Heather Rose Jones
hrjones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Thu Sep 7 22:09:43 PDT 1995
On Thu, 7 Sep 1995, ERIN NHAMINERVA wrote:
> had a few more thoughts, so please bear with me. I'm interested in the
> historical definition of the word "bard" just because it has such a lot
> of baggage associated with it. I didn't mean the statement from Joyce as
> a definition once and for all. That's the best one I've seen so far, and
> if anyone has any other sources from elsewhere in the celtic world, I'd
> really appreciate the info. Since "bard" has entered the language and is
Since I seem to be one of the token pokers-into-dusty-tomes, I'll pull
out a few historic references.
Strabo (early 1st cent. AD) says of the Gauls:
"As a rule, among all the Gallic peoples three sets of men are honoured
above all others: the Bards, the Vates, and the Druids. The bards are
singers and poets, the Vates overseers of sacred rites and philosophers
of nature, and the Druids, besides being natural philosophers, practice
moral philosophy as well."
Julius Caesar, in his "De Bello Gallico" appears to use the term "Druid"
to cover all the learned classes, so it is not clear what of the
following description might apply particularly to the bards.
"They are said to commit to memory a great number of verses. And they
remain some 20 years in training. Nor do they judge it to be allowed to
entrust theses things to writing although in nearly the rest of their
affairs, and public and private transactions, Greek letters are used."
Ammianus Marcellinus, writing in the 4th century (and thus at a time when
the Gauls had become thorougly Romanized) says:
"Throughout these regions, as people gradually became more civilised,
study of praiseworthy doctrines grew, introduced by the Bards, Euhages
[i.e. Vates], and Druids. The Bards sang the praiseworthy deeds of famous
men to the melodious strains of the lyre."
(The preceding are all quoted from "The Celtic Heroic Age" edited by John
I'll come back and do Welsh references some other time. It's getting
late, and besides which I should do that as a permanent text file for
another project on the back-burner anyway ....
Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn
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