The Celts: History, Art, & Mythology


The Celts: History, Art, & Mythology was a class that I offered for a couple years in the late 2010s. Like most people, I had not studied the people we refer to as ‘Celts’ in any great detail. In 2015, I traveled all the way to London to see the exhibition at the British Museum titled, “Celts, art and identity.” I had reached the point in my studies where such an exhibition was timely. I had been doing my own research and reading books, academic papers, and so on, and this was a chance to see some of the artifacts I had been reading about with my own eyes. A further trip to Paris in 2018, where we visited the National Archaeological Museum at the Royal Chateau at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, exponentially increased the number of artifacts I was able to see. The artifact labels may have been in French, but I recognized most of the artifacts from my readings. My poor husband had to spend the day with me while I had a great time and paparazzi-ed the artifacts.

I no longer offer this class in the form in which I originally developed it. There are three main eras when we talk about ‘The Celts’: the Ancient Celts, the Insular or Medieval Celts, and the Celtic Revival. I have taken the material from this class, and incorporated it into other classes for which it is appropriate:

  • The Ancient Celts is now incorporated in The Romans in Scotland
  • The Insular or Medieval Celts is in The Gaels: History, Art, and Mythology
  • The Celtic Revival is in The Gaels: The Consequences of Empire

I would like to mention my approach to defining the term ‘Celt.’ There is much discussion about how to define the word ‘Celt.’ I view it as a term of convenience, in much the same way that we use the term Byzantine to identify the Hellenizing Eastern Roman Empire after the fall of the West. The term Celt comes from the Greek and was not a term (that we know of) that any of the people we refer-to as Celts called themselves. Almost all of our modern use of the term is done through the lens of the Celtic Revival, which has its own issues.

I have to admit that it was fun – and in many ways more cohesive – to group all this material together. I am, therefore, providing this page where it can all be together again.

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This page updated April, 2023