Pssssttt… we’re not really Celts…

As Fintan O’Toole says, it’s not really a secret (subs needed). Lot’s of people know it, but no one seems to want to talk about it. The Celtic Fringe is a Oxford myth cooked up by the polymath keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, and popularised in a book called The Antiquities of Nations. The integrity of our ancient Celtic identity is, it seems, bogus. “There never was a Celtic invasion of Ireland or Britain. The identity our Celtic of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany dates back, not to the mists of time, but to 1707” (Just after the first Act of Union in fact). O’Toole goes on:

Edward Lhuyd, brilliantly, argued that Gaelic, Cornish, Breton and Welsh were related to the language spoken by the ancient Gauls. He called these languages “Celtic” (largely because the term Gallic then denoted the hated French) and suggested that they had spread to Britain and Ireland through migration.

In an intellectual culture saturated with classical learning, the link with the “Keltoi” who had invaded ancient Greece, and with the Gauls whom Caesar slaughtered and described, was flattering, not least in Ireland. Instead of being marginal people, we were the remnants of an ancient and once all-powerful European civilisation. With the rise of 19th-century cultural nationalism, this ready-made genealogy, with its neat racial distinction between Celts and Saxons, was far too useful to be refused. In an era obsessed with so-called scientific racism, it provided a seemingly natural case for Irish independence. The Celtic Twilight (or as that rare sceptic James Joyce called it, the Cultic Twalette) added a rich layer of modern cultural prestige.

Indeed, he argues that the only thing genuinely Celtic about ancient Ireland was our ancestor’s predilection for ‘Celtic bling’:

There is an Iron Age material culture that is evident in findings from northern Europe between Paris and Prague. It is named after a site in Switzerland called La Tène and is associated with what we call the Celts (there is no evidence that these people ever used the term or even identified themselves as a single ethnic group).

And none of the things you would find if these people invaded or migrated to Ireland – their pots, their houses, their burial-sites, their coins, their horse-fittings – exist here. There are high-end La Tène-style objects, but virtually all of them are of recognisably local manufacture. As Barry Raftery, one of the leading authorities on Iron Age Ireland, puts it of the presumed Celtic invasion, “It seems strange that a warrior aristocracy supposedly responsible for imposing so many aspects of its culture on the indigenous population . . . should have had almost no impact on the archaeological record.”

In fact, what both archaeology and genetic studies show is continuity – broadly the same people who built Newgrange continuing to inhabit the island, speaking a version of the language of the Atlantic seaboard from which they had originated. What did happen in the Iron Age is that an emergent aristocracy began to adopt the international style they knew from trade and other contacts. Local craft-workers produced their own versions of Celtic chic – a bit like us copying Gucci or Prada. It was a way for the knobs to distinguish themselves from the yobs. As the archaeologist Simon Jones puts it, “‘Celtic art’ . . . is not a marker of ethnic identity but of status, wealth, and power”. If we are Celts today because our elites developed a taste for continental bling, then half the denizens of Foxrock and Montenotte are Italians.

  • Revisionism penned by a revisionist and published by the revisionist Irish Thames seeking to reassert themselves as Britain’s paper in Ireland.

  • Úna

    So the (undeniably Celtic) Irish language can be explained away how? Maybe it never existed?

  • harpo

    How is it that the Irish are always inventing things so as to pretend that they are so much different from everyone else on the islands?

  • Pete Baker

    Mick

    It’s also why, as previously noted, there is no Celtic section in the National Museum of Ireland.

  • SlugFest

    so what about the HH gene mutation (the ‘celtic gene’) that causes hemochromatosis? it’s found in the irish, british, scottish and welsh. the mutation is undeniable. so what should it really be called … the ‘gaelic gene’? the ‘pasty white gene’?

  • Crataegus

    Una

    The question is is the language Celtic? You could be in part different but the difference may not be as assumed.

    Anyone who gets a high on thoughts of the racial purity or unique qualities or exclusivity of the race has to be at best suspect and at worst certifiable. We are mongrels and much healthier for it. Celts, pre Celts, Saxons, Vikings, Normans, throw in a few Spanish, and now Poles and East Europeans. A fine mix.

  • Fraggle

    “In fact, what both archaeology and genetic studies show is continuity – broadly the same people who built Newgrange continuing to inhabit the island, speaking a version of the language of the Atlantic seaboard from which they had originated.”

    Funny how people read the title of an atricle then continue right ahead and spout their usual rubbish. I maybe not be a ‘celt’ but (most of) my ancestors have been living on this island for five thousand years longer than some people.

  • Last month’s Irish Democrat has an interesting piece on this debate by Peter Berresford Ellis:

    Relax – we’re all Anglo-Saxon anyway!

  • The Dubliner

    A leaked letter from the British Ambassador to Ireland detailing a meeting he had with one of the principle shareholders and the chief executive of The Irish Times from 1962 and 1997, Major McDowell, wherein McDowell asks Downing Street for “guidance” on how he might better control the paper’s “renegade white nigger” editor, Douglas Gageby, who was displeasing McDowell by his terrible tendency to leave “authorised” pro-British material out of the Irish Times and include “unauthorised” material in it, specifically related to the practice and policy of the British government on Northern Ireland, shows that the owners of the Irish Times strove to please their British masters in using the Irish media to disseminate pro-British propaganda. O’Toole, Myers, Dudley-Edwards, et al, are simply a continuance of that policy of using the media as a platform for stooges to serve their master’s agenda.

    http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/apr2004/irtimesmcdowell.gif

    The previous Slugger post that Pete linked to and the article therein shows that its author was dearly concerned that “nationalists from Devoy to Pearse made Celt and Gael synonymous” and, presumably, saw it as his solemn duty as a non-historian and non-archaeologist but adept propagandist to serve his master’s by reversing what was seen as beneficial to Irish nationalism and thereby detrimental to British nationalism by the simple (but pissing in the wind) expedient of attempting to unlink “Celt and Gael.” You might write it as “Pro-British stooges from O’Toole to Myers made Celt and Gael mutually exclusive.”

