The Druids of Roman Britain were a sect of religious leaders, philosophers, healers, and royal advisers to Celtic and British society. But ancient Roman authors such as Caesar and Tacitus perceived the Druids of Gaul and Britain as savages. According to their beliefs, druids took part in strange rituals that may have required human sacrifice.
Why this happened - further in the article.
The oldest description of the Druids is the "Gaulish Wars" by Julius Caesar. Written in the first century BC, this work introduced the Druids to the Roman world. Other popular Roman authors, including Cicero, Tacitus, and Pliny the Elder, also contributed their stories. However, they all portrayed the Druids and their customs as barbaric. Roman authors often described unknown and foreign peoples in this way. But since the Druids did not document their own customs and religion, there was no way to challenge the Roman accounts.
Mark Tullius Cicero, a contemporary of Caesar, also recorded his experiences with the Gallic druids. In his book On Divination, Cicero claims that he met a Gallic druid from the Aedui tribe named Divitiacus, who knew a lot about the natural world and was engaged in fortune telling by reading predictions.
Another, less extensive account is taken from the Historical Library of Diodorus of Siculus.
Writing around 36 BC. BC, Diodorus described the Druidic order and their role in Celtic society. Among these roles, Diodorus notes that the Druids were theologians and philosophers, bards and singers. These roles correspond to those described by Caesar and those later repeated by Strabo.
The appearance of the Druids in Welsh literature is much less common than in Irish literature. Most Welsh descriptions date back to the tenth century of Hivel Dda, which laid down the laws concerning the Druids. Welsh tales of the druids associated them not with sorcerers and wizards, but with prophets and ancient priests.
Roman and Christian stories should not be taken literally. Many Roman authors had their own agendas, and therefore it is difficult to define what is fact and what is fiction. Indeed, as a rule, the best source of information about the presence of the Druids in Gaul and especially in Britain is the archaeological evidence. Unlike literary sources, archaeological evidence has no motive to convince an audience and has no political agenda. A common misconception is that druids were responsible for building
Stonehenge and Stone Circles at Avebury. But thanks to archaeological advances, it is now known that these structures were built about four thousand years ago, ahead of the ancient druids by two thousand years.
The discovery of a man from Lindou in an English swamp in the 1980s has implications for a possible human sacrifice by the Celts. The corpse was identified as a young man of high social status.
Research has shown that the body was indeed a human sacrifice and that the victim was killed with a blunt object, suffocation, and cutting the throat. His death was dated to about 60 AD. e., and scholars have suggested that he was sacrificed to convince the gods to stop the Roman advance on the Celts.
Although tales of Druids in Roman Britain are few and far between and should be treated with caution, archeology has again provided the missing details.Many scholars rejected Druidic human sacrifice and cannibalism as Roman propaganda. However, given recent archaeological discoveries, the Roman records may need to be revisited.