The Philosopher and the Druids: A Journey Among the Ancient Celts

Philip Freeman, Author . Simon & Schuster $25 (221p) ISBN 978-0-7432-6280-4

Sometime during the first century B.C., the Greek Stoic philosopher Posidonius traveled north and west to see for himself the mysterious culture of the Celts, which he had read about in Herodotus, Plato and Aristotle. Although none of Posidonius' writings survive, Freeman, a professor of classics (St. Patrick of Ireland ), sketchily recreates the philosopher's world out of the fragmentary writings of Polybius, Strabo and Caesar, using the philosopher's journey as a flimsy excuse to draw on his own noted expertise in Celtic history and culture. The speculative observations about Posidonius fill only two to three pages of each chapter; the bulk of the book records information about the ancient Celts that readers can find elsewhere, including in Freeman's earlier books. For example, we learn that Celtic feasts were often boasting contests between two tribes and that the Celts were fierce warriors who engaged in one-on-one combat, headhunters and religious people whose priests, the Druids, viewed the natural world as sacred. Posidonius was neither the first to discover all this nor the first to write about it for Hellenistic culture, and Freeman's bewildering book reveals little new on the subject. 8 pages of b&w illus. not seen by PW , 2 maps. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/14/2005
Release date: 01/01/2006
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-1-4165-8523-7
Ebook - 240 pages - 978-0-7432-8906-1
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