Did the Celts really go into battle naked?

Did the Celts really go into battle naked?

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Yes, this of-repeated tale was reported by the Romans all the time, but it sounds a lot like rumor. Stuff the victors write about their former enemies, "they were so stupid, they went into battle naked" etc. As historians, we need to look at history with a critical eye and should seek verification from multiple sources before making an firm conclusions.

So, are there any non-Roman sources that mention Celts going into battle naked? Any Celtic records or oral histories, artistic depictions, etc?

We have essentially three references on this topic. Of these, only Caesar's could have had political motivations, as he was engaged in a campaign against the Britons. His account, however, is only marginal compared to the others, in that he does not clearly state that the Celts went to battle naked. On the other hand, both Polybius and Diodourus Siculus look like reliable sources; they were Greek, not Romans. It is clear from their account that going in battle naked was uncommon between the Celts (see, in particular, the italicized part in the following passages).

We have references in Polybius, Histories, II-28 (emphasis added):

The Insubres and Boii wore their trousers and light cloaks, 8 but the Gaesatae had discarded these garments owing to their proud confidence in themselves, and stood naked, with nothing but their arms, in front of the whole army, thinking that thus they would be more efficient, as some of the ground was overgrown with bramblesb which would catch in their clothes and impede the use of their weapons.

In Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, V-30 (emphasis added):

The clothing they wear is striking - shirts which have been dyed and embroidered in varied colours, and breeches, which they call in their tongue bracae; and they wear striped coats, fastened by a buckle on the shoulder, heavy for winter wear and light for summer, in which are set checks, close together and of varied hues. For armour they use long shields, as high as a man, which are wrought in a manner peculiar to them, some of them even having the figures of animals embossed on them in bronze, and these are skilfully worked with an eye not only to beauty but also to protection. On their heads they put bronze helmets which have large embossed figures standing out from them and give an appearance of great size to those who wear them; for in some cases horns are attached to the helmet so as to form a single piece, in other cases images of the fore-parts of birds or four-footed animals. [… ] Some of them have iron cuirasses, chain-wrought, but others are satisfied with the armour which Nature has given them and go into battle naked.

And finally in Caesar's de Bello Gallico, IV, 1, we learn that the Suebi:

even in the coldest parts they wear no clothing whatever except skins, by reason of the scantiness of which, a great portion of their body is bare, and besides they bathe in open rivers.

However, this is more a general remark on the daily life of the Suebi and not about their warriors in particular.

There is plenty of archeological evidence for Celtic armor, especially helmets. Contemporary art (Dying Gaul, Ludovisi Gaul and Kneeling Gaul) has them always naked, but this is most likely due to either stylistic reasons, or because of the impression that accounts of naked warriors would have made on the artist.

I doubt a whole army would have gone into battle en masse naked, but there is enough hearsay to assume that there were some naked warriors. I think it almost impossible to prove or disprove this, but I believe it likely that there were celtic warriors who fought naked. Where they Viking style beserkers who had too many hallucinogens, or where they slaves forced into battle. The naturistic religion of the Celts imo makes this a reasonably believeable.

I'd like to add to the written sources described above Vindolanda Inventory No. 85.032.a., thought to be an officer's report found preserved at the Northern British Roman fort of Vindolanda along with many other texts. It reads:

… the Britons are unprotected by armour (?). There are very many cavalry. The cavalry do not use swords nor do the wretched Britons mount in order to throw javelins.

EDIT: In my opinion, we have plenty of archaeological evidence to show Celtic peoples across the board did use armour if they could afford it; it's certain that the majority of fighters couldn't afford armour, and there's not a lot of difference in terms of defence between plain clothes and being naked. There might even be benefits such as avoiding getting caught in foliage, avoid over-heating, and morale boosts from just looking bloody tough that you may as well capitalise on if you cant get hold of armour anyway.

They probably did, at least some of them. While the Romans and Greeks both were into the heroic nude, and such appears in Etruscan art too. So in regards art, particularly Greek sources, it's not easy to say whether the naked depiction of Celtic warriors is factual or artistic - a trope if you like of the naked Celt.

Livy mentions the Galatians fighting naked, but whether this means shirtless or completely naked is open to interpretation. He does mention them though in the early 2nd century BC, which is a similar timeframe for Polybius' mention of the Gaesatae from the late 3rd century BC.

Naked warriors appear in Celtic art too including coins suggesting that a tradition of naked fighting existed and was recognisable enough to appear in art. There is no suggestion that Celts fought naked at the time of Caesar and the typical warrior appears to have fought bare chested with a cloak. Roman triumphs typically show warriors with trousers, cloak and shoes. Sometimes a loose tunic is worn and by loose I mean a neck so big that the chest down to the belly is exposed and the shirt could be worn one sleeved.

Even during the era of the Galatians and their wars with Pergamon where the famous naked statues of dead and dying Gauls come from there is contradiction or perhaps hidden detail. Pergamene triumphs depict Celtic armour, one of the earliest depictions of Celtic chainmail comes from here and the Celts are also shown to have used Greek styled armour as well as weapons. Greek style armour also appears in Gaul such as statues at Entremont and dics found in some warrior graves match attachment points on linothorax armour so there is consistency in the depiction of armour in Galatia and southern France, one from a Greek source, the other a Celtic one.

Which all takes us in a circle of whether they fought naked or not. They certainly wore armour but it's also possible that the rank and file wore very little or nothing at all. For those concerned with the ability to fight naked, there are plenty of examples from early contact with African tribes and Pacific tribes to show that warriors did fight either naked or just a loin covering.

If indeed they did go into battle naked, it may not have been entirely stupid since dirty clothing pushed into a wound by pointy objects are more likely to cause septicaemia. The Celts did however have warriors who vowed to die in battle called "gesetae"- who were under an oath or a spell called a "gesa" and these may have been the naked warriors referred to. To break the gesa would have been shameful, so it could be thought iof as a magic spell - although without requiring any magic as such.

I doubt it, for the Celts knew how to prepare protective armor, and they would have been foolish (if occasionally forced to do so by circumstances) not to use it in battle.

A couple of years ago there was a wonderful exhibition in Berne, Switzerland, which showed some specimen of Celtic arms and insignia, such as this one:

There's enough archaeological evidence that shows the celts had armour, thick leather with steel plates riveted, chainmail ,helmets of steel as well as brass/bronze, swords as good as anywhere else , spears ,shields, grieves(metal shin pads) etc etc, were available & which the majority had some if not all those items. The 'naked woad covered' warrior is more myth than proven, although im sure the occasional frothing-at-the-mouth-wine-addled priest may have shouted curses/abuse at the enemy hoard b4 the real warriors got stuck in, but its more fun to write about the 'wild celtic Britons' that live on the strange island close to the edge of the known world went into battle painted blue and naked armed with nothing more than rocks or sticks. Remember, Caesars scribes aint going to write 'he was lucky to get off the island alive! Are they - but he was , theres no proof to back up stories of winning a massive decisive battle against the catuvellauni & associates - theres nothing on the site in herts to support this Caesarian properganda in fact he came back home to Rome with nothing, except promises from the celtic leaders theyd send tribute to rome , which theres no records or mention of in any roman literature at all. Bc no tribute was ever sent bc he never received such promises, it took nearly 100 after Caesar until the roman army of Claudius invaded, with the help from the British traitor Verica - upset bc his territory & 'crown' had been taken as the catuvellauni tribe aggressively expanded their power , if left another few years its possible they could've ruled the majority of middle & southern Britain (England) making any invasion almost impossible under one main chieftain, much easier to take when theres many smaller tribes/kingdoms who are usually at war with each other - as was when Caesar came across.

