The Seven Invasions

contents of this page
General Remarks   
The Rumhoth - Romans   
The Ingwaiwar - the Anglo - Saxons   
The Forodwaith – the Vikings   
??? - the Normans   
??? - Celts - General Overview   


These events appear mentioned in the story of Eriol / Ælfwine in The Book of Lost Tales II. The tale about them is a part of the early stages of Tolkien’s mythology and a wonderful example of how he then intended to achieve the main initial goal of his writings – to create a genuine English mythology, binding myths with the real history of England.

In his Letter 180 To 'Mr Thompson' , dated 14 January 1956 J.R.R.Tolkien writes:

Having set myself a task, the arrogance of which I fully recognized and trembled at, being precisely to restore to the English an epic tradition and present them with a mythology of their own.

In this light, it is remarkable that at the time of his early writings (the early 19’ – ies) J.R.R.Tolkien envisioned TolEressëa, the Isle of the Elves, as the British Isles themselves and the myth was thus “located” in the “right place”.

This concept later underwent strong alterations and changes however, and at one later point TolEressëa is no longer identified with England. England is indeed still at the heart of this later conception, but is named Luthany. Yet, the connection between the history of the Elves of TolEressëa with Luthany (their former homeland) strongly involves real historical events from the ancient history of England, thus peculiarly suggesting that England in fact was once upon a time the land of the fairies – the mythical creatures, bearers of perfection and good.

In the existing variations of the story about Eriol / Ælfwine, J.R.R.Tolkien interwove pieces of the ancient historical background of England, masterfully transferring real history into myths.

The aim of the present research is to trace historical events behind the myths – in particular in the tales of the seven invasions.

General Remarks    

What are they about, anyway?

Of the coming of Men to Luthany, how each race quarrelled, and the fairies faded, until [? the most] set sail, after the coming of the Rumhoth, for the West.
BoLT2; The history of Eriol or Ælfwine and the end of the tales.

Christopher Tolkien comments:

“Also in (20) is the first appearance of the idea of the Seven Invasions of Luthany. One of these was that of the Rumhoth (mentioned also in (14)) or Romans; and the seventh was that of the Ingwaiwar, who were not hostile to the Elves…”

“…the invasion of the Ingwaiwar (or 'sons of Ing') equally certainly represents the 'Anglo-Saxon' invasion of Britain.“

Thus, two of the seven invasions are clearly identified :

  • the invasion of the Rumhoth - the invasion of the Romans /55 BC – 410 AD/
  • the last, the seventh invasion – the one of the Ingwaiwar – the invasion of the Anglo - Saxons /c.450. AD/

The Rumhoth - Romans    

“Seven successive invasions took place, including that of the Rumhoth or Romans, and at each new war more of the remaining Elves of Luthany fled over the sea.”

Those were

...the ancient Men of the South from Micelgeard the Heartless Town set their mighty feet upon the soil of Luthien.'

Christopher Tolkien clarifies here that:

Micelgeard is Old English (and Mickleyard a modernisation of this in spelling), though it does not occur in extant Old English writings and is modelled on Old Norse Mikligaror (Constantinople).

Also in the story of Ælfwine (version II) we read:

And it is said that, save only when the fierce fathers of Men, foes of the Elves, being new come under the yoke of Evil,~ entered first that land, never else did so great a concourse of elfin ships and white-winged galleons sail to the setting sun as in those days when the ancient Men of the South set first their mighty feet upon the soil of Luthien -the Men whose lords sat in '''the city of power that Elves and Men have called Rum''' (but the Elves alone do know as Magbar).~

It is hard not to recognize the Romans!

