Skip to main content

View Diary: Mostly Forgotten History: The Celts of Gaul (41 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Very bad, unreliable source (5+ / 0-)

    Caesar's Gallic Wars was written as a justification for genocide and conquest. The description of Gallic society is about as accurate as those medieval maps showing Africa populated by giants with no necks.

    Caesar used the suppression of the Druids as an excuse to wage war because of these alleged atrocities - in much the same way for example the Germans were supposed to have raped their way through Belgium in order to fire up feelings at the start of WWI - or the pamphleteers simply re-used engravings of atrocities to forment anti-Catholic feelings in Ireland over the alleged support from Charles I for them rising up against Protestants.

    The Celts had a quite different society from the Roman. One significant difference was that the elderly, sick and disabled were regarded as the responsibility of the village or group.

    About the only thing Caesar appears to have got right is the spread of the Celtic/Druidic religion from Britain In turn it likely developed from practices and expressions of belief first seen in Scotland's islands - which had spread to the rest of the island as evidenced by the number of henges and procession ways seen at, for example, Stonehenge in SW England and Carnac in France. (Current thinking is that Stonehenge was both an early center for healing and the end point of funerary processions from a nearby wooden henge, representing life, along the river and to the stone henge, representing the afterlife.)

    For all his justification of bringing the correct Roman ways to the heathens, Caesar's campaigns in Gaul seem to concentrate on areas where gold mines and other resources were located. Then again, using such justifications for waging war to grab resources is hardly unfamiliar to us today.

    "Come to Sochi, visit the gay clubs and play with the bears" - NOT a Russian advertising slogan.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 03:36:50 AM PDT

    •  We have very little knowledge of the Druids (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      emmasnacker, Ahianne

      since Julius burned their library at Tara.  All that remains are what archeological remains we can find along with commentary by various Roman authors who probably got a lot of stuff wrong

    •  The school of the Druids... (5+ / 0-)

      ... was on the isle of Mona, modern-day Anglesey.

      See Tacitus' description of how fearful the Roman soldiers were when they saw women on the shore when Seutonius Paulinus and his armies invaded with the intent to not only destroy the school of the druids (which is something Caesar had wanted to do and wasn't able to)..., and while there he had to turn his armies around and march them back across Britain to subdue the Boudiccan Rebellion....

      Both Tacitus and Dio have physical descriptions of Boudica, and differ on the method of her death.

      History being written by the "victors" means there is very little (or no) authentic druid lore remaining except that filtered through the eyes of those who hated the Celts and wanted to subdue them or those who saw their pantheistic religions as blasphemy (among other prejudicial adjectives), even as the church incorporated their rituals into their own to gain converts, and built churches where the Celts once worshiped.

      I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

      by NonnyO on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 05:22:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  One point, of course (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MugWumpBlues, oldmaestro

      Is not to use this to paint structures in Gaul, but to illuminate patterns in more recent and even contemporary society. The description of Gallic society does not have to be accurate for the parallels to be revealing.

    •  I was a little surprised by this description. It (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MugWumpBlues

      sounds more like a description of roman society, at least what it eventually devolved into.

      Don't worry! I'm an atheist. I won't leave anyone behind!"

      by ban48 on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 05:45:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  to ban48 (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ban48

        Looking at it now as a 50 year old, rather than trying to  translate it as a teenager, Yeah its kind of remarkable.  Very similar to the romans.  Even the same pantheon of gods according to JC.

        The histories have a lot of stories of the northern tribes heading into the Greek and Roman peninsulas--dorians, macedonians, more recently lombards, etc-- so maybe the similarities are not so surprising.

        From our present day, the important point is that the RCC-- not everyone in it but to this day most at the top I'm sure-- bans even the idea this societal pattern commonly exists among human groups and, if so, vehemently denies that it represents any problem.

        Most Catholic scholarship seems to dance around the subject, minimizes it, or simply ignores it.  Its a blind spot.

        “Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects.” ― Will Rogers

        by MugWumpBlues on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 06:20:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  "bans the idea"... of which societal pattern, (0+ / 0-)

          priest, lord, and commoner?  This is the assumed societal form of both christianity and islam.  Both are feudal religions.  Rome at Caesar's time was not structured like this, but the seeds were laid when the general population sank into debt-servitude and became peasants.

          Don't worry! I'm an atheist. I won't leave anyone behind!"

          by ban48 on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 09:26:32 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I come to quote Caesar not to Praise him (0+ / 0-)

      Well, this is an old source and Caesar describes what he saw from his perspective.  Everyone has bias, no exceptions.

