Ellen Sinatra wrote:
> Last night a learned friend informed me that the word "Celt" is
> a construction, made up sometime in the 18th century. This
> morning I have been trying to trace this down with no luck so
> far. Can any of you help me understand what that might be about.
> Is it true? What was the term(s) used prior to that time?
For the main contributions of the "celtosceptic party" in modern academe
see Simon James, The Atlantic Celts. Ancient People or Modern Invention?
London 1999 and Malcolm Chapman, The Celts. The Construction of a Myth.
London and New York 1992.
Your friend has misinformed you inasfar, as it is not the word "Celt"
that is a modern construction, but rather the meanings associated with
this word today are. The term itself is first appears c 500 BC as
"keltoi", a term used by Hekataios from Milet to describe the
inhabitants in the vicinity of the then newly founded Greek colony
Massalia, modern Marseille in France. About 450 BC, Herodot gives a
somewhat more detailed location of them as living "at the sources of the
Danube" and on the Atlantic coast, once again refering to them as
However, the idea that there was "one great Celtic people" living over
half of Europe by about that time, speaking a language that was an
ancestor of the modern "Celtic" languages and in general being the
cultural and also "national" ancestors of the modern "Celtic" peoples is
- at least partly - an invention of the 17th-18th century AD.
All the best,