10 Lesser-Known Celtic Leaders Who Fought The Romans

When it comes to Celtic leaders who defended their land from the encroaching Romans, one figure instantly comes to mind&mdashthe famous war-queen Boudicca and her equally famous (and sometimes historically inaccurate) chariot. It&rsquos easy to assume that she was the only Celtic leader to rally against the invaders in actual fact, there are several others who haven&rsquot achieved nearly the same fame as Boudicca.

The Romans were efficient and ruthless, so fighting them was no easy feat. As such, not every Celtic leader who went against the Romans had a happy ending. Regardless, here are ten leaders who dared challenge the might of Rome in the name of the Celts.

Celtic Britain (The Iron Age - 600 BC - 50 AD)

Who were they?
The Iron Age is the age of the "Celt" in Britain. Over the 500 or so years leading up to the first Roman invasion, a Celtic culture established itself throughout the British Isles. Who were these Celts?

For a start, the concept of a "Celtic" people is a modern and somewhat romantic reinterpretation of history. The &ldquoCelts&rdquo were warring tribes who certainly wouldn&rsquot have seen themselves as one people at the time.

The "Celts" as we traditionally regard them exist largely in the magnificence of their art and the words of the Romans who fought them. The trouble with the reports of the Romans is that they were a mix of reportage and political propaganda. It was politically expedient for the Celtic peoples to be coloured as barbarians and the Romans as a great civilizing force. And history written by the winners is always suspect.

Where did they come from?
What we do know is that the people we call Celts gradually infiltrated Britain over the course of the centuries between about 500 and 100 B.C. There was probably never an organized Celtic invasion for one thing, the Celts were so fragmented and given to fighting among themselves that the idea of a concerted invasion would have been ludicrous.

The Celts were a group of peoples loosely tied by similar language, religion, and cultural expression. They were not centrally governed, and quite as happy to fight each other as any non-Celt. They were warriors, living for the glories of battle and plunder. They were also the people who brought iron working to the British Isles.

The advent of iron
The use of iron had amazing repercussions. First, it changed trade and fostered local independence. Trade was essential during the Bronze Age, for not every area was naturally endowed with the necessary ores to make bronze. Iron, on the other hand, was relatively cheap and available almost everywhere.

Hill Forts
The time of the "Celtic conversion" of Britain saw a huge growth in the number of hill forts throughout the region. These were often small ditch and bank combinations encircling defensible hilltops. Some are small enough that they were of no practical use for more than an individual family, though over time many larger forts were built. The curious thing is that we don't know if the hill forts were built by the native Britons to defend themselves from the encroaching Celts, or by the Celts as they moved their way into hostile territory.

These forts usually contained no source of water, so their use as long term settlements is doubtful, though they may have been useful indeed for withstanding a short term siege. Many of the hill forts were built on top of earlier causewayed camps.

Celtic family life
The basic unit of Celtic life was the clan, a sort of extended family. The term "family" is a bit misleading, for by all accounts the Celts practised a peculiar form of child-rearing they didn't rear them, they farmed them out. Children were actually raised by foster parents. The foster father was often the brother of the birth-mother. Got it?

Clans were bound together very loosely with other clans into tribes, each of which had its own social structure and customs, and possibly its own local gods.

The Celts lived in huts of arched timber with walls of wicker and roofs of thatch. The huts were generally gathered in loose hamlets. In several places, each tribe had its own coinage system.

The Celts were farmers when they weren't fighting. One of the interesting innovations that they brought to Britain was the iron plough. Earlier ploughs had been awkward affairs, basically a stick with a pointed end harnessed behind two oxen. They were suitable only for ploughing the light upland soils. The heavier iron ploughs constituted an agricultural revolution all by themselves, for they made it possible for the first time to cultivate the rich valley and lowland soils.

They came with a price, though. It generally required a team of eight oxen to pull the plough, so to avoid the difficulty of turning that large a team, Celtic fields tended to be long and narrow, a pattern that can still be seen in some parts of the country today.

The lot of women
Celtic lands were owned communally, and wealth seems to have been based largely on the size of cattle herd owned. The lot of women was a good deal better than in most societies of that time. They were technically equal to men, owned property, and could choose their own husbands. They could also be war leaders, as Boudicca (Boadicea) later proved.

There was a written Celtic language, but it developed well into Christian times, so for much of Celtic history they relied on oral transmission of culture, primarily through the efforts of bards and poets. These arts were tremendously important to the Celts, and much of what we know of their traditions comes to us today through the old tales and poems that were handed down for generations before eventually being written down.

Another area where oral traditions were important was in the training of Druids. There has been a lot of nonsense written about Druids, but they were a curious lot a sort of super-class of priests, political advisors, teachers, healers, and arbitrators. They had their own universities, where traditional knowledge was passed on by rote. They had the right to speak ahead of the king in council, and may have held more authority than the king. They acted as ambassadors in time of war, they composed verse and upheld the law. They were a sort of glue holding together Celtic culture.

From what we know of the Celts from Roman commentators, who are, remember, witnesses with an axe to grind, they held many of their religious ceremonies in woodland groves and near sacred water, such as wells and springs. The Romans speak of human sacrifice as being a part of Celtic religion. One thing we do know, the Celts revered human heads.

Celtic warriors would cut off the heads of their enemies in battle and display them as trophies. They mounted heads in doorposts and hung them from their belts. This might seem barbaric to us, but to the Celt the seat of spiritual power was the head, so by taking the head of a vanquished foe they were appropriating that power for themselves. It was a kind of bloody religious observance.

The Iron Age is when we first find cemeteries of ordinary people&rsquos burials (in hole-in-the-ground graves) as opposed to the elaborate barrows of the elite few that provide our main records of burials in earlier periods.

The Celts at War
The Celts loved war. If one wasn't happening they'd be sure to start one. They were scrappers from the word go. They arrayed themselves as fiercely as possible, sometimes charging into battle fully naked, dyed blue from head to toe, and screaming like banshees to terrify their enemies.

They took tremendous pride in their appearance in battle, if we can judge by the elaborately embellished weapons and paraphernalia they used. Golden shields and breastplates shared pride of place with ornamented helmets and trumpets.

The Celts were great users of light chariots in warfare. From this chariot, drawn by two horses, they would throw spears at an enemy before dismounting to have a go with heavy slashing swords. They also had a habit of dragging families and baggage along to their battles, forming a great milling mass of encumbrances, which sometimes cost them a victory, as Queen Boudicca would later discover to her dismay.

As mentioned, they beheaded their opponents in battle and it was considered a sign of prowess and social standing to have a goodly number of heads to display.

The main problem with the Celts was that they couldn't stop fighting among themselves long enough to put up a unified front. Each tribe was out for itself, and in the long run, this cost them control of Britain.

The Romans Against The Picts

Wikimedia Commons A Pictish stone tells of a battle scene, presumably the Battle of Nechtansmere of 685 AD.

When the Roman Empire invaded Britain, they were accustomed to winning. They had conquered every powerful civilization they had yet come into contact with and destroyed any armed opposition with a flash of armor and steel that knew no equal. But they had never faced an enemy like the Picts.

The Romans expected another easy victory against the Picts, a primarily land-based people, going into their first battle. Indeed, the Picts retreated nearly as soon as they’d started fighting, and the Romans declared: “Our troops proved their superiority.”

