- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Picador; Reprints edition (3 July 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0330531514
- ISBN-13: 978-0330531511
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.5 x 19.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 120,071 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Ancient Paths: Discovering the Lost Map of Celtic Europe Paperback – 3 Jul 2014
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'remarkable . . . an overarching, wondrous reworking of history rooted in painstaking, if not obsessive, research. And if its fantastical connections and arcane details leave the reader reeling, perhaps that is merely a reflection of the astounding complexity and continuing mystery of a lost civilisation that Graham Robb has restored to its rightful place.' Philip Hoare, Literary Review
'a wonderful writer . . . No one else can make a bike ride through the French countryside so enthralling. No one else so relishes the odd corners of history.' Sunday Times
'Robb produces an elaborately detailed account of [Celtic] society and ideas . . . Those who enjoy a mixture of myth and archaeology, who admire a vivid metaphor and a fine turn of phrase, will find much in this book to enjoy.' New Statesman
'He is such a warm, gentle and generous writer, with no faux scholarly tosh or solitary ecstasy riffs [and] Robb's own calm eloquence is deeply persuasive . . . If Graham Robb has discovered that Ancient Gaul was arranged as a reflection of the universe, then that amazing discovery, and this heroically courageous publication of it, is a wonder and a marvel.' Adam Nicolson, Evening Standard
'The findings of Graham Robb, a biographer and historian, bring into question two millennia of thinking about Iron Age Britain and Europe and the stereotyped image of Celts as barbarous, superstitious tribes.' Daily Telegraph
‘Presenting one of the most astonishing, significant discoveries in recent memory, Robb, winner of the Duff Cooper Prize and Ondaatje Award for The Discovery of France, upends nearly everything we believe about the history―or, as he calls it, protohistory―of early Europe and its barbarous Celtic tribes and semimythical Druids. Popularly dismissed as superstitious, wizarding hermits, Robb demonstrates how the Druids were perhaps the most intellectually advanced thinkers of their age: scientists and mathematicians who, through an intimate knowledge of solstice lines, organized their towns and cities to mirror the paths of their Sun god, in turn creating the earliest accurate map of the world. In his characteristically approachable yet erudite manner, Robb examines how this network came to be and also how it vanished, trampled over by a belligerent Rome, which has previously received credit for civilizing Europe―though in Robb’s account, Caesar, at the helm, appears dim, unwitting, and frankly lucky, and the (often literally) deeply buried Celtic beliefs and innovations seem more relevant in modern Europe than previously assumed. Like the vast and intricate geographical latticework that Robb has uncovered, the book unfurls its secrets in an eerie, magnificent way―a remarkable, mesmerizing, and bottomless work.' Publishers Weekly, Starred Review and Pick of the Week
'One certainly has to admire the perseverance Robb has shown, not just researching in libraries and map rooms, but also following trails on the ground. Fifteen thousand miles on a bike, very often to places that no tourist or researcher has ever visited or even inquired about before . . . If you accept Robb's complex arguments, drawn from astronomy, philology, archaeology and history, you do indeed get a new view of an ancient civilisation . . . all those miles on the bike. All those archaeological discoveries pointed out. If nothing else, The Ancient Paths creates a new respect for the ancient Gauls, and the ancient Britons. Whatever Caesar may have said, they weren't all woad and moustaches.' Tom Shippey, Guardian
'an enthralling new history . . . 'Important if true' . . . rings loud in the ears as one reads the latest book by Graham Rob, a biographer and historian of distinction whose new work, if everything in it proves to be correct, will blow apart two millennia of thinking about Iron Age Britain and Europe and put several scientific discoveries back by centuries . . . it presents extraordinary conclusions in a deeply persuasive and uncompromising manner. What surfaces from these elegant pages - if true - is nothing less than a wonder of the ancient world: the first solid evidence of Druidic science and its accomplishments and the earliest accurate map of a continent . . . a book almost indecently stuffed with discoveries . . . suggestions follow thick and fast, backed by a mixture of close reading, mathematical construction and scholarly detective work . . . Robb manages his revelations with a showman's skill, modestly conscious that his book is unfurling a map of Iron Age Europe and Britain that has been inaccessible for millennia. Every page produces new solutions to old mysteries, some of them so audacious that the reader may laugh aloud . . . Beautifully written . . . It's a magnificent piece of historical conjecture, backed by a quizzical scholarly intellect and given a personal twist by experiment . . . watching its conclusions percolate through popular and academic history promises to be thrilling. Reading it is already an electrifying and uncanny experience: there is something gloriously unmodern about seeing a whole new perspective on history so comprehensively birthed in a single book. If true, very important indeed.' (Daily Telegraph)
'The Romans did a good job of writing their predecessors out of history . . . As the conquerors got to write the history, we have to rely on their account of what they found. But as Robb makes clear, they told only part of the story.' Observer
An ingenious and thoroughly gripping historical and archaeological bolt from the blue (Books of the Year New Statesman)
From the award-winning author of THE DISCOVERY OF FRANCE and PARISIANS
The dazzling new book from the bestselling author Graham Robb contains a discovery that will transform your understanding of pre-Roman Europe.See all Product description
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Top Customer Reviews
The mixture of some bits of evidence and some speculation lacks the archaeological evidence needed to construct such a rigid theory.
