GCSE Latin- Who is more reliable in their account of the druid culture- Julius Caesar, Tacitus or Pliny?

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Latin Essay- Whom is more reliable in their account of the Druids? Caesar in ‘De Bello Galli’, Pliny the Elder in the ‘Naturalis Historia’, or Tacitus?

In comparing these sources, we must first take into account a number of factors. First, when was the account written? Second, what was its purpose? Third, did the opinions/beliefs/morals of the author have any effect on the tone of their account? It must also be noted that the Druids and their culture had been around for a long time before any of these authors started writing about them, and much of the information was already very old when it reached Caesar, Pliny and Tacitus. Nobody had written extensively about the druids, and much of the information was of unknown quality.

Julius Caesar (who henceforth will be known as JC) is alleged to have written his accounts while making his slow, bloody way across much of Gaul (North-Western France) and Britain. His account was written sometime between 58 and 49 BC, at a time when the Druids and their culture were still around. Much of De Bello Galli is endless skirmishes and battles, usually ending in the slaughter of many Gauls, and it is likely that JC made them more dangerous and worthier adversaries to make his conquest more glorious, including the Druids. Modern historians have charged JC with exaggerating the importance and organisation of Gallic druids, and many of his sweeping statements are not backed up by other’s texts. However, History Today asserts that JC is the only writer who could have encountered the Gauls himself, whereas other writers were relying on secondary information. JC himself was a firm polytheistic Roman, and therefore would have had some understanding and respect of the Druids, who were also polytheistic.  

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Pliny on the other hand, was writing at a time when Christianity, the ‘new religion’ was starting to gain in popularity as people became disillusioned with the old polytheistic religion, and may have been slightly dismissive of the Druids religious beliefs - refers to them as ‘cranks’. His account was written in 50AD, by which time the Druids were disappearing, and their culture was going with them. As a result, Pliny is much less likely to have seen many Druids, whereas JC would have seen many, and therefore his account was written from rumour, fable and hearsay, with the ...

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