti
Ambisontes- Alps
Ambivareti Subtribe of Aedui
Ambivariti- N of Meuse R.
Ambrones- Denmark, France, Central Europe
Anacalites- SE England
Anari- S. Po
Anartes- near Danube
Andes- N lower Loire R.
Aquitani- Aquitania S of Loire
Aremorican- Brittany
Arevacians- N Spain
Arverni- S France (Auvergne Mts.)
Atrebates- S England, N France
Atuatuci- France
Aulerci- S France
Ausci- Aquitanian tribe
Batavi- Rhine delta
Belgae- SW England, Belgium
Bellovaci- N France
Bibroci- SE England
Bigerriones- S France
Biturges- Mid-France, Bourges
Boii- M France, N Italy, Austria, S Germany
Breuci- Yugoslavia
Brigantes- N England
Britons (Britanni)- S England
Cadurci- SW France
Caereni- N Scotland
Caeroesi- Germanic
Caledones- N Scotland, Pictish
Caletes- NE France
Cantabri- N Spain coast
Carnuni- Alps
Carnutes- Mid France, SW of Paris, Orleáns
Cassi- SE England
Catalauni- N France
Caturiges- N Italy
Catuvellani- Mid-England
Celtae- Latin plural for Celts
Celtiberi- N Spain
Celtiberians- Group of tribes in Portugal & Spain
Cenimagni- SE England
Cenomani- Verona
Ceutrones- N Italy
Cimbri (Cimmerians?)- Denmark, Black Sea, France, Asia Minor
Cocosates- Aquitanian tribe
Condrusi- Germanic
Coritani- E England
Cornovii- N Scotland, Mid-England, Cornwall
Cotini- Czech Republic
Creones- W Scotland
Curiosolites- French W coast
Daci- Mid Balkans
Daesitiates- Yugoslavia
Damnonians- West Ireland
Damnonii- S Scotland
De Danann- Denmark, Ireland
Dardani- S Danube
Deceangli- N Wales
Decumates- S Germany
Delmatae- Yugoslavia
Demetae- W Wales
Diablintes- Veneti allies
Dorians- Celt like, Greece
Dumnonii- Cornwall, England
Durotiges- SE England
Eburones- Namur, France
Eburovices- N France
Elusates- Aquitanian tribe
Epidii- W Scotland
Eravisci- Hungary
Esubii- France W coast
Gabali- Near Averni
Gaesatae- N Italy
Galatians- Gallacia, Turkey not a tribe a general term
Galacians- Galacia, Spain perhaps the same as next
Gallaeci- Gallacia, Spain
Garumni- Aqutianian tribe
Geidumni- Nervii Subtribe
Grudii- Nervii subtribe
Harudes- Denmark, Central Europe ? Germanic
Helvetii- Switzerland
Helvii- Switzerland
Heraclids- Celt like, Greece
Iceni- E England
Insubres- N Italy, Milan
Laii- N Po
Latovici- Switzerland
Lemovices- North of Limoges, France
Lepontii- N Italy
Leuci- SE France
Levaci- Nervii subtribe
Lexovii- Normandy
Libici- N Po
Ligurians- N Italy, assimilated
Lingones- SE France, E Italy
Lusitanians- Portugal, Celtiberians
Maeatae- Scotland
Mandubii- NW France
Marcomanni- Austria ? Germanic
Mediomatrices- Alps
Meldi- E Paris
Melisians- Ireland
Menapii- Belgium, France
Morini- NE France, Artois
Namnetes- Brittany, France
Nantuates- Alps
Nemetes- S Germany ? Germanic
Nervii- Belgium, France
Nitiobriges- SW France
Novantae- England
Ordovices- Wales
Osismi- Brittany, France
Pannonii- Hungary
Parisii- Mid-England; Paris, France
Picts- W Scotland
Pictones- Western France
Pirustae- near Illyria
Pleumoxii- Nervii subtribe
Pretani- England
Ptainii- Aquitanian tribe
Raurici- Salzburg area
Redones- Brittany, France
Regni- SE England
Remi- N France, Belgium
Ruteni- S France
Saluvii- S France
Santones- W France
Scordisci- Yugoslavia
Seduni- upper Rhône
Segontiaci- SE England
Segusiavi- Lyons
Selgovae- N England
Senones- Mid - France, N Italy
Sequani- SE France
Sibuzates- Aquitanian tribe
Silures- S Wales
Sontiates- SW France
Suessiones- N France
Suetri- Alps
Suevi not a tribe, a sacral association of Celts (Langbards, Macromanni, Quadii and Senones)
Sugambri- France
Taezali- E Scotland
Tarrbelli- Aquitanian tribe
Tarusates- Aquitanian tribe
Taurini- Piedmont
Taurisci- Yugoslavia
Tectosages- Galatia, Turkey, Toulouse
Tencteri- France ? Germanic
Teutani- Another name for Teutones
Teutones- Denmark, Central Europe -Cimbri, France
Tevrisci- Slovakia
Tigurini- Bordeaux
Tolistobogii- Galatia, Turkey
Tolosates- N Italy
Treveri- S Germany, Belgium
Trinovantes- S England
Tricasses- N France
Trocmi- Galatia, Turkey
Trumpilini- Alps
Tulingi- NE of Helvetii
Turones- Near Tours, France
Ubii- N Rhine, France
Umbrians- Apennine peninsula, Mid Italy
Usipetes- France ? Germanic
Vangianes- France - Germanic
Veliocasses- Lower Seine R.
Velnani- Alps
Vendelici- S Germany
Venelli- Normandy
Venetii- Brittany, France
Venicones- E Scotland
Venoti- Alps
Veragri- Alps
Vindelici- Manching
Viromandui- NE France
Virusii- Alps
Vaccaei- Portugal, Celtiberians
Vocates- S France
Voconti- SE France
Volcae- S France
Volcae Arecomici- SE France
Volcae Tectosages- Czech Republic
Votadini- S Scotland

