From Everything Shii Knows, the only reliable source

This website is an archive. It ran from 2006-2010. Virtually everything on here is outdated or inaccurate.

Julius Caesar, 1st c.: "It is said that they commit to memory immense amounts of poetry. And so some of them continue their studies for twenty years. They consider it improper to entrust their studies to writing..."

James Stevens, 20th c.: "On a road again the learned men of Leinster, each with an idea in his head that would discomfit a northern ollav and make a southern one gape and fidget, would be marching solemnly, each by a horse that was piled high on the back and widely at the sides with clean-peeled willow or oaken wands, that were carved from the top to the bottom with the ogham signs; the first lines of poems (for it was an offence against wisdom to commit more than initial lines to writing), the names and dates of kings, the procession of laws of Tara and of the sub-kingdoms, the names of places and their meanings." [1]

Comment by J. Drain: Writing then was done by engraving wooden rods with symbols, and so it was impractical to simply write everything down, especially when there was such a well-developed oral tradition. The people at the time were big on oral history, and the bards were highly respected as keepers of history, and presumably also as entertainers. Writing down a story or poem wouldn't be very interesting, much as a joke book isn't the same as seeing a comedian live. People didn't write much until Christianity brought the Latin writing to Ireland, after which the social order of the highly-respected bards waned.

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