Pre Roman Europe? What was it like?

May 2018
66
On earth.
#1
Traditional history narrarates that the Europeans of Pre-Roman France, Iberia, Germany, and Brittain were relatively primitive tribes who the romans conquered, and romanized without too much difficulty, and often leaves it at that - infact, modern Europe takes pride in the fact that they descend from Rome, yet, with the discovery of things like Danube River cultures, I pose this question: How much of this narrative is actually true? I wouldn't think much of it is, but I'm interested in the opinions of those who may be more knowledgable on Pre-Roman european history.
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
4,867
Canary Islands-Spain
#2
Many peoples from Iberia and Gaul were just a bit behind Romans of the their time. Writing, cities and complex political organization, in short Civilization, existen centuries before the arrival of the Romans
 
Likes: macon
Jan 2015
2,698
MD, USA
#3
Yeah, I would be very careful about the term "primitive", even if that's how the Romans may have thought! They were certainly tribal people, but we know such societies could have very sophisticated class systems, governments, law systems, art of all sorts, etc. There was international trade, road networks, plenty of wealth. They just didn't have the written literature and wider literacy that came with the Greeks and Romans, nor the massive amount of brick and stone architecture, larger unity, and other "Imperial" things.

Matthew
 

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
2,382
Las Vegas, NV USA
#4
Do you mean European cultures before Rome's founding, before the Roman Republic or when expanding Rome came in contact with Celtic and Germanic peoples? When Rome was founded even Greece was emerging from a dark age. The Celts attacked northern Roman outposts around 300 BC and may have threatened Rome itself. Germans displaced Celts by 100 BC except in Gaul. The Romans respected the fighting ability of both but nevertheless considered them barbarians. We know the Celts used iron before the Romans and built wagons with pivoting front axles that allowed them to make turns. Romans never took advantage of this invention AFAIK, probably because it was the work of "barbarians". Gauls also lived in fortified villages with gabled houses. However they fought each other allowing both the Romans and Germans to take advantage. By 50 BC Gaul was a Roman province and the Germans had largely pushed the other Celts off the continent. Iberian Celts had already been conquered by Rome by this time.
 
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Likes: HiddenHistory
Dec 2009
6,647
#6
Traditional history narrarates that the Europeans of Pre-Roman France, Iberia, Germany, and Brittain were relatively primitive tribes who the romans conquered, and romanized without too much difficulty, and often leaves it at that - infact, modern Europe takes pride in the fact that they descend from Rome, yet, with the discovery of things like Danube River cultures, I pose this question: How much of this narrative is actually true? I wouldn't think much of it is, but I'm interested in the opinions of those who may be more knowledgable on Pre-Roman european history.
Pre Roman Europe outside of Iberia and Italt

1. No cities as such. No urban elite

2. No literate society - there were runes and such, but they weren't being used to write letters, write books, compose poems, write history and such

3. No modern nations, with developed bureaucracies, a developed system of taxation, centralized courts, and the like. The king was just a strong man who had a lot of cattle, land to support him and his followers. Little ability to build roads, bridges, or other infrastructure
 
Feb 2011
5,835
#7
The Celts lived in walled Oppidums of varying size, these are reproductions of the larger ones:




The Germans seem to be way less settled by relying more on pastoralism than farming, at least according to Caesar:

The customs of the Germans differ widely from those of the Gauls; for neither have they Druids to preside over religious services, nor do they give much attention to sacrifices. They count in the number of their gods those only whom they can see, and by whose favors they are clearly aided; that is to say, the Sun, Vulcan, and the Moon. Of other deities they have never even heard. Their whole life is spent in hunting and in war. From childhood they are trained in labor and hardship.
They are not devoted to agriculture, and the greater portion of their food consists of milk, cheese, and flesh. No one owns a particular piece of land, with fixed limits, but each year the magistrates and the chiefs assign to the clans and the bands of kinsmen who have assembled together as much land as they think proper, and in whatever place they desire, and the next year compel them to move to some other place. They give many reasons for this custom---that the people may not lose their zeal for war through habits established by prolonged attention to the cultivation of the soil; that they may not be eager to acquire large possessions, and that the stronger may not drive the weaker from their property; that they may not build too carefully, in order to avoid cold and heat; that the love of money may not spring up, from which arise quarrels and dissensions; and, finally, that the common people may live in contentment, since each person sees that his wealth is kept equal to that of the most powerful.
23. It is a matter of the greatest glory to the tribes to lay waste, as widely as possible, the lands bordering their territory, thus making them uninhabitable. They regard it as the best proof of their valor that their neighbors are forced to withdraw from those lands and hardly any one dares set foot there; at the same time they think that they will thus be more secure, since the fear of a sudden invasion is removed. When a tribe is either repelling an invasion or attacking an outside people, magistrates are chosen to lead in the war, and these are given the power of life and death. In times of peace there is no general magistrate, but the chiefs of the districts and cantons render justice among their own people and settle disputes. Robbery, if committed beyond the borders of the tribe, is not regarded as disgraceful, and they say that it is practiced for the sake of training the youth and preventing idleness. When any one of the chiefs has declared in an assembly that he is going to be the leader of an expedition, and that those who wish to follow him should give in their names, they who approve of the undertaking, and of the man, stand up and promise their assistance, and are applauded by the people. Such of these as do not then follow him are looked upon as deserters and traitors, and from that day no one has any faith in them. To mistreat a guest they consider to be a crime. They protect from injury those who have come among them for any purpose whatever, and regard them as sacred. To them the houses of all are open and food is freely supplied. -De Bello Gallico
If I write down everything Caesar recorded about Celtic culture and government then I would easily run over the posting word limit. But here's a link to much of what he had to say: Julius Caesar, Commentaries on the Gallic War | Exploring Celtic Civilizations
It gives me a feeling of a feudal/patronage based culture.
 
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Likes: HiddenHistory
#8
Pre Roman Europe outside of Iberia and Italy

1. No cities as such. No urban elite

2. No literate society - there were runes and such, but they weren't being used to write letters, write books, compose poems, write history and such
There are no pre-Roman runes. Runes were derived from italic alphabets, possibly even the Latin one itself, after Germanic-speaking peoples had come into contact with Rome. The earliest runic inscriptions only date to the 2nd century CE.
 
Aug 2018
285
london
#9
Traditional history narrarates that the Europeans of Pre-Roman France, Iberia, Germany, and Brittain were relatively primitive tribes who the romans conquered, and romanized without too much difficulty
Well the Romans were slaughtered by the Germans at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, and they gave up trying to conquer Germania after that. It's described by historians as 'Rome's greatest defeat'. Instead the Germans ended up taking over the western Roman Empire.
 
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Aug 2018
285
london
#10
Pre Roman Europe outside of Iberia and Italy

1. No cities as such. No urban elite

2. No literate society - there were runes and such, but they weren't being used to write letters, write books, compose poems, write history and such

3. No modern nations, with developed bureaucracies, a developed system of taxation, centralized courts, and the like. The king was just a strong man who had a lot of cattle, land to support him and his followers. Little ability to build roads, bridges, or other infrastructure

That's wrong. See below.
 
Likes: saltyshanker