The Celtic ethnic group were established in central Europe about 2000BCE (Before the Common Era). They were proficient metal workers in bronze, successful traders, warriors and farmers. Around 1000BCE iron technology was discovered. The tribes in central Europe began to take advantage of the new metal to expand their territory into western Europe and the British Isles.
The Celtic tribes emerged into written history (and the notice of the Mediterranean cultures) early in the fourth century BCE. Skirmishes occurred frequently and Rome took its first defeat by the Celts in 390BCE. The Romans paid a large ransom and the Celts withdrew. The Romans and Celts continued to fight frequently thruout the 3rd, 2nd and 1st centuries BCE. Due to the pressures by Rome and from the north-east by Germanic tribes, by the first century BCE only Gaul and the islands of Britain and Ireland remained independent Celtic territories.
In 58BCE Julius Caesar began his campaigns in Gaul and by 55BCE had successfully overtaken the area and made the first invasion of the southern shores of Britain. Gaulic uprisings continued into the first century of the Common Era (CE). 50CE saw the Romans ruling southern Britain but they never succeeded in conquering the northern part of the island or Ireland. Christianity had become the state religion of Rome and only Ireland and northern Britain had remained mostly pagan thru the 5th century CE when Rome withdrew due to their failing empire and the need to defend their territory in other areas. Christianity was spreading and even the Celtic language was disappearing from the conquered areas. Although the Celts eventually were absorbed by the new religion, it was still affected and viewed thru a unique cultural viewpoint. At least one (Brigid) pagan goddess was converted to a Christian saint and the sacred wells were blessed and turned into centers of healing in the new religion's name. The Celtic people have continued to suffer decimation thru time and today have a population numbering about 16 million, existing only in Ireland; four areas of Great Britain: Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, The Isle of Man; and Brittany (France). Only about 2 and 1/2 million people still speak a Celtic language.