Celts and the Classical World

By David Rankin | Go to book overview

7

Cisalpine Literary Talent

In spite of Polybius’ assertion (2.35.4) that by his time the Celts had been driven out of the Po valley, the incidence of Celtic inscriptions and Celtic names in these inscriptions tells a different story (Chilver 1941:7 1ff). Even in imperial times a name as Celtic as Boduac Tritiac occurs. But already in the second century BC the process of Romanisation had begun, as is suggested by bilingual inscriptions such as that of Todi (Polomé 1983:519). People had begun to change their names from Celtic to Roman forms: Briona becomes Quintus (Chevallier 1962:367). Celtic cults persisted: Belenus was worshipped; also the Matronae, who are no doubt the triple goddesses known elsewhere in the Celtic world. We hear of the Fatae Dervones (dervos, ‘oak’) who possibly were connected with woodland precincts.

In a sequence of generations of Romanising families, names change from Celtic to fully flowering Roman triplexes with wonderful suddenness. In addition, we must not forget the influence of Italian settling families, such as the Caecilii and the Valerii (Chilver 1941:75), whose gentile names were taken over by friends and clients. Celts mixed readily with Ligurians and Veneti as well as Italic and Greek people. Assimilation also took place on the level of material culture, but this did not mean that local culture disappeared. There appears to be evidence that in the second century AD the Celtic language still survived (Aul. Gel. NA 2.7.35)—unless the abverb Gallice simply means ‘speaking with a Celtic accent’. Romans, like Anglo-Saxons, found the speech of other nations diverting, from the mere fact of its difference. Some Cisalpines liked to have their children educated at Rome, but there were those who preferred the excellent local schools. Virgil, whose family was probably not of Celtic descent (Gordon 1934),

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