The Celtici (in Portuguese, Spanish, and Galician languages, Célticos) were a Celtic tribe or group of tribes of the Iberian peninsula, inhabiting three definite areas: in what today are the regions of Alentejo and the Algarve in Portugal; in the Province of Badajoz and north of Province of Huelva in Spain, in the ancient Baeturia; and along the coastal areas of Galicia. Classical authors give various accounts of the Celtici's relationships with the Gallaeci, Celtiberians and Turdetani.

Iberian Peninsula at about 200 BC
Main language areas, peoples and tribes in Iberian Peninsula c. 300 BC., according to epigraphy and toponymy, based on the map by Luís Fraga.

Classical sources

Map of the main pre-Roman tribes in Portugal and their migrations. Turduli movement in red, Celtici in brown and Lusitanian in blue.

Several classical sources, Greek and Roman, mentioned the Celtici.

Strabo (3, 1, 6) echoed Poseidonius when he mentioned the Keltikoi as the main inhabitants of the region located between the rivers Tagus and Guadiana, approximately where the Alentejo (Portugal) stands today.[1]

The Celtici were not considered a barbarian people. On the contrary, they were what the Greeks considered a civilized people, almost in the same degree as the Turdetani.

They shared the same 'gentle and civilized' character of the Turdetani. Strabo put this down to the fact that they were neighbouring populations, and Polybius proposed that they were related, 'although the Celtici are less [civilized] because they generally live in hamlets (Str., 3, 2, 15)'.[1]

Their main cities were Lacobriga (probably Lagos in the Algarve), Caepiana (in Alentejo), Braetolaeum, Miróbriga (near Santiago do Cacém), Arcobriga, Meribriga, Catraleucus, Turres, Albae and Arandis (near Castro Verde and Ourique). Other important cities were Nertobriga, Turobriga, Segida, Ebora, Caetobriga and Eburobrittium (Óbidos), among other settlements.

They appear to be the main group responsible for the celticization of the Conii, in the Algarve.[citation needed]

Their most famous city was Conistorgis (Str., 3, 2, 2), which, according to different sources, belonged to the Cunetes or Conii (App., Iber. 56-60). Similarly, Strabo (3, 2, 15) indicated that the Celtici established colonies, such as Pax Julia (Beja).[1]

The origin of the Baeturian Celts was, according to Pliny, from the Celtici of Lusitania and were also kin to the Gallaeci:[2]

Latin: Celticos a Celtiberis ex Lusitania advenisse manifestum est sacris, lingua, oppidorum vocabulis, quae cognominibus in Baetica distinguntur.[3]

The Celtici from Guadiana had blood links with the Galician Celts, since there had been large-scale migration to the northwest of these Celts along with the Turduli (Str., 3, 3, 5).[1]

...[Pliny considers the Celtici who extend into Baetica] to have migrated from Lusitania which he appears to regard as the original seat of the whole Celtic population of the Iberian peninsula including the Celtiberians, on the ground of an identity of sacred rites, language, and names of cities.[4]

These migratory patterns have persisted on the same axis until modern times, supporting a centuries-old traditional and seasonal farming and animal husbandry transhumance along the ancient Roman or Carthaginian Silver road that served for its rich mines production transport, and for the Astorga region peddlers and wagoneers, the Maragatos.

Pliny also noted that already in Roman times the inhabitants of Miróbriga (one of the Celtic cities of the region, near Santiago do Cacém) used the surname of Celtici: "Mirobrigenses qui Celtici cognominantur".[5] In the sanctuary of Miróbriga a resident leaves their Celtic origin recorded:



Traditional theories hold that the Celtici were a group that included several populi, namely the Saefes and the Cempsii, of unknown origin, which according to modern research possibly belonged to one of the first settlements of Celtic origin; and initially perhaps also the possible proto-Lusitanians (the Ligus, Lusis or Lycis), all mentioned in the Ora Maritima ("Sea Coasts") of Avienus,[7][8] and possibly reinforced with subsequent waves.

The Celtici of Alentejo and Baeturia

Celtic expansions in western Europe (Celtici - south Portugal and south-western Spain).

The main Eburones’ cities were their presumed capital Ebora (Évora), Segovia (archeological site near Campo Maior, Elvas), the coastal town of Mirobriga Celticorum (archeological site near Santiago do Cacém), and five other towns within Alentejo. Around the 3rd Century BC they managed to push southwards towards the western Algarve coast where they founded the port of Laccobriga (Monte Molião, near Lagos) in Conii territory.[9] In Baeturia, the Bituriges set their capital at Nertobriga (Cerro del Coto, Fregenal de la Sierra – Badajoz) whilst the Turones placed theirs at Turobriga (Llanos de La Belleza, near ArocheHuelva) and both peoples controlled six other cities.

The Celtici of Ultima Celtiberia

In Baetica the Celtici held or had a presence in some city-states, namely Celti (Peñaflor – Seville), Urso (Osuna – Seville), Obulco/Obulcula (Castillo de la Monclova, Fuentes de Andalucía – Seville; Iberian-type mint: Ipolca), Tribola (BaenaCórdoba), Munda (Montilla? – Córdoba), Tucci/Itucci (Los Martos, near Jaén – Córdoba), Turobriga (Turón – Granada), Cartima (Cártama – Málaga), Arunda (Ronda – Málaga) and Acinipo (Ronda la Vieja – Málaga).

