Compare and Contrast Celtic and Roman Britain

In present paper I am going to uncover the attractive ethnic, cultural and geographic history of Britons and the continuing influence of the invaders. In the Iron Age the local general population lived in tribes. Today they are usually called “Celts”. Tribes controlled the vast part of Europe and by 700 BC they occupied the lands of Northern Spain. It was a force in Europe by 480 BC. Local tribes were migrating to Britain and the country. The Romans with extremely experienced and disciplined troops were the dominant power in the globe. Caesar entered the books of history when he led his troops to defeat Gaul and attacked Britain. The Romans did not stay in the country until they renewed attack a hundred years later. And they ruled until the legions left to protect Rome approximately four hundred years later.

Before Romans times, “Britain” was merely a geographical entity and had absolutely no political meaning and no cultural identity. The island included many cultural groups and identities. The Roman invasion, which began in AD 43, demonstrates the deep cultural and political influence that not many individuals may have, for the Romans did not colonize the isle to any important degree.

Though by AD 300, almost all people in Britannia were “Roman”. Roman rule saw the deep cultural alteration, without mass migration. The destiny of the rest of the province was dissimilar: after imperial power collapsed Romanized civilization vanished. By the 6-th century most of the land was taken over by “Germanic” kingdoms. Contrary to the customary thought that Britain initially had “Celtic” consistency which Romans and other invaders interrupted, in reality Britain has always been a motherland to different populations.

Churches in Celtic and Roman Britain

Celtic and Roman Britain had different churches. Roman Christianity fitted itself into the mould of the municipal establishments; “Celtic” Christianity had developed out of the tribal system of the populace that embraced it. It should be mentioned that there was certain dissimilarity between ways of determining the date of Easter, which became the vital issue of debates in the 7-th century. The Celtic Church has never accepted "improvements" which on astronomical and on theological foundation were adopted by the Continental Church. I should also add that requirement for shift was never accepted by the Celtic Church. Typically, churches of the Celtic tribes were not named after deceased saints, rather after alive founders. And these old names were preserved although at the time of the Romanization the old Celtic names were substituted by dedications to saints of Roman Calendar.

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Society in Celtic and Roman Britain

The Celts initially did not possess any caste social order, though there were defined classes. However, at the upper level was the noble class. The major person was a king. He was the headman of only one tribe. But kingship was not the exclusive form of rule. Before the Roman invasion kingship was eliminated by some tribes. And a magistrate selected by the aristocracy, headed the tribe. Also in Celtic society there was no inflexible system according to birth. The landless individuals had the chance of advancement by making a fortune through commerce or war. Unlike some countries with no opportunity of future generations of slaves to become free, the Celts' slaves could be freed.

After the Roman occupation the essence of Britain Celtic society was altered very little. Romans set up administrative centers according to usual tribal lands and involved the tribal nobility in the decision making procedure. This was a standard and wise Roman practice. They made the occupied population responsible for their own administration within Roman framework. It was their plan to bring the advantages of civilization to other peoples (Roman Britain - villas, baths and daily life).

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The Lives of Women

Celtic ladies were different for the liberty and rights they had and the place they held within the social order. Compared to women in Roman, they were allowed a liberty and defense under the law. Celts were patriarchal people. Despite this, ancient Celtic women remain an inspirational example from the past. Ancient Celtic women could be warriors and rulers. Girls and boys were trained to fight with weapons. Though the political authority belonged to men, women sometimes were becoming ruling queens and leaders during a war. Boudicca is the best example of this (Matthews, 1988). She was leading the last major revolt against the Romans in Britain. Unlike Roman culture, Celtic women could conduct business without any assistance from their husbands. They could even serve as diplomats.

Women’s rights within marriage testify the high regard in which they were held in Celtic societies. In general, marriage was treated as a partnership between men and women. Celtic women could also have some property. By contrast, the Roman law asserted that a woman was the property of husband. And Romans never took female rulers seriously.   

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Celtic women could not be married off against their own will. They were allowed to select husbands and to take care of ill children. In the Roman society the rules as for this matter were stricter. Some researchers assert that in Greco-Roman society the handicapped children could be pushed off a cliff into the city rubbish pile.

Food and Farming in Celtic and Roman Britain

These two populations also had some differences concerning food and farming. The population of Britain began farming about five thousand years ago. And the Iron Age saw a number of advances in this sphere. Celtic Britain consisted almost solely of communities which tended to livestock and crops. Like today, farming practices were not consistent throughout Britain.

The Roman army contributed to the lasting advance of the British diet by bringing vegetables to the isle. Romans introduced turnips, radishes, garlic, onions, peas, shallots, leeks, cabbages, celery and asparagus. Amongst the herbs that invaders introduced to Britain were thyme, bay, basil, rosemary and mint. It is important to mention that invaders introduced herbs that were used for medical aims and in brewing.

Being more experienced in farming issues the Romans also brought new approaches and crops. They introduced more fruitful grains and bread finally became a vital part of the British diet. They also initiated the usage of a wider variety of fruit. The invaders introduced new breeds of animals. Researchers think that chickens, guinea fowl and rabbits were brought as farmyard animals. Nevertheless, the level of dissimilarity, which the Romans made, was dependant upon which social group a person belonged to.


Present paper is a brief analysis of Celtic and Roman Britain. I have compared social aspects of life, the place of women in the society, religion, food and farming issues. Britain did experience some changes during the Roman invasion. But not all of them were negative.

Their politics of introducing the civilization to occupied land was quite wise. Romans created administrative centers according to usual tribal lands and involved the tribal nobility in the decision making process. So, they made the defeated population responsible for their own administration within Roman framework. Romans brought Christianity to the local population and altered churches and monasteries. At the same time invaders did not force local population to accept new rules as for the treatment of women. Also they have enriched the diet of local people with many useful crops, herbs and kinds of meat.

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