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Thread: The Celtic Warrior

  1. #1
    You are not wrong, who deem / That my days have been a dream Johannes de León's Avatar
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    Post The Celtic Warrior

    'The whole race…is madly fond of war, high spirited and quick to battle, but otherwise straightforward and not of evil character. And so when they are stirred up they assemble in their bands for battle, quite openly and without forethought, so that those who desire to outwit them easily handle them.'
    Strabo provides this classis image.


    Sources of information

    The Graeco-Roman world had many opportunities to observe Celtic armies in action. Their viewpoint was usually, though not invariably, that of opponents, and those recorded the confrontation did so to communicate more than just ethnographic observations and the facts of history.

    Many classical historians wrote of these people, including Pausanius, who wrote of the Celtic attack on Greece in the third century BC. Other authors included Timaeus, Menodotus of Perinthus and Agathsrchides of Cnidus.

    One of the key figures in the Roman historical tradition was Polybius who presented the Celts as a formative influence that developed Roman military power. 'While the Romans are steadfast, levelheaded, well led and achieve victory by dogged determination, the Celts are volatile and unpredictable and, though fierce in the initial onslaught, can easily lose heart and panic.'

    The narrative history of Polybius was continued by Poseidonius for the period 145-82 BC. He travelled widely in the Alps, Gaul, Spain and possibly even Britain, observing for himself different Celtic societies in different states of development. His description of the Celts has survived only in the works of other writers, notably Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, Athenaeus and Caesar.

    Julius Caesar probably used Poseidonius as a source, but he also had the unique opportunity of observing a variety of Celtic tribes from close hand during his eight years of campaigning, however his war commentaries are, by their very nature biased sources.

    The Warrior and his equipment
    The weapons carried by the warrior were a sword, usually fastened on the right side, and a spear. Some used bows and arrows, slings or throwing clubs. The normal means of protection was the shield, but sometimes helmets were worn and less often tunics of ring mail. All these pieces of equipment are reflected in archaeological record and in surviving iconography., though it is sometimes possible to detect regional variations. Iron swords in sheaths of iron, bronze, wood or leather were the symbol of the warrior and as such were often personalised by elaborate decoration applied to the sheath or by stamps beaten into the blade.

    Throwing and thrusting spears were equally important, and a considerable variety of spearheads have been found, the different weights and shapes suiting them to different purposes.

    Bows and arrows are not often mentioned and are rare in archaeological records. This reflects that archery never achieved much favour in the Celtic world. The sling is also only mentioned in passing and does not feature in any set-piece battle. However, it is believed that they were used as a defensive weapon at hill forts. They were also used in attacks upon hill forts as specifically mentioned by Caesar in describing Gaulish warfare, in which the missile volley was employed to drive defenders from the ramparts.

    The principal form of personal protection used by the warrior in battle was the shield, described by Diodorus as man sized and decorated in individual fashion, some with projecting bronze animals of fine workmanship. The most effective form of shield was made of leather or wood or a combination of the two. Bronze helmets were a feature of warrior equipment. Diodorus mentions that some posses ‘long projecting figures, lending the appearance of enormous stature to the wearer. In some cases horns form one piece with the helmet, while in other cases it is relief figures or the forepart of birds or quadrupeds.

    One of the features of Celtic warfare which impressed itself upon the classical mind was the fact that some warriors fought naked except for the sword belt and a gold neck torc. In his description of the battle of Telamon in 225 BC – Polybius distinguishes a particular detachment – the Gaesatae – that fought in this way. The vision of the naked Celt is a recurring theme in Graeco-Roman art.

    The Celtic war chariot impressed a number of observers. Diodorus describes how ‘for journeys and battle they use two-horse chariots, the chariots carrying both charioteer and chieftain. When they meet with cavalry in battle they cast their javelins at the enemy and then descending from the chariot join battle with their swords. The absence of any reference to chariot warfare in Gaul during Caesars campaigns suggests that as a means of fighting it was no longer of significance. However, in Britain the chariot was much in evidence. In Britain Caesars chief opponent was cassivellaunus , who was able to muster 4,000 chariots, which, if used together, must have been a formidable sight.

    The Battle

    As Celtic forces faced the armies of the Mediterranean states, fighting tactics must have changed. The general onslaught became the norm and the fierceness and power of the Celtic charge became legendary.

    One of the recurring themes in the classical sources is the noise of the Celts in battle. The Celts who faced Manlius preceded the combat with a war dance and battle chant, which almost certainly had a magico-religious significance. Similarly the war trumpets – carnyxes – used in the opening stages of conflict were probably employed as much for ritual reasons as to strike fear into the enemy.

    The strength of the Celtic attack lay in the ferocity of the first onslaught. It was a power generated by many things, a belief in an afterlife, a desire to gain glory, the battle hysteria created by the building crescendo of noise and chanting, often enhanced still further by alcohol.

