October meeting - The Celts in south Wales
The Celts: an enigma?
Mr John Richards has visited the Society several times in the past and this year took the Celts in south Wales as his topic. A large audience was in the Church Hall to hear him speak. In fact.the talk ranged far wider than his initial brief and it was quite obvious that the stereotypical view of the Celtic people was far from clear.
The name “Celt”, itself is obscure. The Greeks discounted anyone who was not Greek as “Barbarians”, in reference to the strange sound of their tongue,but used the word Keltoi to describe an amalgam of tall, fair haired peoples in northern Europe. The Romans preferred Galli (as in ‘Gallic’ or ‘Pays de Galles’). However, Celt may hail from the word “celu ”, ( still used in modern Welsh meaning ‘hidden’ ). The Greeks referred to the British Isles as “Pretannae”, referring to the “painted people”, and the Romans called the island Britannia. The main reference point to the Celts is primarily linguistic since they did not have a written culture. The centre of Celtic culture in central Europe at Hallein and Hallstadt refer to 'halen', salt which is evidently obvious to a modern Welsh audience.
Turning to Wales, reference was made to the principal warlike tribe of south Wales, the Silures. When the Romans actually arrived the area which is now known as Wales was largely a war zone, and the fierce Silures fought a largely guerrilla campaign for some twenty five years. Meeting the Romans in pitched battle was a military mistake as “Caradog” or Caratacus found to his well known cost after he helped the resistance of the Silures. The other large tribe of southern Wales the Demetae, (still recognised in the mabinogion's Dyfed) had a more peaceful relationship with the Romans and this is shown by the distinct lack of Roman military presence, though gold was mined at Dolaucothi in Carmarthenshire. In contrast, south Wales was dotted with Roman forts including one at Neath ( Nidum) a marching camp at Tonna and a signalling station above Resolfen along the Sarn Helen Roman road.
The talk ended with a reference to the end of the Roman period when in 410 AD as the Celtic Brythonic people became the Romano- British. Statues of the period show Roman auxiliaries with Celtic torques indicating how far the assimilation had gone. Indeed the modern Welsh language hails from this period and its roots owe almost as much to Latin as they do to Brythonic.
|An artists impression of a Celtic settl|
Mr Gwyn Thomas thanked Mr Richards for a very interesting talk and made comment as to the large number of members who had attended the meeting.
The BBC is currently running a series on the Celts, Monday Nights on BBC2 at 9:00.