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A Brief History of the Druids (The Brief History) Paperback – April 10, 2002

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Paperback, April 10, 2002
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Product Details

  • Series: The Brief History
  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press (April 10, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786709871
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786709878
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 4.9 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #261,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"- 'Finally, a book that separates fact from mythology, telling us what we can and cannot know about the ancient Druids. This remarkable book by a leading historian of the Celts offers much for the academician as well as the general reader. Fascinating reading!' - Joseph A. King, author of Ireland to North America - 'Readable and well-researched... a useful guide...' - Count Nikolai Tolstoy, Times Higher Education Supplement --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Peter Berresford Ellis is the author of many books, including highly regarded works on Celtic history and culture. He is a Fellow of three Royal Societies in historical and antiquarian fields and the recipient of many awards and honours for his work. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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It is easily the best book on the Druids that I have ever read.
Amazon Customer
This book is a must read for those who wish to learn about the Druids and Celtic society.
S. Cranow
The bibliography is lengthy and includes journal articles as well as books.
Atheen M. Wilson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

96 of 102 people found the following review helpful By Atheen M. Wilson on October 17, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had tried unsuccessfully to read the Sister Fidelma murder mysteries by the author Peter Tremayne, but had a difficult time getting into the stories. It seemed too pedantic. Later, in doing a little research on the author for my Amazon review, I discovered that Peter Tremayne is the nom de plume of Peter Berresford Ellis, a Celtic scholar of some ability. Given my preference for expository prose anyway, I decided I might enjoy his more serious books in the field, so I bought A Brief History of The Druids for my library. As I suspected, I enjoyed this book much more than the mystery.
At the outset, let me say that The Druids is not a new age discussion of mystic powers, etc and anyone looking to "get in touch" with the ancient past will be profoundly disappointed. The book is a very carefully researched study of what the author has determined was a social class of Celtic society. These were the "philosophers, judges, educators, historians, doctors, seers, astronomers and astrologers; in fact,...the native intellectual class of Celtic society (p. 35)."
Ellis freely admits that very little of written documentation on the druids remains and much of what there is has come down to us from external sources not always favorable to the Celtic world, for one reason or another, or at best simply not "in the know" about it. He cites various primary sources from the Greek and Roman world: Hecateus and Herodotus, Poseidonios and Diordorus, Strabo and Laertius, Pliny the Elder and Julius Caesar among them.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on July 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
Few figures flit so elusively through history as do the druids. Enigmatic and puzzling, the paucity of knowledge about them has resulted in a wide spectrum of interpretations. Even today, the lack of information has allowed the rise of an extensive "druidic" movement, particularly in Great Britain. Scouring through a wealth of resources and applying many years' work in this attempt to clarify the image of the Druids. He applies solid resources, assessing them rigidly and uses well the evidence has come to light. He's keen to revoke commonly held views. Druids weren't a savage priesthood practicing human sacrifice or arcane mysteries. Instead, Ellis finds them the intellectual elite of the Celtic world.
In sweeping away false beliefs about the Celts and their Druid "priesthood", Ellis provides a fine overview of Celtic society. Instead of nomadic warriors, the Celts were generally pastoralists and farmers in a stable society. Displacements and opportunitistic alliances resulted in societal changes. From an egalitarian society in which leaders were democratically chosen, a hierarchical structure developed as a reaction to intrusions. Christianity, of course, sounded the knell of their open society by demanding an end to "pagan" beliefs. Once forced into this new role, the democratic society became patriarchal.
One major change he notes resulting from this change was the role of women. Unlike their Mediterranean counterparts, Greece and Rome, the Celts held women in high regard, even granting them leadership status in peace and war. How many women gained status in the Druidic elite remains unclear, but he asserts it was only logical that leadership would include intellectual capacity.
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
I have no problem freely admitting how much I admire this author. Let me tell you why.
Most "Celtic scholars" seem to have been educated by the Classics Departments of their respective universities, which means that their understanding of the Celts is limited to the writings of a hostile, self-glorifying, invading nation and their assimilated underdogs. Also, the main purpose of Classics departments seems to be to glorify their field of study rather than to critically analyze it.
There have been some pretty assinine statements made by Roman "historians", taken unquestioningly at face value by the dewy-eyed, glory-of-Rome-loving Classics folks, such as when Josephus is describing the destruction of the Temple of Solomon in Israel. Rather than admit that the Roman general desecrated a temple, something the Roman people would have been up in arms about, Josephus states that non only did the Jews burn down their own temple, but threw themselves into the flames! (cf Eisenman's James, the Brother of Jesus)
The works of Roman "historians" are riddled with inaccuracies and fabrications; Josephus and others even freely admit that in choosing between accuracy and glorifying Rome that they choose to glorify Rome, yet this doesn't turn on the light bulb in the minds of Classics scholars to be discerning in their adoption of Roman writings as fact.
Now that we can clearly establish the need for Celtic scholars who actually have an interest in the Celts themselves and not the Celts as perceived through hostile foreign eyes, we can at last turn to Peter Berresford Ellis. Ellis is, quite simply, brilliant on the historical (and prehistorical) front.
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