    The fly in the ointment, of course, is how Gaels came to speak a Celtic language. The stooges have no explanation for this beyond embarrassing themselves by claiming that it was the result of ether “a small upper crust” or kidnap of women over many years.” Heh. Game over.

  • bpower

    Dur, everyone knows we’re the lost tribe of Israel anyway. Up through Spain we came, aye, that we did.

  • PaddyReilly

    We’re certainly not Anglo-saxon.

    We’re actually pre-Celts, who have adopted, and now largely abandoned, Celtic linguistic habits.

    Does the extra syllable make any difference?

  • Plum Duff

    bpower, it’s a pity that the panto season is over as I could have answered your remark, ‘Oh no, yiz didn’t.’ :o) LOL

    However, to be serious, I fail to see why some of the contributors above have got their dander up on this topic. It’s been quite obvious for centuries we have been a mongrel race with many forms of integrations going on (except with the DUP, of course, (heh)) due to immigration, emigration, inter-marriage or invasion. My current passport says I’m Irish – mind you, my other one says I’m British – but that’s another story. However, it’s good enough to get me around the world if I choose and shout for Ireland as I did on Sunday. Anyone who gives a shit about racial purity in the 21st C needs their head examined?

    I liked the bling bit though. I can just picture Cuchulainn with his medallion and Brian Boru with his nose pierced (before the axe hit him, of course).

  • The Dubliner, the Indymedia can be a bit too lefty so…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Gageby

    Ath Cliath abu !!

  • Mick Fealty

    Celtic people Celtic. That’s what’s at issue, not the existence or otherwise of the Irish language.

    Fintan says that it’s attachment to Ireland was primarily due to the imaginative figuring of an Oxford academic. And, because of the power of the brand, even in funding circles, no one is prepared asked difficult questions about it.

    If he’s right, then surely we are just getting het up over simple nomenclature? Or, given some of the invective above, does it go deeper than that?

    TD,

    Whilst I am grateful you managed to get to the point by your last paragraph, it’s not clear what you mean when you say, “the fly in the ointment, of course, is how Gaels came to speak a Celtic language”?

  • lapsedmethodist

    Soup, anyone?

  • Why is there is a single person on the planet for whom this is news? Are there really that many gormless, sub-educated goons out there?

  • Teach

    On a personal note,as a Scot,I’ve always felt that saying Scotland is ‘celtic’ makes a mockery of the rich and varied cultures , languages and peoples from our history , that made Scotland what it is today !

    We have a saying used in Scotland today One Scotland , Many Cultures and not only is that true of modern Scotland but it’s even more so , when applied to our rich and diverse historical past !

    For example, in the 9th century the area that is now Scotland had almost half a dozen different cultures speaking as many different languages divided up into even more different kingdoms. In the southwest they were speaking Cumbric (a Brythonic language closely related to Welsh), in the southeast they were speaking Old English, in the northeast they were speaking Pictish, in the far north they were speaking Norse, and in the west they were speaking Gaelic.All these different influences came together and played their own important role in making Scotland what it is today ![

  • Observer

    “However, to be serious, I fail to see why some of the contributors above have got their dander up on this topic.”

    Wasn’t that the point of the article, Mick?

  • This is old news. The population genetics research of Dan Bradley’s lab (TCD) has demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of the Irish are pre-Celtic and our that the Basque population is our closest genetic relative. The Basques have previously been identified (by linguistic and genetic research) to be the descendents of the first colonisers of Europe and so it is quite likely that the Irish are the direct descendents of the first people to make it to Ireland, about 14-19,000 years ago.

    All these stories about Tuatha de Danaan, the Fir Bolg and so on are the products of the Annals of the Four Masters – written by franciscan monks in the 17th century. Grand as a guide but if there’s a conflict between that and scientific research I know which side I’ll put my money on.

    Slugger previously hosted this particular debate but I don’t know if those threads have survived the subsquent data losses. The most amusing part (for me) was when Davros called me a racist for talking about population genetics.

  • Mick Fealty

    Obs,

    Not in the least!!

    I only wish we could talk through serious cultural and political issues on Slugger with a bit more light and a lot less heat.

    There are interesting questions posed by that article that may well have parallels in science or reflections in the way the National Museum categorises their exhibits, but they deserve more direct consideration that they have been given heretofore…

    Not least the reluctance (apparently in highly respectable circles) to break with a powerful branding…

    Or is it just me?

  • merrie

    The Celtic “bling” that MIck mentions can easily be explained by trade and fashion. Look at the 16th century when English, French and Spanish (and others) wore frilly lace collars. And look at today: the business suit is almost universal. It is worn in Japan, China, even by the Iranian prime minister and he hates the West and its influence, though he still wears western business suits!

    The Japanese are still Japanese, not descendants of western whities. Maybe in the future someone will look at the archaeological evidence and talk (in error) about the c20th century western invasions into everwhere.

    As to where the Irish originated, a couple of years ago someone did a comparative genetic study and found that many Irish are genetically related to the Basques. Now Irish myths have always said that the MIlesians came from Spain and fought and conquered the Tuatha Dé Danann, so maybe the myths have some historical truth.

    In mythology some of the Tuatha D̩ Danann exiled themselves to Scandinavia and others to Greece. The Greek Tuatha D̩ Danann returned to Ireland and were called FirBolgs and were acknowledged as different from the Milesian descendants such as C̼chulaind whose best friend Ferdiad was a FirBolg, and whom he killed in battle (nothing changes much in Northern Ireland) РAnother example: at one point in the Christian era there was a dual power sharing system in eastern Ulster.

    Some other recent genetic research has found that many people in Donegal and Tyrone are descended from one ancestor, I think Conn of 100 battles was mentioned.

