Usually when I'm trying to find something about the Celts along the Danube and North Italy, I have a hard time. What is their group term (like Gauls, Britons, Celtiberians)? Do they belong to Gaul? Are they simply referred to as "East Celtic"? Or is there no group term?

I'm looking for a term that was either used by ancient sources or modern historians.

  • Also look for Ligurians, and for specific tribes, such as Helvetians Jun 9, 2016 at 15:54
  • 1
    The Ligurians where not Celts, but very celticised. In the alps themselves you should look for Helvetii (modern Switzerland), Rhaetians (a bit more to the east) and Noricans (modern Austria). The Boii lived both in cisalpine gaul and east of the alps. Then around the danube you'll find the Scordisci.
    – Jeroen K
    Jun 17, 2016 at 9:10

2 Answers 2


The Romans typically referred to them as Gauls, and the Roman name for the area of northern Italy they held was "Gallia Cisalpina" (or "Cisalpine Gaul" in modern English. The part of Gaul on "this side" of the Alps).

Ancient historical sources did sometimes use terms like "Celtae" to refer to some of these people, but who exactly they did and didn't use that for is very inconsistent. In modern parlance, Celt is usually taken to refer to the overriding language family (and its putative associated culture). One example of where these don't overlap is that the people we call "Insular Celts" were not considered Gauls (or Celts) by the Romans.

So if it was me, I'd use "Gauls" to refer to these people from the Roman point of view, and Celts when talking from my own modern perspective.


The catch-all term is "the Alpine Celts". This is divided into two major groups: the Cisalpine Celts and the Transalpine Celts (which also includes the Celts in what are today France and Belgium). The Cisalpine Celts are those that are on the Italian side of the Alps, including the Lepontic and the Cisalpine Gauls. The Transalpine Celts are those on the other side of the Alps from Italy.

The Transalpine Celts are predominantly Gauls (Transalpine Gauls). The major tribe in the Swiss plateau at the time of contact with the Roman Republic was the Helvetii tribe.

  • 1
    Fun fact: The symbol in my user picture is a Celtic symbol usually called the Triskele or Triskelion (both terms from Greek for three-legged). Technically, it is a pre-Celtic symbol, but it was frequently adopted by the Celts, for whom the number three held mythological importance (e.g. triple deities and the three domains of Land, Sea, and Sky). Jun 9, 2016 at 14:45
  • I did notice their thing about the triple gods. That's weird enough that I have trouble picturing that and the resemblance with the Christian "trinity" being a coincidence.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 9, 2016 at 15:05
  • @T.E.D. I have my own theories, but there's not enough evidence yet to say anything for sure. Some scholars believe that Christianity's development may have been influenced by Pythagoras. Pythagoras may have been influenced by Celtic druids. Too tenuous to go off of for now, but for what it's worth... Jun 9, 2016 at 15:21
  • Don't forget the Capitoline Triads. The Romans main temples were often built to worship three deities.
    – justCal
    Jun 9, 2016 at 19:06
  • @user2448131 This is a good point. There is some hint of it across Indo-European traditions, for example the Hindu Trimurti. Jun 9, 2016 at 19:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.