The Heroic Age of the Celts – the Bronze Sword Cycles

My duology takes place roughly 200 B.C, on the island of Skye. We know that the people of Skye, as all of Britain and Ireland, as well as much of Northern Europe, spoke a Celtic language. They had a shared archaeological culture, and while there were likely many differences between peoples, they had many things in common as well. These people are often called Celts in the modern-day.

Celt comes from the ancient Greek word Keltoi, though scholars are uncertain if it ultimately derives from a Celtic language, or it is entirely Greek in origin. Latin speakers, particularly the Romans, referred to them as Gauls. Some scholars are adamant that Celt and Celtic are not proper terms at all. This is a rather complicated argument, and certainly beyond the scope of fiction.

However, the issue of the word Celt, as well as Gaul, do come up in my fiction. In the Bronze Sword cycles duology, Greeks refer to the protagonist and others who they identify as Celts or Keltoi, but the people being labelled do not necessarily view themselves as a collective.

Rather, most people called Celts probably referred to themselves as their people (erroneously labelled tribes often – the people of the Celtic Iron Age were not tribal, but that is another post!). Names like Dubonnoi, Boii, or Iceni – Boudicca’s peoples – were probably what they referred to themselves as. Perhaps they even referred themselves as Celtics or Gauls or Britons after the Romans or Greeks called them that!

So what is the heroic age of the Celtis? The Iron Age of Europe – contemporary with the Classical world, between 500 BC and roughly 200 AD. We know from many sources – archaeological – historical – literary – that the Celts valued valour in battle, that the masculine warrior was an ideal to be lived up to, and that greatness awaits those who die in battle. The classical, literate people of the Greeks and Romans recognized that and admired that, as can be seen through the heroic but defeated dying Gaul statue.

The Dying Gaul sculpture, marble copy of a Greek bronze, from the capitoline museum in Rome.

That is precisely what my duology, the Bronze Sword Cycles, is about. It is about a young man’s quest to live up to the warrior ideal put forth to him through his culture: his myths, his family, his clan, and even the expectations of outsiders. The heroic age of the Celts is perfect setting for a heroic fantasy story.

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