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CELTIBE´RIA (Κελτιβηρία, Polyb., Strab., Caes., Liv. &c.: Eth. Celtiber, pl. Eth. Celtiberi, Eth. Κελτίβηρες), was the name of a large inland district of Spain, comprising the central plateau (media inter duo maria, Liv. 28.1), which divides the basin of the Iberus (Ebro) from the rivers flowing to the W., and corresponding to the SW. half of Aragon, nearly the whole of Cuenca and Soria, and a great part of Burgos. These were about the limits of Celtiberia Proper; but, the name was used in a much wider sense, through the power which the Celtiberians obtained over the surrounding tribes so that, for example, Polybius made it extend beyond the sources of the Anas (Guadiana) even to those of the Baetis (Guadalquivir: Strab. iii. p.148), and he mentions the mountain range which reaches the sea above Saguntum, as the boundary of Iberia and Celtiberia. (Plb. 3.17.2.) So we find both Hemeroscopium on the Pr. Dianium (C. S. Martin, and CASTULO on the Baetis, named as in Celtiberia. (Artemidor. ap. Steph. B. sub voce Ἡμεροσκοπεῖον; Plut. Sert. 3.) In fact, it would seem that, under the Romans, Celtiberia was often used as a term equivalent to Hispania Citerior (excepting, perhaps, the NE. part, between the Pyrenees and the Ebro), and that, as the boundaries of the latter were extended, so was the signification of the former. (Plin. Nat. 4.21. s. 36; Solin. 23; Salinas. ad Solin. p. 197; Ukert, vol. ii. pt. 1. p. 305.)

The Celtiberians were believed to have originated in a union of the indigenous Iberians with Celts from Gaul, who were the earliest foreign invaders of the peninsula, and whose union gave rise to a nation distinguished by the best qualities of both peoples, and which speedily became great and powerful. (Diod. 5.33; Strab. i. p.33, iii. pp. 158,162; Appian. Hisp. 2; Lucan. iv, 9:--“Profugique a gente vetusta Gallorum Celtae miscentes nomen Hiberis:”

comp. CELTICI; and, on the whole subject, see HISPANIA

Strabo (iii. p.162) describes their country as commencing on the SW. side of M. IDUBEDA which divided it from the basin of the Ebro. It was large and irregular, the greater part of it being rugged and intersected with rivers; for it contained the sources of all the great rivers which flow W. across the peninsula, the ANAS, TAGUS, and DURIUS except the BAETIS and this too, as we have seen, is assigned by Polybius to Celtiberia. The Celtiberi were bounded on the N. by the BERONES and the Bardyitae or VARDULI; on the W. by some of the ASTURES Callaïci [GALLAECI], VACCAEI, VETTONES, and CARPETANI; on the S. by the ORETANI and by those of the BASTETANI and EDETANI who inhabit M. OROSPEDA; and on the E. by M. IDUBEDA This description applies to the Celtiberi in the widest sense of the name. They were divided, he adds, into four tribes, of whom he only mentions two, the AREVACAE, who were the most powerful, and the LUSONES Pliny (3.3. s. 4) mentions, as Celtiberians, first the Arevacae (Celtiberi Arevacae), and afterwards the PELENDONES (Pelendones Celtiberorum, quatuor populis, quorum Numantini clari: where it is doubtful whether the IV. populis refers to Pelendones or Celtiberorum: if to the former, he disagrees with Strabo and others, who assign Numantia to the Arevacae). The BELLI and the TITTI (or Dittani) are also mentioned as Celtiberian peoples (Plb. 35.2; Appian. Hisp. 44). Ptolemy uses the name in a narrower sense: his Celtiberi are bounded on the N. by the Arevacae (whom he places S. of the Pelendones and Berones), on the W. by the Carpetani, on the S. by the Oretani, and on the E. by the Lobetani and Edetani.

