Barbarian Europe and
To take the broad perspective of European development, it can be said that the period 1300-1100 BC was a time of major reformation. It marked the end of an early cycle of food-producing economies (traditionally the Neolithic to the end of the Middle Bronze Age), which had culminated in the emergence of the Aegean-centred Mycenaean-Minoan 'civilization', and the beginning of a new cycle which was to see the rise and fall of the broader, Mediterranean-centred, civilization of the Graeco-Roman world. At its maximum extent, in the third century AD, the culminating Roman Empire was to stretch from the desert fringes of Africa in the south to the forests of the North European Plain and from the eastern deserts to the Atlantic. The collapse of that system in the fourth and fifth centuries AD created a turmoil from which western European civilization was to emerge to become, for a brief interlude from the late fifteenth to early twentieth centuries, the centre of a world system.
It is within this 'middle cycle'-- 1300 BC-AD 400--that the communities speaking a Celtic language and known to contemporary writers as an ethnically distinctive people called 'Celts' or 'Gauls' emerged and made their dramatic and lasting impact on the consciousness of their literate neighbours. To understand the origins of the Celts we must begin by considering the world they were to inhabit.
Europe's first civilization, focused on the island of Crete, began its spectacular development about 3000 BC, reaching its peak of energy and influence by the middle of the second millennium BC, by which time the island had become a centre for a widely flung exchange network linking the Aegean coasts of Asia Minor with the mainland of Greece. It was here, centred largely on the Peloponnese, that a peripheral zone developed whose archaeological manifestation