History Files


European Kingdoms

Celtic Tribes




Index of Celtic TribesMapAnarti (Gauls)

FeatureIn general terms, the Romans coined the name 'Gaul' to describe the Celtic tribes of what is now central, northern and eastern France. The Gauls were divided from the Belgae to the north by the Marne and the Seine, and from the Aquitani to the south by the River Garonne, and they also extended into Switzerland, northern Italy, and along the Danube. By the middle of the first century BC, the Anarti were a minor tribe that was located along a narrow band of surviving Celtic expansion to the north of the Danube, on the east bank of the Tisia (the modern Tisza, which rises in the far west of Ukraine) in modern northern Serbia and southern Hungary. They were neighboured to the north and east by Dacian tribes and a small pocket of the Celtic Boii, to the south by the Sarmatian Iazyges, and across the Danube to the west by further Celts, the Eravisci and Hercuniates.

This La Tène tribe was also known as the Anartes and Anartoi, variations on the original name, the latter being Greek. 'Anarti' seems to be made up of 'an-', which is a negative prefix in front of 'arat', meaning 'a servant'. That makes the tribe the 'not-servants', in other words not slaves, 'the free men'. The connotation is rather negative, suggesting that they had been slaves or subjugated in the past.

Given the fact that the Anarti were located within a slim ribbon of Celtic settlement along the Danube, their former subjugators could have been any one of a number of Dacian or Sarmatian tribes. Given that observation, and the tribe's name, they could perhaps have been formed only recently, in the first or second century BC. Some scholars place a group called the Anartophracti (clearly of a shared origin) in south-eastern Poland. The Upper Tisza is close enough geographically to this part of Poland, so the two groups may have divided relatively recently, again perhaps due to circumstances related to their presumed subjugation. The Anartophracti are mentioned by Ptolemy, who uses his Greek to mangle the original name, but writing in the early twentieth century, Wilhelm Braune believed them to be wholly Dacian, while Vasile Parvan writing a couple of decades later called them a Celto-Dacian mix.

(Information by Peter Kessler & Edward Dawson, with additional information from Strabo's Geography, H C Hamilton & W Falconer, from The La Tene Celtic Belgae Tribes in England: Y-Chromosome Haplogroup R-U152 - Hypothesis C, David K Faux, from A Genetic Signal of Central European Celtic Ancestry, David K Faux, from Celts and the Classical World, David Rankin, from The Civilisation of the East, Fritz Hommel (Translated by J H Loewe, Elibron Classic Series, 2005), from Europe Before History, Kristian Kristiansen, and from External Links: The Works of Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars, and United Nations of Roma Victrix, and also the Indo-European Etymological Dictionary, J Pokorny.)

53 BC

As noted by Julius Caesar in his Gallic Wars, the Hercynian Forest (known to the Greeks as Orcynia - the modern Black Forest forms its western part) is home to a mixture of Germans and a once-powerful arm of the Volcae Tectosages. The forest lies on the east bank of the Rhine (this forms the northern border of the lands known to the ancient writers of the Mediterranean, and the modern Black Forest forms its western part). Its breadth is such that it takes a quick traveller nine days to cross it through uncertain paths, as there are no known roads. It begins at the frontiers of the Helvetii, Nemetes, and Raurici, and extends in a line along the River Danube to the territories of the Daci and the Anarti. From there its borders twist northwards into the vast lands that have not been charted by the Mediterranean cultures.

10 BC

The Anarti are mentioned again in the Elogium of Tusculum, an inscription found in the town of that name to the south of Rome. Inscribed during the early days of the empire, while Augustus rules, it contains a description of a Roman legate of Illyricum negotiating with the Anarti and Cotini (the latter being located to the north of the former).

River Tisia
The River Tisia (the modern Tisza) rises in western Ukraine and meanders south-westwards to meet the Danube, providing fertile river valley land for migrating Celts in the second and first centuries BC, depite the threat from sometimes hostile Dacians

c.AD 172 - 180

Surprisingly, given their proximity to more aggressive Dacian tribes, the Anarti still exist and occupy the same lands as before. Around this time they refuse to aid Rome in its ongoing war against the Marcomanni. Punishment from Emperor Marcus Aurelius comes in the form of the deportation of the Anarti from their territory into the Roman province of Pannonia Inferior. This forced migration takes place before the end of the decade, although it is unclear whether it concerns the entire tribe, lock stock and barrel. Given its lack of historical mention after this date, this does seem likely.

5th century

The former Anarti tribal region forms part of the Germanic kingdom of Gepidia during the late fifth and the first half of the sixth centuries. This is destroyed in 567 by the Langobards and the territory is soon occupied by the Avars. Following later Slavic migrations into the area, it subsequently goes on to form the northern parts of Serbia.