    The myths of Ireland were discounted and rubbished by the English – but maybe they are true historical records or based on fact. So far at least a couple of have been proven scientifically. The myths were written by people who lived here, after all, not some crank academic from Oxford.

  • There is nothing unique about the Celtic issue. Most people all over Europe are descended from ancestors who were here during the neolithic. Yet almost all European languages are descended from a common ancestor which spread west from Asia much more recently.

    Does that mean that the Germans, Italians, Slavs, and Greeks etc don’t exist?

    The key issue is how a Celtic language spread to Ireland. Is there any example in recorded history of a people adopting a completely new language wholseslae without some element of migration?

  • Mick Fealty on Feb 05, 2007 @ 08:00 PM wrote “…Or, given some of the invective above, does it go deeper than that? …“
    As far as I’m concerned the answer is… yes it does go deeper than that. The Irish Thames journo (for want of a better description) continually posts Anglo propaganda, as does his collegues RDE & Meyers. This is a seemless continuation from the time of The Major McDowell.
    If the Min of Justice can criticize a newspaper as being Nazi propaganda in hastening it’s demise then surely I can question the Toole’s writings and the background of his paymasters.

  • merrie

    Tom:

    I don’t think for the Irish it was a case of “a people adopting a completely new language wholseslae without some element of migration” rather that the Irish language is a remnant of the original language which changed over time in isolation. In the meantime other parts of Europe were successively invaded/influenced by other languages and thus the local speech changed/adapted. It does not mean that the Germans, Italians… don’t exist.

    It is generally accepted that nearly all European languages, including Latin, are descended from Sanskrit, except, I think, Finnish. Lithuanian is still very close to Sanskrit and German has a Sanskrit habit of joining words into really long ones. The Sanskrit word for boat “nav” is used in English for “navy”. There are lots of other similarities, “do”, “two”, “deux”… “tri”, “three”…

    An example of languages (at least accents) developing due to relative isolation is Yorkshire English which a lot of southern English cannot understand very well and Australians wonder if some Yorkshire people are speaking English at all. The same goes for parts of Northern Ireland. I remember a Protestant youth from Northern Ireland being interviewed on Australian TV and his comments had to be subtitled.

    And in recorded history there is the use of English as the lingua franca throughout the world. In Iceland and in other places children learn English so that they can read so many of their text books.

    I would not be surprised that in a couple of centuries English will be the universal language and most other languages will be in the same situation as Irish is today – that is, unless Mandarin surpasses English – and I doubt that.

  • Mick Fealty

    Annon:

    That’s not questioning anything much. Both the Minister’s comments re Daily Ireland and yours above have this much in common: they are both ad hominem and devoid of content!

  • Doctor Who

    Fraggle

    “I maybe not be a ‘celt’ but (most of) my ancestors have been living on this island for five thousand years longer than some people. ”

    Really and you can prove that. Why all of sudden are you no longer celts but pre celts.

    The sad truth id that most Irish couldn´t tell you a thing about the celts. I recently had a converstaion with a Queen´s irish history graduate, who referred to the islands dolmens as celtic artifacts. Completely ignoring the fact that most of them predated the celts by 4000 years.

    Besides Fraggle so what, when you meet an East European migrant are you going to tell them that as well. Is someone who is second generation Irish, less Irish than you.

  • P O’Neil

    I’ve read some of the letters written by Hugh O’Neill, in which he referred to the Irish people as Gaels. He also wrote of Irish / Gaelic ancestory in a letter to Phillip III of Spain in which he mentioned the migration of our peoples via Spain to Ireland etc etc (why he was willing to collaborate with Spain). Personally I’d take the word of Hugh O’Neill above that of some English woofer.

    We’ve already seen how the English have re-written Irish history, and are in the process of trying to doing do again (including collusion). One must also look at supposed English anscestory in which they claim their ‘monarchs’ are descended from the Irish kings via Scotland, so there must be something in the Irish pedegree that they wish to claim as their own.

    This also resonates within the halls of Orange Lodges (and webpages). Thay are willing to claim Irish genealogy as their own, but retisent to claim to be part of Ireland or Irish culture. Probably this is to do with the bastarsisation of the ‘true faith’ ie Protestantism into Catholicism. This is just another attempt to disenfranchise the Irish from their true roots and lineage as part od the British Agenda. Anyone who is familair with British Israelism, the only way they can claim such, is through Ireland. That in itself speaks volumes.

  • latcheeco

    so does this mean that this always was our country, we were not “invaders too” and should be free to decide our own country’s destiny as one country ?

  • Pete Baker

    Really, P O’Neil, citing a letter written as part of a political attempt to secure military support against the English, Spain’s main opposition in a Europe-wide conflict, as evidence in your argument – a letter which doesn’t mention the later artificial construct of ‘The Celts’ – is not very convincing..

    In fact, it’s not even relevant to the discussion.

  • Mick Fealty

    P O’N, et al:

    Gaelic is not Celtic.

    Can I just ask that people actually read the material before commenting?

    If you don’t, it’s likely to speak volumes about you that you might prefer it didn’t!!

  • Mick Fealty

    I picked this response to the thread this evening from an old English friend:

    I’d agree with the opening gambit. The peoples progressively pushed to the Atlantic fringe of the British Isles by successive pre Saxon invasions were as mongrel as I am.

    The link to the keltoi and to the spreading influence and affluence of middle/south eastern Europe civilisations would have arrived among these peoples both directly through internal trade and through the increasingly apparent seaborn trade links which cover not only the mediterranean cultures but also those of the protoslav and black sea civilisations through the northsea/balticl trade routes.

    The term Celtic does seem to have been applied externally and the adopted by the Atlantic fringe peoples probably to cement their joint heritage of anti Saxon strife. literally, linguistically and artistically.

