N. A. Vavilov aspects of british history

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The Celts (8th c. BC – 5th c. AD)

Pre-reading questions

Are there any Celtic peoples in Europe at present?

Where do you think they live?

What territories did they occupy in ancient times?

What happened to them?
The first real civilization was brought to Britain in the third millennium BC by the Iberians who arrived from the Iberian Peninsula in Southern Europe. The Iberians were skilled in the use of copper and gold; they made copper daggers and axes, traded in gold and copper ornaments. In the second millennium they started using bronze. The Iberians were farmers who bred cattle and probably tamed horses.

The Celtic Settlement

Towards the Christian era, there was an Iron Age Celtic culture throughout the British Isles. The Celts1 had been arriving from Europe from the eighth century BC onwards. The Celts began to control all the lowland areas of Britain and, with new waves of settlers coming one after another, gradually spread all over Britain and the other islands.

It seems that the Celts mixed with the Iberian peoples who were already there. It is also possible that they drove many of the older inhabitants westwards into Wales, Ireland and Scotland where they were eventually assimilated2.

Celtic Culture

The Celtic tribes continued the same kind of agriculture as the Bronze Age people before them. But the use of iron technology and more advanced ploughing methods made them highly successful farmers, the Celts used ox-drawn wheeled ploughs and this meant that richer, heavier land could be farmed. Under the Celts Britain became an important food producer. It now exported corn and animals, as well as hunting dogs and slaves, to the European mainland.

The two main trade outlets eastwards to Europe were the settlements along the Thames River in the south and on the Firth of Forth in the north. It is no accident the present-day capitals of England and Scotland stand on or near these two ancient trade centres. For money the Celts used iron bars, until they began to copy the Roman coins they saw used in Gaul (France).

According to the Romans, the Celtic men wore shirts and breeches (short trousers) and striped or checked cloaks fastened by a pin. It is possible that the Scottish dress and tartan developed from this cloak.


1. The Celts [kelts] (Gr. Keltoi, Lat. Celtae) were a group of peoples and tribes (belonging to the Indo-European language group) which had come from Central Europe or further east and settled all of Western Europe including present-day France (Gaul, called Gallia by the Romans), the Iberian Peninsula (Lat. Hispania) and the British Isles. By the Christian era the Celtic peoples on the mainland were conquered by Rome and later gradually Romanized, that is they took on the language of the Romans (Latin), their culture and institutions. Their Celtic Latin developed into the three modern Romance languages – French, Spanish and Portuguese. All the Celtic tribal names disappeared. Belgian (Lat. Belgi), Briton, Eire ['eərə], Scot are rare exceptions.

The only places where the Celtic languages and elements of their culture have survived are Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Brittany in north-western France (in the last instance largely as a result of immigration from Britain during the Anglo-Saxon invasion and settlement of present-day England – from the 5th to the 7th century AD; see Unit 4).

2. The Iberians on the European mainland were also assimilated, by the Celts or the Romans. The Basques living on the Iberian Peninsula (in Spain) perhaps are the only surviving people of the Iberian race.


1. civilization [-laI'zeI-], US [-lI-]


2. the Iberians [aI'biəriən]

the Iberian Peninsula


Пиренейский полуостров

3. millennium


4. copper


5. dagger


6. axe, pl. axes


7. bronze


8. breed (bred) cattle

breed (n)

разводить скот


9. tame (v)

приручать; дрессировать

10. toward the Christian era

in the Christian era

in the 8th century BC (before Christ)

in the 1st century AD (Anno Domini [-naI])

к началу новой эры

после Рождества Христова

в VIII века до Р.Х. (до Рождества Христова, до новой эры)

в I века христианской эры (новой эры)

11. the Iron age

the time when iron was used for making tools, weapons, etc., which is a more advanced period than the Bronze Age

the Bronze Age

the Stone Age

железный век
бронзовый век

каменный век

12. Celt [kelt]

Celtic ['keltIk]



13. the Indo-European group of languages – includes most of those spoken in Europe, Iran and India

индоевропейская группа языков

14. Gaul

1. ист. Галлия 2. ист. галл

3. шутл. француз

15. take on sth syn. adopt (v)

перенимать, усваивать что-л.

