Timetable information in the Course Catalogue may be subject to change.

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : Celtic

Undergraduate Course: Celtic Civilisation 1A: Barbarians, Saints, and Scholars (CELT08025)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryCeltic Civilisation 1A: Barbarians, Saints, and Scholars is a survey course concerned with the histories, languages, literatures, and cultures of the Celtic-speaking peoples from the Iron Age until the end of the Middle Ages. Its principal objective is to guide students to a fully contextualized understanding of the languages, nations, and material and artistic cultures that came to be considered 'Celtic'. Topics include:

- Greek and Roman authors' description of 'Celts' (i.e., in central Europe, Gaul, and Britain) alongside those peoples' visible artefacts and literature;
- The speakers of Celtic languages (e.g., Welsh and Gaelic) in medieval Britain and Ireland and their emerging intellectual culture; and
- The ways in which Celtic-speaking peoples understood themselves or were understood by others, and how they related to each other.

Students are introduced to the ancient Celtae and, from circa 400 AD, to medieval Celtic speakers in Britain and Ireland, discovering how their cultures developed, and how they were perceived by outsiders (and among themselves). From the wars of Caesar to the medieval bardic schools, from carvings in caves to the dawn of the print age, from the burials of Central Europe to the Protestant Reformation in Scotland, the course will introduce students to Celtic-speaking peoples from their emergence in the historical record to the close of the Middle Ages.
Course description This broad-ranging survey course considers the history, perception, cultural, and ethnic experience of peoples, languages, and objects presented and understood as 'Celtic' from the late Iron Age until the close of the Middle Ages (and the basis for that definition).

The course consists of three units:

Unit 1: The ancient Celtic world

This unit will introduce students to the peoples whom Greek and Roman writers considered to be "Celts", and explore the commonalites and divergences among these peoples that may be discerned from linguistic and archaeological sources. Using evidence from a wide range of primary texts/objects from place names and coins to Roman propaganda and burial sites - the unit will investigate intellectual, political, religious, and economic aspects of Celtic civilisations from the Iron Age to Roman conquest.

Unit 2: The early medieval Celtic world

The changes that commenced with the formal end of the Roman imperial presence in Britain (410 AD) ushered in the early medieval period, profoundly altering not only the political and linguistic landscape of Celtic-speaking Europe, but also the nature of the sources available to study them. As the centralizing power of the Roman Empire faded, a new transnational institution, the Christian church, grew in prominence, reshaping not only religious but also literary, artistic, and political life. This unit will explore the process of conversion in the insular Celtic world, the formation of new identities in Ireland and post-Roman Britain, and the decline of the 'Old North' and ultimate formation of Scotland. It will observe the growth of literacy, such as the symbol stones of the Picts, ogham script, and, latterly, the flowering of astonishingly broad and vibrant literary traditions in Old Irish, Middle Welsh, and Latin. Finally, it will consider how the arrival of non-Celtic-speaking peoples - the English, the Norse, and finally the Normans - altered the cultural and political structures of Celtic-speaking Britain and Ireland.

Unit 3: The later medieval Celtic world

The course concludes by exploring the transformation of the Celtic-speaking areas Scotland, Wales, and Ireland in the later medieval period.This was a time in which the growing political and military power of England impacted Wales and Ireland profoundly, while the changing balance of power in the Scottish kingdom was to have long-term implications for the nature of the Scottish Gàidhealtachd and its initially dominant language, Gaelic. It was also a period of rich cultural and literary growth, from the bardic schools of the Irish and Scottish Gàidhealtachd to the composition of the Mabinogi in post-Norman Wales, with the flourishing of Classical Gaelic poetry and the wider culture of the aos dána, the learned orders. Finally, we consider the impact of two profound changes that were also reshaping contemporary Europe: the Protestant Reformation and the dawn of the age of print.

Student learning experience

Core content for each unit will be provided by a combination of lectures introducing new themes (two per week) and once-weekly 'case studies' focused on primary sources relevant to each week's main theme that also complement tutorial assignments. Small-group discussion-based tutorials are held once per fortnight (five in total across the course).
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 33, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 5, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 158 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 100% Coursework «br /»
«br /»
End-of-unit quizzes (15%), 3 automated tests reflecting on factual course content and secondary reading, released at the conclusion of each unit.«br /»
«br /»
Case Study (15%), a short (c. 750-word) textual assignment based on one of the active learning 'case studies'.«br /»
«br /»
Course essay (40%): 2,000 words.«br /»
«br /»
A take-home assignment (THA) (30%), released during exam diet; students will respond to 3 questions from a selection covering all three units of course content.
Feedback End-of-unit quizzes are graded automatically with addition of correct answers.

Students will normally receive written feedback on the 'Case Study' document commentary before their essay is due, providing further guidance and general recommendations to improve written work for the more substantial written piece. Full written feedback will be provided for the course essay, and brief written commentary for the concluding THA.

