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Old January 11th, 2016, 02:52 AM   #691
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Originally Posted by Eamonn10 View Post
Obviously. That's what I mean, they were different to what was here.
Yes, if you mean the prehistoric proto-Celts that first came to Ireland. No, if you mean the Gaels were racially different than the earlier Celts in Ireland. I think the Gaels had superior warmaking skills and maritime skills.
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Old January 11th, 2016, 02:54 AM   #692

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Originally Posted by Peter Graham View Post
Good points, authun.



North Rheged and South Rheged are modern inventions designed to assign polities to the various descendants of the apical founder figure Coel Hen as recorded (albeit very retrospectively for the most part) in the various Welsh genealogical collections. I think John Morris first postulated North and South Rheged in 1973 - they certainly existed nowhere on paper before that, at least so far as I am aware. Rheged is mentioned a few times in material which originally dates pre-1100, but never with the epithet 'north' or 'south' and never in any context which would suggest there was ever more than one Rheged.

Nonetheless, Morris' proposal - which has been faithfully recreated on various lay sites as though it represented fact or a consensus view - demonstrates the lengths which we are prepared to go to to construct the Celtic myth. Celtic is cool, so just as Welsh medieval scribes adulterated genealogies and ran myth, fact and story together to create a Celtic neverland, so we do much the same thing today.

Celtic is undoubtedly a valid linguistic term and I believe it is a valid cultural one too. Does that make Celtic a race? Potentially yes, given that biological similarity is only one definition of race as the term is defined today. However, what most people think of as race involves genetic or biological similarity and that is where the problems start for the notion of a Celtic race. But they don't end there - 'race' is bound up with our modern notion of the nation state and it is surprising how many academics (who really should know better) still appear to assume that racial similarity (be that cultural, linguistic or biological) naturally equates to shared political aims or objectives. In other words, notions of Celtic one-ness, which is perhaps the biggest myth of all (that and all the New Age rubbish).

Regards,

Peter
I would add a general consideration coming from a demographic observation: a decent conceptualization of "race" [I would underline that I tend to think to the "human race", anyway, let's reason about the common racial diversification] requires that a less or more wide culture reaches a point of "ethnic stability" [more than homogeneity]. Once this ethnic stability exists [the ethnic composition of the people carrying a certain culture tends to remain constant, becoming a substantially closed system], we can see something similar to a "race". Usually for a human group to become a stable ethnic closed system, a shared culture is a requirement.

The Celts, about this point, have known, in the late part of their documented history, a certain ethnic stability. In fact Romans recognized some "gens" and a certain number of "natio". Theoretically the "gens" is what is more similar to the modern conception of "nation" [a "natio" for the Romans was something connected with the birth of place, with the territory and usually it indicated one or a group of tribes, no more than that].

If we think to Gauls ...

I quote Caesar
Quote:
Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli appellantur
We can see that he identified the Celts with the Gauls [he said the Gauls called themselves "Celtae" in their own language]. He makes a differentiation with Belgians, for example. Anyway we know that a part of the tribes listed among the Belgians were Celt [they were Gauls].

So the Romans identified a kind of comprehensive "gens celtica" in Gaul. Anyway they had a clear idea of the identity of the populations living there. Several "gens" [today "nations"] existed for them. But "gens" didn't mean "race" for Romans ... it was more a conception similar to a culture with a distinctive structure, also families / clans structure of course, [this is why it corresponds more to "nation"].

To summarize, some "national" identities in the Celtic world were known in Roman age. That was the ethnic stability I was mentioning. But it was a late demographic development [so not original] and it didn't indicate the previous existence of a "race" in the far past.
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Old January 11th, 2016, 04:09 AM   #693
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Fair points, but don't forget that Roman writers such as Tacitus, Caesar et al were not ethnographers and they certainly weren't writing their histories from the point of view of anyone other than themselves.

The Romans had a concept of barbaricum - basically anything beyond the limes. Not unlike certain British attitudes of yesteryear, in which anyone living in Calais or beyond was simply a foreigner, there is little evidence that the Romans were much bothered with how the barbarians viewed themselves. 'Pict' for example, was a relatively dismissive term for anyone living north of Hadrian's Wall and was never anything which Picts actually called themselves. Roman writers had some sense of different tribes in Pictland, but they often just lumped them all together.

