Book Review: A Brief History of the Celts



With plans to write a historical novel that deals partly with the Celts of the Iron Age, I had to make a serious research into the Celtic society and study its structures and the way it functioned. Ellis’s A Brief History of the Celts provided me with a good and solid material for a start.

The writing is clear, precise and easily understood, making the book accessible for anybody who wishes to become familiar with the topic. Ellis offers details and cites many sources, thus making his work reliable. But he doesn’t get lost in them and that’s positive because it makes the book informative and not heavy and dry. He focuses his efforts on deconstructing the biased myths the Romans perpetuated, shedding light on the true identity of the Celtic peoples.

The Celts were not child-like savages fond of blood and war as the Romans had painted them. They had created a vast civilization with their own beliefs, philosophy and religion that extended all over Europe and not only. What made a great impression on me was the fact that the various Celtic tribes had built an incredible net of communication between them in both Europe and Asia. Something that indicates the close bonds they shared as well as the fact that they were conscious of their identity and common ancestry.

Ellis gives us a glimpse into the various aspects of their world such as their warriors, their philosophy, their intellectual caste of the Druids, the position of women, their cosmology and their literary tradition.

We have only scratched the surface so far. Our knowledge of this civilization grows day by day. What we have discovered until now is stunning, but it’s only the tip. The future surely has a lot more to unearth before our eyes.