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Barbarian Europe

Arevaci Culture

by Trish Wilson, 15 April 2023

The Arevaci were nominally a Celtic tribe, one of a mass of such tribes in pre-Roman Iberia. Their territory was principally made up of today's western half of the Burgos province, northern Guadalajara province, and all of Soria province, a little to the south of today's Navarre.

That Celtic ethnicity was certainly influenced by several layers of Celtic migration, plus Iberian influences which were still dominant in a broad band along Spain's eastern coast.

Stock-raisers

The Arevaci shared with the Vaccaei the same collectivist social structure which enabled the latter to successfully exploit the wheat and grass-growing areas of the western plateau. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Arevaci themselves were predominantly stock-raisers. This meant keeping livestock, taking them into the highlands in the winter and to the lowlands in the summer, and making the most of the grazing lowlands of the upper Ebro valley.

They reared sheep (mostly for their wool), horses, and oxen, as attested by the tribute of thirty talents which was imposed upon the tribal centres of Numantia and Termantia by Consul Quintus Aulus Pompeius in 139 BC. The Numantines and Termantines paid (albeit reluctantly) in the form of three thousand ox-hides, eight hundred horses, and nine thousand saga (woollen cloaks).

They were considered rude and rustic people (by the Romans naturally, rather than by other Iberians).

Despite being the most powerful of the Celtiberian tribes, the Arevaci had little to do with the rest of them, or they with each other as they all had individual rulers of their own. They exacted their glory in perishing in fighting, generally regarding it as an affront to die of illness.

Map of Iberian Tribes 300 BC
The Iberian peninsula prior to the Carthaginian invasion and partial conquest was a melange of different tribal influences (click or tap on map to view full sized)


Death and the gods

It is likely that these people would incinerate their dead, as revealed by incineration necropolises which have been found in their settlements. However, for those who perished in combat they did not consider it worthy to burn their remains, which involved them resting in caves or ditches at first, and later in urns.

They worshipped the god Lug or Lugh, a Celtic divinity who had many Celtic tribes named after him (such as Iberia's two tribes of Luggones - see sidebar links).

They celebrated Lugh on the nights of full moon, dancing as a family at the doors of their houses.

They also worshiped their dead and a certain Elman (otherwise recorded as Endouellicus or Endovelicus), a Romano-Iberian deity, the god of health, prophecy, and the earth. This god is attested by several inscriptions, and was later popular with the Romans who assimilated him with Pluto.

They had the habit of leaving their icons, or images of the gods, in caves which were located amidst steep rocks, sometimes the same caves in which their ancestors rested, and would visit in a group on days which had been designated for the occasion. In these places they venerated their divinities and asked them for favours, leaving them their vows.

Their apparel was composed of a black or dark jacket made of wool, to which was attached a hood or cap with which they covered their heads. A necklace would be placed around their necks, probably a torque/torc. A form of tight trousers completed their outfit.

In wars they used two-edged swords, lances, and spears. They also wore a striped dagger, and their skill in the art of forging weapons was praised.

On the flat field of battle they used both cavalry and infantry, while on rough and rugged terrain they fought on foot.

The cuneas, the Arevaci's triangular order of battle, became famous amongst Celtiberians and a subject of concern for their opponents.

Celtiberians
This depiction of Celtiberians ambushing Roman soldiers offers a glimpse of the bitter Roman battle to control Iberia after it had won the Punic Wars

Lugh

The god Lugh was worshipped by many Celtic tribes across the entire breadth of their territories, from Slovakia to Iberia

 

Main Sources

Martin Amalgro Gorbea - War and Society in Celtiberia (E-Keltoi UWM)

Franciso Burillo Mozota - Los Celtiberos, etnias y estados

Alberto Lorrio Alvarado - Los Celtiberos

Ángel Montenegro et allii - Historia de España 2 - colonizaciones y formación de los pueblos prerromanos (1200-218 a.C (BC))

 

 

     
Images and text copyright © P L Kessler & Trish Wilson. An original feature for the History Files.