    The overburdening human need to provide labels both for those who are not like us and for those who are is probably responsible for the gathering of “Celtic” peoples and languages into a simple and evocative label.

    The reference to the Basques is most valid. There is a huge genetic variation among so-called Celtic peoples. From the robust red haired Scots rob-roy stereotype to the dark haired swarthy troglodyte welsh version. Basques through Brittany, Cornwall and into Wales is a well establish genetic migration route.

    I suspect that the definition of Celt is a reflection of the “English” need to bolster the disparate elements of that nation into a cohesive whole. Which has of course only been partly successful, lol.

    Naturally the Pagan among among us are immensely glad that Celtic was invented cos it allows all the mysticism and non-Saxon beauty to be identified and valued in its own right – because it now has a label.

  • Pete Baker

    Most of that seems reasonable, Mick.

    But I’d take issue with the conclusion –

    I suspect that the definition of Celt is a reflection of the “English” need to bolster the disparate elements of that nation into a cohesive whole. Which has of course only been partly successful, lol.

    Naturally the Pagan among among us are immensely glad that Celtic was invented cos it allows all the mysticism and non-Saxon beauty to be identified and valued in its own right – because it now has a label.

    That is unnecessarily provocative. Almost to the point of trolling.

    More realistic, and historically accurate, to simply describe it as the desire for the anti-English of the time to bolster the other disparate elements in unity against that national identity – such as existed then.

    It was a perfectly understandable impulse, but it has left an historically inaccurate impression.

  • The Dubliner

    “Whilst I am grateful you managed to get to the point by your last paragraph, it’s not clear what you mean when you say, “the fly in the ointment, of course, is how Gaels came to speak a Celtic language”?” – Mick

    Mick, Gaelic is a Celtic language. Those propagandists who claim that the Irish are not Celtic have to explain why the Irish came to speak a Celtic language en masse in the absence of mass migration. So far, their only attempt to gloss over this fatal flaw in their propaganda is to risibly claim that it is the result of either “a small upper crust” of Celts who settled in Ireland or the result of Irish marauders “kidnap of women over many years” that then spread the language. Now there isn’t a linguist, historian or archaeologist who wouldn’t split his sides laughing at that “explanation.” This does not merit serious discussion and those who proffer it are not experts, but lowly journalists with a transparant political agenda.

    Tom Griffin addressed the salient issue in his post:

    “There is nothing unique about the Celtic issue. Most people all over Europe are descended from ancestors who were here during the neolithic. Yet almost all European languages are descended from a common ancestor which spread west from Asia much more recently.

    Does that mean that the Germans, Italians, Slavs, and Greeks etc don’t exist?

    The key issue is how a Celtic language spread to Ireland. Is there any example in recorded history of a people adopting a completely new language wholseslae without some element of migration?”

  • Niall Gormley

    It seems there are two types of invasions. One is where the native population is submerged by the invading one and one where there is just a political and military takeover.
    In the first case, like America, the native culture is overwhelmed. In the second, like the British in India, the control remains political and is not able to exert enough influence on the local population. Hence India is not English speaking.
    The original Norman invaders in Ireland actually were in this situation, as I understand it, and they became Irish speaking in the main. It wasn’t until later after the Flight of the Earls and the Plantation that Ireland began to become English speaking. The balance of the population were speaking Irish around 1800.
    So we don’t know what kind of invasion brought gaelic to our shores. We know that just because we speak English we can’t conclude that all our ancestors were English. And the English, in turn, had become English speaking by part invasions. I think we need more research on this.

  • Pete Baker

    Niall

    “I think we need more research on this.”

    Indeed. But the important point at this stage is that there is no, absolutely none, evidence for any invasion which transformed the indigenous culture into a Gaelic speaking one.

    In fact the evidence that does exist points to an indigenous culture which adopted European tics, themes, whatever.

    That indicates trade, an openness to other influences, and a willingness to adapt. All points made in the earlier post.

    That there was no invasion reveals there was a rich indigenous culture open to external influence and internal innovation.

  • Gaelic is not Celtic

    Depends what you mean. Gaelic is not the same as Celtic, because there are other Celtic groups.
    But Gaelic is a Celtic language, i.e. it is one of a group of related languages usually labelled Celtic.

    The label is a modern one, but the linguistic affinity it describes goes back thousands of years.

  • P O’Neil

    Mick / Unionist tossers et al

    Celtic was derived from the Roman name Keltoi (means ‘different), given to the inhabitants of Gaul. When the Romans invaded Britain, they used the same name because of the similarities of the Gauls and Gaels. Historically, ‘Celtic’ was a name applied by Roman and the Saxon invades as opposed to a name used by the natives.

    Poche Mahon, sassanachs.

  • P O’Neil

    PS the native language of the Highlands of Scotland is Gaelic, not Celitic, or the Lowland Scots derivative that the Ulster Scots claim as their own.

    Like most academics, archaeologists and historians, can’t even agree on the colour of pish let alone anything else. In a hundred years time there will still be there same circular arguments. But no matter whatever we or other might call the natives of Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland, be it Gael or Celt, we were here a long time before the plantation, so piss off back to where ever you crawled from.

  • Paddy,

    Check you Keltoi, ya might find that it’s Greek.

    I think it is high time we had another discussion on what to call Derry. It’s almost never mentioned here.

    At the same time I would invite a learned Slugger discourse on the design of a 32 county flag. There should be a navel somewhere on the feckin’ thing to gaze at.

  • Pete Baker

    P O’Neil

    That would be the Greek name Keltoi, first used in reference to a tribe in Rhenania (West/Southwest Germany).

    There’s more interesting stuff, usual caveats apply, on Wikipedia

  • Pete Baker

    Snap, Jim. ;o)

  • aquifer

    “Hence India is not English speaking”

    But it is. English is an important bridge language and much used in Indian commerce.