The nature of the country and the habits of the people combined to prevent their having many considerable cities; and on this ground Strabo charges Polybius with gross exaggeration in stating that Tiberius Gracchus destroyed 300 cities of the Celtiberians (26.4), a number which could only be made up by counting every petty fort taken in the war (Strab. iii. p.163). The chief cities, besides NUMANTIA, SEGEDA, and PALLANTIA and others which belonged to the AREVACAE, BERONES, and PELENDONES were the following:--The capital was SEGOBRIGA which some identify with the Segeda just named, and with the Segestica of Livy (34.17). On the great road which ran W. from Caesaraugusta (Zaragoza) to Asturica (Itin. Ant. pp. 442, 443), were: 37 M. P., CARAVIS; 18 M. P. TURIASO (Τουριασώ, Ptol. l.c., Tarazona); and, on a branch road from Turiaso to Caesaraugusta were: 20 M. P. from the former BALSIO or Belliso (comp. Itin. p. 451 : at or near Boria); and, 20 M. P. from Balsio, and 16 from Caesaraugusta, ALLOBON or Alavona (Ἀλαυῶνα: Alagon, Ptol. 2.6.67), which Ptolemy assigns to the Vascones. On the road leading SW. from Caesaraugusta to Toletum and Emerita were: 16 M. P. from Caesaraugusta, SEGONTIA (at or near Epila), apparently the Segontia which belonged to the Arevacae, and to be distinguished from the other Segontia, to be mentioned directly (Itin. Ant. pp. 437, 439): 14 M. P. further, NERTOBRIGA (Itin. ll. cc. Νερτόβριγα, Ptol. l.c.: Almunia); then 21 M. P., BILBILIS and, 24 M. P., AQUAE BILBITANORUM; then, 16 M. P., ARCOBRIGA; then, 23 M. P., SEGONTIA (Siguenza), apparently the Seguntia Celtiberum of Livy (34.19); then 23 [p. 1.582]M. P. CAESADA (Κέσαδα Καίσαδα, Ptol. l.c.), at or near Brihuega on the Tajuna, 24 M. P. from ARRIACA of the CARPETANI Another road ran south through M. Idubeda from Caesaraugusta to LAMINIUM near the source of the Anas (Itin. Ant. p. 447), on which were: 28 M. P., SERMO (Muel?); CARAE (Cariñena); 10 M. P., AGIRIA (Daroca); 6 M. P. ALBONICA (probably Puerta de Daroca); 25 M. P. URBIACA seemingly the Urbicua of Livy (11.16; but the reading is uncertain, see Drakenborch, ad loc.: now Molina, Lapie; others identify it with Alcaroches or Checa); 20 M. P. VALEBONGA or Valeponga (Valsolebre, Lapie; Val de Meca, Cortes); 40 M. P. AD PUTEA (Cuenca, Lapie); 32 M.P., SALTICI (S. Maria del Campo, Lapie; Jorquera, Cortes); 16 M.P., PARIETINIS (S. Clemrente, Lapie; Chinchilla, Cortes); 22 M. P. LIBISOSIA (Lezuza), 14 M. P. from the source of the Anas: but the last place very likely belonged to the Oretani. Among the cities not mentioned in the Itinerary were: ERGAVICA (Plin. Nat. 3.3. s. 4: Ἐργαούικα, Ptol. l.c.) or Ergavia (Liv. 11.50), a municipium belonging to the conventus of Caesaraugusta (coins ap. Florez, Med. de Esp. vol. ii. p. 426 ; Mionnet, vol. i. p. 43, Suppl. vol. i. p. 86; Sestini p. 145; Eckhel, vol. i. p. 50; Inscr. ap. Gruter, p. 382, No. 9), the considerable ruins of which, at the confluence of the Guadiela and the Tagus, are called Santaver (Morales, Antig. p. 102; Florez, Esp. S. vol. vii. p 61); BURSADA, (Βούρσαδα, Ptol. l.c.), near the last place (coins ap. Sestini, Med. Isp. p. 113); CENTOBRIGA near Nertobriga, if not the same place [NERTOBRIGA]: ATTACUM: CONTREBIA: COMPLEGA: VALERIA (Οὐαλερία, Ptol. Valera la Vieja, in a very strong position near the Sucro, Jucar, S. of Cuenca, Ru.), a Roman colony, belonging to the conventus of New Carthage (Plin. Nat. 3.3. s. 4: Florez, Esp. S. viii. p. 198, comp. v. p. 19, vii. p. 59); EGELASTA the (Λάχτα, Ptol.); OCILIS (Ὄκιλις), the Roman headquarters in the Celtiberian war, probably in the SE. of the country (Appian. Hisp. 47, foll.); BELSINUM: MEDIOLUM (Μεδίολον) in the N., and CONDABORA (Κονδάβορα), ISTONIUM (Ἰστόνιον), ALABA (Ἄλαβα), LIBANA (Λίβανα), and Urcesa (Οὔρκεσα), in the S. are mentioned only by Ptolemy (l.c.); MUNDA and CERTIMA on the borders of Carpetania, near Alces, only by Livy (40.46), and BELGEDA (Βελγήδη) or Belgida, only by Appian (App. Hisp. 44) and Orosius (5.23). There are also a number of localities in the neighbourhood of Bilbilis, only named by Martial; such as the mountains Calvus and Badavero, and the towns or villages of Boterdum, Platea on the Salo, Tutela, “chores Rixamarum,” Cardua, Peteron, Rigae, Petusiae, and others, for the barbarous sound of which to Roman ears he feels it necessary to apologize “Celtiberis haec sunt nomina crassiora terris.” (Martial. 1.49, 4.55, 12.18, &c.) For the list of cities compare Ukert, vol. i. pt. i. pp. 458--464.)

