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Philosopher and the Druids

Philosopher and the Druids

Other book format

By (author) Philip Freeman

List price $25.00

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  • Publisher: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: Other book format | 224 pages
  • Dimensions: 147mm x 221mm x 28mm | 318g
  • Publication date: 16 January 2006
  • Publication City/Country: NZ
  • ISBN 10: 0743262808
  • ISBN 13: 9780743262804

Product description

Early in the first century B.C. a Greek philosopher named Posidonius began an ambitious and dangerous journey into the little-known lands of the Celts. A man of great intellectual curiosity and considerable daring, Posidonius traveled from his home on the island of Rhodes to Rome, the capital of the expanding empire that had begun to dominate the Mediterranean. From there Posidonius planned to investigate for himself the mysterious Celts, reputed to be cannibals and savages. His journey would be one of the great adventures of the ancient world.Posidonius journeyed deep into the heart of the Celtic lands in Gaul. There he discovered that the Celts were not barbarians but a sophisticated people who studied the stars, composed beautiful poetry, and venerated a priestly caste known as the Druids. Celtic warriors painted their bodies, wore pants, and decapitated their foes. Posidonius was amazed at the Celtic women, who enjoyed greater freedoms than the women of Rome, and was astonished to discover that women could even become Druids.Posidonius returned home and wrote a book about his travels among the Celts, which became one of the most popular books of ancient times. His work influenced Julius Caesar, who would eventually conquer the people of Gaul and bring the Celts into the Roman Empire, ending forever their ancient way of life. Thanks to Posidonius, who could not have known that he was recording a way of life soon to disappear, we have an objective, eyewitness account of the lives and customs of the ancient Celts.

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Editorial reviews

Recreating a vanished Celtic society through the eyes of a scholar traveling in the first century B.C. Historian Freeman (Classics/Luther Coll.), who has written extensively on ancient Celtic culture, languages and interaction with classical civilizations of Rome and Greece, here focuses on surviving fragments from the writings of the Syrian-born (ca. 135 B.C.) Greek philosopher Posidonius. There are problems, however, since almost all of Posidonius's writings on his extensive travels, primarily through lands of the Gaulish tribes in Western Europe, have been lost and are accessible only through other contemporary and later writers. The author ably bridges gaps in the record, but the speculative refrain of "surely Posidonius" did this or that in the company of Celts, or visited a particular tribal capitol, etc., does become distracting. His point is well taken that at least here was a learned person putting himself at risk in order to apprehend Celtic culture for posterity with no particular axe to grind-or wield, as in the case of another prolific reporter on Celtic customs, their Roman conqueror Julius Caesar (whom Freeman also cites). Somewhat out of kilter with the book's title, the focus does not narrow to the Druids, specifically, until near the end, with Freeman acknowledging that "All the Greek and Latin passages we have left on the ancient Druids would fit comfortably on a single sheet of paper." Nonetheless, the author confidently builds on archaeological evidence of their role in Celtic society; they did not worship trees, he asserts, although mistletoe was commonly used in rites that did include "occasional" human sacrifices. When at his best, Freeman clearly connects touchstones of Celtic culture to practices that persisted in Ireland, some even into the 20th century. A brisk and illuminating overview of how Celts impacted their world and ours. (Kirkus Reviews)