Classical references to the Druids used by Nora Chadwick

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quotations on this page are those used by Nora K. Chadwick, from

her works




by the University of Wales Press, Cardiff, Wales, 1966:



Marcellinus, (c. A.D. 330-91 or later),

v. 28:

“The druids, who were of a loftier intellect, and bound by the rules

of brotherhood as decreed by Pythagoras’ authority, were exalted by investigations

of deep and serious study, and despising human affairs, declared souls

to be immortal.”


Pomponius Mela (fl. c. A.D. 43), “De Chorographia”, Libri Tres, [Ed. Carolus Frick, Liepzig, 1880 iii. 2]:

“They have, further, their eloquence and their Druids, teachers of

wisdom, who profess to know the greatness and shape of the earth and the

universe, and the motion of the heavens and of the stars and what is the

will of the gods.”

Latin text of above:

“Habent tamen et facundiam suam magistrosque sapientiae druidas. Hi terrae mundique magnitudinem et formam, motus coeli ac siderum, et quid dii velint scire profitentur.”


Pomponius Mela (fl. c. A.D. 43), “De Chorographia”, Libri Tres, [Ed. Carolus Frick, Liepzig, 1880 iii. 2]:

“They teach many things to the noblest of the race in sequestered and

remote places during twenty years, whether in a cave or in secluded groves.

One of their dogmas has become widely known so they may the more readily

go to wars: namely that souls are everlasting, and that among the shades

is another life.”


text of above:

“Docent multa nobilissimos gentis clam et diu, vicenis annis, aut in specu

aut in abditis saltibus. Unum ex his quae praecipiunt in vulgus effluxit,

videlicet ut forent ad bella meliores, aeternas esse animas vitamque alteram

ad manes.”


Tacitus, “Annals”, xiv., 30:

“A force was next set up over the conquered, and their groves (i.e.

of the conquered population of Anglesey), devoted to cruel superstitions,

were cut down. They deemed it a duty, indeed, to cover their altars with

the blood of captives, and consult their deities through human entrails.”


text of above:

“Praesidium posthac impositum victis excisique luci saevis superstitionibus

sacri; nam cruore captivo adolere aras et hominum fibris consulere deos

fas habebant.”


Dio Chrysostom, (c. A.D.40 – after 112), Oratio xlix:

“The Celts appointed druids, who likewise were versed in the art of

seers and other forms of wisdom without whom the kings were not permitted

to adopt or plan any course, so that in fact it was these who ruled and the

kings became their subordinates and instruments of their judgement, while

themselves seated on golden thrones, and dwelling in great houses and

being sumptuously feasted.”


Lucan, (c. A.D.39-65), “Pharsalia” i. 441ff:

“You also, ye poets, who in your panegyrics hand down through the ages

brave souls cut off in battle, free from apprehension have ye bards poured

forth your wealth of song. And you, ye druids, having laid aside your

arms, have returned to your barbaric rites and sinister mode of worship.

– To you alone it is granted or withheld to have knowledge of the gods

and the powers of heaven, you who dwell in deep woods in sequestered groves.

Your teaching is that the shades of the dead do not make their way to

the silent abode of Erebus or the lightless realm of Dis below, but that

the same soul animates the limbs in another sphere. If you sing of certainties,

death is the centre of continuous life. Truly the peoples on whom the

Pole star looks down are happy in their error, for they are not harassed

by the greatest of terrors, the fear of death. This gives the warrior

eagerness to rush upon the steel, a spirit ready to face death, and an

indifference to save a life which will return.”


Hippolytus, (c. A.D. 170-c. 236), “Philosophumena”, i. 22:

“The druids among the Celts having profoundly examined the Pythagorean

philosophy, Zalmoxis, a Thracian by race, the slave of Pythagoras, having

become for them the founder of this discipline, he after the death of

Pythagoras, having made his way there (? sc. to

Thrace?), became founder of this philosophy for them. The Celts

honour them as prophets and prognosticators because they foretell matters

by the ciphers and numbers according to Pythagorean skill…. The druids

also practise magic arts however.”



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