• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

What Do Roman Authors Tell Us About The Celts? To What Extent Are Their Assertions True?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

What Do Roman Authors Tell Us About The Celts? To What Extent Are Their Assertions True? The Celts left very little written documentation behind them. What is known about the Celts has been discovered through archaeology and through the writings of Roman authors such as Caesar, Strabo and Tacitus. Caesar wrote about the Celts in his Gallic Wars as he documented his arrivals in Britain in 55 and 55 BC. Strabo was a Roman geographer, and included his knowledge of the geography of Britain in his texts, and Tacitus in his "Agricola", his histories and his annals also wrote of his knowledge of the Celts. These three authors, amongst others, gave us written evidence of the agricultural lifestyle of the Celts, their trading, commerce and economy, their tribal system, their politics and their religion. However, all the Roman authors' works are subject to bias, either pro-Roman (as in Caesar and Strabo) or of flattery (as in Tacitus, who was writing a eulogy). Caesar's first paragraph in his account of the first invasion of Britain, for example, states that the Celts had been sending reinforcements to the Gauls on the continent during Caesar's Gallic campaigns. The full truth of this statement is unknown, however it is unlikely that the Celts would have been interested in sending men out to Gaul, as it would have been harvest time during that period, and the Celts were primarily a farming people. ...read more.

Middle

Strabo gave a rather derogatory description of the Celts, naming them "bandy-legged" and "ungainly in build". It is likely that this was written from a very pro-Roman perspective - it is not so likely that all the inhabitants of Britain had bandy legs. Strabo also said that the British were not as yellow-haired as the Gauls, which was probably true, and dark hair is predominant in this country now, and probably always was. Caesar, preoccupied with detailing his military achievements (and failures), wrote little concerning the appearance of the Celts. Tacitus was more detailed, and suggested that the reddish hair and large limbs of the Caledonians proclaimed a Germanic origin, the swarthy faces and curling hair of the Silures could be due to invading Spaniards in ancient times, and the southern inhabitants of the island resembled the Gauls opposite them. Perhaps his explanation for the origins of the Caledonians is truthful, but his suggestion that Spaniards invaded, hence the appearance of the western Celts, seems to have been founded simply on the fact that he believed Spain lay directly to the west of Britain, and therefore the truth of this statement is doubtful. It is also possible that the differences in appearances were caused due to the differences in climate and environment around the island, and that its native people were the original inhabitants. ...read more.

Conclusion

There is no archaeological or other literary evidence to support this statement. Tacitus, like Caesar, wrote little of the actual tribal system in the Agricola, and he was more explanatory where specific encounters with specific tribes was concerned. He did write that "the Britons make no distinction of sex in their leaders". This is not quite true - although Boudicca was queen of the Iceni tribe, female leaders were not quite so well accepted as male ones, as was seen in the case of Cartimandua of the Brigantes. Following an adulterous affair with her husband's armour-bearer, Vellocatus, the people of the tribe were outraged and campaigned for Venutius (her husband) to be their leader. The Romans did not expand much on Celtic politics. The politics of the British tribes appear to have been purely internal affairs, sorted out either entirely within one tribe, or, if a dispute were to be settled involving two tribes, a battle would take place, the winners of the battle winning what they were campaigning for. The Celts did not have a governmental system prior to Roman occupation that included the entire country, and did not have a specific diplomatic political system. The Celtic religion was druidism, a pagan religion. Caesar wrote that the two "privileged" classes were the druids and the knights, and that the druids officiated at the worship of the gods, regulated public and private sacrifices and gave rulings on religious questions. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE History Projects section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE History Projects essays

  1. How civilised were the Romans?

    Gladiators were seen as celebrities would be today. It was, for some people, a part of daily life to go to the coliseums and watch the fights. Today this sort of activity would be seen barbaric and cruel therefore unaccepted.

  2. The Roman army

    As a result, nobody questioned the officers and the soldiers did as they were told. Vegetius emphasises the importance of the army's strict discipline throughout his book. However he also shows that their success was also due to the selection of the recruits and organization of the training that the

  1. How Were The Roman Army Superior In Weaponry, Armour And Tactics To The Celts?

    'He made no use of freed men or slaves of official business' (Tacitus, Agricola chapter 19). In contrast there was no main Celtic Army. The Celts were instead groups of 'fierce tribes (Ammianus book XX,1)' that individually controlled areas of land.

  2. To What Extent Was the Indian Mutiny of 1857-1858 the Sole Responsibility of the ...

    be the title of his book on the matter, and feels that it was the first stirrings of Indian nationalistic movement to gain self rule. Savarkar, like many Indian historians, questions the fact that if the subject of the 'Enfield cartridge' was one of the main causes of the 'war',

  1. Knightly Warfare. The knights primary and considered most well known weapon was the ...

    For the calf and ankle areas, knights wore plate armor known as greaves (Parts 2). Protection for the kneecap and thigh came from plate armor as well (Parts 2). These plates were called poleyns on the kneecap, and cuisses on the thigh (Parts 2).

  2. Charles the first was completely responsible for the civil war- to what extent is ...

    with France, this scares the parliament and they start to believe Charles is catholic in secret, this raises fears that Charles will turn the nation catholic, this would happen if the heir would be born catholic. This is a religious and personal cause.

  1. To what extent was the Irish Famine merely an excuse for Peel to repeal ...

    Throughout his ministry, Peel expressed increased interest in Irish affairs, with acts such as the Maynooth grant in his political history. The idea that he had always been working on Irish policies makes it plausible that he repealed the Corn Laws for the benefit of the Irish.

  2. Interesting Facts About The Celts

    The Celtic soldiers would tie their hair back or sometimes spike their hair up. If you were a very important soldier you would probably be sporting a bronze helmet.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work