Opportunities will also be provided for students to discuss written feedback with markers/course conveners at designated points across the semester.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate understanding of the key themes and issues emerging from the study of Celtic-speaking societies from the ancient to late-medieval worlds
  2. Assess the potential and limitations of both primary evidence and modern scholarship in pursuing the study of Celtic-speaking societies.
  3. Analyse and contextualise the concepts of 'Celticness' and 'Celticity'.
  4. Produce a sound and competent essay, in accordance with the common marking scale.
  5. Develop the following transferable skills: critical consideration of evidence in order to arrive at sound conclusions to a posed problem; evaluating primary sources and secondary scholarship; presenting evaluations and conclusions clearly in written form; independent management of personal timetable, workload and other priorities in order to meet established deadlines.
Reading List

Bernhard Maier, The Celts: A history from the earliest times to the present (2nd edition Edinburgh, 2017)

Barry Cunliffe, The Ancient Celts (2nd edition Oxford, 2018)

John Koch (ed.) Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, 5 vols, (Santa Barbara, California, 2006)

Jane Webster, 'Ethnographic barbarity: Colonial discourse and "Celtic warrior societies"', in Roman Imperialism: Post-Colonial Perspectives, ed. by Jane Webster & Nick Cooper, (Leicester, 1994), 111-24

Javier de Hoz, 'The Mediterranean frontier of the Celts and the advent of Celtic writing', in Crossing Boundaries. Croesi Ffiniau (= Cambrian Medieval Studies 53/54) (Aberystwyth, 1997), 1-22

Barbara Yorke, The Conversion of Britain 600-800 (London, 2006)

Gilbert Márkus, Conceiving a nation: Scotland to 900 (Edinburgh, 2017)

Sally Foster, Picts, Gaels and Scots (2nd edition Edinburgh, 2014)

George and Isabel Henderson, The Art of the Picts: Sculpture and Metalwork in Early Medieval Scotland (London, 2011)

Thomas Charles-Edwards, Wales and the Britons, AD 350-1064 (Cambridge, 2012)

Clare Downham, Medieval Ireland (Cambridge, 2017)

Katharine Simms, 'The professional historians of medieval Ireland', in Medieval Historical Writing, Britain and Ireland, 500-1500, ed. by Jennifer Jahner, Emily Steiner & Elizabeth M. Tyler (Cambridge 2019), 279-98.

Máire Ní Mhaonaigh, 'The literature of medieval Ireland, 800-1200: From the Vikings to the Normans', in The Cambridge History of Irish Literature, Vol. 1: to 1890, ed. by M. Kelleher and P. O'Leary (Cambridge, 2006), 32-73.

Andrew MacDonald, 'The Western Gàidhealtachd in the Middle Ages', in Scotland: The Making and Unmaking of the Nation c. 1100-1707: Vol. 1: The Scottish Nation, Origins to c. 1500, ed. by Bob Harris and Alan R. MacDonald (Edinburgh: EUP, 2012)

Wilson McLeod and Meg Bateman, Duanaire na Sracaire: Anthology of Scotland's Gaelic Verse to 1600 (Edinburgh, 2019)

Janet Davies, The Welsh Language: A History (Cardiff: University of Wales Press 2014)

Diana Luft, 'Commemorating the Past after 1066: Tales from The Mabinogion', in The Cambridge History of Welsh Literature, ed. by Geraint Evans and Helen Fulton (Cambridge, 2019), 73-92

Alex Woolf, 'The Scandinavian Intervention' in The Cambridge History of Ireland ed. by Brendan Smith (Cambridge, 2017), 107-30.


Raimund Karl, 'The Celts from everywhere and nowhere: A re-evaluation of the origins of the Celts and the emergence of Celtic cultures', in Celtic from the West, ed. by Barry Cunliffe and John Koch (Oxford, 2010), 39-64

Jane Webster, 'Interpretatio: Roman Word Power and the Celtic Gods', Britannia 26 (1995), 153-61

Tom Duddy, 'Derrida and the druids: Writing, lore, and power in early Celtic society', Religion & Literature 28, no. 2-3 (Summer/Autumn, 1996), 9-20

Nathalie C. Ginoux & Peter C. Ramsl, 'Art and craftsmanship in elite-warrior graves', in Chris Gosden et al. (eds.), Celtic art in Europe making connections (Oxford, 2014), 274-86

Fraser Hunter, 'The Carnyx in Iron Age Europe', The Antiquaries Journal 81 (2001), 77-108

Jonathan H. C. Williams, 'Coin inscriptions and the origin of writing in pre-Roman Britain', British Numismatic Journal 71 (2001), 1-17

David Stifter, 'Ancient Celtic Epigraphy and its Interface with Classical Epigraphy', in Petra Amann et al. (eds.), Sprachen - Schriftkulturen - Identitäten der Antike. Beiträge des XV. Internationalen Kongresses für Griechische und Lateinische Epigraphik. Fest- und Plenarvorträge (Wien, 2019), 97-123