Of the manners and customs of the Celtiberians, besides the notices in Strabo and other writers, we have an elaborate account by Diodorus (5.33, 34). As warriors they attained the highest renown by their long and obstinate resistance to the Romans. They were equally distinguished as excellent cavalry, and as powerful and steady infantry, so that, when their cavalry had defeated that of the enemy, they dismounted and engaged the hostile infantry (comp. Polyb. Fr. Hist. 13). Their favourite order of battle was the wedge-shaped column, in which they were almost irresistible (Liv. 40.40). They sang as they joined battle (Liv. 23.16). Their weapons were a two-edged sword of the finest temper [BILBILIS], and the still national dagger (comp. Polyb. Fr. Hist. 14: Strab. iii. p.154); their defensive armour consisted of a bronze helmet, with a purple crest, of greaves made of plaited hair, and a round wicker buckler (κυρτία), or the light but large Gallic targe. A rough black blanket, of wool not unlike goats' hair, formed their sole dress by day, and at night they slept, wrapped up in it, upon the bare ground. They were particularly attentive to cleanliness. with the exception of the strange custom, which is ascribed also to the Cantabri, of washing with urine instead of water. Though cruel to criminals and enemies (comp. Strab. iii. p.155), they are gentle and humane to strangers; and those of them whose invitations are accepted are deemed favourites of the gods. Their food consists in abundance of various meats; and they drink must (οἰνομέλιτος πόματι) their country supplying plenty of honey, and wine being imported by merchants. Though the country was generally mountainous and sterile, it contained some fertile valleys, and the prosperity of some few of the cities is exemplified by the cases of BILBILIS and especially NUMANTIA It is thus that we must explain the statement of Diodorus respecting the excellence of their country, and the large tribute of 600 talents which, according to Poseidonius, M. Marcellus exacted from the country (Strab. iii. p.162). As to their religion, Strabo says that the Celtiberians and some of their neighbours on the N. celebrated a festival to some nameless deity at the time of the full moon, assembling together in their families, and dancing all night long (iii. p. 164). Several other points in Strabo's description of the manners of the mountaineers of the N. may be regarded as applying to Celtiberians among the rest. [HISPANIA]

The Celtiberians are renowned in history for their long and obstinate resistance to the Romans. They had been subdued by Hannibal with great difficulty. In the Second Punic War, after giving important aid to the Carthaginians, they were induced by the generosity of Scipio to accept the alliance of Rome; but yet we find a body of them serving the Carthaginians as mercenaries in Africa. (Liv. 25.33, 26.50; Plb. 14.7, 8.) But the cruelty and avarice of later governors drove them, in B.C. 181, into a revolt, which was appeased by the military prowess and the generous policy of the elder Tiberius Gracchus, B.C. 179. The resistance of the city of SEGEDA to the demands of Rome led to a fresh war (B.C. 153), which was conducted on the part of the Romans with varying success by M. Marcellus, who would have made peace with the Celtiberians; but the Senate required their unconditional surrender. The diversion created in Lusitania by Viriathus caused the Celtiberian war to languish till B.C. 143, when the great war with Numantia began, and was not concluded till B.C. 133. [NUMANTIA] In spite of this great blow, the Celtiberians renewed the war under Sertorius; and it was only after his fall that they began to adopt the Roman language, dress and manners. (Plb. 35.1, et seq.; Liv. xxi.--xxviii. passim; Strab. iii. p.151.)


hide References (21 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (21):
    • Appian, Wars in Spain, 9.44
    • Polybius, Histories, 14.7
    • Polybius, Histories, 35.1
    • Polybius, Histories, 35.2
    • Polybius, Histories, 3.17.2
    • Polybius, Histories, 14.8
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.21
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.3
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 33
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 34, 17
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 34, 19
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 11, Summary
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 28, 1
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 40, 40
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 40, 46
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 23, 16
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 50
    • Plutarch, Sertorius, 3
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 5.33
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 5.34
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 2.6
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