The Ancient Celts

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

From 1300 BC to 400 AD, a group of peoples known variously as Celts or Gauls figures prominently in the history of the development of the Greco-Roman world. Cunliffe, Professor of European Archaeology at Oxford University, presents a carefully detailed study of these people long colorfully chronicled in song and story. The strengths of this beautiful text are immediately obvious. Not only are there profuse and varied examples of Celtic art, often in color, but each illustration is annotated in detail. The maps in the text are plentiful and well explained; there is, in addition, a section of maps and chronological tables at the end of the book. The prose is extremely well written and well organized; each chapter is clear in its purpose and place in the overall work. The drawback is that The Ancient Celts could be somewhat difficult for the reader not already familiar with the field of archeology. The first six chapters are especially fascinating as they trace the many Celtic groups as they spread out across Europe, reaching Iberia and the Ireland in the west and as far as Asia Minor to the east. These chapters, however, abound with archeological terminology and theoretical concepts. Based not only on archeological finds but the commentaries of Roman writers, the later chapters on the Celtic communities, religious systems and finally Celts in retreat before the Romans and surviving on the Atlantic periphery of Europe are more descriptive and accessible. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1997, Penguin, 324p, 24cm, $21.95. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Patricia A. Moore; Brookline, MA, September 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 5)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140254228
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/2000
  • Pages: 360
  • Sales rank: 586,400
  • Product dimensions: 7.05 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Barry Cunliffe is professor of European archaeology at Oxford University. His books include The Ancient Celts and Facing the Ocean: The Atlantic and Its Peoples.

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Table of Contents

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
14. Retrospect

A Guide to Further Reading
Chronological Tables
Map Section
Illustration Sources

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2009

    The Ancient Celts-- A review by Eric Purcell

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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