|Areas of exapnsion of the Celtic Greek and Phoenician language|
The ancient Greeks knew about the existence of Celts since the 6th century BC. It was the time of the second Greek colonization during which the ancient Greeks founded colonies in the Western Mediterranean.
Massilia(Nowadays Marseilles in France) was the first Greek colony which developed contacts and diplomatic relationships with the Celts in Gaul. These relations were from time to time either peaceful or hostile. The ancient Greeks considered the Celts among the nations with the largest population in the world. They also created myths about the origins of the Celts. According to one tradition, the Cyclops Polyphemus and the Nereid Galateia were the parents of Galatis(meaning Gaul the ancestor of Gauls) while in an alternative version Hercules who wandered in Western Europe was the father of Galatis.
The ancient Greeks were using two names for the Celts: Keltai and Galatae. The names derive from the Celtic language meaning probably strong, valiant or prominent.
The place where the Celts originated from, was Southern Germany. From there , they expanded and until the 5th century BC they had settled allover the western Europe. During the 5th century they invaded the Po valley in Northern Italy and drove back the Etruscans. In the beginning of the 4rth century they invaded further into the Italian peninsula and sacked Rome(390 BC). The Romans never forgot this and when they rose to power and conquered the Gaulish lands they treated the Celts with ferocity. The Celts also expanded towards the East reaching even the Northern shores of the Black sea.
The founding of Massalia
|Gyptis the daughter of a local Celt chieftain chose Protis as her husband giving him the right to establish a new Greek colony.|
Protis a leader of Greek colonists , while exploring for a new trading outpost or emporion for Phocaea, discovered the Mediterranean cove of the Lacydon, fed by a freshwater stream and protected by two rocky promontories. Protis was invited inland to a banquet held by the chief of the local Ligurian tribe for suitors seeking the hand of his daughter Gyptis in marriage. At the end of the banquet, Gyptis presented the ceremonial cup of wine to Protis, indicating her unequivocal choice. Following their marriage, they moved to the hill just to the north of the Lacydon; and from this settlement grew Massalia.
Celtic mercenaries in Greece
|The physical appearance of the Celtic warriors was intimidating for the Ancient Greeks whose average height was shorter comparing to the Celts.|
In 369 BC during a war between the Thebans(Boeotian alliance) and the Spartans, Celtic mercenaries appeared for a first time in the Greek battlegrounds. They were hired and sent by the ally of Sparta the tyrrant Dionysos ruler of the Sicilian city of Syracuse. The Celts numbered 2.000 warriors including horsemen. They proved to be exceptionally brave and caused many casualties on their enemies. In 368 BC Dionysos sent again a new army of Celts from Gaul whose help was crucial for the Spartans to achieve many victorious battles .
Alexander the Great and the Celts
In 335 BC Alexander the Great campaigned to the areas around Danube in order to secure his northern western border before invading the Persian empire. After he defeated many of the strongest tribes of the region most of the rest of the weaker tribes sent emissaries to offer alliances and peace treaties. Among them there were also representatives of Celts from the Adriatic. During the meeting with the Celts Alexander asked them what is the thing they were most afraid of . They answered that they fear the possibility of the sky falling on their heads. Alexander misunderstood this phrase, but for the Celts it was a symbolic ceremonial phrase by which they were expressing their commitment to the agreement with Alexander. This tradition is continued until nowadays when it comes to Celtic oaths.