    But the fury, by its very nature, lacked control: it was impetuous but without any forethought or planning. Thus, when the onslaught was held and turned, there was no strategy in reserve to cope, and desperation set in. The misery of the Celts in defeat was recorded on a number of occasions.

    The unpredictability and unreliability of the Celts who could at one moment be fierce and bombastic and at another flee in a deranged panic were part of the stereotype which classical writers chose to perpetuate, but that there were many occasions of steadfast heroism is not in doubt.

    Celtic warfare evolved in different places at different times. Boudica and Calgacus were using methods and equipment abandoned in the more central areas of the Celtic world several centuries earlier. Similarly, the Nervii who so bravely opposed Caesar would have developed their fighting methods against neighbours and the Germans, in contrast to the Volcae Tectosages of southern Gaul, who ancestors were conversant with the hoplite army of the Greeks.

    Although Celtic warriors equipment remained remarkably similar across areas subtle changes can be detected. By the third century BC the stand panoply became increasing heavy. The Celts at this stage was a heavily armed infantryman. The shield had developed a more elaborate and efficient umbro, and the chain by which the sword was slung from the belt had become a heavy complex structure brilliantly designed to keep the sword in place.

    During the third century cavalry began to play a significant part in Graeco-roman warfare, and the Celts familiarity with the horse, which was long established, made them a sought-after addition as specialised mercenaries. Hannibal was to make good use of heavy armed Celtic cavalry during the Second Punic war. The growing importance of cavalry is reflected in a marked increase in the length of the sword.

    The battle of Telamon in 225BC in many ways marks a turning point. It is the last battle on the continent of Europe in which chariots appear and one in which Celtic cavalry, separately deployed, was to play a significant part. Thereafter, as cavalry became increasingly important, it is likely that the chariot began to decline.

    During Caesars campaigns in Gaul, detachments of Gallic cavalry were widely used on both sides, and after Romanization Gaul provided some of the most effective cavalry auxiliary in the roman army.
    .

  2. #2
    Senior Member Eberhardt's Avatar
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    Re: The Celtic Warrior

    This is quite an old post, though I feel I should add credit where credit is due.

    Quote: The Gaesatae (Guy-sah-tay; Spearmen) are easily one of the most fearsome groups of warriors in the known world. They fight stripped bare but for neck torcs and sometimes their shoes or boots. They fight with longswords, but are named for their incredible skill with javelins; they can hurl them unnaturally long distances and deal great damage with them. Their charge is most ferocious though, causing many lines to simply fold and flee. This is not all solely due to skill and strength, though they are experienced and huge, muscular men. They imbibe a chemical before battle making them seemingly impervious to pain. They will fight to the very end, and are very destructive when employed properly.

    Historically, the Gaesatae were Gallic 'naked fanatic' mercenaries and fanatics. Their skill was a source of terror, and their frightful appearance shook many. Most horrifying, even beyond their size and skill and terrifying cries, was their seeming invincibility. A chemical they used allowed them to brush off and ignore any pain. They were remarked to do things such as rip javelins that had struck them free from their bodies, and hurl them back, and continue to fight with gashes and wounds that would have surely fell a normal man. They were Hannibal's favored Gallic mercenaries, and were used as his personal guards, as they were so devoted and trustworthy, as well as brave and skilled.

    http://www.europabarbarorum.com/fact...rni_units.html

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    Senior Member Eberhardt's Avatar
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    Re: The Celtic Warrior

    Since I cannot see any of Johannes de Leon's pictures, I will add in some that could enchance this thread's appeal.




    The Romans describe Celtic shields as being 'man sized', in practice it means most of the shields are taller than waist hieght. They come in a variety of shapes. Shields were highly decorated, these designs are from a Roman carving from Orange.

    The Romans admit that chain mail is a Celtic invention, and in Britain there are finds from 500BC.

