WELSH CULTURE

THE DRAMATIC HISTORY OF ITS ANCIENT ORIGINS

By

Ellis Griffith

GEOGRAPHICALLY, Wales is on the western side of the British Isles, bounded by the sea on three sides, and by England on the fourth. Some of the most ancient and interesting castles in Great Britain are found along this border - I am never sure whether they were built to keep the English out or the Welsh in, but there they are, some just gaunt ruins, but others excellently preserved as national monuments.

Like other ancient Celtic cultures, Wales was a matriarchy. Perhaps that is why only the women have a national costume. Although Wales is no longer thought of as a matriarchal society, "Our Man" is still a pretty powerful lady. Ask any Welshman.

The Welsh language, Cymraeg, is a member of the Celtic branch of the Indo-European languages. It is an old language, and was the ordinary spoken language of the people of Britain before the Roman occupation and throughout the 400 years of that occupation.

Even as it is spoken today, it is likely that Welsh could have been fairly well understood by the Britons who fought Julius Caesar in 55 B.C. It stems from a Celtic language which probably had its beginning in the upper Danube valley and from there spread in many directions over Europe and even to Galatia in Asia Minor. That was some centuries before ancient Rome started on her career of imperial expansion.

The Celtic people who crossed over to the British Isles were broken into two groups. One known as the Goidelic or Gaelic group established itself in Ireland, and from it descended the Irish language, developing later to Scotland, eventually becoming Scottish Gaelic. The other group prevailed in Britain and that language is called Brytonic or Brittonic. It is from this descendant of the original common Celtic language that the Welsh language ultimately sprang.

 

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