Richard Cavendish

Tale of the Underdogs

The Celtic Empire

By

Constable 240pp £16.95 order from our bookshop

 

In the year 185BC four Celtic mercenary soldiers serving in Egypt visited the temple at Karnak. They caught what they thought was a fox – it was really a jackal, apparently – and scratched the fact, with their names, on the wall. In the same spirit 2000 years on, Scots, Irish and Welsh soldiers in the service of the Raj would wander in the bazaars of Benares or drink in the dives of Singapore.

The Celts have never had an empire, despite the title of this book. Imperialism requires discipline, self-confidence and respect for authority. These are not Celtic characteristics. Before the rise of the Roman Empire, however, Celtic tribes occupied a territory stretching from Ireland across Europe to the Black Sea. The splendidly dotty theory that they crossed the Atlantic in force and established themselves in North America before 500BC has the boot put firmly into it here, but Britain, France, Spain and Portugal, northern Italy and Yugoslavia were all Celtic spheres.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • A treat from the LR Archive: exactly 20 years ago, Malcolm Bradbury reviewed John Updike's 'Bech at Bay' ,
    • ‘When bullets come close, the noise they make as they go past changes from a zing to a crack’ John Lanchester's dy… ,
    • Man with a Bloody Paintbrush: Robin Simon on Lucian Freud ,
    • Jane Ridley reviews The Diaries of Kenneth Rose (ed. D R Thorpe) ,
    • ‘Look,’ says Trump. ‘The fact is I’m only human.’ On the evidence of this book that point is debatable. From the A… ,
    • From our December/January issue - here's John Banville's review of Colm Tóibín on the fathers of Wilde, Yeats and J… ,
    • Hi , we would love to review 'Death of the Vazir-Mukhtar' in our next issue! Please could you get in… ,