Page:Historical characteristics of the Celtic race.djvu/19

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Our next glimpse of the ancient Celt is half a century later, when they come for a moment within touch of the Macedonian Alexander. The story told by more than one authority is that in his preliminary raid round by his northern frontier to make matters safe before he should leave for the East, he came in contact with a tribe called Κελτοί. Conversing with their ambassadors, he asked them whether they feared anything in the world. Nothing, they replied, unless the sky should fall. That, I suppose, was another way of saying that they were not afraid of anything human, though they might be of things superhuman. At all events, Alexander thought he had enough of them, for he turned round with the remark, "These Κελτοί are proud, blustering fellows". He passed on to his Eastern expedition, leaving them alone, and so we hear no more of the Κελτοί in the time of Alexander. The story is sometimes told to the disadvantage of the Celts, but, if closely examined, it will be found to be capable of another interpretation. The probability is that Alexander expected them to say that they were terribly afraid of him in particular; and, so fishing for a compliment, as fishers of that kind occasionally do, he caught a Tartar. The Celt, seemingly a gentleman then as now, wrapt himself up in his own dignity, and so Alexander fared at his hands much as he did afterwards at the tub of Diogenes, a proud gentleman also in his own way.

The next great event in the history of the Gauls is that already alluded to—the eruption which ultimately settled down into Galatia, in the heart of Asia Minor. I shall only refer to two points bearing on these eastern Gauls: that they also were tremendous warriors, for not only does Polybius (in II. 19) speak of the terror inspired by the Gauls as a unique experience; but we have an artistic monument of a Gaulish warrior which represents to all time the Greek idea of Gallic fortitude. The wonderful and pathetic statue known as the Dying Gladiator is now known to have come from Pergamus in Asia, and to represent an Asiatic Gaul bearing his death-wound: the tore or torquis around his neck, a Celtic ornament, marks him as a Celt; and so Lord Byron has fallen into a slight mistake when he says, "Arise, ye Goths, and glut your ire". It ought to have been, in strict historical accuracy, "Arise, ye Gauls".