Friendly reminder that there were foreigners in “The Isles” since the Iron Age.
Let’s annoy some more folkists? Click here.
The above is known as “Newton Stone” in Scotland. It bears a Phoenician inscription — it’s the only decipherment that makes sense and returns a coherent text… But oh well, a lot of people refuse to admit that, because somewhere in their narrow-minds (where not enough braincells are working, for whatever reason), they’d rather make up some outlandish, bordering on conspiracy-theory-level excuse instead of simply admitting this inscription wasn’t made by the local Celts. Or sometimes, my favourite: “oh, this was made by a war prisoner”. Suuuuuuure, kevin. Of course. So go on, show me how it’s done. Escape a dungeon, find some stone carving tools just — ya know — laying around like nobody’s business and CARVE a message without alarming anyone. I dare you.
Ah yes, that’s the smell of resistance to facts and logic. It stinks.
Let me start by saying a thing you must read and decide whether or not you agree. If you do, good, keep reading. If you don’t, then don’t even bother reading the full article:
Generally speaking, scholars who study British History are biased and feel inclined to dismiss any pre-Roman Britons as “uncivilized” and “incapable of international travel or hospitality”.
Yes, I went there. Fight me — my comment sections have several karens and kevins. You’ll be one more in queue. (And for the exceptions out there: good for you. I didn’t say “all”. I said “generally”. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t force it on).
This is really not a personal attack on anyone. Don’t take it as such. Our current educational and academic industry still carries forward a lot of flaws that came to exist during more [blatantly] Colonialistic times. These problems are going unchecked because some would rather turn a blind eye to stay in the comfort zone, and others take constructive criticism personally. It’s not a petty or individual “thing” I have against anyone.
That being said, if you’re one of the ad-hominem-aficionados who love disqualifying me by pointing out the fact I’m “just a [laughable] psychic medium” (possibly accompanied by “who do you think you are, Meron”), here is the one and only response I’m willing to give you: shame on you. I mean… I’m not gonna defend myself. I don’t need to. Instead, let’s just feed your own logic some more and see where it takes us: When a “crazy” mystic is more capable of using UNBIASED logic to analyse concrete historical evidence than you (or what do you think the above Pictish stone would be, exactly? Fiction?), that goes to show the dimension of your incompetence, doesn’t it? I’m not even in Academia anymore. I’ve no social prestige to validate, or cliqueish narrow-minded colleagues to win over. So… by all means disqualify me. That sets the bar to an all-time low. And somehow, you still can’t reach it.
Call me rude all you want. People who want my respect and cordiality shouldn’t be closeted bigots, and shouldn’t enable closeted bigotry either.
Yes, the Picts received visitors from places as far away as Phoenicia and Greece. I don’t care if this hurts some egos in today’s world. You can’t change History to fit in with your unresolved internalised Colonialism.
I say Colonialism because it’s not a 1400s invention. It started with the Romans. Oh but I forgot, everyone keeps pretending they don’t see that, because our entire system today is based on [militaristic, expansive, predatory, unsustainable, unequal and corrupt] Ancient Roman values, even though the empire itself is dead. White people are too fragile to admit they inherited bad habits and messed up big time, and now need to learn a thing or two from non-imperialistic leaders. I’ll keep calling attention to this.
The premise behind Colonialism is the idea that the coloniser is a “saviour” in a high horse who ends up (accidentally or not) helping these poor colonised “savages” evolve. You see, there’s no need to admire colonisers in order to have a colonialistic attitude. A lot of people are like, “well, yes, what the Romans (or Vikings, or Columbus, or insert-coloniser-invader-here) did was wrong… BUT”. And this “but” comes accompanied by all sorts of things, like “we wouldn’t have [insert thing here] if it weren’t for the coloniser”. So, you see, it was tragic, and uncalled for, and evil… But some good came of it, aye?
That’s called erasal. Just because a coloniser has a boat, that doesn’t mean the local “savages” don’t. Just because a coloniser has a valid religion, an economic system, reliable routes to travel by, farming, sophisticated communication, CLOTHING, etc… yes you guessed it, that doesn’t mean these things weren’t ALREADY there in the first place, just perhaps as a different iteration not considered “good enough” or “valid enough” by such invaders.
