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For two and a half thousand years the Celts have continued to fascinate those who have come into contact with them, yet their origins have remained a mystery and even today are the subject of heated debate among historians and archaeologists. In this erudite and profusely illustrated history, Barry Cunliffe explores the archaeological reality of these bold warriors and skilled craftsmen of barbarian Europe who inspired fear in the Greeks and Romans. Tracing the emergence of chiefdoms and their migrations as far as Bosnia and the Czech Republic, he assesses the disparity between the traditional and contemporary information on the Celts and offers new insight into the true identity of this ancient people.
List of Colour Plates
List of Maps
1. Visions of the Celts
2. The Reality of the Celts
3. Barbarian Europe and the Mediterranean: 1300-400 BC
4. The Migrations: 400-200 BC
5. Warfare and Society
6. The Arts of the Migration Period
7. Iberia and the Celtiberians
8. The Communities of the Atlantic Facade
9. The Communities of the Eastern Fringes
10. Religious Systems
11. The Developed Celtic World
12. The Celts in Retreat
13. Celtic Survival
A Guide to Further Reading
Posted March 16, 2009
Though viewed in many different ways over the centuries, Barry Cunliffe puts a new spin on the Celts in his thorough, detailed, and well-researched book. Often seen as barbarians, their belligerent nature caused them to make more enemies than allies. Mainly, the Greek and Roman empires fought heavily against them for hundreds of years. Most records of them mention their tendency to be reckless, brutal, and always looking for a fight. However, Cunliffe looks deeper into the core of their society. Along the way, he discovers many fascinating things about them such as their art, which is described as "both attractive and repulsive" (Cunliffe 37) mimicking the contrasting image we see of the Celts themselves. On the matter of human rights, the book makes note that the Celts were ahead of their time. When the Greeks and Romans were still dominated by the ruling male figure, their long-standing foe had an almost completely gender-equal society. Even in their religious system, there was a god and goddess who were considered equal and opposite forces that governed different parts of their culture.
Over all, The Ancient Celts is very well-written and researched. Cunliffe is obviously an expert in his field. It is written largely from an archeological point of view, yet is still understandable for the average reader wanting to brush up on some fascinating foreign culture.
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