    I think it is quite possible that a traders language would work its way into use alongside other languages, and that it could become dominant because of the economic dominance of the people who spoke it first. It would survive the ebb and flow of the fortunes of other smaller local groups, because more people spoke it elsewhere. and it could recover from a setback after a time, recolonising areas where it had lost ground. The Celtic flavour could just come from the other far end of the trade routes, the oceans and rivers that were the motorways of the day.

  • Mick Fealty on Feb 05, 2007 @ 10:11 PM wrote” …ad hominem and devoid of content! “

    1. In light of what has been written on this site in the last few weeks, high lighted and then allowed remain, then I can’t see how ‘I played the man not ball’ to a greater degree than many others – sauce, goose, gander.

    2. My posts were in support of The Dub who has an issue with the postings coming from the Irish Thames regarding something intrinsically Irish, Gaelic or Celtic. I believe that the opinion (it was an op-ed piece) of a journo in a widely published newspaper should be open to criticism of that journo (hence no foul for man nor ball). I criticized Tooles opinion as it was, like most of his writings, dismissive of all things Irish – not ad hominem.

    3. Lastly, Tintan O’Fooles comments were made in the ‘paper of record’ for the RoI. If this self awarded handle doesn’t subject the Irish Thames to ridicule I also backed up The Dubs Indymedia link with one from wikipedia. This, I believe should taint the Ol’ Lady of D’Olier street and show it to be less that non partisan. Therefore the content of my posting was to point out that paper’s editorial line, background, aims and aspirations of promoting the West Britishness of the RoI to the detriment of anything Irish, Gaelic or Celtic.

    I’m sorry if you didn’t get the gist of my post… try taking off the rose (…and white & blue) tinted glasses.

    Touch a nerve did I ?

  • P O’Neil

    Mick, may be the case, but the Greeks never made it into Gaul, let alone Ireland, England etc. That was the Romans, although, the name Keltoi was never applied to the Highland Scots, they were called Picts (painted people) by the Romans. [ad hominem text removed – moderator]

  • Pete Baker

    Keep going, P.

    The limits of your knowledge and ability to argue your, or any, case are gradually being revealed by your own comments.

  • SuperSoupy

    Does anyone refer to themself as a Celtic? Isn’t this a strawman argment?

    Very interesting on an academic level but utterly irrelevant when people generally see themslves as just plain old Irish.

  • Mojo

    Listen, the idea that it takes a long time and a vast invasion to change the local genetic lay of the land just ain’t so. Just take a look at some of those feral cats in the Botanical Gardens whose ma’s I, uh, chatted with before they shipped me arse down here.

  • pauljames

    Bring on the ginger whingers!

  • Observer

    O’Toole’s article is simply the re-hashing of one side of a more political than historical debate.
    And not a particularly clever one.
    He states that there are no La Tene artifacts in Ireland. Not true. Many artifacts of this type have been found, but more older, Hallstatt type, material has been unearthed. This is not surprising, given that the La Tene style was heavily influenced by Greek and eastern designs, suggesting the liklihood of Celts in geographic proximity to these areas adopting these ideas over time. Imports of these artifacts were likely to be available to only the wealthiest, the rest making do with the old fashioned locally produced stuff.
    Core religious beliefs across the Celtic territories were similar, as was the art, customs and social structure. The Romans considered the Iberian peninsular to be the original Celtic homeland (Celtae, Celtiberians etc) and the Greeks didn’t have a clue were the Keltoi came from.
    I don’t think anyone has claimed the Celts were a nation. They weren’t in Ireland and they certainly weren’t in Europe. They were, however, a distinct people. They fought amongst themselves and against the Romans, Greeks, Persians, Goths, Huns, Vandals etc. Their enemies are regarded as distinct population entities. There is more to suggest that the Celts were a distinct people (from the Danube to the Shannon) than the Vandals.
    Raising question marks against a Vandal identity wouldn’t annoy anyone, however.
    Would it?

  • Mick Fealty

    Tom,

    I meant the former. I should have been clearer. But a few of our posters up to now have been treating the two as one, which is both untrue and obscuring the case O’Toole is making.

    Obs,

    Please, please, read the bleedin’ source:

    You say:

    He states that there are no La Tene artifacts in Ireland.

    Yet O’Toole actually says:

    There are high-end La Tène-style objects, but virtually all of them are of recognisably local manufacture.

    annony:

    I criticized Tooles opinion as it was…

    Where exactly do you do this? You make an essentially ad hominem attack upon O’Toole and the Irish Times which foregoes any reference to the subject in hand. Your defence that others have got away with it is no defence.

    Guys in amongst the trolling there is the guts of an interesting conversation here. I don’t want to cut anyone out of that conversation, all I ask is that if you want to attack O’Toole’s proposition that you do it on what he says, rather than what you think (or want) him to have said.

    To aid intelligibility, I’m going to start cutting the ad hominem stuff from here on…

    I’m going back to bed….

  • abucs

    As mentioned previously in last years post, the Philippines is a good example of a country that has adopted different languages without whole-scale invasion and population replacement.

    There are over 100 local Philippine languages and when the Spanish landed and started building their churches the Spanish language spread rapidly.

    With the coming of the British and the Americans the Spanish culture was actively discouraged and started to decline.

    Next came the Japanese in world war two who installed a government and printed the national money etc. They were only there for a few years however and being pretty ruthless invaders, their influence was resisted and there is no lasting linguistic effect.

    Then came the Americans with their great world war 2 naval battles that pushed the Japanese back to their home islands. American English was established in the schools and the educated looked to America culturally. America is looked on fondly because it set up a national parliament and then got the heck out of the country. (Lessons for more modern times perhaps).

    American English is now pretty well widespread although the Philippino’s have decided that a local indigenous language was needed to unite the different linguistic peoples and Tagalog, the main language of Luzon, is compulsory throughout primary and secondary education. So now, all of the young speak Tagalog as well.