Tacitus could write lurid things about German tribes, but his work should be viewed in much the same way as we might view British Victorian attitudes towards African societies - broadly patronising, occasionally fascinated and usually unconcerned with political realities.

None of this means I disagree with you - if 'race' can be used of a linguistic or cultural group, the Celts are indeed a race, even if they spent most of their time knocking lumps out of one another rather than fondling crystals or being at one with earth energies. My only concern is that we have to be careful about our terminology, as 'race' is set about with so many assumptions that we can soon go down a blind alley, assuming we even get that far without being hijacked by cranks and bigots. Those concerns are such that it is probably best to leave 'race' as it is commonly understood (as a biological or genetic definition), in which case the Celts weren't a race. And, by the same token, neither were the Anglo Saxons.
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Old January 11th, 2016, 04:46 AM   #694
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Race is something which lacks a universally accepted definition. Some people claim there is only one race, the Human Race, on the basis race and species are the same when it is applied to Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Others claim that there are three races within the Human Species, Mongloid, Negroid and Caucasoid, whilst a few others add in an Australoid race.

Tribal identities however are quite fluid. Tribes have their own ethnogenesis, eg the Saxons, Alemanni and Franks. None of these exist in the 1st cent. AD and yet by the 4th century AD, they are three of the most well known germanic tribes in western europe. Alemanni and Franks however still contained celtic or at least romance speaking populations. The former celtic speaking latterly romance speaking Treveri became germanic Franks. Similar situations existed amongst the Alemanni and their Cantons and the ethnogenesis of the Baviarians carries a faint fossil of celtic origins, though considerably added to later.

Language is a fossil which at least has some longevity within a group identitiy. Culture, beliefs, art styles etc, change at a faster rate and, in my opinion shouldn't be used other than for short periods. Afterall, La Tene is absent in south west Ireland and much of Iberia, yet both have attested celtic languages.

Last edited by authun; January 11th, 2016 at 04:49 AM.
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Old January 11th, 2016, 07:17 AM   #695
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As far as sound scholarship goes you are all a century behind the Irish on this issue. The concept of a ‘Celtic race’ was debunked in Irish academic circles a hundred years ago at the height of the Celtic Revival. There is no such thing as a genetic Celt, or a genetic Anglo-Saxon or Roman, for that matter. Eoin MacNeill, the Irish ‘Scholar Revolutionary’ of Sinn Féin and the 1916 Rebellion fame [ [ame]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eoin_MacNeill[/ame] ] went out of his way to debunk this idea in 1919. MacNeill was Professor of Early & Medieval Irish History at UCD and he stated categorically that there was no such thing as a Celtic race. The word was, and is, indicative of language and culture only. For the life of me I cannot understand why some modern academics have been able to make a name for themselves debunking what has already been a commonplace in Irish academic circles for decades.
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Old January 11th, 2016, 09:28 AM   #696
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Quote:
As far as sound scholarship goes you are all a century behind the Irish on this issue.
No -one is saying that this is recent news over here. The 'Celts are not a race' thing has been a standard of academia for as long as I can remember - not 100 years, but certainly quite a few. It represents settled academic opinion, although as this thread shows, a) it doesn't represent settled lay opinion and b) even settled academic opinions can be challenged.

MacNeill is only right if you accept a genetic or biological definition of race which, in all fairness, most people do. However, if you accept shared language/culture and a shared perception of origins as being a valid definition of race, the one can make the argument that 'Celtic' is a race.

And, of course, since MacNeill's time, Celtic has become staggeringly fashionable. One doesn't have to look far to see people self-identifying as Celts who have probably never even visited Ireland, Wales or wherever, let alone actually lived or been born there. When these folk say 'I'm a Celt', they are not defining themselves linguistically, as I'd be surprised if even a tiny percentage of them could actually speak a Goidelic or Brittonic language.

