England - Periods - Pre-history- Kingdoms Form

Kingdoms Form

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Before the arrival of the Romans, Britain was home to a variety of cultures and societies, each with its own unique forms of political organization. These ranged from small, independent tribes to larger, more complex societies.

One of the most well-known groups in pre-Roman Britain were the Celts, who were spread across much of Western Europe. They were organized into loosely-connected tribes, each with their own chieftain or king who held power over a small area. These tribes were often in conflict with one another, and alliances were constantly shifting.

Another group in pre-Roman Britain were the Britons, who were descendants of the original inhabitants of the island. They too were organized into tribes, but their societies were more hierarchical than those of the Celts, with some tribes having kings who held power over a larger area.

In addition to these groups, there were also a number of smaller societies in pre-Roman Britain, such as the Iceni and the Trinovantes, who were organized into more complex political structures. The Iceni, for example, were led by a queen named Boudica, who was able to unite several tribes in a rebellion against the Romans in 60 AD.

Overall, the political organization of pre-Roman Britain was diverse and varied, with each group developing its own unique forms of governance and social structure.

The political structures of pre-Roman Britain varied among different tribes and societies, and there was no uniform system of government across the island. However, here are some examples of political structures and leadership titles of some of the tribes and societies:

The Celts: The Celts were organized into loosely connected tribes, each with their own chieftain or king who held power over a small area. The chieftain was often chosen for their bravery and military prowess, and they were responsible for leading their people in times of war and making important decisions for their tribe. There were also druids who held religious and legal authority within the Celtic society.

The Britons: The Britons were organized into larger tribes or confederacies, which were often headed by a king or queen. The title of the king or queen varied among different tribes, with some using the term "rex" and others using "pendragon" or "brenin". The king or queen had supreme authority over their tribe and was responsible for maintaining order and protecting their people.

The Iceni: The Iceni tribe, led by Queen Boudica, had a hierarchical political structure. The queen held the highest position of power and was supported by a council of nobles who advised her on important matters. The council was made up of the most influential members of the tribe, such as the warrior elite and the druids.

The Trinovantes: The Trinovantes tribe was another group that had a more complex political structure. They were organized into a confederacy of smaller tribes, with a council of chiefs that met to make decisions about matters affecting the confederacy as a whole. Each tribe had its own leader or chieftain, but they were subservient to the council of chiefs.

Overall, the leadership titles of pre-Roman Britain varied depending on the tribe or society. They ranged from chieftains, kings, queens, rex, pendragon, brenin, and council of chiefs.

Before the arrival of the Romans, the Britons and Celts did not have any large cities in the modern sense of the term. Their societies were largely based around small, rural settlements and villages, with a few larger settlements that served as political, religious, or economic centers.

One of the largest settlements in pre-Roman Britain was the hillfort at Maiden Castle in present-day Dorset. The fort was surrounded by multiple walls and ditches, and it may have been home to several hundred people. Other large hillforts include Danebury in Hampshire, Cadbury Castle in Somerset, and the Welsh hillfort of Pen Dinas.

There were also some larger towns and trading centers, such as Colchester, which was the capital of the Trinovantes tribe and an important center for the tin trade. Other towns included Verulamium (modern-day St Albans) and Camulodunum (modern-day Colchester).

However, it is important to note that these settlements were still relatively small by modern standards and were not as densely populated as large cities today. It was only after the Roman conquest of Britain that large, urban centers such as London, Bath, and York began to emerge.

The Druids

The Druids were members of the priestly class of the Celtic people, who lived in ancient Britain, Ireland, and Gaul (modern-day France) before the arrival of the Romans. The Druids played a central role in Celtic society, serving as religious leaders, teachers, and advisors to rulers. They were responsible for maintaining the traditions, knowledge, and wisdom of the Celts, and their influence extended beyond religious matters to include legal and political affairs.

Religion and Beliefs of the Druids: The Druids practiced a polytheistic religion, which means they worshipped many gods and goddesses. They believed that the natural world was inhabited by spirits, which they called "numina," and that these spirits could be appeased or honored through offerings and rituals. The Druids were particularly concerned with the cycles of nature, such as the changing seasons, and they believed that these cycles were influenced by their gods and goddesses.

One of the most important gods in Druidic religion was Cernunnos, the god of fertility, the wild, and animals. Other important gods and goddesses included Brigid, the goddess of fire and fertility; Lugh, the god of light and crafts; and Danu, the mother goddess of the Celts. The Druids also believed in reincarnation, the idea that the soul survives after death and is reborn into a new body.

The Role of the Druids:

The Druids played a central role in Celtic society, serving as religious leaders, teachers, and advisors to rulers. They were responsible for maintaining the traditions, knowledge, and wisdom of the Celts, and their influence extended beyond religious matters to include legal and political affairs.

The Druids were held in high regard by the Celtic people and were known for their wisdom, knowledge, and magical abilities. They were also skilled in divination, the art of predicting the future, and were consulted by rulers and ordinary people alike for their advice and guidance.

Druidic Rituals and Practices:

The Druids practiced a variety of rituals and practices, many of which were associated with the cycles of nature. They celebrated the changing seasons with festivals such as Beltane, which marked the beginning of summer, and Samhain, which marked the beginning of winter. They also performed rituals for specific purposes, such as healing, protection, and fertility.

The Druids believed that certain places, such as sacred groves and stone circles, were imbued with spiritual energy, and they performed many of their rituals in these locations. They also believed that the mistletoe plant had magical properties and would harvest it during the winter solstice to use in their rituals.

Decline of the Druids: The arrival of the Romans in Britain marked the beginning of the decline of the Druids. The Romans viewed the Druids as a threat to their authority and began to suppress their religion and practices. In 43 AD, the Roman general Aulus Plautius led an invasion of Britain and defeated the Celtic tribes, leading to the decline of the Druids' influence.

The spread of Christianity in the following centuries further eroded the influence of the Druids, and by the medieval period, their religion had been largely supplanted by Christianity. Despite this, the legacy of the Druids lives on in the myths and legends of the Celtic people, and their influence can still be felt in the cultures of modern-day Britain, Ireland, and France.

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Reference: Article by Greg Scott (Staff Historian), 2023

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