What is known about the Roman inavsion of the British Isles from real history? / See also Note 1/

55 BCFirst Invasion. At the end of August 55BC during nightfall Julius Caesar set sail for Britain from Portus Itius - the present day Boulogne. His force consisted of two legions. This would have consisted of about 10 to 12000 soldiers.It is also thought that he had about 80 ships at his disposal. The invaders were met by assembled British forces including warriors in horse - drawn chariots an antiquated fighting method not used by the Roman military. This first invasion was not successful for the Roman Emperor and he withdrew to Gaul.
54 BCSecond Invasion. The Romans organize a much larger expedition to Britain with a total of 800 ships used to transport five legions and 2000 cavalry troops plus horses and a large baggage train. They sailed from Boulogne at night on July 6 and landed unopposed the next day on the beach between Deal and Sandwich. This time the Romans were victorious.
100 years aheadRoman influence is large on the British Isles. However the prevailing interaction was in trade and peace though uneasy settles in Britannia. European traders were encouraged and could sail straight up the River Thames and trade directly in London ( or Londinium as the Romans named it ).The Roman and European traders spread to many parts of the country. The natives felt secure that they would not be attacked again.
122 ADConstruction of Hadrian’s Wall.
167 ADFirst missionaries of Christianity appear in Britain.
314 ADThree British bishops for the first time attend a continental church gathering the Council of Arles.
Until 407 ADNumerous wars of the Roman Empire with barbarian tribes. The two Roman legions in Britain are being called off to fight on the continent and this year is considered to be the end of the Roman presence on the Isles.
410 ADBritain gains its independence from the Roman Empire.

It is thus no wonder that the impact of the presence of the Romans in the history of England found a strong reflection in Tolkien’s early mythological concepts. And as is seen from the historical facts, the local population could never fully establish good relations with the Romans or v.v. The Romans were invaders and conquerors and cared little about the development of the locals. Neither they ever could understand the national spirit of the Celts, their culture and customs. Thus, in the tales, the Rumhoth are said to not even believe that the Elves of Luthany existed!

The Ingwaiwar - the Anglo - Saxons    

“The seventh invasion, that of the Ingwaiwar, was however not hostile to the Elves and these invaders were 'coming back to their own', since they were the people of Ing(we).”

“The Elves of Luthany (now England) throve again and ceased to leave Luthany for TolEressëa, and they spoke to the Ingwaiwar in their own language, Old English.”

Christopher Tolkien comments:

Ælfwine was an Englishman of the Anglo - Saxon period, a descendant of Ing(we), who had derived a knowledge of and love of the Elves from the tradition of his family Ælfwine came to TolEressëa, found that Old English was spoken there, and was called by the Elves Luthien 'friend', the Man of Luthany(the Isle of Friendship).”

There are three very peculiar facts in the case of the invasion of the Ingwaiwar, when compared to real history events.

For one, in the tales, the coming of the people of Ingwe to Luthany is said to be the seventh - last invasion. However, from history it is well known that the invasion of the Anglo – Saxons occurred almost immediately after the Romans had withdrawn completely from the British Isles. Besides, history teaches that the Anglo – Saxons were not the last invaders of the British Isles. The Normans followed later with a persistent and forcefull settlement, following the event in 1007, when Ethelread – King of England, married Emma, who was the sister of King Richard of Normandy. (see further details on the Norman invasion).

Thus one would possibly assume that only three major invasions, known of from the real history of Britain, are to be clearly traced in the tales. The historical events, however, came in a relatively close succession one after another, while we know little about the chronology of the "seven invasions" as told of in the tales.

In the tales, however, it is clearly implied that there was a number of other invasions to Luthany in - between those of the Rumhoth and the Ingwaiwar (Romans and Anglo – Saxons resp.). And in fact it was so in real history too, even if the chronology of the invasions, as presented in the tales, seems to not coincide precisely to that in real history! There were various other invasions with stronger or lesser influence throughout the history of the British Isles and parallels of them can be found in the tales.

To those I will refer later on.