But the victory proved to be an illusion. While the Romans were setting up camp, the Picts returned pouring out of the woods and seemingly out of thin air. They caught the Romans completely unaware and massacred them.

Dog Warriors could wield tremendous power at home

Dog Warriors sometimes worked as law enforcement at home, trading off these duties with other warrior societies. People acting out could face consequences from whatever group was in charge of maintaining order. Calling them "police" doesn't quite get at the heart of their role in day-to-day Cheyenne life. In Dog Soldiers, Bear Men, and Buffalo Women, Thomas E. Mails dives deeper into the subject. Dog Soldiers and other warrior groups certainly preserved order during daily life and in the midst of moving camp, which could be a complex and chaotic operation.

Dog Soldiers, along with other members of military societies, also managed tribal hunts and sacred ceremonies. With large groups of people in one place, some of whom traveled from distant settlements or other tribes, many understood the need for a recognizable force of law and order.

Dog Soldiers were also called upon to mete out punishment for a variety of crimes. And what if you committed some misdeed and were caught by the Dog Warriors? First, there was a good chance that your disciplining was going to be very public. Not only was it humiliating, but shaming a miscreant in the middle of camp served to reinforce a community's structure. If you break the rules, not only will the Dog Soldiers maybe whip you and cut up your tent, but they'll do it in front of your gossipy neighbor and that cute person you were trying to impress.

1 The Mongols

Here's the thing with the Mongols. See this stadium? That's 100,000 people there.

Now imagine 400 of those stadiums, each full of people. Now imagine every single one of those people with grotesque stab wounds.

That's right it is estimated that the Mongols--under Genghis Khan and others-- killed 40 million people.

The Mongols ripped through the world like a lawnmower. They were like an army of Batman villains. Only Asian, and on horseback.

Even the horses look pissed.

When the Mongols got in a conquesty mood, if your town happened to be in the way, you were, as they say, "shit out of luck." The Mongols would give you two choices, both of which thoroughly sucked. The first, and most practical, was to surrender and let them take whatever they wanted (which was pretty much everything, likely including your livelihood and all the women-folk). The second choice was to not surrender, and thus promptly watch your town burn to the ground. And your fields salted. Then, just to add another scoop of crap to an already crappy day, you'd be brutally murdered.

So, Were They Really So Bad?

During an invasion of India, a Mongolian general built a pyramid in front of the walls of Delhi out of human heads. Are you picturing it? If so, are you picturing like two dozen heads there? Because this guy used 90,000 of them.

They, like the Celts, had a thing for severed heads. They liked to gather them up and catapult them inside the enemy's compound. They would also fling corpses infected with black death.

"You know, most invading hordes just use arrows."

When they ran across pregnant women, they did. things. Things we won't discuss here.

When you saw them coming, hey, you could shoot at them with your arrows and spears all you wanted. All you'd be doing is slaughtering the huge crowd of refugees the Mongols forced to march ahead of them as human shields.

So, yeah. You want to know why the Spartans have to settle for number two, that's fucking why.

Historian Linda Hall asks, “Were Ancient women powerful or powerless?” 1 One might refine this question to ask, “Were Ancient women famous for being naked powerful or powerless?” The women listed below unquestionably wielded power on men and women alike despite and in some cases because of their physical attributes. This article therefore explores some of Antiquity’s most famous women known for being naked and their influence on history.

Digging Deeper

1) Nefertiti (c. 1,370 B.C. – c. 1,330 B.C)

Known primarily for the beautifully sculpted bust that is on display at the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, Nefertiti, wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten , was also depicted naked. Unlike previous rulers of Egypt, she and her husband worshiped just one God – Aten, the Sun God and they created the cult of Aten. In this cult, Nefertiti, as the “Great Royal Wife” and mother to many of Akhenaten ‘s children, represented fertility. Therefore, unlike other queens, there were also representations of her nude. One surviving example is in the same collection as the more famous bust.

2) Helen of Troy (c. 1,200 B.C.)

The “face that launched a thousand ships” belonged to Helen of Troy. Though excavations have unearthed the old city of Troy, whether Helen existed or not or if there had been the Trojan War or even the Trojan Horse at all has not yet been conclusively proven. It is also not known if her husband Menelaus truly showed her off naked at a party to impress his guests or if this incident was a Hollywood fabrication. According to legend, however, when Menelaus finally found his wife after Troy had been sacked, he had wanted to kill her for the humiliation she had caused him, but when he was about to do so, she let her robe fall, exposing her nude body. The sight of her beauty caused Menelaus to drop his sword. Talk about knowing how to best use one’s feminine charms!

3 ) Bathsheba (c. 1000 B.C.)

Bathsheba, wife of David and mother of Solomon, is almost always depicted nude because it was her nakedness that caught the attention of David, King of Israel and Judah, as he peered down from the rooftop and spied upon her at her bath. Her tale is a tale of sensuality, lust, seduction and sex. It was not she, however, who seduced David, it was David who seduced her, and in Bathsheba’s case, she was still married to another man at the time David impregnated her! It is hard to believe that this is a Bible story and not some episode of a sordid talk show!

4) Phryne (c. 370-300 B.C.)

Phryne at her trial, by Jean-Léon Gérôme, c. 1861

A courtesan (a.k.a prostitute) in ancient Greece, one of Phryne’s lovers happened to be the sculptur Praxiteles who asked her to model for his statue Aphrodite of Knidos. He also made two other statues of her which stood at the temples of Thespiae and Delphi, one of them in gilded bronze. The most famous episode her life is her trial. The charge has long been forgotten but not the fact that she supposedly exposed her breasts in court to incite pity.

5) Susanna (first mentioned in the 2nd century B.C.)

Susanna and the Elders
by Artemisia Gentileschi
Click on Portrait to Enlarge

The biblical story of Susanna is mentioned in the Book of Daniel. While bathing naked in her garden, two old lechers see her and threaten to accuse her, a married woman, of meeting with a young man unless she agrees to have sex with them. Susanna does not cave in to the blackmail and is arrested. At her trial, her innocence is proven when her two accusers are questioned separately and give conflicting accounts of the supposed episode. Like Bathsheba, the other woman from the Bible famous for being naked and involved in a sexual scandal, Susanna is mostly depicted naked in artwork. The oldest depiction is on an engraved rock known as the Lothair Crystal from the 9th century. She has also been painted by world-renowned artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Artemisia Gentileschi, Pablo Picasso as well as many others. Her story is also favorite of musicians George Frideric Handel wrote an oratorio based on the incident, and the like-named American opera Susanna transplants the biblical story into modern times. Writers have also been inspired by Susanna, and even Shakespeare mentioned her in The Merchant of Venice.

6) Messalina (c. 17/20 – 48)

The nymphomaniac Messalina, was the third wife of the Roman Emperor Claudius. Her sex drive was so insatiable that she even engaged in a contest with the leading prostitute in Rome and won! When news of this, however, as well as other discretions and plots got to her husband, he unceremoniously had her head cut off. As a result of her lustful reputation, most artistic representations of her accentuate her sexuality by showing her in sexy poses and/or in the nude.

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Historical Evidence

1 Linda Hall, “Ancient Women: Powerful or Powerless?” in Exploring The European Past: Texts & Images, Second Edition, ed. Timothy E. Gregory (Mason: Cengage Learning, 2011), 99-128.

For more information, please see here and here.