The Celtici of Gallaecia

Further North in Gallaecia, another group of Celtici[10] dwelt the coastal areas. They comprised several populi, including the Celtici proper: the Praestamarci south of the Tambre river (Tamaris), the Supertamarci north of it, and the Neri by the Celtic promontory (Promunturium Celticum), whom Strabo considered related to the Celtici of Lusitania, settled in Gallaecia after a military campaign held jointly with the Turduli Veteres. Pomponius Mela affirmed that all the inhabitants of the coastal regions, from the bays of southern Gallaecia and up to the Astures, were also Celtici: "All (this coast) is inhabited by the Celtici, except from the Douro river to the bays, where the Grovi dwelt (…) In the north coast first there are the Artabri, still of the Celtic people (Celticae gentis), and after them the Astures."[11] He also mentioned the fabulous isles of tin, the Cassiterides, as situated among these Celtici.[12]

The Celtici Supertarmarci have also left a number of inscriptions,[13] as the Celtici Flavienses did.[14] Several villages and rural parishes still bear the name Céltigos (from Latin Celticos) in Galicia. This is also the name of an archpriesthood of the Catholic Church, a division of the archbishopric of Santiago de Compostela, encompassing part of the lands attributed to the Celtici Supertamarci by ancient authors.[15]


Archaeology[which?] confirms that the material culture of the southwestern Celtici was deeply influenced by the Arevaci of Celtiberia and beyond, as their metalwork shows strong parallels with south-central Gaul, Liguria, Etruria, and central Italy. The Baetic Celtici soon fell under the cultural influence of their Iberian Turdetani neighbors, as well as receiving Hellenistic elements from the Carthaginians.


Submitted to Carthaginian rule just prior to the 2nd Punic War, the Celtici of Alentejo and Beturia recovered their independence in 206 BC whereas their Baetic counterparts simply shifted their allegiance from Carthage to the Roman Republic. In 197 BC the Ultima Celtiberia was included in the new Hispania Ulterior Province, though they were only conquered by the Ulterior Praetor Tiberius Gracchus in 179 BC. The Beturian Celtici tribes however, rose in support of a Turdetanian rebellion soon afterwards,[16] and allied with the Lusitani and Vettones, promptly began to raid the lands of the Roman Hispanic allies in Baetica and the Cyneticum throughout the 2nd Century BC. They proved to be the most reliable allies of the Lusitani – whose chieftain Viriathus used western Beturia as a rear base for its military operations on the south – in deep contrast to the Celtici city-states of Baetica, who frequently changed sides according to circumstances.[17] When the tide turned against the Lusitani in 141 BC, the Beturian Celtici were subjected to the punitive campaigns conducted in the Iberian southwest by Consul Quintus Fabius Maximus Servilianus, who invaded eastern Beturia and plundered five towns allied with Viriathus.[18]


  1. The Celts in Iberia: An Overview
  2. Philip Baldi; Pietro U. Dini; Villar (2004). "The Celtic Language of the Iberian Peninsula". Studies in Baltic and Indo-European Linguistics: In Honor of William R. Schmalstieg. John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 247–. ISBN 1-58811-584-4. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  4. Sir William Smith (1854), Dictionary of Greek and Roman geography, Volume 2, Boston, Little, Brown and Company.
  5. http://revistas.ucm.es/index.php/GERI/article/viewFile/GERI8888220019A/14757.pdf Archived 2011-10-17 at the Wayback Machine Breve noticia sobre o santuário campestre romano de Miróbriga dos Célticos (in Portuguese)
  6. The Celts in Portugal, Teresa Júdice Gamito, University of Algarve, Volume 6 / The Celts in the Iberian Peninsula - E-Keltoi, Center for Celtic Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2008 Archived 2017-10-11 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Alarcão, Jorge. Populi, Castella and Gentilitates. Guimarães magazine. Special volume I, Guimarães, 1999. Casa de Sarmento.
  8. "Tartessian".
  9. Celtici: Pomponius Mela and Pliny; Κελτικοί: Strabo
  10. 'Totam Celtici colunt, sed a Durio ad flexum Grovi, fluuntque per eos Avo, Celadus, Nebis, Minius et cui oblivionis cognomen est Limia. Flexus ipse Lambriacam urbem amplexus recipit fluvios Laeron et Ullam. Partem quae prominet Praesamarchi habitant, perque eos Tamaris et Sars flumina non longe orta decurrunt, Tamaris secundum Ebora portum, Sars iuxta turrem Augusti titulo memorabilem. Cetera super Tamarici Nerique incolunt in eo tractu ultimi. Hactenus enim ad occidentem versa litora pertinent. Deinde ad septentriones toto latere terra convertitur a Celtico promunturio ad Pyrenaeum usque. Perpetua eius ora, nisi ubi modici recessus ac parva promunturia sunt, ad Cantabros paene recta est. In ea primum Artabri sunt etiamnum Celticae gentis, deinde Astyres.', Pomponius Mela, De Chorographia, III, 7-9.
  11. Pomponius Mela, De Chorographia, III, 40.
  12. Eburia / Calveni f(ilia) / Celtica / Sup(ertamarca) Cf. Epigraphik-Datenbank Clauss / Slaby Archived 2011-08-25 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. [Do]quirus Doci f(ilius) / [Ce]lticoflavien(sis); Cassius Vegetus / Celti Flaviensis.
  14. Álvarez, Rosario, Francisco Dubert García, Xulio Sousa Fernández (ed.) (2006). Lingua e territorio (PDF). Santiago de Compostela: Consello da Cultura Galega. pp. 98–99. ISBN 84-96530-20-5.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  15. Livy, Ad Urbe Condita, 33: 21, 6.
  16. Diodorus Siculus, Bibliothekes Istorikes, 33, 7, 4-7.
  17. Appian, Iberiké, 68.

See also


Further reading

  • Alberto Lorrio J. Alvarado, Los Celtíberos, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Murcia (1997) ISBN 84-7908-335-2
  • Francisco Burillo Mozota, Los Celtíberos, etnias y estados, Crítica, Barcelona (1998, revised edition 2007) ISBN 84-7423-891-9