Two, the tales claim that the Ingwaiwar were not hostile to the Elves and the Men’s population of Luthany. However, if the people of Ingwe were the Anglo – Saxons from real history, there is obviously a difference between Tolkien’s interpretation of events and real history, because the Anglo – Saxon invasion was quite bloody and forceful (as will be shown further). It will be interesting to try to find out why such a different interpretation exists!

Also, the Ingwaiwar are said to be “coming back to their own”, while in real history the Anglo – Saxons stepped on the British Isles for the very first time during their invasion and were far from being “friendly”.

Three, about the common language that the “friendly” invaders and the Elves of Luthany spoke. It is extremely interesting, because, as it will be shown, this idea might have been born on the base of the common Indo-European? original roots of the languages spoken by the local population of the isles (Celtic, Welsh, Scottish, Irish) and the language of the invaders who spoke the ancient Germanic dialects – all these being branches of the same proto – language.

But first, let’s trace the events from a real history point of view. / See also Note 2/

410 ADFrom this year when the Roman Empire ceased its notable presence on the British isles and on start the “Dark years” – a total of 40 years of total chaos civil wars and ruthless battles against various invaders from North Picts Irish Scots) plague and destruction. Britain was only Britain by name. It had split into England Scotland and Wales each area further sub - divided into cultural regions each with its own king or ruler. The Saxons didn’t have to wait for a “special invitation” as to increase their raids onto the isle now unprotected by the Roman legions. They had been showing their “appetite” for the lands on the isle for long. Saxon pirates raided the coasts. With ever increasing confidence started to sail up estuaries and rivers murdering and pillaging. They They were very cruel people.
c. 446 ADVortigern authorizes the use of Saxon mercenaries known as foederati for the defence of the northern parts against barbarian attack and to guard against further Irish incursions. The Saxons are given a little land in Lincolnshire. Leaders of the Saxon mercenaries are Hengest and Horsa.
from c.450 ADReal Anglo – Saxon invasion and settlement. Hengest arrives on shores of Britain with "3 keels" of warriors and are welcomed by Vortigern. This event is known in Latin as the "Adventus Saxonum" the coming of the Saxons but is also considered as a big mistake by Vortigern. Very soon the former mercenaries started to claim lands and wealth. Soon they brought their whole families and whole hordes of Saxons poured onto the isles fighting the Celtic and Celtic Roman people for their land. The indigenous population was no match for the Saxons and was pushed further and further to the west of England. By the end of the sixth century the once proud British people had degenerated into nothing better than the invaders who were now pushing them into a corner. The disease and hunger the Saxons had inflicted on them by taking their land resulted in a fight for existence. From that time are known two Celtic leaders in the fight against the people of Hengest and their Roman names were Ambrosius Aurelianus and Arturius the last one - believed to be the real historical prototype of the legendary King Arthur! (c.485-96 - Period of Arthur's "twelve battles" during which he gains reputation for invincibility.) But not even their bravery helped against the expansion of the new invaders and soon the once called Britain became England.
Until 1066 ADAlmost unchallenged development of the newly established country of the Anglo - Saxons except of course for their own internal figths for the throne and the wars against the Vikings.

On the base of these historical facts, let’s try to find some parallels to what we read in the tales (p.p. one, two and three above).

1.The seventh invasion on Luthany - that of the Ingwaiwar, is in the tales the last, while it is known from history that the parallel historical event - the invasion of the Anglo - Saxons, was not the last that the Isles suffered. I personally think that Tolkien (through Eriol) determined it as such because the invasion of the Anglo – Saxons is obvious the one that lasted for centuries and was longer and of greater influence and significance for the British nation than any other previous or following one. The Anglo-Saxons practically formed the English nation! Therefore, one may assume that in the tales it was called “last” as in the meaning of the “last significant”.

2.“Friendly” the Ingwaiwar might be considered because, in fact, their historical parallel - the Anglo - Saxons, brought order into the total chaos that followed the leave of the previous strong rulers (the Romans). The Anglo – Saxons fortified the borders of their newly established state, built a real country and made it strong and independent, developing all fields of economical and social life of the population, even if this had been achieved initially through a bloody and far not “friendly” conquest.