About Author

Beth Michaels attended a private college in Northeast Ohio from which she earned a Bachelor’s degree in German with a minor in French. From there she moved to Germany where she attended the University of Heidelberg for two years. Additional schooling earned her certifications as a foreign language correspondent and state-certified translator. In her professional career, Beth worked for a leading German manufacturer of ophthalmological medical instruments and devices as a quality representative, regulatory affairs manager and internal auditor.

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History

Diodorus Siculus (c.90–c.20 BCE) was a Greek historian whose huge compilation The Library of History is based largely on the works of others, such as Posidonius. He probably never travelled to Celtic lands, even though he adds to Posidonius’ texts about the Celts.

The following is an adaptation of Diodorus Siculus. Library of History (Books III – VIII), trans. C. H. Oldfather. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1935.

§ 1.9. […] Now as to who were the first kings we are in no position to speak on our own authority, nor do we give assent to those historians who profess to know for it is impossible that the discovery of writing was of so early a date as to have been contemporary with the first kings. But if a man should concede even this last point, it still seems evident that writers of history are as a class a quite recent appearance in the life of mankind. Again, with respect to the antiquity of the human race, not only do Greeks put forth their claims but many of the barbarians as well, all holding that it is they who were indigenous and the first of all men to discover the things which are of use in life, and that it was the events in their own history which were the earliest to have been held worthy of record. So far as we are concerned, however, we shall not make the attempt to determine with precision the antiquity of each nation or what is the race whose nations are prior in point of time to the rest and by how many years, but we shall record summarily, keeping due proportion in our account, what each nation has to say concerning its antiquity and the early events in its history.

§ 4.19.1. Heracles, then, delivered over the kingdom of the Iberians to the noblest men among the natives and, on his part, took his army and passing into Celtica and traversing the length and breadth of it he put an end to the lawlessness and murdering of strangers to which the people had become addicted and since a great multitude of men from every nation flocked to his army of their own accord, he founded a great city which was named Alesia after the “wandering” (alê) on his campaign.

§ 4.19.2. But he also mingled among the citizens of the city many natives, and since these surpassed the others in multitude, it came to pass that the inhabitants as a whole were barbarized. The Celts up to the present time hold this city in honour, looking upon it as the heart and mother-city of all Celtica. And for the entire period from the days of Heracles this city remained free and was never sacked until our own time but at last Gaius Caesar, who had been pronounced a god because of the magnitude of his deeds, took it by storm and made it and the other Celts subjects of the Romans.

§ 4.19.3. [Heracles in the Alps] Heracles then made his way from Celtica to Italy, and as he traversed the mountain pass through the Alps he made a highway out of the route, which was rough and almost impassable, with the result that it can now be crossed by armies and baggage-trains.

§ 4.19.4. The barbarians who inhabited this mountain region had been accustomed to butcher and to plunder such armies as passed though when they came to the difficult portions of the way, but he subdued them all, slew those that were the leaders in lawlessness of this kind, and made the journey safe for succeeding generations. And after crossing the Alps he passed through the level plain of what is now called Galatia and made his way through Liguria.

§ 5.22. But we shall give a detailed account of the customs of Britain and of the other features which are peculiar to the island when we come to the campaign which Caesar undertook against it, and at this time we shall discuss the tin which the island produces. The inhabitants of Britain who dwell about the promontory known as Belerium [now Cornwall] are especially hospitable to strangers and have adopted a civilized manner of life because of their intercourse with merchants of other peoples. They are the ones who work the tin, treating the bed which bears it in an ingenious manner. This bed, being like rock, contains earthy seams and in them the workers quarry the ore, which they then melt down and cleanse of its impurities. Then they work the tin into pieces the size of knuckle-bones and convey it to an island which lies off Britain and is called Ictis [The Isle of Wight] for at the time of ebb-tide the space between this island and the mainland becomes dry and they can take the tin in large quantities over to the island on their wagons. (And a peculiar thing happens in the case of the neighbouring islands which lie between Europe and Britain, for at flood-tide the passages between them and the mainland run full and they have the appearance of islands, but at ebb-tide the sea recedes and leaves dry a large space, and at that time they look like peninsulas.) On the island of Ictis the merchants purchase the tin of the natives and carry it from there across the Strait to Galatia or Gaul and finally, making their way on foot through Gaul for some thirty days, they bring their wares on horseback to the mouth of the river Rhone.

§ 5.24. Since we have set forth the facts concerning the islands which lie in the western regions, we consider that it will not be foreign to our purpose to discuss briefly the nations of Europe which lie near them and which we failed to mention in our former Books. Now Celtica was ruled in ancient times, so we are told, by a renowned man who had a daughter who was of unusual stature and far excelled in beauty all the other maidens. But she, because of her strength of body and marvelous comeliness, was so haughty that she kept refusing every man who wooed her in marriage, since she believed that no one of her wooers was worthy of her. Now in the course of his campaign against the Geryones, Heracles visited Celtica and founded there the city of Alesia, and the maiden, on seeing Heracles, wondered at his prowess and his bodily superiority and accepted his embraces with all eagerness, her parents having given their consent. From this union she bore to Heracles a son named Galates, who far surpassed all the youths of the nation in quality of spirit and strength of body. And when he had attained to man’s estate and had succeeded to the throne of his fathers, he subdued a large part of the neighbouring territory and accomplished great feats in war. Becoming renowned for his bravery, he called his subjects Galatae or Gauls after himself, and these in turn gave their name to all of Galatia or Gaul.

§ 5.26. […] Since temperateness of climate is destroyed by the excessive cold, the land produces neither wine nor oil, and as a consequence those Gauls who are deprived of these fruits make a drink out of barley which they call zythos or beer, and they also drink the water with which they cleanse their honeycombs. The Gauls are exceedingly addicted to the use of wine and fill themselves with the wine which is brought into their country by merchants, drinking it unmixed, and since they partake of this drink without moderation by reason of their craving for it, when they are drunken they fall into a stupor or a state of madness. Consequently many of the Italian traders, induced by the love of money which characterizes them, believe that the love of wine of these Gauls is their own godsend. For these transport the wine on the navigable rivers by means of boats and through the level plain on wagons, and receive for it an incredible price for in exchange for a jar of wine they receive a slave, getting a servant in return for the drink.

§ 5.27. Throughout Gaul there is found practically no silver, but there is gold in great quantities, which Nature provides for the inhabitants without their having to mine for it or to undergo any hardship. For the rivers, as they course through the country, having as they do sharp bends which turn this way and that and dashing against the mountains which line their banks and bearing off great pieces of them, are full of gold-dust. This is collected by those who occupy themselves in this business, and these men grind or crush the lumps which hold the dust, and after washing out with water the earthy elements in it they give the gold-dust over to be melted in the furnaces. In this manner they amass a great amount of gold, which is used for ornament not only by the women but also by the men. For around their wrists and arms they wear bracelets, around their necks heavy necklaces [torcs] of solid gold, and huge rings they wear as well, and even corselets of gold. And a peculiar and striking practice is found among the upper Celts, in connection with the sacred precincts of the gods as for in the temples and precincts made consecrate in their land, a great amount of gold has been deposited as a dedication to the gods, and not a native of the country ever touches it because of religious scruple, although the Celts are an exceedingly covetous people.

