Often, readers of heroic fantasy have asked for stories or series set in so-called Celtic times. There seems to be a lack of this setting in fiction these days, and readers have requested that this be mended. This is interesting for me as an archaeologist who has studied the Celtic Iron Age, because ‘Celtic’ is a loosenely defined term from the 19th century to describe Gaelic-speaking peoples of the Atlantic fringe of west Britain and France – but that is besides the point.
What they mean is historical fiction set in pre-Roman Europe. Between 500-200 BC, the majority of western and central Europe spoke a form of the Celtic language and had some shared cultural traits we can see archaeologically. They were not one unified nation, people, or tribe, but rather a multitude of different peoples with a variety of different cultural beliefs and practices.
In the popular mind, this Celt – or Gaul – is a screaming, naked, noble barbarian that fought against the wicked incursions of a mighty empire, determined to bring it civilization by any means necessary.
Anyone familiar with Caesar’s the Gallic wars, or Boudicca or any of the other characters that came to us through Roman eyes would know these images – these stories.
As archaeologists, we know the Greeks and Romans did not tell us the entire story.
My books, ‘The Bronze Sword Cycles’, are told through the eyes of what the Romans would call a Gaul, and the Greeks a Celt. It is told from his perspective, in his world of 200 BC, on the island of Skye, of what is now Scotland.
While it is fantasy, my archaeological expertise does not allow me to be a shred inauthentic or anachronistic.