As for why Tolkien expressed the idea that the Ingwaiwar were “coming back to their own” when invading Luthany, I can only assume that this idea was born out of the fact that Eriol, who was telling the tales and who, in those early stages of Tolkien's idea about the history of the Elves where Eriol was to play a central role, is thought to be an Anglo – Saxon.

In this passage (16) AElfwine becomes more firmly rooted in English history: he is apparently a man of eleventh-century Wessex -- but as in (15) he is of 'the kin of Ing'

And the Ingwaiwarhave one more interpretation, strongly connected to the Anglo-Saxons.

In note (24), concerning the matter of the Faring Forth, we find:

Earendel takes refuge with [Ingwe] from the wrath of Osse, and gives him a draught of limpe (enough to assure immortality). He gives him news of the Elves and the dwelling on Tol Eressea. Ingwe and a host of his folk set sail to find Tol Eressea, but Osse blows them back east. They are utterly wrecked. Only '''Ingwe rescued on a raft. He becomes king of the Angali, Euti, Saksani, and Firisandi, (* Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Frisians.), who adopt the title of Ingwaiwar.''' He teaches them much magic and first sets men's hearts to seafaring westward...

Eriol's opinion maybe however strongly biased. The Anglo – Saxons historically had a weak (if any) genealogical connection with the population of the isles (see Notes 2,3 and 6) and as the historical records show, their coming onto British lands was definitely not "friendly".

In later writings ("The Lost Road" being a strong example) we witness various other ideas of the author about how to introduce the Anglo-Saxons from real history into his myths and legends (the legend of the Lombards; the legend of Shield Sheafing and others).

Finally, to some extent, the idea of the Ingwaiwar( = Anglo-Saxons) "coming to their own'' one may also base upon the author's own partiality, having in mind the saxon roots of Tolkien himself.

3.The common language of the Ingwaiwar and the inhabitants of Luthany and further on – of TolEressëa, may be based upon the fact that the language dialects spoken by the Anglo – Saxon tribes and those of the local population (Celts, Irish, Scots mainly) had a common origin – the Indo – European ancient proto – language of those people who populated the lands of today’s Europe in the depths of time.

Of great importance to me is also the fact that it was during the reign of the Anglo – Saxons, when the first written documents occurred (450-480 AD - First surviving (runic) Old English inscriptions) and from there on literacy gained further rapid and remarkable development (see Note 3). Therefore, it may be assumed that the idea about the "common" language of the people of Ingwe and the inhabitants of Luthany springs from the historical fact of the establishing of Old English (the language of the Anglo - Saxons) throughout the whole territory of England as a common official language. At that, all that lived on the Isles would use it and with its development and improvement the old dialects and languages almost faded away. The united nation already had a unified language.

This idea could be also understood in the light of the fact that the Germanic languages, being closer to the Celtic, Welsh etc., were quite different when opposed to the Latin language spoken by the former invaders – the Romans.

But in any case, we can completely trust Tolkien on introducing this idea, knowing well what a great linguist he was!

Thus, two of the most significant of all the invasions upon Luthany / Britain / England have been covered.

But … one still wonders….which particular real historical events are associated or/and identified with the remaining five invasions?!

There is a brief note by Christopher Tolkien on this matter:

“...but whereas in the outlines the invasion of the Ingwaiwar (i.e. the Anglo - Saxons) was the seventh…, here the Viking invasions are portrayed as coming upon the English -- 'nor was that the last of the takings of Luthien by Men from Men' (p. 314), obviously a reference to the Normans.”

This is how we find some more “light” on the issue, identifying two more out of the remaining five invasions. Of these there are only hints in the tales, yet these hints provide strong links to real history.