But narrow-minded people gotta be narrow-minded, I suppose. Or, perhaps, cowards; deep down they know the naked truth (it’s obvious, not some conspiracy. Everyone knows the obvious. Everyone knows the naked truth); They’ve just rejected it, in favour of some ephemeral praise from whoever is currently in power.
And most important of all: just because a coloniser is capable of learning new languages on first contact with a new people, communicate and trade with them, ie. interact without aggressiveness here and there, that DOES NOT MEAN the “local savages” weren’t already capable of exactly the same feat.
Ya know, like learning a few things in Phoenician with prestigious visitors; BEFORE they could have their long awaited (#not) Roman “aid” for such.
When you start assuming a colonised people, whatever it is, anywhere in the world… only ever attacks outsiders, just because of some biased propaganda written by (who else???) a COLONISER, saying that they “viciously attack” (but conveniently forgetting to finish the sentence: “…when invaded with violence by us”), that makes you a Colonialistic bigot.
It’s super easy to accuse someone who is defending themselves from you of “attacking” you, isn’t it. Cultural narcissism — even worse than the individual kind. You can send an individual to a mental health facility; but what do you do with entire countries poisoned by a group-think of the same delusional sort? And no, that’s not a tangent. I’m saying that today, here and now, even the people who admire and look up to the “barbarians” of yore have not yet abandoned this bad habit of assuming they were “more war-like” than the Romans. No they fucking weren’t. They were just being constantly invaded. Any people will frown at you when invaded — even peaceful monks.
So, I’m sorry to break it to you but when you study pre-Roman Europe, you’re not looking at “a huge incoherent mess of enemy tribes and city-states who won’t communicate with each other if not for violence”.
You’re looking at people. As human as you.
They just lived a few millennia before you. They were people. Let’s not dehumanise them. “Oh but all we have is records of conflicts” — Yes AND? All we have TODAY is tragic news. Nobody buys the paper to read anything wholesome. That doesn’t mean anything. Look beyond that, look at artifacts with foreign influence; similar traditions and faiths across the land. THESE are better indicators of international diplomacy. But you already know that. It’s obvious. I mean, if it weren’t, I wouldn’t know it. I am not a Historian, or a nerd at all. I talk to ghosts here and there, but that’s it.
It’s denial and unwillingness to confront your biases. I don’t sugarcoat. I don’t protect egos of those who don’t deserve it. I don’t spare people who need to learn a lesson from learning the goddamn lesson. You could argue I’m throwing “harsh” facts at you without being invited, but, well, this is a blog. You’re here out of your own free will.
Let’s do a wee exercise: If you could time travel and overheard the debate below, who would you side with?
Legionnaire — “We are bringing civilisation to you, this innovative thing you’ve probably never heard of”.
Random British merchant [in broken Latin] — “Bruh I’m speaking your language. I know where and how you guys live”.
Who would you side with? Choose with your brain, I’m sure you can. And when you make that choice, try to see what it means in terms of modern group-think. It’s not just some “easy peasy” siding with people who are already dead and can’t harm you from the grave (or not as much as the living could).
But who cares about some random one-in-a-hundred Pictish stone, am I right? So, let’s talk about Christianity. Celtic Christianity.
If you’ve been to World History 101 (not just physically but also paying a bit of attention), you already know Christianity spread all over Europe because of a decree by Emperor Constantine I before the fall of the Roman Empire.
Perhaps some people will remember this school trivia in simpler terms: “it was the Romans, they spread Christianity”. That’s fine, it still works.
But one thing we do NOT learn at school (or, to be exact, not in most schools) is the fact that Orthodox Christianity did not necessarily spread via “Romans”. You’re thinking of Catholic (the church adopted by the Empire). Same faith, same age, but different institution. And for all intents and purposes here — I mean, in order to understand the colonialistic bias behind what you’re being fed “by default” — yes it matters to know the difference.
Let me just make a thing clear, real quick: I’m not even Christian. I just live in a world heavily influenced by this faith and I’m brave enough to admit that. I don’t care if you love, hate, don’t care, don’t know, or feel whatever other way about Christianity. I’m just giving you facts, so let’s keep the feelings aside for a sec.
It is a fact, well acknowledged but hardly studied in the mainstream educational system (I wonder why?) that Ireland wasn’t ever even conquered by Rome. And yet, the Celtic church which once existed here is even older than some sects of Catholicism.