§ 5.28. The Gauls are tall, with rippling muscles, and white of skin, and their hair is blond, and not only naturally so, but they also make it their practice by artificial means to increase the distinguishing colour which nature has given it. For they are always washing their hair in lime-water, and they pull it back from the forehead to the top of the head and back to the nape of the neck, with the result that their appearance is like that of Satyrs and Pans, since the treatment of their hair makes it so heavy and coarse that it differs in no respect from the mane of horses. Some of them shave the beard, but others let it grow a little and the nobles shave their cheeks, but they let the mustache grow until it covers the mouth. Consequently, when they are eating, their mustaches become entangled in the food, and when they are drinking, the beverage passes, as it were, through a kind of a strainer. When they dine they all sit, not upon chairs, but upon the ground, using for cushions the skins of wolves or of dogs. The service at the meals is performed by the youngest children, both male and female, who are of suitable age and near at hand are their fireplaces heaped with coals, and on them are cauldrons and spits holding whole pieces of meat. They reward brave warriors with the choicest portions of the meat, in the same manner as the poet introduces Ajax as honoured by the chiefs after he returned victorious from his single combat with Hector [in Illiad 7.321]: “To Ajax then were given of the backbone / Slices, full-length, unto his honour.”

They invite strangers to their feasts, and do not inquire until after the meal who they are and of what things they stand in need. And it is their custom, even during the course of the meal, to seize upon any trivial matter as an occasion for intense arguments and then to challenge one another to single combat, without any regard for their lives for the belief of Pythagoras prevails among them, that the souls of men are immortal and that after a prescribed number of years they commence upon a new life, the soul entering into another body. Consequently, we are told, at the funerals of their dead some cast letters upon the pyre which they have written to their deceased kinsmen, as if the dead would be able to read these letters.

§ 5.29. In their journeyings and when they go into battle the Gauls use chariots drawn by two horses, which carry the charioteer and the warrior and when they encounter cavalry in the fighting they first hurl their javelins at the enemy and then step down from their chariots and join battle with their swords. Certain of them despise death to such a degree that they enter the perils of battle without protective armour and with no more than a girdle about their loins. They bring along to war also their free men to serve them, choosing them out from among the poor, and these attendants they use in battle as charioteers and as shield-bearers.

It is also their custom, when they are formed for battle, to step out in front of the line and to challenge the most valiant men from among their opponents to single combat, brandishing their weapons in front of them to terrify their adversaries. And when any man accepts the challenge to battle, they then break forth into a song in praise of the valiant deeds of their ancestors and in boast of their own high achievements, reviling all the while and belittling their opponent, and trying, in a word, by such talk to strip him of his bold spirit before the combat. When their enemies fall they cut off their heads and fasten them about the necks of their horses and turning over to their attendants the arms of their opponents, all covered with blood, they carry them off as booty, singing a tribute over them and striking up a song of victory, and these first-fruits of battle they fasten by nails upon their houses, just as men do, in certain kinds of hunting, with the heads of wild beasts they have mastered. The heads of their most distinguished enemies they embalm in cedar oil and carefully preserve in a chest, and these they exhibit to strangers, gravely maintaining that in exchange for this head some one of their ancestors, or their father, or the man himself, refused the offer of a great sum of money. And some men among them, we are told, boast that they have not accepted an equal weight of gold for the head they show, displaying a barbarous sort of greatness of soul for not to sell that which constitutes a witness and proof of one’s valour is a noble thing, but to continue to fight against one of our own race, after he is dead, is to descend to the level of beasts.

§ 5.30. The clothing they wear is striking — shirts which have been dyed and embroidered in varied colours, and breeches, which they call in their tongue bracae and they wear striped coats, fastened by a fibula on the shoulder, heavy for winter wear and light for summer, in which are set checks, close together and of varied hues. For armour they use long shields, as high as a man, which are wrought in a manner peculiar to them, some of them even having the figures of animals embossed on them in bronze, and these are skillfully worked with an eye not only to beauty but also to protection. On their heads they put bronze helmets which have large embossed figures standing out from them and give an appearance of great size to those who wear them for in some cases horns are attached to the helmet so as to form a single piece, in other cases images of the fore-parts of birds or four-footed animals. Their trumpets are of peculiar nature and such as barbarians use, for when they are blown upon they give forth a harsh sound, appropriate to the tumult of war. Some of them have iron chain-mail, but others are satisfied with the armour which Nature has given them and go into battle naked. In place of the short sword they carry long broad-swords which are hung on chains of iron or bronze and are worn along the right flank. And some of them gather up their shirts with belts plated with gold or silver. The spears they brandish, which they call lanciae, have iron heads a cubit in length and even more, and a little under two palms in breadth for their swords are not shorter than the javelins of other peoples, and the heads of their javelins are larger than the swords of others. Some of these javelins come from the forge straight, others twist in and out in spiral shapes for their entire length, the purpose being that the thrust may not only cut the flesh, but mangle it as well, and that the withdrawal of the spear may lacerate the wound.

§ 5.31. The Gauls are terrifying in aspect and their voices are deep and altogether harsh when they meet together they converse with few words and in riddles, hinting darkly at things for the most part and using one word when they mean another and they like to talk in superlatives, to the end that they may extol themselves and depreciate all other men. They are also boasters and threateners and are fond of pompous language, and yet they have sharp wits and are not without cleverness at learning. Among them are also to be found lyric poets whom they call Bards. These men sing to the accompaniment of instruments which are like lyres, and their songs may be either of praise or of obloquy.
Philosophers, as we may call them, and men learned in religious affairs are unusually honoured among them and are called by them druids. The Gauls likewise make use of diviners, accounting them worthy of high approbation, and these men foretell the future by means of the flight or cries of birds and of the slaughter of sacred animals, and they have all the multitude subservient to them.

They also observe a custom which is especially astonishing and incredible, in case they are taking thought with respect to matters of great concern for in such cases they devote to death a human being and plunge a dagger into him in the region above the diaphragm, and when the stricken victim has fallen they read the future from the manner of his fall and from the twitching of his limbs, as well as from the gushing of the blood, having learned to place confidence in an ancient and long-continued practice of observing such matters. And it is a custom of theirs that no one should perform a sacrifice without a “philosopher” for thank-offerings should be rendered to the gods, they say, by the hands of men who are experienced in the nature of the divine, and who speak, as it were, the language of the gods, and it is also through the mediation of such men, they think, that blessings likewise should be sought. Nor is it only in the exigencies of peace, but in their wars as well, that they obey, before all others, these men and their chanting poets, and such obedience is observed not only by their friends but also by their enemies many times, for instance, when two armies approach each other in battle with swords drawn and spears thrust forward, these men step forth between them and cause them to cease, as though having cast a spell over certain kinds of wild beasts. In this way, even among the wildest barbarians, does passion give place before wisdom, and Ares stands in awe of the Muses.

§ 5.32. And now it will be useful to draw a distinction which is unknown to many: The peoples who dwell in the interior above Massalia, those on the slopes of the Alps, and those on this side the Pyrenees mountains are called Celts, whereas the peoples who are established above this land of Celtica in the parts which stretch to the north, both along the ocean and along the Hercynian Mountain, and all the peoples who come after these, as far as Scythia, are known as Gauls the Romans, however, include all these nations together under a single name, calling them one and all Gauls. The women of the Gauls are not only like the men in their great stature but they are a match for them in courage as well. Their children are usually born with grayish hair, but as they grow older the colour of their hair changes to that of their parents.

