Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

A quick plea for help

After spending the last few days churning out reams and reams of text on everything from the EU constitution to Samuel Pepys to Batman Begins (the latter two not here, obviously), I’ve hit a distinct lack of inspiration.

Come, faithful readers – assist me. I’ve got to knock up a 1000-1500 word article on the Celts in Britain – not Ireland – with an emphasis on places tourists can visit and which photograph well, and I’ve come entirely unstuck. It’s become too in-depth for the middle-brow target audience and so far has precisely no travel aspect. Help me out, go on – I need suggestions of celtic sites and attractions more than anything. Ta. This is currently about 600 words – I need to cut some bits and add some bits to make it fit:

In the 5th century BC Heroditus recorded the Celts as living between the source of the river Istros (the Danube) and the Pillars of Hercules � effectively from Germany to Portugal. Their first recorded appearance was in c.400 BC, forcing the Etruscans out of the Po valley in northern Italy and clashing with envoys of Rome in the process. Marching on to the capital of the nascent Empire, the Celtic leader Brennus inflicted one of the worst defeats that Rome would see for centuries. A few decades later, in 335BC, Alexander the Great met a Celtic delegation on the shores of the Adriatic where, according to Ptolemy, they offered their friendship, stating that the only thing they were afraid of was the sky falling down around them.

According to 1st century BC Sicilian historian Diodorus Siculus, the Celts were �terrifying… They are very tall in stature, with rippling 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 foreheads. They look like wood-demons, their hair thick and shaggy like a horse’s mane.� Another distinguishing feature, in a world where tunics were still the norm, was the habit of the men to wear bracae, or trousers.

Today, the descendants of the Celts survive predominantly in the British Isles � primarily in Cornwall, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales, though with strong remaining influences in the northern and western fringes of England, to where they were driven by successive invasions by the Romans and Anglo Saxons. But no one really knows how the Celts themselves came to Britain � were they the descendants of those who built Stonehenge, invaders or peaceful migrants? Some have even argued that they were merely an invention of 18th century Empire-builders, keen to create a sense of British national pride.

But the sense of mystery, the tales of warriors, the traces of complex and sinewy artworks and the ever-present legends of the Druids, not to mention the ongoing pride of the Celtic nations, has helped ensure that the Celtic peoples retain a very particular place in European, and especially British identity.

Despite their warrior origins, the Celtic tradition was, until the coming of Rome, entirely oral. As such, it was only after the Roman conquest that any written record of the Celts appeared in the British isles, and it is doubtless in part due to this that the Celtic tradition today is that of the plucky and oppressed underdog. Revolts in the 15th and 16th centuries to preserve the Cornish language have been followed in the 19th and 20th centuries by concerted efforts to revive Welsh and Scottish Gaelic, while Scottish and Irish immigrants to North America have continued to cling to their Celtic roots even while, like their forebears during the coming of Christianity, they have become integrated with their new culture.

Too tedious at the moment, isn’t it? Damn. (Oh, and sorry – I wouldn’t normally do this sort of thing; highly unprofessional etc.)