The author and historian, Graham Robb brings a new perspective to the stereotyped portrayal of Celts as barbarous, superstitious tribes and to the myth of straight Roman Roads. Bringing in to question two millennia of thinking about Iron Age Britain, Robb, in his book “The Ancient Paths,” claims that the “Roman Roads” were in fact built by the Druids, the Celt’s scientific and spiritual leaders.
Despite the popular beliefs that Druids were superstitious and barbarous tribes, they were in fact, some of the most intellectually advanced thinkers of their age. It is believed that hundreds of years prior the Italian army marched across the continent, the Celts developed the straight roads in the 4th Century BC.
“They had their own road system on which the Romans later based theirs,” Mr Robb said, adding that the roads were built in Britain from around the 1st Century BC.
“It has often been wondered how the Romans managed to build the Fosse Way, which goes from Exeter to Lincoln. They must have known what the finishing point would be, but they didn’t conquer that part of Britain until decades later. How did they manage to do that if they didn’t follow the Celtic road?”
It all has started when Robb, a former fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, planned a cycle trip on Via Heraklea, an ancient route that runs a thousand miles in a straight line from the tip of the Iberian Peninsula to the Alps. There he realised that the route was plotted along the solstice lines through several Celtic settlements.
Motivated by curiosity, Robb mapped the positioning of several other towns and cities throughout France, Britain and Ireland and discovered that Celts had arranged them to reflect the paths of their Sun God, created a network straight of roads following the solstice lines across swathes of the continent.
“The Ancient Paths” published in 2013, implies that Druids owned map-making skills that historians believed were discovered centuries later and created the “earliest accurate map of the world”.
However, their mathematical and scientific achievements have been long forgotten as there is a lack of written evidence while their history has been replaced with stereotypes of them as wood-dwelling wildmen.
“Anything to do with the Celts and the Druids seems very implausible and that is why I spent five years on this, I thought it can’t be true, I have to disprove it,” Mr Robb said. “But they were a very advanced civilisation.
“There is an underlying sense that the civilisation that won must have been superior and that clearly isn’t the case.
“There is a lot of admiring what the Romans did, but they didn’t do it in a void, and it might be nice if there was a more nuanced view of the almighty Romans.”
You can find the Graham Robb book The Ancient Paths: Discovering the Lost Map of Celtic Europe available for purchase on Amazon.