The most savage peoples among them are those who dwell beneath the Bears and on the borders of Scythia, and some of these, we are told, eat human beings, even as the Britons do who dwell on Iris [Ireland], as it is called. And since the valour of these peoples and their savage ways have been famed abroad, some men say that it was they who in ancient times overran all Asia and were called Cimmerians, time having slightly corrupted the word into the name of Cimbrians, as they are now called. For it has been their ambition from old to plunder, invading for this purpose the lands of others, and to regard all men with contempt. For they are the people who captured Rome, who plundered the sanctuary at Delphi, who levied tribute upon a large part of Europe and no small part of Asia, and settled themselves upon the lands of the peoples they had subdued in war, being called in time Greco-Gauls, because they became mixed with the Greeks, and who, as their last accomplishment, have destroyed many large Roman armies. And in pursuance of their savage ways they manifest an outlandish impiety also with respect to their sacrifices for their criminals they keep prisoner for five years and then impale in honour of the gods, dedicating them together with many other offerings of first-fruits and constructing pyres of great size. Captives also are used by them as victims for their sacrifices in honour of the gods. Certain of them likewise slay, together with the human beings, such animals as are taken in war, or burn them or do away with them in some other vengeful fashion.

Although their wives are comely, they have very little to do with them, but rage with lust, in outlandish fashion, for the embraces of males. It is their practice to sleep upon the ground on the skins of wild beasts and to tumble with a male lover on each side. And the most astonishing thing of all is that they feel no concern for their proper dignity, but prostitute to others without a qualm the flower of their bodies nor do they consider this a disgraceful thing to do, but rather when anyone of them is thus approached and refuses the favour offered him, this they consider an act of dishonour.

§ 5.33. Now that we have spoken at sufficient length about the Celts we shall turn our history to the Celtiberians who are their neighbours. In ancient times these two peoples, namely, the Iberians and the Celts, kept warring among themselves over the land, but when later they arranged their differences and settled upon the land altogether, and when they went further and agreed to intermarriage with each other, because of such intermixture the two peoples received the appellation given above. And since it was two powerful nations that united and the land of theirs was fertile, it came to pass that the Celtiberians advanced far in fame and were subdued by the Romans with difficulty and only after they had faced them in battle over a long period. And this people, it would appear, provide for warfare not only excellent cavalry but also foot-soldiers who excel in prowess and endurance. They wear rough black cloaks, the wool of which resembles the hair of goats.

As for their arms, certain of the Celtiberians, carry light shields like those of the Gauls, and certain carry circular wicker shields as large as an aspis [Greek shield], and about their shins and calves they wind greaves made of hair and on their heads they wear bronze helmets adorned with purple crests. The swords they wear are two-edged and wrought of excellent iron, and they also have dirks a span in length which they use in fighting at close quarters. And a peculiar practice is followed by them in the fashioning of their weapons for they bury plates of iron in the ground and leave them there until in the course of time the rust has eaten out what is weak in the iron and what is left is only the most unyielding, and of this they then fashion excellent swords and such other objects as pertain to war. The weapon which has been fashioned in the manner described cuts through anything which gets in its way, for no shield or helmet or bone can withstand a blow from it, because of the exceptional quality of the iron. Able as they are to fight in two styles, they first carry on the contest on horseback, and when they have defeated the cavalry they dismount, and assuming the rôle of foot-soldiers they put up marvellous battles. And a peculiar and strange custom obtains among them: Careful and cleanly as they are in their ways of living, they nevertheless observe one practice which is low and partakes of great uncleanness for they consistently use urine to bathe the body and wash their teeth with it, thinking that in this practice is constituted the care and healing of the body.

§ 5.34. As for the customs they follow toward malefactors and enemies the Celtiberians are cruel, but toward strangers they are honourable and humane. Strangers, for instance, who come among them they one and all entreat to stop at their homes and they are rivals one of another in their hospitality, and any among them who are attended by strangers are spoken of with approval and regarded as beloved of the gods. For their food they use meats of every description, of which they enjoy an abundance, since the country supplies them with a great quantity of honey, although the wine they purchase from merchants who sail over the seas to them. Of the nations neighbouring upon the Celtiberians the most advanced is the people of the Vaccaei, as they are called for this people each year divides among its members the land which it tills and making the fruits the property of all they measure out his portion to each man, and for any cultivators who have appropriated some part for themselves they have set the penalty as death. The most valiant among the Iberians are those who are known as Lusitanians, who carry in war very small shields which are interwoven with cords of sinew and are able to protect the body unusually well, because they are so tough and shifting this shield easily as they do in their fighting, now here, now there, they cleverly ward off from their person every blow which comes at them. They also use barbed javelins made entirely of iron, and wear helmets and swords very much like those of the Celtiberians. They hurl the javelin with good effect, even over a long distance, and, in fine, are doughty in dealing their blows. Since they are nimble and wear light arms, they are swift both in flight and in pursuit, but when it comes to enduring the hardships of a stiff fight they are far inferior to the Celtiberians.

In time of peace they practise a kind of dance which requires great nimbleness of limb, and in their wars they march into battle with even step and raise a battle-song as they charge upon the foe. And a peculiar practice obtains among the Iberians and particularly among the Lusitanians for when their young men come to the bloom of their physical strength, those who are the very poorest among them in worldly goods and yet excel in vigour of body and daring equip themselves with no more than valour and arms and gather in the mountain fastnesses, where they form into bands of considerable size and then descend upon Iberia and collect wealth from their pillaging. And this brigandage they continually practise in a spirit of complete disdain for using as they do light arms and being altogether nimble and swift, they are a most difficult people for other men to subdue. And, speaking generally, they consider the fastnesses and crags of the mountains to be their native land and to these places, which large and heavily equipped armies find hard to traverse, they flee for refuge. Consequently, although the Romans in their frequent campaigns against the Lusitanians rid them of their great spirit of disdain, they were nevertheless unable, often as they eagerly set about it, to put a complete end to their plundering.

§ 5.35. Since we have set forth the facts concerning the Iberians, we think that it will not be foreign to our purpose to discuss the silver mines of the land for this land possesses, we may venture to say, the most abundant and most excellent known sources of silver, and to the workers of this silver it returns great revenues. […] Now the natives were ignorant of the use of the silver, and the Phoenicians, as they pursued their commercial enterprises and learned of what had taken place, purchased the silver in exchange for other wares of little if any worth. And this was the reason why the Phoenicians, as they transported this silver to Greece and Asia and to all other peoples, acquired great wealth.

§ 5.38. […] Tin also occurs in many regions of Iberia, not found, however, on the surface of the earth, as certain writers continually repeat in their histories, but dug out of the ground and smelted in the same manner as silver and gold. For there are many mines of tin in the country above Lusitania and on the islets which lie off Iberia out in the ocean and are called because of that fact the Cassiterides [modern Scilly Isles]. And tin is brought in large quantities also from the island of Britain to the opposite Gaul, where it is taken by merchants on horses through the interior of Celtica both to the Massalians and to the city of Narbo, as it is called. This city is a colony of the Romans, and because of its convenient situation it possesses the finest market to be found in those regions.