      The Romans took by force and saw everyone else as inferior.   Ok.  Start there.  Why would JC make up these comments?

      Source for JC's motives?   Quote something.  I don't recall offhand--they would run putative expeditions to forestall invasion of the Italian peninsula-- other than JC's desire to make himself look good.   I'm sure there is more.

      The Celts are described as a blond fair skinned race.  Best evidence seems to put them as coming out of central Asian steppes and spreading all over.  That why Indian sanskrit often has very similar root words to our modern English.  British scholars went very excited over that in the 1800's.

      In 550 BC, a Celt chieftain was buried in southern germany with chinese embroidered silk robes.  There was movement and trade across the entire eurasian continent.  

      I think its not correct to confuse country origin with JC's view that around his time people from France were going to England to study.

      “Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects.” ― Will Rogers

      by MugWumpBlues on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 05:58:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Celts spreading all over" is NOT the reason (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, liz

        ..that Sanskrit and English and many other languages have similar words. The Indo-European languages as a whole originated on the western steppes and went "spreading all over" according to currently prevailing theories. The Celtic languages apparently started differentiating from other I-E languages in eastern and central Europe, and spread from there mostly to western Europe. The Germanic languages, of which English was one, were evidently northern neighbors splitting off from the I-E stem, possibly a bit earlier. Sanskrit is part of the Indo-Iranian branch of the I-E languages. Celts didn't have to "spread all over" to have word-roots in common with Germans and Indians - they all spoke languages descended from a common ancestral language. As did/do speakers of Italic, Baltic, Slavic, Greek, Hittite, Tocharian, and Phrygian languages.

        I just finished re-reading David Anthony's The Horse, the Wheel, and Language, which is about the interplay of archaeology and linguistics that is revealing what may be the origins of the Indo-European languages. I commend it to your attention.

        Cogito, ergo Democrata.

        by Ahianne on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 10:47:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Curious (0+ / 0-)

          Ahianne, I'm not familiar with Anthony's book.

          It seems to me these countries have a common ancestral language because the people speaking the indo aryan languages moved about.  They used horses and so could move long distances;  since they were displacing earlier inhabitants who tried to protect their turf, the people moved as groups.  

          Seems logical to conclude that the Celts were groups of IA's that went West.

          A more recent example would be the Alains.  Strange tale that.

          Maybe I'll be convinced if I read Anthony, or I'm missing a nuance, but I just cannot see that trade would account for so many similarities.   Its got to be groups of people moving  and conquering to have so much influence on the languages.

          “Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects.” ― Will Rogers

          by MugWumpBlues on Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 09:25:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's not trade. (0+ / 0-)

            It's not one subgroup, the Celts, moving around. It's a whole bunch of languages descended from a common ancestral language. And among language scholars, Indo-Aryan is a synonym for Indo-Iranian - the subgroup of Indo-European speakers that went south and east towards India and Iran, as well as some who stayed on the ancestral steppes until supplanted by/assimilated by speakers of Turkic languages.

            Yes, people from the original homeland of the Indo-European speakers moved out in several directions and split up into the various IE families that exist now, as well as several that died out. Sometimes they conquered other groups. There's some evidence for more peaceful assimilation of others at other times and places. No, the Celts are not Indo-Aryans who went west. They are a different branch on the IE tree, close to the Italic branch.

            Cogito, ergo Democrata.

            by Ahianne on Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 07:41:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Oh, and where did the reference (0+ / 0-)

            ..to trade come from anyway? There was nothing in my initial comment about trade.

            Cogito, ergo Democrata.

            by Ahianne on Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 07:45:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  His motives? He killed about 1/2 the population (0+ / 0-)

        during the conquest of Gaul.  He had plenty of reason to say they had it coming.

        Don't worry! I'm an atheist. I won't leave anyone behind!"

        by ban48 on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 02:37:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  True but... (0+ / 0-)

      There is archaeological evidence of human sacrifice amongst the Celts.  It was a very common practice throughout much of history and was pretty common among people encountered by the Romans.

      One really funny thing about the Romans was that they were so adamantly opposed to human sacrifice.  They were right to do so, of course, but they found so many other odious things acceptable: slavery, genocide, gladiatorial combat (which was kind of human sacrifice itself), mutilation, and so on.  They decided to draw a bright line at overt human sacrifice.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site