If they meant it as a cultural definition, all they'd have to do is embrace Celtic culture (wherever they were born and whatever their ancestry) and point to that lifestyle choice to justify the self-definition. Although whether people genuinely soaked and brought up in that culture would accept them is a different matter.

But they don't do that either. What they usually do in my experience is to justify it by pointing to distant relatives who came from a perceived Celtic area. They are therefore saying 'I am Celtic in the blood' which is an attempt at a genetic definition, albeit one that is unlikely to mean much. Before we fell out again, Eamonn10 suggest that my sense of humour might betray my Celtic roots, notwithstanding that I identify as English. He was joking, of course (and it was a good joke), but nonetheless we can easily end up in the odd situation where people say 'Celtic isn't a race' whilst acting as though it is.......

Last edited by Peter Graham; January 11th, 2016 at 09:32 AM.
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Old January 11th, 2016, 10:27 AM   #697
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What group other than another Celtic is genetically indecipherable from a Gael? I would think Nordic or Germanic would be the closest match? But what do I know.
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Old January 12th, 2016, 01:15 AM   #698
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'Gael' is simply a term for people speaking a Goidelic (Q Celtic) language. With the exception of you, I know of no-one else who uses it as a modern ethnonym.

You imply that Celt is a genetic definition. As such, as you are a good example of what I was talking about in my previous post. Your self-definition as Celtic (or 'Gaelic', as you would have it) comes solely from your distant ancestry and is therefore presumably based on a view that what makes you Celtic is your DNA.

However, as Harpo and several generations of Irish and British scholars remind us, 'Celtic' is not currently considered to be a valid racial description in terms of biology/genetics. To be 'Celtic' on the currently accepted definition, you really have to be one of two things:-

1. Someone who speaks a Celtic language. ideally as a first language.

2. Someone who is culturally 'Celtic'.

This second category is problematic. What is Celtic culture? Whimsical Victorian reinvention has presented the world with a surprisingly resilient simulacrum of what Highland Scottish culture is supposed to look like and more recent 'Mock Oirish' has done much the same thing for Ireland. However, life in modern Ireland or Highland Scotland has moved on and if you were to turn up (for example) at a pub in Oban kitted out in your finest dress tartan and tried to convince the locals in anything other than a Scottish accent that you were one of them, you'd be unlikely to be taken very seriously (although you might well be indulged to a degree, because most people are fairly polite). And here is the rub. We can all self-identify with whomsoever we choose, but if the people we self-identify with steadfastly refuse to see us as 'one of the team', are we not kidding ourselves?

The 'Celtic Myth' feeds into this by ignoring current academic thinking (which, as Harpo pointed out, originated with heavyweight Irish academics) and instead opening the door to 'being Celtic' to anyone who can scrabble around the ancestry cupboard and find a predecessor from a Celtic country. This isn't a dab at you - I have in mind Jeremy Irons, a famous British actor who appeared on the TV ancestry programme 'Who Do You Think You Are?'. He owns a second home in Galway somewhere and was quite determined to be Irish. However, he had to go back a few generations to actually find an ancestor born in Ireland. When he did, the look of relief on his face was palpable. But, again, he was relying on a perceived genetic definition of 'Celtic' to get him in, although whether his occasional Irish neighbours accepted him as one of them is a very different matter.
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Old January 12th, 2016, 01:42 AM   #699

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Well said Peter.

The Celts were ethnically diverse peoples who shared some similarities and culture. For those who have trouble wrapping their minds around that, think of it as being similar to Germanic. Germanic could refer to anyone who speaks a Germanic language... Germans, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelanders, English, ect. Celtic, like Germanic, refers merely to a language group.

A Celt in Iron Age Britain would have looked at a Celt from another tribe in southern Gaul in the same way that a modern Dutch person would view a German. (as in foreign)
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Old January 12th, 2016, 01:48 AM   #700
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Graham View Post
No -one is saying that this is recent news over here. The 'Celts are not a race' thing has been a standard of academia for as long as I can remember - not 100 years, but certainly quite a few. It represents settled academic opinion, although as this thread shows, a) it doesn't represent settled lay opinion and b) even settled academic opinions can be challenged.