How come? “Oh Meron, that’s easy — Saint Patrick converted the Irish”.
Sure. Why didn’t I think of that? This one SLAVE* brought over from Wales somehow converted every kingdom in the Island (some of which didn’t even have good diplomacy with one another) to some new faith they’d never heard of. Aye, well, if you’re going down THAT route, go ahead and take fairytales literally too.
Lore is called lore (not “objective Historical facts”) for a reason, ya know.
FYI the “slave” thing is Christian lore to make people tear up. It’s not factually true. Patrick (Maewyn Succat) was actually of noble birth, spoke Latin, studied in Rome, and had his own fascinating vested interests in becoming a missionary in Ireland (and EVEN THEN did not convert a significant number of people — but ya know how the world works, when you have friends in high places, you’re able to push your propaganda further than competitors). But I won’t extend myself. Look it up.
A lot of speculation has been made, in academic circles (the good ones, not the bad I mentioned before, lol — just thought of clarifying) on WHY the Celts who weren’t conquered by the Roman Empire decided to convert to Christianity REGARDLESS. No conclusion has been reached yet. I do have my own opinion on the matter, but it’s not relevant here. We’re talking about biases, prejudice, bigotry and bad habits in today’s scholarly circles. Let’s leave my opinion for another post.
But conclusion or no conclusion, one thing is clear: they did convert. They did, in fact, embrace this new faith. It was not forced upon them; At most, there were missionaries here and there, but overwhelming evidence of their unique way of worship (through manuscripts like the famous Book of Kells, or old churches all around the Isles) make it quite clear that this church was one of a kind. It was a blend of the old ways with this new Christian influence which travelled overseas without as much as a casual influence from Rome. This syncretism can still be felt here all over the Gaeltachtaí today. (Again, a topic for another post. It renders a book if you get me started).
But okay, FINE, if you’re thirsty for some juicy speculative content amid this boring string of facts (in case it makes you fall asleep), take a look at the comparison below:
To the left, you can see a public domain photo of a 10th century AD Pictish stone, Christian period. (Don’t ask me which one. I’m no archaeologist. I don’t know it by number, I just went by visuals). To the right, inscriptions I photographed over in Athens. They’re of a 10th century AD Byzantine church in Monastiraki square, Panagia Pantanassa. I’m not stating anything, just comparing images and dates. Surely even if the institutions happened to be related, or diplomatic to one another, there would still be differences in folklore; But it’s a fun thing to speculate, I suppose.
Regardless of your opinion on the above, there is a case to be made here in favour of friendly international communication across Ancient Europe without “forceful conversion”, wars, scaremongering or conquest. So, believe it or not, civilised behaviour existed outside Rome.
And if we extrapolate the above to the context of today’s day and age: believe it or not, civilised behaviour EXISTS outside THE NORM. (Or what’s widely regarded as “the norm” because of a mix of Colonialism and white supremacism).
The reason we often see problems such as racism, xenophobia, [insert religion]phobia, etc today — Or even this collective unwilingness to look at Ancient Europe as anything other than a collection of well-delimited cultures where everyone was “pure” and isolated until this “saviour” Empire unified it all… is not something that happens because of misinformation alone. It happens because of conformity, addiction to comfort zones, and self-centered attitudes. There is a level of (collective, if you will) psychology behind social problems, which most people would rather turn a blind eye to, because of course it’s easy to do that. Of course it’s easier to simply point fingers at one another, yell “YOUR ancestors did this and did that, so WE can’t make it right” — it outsources responsibility for trying to make the world a better place.
Do you know what’s harder? Admitting that regardless of HOW we got here and now, we can only ever walk forward. Admitting that regardless of WHO wronged us, we ALL have the capacity to do exactly the same thing to somebody else unless we take a good look within and try to address these shadows. Just because someone else has been a “de facto” monster in the past, it doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of becoming a monster just as ugly if you aren’t careful. Nobody is beyond reproach. Nobody is beyond correction. And above all else, the truth always finds a way to reveal itself — love it or hate it.
Enjoy this [fun, imaginative, and especially anti-racist] portrait of a wealthy Phoenician married into Pictland. I commissioned it from HalloStar (click for the Instagram link).