I still enjoyed it however and will continue to buy his books.
The problem with this newer publication is that it is so difficult to read. I found the technical information of aligning routes in line with solstices extremely difficult to grasp and Robb's style of writing made it impossible to want me to struggle to comprehend. A good deal of this book seems fanciful and too far fetched to believe. Some comparisons with Iron Age art seem superfluous and the debate about ratios becomes increasingly tenuous. Mixed in with these flights of fancy is the notion that Graham Robb may well be on to something. I would love to know if his alignments can be corroborated and the recent discoveries regarding alignments at Silchester intriguingly seem to verify some of the author's contentions. The book is also interspersed with references to artefacts about which I was either aware or had seen in museums such as the one in Lyon which appear to add credibility although they might not be as relevant as the author believes.Read more ›
Some people switch off as soon as the word `alignment' is used. Ley lines, spirit tracks, landing strips for aliens - it's all woo-woo stuff. This book, however, is in the class of the magisterial work of Alexander Thom and John North on Neolithic astronomy, but its subject is the much more recent Celtic world (using the word `Celtic' here as convenient shorthand).
It happens to be my own field of research and it was as if a room I'd been exploring with a box of matches was suddenly floodlit. He picks up on many things I thought were more or less my own discoveries, such as the scientific use of the eight-spoked wheel (usually described as `attribute of the thunder god, Taranis') and then fully elucidates them. Thus I was won over, but I still read the book as a sceptic.
Most of it is about Gaul but a third from the end he says, `I intended to stop here but...' Thank goodness he went on! For the last third is about the British Isles and it is revelatory.
It seems generally agreed amongst those who find such things interesting that Venonis (High Cross, Leics) was the druidic centre or omphalos of Britain but Robb barely mentions it. Instead he moots an omphalos much further south that struck me as ridiculous (trying to avoid plot spoiling here) until I put the solar-equinoctial grid on the map.Read more ›
This is NOT THE CASE. The book is, in fact, a densely-written and often turgid history of Gaul, viewed through a highly esoteric lens. The author proposes that pre-Roman France (and Britain) was laid out according to geomantic principles by Druids, based on an interconnecting matrix of dead-straight solstice lines and meridians.
While I acknowledged this and embarked upon the book with eyes wide open, some of the author's conclusions are very hard to swallow. There's no doubt that sites of ancient sanctity were aligned to and along the solstice sunrise / sunset (the Stonehenge complex being the obvious example), but the author's evidence for large-scale Iron Age organisation is dubious; as always in these kinds of books, there's a lot of speculation dressed up as fact.
Graham Robb seems to be a respected scholar, so this book is either a carefully-constructed joke or career suicide. There may be some truth in his hypotheses, but to quote the author, 'it can never be said too often that a straight line drawn between a handful of points is not necessarily significant.'
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a work of fiction. It should not be sold as history. No academic Celticist would be seen dead reading this.Published 1 month ago by Cathubodua
Interesting take on history. The idea that everything started with the Romans is a myth.Published 3 months ago by Bren
I started reading this book with high hopes. However, nagging doubts scientific value of his investigations gradually grew to the point where I could no longer ignore the... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Neil Parkin
Amazing book. The single biggest insight any book has ever given me into the Celts.Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
Tremendously interesting and eye-opening.