The Forodwaith – the Vikings    

In the tale, named by Chr.T. “Ælfwine II”, we read:

Mirth had Deor (Eriol’s father) long time in Mindon Gwar, but the Men of the North, whom the fairies of the island called Forodwaith, but whom Men called other names, came against Gwar in those days when they ravaged well nigh all the land of Luthien.

Well, not one or two were the barbarian and hostile tribes that used to plunder the British Isles throughout the centuries, but the Forodwaith can hardly be mistaken for anyone else but the Vikings!

The Vikings came to the British shores at the end of the 8th c. AD. At that time the Anglo – Saxons had established a well ordered and organized country, though life seems to have been not too peaceful, troubled by the struggles of the new lords for the throne of England. And then ……came the Vikings!!!

789 ADVikings attacked Britain for the first time with three ships raiding Portland. They came from the northern countries (Denmark Sweden and Norway) and were a strong warring and well equipped and trained sea-faring nation.
793 ADVikings attacked Britain in a surprise raid on the monastic community at Lindisfarne Priory. The building was destroyed many monks were killed the place was ransacked and the ecclesiastical finery of gold jewellery and relics taken. This was the precursor for the next never ceasing raids of the Vikings for more than two and a half centuries.
For further 273 yearsConstant raids and deep penetrating of the Vikings into the territories of English kingdoms. One of their renown raids was in 835 A.D. when a large Viking force of longboats entered the Thames estuary and devastated the Isle of Sheppey on the Kent coast. And In 850 another large force instead of returning home for the winter encamped on the Isle of Thanet in the Thames estuary. They set about fortifying their conquest ready for the following years plundering. That was already a really serious invasion! The English population now united and several large battles were fought against the Vikings. By 955 AD England was re-claimed as free again thanks to the valiant King Alfred.
980 ADVikings started attacking again. The peace and gained freedom was lost.
14th November 1002St Brice's Day - when King Aethelred II decided to eliminate all the Danish settlers in England. The effects of this were catastrophic. It was not just murder but a scorched earth policy. This led to starvation disease and death. When the news reached the Scandinavians especially Denmark English history took another turn for the worse. One of the victims in that massacre would be Gunnhild the sister of Sweyn Forkbeard the king of Denmark. Swearing revenge he destroyed many of the East Anglian and southern towns leaving death in his wake. This continued for the next few years.
1013 ADA Viking - Sweyn Forkbeard - the King of Denmark became also the first King of England!
1016 ADCanute son of Sweyn Forkbeard returned to England to claim the throne gained by his father from the former English Kings. A severe war was fought between him and the new English King - Edmund II and Canute eventually won. A second Viking King of England - Canute was also the King of Denmark and of Norway. He was a powerful ruler and established peace and firm policy in the country. His son however could not hold the throne and lost it in favour of Harold II.
1066 ADThe Battle of Stamford Bridge on the 25th September. The Vikings are defeated.

/ See also Note 4/

What may be found in parallel to the above historical events in the tale of Eriol / Ælfwine in The Book of Lost Tales?

A few examples:

Eriol telling the story of his boyhood (in two of the existing variants):

….and Veanne clung to Eriol, saying: '0 Melinon, go never to a war -- or hast thou ever yet?'

'Aye, often enough,' said Eriol, 'but not to the great wars of the earthly kings and mighty nations which are cruel and bitter, and many fair lands and lovely things and even women and sweet maids such as thou Veanne Melinir are whelmed by them in ruin yet gallant affrays have I seen wherein small bands of brave men do sometimes meet and swift blows are dealt.

War fell suddenly on that town amid its slumbrous peace, nor were its crumbled walls able to withstand the onslaught of the wild men from the Mountains of the East. There perished my mother in that cruel and hungry siege, and my father was slain fighting bitterly about the walls in the last sack. In those far days was I not yet war-high, and a bond slave was I made.

The parallel is quite clearly identified, taking into consideration the above provided historical facts about the usual tactics used in the raids by the Vikings.

