I just finished The Philosopher and the Druids. Something is sticking in my head. It tells of the famous Greek philosopher of the Stoic tradition’s journey through the Celtic countries and he writes about a funeral tradition of the Gauls of what is now France. He said that the people believed that when someone died they waited somewhere before reincarnating but when a person was cremated that everyone who wanted to communicate with their own dead would write a letter and put it on the funeral pyre so that the person being cremated would take the people’s letters with them to their dead. A sort of cosmic mail person.
Through most of Posidonious’ writings he is pointing out how strange some of the Gaul’s customs were but what he doesn’t point out as strange struck me, were all the people literate? If everyone is writing letters to the dead and their dead can read them then that is a very large literate population for those times, (around 90 BC)
I know that the Irish had universities in 600 AD that people from all over Europe sent their sons to for education that was allegedly better than that found in the rest of Europe. And I know that Scotland has always had a huge tradition of literacy. The English liked to portray William Wallace as a barbarian and country bumpkin who somehow managed to unite Scotland but he had been to universities in France so how big a barbarian could be have been, Mel Gibson’s idiot portrayal not withstanding?
And Posidonius writes that everyone , men, women and children wrote letters. Yes, they ran naked and screaming into battle and deafened the Romans with trumpets and screaming but that was to scare the bejebus out of the Romans and sometimes it actually worked.
The inscriptions from that time period were in Gaulish so they obviously had a written language that was accessible to all. How big a barbarian could you be if you can read and write? Yes, they practiced human sacrifice but was that really any different from Romans putting people in the arena to fight to the death? I don’t think so and I bet there were fewer sacrifices by the Gauls than deaths in the arenas that every city had for contests with captured slaves. Posidonius makes a point of saying that the Gauls kept far fewer slaves than the Romans did and this is at the end of the Republic before the Empire would really raise the ante.
So I’m still pondering what a Greek had to say about the Celts of Iberia and Gaul. And really wanting to do some genetic testing to find out what gene pool I swam in versus what I was told was family history. I also wish my brother was still alive because he was the last of his line.