Alex Mullen, 'Evidence for written Celtic from Roman Britain: a linguistic analysis', Studia Celtica 41.1 (2007), 31-45

Caitlin Gillespie, 'The Wolf and the Hare: Boudica's Political Bodies in Tacitus and Dio', The Classical World 108, no. 3 (2015), 403-29

Raimund Karl, 'Guardian and ward - age and gender as strange social attractors in the Celtic Iron Age', Ethnographisch-archäologische Zeitschrift 45 (2004), 467-81

Thomas Charles-Edwards (ed.), After Rome (Oxford University Press, 2003)

Martin Goldberg, 'At the Western edge of the Christian world, c.AD 600-900', in Julia Farley & Fraser Hunter (eds.), Celts: Art & Identity (London, 2015), 172-205

Katherine S. Forsyth, 'Scotland to AD 1000', in Scotland: A History, ed. by Jenny Wormald (Oxford, 2005), 1-37

Thomas Clancy and Barbara Crawford, 'The formation of the Scottish kingdom', in The New Penguin History of Scotland: From the Earliest Times to the Present Day, ed. by R. A. Houston et al. (London, 2001), 28-90

James Fraser, From Caledonia to Pictland (Edinburgh, 2009)

Alex Woolf, From Pictland to Alba (Edinburgh, 2007)

Dáibhí Ó Cróinín (ed.), A New History of Ireland, vol. 1 (Oxford, 2005)

Máire Ní Mhaonaigh, 'Of Bede's 'five languages and four nations': the earliest writing from Ireland, Scotland and Wales', in The Cambridge History of Early Medieval English Literature, ed. by Clare Lees (Cambridge, 2013), 99-119


John Collis, 'Celts ancient and modern: Recent controversies in Celtic Studies', Studia Celtica Fennica 14 (2017), 58-71

Daphne Nash, 'Reconstructing Poseidonios' Celtic ethnography: Some considerations', Britannia 7 (1976), 111-26

Sean B. Dunham, 'Caesar's perception of Gallic social structures', in Celtic Chiefdom, Celtic State; the evolution of complex social systems in prehistoric Europe, eds. Bettina Arnold and D. Blair Gibson (Cambridge, 1995), 110-15.

Miranda Green (ed.) The Celtic World (London, 1995)

Philip Freeman, 'The earliest Greek sources on the Celts', Études céltiques 32 (1996) 11-48

Patrick Gleeson, 'Archaeology and Myth in Early Medieval Europe: Making the Gods of Early Ireland', Medieval Archaeology 64.1 (2020), 65-93

J. V. S. Megaw, and M. Ruth Megaw 'Celtic Connections Past and Present: Celtic Ethnicity Ancient and Modern' in Celtic Connections, ed. by Ronald Black et al. (East Linton, 1999), 19-81

Bridgette Slavin, 'Coming to terms with Druids in Early Christian Ireland' Australian Celtic Journal 9 (2010), 1-27

Proinsias MacCana, 'Notes on the legend of Louernios', in Ogma: Essays in Celtic studies in honour of Próinséas Ní Chatháin, ed. by Michael Richter (Dublin, 2002), 138-144

Sharon Macdonald, 'Boadicea: warrior, mother and myth', in Images of Women in Peace and War, ed. by S. Macdonald, P. Holden and S. Ardener (Madison, Wisconsin, 1987), 40-61

Eric Adler, 'Boudica's Speeches in Tacitus and Dio', The Classical World 101, no. 2 (2008), 173-95

Guto Rhys, 'The Pictish language', History Scotland, January/February 2020, 16-22
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Research and enquiry
To engage well with this course's assessed work, students will need to identify multivalent themes, evaluate complex primary texts and material artefacts, contextualize those sources' origin, reception, and secondary analysis, and respond criticially to secondary scholarship and scholarly paradigms.

Personal and intellectual autonomy
Students will develop transferable skills in preliminary research (critically selecting primary/secondary sources, conducting reasoned analysis, and synthesising those sources' context to development an argument).

Personal effectiveness
Planning assessed work and meeting assignment deadlines will require students to develop/hone skills in project management: multitasking and discerning parallel priorities; planning research; using resources effectively to an appropriate timescale and for defined goals.

Students will develop written and oral communication skills through coursework assessments, to an anticipated high standard, e.g. measured, strongly evaluated communication of ideas in the 'Case Study' document commentary and essay. Oral communication in small-group discussion will be encouraged, with appropriate consideration to students with recognised learning adjustments that impact speaking or listening.
KeywordsCeltic,Rome,Gaul,Britain,Ireland,Scotland,Wales,Gaelic,Pictish,Roman Empire,Scandinavian Settlement
Course organiserDr Kate Mathis
Course secretaryMr Iain Harrison
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information