A bit further in the tale we find another piece of information about the Forodwaith invaders, a piece that bears another strong link to the Vikings.

It comes in the episode when Eriol finds a ship of the Forodwaith with nine dead men on board of the ship, which was cast on the shores of the island of the Ancient Mariner.

Cast far up on the treacherous sands it stood, and its great beak carven as a dragon's head still glared unbroken at the land.

Those were said to be the Forodwaith, the Men from the North, “who press ever into the mists of the West, though few live to take back tale of all they see.” (as the Ancient Mariner explained to Eriol).

And the Vikings are well known from history for their voyages to far and unexplored seas. No wonder then that the Forodwaith are called by Eriol in his story “sea-pirates”. So were called the Vikings!!!

Christopher Tolkien notes:

”The Forodwaith are of course Viking invaders from Norway or Denmark, the name Orm of the dead ship's captain is well-known in Norse.”

The presence of the Vikings on the British Isles and its impact on the history of England is not to be disregarded easily! This is how and why they entered Tolkien’s tales too - no doubt!

??? - the Normans    

Just as in the rest of the cases, the invasion of the Normans upon the British Isles, known from real history, is only slightly and vaguely hinted at in the mythical tales of Ælfwine the Mariner.

Some traces we find in that version of the tale, where it is obvious that at one point the name Eriol was replaced by Ælfwine and the story as a whole was much altered.

According to Christopher Tolkien’s observations:

Turning to the passages concerned with the later, Ælfwine story, we learn from (15) that Ælfwine dwelt in the South-west of England and that his mother and father were slain by 'the sea-pirates', and from (20) that they were slain by 'the fierce Men of the Sea', from (16) that he was 'driven by the Normans'.

Moreover, we also read that :

...the Viking invasions are portrayed as coming upon the English -- 'nor was that the last of the takings of Luthien by Men from Men' (p. 314), obviously a reference to the Normans.

Yet another “hint” appears in some comments of Chr.Tolkien on "Ælfwine I" in what was said about the beauty of Eriol’s Elven wife - Naimi:

...'by reason of her beauty and goodliness, even as that king of the Franks that was upon a time most mighty among men hath said...' [sic]. In Ælfwine Il the manuscript in ink stops at 'high white shores', but after these words my father pencilled in: 'even as that king of the Franks that was in those days the mightiest of earthly kings hath said...' [sic]. The only clue in Ælfwine of England to the period of Ælfwine life is the invasion of the Forodwaith (Vikings); the mighty king of the Franks may therefore be Charlemagne,' but I have been unable to trace any such reference.

At least, as far as as this "mighty king" is concerned, history gives the following account:

795 - King Offa of Mercia receives gifts from King Charlemagne of the Franks. Offa re-founds St. Albans Abbey, supposedly in thanks for overrunning East Anglia.

But what about the Normans and why are they mentioned in the tales to have driven away Eriol, his people respectively, having in mind the above expalined idea that Eriol was thought to be of Anglo - Saxon origin?

It is another evidence we witness of how Tolkien tried to reconcile history with myth. For in 1066, after one of the greatest battles in English history - the Battle of Hastings, had been fought, the Normans came to govern the British Isles.