16. Romance [rəV'mæns]

романский, восходящий к латинскому языку

17. throughout

The disease spread throughout the country.

syn. all over

He travelled all over India.
It rained throughout the night.

1. через, по всей территории

Болезнь распространилась по всей стране.
Он объехал всю Индию

2. в продолжение (всего времени)

Дождь лил всю ночь.

18. from the 8th century on-wards

cp. from now on

начиная с VIII века
с этих пор, отныне

19. in'habit




жить, обитать, населять

житель; обитатель

селиться, обосновываться; заселять


20. as'similate smb.

ассимилировать кого-л.

NB. В глаголах (а также в сущ. и прил.), оканчивающихся на -ate, ударение падает на третий слог от конца. Распространенной ошибкой является перенос ударения на последний слог.

21. -ward suff. (in adjectives)

a westward movement

a southward advance

-wards (in adverbs)

to drive sb westwards

We travelled northwards.

в указанном направлении

движение на запад

наступление на юг

в указанном направлении

прогонять кого-л. на запад

Мы ехали на cевеp.

22. gradually [-dZu-]

eventually [-t∫u-]


со временем; в конце концов

NB. Буквосочетания -du- и -tu- в заударнoм слоге читаются [dZu] и [t∫u] соответственно, а не [dju] и [tju] (за исключением малоупотребительных слов).

23. plough [plaV] (n)

wheeled plough

plough (v)

ploughing method


колесный плуг


способ вспашки

24. to farm land



обрабатывать землю



25. corn

1. зерно

2. US кукуруза (Indian corn)

26. trade outlet to Europe

центр торговли с Европой

27. the Firth of Forth

залив Фёрт оф Форт

28. It is no accident

не случайно

29. iron bar

cp. a bar of gold / of chocolate

брусок (плитка) железа

слиток золота / плитка шоколада

30. breeches ['brIt∫Iz] pl.


31. striped


32. checked


33. cloak

плащ (без рукавов)

34. tartan

тартан, шотландский плед


1. Read the text. Look up new words in the vocabulary.

2. Read the following phrases aloud. Find the sentences with these phrases in the text. Translate them into Russian.

Real civilization; in the third millennium; skilled in the use of copper; copper daggers and axes; to trade in gold ornaments; to breed cattle and tame horses.

An Iron Age Celtic culture; throughout the British Isles; from the eighth century ВС onwards; to intermix with the Iberians; the older inhabitants; westwards into Wales; to control all the lowland areas; new waves of settlers; to spread all over Britain.

The same kind of agriculture; the Bronze Age people; the use of iron technology; advanced ploughing methods; highly successful farmers; ox-drawn, wheeled ploughs; to farm heavier land; an important food producer; to export corn and animals; the main trade outlets; ancient trade centres; the present-day capitals; to use iron bars for money; to wear shirts and breeches; striped or checked cloaks; the Scottish dress and tartan.

3. Comprehension check: Answer the following questions. Check your answers with the text.

1. Has Britain ever been invaded?

2. When was the first real civilization brought to Britain? By whom?

3. What kind of culture did they have?

4. Who inhabited Britain towards the Christian era?

5. What happened to the older inhabitants?

6. Did it take the Celts long to settle throughout the British Isles?

7. In what way did they differ from the Iberians?

8. Did Britain change under the Celts?

9. Did the Celts trade with the European mainland?

10. What did they use for money?

11. Where were the main trade outlets?

12. What did the Celtic men wear?
4. Put a preposition in each gap. Underline the prepositions in your notebooks.

A real civilization was brought ___ Britain ___ the Iberians who were skilled ___ the use ___ copper. They traded ___ gold and copper ornaments.

Twenty centuries ___ there was a Celtic culture _______ the British Isles. The Celts had arrived ___ Britain ___ the Christian era. They intermixed _____ the Iberian people or drove many ____ them westwards. _____ new waves ____ settlers coming one _____ another _____ the mainland, the Celts spread ____ _____ Britain and the other islands.

Owing ___ the use ___ iron, ox-drawn ploughs and new ploughing methods Britain became an important food producer and exporter ______ the Celts. The settlements ___ the Thames River ___ the south and ___ the Firth of Forth ____ the north became the main trade outlets ____ Europe. The present-day capitals ___ England and Scotland stand ___ or _____ these ancient trade centres. _____ money the Celts used iron bars.

