Why, despite Seemingly Copious Sources, Is Our Knowledge of Celtic Mythology So Fragmentary
Why, despite Seemingly Copious Sources, Is Our Knowledge of Celtic Mythology So Fragmentary - Essay Example
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Extract of sample Why, despite Seemingly Copious Sources, Is Our Knowledge of Celtic Mythology So Fragmentary
The Romans considered their Celtic neighbours to be barbarians, but their observations provide much of our body evidence in the study of mythology, in particular Julius Caesar, Lucan and Posidonius (Brezina, 2008, p.11). The two cultures co-existed but often clashed, as they were built on entirely different beliefs, traditions and values (Aldhouse-Green, 1998, p. 8). Furthermore, their relationship was also marked by conflict; the Romans successfully conquered Celtic Britain in the first-century, only to have their capital sacked by the Celts two centuries later (Brezina, 2008, p. 7). Consequently, historians such as Aldhouse-Green, have warned of the problems of using Roman sources as evidence. She argues that that there is a real danger of "bias distortion, misunderstanding and admission" which will affect the authenticity and usefulness of their opinions and observations. Classical writers may well have sensationalised or deliberately selected aspects of Celtic behaviour and ideas to create the image of an "uncivilised" race, and thus add to their own sense of superiority (1998. p. 8). The Romans may well have “singled out” or exaggerated particular Celtic ideas and beliefs which seemed alien to them. Brezina has commented that they offer “confused” and “fragmentary” accounts of the gods especially as they seemed very strange to the Romans ( 2008, p. 11). Their accounts also present difficulties for the historian because they employed Roman terminology when describing Celtic religion. This further compounds the difficulties of interpretation (Maier, 1997, p. 24). The second type of source to be discussed come from the Middle Ages and were compiled throughout Britain. Once again, the historian is immediately confronted with a problem which potentially affects their reliability and authenticity; the influence of Christianity (Aldhouse-Green, 1998, p. 9). Maier argues that this influence means that such accounts are not a true reflection of “pre-Christian mythology” and should actually be viewed as a “creative interpretation”. To be able to use them correctly also requires an excellent knowledge of Medieval Welsh and Irish sources, and a constant reviewing when new material is discovered.
The essay "Why, despite Seemingly Copious Sources, Is Our Knowledge of Celtic Mythology So Fragmentary?" has attempted to show the problematic nature of the different sources used by historians in the study of Celtic mythology. It is these problems of authenticity, reliability and bias, inherent in each source, which make our knowledge fragmentary…
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