Philip Freeman, associate professor and Qualley Professor of Classics at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa has written a delightful new book The Philosopher and the Druids, subtitled A Journey Among the Ancient Celts. This is a general readership book written by an academic. All too often, academics write for other academics even when they try to write for others. This book is not among those still-borne efforts. I really enjoyed this book, and I think it will appeal to a wide readership, if the readers have the courage to sift through the meager sources and discover the ancient Celts of Gaul as a first-hand observer reports on them.
The philosopher in the book is the Syrian born Greek stoic philosopher Posidonius (born ca. 135 BC). He undertook a journey to learn of the peoples of his time beyond the Greek world. One of these places was Gaul (modern-day France). The dominant people in Gaul in those days were the Celts. Freeman doesn't get to the Druids until chapter fourteen of this fifteen chapter book, and that's a good thing. He covers many aspects of the lives and lifestyle of the Celts of Gaul. Freeman is forced to draw on many ancient secondary sources that quote Posidonius, as the philosopher's original work has either been lost forever, or remains to be rediscovered in more modern times. In addition to the ancient written sources, Freeman interweaves linguistic and archaeological evidence to develop a view of what the continental Celts were probably like.