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Lecture 1 on Celtic Britain Before the Roman Occupation.doc
Lecture 1 on Celtic Britain Before the Roman Occupation.doc

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University of Ottawa
Celtic Studies
Paul Birt

Celtic Britain before the Romans, Britain during the Roman Occupation: Historical Arthur: th -all of the early evidence points to the 5 century AD as the time in which the putative Arthur may have lived (none of this evidence is contemporary to the time he may have lived) What exactly is meant by Celtic Britain? -in the classical period (Roman, Greek, Egyptian), the word Celt was used mainly for the European speakers of a Celtic language -the word was never apparently used to refer to the populations of Britain and Ireland th -only in the late 17 century AD did people begin to refer to them as Celts -this is mainly because the languages were seen as related to the European languages of France, Spain -therefore these people were at the very edge of the Celtic world – mostly throughout European continent Arthur of the Celts: -before the arrival of the Romans in Britain (54 BC), almost all the inhabitants of the Isle of Britain spoke a Celtic language. For the Greeks and the Romans, “Britain” and the “Britons” were synonymous with Celtic La Tene civilization -the Britons were a Celtic-speaking people who covered almost all of the Island of Britain (the English were yet to arrive) -they lived in tribal groups sometimes hostile and sometimes in league with each other British? Britons? -today, people use these words for those who are inhabitants of Britain -but before 1700 AD, the word Briton mainly referred to the Celtic speaking peoples like the Welsh, Cornish, Bretons, and Strathclydians -we are using the word in its traditional sense: the Celts of the Island of Britain, excluding the Gaels of Scotland Languages; What Would Arthur have Spoken? -the Celtic languages are traditionally classed into two groups: Brittonic (or Brythonic or P-Celtic): Welsh, Breton, Cornish, Strathclydian Goidelic (or Q-Celtic): Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx -Arthur would have probably spoken two languages; late Brittonic or early Welsh, and a soldier’s Latin Brittonic: -Brittonic is the parent language of Welsh, Cornish, Breton, like Latin is the parent language of Spanish, French, Romanian -by the 5 century AD, Brittonic was evolving into Early Welsh; at that time still spoken widely in western Britain, not just Wales Who Are the Celts? -in the ancient world (Classical Greece, Rome), the Celts were referred to as living in the centre and west of Europe (vague geographic ideas -the Greeks called this amorphous people Keltoi or Galatae -now thought that Celtic was spoken in Britain/Ireland perhaps as early as 1000 BC, previously thought 500 BC Britain in the centuries before the Roman Invasion: -Pytheas the Greek from Massalia who visited Britain c300 BC; wrote about his travels, which was quite rare for a literate Greek of the time -the “Islands of the Pretanni” -Albion, Pretani, Priteni (those who covered themselves in woad) -? -NOT savages; very high level of culture -Julius Caesar did not invade Britain, but he did make significant diplomatic inroads into the native Celtic world of the Britons -finally, the Romans invaded Britain in 43 AD ordered by the Emperor Claudius Arthur of the Celts: -apart from the military and economic interests in Britain, the Romans left their mark linguistically and culturally on Celtic Britain during their occupation (1-5 AD) -many parts of southern Britain were as Roman as Gaul by the 3-5 centuri
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