    The warrior class
    Most primitive societies had a warrior class: both the early Greeks and the Romans did. The Celts were no exception. Their warriors were drawn from what we would describe as the middle and upper class. The warrior class did the actual fighting: the free poor served as chariot drivers. The Celt was a warrior in the heroic sense. Everything had to be larger than life. He lived for war. His glorification of bravery often led him to recklessness. Part of a warriors ritual was to boast of his victories, and fighting between warriors was an important part of life.
    Armour and weapons
    Most Celts scorned the use of armour and before about 300 B.C. preferred to fight naked. Some Celtic tribes still fought naked at the battle of Telamon in 225 B.C. The Celt was renowned as a swords-man but he also used javelins and spears. Two spears which were found at La Tene in Switzerland were nearly 2.5m long. His only protection was his large shield which was usually oval. The suggestion that the Celt wore heavy bracelets in battle has to be questioned, as it is hard to understand how they would stay on his arm whilst he wielded his sword. Dionysius tells us that in battle the Celts whirled their swords above their heads, slashing the air from side to side, then struck downwards at their enemies as if chopping wood. It was this use of the sword that so terrified their enemies. The Celts did not fight in a rabble as is so often supposed. They were organized in companies. This can be proved by their use of standards.
    Headhunters
    The Celt was a head-hunter. In battle he would cut off the head of his fallen enemy and often hang it from his horse's neck. After battle he would display the severed head at the entrance to his temple. The severed head is a constant theme in Celtic art. At the battle of Beneventumin 214 B.C. the Roman general Gracchus had to order his army of freed slaves (presumably Celts) to stop collecting heads and get on with the fighting. After a battle the Celts would often dedicate their enemies weapons to the gods and throw them into a river or lake. The hundreds of weapons that have been dredged from the Lake of Neuchatel at La Tene were such offerings. In fact the site at La Tene has revealed so many Celtic artifacts that its name has been given to the whole Celtic culture.

    The chiefs
    The chiefs and the wealthiest Celts often did wear armour particularly when they came into contact with the Greeks and Romans. They often adopted items of Greek or Roman armour. A pair of greaves were found in the chieftain's grave at Ciumesti. Several graves have been found in Northern Italy which contain Etruscan armour and Celtic weapons. Before a battle the chiefs would ride out, in front of the army clashing their weapons on their shields, proclaiming their great deeds and challenging the enemy to single combat. Caesar describes the British as dressed in skins (meaning leather) and decorated with woad, a blue dye. Some tattooed skin from a Scythian grave of this period suggests that the Britons were tattooed in blue.

    This is one of the classic Celtic shields, called the Batersea shield. It is a ceremonial shield, 23 inches high. The surviving parts are composed of bronze plates, some with raised work, and inlayed red enamel.

    This helmet is from Britain. It is known as the Batesea Helmet, and was found in the River Thames. It dates to 1st century AD, and is too small to be worn. It is therefore thought to be an offering, specially made.

    Many of the wealthier warriors carried swords, and these were hung on elaborate suspension belts. This enabled the warriors to run and fight without tripping over, or injuring themselves on their swords.The chains were made from either bronze or iron. Many of these belts were a combination of leather and chain.

    The Torc was one of the most important status symbols used by the Celts. It was worn by Chieftans and Kings, Warriors and Nobles. Both sexes were entitled to wear one, and it was bestowed on lower ranks as a gift or reward.Torcs were made in gold, silver, bronze or iron. Some of the finest have been found in buried hoards where there were 20 or more placed in the ground together.

    One of the heaviest gold torcs was found in Britain and is known as the 'Snetisham Torc'.



    Historical evidence for Chariots
    Celtic chariots were a form of warfare that the Romans had serious problems with. It took them some time to find a way of dealing' with the devastating the effect the chariot had. Polybius, in his accounts of the lead up to the battle of Telamon in 225 BC., reports that the Gauls had 20,000 cavalry and chariots. This was the last reference to the use of chariots on the mainland. By the time Caesar encountered them in Britain, the method of fighting against the chariot had been forgotten. Diodorus said that the chariot was drawn by two horses, and could carry a driver and a warrior. In battle the driver controlled the chariot, whilst the warrior would throw javelins at his opponents. The warrior would then dismount and fight on foot while the driver would take the chariot away to a safe distance. At the first sign of difficulties, the driver would dash into the battle, pick up the warrior, and withdraw to safety. Caesar's account is similar, but adds that chariots were used against cavalry with great effect, and only against infantry in short skirmishes. Caesar admired the charioteer's skills, and described warriors running along the chariot pole and standing on the yoke over the horse's shoulders
    Archaeological evidence
    Until a few years ago we had to rely on very little evidence, found on coins and gravestones, to give us an idea of what chariots looked like. In recent years, a number of graves containing chariots, have been excavated. There are some burials in France and Cyprus, and well preserved items have been dredged From a lake in La Tene. In Britain there have been a number of finds in Yorkshire. The finest comes from Garton Slack, found in 1971, where preservation was very good.

    Most pictures and information found in:
    http://www.gallica.co.uk/celts/contents.htm
    Last edited by Eberhardt; Thursday, June 29th, 2006 at 08:53 PM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Fionn's Avatar
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    Re: The Celtic Warrior

    I thought I would add in some more pictures of Celtic Warriors:

    Gallic Charge


    Brittanic Light Infantry


    Gallic Warriors


    Gallic Horsemen


    Latter Gallic Warriors


    Brittanic Celtic Woodsman


    Galatian Headhunters


    Gallic Noble


    Gallic Noble Horsemen



    Chieftains
    Last edited by Fionn; Wednesday, August 16th, 2006 at 04:20 AM. Reason: Adding more pics

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