§ 14.113. [c. 387 BC] At the time that Dionysius was besieging Rhegium, the Celts who had their homes in the regions beyond the Alps streamed through the passes in great strength and seized the territory that lay between the Apennine mountains and the Alps, expelling the Tyrrhenians who dwelt there. These, according to some, were colonists from the twelve cities of Tyrrhenia but others state that before the Trojan War Pelasgians fled from Thessaly to escape the flood of Deucalion’s time and settled in this region. Now it happened, when the Celts divided up the territory by nations, that those known as the Sennones received the area which lay farthest from the mountains and along the sea. But since this region was scorching hot, they were distressed and eager to move hence they armed their younger men and sent them out to seek a territory where they might settle. Now they invaded Tyrrhenia, and being in number some thirty thousand they sacked the territory of the Clusini. At this very time the Roman people sent messengers into Tyrrhenia to spy out the army of the Celts. The ambassadors arrived at Clusium, and when they saw that a battle had been joined, with more valour than wisdom they joined the men of Clusium against their besiegers, and one of the messengers was successful in killing a rather important commander. When the Celts learned of this, they dispatched messengers to Rome to demand the person of the envoy who had thus commenced an unjust war. The senate at first sought to persuade the envoys of the Celts to accept money in satisfaction of the injury, but when they would not consider this, it voted to surrender the accused. But the father of the man to be surrendered, who was also one of the military tribunes with consular power, appealed the judgement to the people, and since he was a man of influence among the masses, he persuaded them to void the decision of the senate. Now in the times previous to this the people had followed the senate in all matters with this occasion they first began to rescind decisions of that body.

§ 14.114. The ambassadors of the Celts returned to their camp and reported the reply of the Romans. At this they were greatly angered and, adding troops from their fellow tribesmen, they marched swiftly upon Rome itself, numbering more than seventy thousand men. The military tribunes of the Romans, exercising their special power, when they heard of the advance of the Celts, armed all the men of military age. They then marched out in full force and, crossing the Tiber, led their troops for eighty stades along the river and at news of the approach of the Galatians they drew up the army for battle. Their best troops, to the number of twenty-four thousand, they set in a line from the river as far as the hills and on the highest hills they stationed the weakest. The Celts deployed their troops in a long line and, whether by fortune or design, stationed their choicest troops on the hills. The trumpets on both sides sounded the charge at the same time and the armies joined in battle with great clamour. The élite troops of the Celts, who were opposed to the weakest soldiers of the Romans, easily drove them from the hills. Consequently, as these fled in masses to the Romans on the plain, the ranks were thrown into confusion and fled in dismay before the attack of the Celts. Since the bulk of the Romans fled along the river and impeded one another by reason of their disorder, the Celts were not behind-hand in slaying again and again those who were last in line. Hence the entire plain was strewn with dead. Of the men who fled to the river the bravest attempted to swim across with their arms, prizing their armour as highly as their lives but since the stream ran strong, some of them were borne down to their death by the weight of the arms, and some, after being carried along for some distance, finally and after great effort got off safe. But since the enemy pressed them hard and was making a great slaughter along the river, most of the survivors threw away their arms and swam across the Tiber.

§ 14.115. The Celts, though they had slain great numbers on the bank of the river, nevertheless did not desist from the zest for glory but showered javelins upon the swimmers and since many missiles were hurled and men were massed in the river, those who threw did not miss their mark. So it was that some died at once from mortal blows, and others, who were wounded only, were carried off unconscious because of loss of blood and the swift current. When such disaster befell, the greater part of the Romans who escaped occupied the city of Veii, which had lately been razed by them, fortified the place as well as they could, and received the survivors of the rout. A few of those who had swum the river fled without their arms to Rome and reported that the whole army had perished. When word of such misfortunes as we have described was brought to those who had been left behind in the city, everyone fell into despair for they saw no possibility of resistance, now that all their youth had perished, and to flee with their children and wives was fraught with the greatest danger since the enemy were close at hand. Now many private citizens fled with their households to neighbouring cities, but the city magistrates, encouraging the populace, issued orders for them to bring speedily to the Capitoline grain and every other necessity.

When this had been done, both the acropolis and the Capitoline were stored not only with supplies of food but with silver and gold and the costliest raiment, since the precious possessions had been gathered from over the whole city into one place. They gathered such valuables as they could and fortified the place we have mentioned during a respite of three days. For the Celts spent the first day cutting off, according to their custom, the heads of the dead. And for two days they lay encamped before the city, for when they saw the walls deserted and yet heard the noise made by those who were transferring their most useful possessions to the acropolis, they suspected that the Romans were planning a trap for them. But on the fourth day, after they had learned the true state of affairs, they broke down the gates and pillaged the city except for a few dwellings on the Palatine. After this they delivered daily assaults on strong positions, without, however, inflicting any serious hurt upon their opponents and with the loss of many of their own troops. Nevertheless, they did not relax their ardour, expecting that, even if they did not conquer by force, they would wear down the enemy in the course of time, when the necessities of life had entirely given out.

§ 14.116. While the Romans were suffering from such difficulties, the neighbouring Tyrrhenians advanced and made a raid with a strong army on the territory of the Romans, capturing many prisoners and not a small amount of booty. But the Romans who had fled to Veii, falling unexpectedly upon the Tyrrhenians, put them to flight, took back the booty, and captured their camp. Having got possession of arms in abundance, they distributed them among the unarmed, and they also gathered men from the countryside and armed them, since they intended to relieve the siege of the soldiers who had taken refuge on the Capitoline. While they were at a loss how they might reveal their plans to the besieged, since the Celts had surrounded them with strong forces, a certain Cominius Pontius undertook to get the cheerful news to the men on the Capitoline. Starting out alone and swimming the river by night, he got unseen to a cliff of the Capitoline that was hard to climb and, hauling himself up it with difficulty, told the soldiers on the Capitoline about the troops that had been collected in Veii and how they were watching for an opportunity and would attack the Celts. Then, descending by the way he had mounted and swimming the Tiber, he returned to Veii. The Celts, when they observed the tracks of one who had recently climbed up, made plans to ascend at night by the same cliff. Consequently about the middle of the night, while the guards were neglectful of their watch because of the strength of the place, some Celts started an ascent of the cliff. They escaped detection by the guards, but the sacred geese of Hera, which were kept there, noticed the climbers and set up a cackling. The guards rushed to the place and the Celts deterred did not dare proceed farther. A certain Marcus Mallius, a man held in high esteem, rushing to the defense of the place, cut off the hand of the climber with his sword and, striking him on the breast with his shield, rolled him from the cliff. In like manner the second climber met his death, whereupon the rest all quickly turned in flight. But since the cliff was precipitous they were all hurled headlong and perished. As a result of this, when the Romans sent ambassadors to negotiate a peace, they were persuaded, upon receipt of one thousand pounds of gold, to leave the city and to withdraw from Roman territory.

§ 22.3. […] King Ptolemy [aka Ptolemaios Keraunos] was killed [in 279 BCE] and the whole Macedonian army was cut to pieces and destroyed by the Gauls.

§ 22.4. During this period the Gauls attacked Macedonia and harassed it, since there were many claimants to the kingship, who occupied it only briefly and then were driven out. […]

§ 22.5. This same Apollodorus recruited some Gauls and supplied them with weapons. He conferred gifts upon them and found them to be loyal guardsmen and convenient tools because of their cruelty to execute his punishments. By confiscating the property of the wealthy he amassed great wealth. Then, by an increase in the pay of his soldiers, and by sharing his riches with the poor, he made himself master of a formidable force.

§ 22.9. Brennus, the king of the Gauls, invaded Macedonia with one hundred and fifty thousand infantry armed with long shields, ten thousand cavalry, a horde of camp followers, large numbers of traders, and two thousand wagons. Having in this conflict lost many men [text missing] as lacking sufficient strength [text missing] when later he advanced into Greece and to the oracle at Delphi, which he wished to plunder. In the mighty battle fought there he lost tens of thousands of his fellow soldiers, and Brennus himself suffered three wounds. Weighed down and close to death, he assembled his host there and spoke to the Gauls. He advised them to kill him and all the wounded, to burn their wagons, and to return home free of burdens he advised them also to make Akichorios king. Then, after drinking deeply of undiluted wine, Brennus slew himself. After Akichorios buried him, he killed the wounded and those who were victims of cold and starvation, about twenty thousand people and so he began the journey homeward with the rest by the same route. In difficult terrain the Greeks would attack and cut off those in the rear, and carried off all their belongings. On the way to Thermopylae, food being scarce there, they abandoned twenty thousand more men. All the rest perished as they were going through the country of the Dardani, and not a single man was left to return home.

