Species Perception

civatis, senitus, rex, pagi, concilia, reges, noblis, principes senatus, magisistri, equites, clients, plebs 


These are all terms used by Julius Caesar in the Commentari de Bello Gallico (de bello Gallico for short). This is a multi-volume work by Caesar detailing his conquest of Gaul  and the volume which gives a description of Gauls ethnography. is the one in which we find a non-latin term deployed druides.


The anthropologist Robin Fox once noted that ethnography does have a tendency to mistake discussions of terminology for thought. This is indeed an observable pattern of behaviour within the subject but Caesar’s Latin terms do leave us with an issue. He is clearly comparing and contrasting  two differing groups (or in the case of Gaul the comparison may be between Rome and a range of differing and fluid cultural entities) (1.).

In the case of Caesar’s Latin terminology looking at context and reception of the text in Rome and among it’s contemporary audience is the needed move. Been an increasing awareness of the importance of context and situation in these texts, rather than just treating them as first hand eyewitness accounts of the situation on the ground.

 With the term druides, it may be perhaps also a case of looking at Roman ethnographic tradition as it may be suspected that Caesar is using terms that are understandable and familiar to his audience.

I notice from my own late 20th century training in the subject that I can answer contextual and situational issues to some degree, the role of tradition I am not so strong on.

Shift away from comparison of sources and the case of Gaulish Iron Age culture contrasting Latin with later comparative data from early medieval Ireland formed a very heated debate during my course of study. It was only just beginning to be resolved.

The issues with the older comparative approach,  a tendency to underestimate historical change and contextual differences,  which resulted in a rather static unchanging model of social organization.

Conversely more contemporary perspectives may under- inflect and under- explore the role of tradition and the conservative nature of small scale localized cultures (I have to come up with an excuse for my own weakness on this issue).

Wrap this up rather tersely and not leave any answers. Simply  compare and contrast the role of a druid with that of a Roman Senator. Looking for similarities and differences and examine our own modern classificatory framework in which religion and state are separate distinguishable entities.

Division between Religion and State, a classificatory model  that modern Europeans are highly familiar and comfortable with.


(1) You could make the argument that the modern term deployed in archeology Romanization or Roman Gaul, or Roman Britain are unacceptable as Rome was a fluid cultural entity with no fixed cultural values to become attached to.

These concerns and discussion over terms do seem to point to a wider issue and disagreement in regard to context and tradition.


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