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European Kingdoms

Celtic Tribes


Turboletae / Turboleti (Celtiberians)

FeatureCeltic migration across Europe was a slow, constant process which took place over a millennium or so. Celtic tribes (see feature link) probably arrived in Iberia in two waves, the first traditionally placed around 900 BC. More recent thought tends to identify the early arrivals as Indo-European or proto-Celtic tribes (who would have been part of the Urnfield culture), and argues for a process of infiltration over an extended period, from around 1000 to 300 BC, rather than invasions.

The first arrivals appear to have established themselves in Catalonia, having probably entered via the eastern passages of the Pyrenees. Later groups (more identifiably Celtic and part of the Hallstatt expansion and migrations) ventured west through the Pyrenees to occupy the northern coast of the peninsula, and south beyond the Ebro and Duero basins as far as the Tagus valley.

The Turboletae were a Celtic tribe which was located in the north-west of the province of Teruel from the early third century BC. They were neighboured by fellow Celtiberians to the north, west, and south - notably the Belli, Titti, and Berybraces - and by the Iberian Illercavones and Edetani to the east.

The Turboletae name (or Turboleti) name seems to be entirely suitable for their nature as raiders and troublemakers. The first part, 'turbo', is probably cognate with the Latin word for 'whirlwind, tornado', while 'turb-' in Celtic means 'noise'. The meaning behind the '-let' suffix is less clear while the final '-ae' plural suffix can be ignored. They probably referred to themselves as 'noisemakers' or 'the whirlwind' or similar.

There is some contention regarding Turboletae ethnic origins, but the majority view is that they were dominated by Celtic culture, and were definitely of Indo-European descent. However, their settled territory close to the Iberian tribes makes it entirely possible (and more than likely) that there was cultural influence from them and probably some integration of Iberian people too, creating the usual Celtiberian mix for tribes in this region.

Their capital was the town of Turda, alternatively recorded as Turba, Turbola, or Turbula. Its precise location remains unknown, although some archaeologists have tentatively placed it at the Iron Age site of Chacon (Muela de San Juan) in the vicinity of the city of Teruel.

Also associated with them is the site of Penalva de Villastar in the municipality of Villastar (Teruel), which is held to be a Celtiberian sanctuary, a site of pilgrimage, a sacred mountain for Celtiberians, Iberians, and Romans, and a place of solar and lunar cults which feature the sun and vultures as pyschopompic animals and gods, along with inscriptions in Celtiberian and Latin.

One of these inscriptions contains the name of the god Lug (Lugus), one of the chef Celtic deities, along with others which name the Turos family. This name is linked to many Turolense (of Teurel) place names and possibly comes from the same Celtic root as the name Zurich (which had the Latin name Turicum).

The ruins of Numantia in Iberia

(Information by Trish Wilson, with additional information by Edward Dawson and Peter Kessler, from The La Tene Celtic Belgae Tribes in England: Y-Chromosome Haplogroup R-U152 - Hypothesis C, David K Faux, from The Celtic Encyclopaedia, Harry Mountain, from A Genetic Signal of Central European Celtic Ancestry, David K Faux, from Celts and the Classical World, David Rankin, from Europe Before History, Kristian Kristiansen, from Los Celtiberos, etnias y estados, Franciso Burillo Mozota, from Historia de España 2 - colonizaciones y formación de los pueblos prerromanos (1200-218 a.C.), Ángel Montenegro et allii, from Los Celtiberos, Alberto Lorrio Alvarado, from Los celtos en la valle media del Ebro, Guillermo Fatas, and from External Links: The Works of Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars, and Gran Enciclopedia Aragonesa (in Spanish), and Celtiberia.net (in Spanish), and Lista de pueblos prerromanos de Iberia (in Spanish, Hispanoteca.eu), and Euskomedia (in Spanish).)

300s - 200s BC

In this century, the latter stages of the Gaulish migration into Iberia sees several tribes or splinters of tribes arriving to swell the eventual Celtiberian mix in eastern-central Spain. Some, like the Olcades, dominate local Iberian tribes in the form of a new ruling elite, while others settle alongside such tribes and eventually pick up second-hand Iberian influences.

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)

The Turboletae may be amongst the last to arrive, only settling in their traditional tribal territory into what is now the province of Teruel in the third century BC. They form a salient into Iberian territory when they settle close to the Berybraces, at the expense of the Illercavones.

The Spanish historian, Pedro Bosch Gimpera, takes the view that the Hallstatt culture Berybraces tribe is overwhelmed by this new wave of Celtic immigrants into the region. They may even be absorbed into the Turboletae.

200s BC

What little mention is made of the Titti in this century through ancient sources suggests that they are either clients or allies of the Belli. They are also being subjected to raids by the Turboletae, which would make any friendly alliance with the Belli a desirable prospect.

In fact the Turboletae are generally a warlike people whose tribal name later becomes a byword for unruly behaviour. They are a constant source of trouble for most of their neighbours.

Not only do they harass the Belli and Titti, they also mount raids on the south-eastern Iberian peoples throughout most of the third century BC, in particular the Edetani city state of Saguntum (near modern Valencia).

The countryside around Muela de San Juan in Spain
Turboletae territory, the Muela de San Juan, is part of the Montes Universales, located between Griegos and Guadalaviar (in the province of Teruel in Aragón), and generally over 1,800 metres above sea level

218 - 202 BC

The Second Punic War starts at the Edetani city of Saguntum, when the Turboletae assist Carthage in sacking it during the final assault. They enjoy looting the city, during which a great many of the Iberian inhabitants are slaughtered.

Using Gadir as a base, Hannibal Barca sets out to attack Rome, leading his armies over the Alps into Italy. At first he wins great victories at Trasimeno and Cannae which all but destroys Roman military strength, but he is denied the reinforcements to pursue his victory by an opposing political faction back at home.

212 BC

The backlash comes when the Romans and their Edetani allies invade Turboletania, seizing and destroying the capital of Turba, and selling the captured residents into slavery. Some fighting clearly continues, and Turboletae settlements outside of Turba clearly survive intact.

205 BC

The exhausted Turboletae sue for peace, but the Roman Senate forces them to pay a huge amount in compensation to the surviving Edetani citizens of Saguntum. However, stiff resentment is fuelled by the heavy tribute which is imposed, coupled with the destruction of their chief city.

The ruins of Sagantum in Spain
Saguntum, the Edetani city state which was beseiged and conquered by the Carthaginians and Turboletae at the start of the Second Punic War, was later greatly improved and extended by the Romans

195 BC


Turboletae commander during the revolt.

195 BC


Turboletae commander during the revolt.

195 BC

The Tuboletae revolt under the apparent leadership of two generals, named Budares and Baesadines. That revolt, however, ends when the Turboletae are crushed in a pitched battle near the ruins of Turba by Quintus Muncius Thermus, then-praetor of Hispania Citerior.

The remaining Turboletae population is reduced to slavery and their devastated lands are divided amongst the Bastetani and Edetani. The Turboletae are destroyed by this disaster. disappearing entirely from Iberia's historical record.

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