    With the continual rise of China economically, it is not improbable that the Chinese language may come to replace English in the future as one of the official widespread languages and used by the educated and elite.

    Thus this country has a history just in the span of a few centuries of quickly adopting languages without any widespread movement or replacement of peoples. In fact you would have a hard job replacing the population biologically. In the next 15 years there will probably be 25 million more of them in and outside of the Philippines.

    It is entirely normal to come across people in the Philippines (outside Manilla) who may speak English, Tagolog, plus three local regional languages. The older population in some areas who are relatively wealthy may also speak some Spanish, and it is common that after the English ‘Hello” the next words are often the Spanish “Come Sta” or “Comus ta tu” for how are you ? If they work in the tourist sector, they may also know some Japanese or German.

    People in the Philippines talk to each other and change languages in mid sentence regularly and nobody seems to notice. I remember being at mass once in Luzon and the priest, in English, at the end of the homily says “and the really important thing to get out of this is ……..” and then continued to my bewilderment in Tagolog. Same thing happens on TV when they advertise where to get a really great deal and then swap from English to Cebuano or Olongapo.

    In this way it is easy to see how people can speak several languages at once so that over time people just think of it as speaking rather than using different languages. If one particular language is favoured for education or business, or law, or inter-island communication it would be quite easy for that one language to dominate without it being really noticed by the population at large.

    I don’t think we know much about the pre celtic Irish languages (unfortunately) but if it was the situation where there were a whole lot of different Irish dialects and languages rather than a uniformed united civilisation (likely) then the language of the advanced civilisation of it’s day – Celtic, could quickly be adopted and dominate, without the need for any invasion IMHO.

  • Wilde Rover

    This whole Celtic Mist shIte really is a monkey on the back.

    Yeah, my bloodline is from the west of Ireland, so there’s a pretty good chance one of my ancestors was one of the original Neanderthal-murderers that wandered onto this island.

    Big deal.

    Regardless of how it occurred, my ancestors took to the whole Celtic thing because it was marginally better than what they had come up with.

    In the same way you don’t not use an invention just because you don’t like where the inventor was born.

    All this feeling the need to justify current realities with the past has led to the ludicrous situation where both sides feel the need to claim Cucuhulain.

    Real head the ball stuff.

  • P O’Neil

    “Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that among other famous nations our own, the Scots, has been graced with widespread renown. They journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage tribes, but nowhere could they be subdued by any race, however barbarous. Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they still live today. The Britons they first drove out, the Picts they utterly destroyed, and, even though very often assailed by the Norwegians, the Danes and the English, they took possession of that home with many victories and untold efforts” Declaration of Arbroath 1320.

    I think its rather obvious that these accounts of Irish / Scots lineage predate the Act of Union by some 400 years and Anglo-Israelism by some 500 years.

    The whole debate about Celtic origins is nothing more than English insecurity, because they have no real connection with the land their anscestors invaded. To boot, the English don’t know if they are Ancient Briton (Celtic), Dane / Norse, Anglo-Saxon or Norman. This insecurity has recently given rise to the English questioning their own Cultural identity and also explains why they are trying to identify cultural traits and values of ‘Britishness’, because they don’t have a tangable cultural identiry of their own.

    Even legendry heroes the English have long venerated as their own (ie King Arthur and Robin Hood) were in fact userpt from the Natives. Current historical inquiries into the likes of Arthur have revealed, that being far from an English King, was more likely a Celtic Chieftain of either Cymri or Scots origins. As for ol’ Robin Hood, historical investigations have revealed that he never existed in Sherwood Forest, so the English now maintain that he was a composition of various outlaws. However, if one were to move the Robin Hood lengend 400 miles north, Sherwood Forest becomes Sterling Forest, and apart from the name of the main protagonist, everything else fits with the Wallace legend. So in light of this, everything the English have held dear has been slowly reroded away, and they have been left with nothing. One can infer that these cultural insecurities have led to various attacks on Irish / Scots / Welsh cultural identities. This is nothing more than a tantrum being thrown by a huffy little child and the epitome of the “If we can’t have it, then you can’t have it either” mentality.

  • Briso

    Posted by Wilde Rover on Feb 06, 2007 @ 07:23 AM
    >Yeah, my bloodline is from the west of Ireland,
    >so there’s a pretty good chance one of my
    >ancestors was one of the original Neanderthal-
    >murderers that wandered onto this island.

    >Big deal.

    Amen brother!!!

  • Bill

    Homo Sapiens (who I hope you are descended from) had nothing to do with Neanderthals

  • As mentioned previously in last years post, the Philippines is a good example of a country that has adopted different languages without whole-scale invasion and population replacement.

    Surely, the Philippines was actually invaded and subsequently dominated by both the Spanish and the Americans, which is precisely what O’Toole says did not happen in Ireland.

  • Greenflag

    Psssssssssst the English are not really Anglo Saxons
    Pssssssst the Welsh are not really Celts

    Pssssssssst the Scots are not really Scots

    Psssssssssssssssssssssst

    The Irish are Irish .

  • Rt

    With meaning to bend to Godwin’s Law, doesn’t this whole issue strike anyone of being a version of nazi-light. The undercurrent of many of these comments seem to be that person A, being somehow more pure of blood is therefore a better person than person B.

    There is nothing wrong per se with studying lineage, but anyone who lets their past define their present has a real problem.

  • PaddyReilly

    I am impressed by the contributors’ ability to get offensive, ad hominem, sectarian about such an abstract historical debate such as this.

    Nevertheless, I have to say that I think Fintan is wrong. There is a famous statue from Ancient Greece called the dying Gaul. It commemorates a victory over the Galatians, that Celtic tribe to whom St Paul wrote an Epistle.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dying_Gaul

    Well your man looks just like a Paddy. Or many Welshmen I know. And the fact is that many of the statues from Ancient Gaul have that typical Irish head: impossibly tall and narrow (dolichocephalic). Do you know I think we’re Celts after all.

