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The Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the Lost World of the Celts - Graham Robb

Summary: Robb contends that, contrary to the barbarians the Romans thought them to be, the Celts were an advanced civilization. Drawing evidence from archaeology, ancient writers, and surviving place-names, Robb outlines how the Gaulish Celts had a sophisticated long-distance communication system and road network (much of which the Romans went on to re-use) and an advanced understanding of geometry and surveying.

Thoughts: This is a weird book. The author devotes an early chapter to "I know this sounds like leylines..." hand-wringing. Those knowledgeable about ancient history may find the re-interpretations of historic sources interesting. While I'm not sure what to make of the map of place-names along solstice lines that Robb constructs throughout the book, I find his more general thesis - that the Celts were an organized, advanced civilization - sound.

(The notes below are not a summary of the book, but rather raw notes - whatever I thought, at the time, might be worth remembering.)

Robb, Graham. 2013. The Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the Lost World of the Celts. W. W. Norton.


Part One

1. The Road from the Ends of the Earth

2. News of the Iron Age

3. The Mediolanum Mystery, I

4. The Mediolanum Mystery, II

5. Down the Meridian

Part Two

6. The Size of the World

7. The Druidic Syllabus, I: Elementary

8. The Druidic Syllabus, II: Advanced

Part Three

9. Paths of the Gods

10. The Forest and Beyond

11. Cities of Middle Earth

12. The Gods Victorious

Part Four

13. The Poetic Isles

14. The Four Royal Roads

15. The End of Middle Earth

16. Return of the Druids

Epilogue: A Traveller’s Guide to Middle Earth

Posted: Nov 21, 2020. Last updated: Aug 31, 2023.