JULIUS CAESAR
Gallic War, Book VI, based on H.J. Edwards' Loeb translation of 1917

   Throughout Gaul there are two classes of persons of definite account and dignity. The common people are treated almost as slaves and are neither heard nor listened to in councils. Most of them, in debt or under heavy tribute or by the injuries of those more powerful commit themselves in service to the nobles, who have over them all the rights which masters hold over slaves. Of the two notable classes, one consists of druids and the other of knights. The first concern themselves with divine affairs, managing public and private sacrifices and interpreting matters of religion. A great number of young men gather about them to learn and hold them in great honor. In fact, it is they who decide in almost all disputes, public and private; and if any crime has been committed, or murder done, or there is any dispute about succession or boundaries, they also decide it, determining rewards and penalties: if any person or people does not abide by their decision, they ban such from sacrifice, which is their heaviest penalty. Those that are so banned are reckoned as impious and criminal; all men move out of their path and shun their approach and conversation, for fear they may get some harm from their contact, and no justice is done if they seek it, no distinction falls to their share.
   Of all these druids one is chief, who has the highest authority among them. At his death, either any other that is pre-eminent in position succeeds or, if there be several of equal standing, they strive for the primacy by the vote of the druids, or sometimes even with armed force. These druids, at a certain time of the year, meet within the borders of the Carnutes, whose territory is reckoned as the center of all Gaul, and sit in conclave in a consecrated spot. [Note: Chartres Cathedral, in France, is built on the site where that gathering occurred. --Cath] There assemble from all directions those who have disputes, and they obey the decisions and judgements of the druids. It is believed that their rule of life was developed in Britain and from there transferred to Gaul; and today those who would study the subject more accurately journey, as a rule, to Britain to learn it. [VI:13]
   The druids usually hold aloof from war, and do not pay war-taxes with the rest; they are excused from military service and exempt from all liabilities. Tempted by these great rewards, many young men are attracted to the training; many others are sent by parents and relatives. Reports say that in the schools of the druids, they learn by heart a great number of verses, and therefore some persons remain twenty years under training. And they do not think it proper to commit these utterances to writing, although in almost all other matters, and in their public and private accounts, they make use of Greek letters. I believe that they have adopted the practice for two reasons: that they do not wish the rule to become common property, nor those who learn the rule to rely on writing and so neglect the cultivation of the memory; and in fact it does usually happen that the assistance of writing tends to relax the diligence of the student and the action of the memory.
   The cardinal doctrine which they seek to teach is that souls do not die, but after death pass from one to another; and this belief they hold to be the greatest incentive to valor, as the fear of death is thereby cast aside. Besides this, they have many discussions as touching the stars and their movement, the size of the universe and of the earth, the order of nature, the strength and the powers of the immortal gods, and hand down their lore to the young men.[VI:14]
   The whole nation of the Gauls is greatly devoted to ritual observances, and for that reason those who are smitten with the more grievous maladies and who are engaged in the perils of battle either sacrifice human victims or vow to do so, employing the druids as ministers for such sacrifices. They believe, in effect, that, unless for a man's life a man's life be paid, the majesty of the immortal gods may not be appeased; and in public, as in private, life they observe an ordinance of sacrifices of the same kind. Others use figures of immense size, whose limbs, woven out of twigs, they fill with living men and set on fire, and the men perish in a sheet of flame. They believe that the execution of those who have been caught in the act of theft or robbery or some crime is more pleasing to the immortal gods; but when the supply of such fails they resort to the execution even of the innocent. [VI:16]
   Among the gods, they most worship Mercury [Note: This is the Roman god who was equated with the Celtic deity Lugh --Cath]. There are numerous images of him; they declare him to be the inventor of all arts, the guide for every road and journey, and they deem him to have the greatest influence for all money-making and traffic. After him they set Apollo, Mars, Jupiter, and Minerva. Of these deities they have almost the same idea as all other nations: Apollo drives away diseases, Minerva supplies the first principles of arts and crafts. Jupiter holds the empire of heaven; Mars controls wars. To Mars, when they have determined on a decisive battle, they dedicate as a rule whatever spoil they may take. After a victory they sacrifice such living things as they have taken, and all the other effects they gather into one place. In many states heaps of such objects are to be seen piled up in hallowed spots, and it has not often happened that a man, in defiance of religious scruple, has dared to conceal such spoils in his house or to remove them from their place, and the most greivous punishment, with torture, is ordained for such an offense. [VI:18]
   The Gauls affirm that they are all descended from a common father, Dis [Roman god of the Underworld], and say that this is the tradition of the druids. For that reason they determine all periods of time by the number, not of days, but of nights, and in their observance of birthdays and the beginnings of months and years day follows night. .... [VI:18]
   Those states which are supposed to conduct their public administration to greater advantage have it prescribed by law that anyone who as learnt anything of public concern from his neighbors by rumor or report must bring the information to a magsitrate and not impart it to anyone else; for it is recognized that often times hasty and inexperienced men are terrified by false rumors, and so are driven to crime or to decide supreme issues. Magistrates conceal what they choose, and make known what they think proper for the public. Speech on state questions, except by means of an assembly, is not allowed. [VI:20]
   The Germans differ much from this manner of living. They have no druids to regulate divine worship, no zeal for sacrifices. They reckon among the gods those only whom they see and by whose offices they are openly assisted, such as the Sun, the Fire-god and the Moon. Of the rest they have not even heard. [VI:21]