Celtic Tribes In Ireland
Amalgado - Killala area, Mayo
Baiscin - W. Clare
Cairpre Gabra ? Mide
Cairpre Dromma Cliab ? Carbury
Calraige - Ardagh, Carbury, Ballymote
Carbri Riada - Antrim & Alba (Dal Riada)
Carbris - NE Sligo, N Leitrim
Cenél Maine - Lough Forbes
Cenél Fiachach ? Durrow
Chera - Castlebar, Mayo
Ciarraige - N River Suck
Ciarraige Airtig - W Lough Gara
Clann Cholmáin ? Mide
Colla DaCrioch -
Colla Uais -
Colla Maen -
Conmaicne Cúile Tolad - E Lough Mask
Conmaicne Mara ? Connemara
Conmaicne Réin - Carrick-on-Shannon
Corca Mruad ? Burren
Corco Moga - W River Suck
Corco Fir Thri - W Lough Arrow
Cuircni - E Lough Ree
Dagda ? Inishowen
Dal Cais - Previoulsy known as Deisi, Dalcassians ? Thormond
De Danann -
Deagades - Subtribe of Earnaan ? Munster
Delbna Bethra ? Clonmacnoise
Delbna Nuadat - W Lough Ree
Delbna - Iar Connacht
Earnaan - Lough Erne, Kerry
Eberians - South Ireland
Eremonians - North Ireland
Fir Bolg - Fir Domnann, Domnanians ? Erris
Gailenga - Bohola, Mayo
Gamanrad - Glenamoy, Mayo
Grecraige - N Lough Gara
Ithians -
Locha - Iar Connacht
Luighe - W Cork
Luigni ? Sligo
Máenmag - S Lough Rea
Mag Réin - E Lough Bofin
Mag nAi ? Baslick
Mag nAirtig - S Lough Gara
Mag Luirg - S Lough Key
Medraige - Clarinbridge, Galway
Melisian - All of Ireland
Musciri -
Mruadh -
Muiresc - Inniscrone, Sligo
Osraige ? Munster
Partaige - S Lough Mask
Partholonian -
Rudricians ? Ulster
Sodhan - Ui Maine country
Sogain -
Tethbae- E River Suck
Ui Briuin Breifne ? Leitrim
Ui Ailello ? Boyle
Ui Briuin Sinna - W Lough Ree
Ui Failgi ? Offaly
Ui Neill ? Ulster
Ui Fiachrach Mauide - N Lough Conn
Ui Briuin Umaill - Between Westport and Newport, Mayo
Ui Fiachrach Aidne ? Kiltartan
Ui Briuin Seóla - Belclare, Galway
Ui Maine - S Connacht
Ui Briuin Ai - Central Connacht
Ultach -

Posted by: Camac 06-Jul-2010, 08:06 AM
The Celts like most Western Peoples came out of the Russian Steppes and migrated westward and southward. Those who eventually ended up in Ireland and Western Scotland came by way of the Iberian Peninsula working north along Europe's Atlantic seaboard. Others migrated through Northern and Central Europe and eventually into Briton. Some 6000 to 8000 years ago the English Channel was formed isolating these people from their Continental brothers. Thus Insular Celts. Although contact was maintained through trade and alliances the Celts of Briton began developing a distinctive culture and changes in their language. By the time of the Roman conquest all that was to become modern day Wales, England and Cornwall was populated by Brythonic Celts. To the north in what would become Scotland the inhabitants were Picts who quiet possible spoke the Brythonic language but there is no hard evidence that they did or did not. Three forms of the Celt language were spoken in the British Isles, Brythonic, Goidelic, and Cumbric. Of these languages Cumbric became extinct, Goidelic would evolve into both Irish and Scottish Gaelic, and Brythonic is still the basis for Cornish, Welsh and Bretton.


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