A Comparison Of Celtic And Gallic Culture .

1158 words - 5 pages

A Comparison of Celtic and Gallic CultureJoe WilsonIDS 1300 - The Gods of Medieval EpicDr. GleasonThe culture of the people known as the Celts is one filled with enigma and contradiction. Most every aspect of Celtic culture has been debated, from the time of their appearance to their religious practices. We have only two primary sources from which to draw data on that culture. One is the collection of folk tales, myths and sagas that were written down by monks after centuries of retelling. The other is a collection of anthropological notes written by Julius Caesar known as The Gallic Wars. Both of these sources must be considered with care. The folk tales were strictly in oral tradition for many years, and have undoubtedly been altered through retelling. The stories themselves are full of mythic exaggeration and many statements may not be taken at face value. Also, most tales are incomplete as manuscripts have been damaged or pages lost. In the same vein, Julius Caesar's work suffers from innate problems as well. Caesar was from a different culture, making anthropological notes as he saw them. Most likely, he fell prey to misunderstanding and projection of his own cultural stereotypes onto the culture he was observing. Taking all these fundamental inaccuracies into account, there are still disparities between the cultures described in the two sources. So vast is the difference, that perhaps it should be concluded that the Celts of the myth and the Gauls of Caesar should be considered as two different cultural entities. Either one should conclude that the Gallic and Celtic cultures are separate, or that one is a precursor of the other.Let us begin with the most basic aspect and consider the times and places from which these sources originate. Caesar's text comes from approximately 150 BCE and can be traced to an area known to the Romans as Gaul; which encompasses what is now England. According to Gantz, the time at which the Celts appear is subject to discussion, but for the case of argument, we shall take the most conservative estimate of approximately 1000 BCE. Still, there is near a millennia of difference in time between the Celtic appearance (and the assumed setting of the myths) and the time in which Caesar makes his anthropological notes. Also, the texts from the Celtic myths appear in, and are concerned solely with, events taking place in the island of Eirú (Ireland) where as Caesar's recordings take place in Gaul (England) (Palmer, Map). While the difference in location is not great (we have record of travel by the Celts from Ireland to Britain (Gantz, 68)) the chronological difference is great (nearly a thousand years). For the sake of argument, we can allow 400 years of cultural development before the rise of these myths recorded in Gantz's book. Still, if we take a modern parallel, 600 years ago the earth was still believed to be flat, the western hemisphere was unknown, and people's cosmological belief was strictly Ptolemaic...

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