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The Celts: A History

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  430 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews

Uncovering one of Europe's greatest civilizations

For centuries the Celts held sway in Europe. Even after their conquest by the Romans, their culture remained vigorous, ensuring that much of it endured to feed an endless fascination with Celtic history and myths, artwork and treasures.

Peter Berresford Ellis, a foremost authority on the Celtic peoples and their culture, pr

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Paperback, Revised paperback edition, 235 pages
Published 2004 by Carroll & Graf (first published 1994)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,393)
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Travelin
Nov 30, 2015 Travelin rated it really liked it
The final update: I've been meaning to add the last few excerpts I'd underlined, but yet another inaccuracy reared its head, like a teenager at the bit. My edition, "copyright 1998, 2003", but copyright the author 1988, seems to make no mention of discoveries from 1996 (mentioned in my The Cut Throat Celts, copyright 1997), of Romans in Hibernia. The argument can be made, and has been, that there is difference between Romans invading vs. Romans merely visiting early Ireland, but, given that this ...more
Myke Cole
Jan 21, 2016 Myke Cole rated it really liked it
This is an excellent survey of the Celts from their earliest days through the dawn of Christianity. There is some exploration of modern Celts, but very little, and only to tie off investigative threads.

Ellis is a master of his subject, and clearly a Celtophile. The only reason the book isn't 5-stars is because of his naked effort to lionize Celtic legacy. While he does much to rectify the bigoted and ignorant testimony of Greek and Roman historians (pretty much the only textual evidence we have
...more
CJ - So, you wanna play with magic?
Nov 13, 2008 CJ - So, you wanna play with magic? rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Ancient Celtic History
Informative as always. Especially loved the chapters on women, religion and ancient history. Good book to pick up if you are interested in Celtic History. Ellis' voice is informative and interesting and knowledgeable. Please note that is a Cultural Anthropological book and even to pare it down further, a Socially Cultural book. If you want something dry, based purely on fact and numbers then this book is not one you want to pick up. Also not recommended for those interested in only Insular Celti ...more
Steve
Jun 21, 2010 Steve rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Sort of dry. I learned a lot, but it's like digesting pig iron. The author crams a lot of information into a short book (just over 200 pages). I often found my eyes glazing over as I re-read paragraphs filled with names I have no idea how to pronounce. Each chapter focuses on some aspect of Celtic civilization, so that makes things easier. And the chapters are short. But it's probably a story that needs to be told in a much longer book, and written with greater style.
Nan
Jul 31, 2010 Nan rated it liked it
A fascinating look at an ancient, influential, but overlooked European group that is ancestral to most Americans. Ellis is obviously a celtophile, attributing so much of what are considered Roman advances to ideas lifted from the long-fought and eventually conquered Celts. I gave this book to my son, who's in love with the Romans, knowing that it would add to his understanding of them.
Maya
Nov 24, 2008 Maya rated it really liked it
Shelves: celtic-history
Historians who talked about the Celts can be fit into three categories. The first category includes the Classical writers who wrote to demonize them, and the writers who wrote to show
how unsophisticated they are. The second category includes the people who wrote to show what a great society they were and how misunderstood they were and those include both modern and
classical writers. And the third and final category is the writers who were somewhat unbiased and these are very few. The author of
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Kendra
Mar 19, 2011 Kendra rated it really liked it
For such a small book (221 pages), and considering it had to skim through so much, it was chock-full of information. The author did a really good job of giving information about assorted Celtic tribes from all over Europe, rather then focusing on a specific area, such as Ireland. He compared and contrasted some of the major tribes, and then went in to some very interesting descriptions on what the Celts did, that the Romans end up being known for. Not a difficult or tedious read, rather enjoyabl ...more
Kate Robinson
Jan 28, 2008 Kate Robinson rated it liked it
I found myself surprisingly enthralled with this book. Despite the fact that it is littered with impossible to pronounce names, it is an entertaining portrait of a tribe of people that it turns out I knew nothing about. Certain chapters were more interesting than others, but on the whole well worth the read.
Abi Cadell
Jul 30, 2009 Abi Cadell rated it really liked it
I found this book very interesting and enjoyable, though it's obvious that Peter Berresford Ellis is a great partisan of the Celts and rather biased. Having said that, it's a very easy to read book and an excellent introduction to the Celts.
Melissa
Jul 27, 2010 Melissa rated it liked it
Shelves: art-history
A very good introduction to the Celts, easy to read and gives you a taste of the different members of society. Not really about the movement of the Celts across Europe or the time-line.
Jeremy
May 02, 2008 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Lots of insights on the impact of the Celts on the early Christians, and the religious beliefs that were evident of the Celts.
Regina Hunter
Feb 04, 2012 Regina Hunter rated it it was amazing
One of the best ive read this year.
Lisbeth
Aug 17, 2015 Lisbeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A while ago I visited an excellent exhibition of 'Vikings' in Tongeren in Belgium. While checking out the museum shop I found this interesting book about the Celts. We are full of admiration for the Romans who were so ahead of things in a lot of areas. Well, to my surprise a lot of things the Romans did, came from the Celts and was adapted by the Romans. Now we know!

