The Celts: A Historyby Peter Berresford Ellis
By the third century B.C., at the height of their greatest expansion, the Celts had spread from their Rhineland home as far west as Ireland and east to Turkey's central plain, as far north as Belgium and south to Cadiz in Spain. They had crossed the Alps and defeated the armies of the Etruscan empire and had occupied Rome and invaded the Greek peninsula.
By the third century B.C., at the height of their greatest expansion, the Celts had spread from their Rhineland home as far west as Ireland and east to Turkey's central plain, as far north as Belgium and south to Cadiz in Spain. They had crossed the Alps and defeated the armies of the Etruscan empire and had occupied Rome and invaded the Greek peninsula. Formidable warriors armed with iron weapons, they would find their way to Egypt and into Queen Cleopatra's elite bodyguard. Tracking the progress of the Celts through the ancient world, this compelling history celebrates more than their warfare, for the Celts also developed agricultural techniques that even the Romans adopted. They cut the first roads through impenetrable European forests, displayed exuberant genius in their metalwork, monumental stone carvings, glassware, and jewelry, exerted influence on Greek philosophers and Roman surgeons, and made Irish the third literary language of Europe, after Latin and Greek. Bringing new material from anthropology and archaeology to this engaging illustrated survey, Ellis explores the remarkable achievements of a people who have survived three millennia, their heritors the Irish, Manx, Scots, Welsh, Cornish, and Bretons who speak a Celtic tongue to this day.
Meet the Author
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >
Peter Berresford Ellis. The Celts: A History, New York: Carrol & Graf Publishers, New York, 1998, 235 pgs. In his work, The Celts: A History, Peter Berresford Ellis conflates copious amounts of information in order to present Celtic history at an introductory level. Ellis educates his audience on multiple topics such as Celtic architecture and the roles of Celtic women, but at the same time stimulates a great amount of skepticism within the reader. Thus, while Mr. Ellis¿ book has many admirable aspects, it also contains some poor features as well. Ellis was born in Warwickshire, England on March 10, 1943. While in college, he acquired his honours BA and master¿s degree in Celtic studies, but decided to pursue a career in journalism instead of becoming a professional historian. He now contributes articles to the Irish Post and the Irish Democrat and has written over 30 books pertaining to Celtic history '2'. When one begins to read The Celts: A History, one immediately recognizes Mr. Ellis¿ extensive knowledge in etymology. Throughout his book, he repeatedly argues that the ancient Celtic languages correlate to Sanskrit. He uses plenty of examples of Celtic words and associates them with ancient Sanskrit through their close relation in spelling, with English script, and in their meanings. For example, in Sanskrit, the word raja translates to ¿king,¿ which corresponds to the same meaning the word rí has in Old Irish. Another great aspect of Mr. Ellis¿ book is his use of many ancient resources. As he provides a plethora of information on the Celts, he supports this data with sources such as Strabo, Pliny the Elder, Julius Caesar, and Cornelius Tacitus. He further engages the reader by providing a short biography on each of the resources he uses, noting how each of these ancient sources wrote history. In his section on Queen Boudeca, a former queen of the Iceni tribe in southeastern Britain, he cleverly quotes Cassius Dio and Cornelius Tacitus to support his arguments. Also, the author presents a broad history of the Celts and covers the multiple facets of this culture throughout his work. Mr. Ellis not only provides his audience with the glorious accounts of the Celtic kings and queens, but also includes the history of the lower class. During the book, one will find chapters on Celtic religion, cosmology, farming, mythology, and even medicine. Thus, the author accommodates the reader with an extensive amount of Celtic history. While The Celts: A History has numerous strengths as an introductory history, it falls short in some critical areas. In the first chapter, the author asserts the biased nature of Julius Caesar by stating ¿Julius Caesar, whose work is often quoted as a great authority to be accepted without argument, was, after all, a Roman soldier with political ambition a general who had set out to bring the entire Celtic world crushed under the heel of the Roman empire for his own political aggrandizement, '14'¿ but then quotes Caesar many times during his work. In particular, Mr. Ellis references Caesar when discussing the druids, a historical topic that has conjured up an extreme level of controversy amongst historians during the past. Since the druids advocated an oral society where history was handed down by word of mouth, the Celts committed little to writing, which explains why many historians cite Greek and Roman sources. Still, Mr. Ellis had the option to cite from many other sources other than the dogmatic Julius Caesar, but chose not to. Thus, the author seems to contradict himself by making Caesar a principal source in his book. Another flaw located throughout this book is the author¿s inability to properly cite sources. As one reads this book, one will notice the lack of footnotes. Every time Mr. Ellis quotes an ancient or modern source, he neither provides the page number nor the title of the book or document in which he selected the quote. In fact, during the chapter ti