  • Wilde Rover

    “Homo Sapiens (who I hope you are descended from) had nothing to do with Neanderthals”

    Yes. You’re right. A bit vague.

    I meant to say my dark-skinned ancestors who cleared the valleys of Europe of those rather nasty big hairy whitefellas with the furrowed brows and the penchant for guttural utterances.

  • DK

    “What did happen in the Iron Age is that an emergent aristocracy began to adopt the international style they knew from trade and other contacts. Local craft-workers produced their own versions of Celtic chic – a bit like us copying Gucci or Prada.”

    I heard the same of the local “english” while the Vikings were active – it became very trendy to adopt viking dress and ornaments.

    Also, gotta love P O’Neill going on about the English having no culture in a post written in…. well, it’s not Celtic (to give Dub an example of a country that lost it’s language despite no major immigration, just a ruling class).

    And anyway, while there may be no such thing as a celtic race, there is even less likely to be an Anglo-Saxon race, since before the country was unified there were lots of kingdoms founded by different germanic invaders (Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Frisians, and even those pesky invaders from nearer to home…)

  • rule man

    Hello Mick F.
    Just wondering post number five, would that be playing the ball or the man? I’m confused, please help me better understand the site’s rules.
    rule man

  • rule man

    Sorry post number five page two.

  • rule man

    Mr. Baker
    Post twenty page two, where is the ball, or are you just trying to knock ovewr the man? Rules are only for some I suppose?

  • Pete Baker

    rule

    You should have noticed that the comment I was responding to, in your reference, has since been edited.

    My view was to leave it as was and point to the unreasonableness of what was said.

    Subsequently, another moderator decided differently.

    NOW.. on the actual topic..

  • neandrathral

    No race is pure we are all mongrels this is true. We are homo-sapien, but just so you know Me and my fellow neandratrall’s had a bigger brain, and a better place to rest our sunglasses on, then homo-sapiens did, and some anthropologists theorize that homo sapiens and neandrathrall’s inter bred to make modern humans, it is a popular theory in anthropology, a kind of mixed marriage if you will–but definetly us neanthrall’s were smarter than you homo sapiens, we were just wooed by your more beautiful females.

    We are all one now though–oh well
    Cavve man speaks!

  • Mick Fealty
  • rule manfr\’,

    Hello Mick and Peter,
    I read rule two thanks Mick.
    Very formal and all that, no mention of ball or man. So thanks for clarifying the rules of the site, and the other part of my question Mick is were you on page two comment five playing the ball or the man? Maybe we could phrase this as “the spirit of the law,”as opposed to the “rule of the law.” Mick maybe I am being unfair the question was rhetorical, methinks you played the man, am I wrong?

    Pete,
    I don’t know maybe my computer is busted your comment is still there. If another moderator removed it I stand corrected. I do ask who moderates the moderator? Sorry more rhetoric, you should moderate your own self as you so wisely advise others. Back to the topic? Good advice Mr. Baker, as many a wise person has said, Peter take your own advice.

    The topic–people are defined by their culture, norms, values and beliefs, call it Celtic, Irish or whatever, but the Irish nation was and is different from the English,before and even now. Maybe later we can all share and celebrate in the simalarities and differences of cultures everywhere–I hope so, and I agree Mick we need no label to define culture.

    rule man

    PS
    I am no big believer in your play the ball rule anyway, I’m more of an anarchist, but still if you make the rules try and follow them,or stop preaching and editting others, not including, with all due respect, your fear of the lible laws.

    Brittania waives the rules so I suppose you have much company in your enforcement of the rules you sometimes waive.

    love always,
    rule man

  • Pete Baker

    “I am no big believer in your play the ball rule anyway, I’m more of an anarchist..”

    Riiight… ok then. You’ll accept our decision then.

  • down and out in paris

    Re post 19

    Accept your decision to moderate others and not moderate your self, is that what you are asking the rule man? I suppose anarchists might accept your play the man sometimes rule and sometimes not depending on your mood, frustration level, inability to articulate etc. …so what are you saying then Peter, rule man should accept your decision because she/he is an anarchist or that the moderators’ rules are maybe I don’t know…anarchy? If so god bless your site, oops do anarchists believe in god? or…Some are more equal than others? 4 feet good 2 feet bad. Moderators good, commentators bad. Now there is some great f***ing English culture good old George Orwell.

    See you later,

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s certainly not for everyone… But maybe you should read this, before you go…

  • Observer

    “Local craft-workers produced their own versions of Celtic chic”

    In much the same way as Celts in other localities did, perhaps. Or is that too far fetched?

  • abucs

    Tom,

    My main point is that the permanent resident numbers were very small. The Spanish language can be widespread without their being a major Spanish population. The American English language can then supplant that without there being a major American English population. Tagalog (the main language of Luzon island) can then supplant these throughout the 7000 islands without the Luzonians dominating biologically. In fact all of the islands send thousands of internal migrants to Luzon each year, so if anything, the indigenous Tagalog areas are being supplanted. Although the Tagalog language is the one that spreads.

    I wouldn’t categorise the Spanish or American (save the brief WW2 liberation period) as an invasion. And i don’t think there was a Celtic invasion of Ireland.

    The main issue i was addressing is that a language can spread without invasions that supplant the native population. French in Africa, Spanish in many Indian dominated central and south American countries, the english speaking Irish in America (and Ireland), ancient Latin across Europe, English in the Carribean, Hebrew from essentailly European / Russian immigrants etc etc.

    Also people have come to think of themselves all over the world by terms erroneously used to describe them. The British are not the original Pritanni tribe, the American Indians or West Indians are not Indians, the Welsh are not “foreigners”, the Philippino muslims (called moros) are not moors, even the Philipino’s are not descended from King Philippe of Spain. The same goes for locations. The original Australians have nothing to do with the Latin word for “southern”, very few Africans have anything to do with the Afri people of ancient Carthage, Most Asians have nothing to do with the Greek work for Anatolia (present day Turkey). etc etc.