At the start of the first millennium BC, a civilisation which had developed from its Indo-European roots around the headwaters of t
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So Hakim
Mar 22, 2015 So Hakim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A quick survey of Celtic anthropology and history. Anybody interested about the Celts can do worse than starting with this book. There is simply a little bit of everything.

From written history to archaeology, to language and laws, even their religion and beliefs are thoroughly introduced. There is also discussion about the Celts' Proto-Indo-European root (which I found quite edifying).

The author took pains explaining academic consensus on each topic. For a book geared toward popular audience, t
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Jaimie
Mar 22, 2014 Jaimie rated it really liked it
The Celtic people are one of the oldest breeds in history, so their story is a lengthy one. Thankfully, Ellis' Brief History sums it up neatly without going into an overwhelming amount of detail. He summarizes pretty much every topic needed for a complete introduction - ranging from the role of women to war practices - as well as discussing the historiography involved in his information sources (which is essential considering that the Celts were a largely oral culure during the pre-Christian era ...more
Chrissy
Mar 04, 2014 Chrissy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very enjoyable read.
Ellis presents a great deal of information in a short book without being overwhelming. Pleasantly packaged in a manner that is neither too dry or lacking in dignity.
There is a lot to chew on that I had not considered. The sheer scope of the celtic world is simply amazing (while most of us only think in terms of insular celts and Asterix).

My only misgivings about the information in the book is that the author gives SO much credit, and SO much defense to the celtic side of is
...more
Lauren Albert
Jul 17, 2013 Lauren Albert rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-ancient

Concise and informative look at the early Celts. It is fact- rather than narrative-based history but the facts are often fascinating and (for me) surprising. Especially surprising to me were the links he showed between the Celts and South Asian cultures—both Indo-European, of course. Some other interesting facts that I learned—Roman roads were usually built on earlier Celtic roads which because they were constructed using wood, did not last the test of archaeological time. The Celts also began m
...more
Aurah Sage
Apr 03, 2015 Aurah Sage rated it liked it
Shelves: celtic
It is certainly a brief history. I don't know how accurate it is, though what I remember from it I've seen backed up by other sources. And it was interesting enough.
It was a good jumping-off point. Thanks to this book I've been reading more in depth about the history of the Celts.
Martine
Feb 09, 2014 Martine rated it really liked it
Shelves: have-book
This book does what it promises: gives a brief overview of all aspects of Celtic life. It combines information from multiple discliplines: archeology, history, linguistics, to give you as broad a view as possible. Sometimes it's a bit too detailed for the casual reader, but a good and complete overview from someone who obviously knows what he's talking about. The only thing that baffles me is the last chapter, entitled 'Early Celtic History'. In part it's a rehash of earlier chapters, in part it ...more
Martin
Jan 07, 2016 Martin rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
interesting but slow reading with too many facts dates names and places crammed in. i have read previously on the celts and irish mythology so for someone who hasn't so much backround then this book would probably even be a harder read and one I would not recommend as a starter book on this subject. The book however is not so long and does cover some interesting subjects and topics. The authors evident interest in his work also comes across well.
James Welfare
Jan 14, 2014 James Welfare rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Enjoyable introductory history. Gives enough detail and mentions enough sites, dates and classical sources to feel complete but doesn't go into excessive detail. Easily read with an intelligent style, sometimes changes subject rather suddenly but I suppose that is part and parcel of being a "brief" history. Plenty of information buy also whetted my appetite for more Celtic history
Rick
Feb 11, 2015 Rick rated it really liked it
I listened to this book. It was very interesting. I always thought of the Celts as a subset of Irish culture but a lot of the Celt history included Galatia (current Belgium, Netherlands, Germany) and their great defeat of the Romans. It was a detailed look at the history, culture, wars, and lives of the Celts. Very good read and enlightening.
Megan
Aug 03, 2013 Megan rated it it was ok
I am only giving this 2 stars because it did have very interesting facts and info in it, but that's it. This book was so hard for me to get through and as a history lover I am a little frustrated with that. This book might have been better if the author didn't try to shove so much information at you in only 200 pages. It just doesn't work.
Katrina
Apr 25, 2013 Katrina rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jenny
Dec 16, 2014 Jenny rated it liked it
Interesting but too dry. Good starter point on what to google next though.
Nick
Feb 25, 2010 Nick rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This might make your eyes dry up and bleed out of boredom if you're not a historian. If you are interested in history and want a nice introduction to the Celts, this would be it.
وسام الدين محمد
Aug 06, 2010 وسام الدين محمد rated it really liked it
I am never red an interesting historical book like that before. The Celts are the most mysterious people in history and this book try to make an interpretation for their history.
James Edgar
Nov 25, 2013 James Edgar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good read, and the writer clarifies that the Celts have been misunderstood for ages -- all because of the Roman writers making deliberate errors.
Caron Bright
Jul 06, 2013 Caron Bright rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
one of the better celtic books if you are just curious.
janine
janine marked it as to-read
Feb 05, 2016
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Peter Berresford Ellis (born 10 March 1943) is a historian, literary biographer, and novelist who has published over 90 books to date either under his own name or his pseudonyms Peter Tremayne and Peter MacAlan. He has also published 95 short stories. His non-fiction books, articles and academic papers have made him acknowledged as an authority on Celtic history and culture. Under Peter Tremayne, ...more
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