Ancient history


The Druids were the intellectual elite of the Celts. According to Caesar, one of the best sources concerning them, “they preside over public and private sacrifices, regulate religious practices; young people come in droves to learn from them, and they are greatly honored. It is the Druids, in fact, who decide almost all conflicts between States or between individuals and, if some crime has been committed, if there has been murder, if a dispute has arisen about inheritance or delimitation, it is they who judge, who fix the compensations to be received and given; if an individual or a people does not comply with their decision, they forbid him sacrifices. It is among the Gauls the most serious punishment. Those who have been struck by this prohibition, they are numbered among the impious and the criminals, they move away from them, they flee their approach and their conversation, fearing some disastrous effect from their impure contact; they are not admitted to seek justice nor to take their share of any honour. All these druids obey a single leader, who enjoys great authority among them. On his death, if one of them is distinguished by merit outside the line, he succeeds him; if several have equal titles, the suffrage of the druids, sometimes even the arms decide. Each year, on a fixed date, they hold their meeting in a consecrated place, in the country of the Carnutes, which is said to occupy the center of Gaul. There, from all parts flow all those who have differences, and they submit to their decisions and their judgments. It is believed that their doctrine originated in Brittany, and was brought from that island into Gaul; even today those who want to make an in-depth study of it most often go there to learn.

“Druids usually abstain from going to war and do not pay taxes like the others:they are exempt from military service and exempt from any charge. Attracted by such great advantages, many come spontaneously to follow their lessons, many are sent to them by their families. It is said that from them they learn by heart a considerable number of verses. Thus more than one he stays twenty years at school. They believe that religion does not allow them to entrust the subject of their teaching to writing, whereas for everything else in general, for public and private accounts, they use the Greek alphabet. They seem to me to have established this custom for two reasons:because they do not want their doctrine to be divulged, nor that, on the other hand, their pupils, relying on writing, neglect their memory; because it is a common thing:when we are helped by written texts, we apply less to remember by heart and we let our memory rust. The essential point of their teaching is that souls do not perish, but that after death they pass from one body to another; they think that this belief is the best stimulant of courage, because one is no longer afraid of death. In addition, they indulge in numerous speculations on the stars and their movements, on the dimensions of the world and those of the earth, on the nature of things, on the power of the gods and their attributions, and they transmit these doctrines to the youth” (Gallic War, VI, 12-15).

According to Strabo and other ancient authors, the intellectual class of the Celts was divided into three categories:the bards (poets), the ovates, in charge more particularly of sacrifices and divination, finally the druids themselves, qualified as philosophers and theologians. , who were concerned with the interpretation of nature and moral philosophy. This third category seems to be considered the most prestigious, because it possesses knowledge. This is what Caesar describes. The gutuater, quoted by several inscriptions and mentioned in the Gallic Wars (VII, 3; VIII, 38), is generally considered a high person in charge of the sacrifices.

We know of only one druid by name, the notable Aedui Diviciacos, a well-known protagonist of the Gallic Wars. Cicero had met him in Rome and mentions his quality as a druid which would otherwise have remained unknown to us (De divinatione, I, 41).

Archaeological identification of druids is difficult and even the cases that can be considered the most likely remain uncertain. One can select among them more particularly, a burial of Pogny - a man accompanied in the tomb by ritual utensils, a peg and two kinds of spoons

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