>From: Kevin Tolley <[log in to unmask]>
>Date: 2007/01/20 Sat PM 06:49:00 CST
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: Literacy attested?
>You say silly and to brand something as silly means
>that it cannot be true in any meaningful sense. That
>is a curious statement and probably incorrect, in fact
>we have just been given some evidence of the opposite.
> First, however, you are right in that the idea of
>literacy among the "Celts" would be too broad a
>proposition to defend here as we only have evidence
>for the Gauls in front of us, but even the broader
>statement is not impossible, merely unknown.
>If we are talking about the Gauls, we have, I believe,
>no evidence to suggest illiteracy. In fact quite the
>opposite. Here is the quote in evidence:
>"Posidonius [first century BC] (via Diodorus Siculus
>5.28): The teaching of Pythagoras prevails among the
>Gauls, that the souls of humans are immortal and that
>after a certain number of years they will live again,
>with the soul passing into another body. Because of
>this belief, some people at funerals will throw
>letters into the funeral pyre, so that those having
>passed on might read them"
>Even if we take only this quote as evidence, one could
>suggest that literacy rates among the Gauls might have
>been high. Whatever this says about the beliefs of
>the Gauls it states with assurance that those being
>burned could read. It says nothing about gender,
>social status, etc and it would be a mistake to impose
>those constructs on such a quote. I can only conclude
>that it is in fact a rather silly proposition to
>suggest that the Gauls (at least) were illiterate. Do
>you have evidence of which I am unaware? That
>wouldn't be unlikely. But I am very curious about
>such a definitive statement. What makes you so
>At best, as far as I can see, we simply don't know.
>We don't know who wrote if there was a literate class
>who wrote for the general population. We don't know
>if the general population was writing their letters on
>their own. We don't even know if the Gauls employed
>Greek scribes and scholars to commit their letters to
>parchment (though this at least is unlikely give the
>other evidence we have).
>--- "[log in to unmask]" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> Of course, all of fails to prove anything, much less
>> the very broad (and rather silly) proposition that
>> "the Celts were literate". Literacy is a
>> multi-faceted concept, with issues regarding class,
>> social status, gender, culture, etc. playing
>> prominent roles in determining who, if anyone, was
>> literate in a functional sense. By "Celts" it is
>> not clear exactly to whom you are referring, as
>> well. Inscriptions in Gaul (using Greek letters)
>> prove nothing for Britain or Ireland.
>> David W. Fortin
>> Assistant Professor
>> History Department
>> Millersville University
>> Millersville, PA 17551
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