Cover image for Celt and Roman : the Celts of Italy
Celt and Roman : the Celts of Italy
Ellis, Peter Berresford.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
xi, 288 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DG225.C44 E44 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This is the first popular account of the Celts of Italy and the land known as Cisalpine Gaul--a much neglected area in the history of Rome's rise to dominance. In 390 BC, a Celtic army captured Rome and occupied it for seven months until the Roman senate paid them off. For the next fifty years, Celtic armies remained nearby, and for two centuries the Celts of Italy resisted Rome with a stubborn defiance, often annihilating entire consular armies sent against them. Rome could not claim to be master of the Po Valley Celts until 191 BC. This much-needed book explains the historical factors behind Rome's overt racial prejudice against the Celts and shows at the same time the important Celtic contribution to the development of Roman culture--in weaponry and warfare, in transport technology and, above all, in the Celtic contribution to early Latin literature.

Author Notes

Peter Berresford Ellis was born in Coventry, Warwickshire, England on March 10, 1943. Even though he received a BA and an MA in Celtic Studies, he decided to become a journalist and worked at numerous weekly newspapers throughout England and Ireland. In 1968, he published is first book, Wales: A Nation Again, about the Welsh struggle for political independence. He became a full-time writer in 1975 and has published over 90 books under his own name and the pseudonyms Peter Tremayne and Peter MacAlan. One of his best known works under his real name is The Cornish Language and its Literature, which is considered the definitive history of the language. In 1988, he received an Irish Post Award in recognition of his services to Irish historical studies. Under the pseudonym Peter Tremayne, he writes the Sister Fidelma Mystery series. He received the French Prix Historia for the best historical mystery novel of 2010 for Le Concile des Maudits (The Council of the Cursed).

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

It looks like an academic monograph but reads like fast-paced historical fiction. A page-turner on Celtic warfare and economic displacements? Unlikely as it seems, that is what Ellis brings off in an absorbing study of the relations between two ancient peoples. He begins with what is surely one of the most stunning events in Celtic history: the invasion and virtual destruction of Rome itself by Celtic armies. To hear the Romans tell it--and we do, in plenitude, hear Livy and Statius and others, always with Ellis as a canny, read-between-the-lines interpreter--the Celts were undisciplined, brutish, and cowardly. But, then, how did they keep the empire at bay for hundreds of years? Ellis deconstructs the ancient texts to disclose biases and self-contradictions, then adduces archaeological evidence that reveals a Celtic world quite different from what Rome would have us see. Fierce, noble, and tightly organized, Celtic armies were the best opponents, Ellis maintains, that Rome ever faced. Any library where Celtic or Irish volumes circulate should have this book. --Patricia Monaghan

Library Journal Review

Ellis, an international authority on the ancient Celts, here offers a broad sketch of Celtic life and culture in the period up to 190 B.C.E., when Celtic migrations and Roman expansion brought the two peoples into bitter conflict. The Celts had a tribal society based on kinship groups with descent in the male line; they spoke an Indo-European language, and Celtic women, who sometimes acted as ambassadors and priestesses, enjoyed more equality and independence than their Roman and Greek sisters. Fierce warriors, the Celts were gradually overwhelmed by the Romans, to whose culture they made valuable contributions in warfare, iron technology, and language. Based on Roman texts and Celtic archaeological and etymological evidence and written in a pleasant, almost chatty style, this authoritative and entertaining book will appeal to both the beginning student and the scholar.‘Bennett D. Hill, Georgetown Univ., Doylestown, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The Celts are attracting a lot of attention lately. In 1991, a huge exhibition in Venice resulted in a masterly volume, The Celts, ed. by Sabatino Moscati et al. (CH, Apr'92). Ellis writes on a more popular level, but with exceptional skill in this needed, well-researched, fast-paced account of the Celts in Italy and Cisalpine Gaul. His emphasis is primarily military, but he is abreast of the latest linguistic and archaeological information and he perceptively relates certain events and traits to the continuing stream of Celtic culture. For two centuries following their astonishing capture of Rome on July 19, 390, the Celts, particularly the tribe called Senones, were a persistent threat to the expanding Romans. Their achievements were denigrated by imperial historians, but they had very high diplomatic standards, military techniques, and artistic skills. Moreover, they were in contact with Celts worldwide. Despite their disdain, the Romans eventually adopted many Celtic attributes, especially in warfare, transport, and literature. This work illuminates an important, neglected, relatively short-lived facet of the Celtic experience. General and specialist libraries and readers of all historical levels should welcome and enjoy it. E. J. Kealey; College of the Holy Cross

Table of Contents

A well-known historian writing on a fascinating subject that has received little attention in the past
How could I not buy it? It's the academic cousin to How the Irish Saved Civilization
Note on Terminology
""Alliensis"": 18 July 390 BC
The Arrival of the Celts in Italy
Italians and the Celts
The Fall of Rome
Celtic Warriors
The Return of the Celts
""The Celtic Terror""
Celt, Etruscan and Samnite
Pyrrhos, Carthage and the Celts
Hannibal and the Celts
Litana: A Forgotten Celtic Victory
The Conquest of Cisalpine Gaul
The Colonisation of Cisalpine Gaul
The Last Kicks at Rome
The Cisalpine Celtic Legacy to Rome
Acknowledgements and Bibliography