Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Celts: A History” as Want to Read:
The Celts: A History
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Celts: A History

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  622 Ratings  ·  47 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

Paperback, Revised paperback edition, 235 pages
Published 2004 by Carroll & Graf (first published 1994)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Celts, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Celts

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
May 16, 2015 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
Sotiris Karaiskos
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Το βιβλίο αυτό είναι η καλύτερη απάντηση στην ερώτηση "από που να ξεκινήσω να μαθαίνω για την ιστορία των Κελτών;". Μία σύντομη εισαγωγή στο θέμα, που περιέχει πολλές πληροφορίες χωρίς να κουράζει με πολλές λεπτομέρειες. Το μόνο ελάττωμα είναι ότι σε αρκετά σημεία ο συγγραφέας γίνεται υπερβολικός με τη συνεισφορά των Κελτών στον παγκόσμιο πολιτισμό.
Myke Cole
Jan 21, 2016 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
CJ - It's only a Paper Moon
Oct 21, 2008 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
Jun 17, 2010 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.
Kate Robinson
Jan 10, 2008 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.
Aug 19, 2009 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
Jul 31, 2010 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.
Lilaia Moreli
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 relia
Regina Lindsey
Ellis traces the broad history of Celtic migration and influence on Europe from the time they emerge around 6th century B.C. through the dawn of the Christian era. Challenging some of the stereotypes Ellis breaks the society down into its origins, laws, religion, arts and sciences, and roles of its members.

While I’m focused right now on a deep study into Irish history the books does a great job of framing the overall impact of the Celts into broader world history, even having a fascinating impa
Sep 29, 2008 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
Oct 28, 2012 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
Mar 28, 2009 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.
May 02, 2008 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.
Jul 27, 2010 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.
Jan 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of the best ive read this year.
Janelle Trees
Dec 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone curious about European history and the creators of Celtic wonders.
He's good this Peter Ellis. He knows his stuff. He's got so much to tell. I imagine it caused him almost physical pain to edit this book down to its little size. I could feel him wince, too, when he saw the brilliant bronze Celtic artefacts reduced to low quality black and white illustrations.
The illustrations are better than nothing, though. Enough to make you want to go to the museums (Ellis helpfully tells you which ones things are in) and see the real things. Or clamber up a muddy hill to s
Jozef Skubin
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Book is exactly what is meant to be "A brief history of the Celts" some will say that is not good idea to squeeze huge era and its civilisation in to short book, but we should take it as an introduction to further reading or studying about Celts or later history.
In my case. I choose it as an introduction to the British history, my next book is going to be "An Imperial Possession" by David Mattingly, so I'm going straight to Roman Britain.
"The Celts" gave me basic knowledge and idea what was go
Martin Poetz
Super interesting but very confusing. The book is not so much a timeline of the Celts but more about different aspects of life of the different tribes of the Celts (eg houses, pottery, weapons,...). One can learn a lot about those prototype Europeans, how they migrated and even why certain cities and rivers still have Celtic names in modern times.
Ray McCarthy
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent overview, though repeats a couple of points.
It is the WIDER Celtic history, very little about Insular Celts, especially Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
It's obvious too that for last 150 years much British Education has been filtered too much via the Imperial Roman view (perhaps due to the British Empire view?).
Fills in much detail I couldn't find on the Internet.
Aug 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Sometimes a bit tiringly 'pro-Celt', but the man certainly knows his cultural and especially linguistic roots (including Irish, 'old Irish', Welsh, Latin, Greek and more of them) to make his points about the Celtic tribes being throughout Europe. A very "dense" read, but a good one.
Mariano Abilleira
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The thing that really opened my mind, after reading this book, is how hardwired we are toward Rome in general, at least from an historical point of view. There was so much going on in Europe by the time the descendants of Aeneas were barely forming a miserable burg. Eye-opening.
Dave Miller
Mr. Peter Berresford Ellis is most certainly one the foremost Celt apologists. The Celts are the be all end all of civilization in Mr. Ellis' mind I do believe. Interesting information but very very favorable in all things Celtic.
Adeptus Fringilla
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Excellent introduction into the world of the celtic peoples. Neatly structured into chapters, this book is full of interesting information. Some of it is quite scholarly and there are also a lot of gaelic and latin words that are not always explained.
Lori S.
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A nice over view of Celtic history.
Nov 12, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
More reviews can be found on my book blog.

I started reading this months ago and it just dragged on and on. I was close to abandoning it quite a few times, but I'd always encounter something interesting just before dropping it. That's the problem. The book is full of interesting events and facts, but it doesn't go into enough detail and is just so dry.

I thought, as a Brief History, this would essentially be a high level overview of the timeline of the Celts with a few key periods looked at in-
Apr 13, 2015 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
So Hakim
Jan 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthropology
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
Lauren Albert
Jul 17, 2013 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
Dec 08, 2013 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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: The Celts: A History by Peter Berresford Ellis - 4 Stars 2 9 Feb 11, 2017 10:50AM  
  • In Search of Ancient Ireland: The Origins of the Irish from Neolithic Times to the Coming of the English
  • The Ancient Celts
  • Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales
  • Exploring the World of the Druids
  • The Druids: Celtic Priests of Nature
  • Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain
  • Wars of the Irish Kings: A Thousand Years of Struggle, from the Age of Myth through the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I
  • Pagan Celtic Ireland: The Enigma of the Irish Iron Age
  • The Celts
  • Pagan Celtic Britain
  • The Story of the Irish Race: A Popular History of Ireland
  • The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual
  • The World of the Celts
  • Malachy McCourt's History of Ireland
  • A Brief History of Life in the Middle Ages
  • Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions
  • Dictionary of Celtic Mythology
  • The Sea Kingdoms: The History of Celtic Britain  Ireland
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
More about Peter Berresford Ellis...

Nonfiction Deals

  • Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival
    $8.24 $1.99
  • A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf
    $27.00 $2.99
  • Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less
    $10.74 $1.99
  • Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
    $8.99 $1.99
  • A Room of One's Own
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Life in a Medieval City
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
    $12.99 $1.99
  • The Only Thing Worth Dying For: How Eleven Green Berets Forged a New Afghanistan
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Too Close to Me: The Middle-Aged Consequences of Revealing A Child Called "It"
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England's Most Notorious Queen
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Inside the Criminal Mind: Revised and Updated Edition
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error
    $9.24 $1.99
  • Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
    $13.99 $2.99
  • How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir
    $11.49 $1.99
  • Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Heart of Christianity
    $9.74 $1.99
  • Hidden Figures
    $4.09 $1.99
  • Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man
    $7.24 $1.99
  • Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Decoded
    $9.99 $1.99
  • K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
    $15.99 $2.99
  • Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness
    $10.49 $1.99
  • The Crosswicks Journals: A Circle of Quiet, The Summer of the Great-Grandmother, The Irrational Season, and Two-Part Invention
    $29.99 $3.99
  • Come to the Edge
    $6.99 $1.99
  • Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
    $11.99 $2.99
  • The Art of Communicating
    $9.49 $2.99
  • American Jezebel
    $8.24 $1.99