Historical background of the Norman Invasion

1042Edward (the Confessor) after at first - in the time of the reign of Canute had fled to his father-in-law in Normandy later regained the throne.
Winter of 1064/5Tere are some evidences that Edward the Confessor had offered William the crown and had sent Harold to pledge it to him. Obviously William had accepted the general proposal seeing in this an opportunity to later claim his rights.
January 1066Edward the Confessor died. Harold - now already proclaimed as Harold II - King of England gambled and made a bid on the Crown - and this was supported by all the magnates of the kingdom! Later Tostig came to Flanders looking for aid in his projected bid against Harold. William took this as an opportunity and started preparing an invasion against England recruiting men and promissing a piece of English land to everyone who'd turn up.The final strength of his army came up to around 8-10 000 of which about 2000 were cavalry. He also started constructing a fleet at Dives to transport them all across.
May - September 1066Tostig Harold Hardraada of Norway made an attempt to invade England but Harold defeated them at the Battle of Stamford Bridge killing both.
28-th September 1066Having sailed his fleet to St' Valery sur Somme William waited for the wind to be in the right direction. It changed 2 days after Stamford Bridge and William's fleet made landfall at Pevensey completely unopposed. He marched to Hastings - a good harbour from which he could withdraw easily if necessary and began building a castle. At that moment Harold was in York. On October 1-st he learned about William's invasion. By October 12-th he returned to London gathering what an army he could to face William.
14-th October 1066The battle at Hastings.The clash between the poor English army of less than about 5 000 men and the well prepared army of the Normans. Harold was killed. England was defeated.
October - December 1066A state of war continueed until Christmas 1066 when a deal was struck between William and the English magnates in which he guaranteed their positions in return for their support. William was crowned King of England on Christmas Day.
1068 - 1069The Norman Conquest continued. William subdued the north of England (the "Harrying of the North" )as a result of which the region is laid waste.
1072William invaded Scotland and also received the submission of Hereward
the Wake.The invasion of William the Conqueror is absolute! 
1086Domesday Book - the great record of English land-holdingis was completed in England.
1066 - 1154William and his successors ruled with "an iron fist" and established a strong country. Forests were extended the Exchequer was founded and a start was made on the Tower of London.England became the richest and most cultured state in Europe. Christianity was established and the people developed a God fearing mentality. The country was admired throughout Europe as a model of how it should be.

/see Note 5/

William the Conqueror died in 1087. This is what he had said about his invasion and reign upon England:

"I have persecuted its native inhabitants beyond all reason. Whether gentle or simple, I have cruelly oppressed them; Many I unjustly inherited; Innumerable multitudes, especially in the county of York, perished through me by famine or the sword."

No wonder then, that such events had left a bitter trace in Eriol / Ælfwine's memory as it was presented in the tales, taking into consideration who the invaded were!

Covering four of the major invasions as known from history, the tales leave us to wonder about the rest three!

Actually, no references can be traced within the tales, but from real history we can safely assume that those of the Celts - Picts and Irish can be counted in.

The invasions of these are taken into serious consideration by the historians, as they had a great and important impact on all spheres of life and development of the British nation. I therefore think that they could be meant in the tales.

??? - Celts - General Overview    

These were a Megalithic "culture" and probably came from Spain and/or France, spreading all over Europe from about 2000 BC.

Hecataeus, about 500 B.C. speaks of "Nyrax, a Celtic city," and "Massalia (Marseilles), a city of Liguria in the land of the Celts" (Fragmenta Hist. Graec.").

Herodotus, about 550 B.C., speaks of the Celts as dwelling "beyond the pillars of Hercules " - i.e., in Spain - and also of the Danube as rising in their Country.

The first historical recorded encounter of a people displaying the cultural traits associated with the Celts comes from northern Italy around 400 BC, when a previously unkown group of barbarians came down from the Alps and displaced the Etruscans from the fertile Po valley. Their first serious war clashes were with the then still young Roman Empire and therefore the first sources about that people came from the records of the Roman historians.

Diodorus notes that:

Their aspect is terrifying...They are very tall in stature, with ripling muscles under clear white skin. Their hair is blond, but not naturally so: they bleach it, to this day, artificially, washing it in lime and combing it back from their foreheaads. They look like wood-demons, their hair thick and shaggy like a horse's mane. Some of them are cleanshaven, but others - especially those of high rank, shave their cheeks but leave a moustache that covers the whole mouth and, when they eat and drink, acts like a sieve, trapping particles of food...The way they dress is astonishing: they wear brightly coloured and embroidered shirts, with trousers called bracae and cloaks fastened at the shoulder with a brooch, heavy in winter, light in summer. These cloaks are striped or checkered in design, with the seperate checks close together and in various colours. The Celts wear bronze helmets with figures picked out on them, even horns, which made them look even taller than they already are...while others cover themselves with breast-armour made out of chains. But most content themselves with the weapons nature gave them: they go naked into battle...Weird, discordant horns were sounded, (they shouted in chorus with their) deep and harsh voices, they beat their swords rythmically against their shields.

