A little over two thousand years ago, the Druids might have been the most eminent magicalo-religious experts among certain populations in northwestern Europe; however, there is little else that can be said with reasonable certainty about them. The lack of documentation regarding their beliefs and practices ultimately renders our understanding of them predicated on depictions created by subsequent cultures or civilizations. The subsequent material in this book is built upon these images, which serve as the fundamental building blocks upon which later concepts of Druidry are built. Due to the fact that they are evocative and captivating, their influence has been so lasting. Furthermore, they are invariably problematic, controversial, and potentially fallacious; a historian is left with no certain course of action.
The images created by ancient Greek and Roman authors were by far the most influential. This is due, in part, to the fact that the relevant authors lived during or shortly after the Druids’ active period, and were therefore arguably the most knowledgeable authorities on the subject. However, this is also due to the profound and lasting influence that classical literature had on subsequent European culture; these depictions of the Druids appeared in well-known and cherished works. Given this, it is pertinent to highlight the fact that there are in fact only a handful of these representations; the entire quantity can be contained within a dozen pages of print that is comparatively large
A little over two thousand years ago, the Druids might have been the most eminent magicalo-religious experts among certain populations in northwestern Europe; however, there is little else that can be said with reasonable certainty about them
Although this may appear to be an apparent endeavor, it has been executed infrequently. Scholars specializing in the Iron Age and Roman Britain consider the aforementioned passages to be among the most well-known and frequently referenced in ancient literature. However, in general, these passages have been extracted from their original texts and subsequently analyzed through comparative means, drawing upon pertinent data from archaeology and medieval Irish sources. Limited effort has been devoted, particularly in recent years, to examining each in the context of the work it was contained in and in consideration of contemporary scholarship on the authors concerned within the fields of Greek and Roman culture.

Conversely, in the absence of such an endeavor, it is impossible to accurately assess their worth.
It is reasonably certain that individuals known as (approximately) Druids existed by 200 BCE, given that two Greek treatises from that time period appear to make reference to them: Sotion of Alexandria’s history of philosophy and a treatise on magic, which is often erroneously attributed to Aristotle.

Both are lost, but Diogenes Laertius, whose work does endure, cited them more than four centuries later.2 If he accurately cited them, one or both of them stated that the Druidas of the Keltois and Galatais were among a list of wise or sacred men from foreign peoples. The term that preceded the modern word “Celts” was applied imprecisely to the nations located west and north of the Alps. The latter name potentially denotes the Galatians, a people who arrived in Asia Minor via the Gauls after traversing the Balkans, or the Flanders, who inhabited the region extending from the Rhine to France, Belgium, and Germany. So, it is possible to conclude with a reasonable degree of certainty (though not absolute certainty) that Druids existed around 200 BCE; however, their location and activities remain unknown.

To gain an understanding of that, we must postpone for an additional epoch and a half until the most recent primary source text describing them becomes available. This is also the most comprehensive and the only one that excludes an author who potentially possesses direct experience with the subject matter: Julius Caesar. He is, therefore, our primary witness, and his testimony formed the foundation from which numerous subsequent accounts or impressions were to be entirely constructed. It was documented in his chronicle of the Roman conquest of Gaul during the Fifteenth Century BCE. His account likely originated primarily from the battlefront dispatches he had written. However, he enhanced his narrative at one juncture by including a detailed depiction of Gallic society, befitting an erudite geographer of his era. In this, the narrative of Druids is included. Feministically gifted as a statesman, writer, and soldier, Caesar was among the most extraordinary and influential people in history.

It is important to bear in mind that he was an exceptionally cunning, ruthless, and unscrupulous individual who worked as both a general and an author. Such qualities make him a formidable reader. Due to his tragic and premature demise, extraordinary accomplishments, and expert self-representation, which rendered him one of the most venerated figures in Western history and imparted apparent credibility to all of his writings, it was largely forgotten until recently.

According to him, only two classes of esteemed individuals existed in Gaul: druides and equites (which literally translates to “horsemen,” likely denoting combatants). The former were preoccupied with “divine worship, the proper performance of public and private sacrifices, and the resolution of ritual questions.” They instructed a considerable number of young men and presided over and rendered judgments in virtually all private and public disputes, including those involving criminal activity, inheritance disputes, and territorial disputes. Those who declined to acknowledge the decision they imposed were subject to the authority to order their total social exclusion.

Everyone acknowledged the supremacy of a solitary leader who occupied that position in perpetuity. Subsequent to the demise of each of these commanders, a fresh one was selected through armed conflict, popular vote, or evident superiority. They gathered annually at a specific time at a sacred site in the Carnutes territory, in the geographic center of Gaul, to adjudicate legal disputes from every region. Caesar documented that the Gauls held the belief that the ‘rule of life’ of the Druids had initially been formulated in Britain. Furthermore, he stated that individuals who were most determined to assiduously acquire the knowledge necessary to implement it continued to travel there to study.

This statement might imply that Britain was a haven for exceptional knowledge, but Caesar contradicted this notion in another section of his book. As a subsidiary operation of his conquest of Gaul, he himself twice launched invasions of the island. In his account of these, he noted that the indigenous British population, who resided in the interior and were attired in skins, subsisted on milk and meat since they did not till the soil, and held their wives in common.

As Caesar never entered the interior but remained in the south-eastern corner, which he claimed had been inhabited by agricultural tribes from Gaul that were culturally superior, all of this information was based on hearsay. The purpose of the excerpt was to instill in the Roman audience a profound sense of barbarism; therefore, it implicitly justified Caesar’s decision to halt the conquest of the island, whose inhabitants were so barbaric, abhorrent, and unprofitable.