    What is interesting is that many peoples who in ancient times had limited contact with other groups of people different to themselves, didn’t find it necessary to define themselves collectively by any certain terms.

    In the absence of this, their designation today comes from outsiders reference to them (usually the travelling Europeans) either through geography – Australis, first contact of local tribes – Pritanni, erroneous names – moros, indians, foreign term for the collective -Wales, Philippines, or shared culture – Celtic.

    Of course we are all part of the same human race, but biologically the traditional Irish are closer to the basques and Atlantean Iberian european fringe than to the central european areas where sprung the Celtic civilisation.

    So what ? My children are going to be half King Philipp’s anyway.

    As an aside, in general, I don’t think people shouldn’t get all worried about talking about genetics. It’s a topic just like any other.

  • The Dubliner

    abucs, parallels between two separate situations are only relevant if you can show the … wait of it… parallels. Otherwise, it’s no more meaningful than saying “Mr X in Japan won a million on Lotto. Therefore, every millionaire in New York acquired his wealth by investing in a lottery ticket.” No-one is disputing that a non indigenous language can be systematically imposed. Indeed, it would be hard to put that argument when we now speak English as our first language in Ireland, wouldn’t it?

  • abucs

    Yes it would Dubliner.

    I was trying to answer your question –

    ” how Gaels came to speak a Celtic language. The stooges have no explanation for this beyond embarrassing themselves by claiming that it was the result of ether “a small upper crust” or kidnap of women over many years.” Heh. Game over”.

    and also Tom’s question –

    The key issue is how a Celtic language spread to Ireland. Is there any example in recorded history of a people adopting a completely new language wholesale without some element of migration?

    I think evidence against a wholesale invasion or migration in Ireland’s case, is the totality of the lack or recorded history of battles or resistance etc. There is no record of a native people and their resistance against the Celts, and there is no history of the European Celts going off to invade Ireland or celebrating their victories once they landed. There is a lack of the surviving native peoples, or their language and culture. Also the genetics of the people in Ireland now are not the same as the peoples from the European Celtic Hallstat areas. The skeletons of people dug up from pre Celtic times, as far as i am aware, show no difference to the peoples walking around the place now.

    Maybe they have a touch less meat on their bones – :o)

  • I wouldn’t categorise the Spanish or American (save the brief WW2 liberation period) as an invasion. And i don’t think there was a Celtic invasion of Ireland.

    This is where the argument perhaps come down to semantics. Both the Spanish and the Americans militarily conquered the Philippines and established themselves as the politically dominant groups, without necessarily contributing much the gene pool.

    For a Celtic language to have spread to Ireland, something similar, allowing for iron age conditions , must have happened. i.e. a small group of Celtic incomers must have established themselves as a politically dominant group.

    Your Philippines parallel shows that this could have happened without much population replacement.

    I think it makes sense to call that an invasion, and I don’t see why that term should be restricted to events involving significant population replacement. By that criterion many major historical invasions did not happen or were minor events.

  • Greenflag

    TG,

    ‘For a Celtic language to have spread to Ireland, something similar, allowing for iron age con’ditions , must have happened. i.e. a small group of Celtic incomers must have established themselves as a politically dominant group. ‘

    Ireland had a 20 year long ‘nuclear ‘ winter in the 12th century BC as per Professor Baillie of Queen’s College . During this ‘no or very much retarded growth’ period it’s likely that the population was decimated or fled to warmer climes . Celtic speaking peoples started to move out from central europe circa 1000 BC and it was probably the case that they came to Ireland in small groups and tribes over the 1000 years -1000 BC to the time of Christ /recorded history. One or other of these tribal celtic languages became dominant over time and became the lingua franca of all the inhabitants both celtic and non celtic alike . As Peter Beresford Ellis points out the Celts were not a distinct ‘race’ but a mixture of peoples with a particular culture who were the first europeans to make use of iron and the horse. This would have been sufficient to give them a cultural advantage over any surviving pre celts . These pre celts were the people who gave Ireland it’s prosperous Bronze Age and who built the ancient centres of Newgrange and also Stonehenge in England and other mound type monuments elsewhere throughout western, southern and northwestern europe .

    ‘By that criterion many major historical invasions did not happen or were minor events.’

    Even the so called Anglo Saxon ‘invasion of England ‘ is now seen to have been the creation of british historians looking for a glorious past on which to hang the appendage of the later British Empire . It’s true that Anglo Saxons did ‘invade’ England but it’s also true that most of the people of England have remained ‘pre celtic and pre anglo saxon etc etc in their ancestry . The English language’s simplistic ‘grammar’ and almost complete lack of noun inflexions originated as a result of the confluence of the spoken Danish of the Danelaw and the middle english of western England in the 10th /11th centuries and their need to communicate for purposes of trade etc etc. Add in a lot of norman french ‘fancy’ words from the 11th century on and medieval English was soon on it’s way . The Black Death helped to expedite the advance of English from second class status in England as the plague had a dispoportionate effect on town dwellers many of whom would have been norman french speakers.

    It’s estimated that 25,000 Normans ‘conquered’ Anglo Saxon England due mainly to Norman war technology and castle building skills and a bit of luck due to familial treachery within Harold’s family .

  • Greenflag

    Had Harold not had to exhaust his troops by the long march to Stamford Bridge and back to Hastings he might well have defeated the Normans in which case English as we know it today would not exist . It would probably sound something like a cross between Danish and Friesian (Dutch Dialect) or Flemish i.e a disease of the throat 🙂

    Perhaps Harold’s brother deserves a vote of belated thanks for his ‘treachery’ 🙂

    As for Dermot Mc Murrough the cuckolded King of Leinster -well the jury is still out on that one 🙂