MacNeill is only right if you accept a genetic or biological definition of race which, in all fairness, most people do. However, if you accept shared language/culture and a shared perception of origins as being a valid definition of race, the one can make the argument that 'Celtic' is a race.

And, of course, since MacNeill's time, Celtic has become staggeringly fashionable. One doesn't have to look far to see people self-identifying as Celts who have probably never even visited Ireland, Wales or wherever, let alone actually lived or been born there. When these folk say 'I'm a Celt', they are not defining themselves linguistically, as I'd be surprised if even a tiny percentage of them could actually speak a Goidelic or Brittonic language.

If they meant it as a cultural definition, all they'd have to do is embrace Celtic culture (wherever they were born and whatever their ancestry) and point to that lifestyle choice to justify the self-definition. Although whether people genuinely soaked and brought up in that culture would accept them is a different matter.

But they don't do that either. What they usually do in my experience is to justify it by pointing to distant relatives who came from a perceived Celtic area. They are therefore saying 'I am Celtic in the blood' which is an attempt at a genetic definition, albeit one that is unlikely to mean much. Before we fell out again, Eamonn10 suggest that my sense of humour might betray my Celtic roots, notwithstanding that I identify as English. He was joking, of course (and it was a good joke), but nonetheless we can easily end up in the odd situation where people say 'Celtic isn't a race' whilst acting as though it is.......
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Graham View Post
'Gael' is simply a term for people speaking a Goidelic (Q Celtic) language. With the exception of you, I know of no-one else who uses it as a modern ethnonym.

You imply that Celt is a genetic definition. As such, as you are a good example of what I was talking about in my previous post. Your self-definition as Celtic (or 'Gaelic', as you would have it) comes solely from your distant ancestry and is therefore presumably based on a view that what makes you Celtic is your DNA.

However, as Harpo and several generations of Irish and British scholars remind us, 'Celtic' is not currently considered to be a valid racial description in terms of biology/genetics. To be 'Celtic' on the currently accepted definition, you really have to be one of two things:-

1. Someone who speaks a Celtic language. ideally as a first language.

2. Someone who is culturally 'Celtic'.

This second category is problematic. What is Celtic culture? Whimsical Victorian reinvention has presented the world with a surprisingly resilient simulacrum of what Highland Scottish culture is supposed to look like and more recent 'Mock Oirish' has done much the same thing for Ireland. However, life in modern Ireland or Highland Scotland has moved on and if you were to turn up (for example) at a pub in Oban kitted out in your finest dress tartan and tried to convince the locals in anything other than a Scottish accent that you were one of them, you'd be unlikely to be taken very seriously (although you might well be indulged to a degree, because most people are fairly polite). And here is the rub. We can all self-identify with whomsoever we choose, but if the people we self-identify with steadfastly refuse to see us as 'one of the team', are we not kidding ourselves?

The 'Celtic Myth' feeds into this by ignoring current academic thinking (which, as Harpo pointed out, originated with heavyweight Irish academics) and instead opening the door to 'being Celtic' to anyone who can scrabble around the ancestry cupboard and find a predecessor from a Celtic country. This isn't a dab at you - I have in mind Jeremy Irons, a famous British actor who appeared on the TV ancestry programme 'Who Do You Think You Are?'. He owns a second home in Galway somewhere and was quite determined to be Irish. However, he had to go back a few generations to actually find an ancestor born in Ireland. When he did, the look of relief on his face was palpable. But, again, he was relying on a perceived genetic definition of 'Celtic' to get him in, although whether his occasional Irish neighbours accepted him as one of them is a very different matter.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scaeva View Post
Well said Peter.

The Celts were ethnically diverse peoples who shared some similarities and culture. For those who have trouble wrapping their minds around that, think of it as being similar to Germanic. Germanic could refer to anyone who speaks a Germanic language... Germans, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelanders, English, ect. Celtic, like Germanic, refers merely to a language group.

A Celt in Iron Age Britain would have looked at a Celt from another tribe in southern Gaul in the same way that a modern Dutch person would view a German. (as in foreign)
Yes, well said
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