The Celtiberians dwelt in the Iberian Peninsula and spoke a Celtic language. They lived chiefly in what is now north central Spain.

Two other possibly Celtic languages, Tartessian and Lusitanian, were spoken in pre-Roman Iberia. The Lusitanii gave their name to Lusitania, the Roman province name covering current Portugal and Extremadura. Extant tribal names include the Arevaci, Belli, Titti, and Lusones.

Missing image
photograph of Botorrita 1 (both sides)

Celtiberian language

Very little remains of the language Celtiberians spoke. Any theories of their extinct language have to be grounded on the linguistic origins of some pre-Roman placenames ("toponyms") in the Iberian peninsula that survived long enough to be recorded in documents, on the formulas that were used in some personal names (giving hints of grammar), and on some untranslated inscriptions on bronze and lead plaques, written in an alphabet that combines Phoenician and Greek characteristics. Enough has been preserved to suggest that the Celtiberian language was Q-Celtic (like Goidelic), and not P-Celtic like Gaulish (Mallory 1989, p 106). Since Brythonic is P-Celtic too, but more closely related to Goidelic than to Gaulish (Insular Celtic), it followed that the P/Q division is paraphyletic: The change from q to p occurred in Brythonic and Gaulish at a time when they were already separate languages, rather than constituting a division that marked a separate branch in the "family tree" of the Celtic languages. A change from PIE kw (q) to p also occurred in some Italic languages: compare Oscan pis, pid ("who, what?") with Latin quis, quid.

The longest extant Celtiberian inscriptions are those on three Botorrita plaques, bronze plaques from Botorrita near Saragossa, dating to the early 1st century BC, labelled Botorrita I, III and IV (Botorrita II is in the Latin language).


The Celtiberians had their largest impact on history during the Second Punic War, during which they became the (perhaps unwilling) allies of Carthage in its conflict with Rome, and crossed the Alps under Hannibal's command. As a result of the defeat of Carthage, the Celtiberians first submitted to Rome in 195 BC; In 182 to 179 T. Sempronius Gracchus spent years pacifying (as the Romans put it) the Celtiberians; however, conflicts between various semi-independent bands of Celtiberians continued. After the Numantine War (154 - 133), Roman cultural influences increased; this is the period of the earliest Botorrita inscibed plaque; later plaques, significantly, are inscribed in Latin. The war with Sertorius, 79 - 72, marked the last formal resistance of the Celtiberian cities to Roman domination, which submerged the Celtiberian culture.

See also


  • Antonio Arribas, The Iberians 1964.
  • Wolfgang Meid, Celtiberian Inscriptions, Budapest 1994 (Archaeolingua, edd. S. Bknyi and W. Meid, Series Minor, 5), p. 12–13.
  • Javier de Hoz, The Botorrita first text. Its epigraphical background; in: Die greren altkeltischen Sprachdenkmler. Akten des Kolloquiums Innsbruck 29. April - 3. Mai 1993, edd. v. W. Meid und P. Anreiter, Innsbruck 1996, p. 124–145.
  • J. P. Mallory, In Search of the Indo-Europeans (Thames & Hudson, 1989), ISBN 0-500-05052-X

External links

nl:Keltiberisch pl:Celtyberowie pt:Celtiberos sv:Keltiberer zh:凱爾特伊比利亞人


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