It is not known exactly when the first Celtic invasion/ migration to the British Isles occurred, but it may be placed somtime around 2000 to 1200 BC.

At a later date, a second wave of immigrants took to the British Isles, a wave of Celts referred to as the proto-Celts speaking Brythonic.

They mark the pre-Roman history of Britain.

/see also Note 6/


The origins of the Picts are clouded with many fables, legends and fabrications, and no one knows for sure where they had come from, though some historians believe that they were of Celtic origin, while others claim they were a pre-Celtic people that had nothing to do with the Celts.

Were they descendants of the ancient Basque people of northern Spain once known to Rome as Pictones, who then migrated to northern Britain after they had helped the Empire defeat the seagoing people of Biscay (which relates them the the Celts)? Or are they descendants of the dark tribes of ancient Stygia and the huge Eastern steepes? No one knows for certain, but they have left a strong and clear trace in the history and the culture of Britain.

The Romans called them Pictii - "Painted" although (as claimed by many historians), the ancient Picts actually tattooed their bodies with designs. To the non-Roman Celtic world of Scots and Irish and the many tribes of Belgic England and Wales they were known as "Cruithni" and for many centuries they represented the unbridled fury of a people who refused to be brought under the yoke of Rome or any foreign invader.

It is also known that they were mighty sailors, for the Romans feared the Pictish Navy almost as much as the wild men who came down from the Highlands to attack the villages along the Hadrian Wall.

They are believed to have formed the first kingdoms of Alba - today's Scotland.

"We, the most distant dwellers upon the earth, the last of the free, have been our remoteness and by the obscurity which has shrouded our name...Beyond us lies no nation, nothing but waves and rocks"

The above words by the Pictish chief Calgacus are recorded by a Roman (in the words of Tacitus) and are a perfect example of the obscurity and legendary status held by the Picts almost 2,000 years ago.

/See? also Note 6/


They are the "Milesian race", as the Irish call themselves, based on the myth that they are descended from Milesius, a Celtic King of Spain.

In spite of the apparently isolated position of the Irish, they seemed to have kept up contact with many foreign countries. Many foreign mercenaries were employed in Irish wars and foreign matrimonial alliances were common among the Irish royal families. The Irish, although not a sea going nation were well equipped for sea transit and quite expert in the art.

In pre-Christian days, all Irish foreign military expeditions were into Alba and Britain.

/See? also Note 6/

I'd add a brief comment in conclusion to the Celtic chapter here, by saying that if any of the seven invasions is to be called "friendly", this should have been the Celtic one. Because unlike the Anglo - Saxons (the Ingwaiwar), the Celts inflitrated into the societies of the local ancient peoples inhabiting the isles. They did not exterminate the original prehistoric inhabitants of these regions but imposed on them their language, their arts, and their traditions.

Another thing is that their coming on the Isles might and should not be at all counted within and among the events, known as the seven invasions! It might be that they are the people, envisioned by Tolkien as his Elves and thus they were the invaded not the invadors?

It might be very well, taking into consideration real history and the tragic fact of how this great civilization perished!


To write the present review, I used various sources, which I am here organizing in Notes, as follow:

Note 1[1], [2], [3]
Note 2:[4], [5]
Note 3:[6]
Note 4:[7], [8]
Note 5:[9], [10], [11], [12]
Note 6:[13], [14], [15], [16], [17], [18]

And of course, "The Book of Lost Tales - II" by J.R.R.Tolkien !!!




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