5. Put the verbs in brackets in the correct tense and voice. Underline the verb forms in your notebooks.

Before they (to start) using bronze, the Iberians (to use) copper for about a millennium. They (to bring) their metal-working skills from the continent. When the Romans first (to arrive) in Britain in 55 ВС, it (to inhabit) by Celtic tribes. The latter (to arrive) from the European mainland for several centuries. The Celts probably (to mix) with the Iberians who (to come) there much earlier. They also (to drive) many of the older inhabitants westwards and northwards. They gradually (to spread) all over the British Isles.

Britain (to become) an important food producer because the Celts (to use) iron technology and advanced ploughing methods which they (to bring) with them from the mainland. They (to export) agricultural products through the two trade centres which (to situate) on the Thames River and on the Firth of Forth. The Celts long (to use) iron bars for money before they (to learn) to copy the Roman coins.
6. Change the following sentences to passive. Underline the verb forms in your notebooks.

The Celts settled the British Isles before the Christian era. They drove many of the older inhabitants westwards and northwards or made them slaves. They probably assimilated most of the Iberians. The Celts used ox-drawn ploughs, so they could farm richer, heavier land. They produced various agricultural products and exported them to the mainland. For money they used iron bars.

7. Write questions to these answers.

1 They arrived from Europe. 2. They had been arriving for several centuries. 3. No, they spread throughout the British Isles. 4. They were eventually assimilated. 5. It was iron technology and new ploughing methods. 6. It happened under the Celts. 7. Various food products. 8. To the European mainland. 9. They were on the Thames River and on the Firth of Forth. 10. No, they didn't. They used iron bars for it.

8. Give the English equivalents to these phrases.

Умение использовать медь и бронзу; изготавливать бронзовые топоры; разводить скот; во втором тысячелетии до н.э.; к началу новой эры; культура железного века; начиная с VIII века до н.э.; завладеть низменными областями; расселиться по всем Британским островам; смешаться со старожилами; прогнать коренных обитателей на запад в горы; тот же вид земледелия; передовые методы вспашки; железный колесный плуг, запряженный волами; обрабатывать землю; при кельтах; вывозить зерно и другие продукты; использовать плитки железа вместо денег; по свидетельству римлян; полосатые и клетчатые плащи.

9. True or false? Give an adequate response to each statement. Do not content yourselves with saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. (See Appendix 1 at the end of the book.)

1. The Celts were a Bronze Age people, like the Iberians.

2. They arrived in Britain from Europe in a single wave.

3. The Iberians had to leave Britain for Europe.

4. The Celtic tribes continued the same kind of agriculture as the people before them.

5. They became more successful farmers than the older inhabitants.

6. The Celts exported various agricultural products to the mainland.

7. They used banknotes in trade.

10. Points for discussion. (Summarize the text according to the following suggestions).

1. The first real civilization in Britain.

2. The Celtic settlement of the British Isles.

3. The Celts as farmers and traders.

4. The fate of the Iberians and the Celts.
11. Translate into English.

Иберийцы прибыли в Британию в третьем тысячелетии до н.э. и принесли с собой навыки обработки металлов и первую настоящую цивилизацию. Затем их покорили кельты, которые стали селиться на острове начиная с VIII века до н.э. Известно, что кельты прибыли в Британию с материка, где они заняли всю Западную Европу, включая нынешние Францию и Испанию. Наши знания о кельтах невелики. Мы даже не знаем точно, вторглись ли они в Британию или прибывали мирно в результате оживленной торговли. Вполне вероятно, что они вытесняли коренных жителей в горные местности и заселяли их земли на юге и востоке страны. К началу новой эры кельты расселились по всем Британским островам. Когда Юлий Цезарь впервые посетил Британию в 55 г. до н.э., он увидел, что внутренние районы (the interior) населены людьми, которые считают себя коренными жителями, а побережье – людьми, которые недавно прибыли из Бельгии. Кельты обладали навыками изготовления железных орудий и оружия. Островные кельты имели общее название, но делились на несколько разных племен.

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