Brennus, the king of the Gauls, found no dedications of gold or silver when he entered a temple. All that he found were images of stone and wood he laughed at them to think that men, believing that gods have human form, should set up their images in wood and stone.
At the time of the Gaulish invasion the inhabitants of Delphi, seeing that danger was at hand, asked the god if they should remove the treasures, the children, and the women from the shrine to the most strongly fortified of the neighbouring cities. The Pythia replied to the Delphians that the god commanded them to leave in place in the shrine the dedications and whatever else pertained to the adornment of the gods for the god, and with him the White Maidens, would protect all. As there were in the sacred precinct two temples of extreme antiquity, one of Athena Pronaia and one of Artemis, they assumed that these goddesses were the “White Maidens” named by the oracle.

§ 22.11. Pyrrhus, having won a famous victory, dedicated the long shields of the Gauls and the most valuable of the other spoils in the shrine of Athena Itonis with the following inscription: “Pyrrhus the Molossian hung these shields, taken from the brave Gauls, here as a gift to Athena Itonis, after he destroyed Antigonus’ entire army. This is not surprising: the sons of Aeacus are warriors now even as they were before.” […]

§ 22.12. After Pyrrhus had sacked Aegeae, the seat of the Macedonian royal family, he left his Gaulish troops there. The Gauls, learning from certain informants that in accordance with a certain ancient custom much wealth was buried with the dead at royal funerals, dug up and broke into all the graves, divided up the treasure, and scattered the bones of the dead. Pyrrhus was disgusted by of this, but he did not punish the barbarians since he needed them for his wars.

Did the Celts really go into battle naked? - History

== 1 of 5 ==
Date: Thurs, Dec 13 2007 9:54 pm
From: James Parton

In Celtic mythology the Oak King and the Holly King are Rivals. Every
year during winter & summer they fight for dominence. In Winter Holly
wins. In Summer Oak wins. Some legends say it is for the affections of
the mother goddess.

To the early Celts, trees, especially the Oak tree were considered
sacred. Oak trees are deciduous, meaning that they go into a dormant
state during the winter months. English Holly trees are evergreen, and
maintain their foliage year round. Many other hollies are also
evergreen. As the cold weather approached and the Oak trees lost their
foliage, the Holly trees, which had been hidden amid the leafy Oaks
now stood out in their full beauty in the barren landscape.

At Midwinter, it seemed that the Holly King had won and his rival, the
mighty Oak King now stood naked in defeat. But, the Holly King did not
really win the battle, because as the Sun begins to return once again,
The Oak King rallies, and begins to re-establish his supremacy, even
though it won't be until Midsummer when the Oaks will once again be in
full foliage.

The battle continues at Midsummer and the Oak King appears to win,
overshadowing and pushing his opponent out of sight, but once again
appearances are deceptive as the Sun begins to leave once more and the
Holly King rallies and begins to make his full appearance once more.
Interestingly enough it is at the time when each King is in his full
strength and splendor that he is defeated by his opponent.

I love this story. It is one of my favorites in Celtic lore. The
battle of the trees.

Also Celtic lore also comes to play in our Christmas traditions.
Examples of the Holly King's image can be seen in our modern Santa
Claus. He dons a sprig of holly in his hat, wears red clothing, and
drives a team of eight (total number of Solar Sabbats) reindeer, an
animal sacred to the Celtic Gods (deer). Mistletoe and holly came into
modern Christmas celebrations through the memorializing of this
battle. The holly with berries are hung in honor of the Holly King and
mistletoe in honor of the Oak King.

Also another " War " of the trees is spoken of in a song by the rock
band " Rush ". Simply titled " The Trees "

In this case, it is the Oaks & Maples that are at war.

In our real world, trees do compete. Some shade out others, etc. They
are winners and losers.

== 2 of 5 ==
Date: Thurs, Dec 13 2007 10:29 pm
From: dbhguru

Thanks for sharing this beautiful Celtic myth. It is a refreshing change from the one-dimensional view of trees as servants of humans in which their value as lumber or fiber trumps every other view and value. Please pass on to us any more Celtic myths about trees.

== 3 of 5 ==
Date: Thurs, Dec 13 2007 10:44 pm
From: James Parton

You came to mind as I typed this one. I thought you would appreciate
this. More will come.

== 4 of 5 ==
Date: Thurs, Dec 13 2007 10:49 pm
From: dbhguru

GREAT!! As I get the time, I'll look up some of the Native American tree myths.

== 5 of 5 ==
Date: Thurs, Dec 13 2007 10:56 pm
From: James Parton

That would be nice. The Celts & Native Americans have more in common
than most people realize.

For some reason I think more of Holly as " female ". A holly queen.
The Oak appears robust & " male ". The holly being a smaller tree & a
common female name. I have a close friend by the name " Holly " as
well. Celtic folklore has many powerful female goddesses, queens &
heroines. Like Maeve, Blodeuwedd & The Morrigan.

== 2 of 2 ==
Date: Fri, Dec 14 2007 10:59 am
From: James Parton

Inside the Conversion Tactics of the Early Christian Church

The triumph of Christianity over the pagan religions of ancient Rome led to the greatest historical transformation the West has ever seen: a transformation that was not only religious, but also social, political and cultural. Just in terms of “high culture,” Western art, music, literature and philosophy would have been incalculably different had the masses continued to worship the gods of the Roman pantheon instead of the one God of Jesus—if paganism, rather than Christianity, had inspired their imaginations and guided their thoughts. The Middle Ages, the Renaissance and modernity as we know them would also have been unimaginably different.

But how did it happen? According to our earliest records, the first 𠇌hristians” to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus were 11 male disciples and a handful of women—say 20 people altogether. These were lower-class, uneducated day laborers from a remote corner of the Roman Empire. And yet, within three centuries, the Christian church could count some 3 million adherents. By the end of the 4th century, it was the official religion of Rome, numbering 30 million followers—or half the Empire.

A century after that, there were very few pagans left.

Christians today might claim that their faith triumphed over the other Roman religions because it was (and is) true, right and good. That may be so. But one still needs to consider the historical contingencies that led to the Christian conquest, and in particular the brilliant strategy the Christian evangelistic campaign used in winning converts. These are five aspects of that strategy:

The Last Judgment,’ showing heaven on the left and hell on the right, illustrates Christianity’s unique promise of eternal salvation, something no pagan religions offered. Painted by Fra Angelico (1400-1455). (Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

The Christian Church Created a Need

Strangely enough, Christianity did not succeed in taking over the ancient world simply by addressing deeply sensed needs of its target audience, the pagan adherents of traditional polytheistic religions. On the contrary, it actually created a need that almost no one knew they had.

Everyone in the ancient world, except for Jews, was “pagan”—that is, they believed in many gods. These gods—whether the state gods of Rome, the local municipal gods, the family gods, the gods of forests, mountains, streams and meadows—were active in the world, involved with humans on every level. They ensured that crops would grow and livestock would reproduce they brought rain and protected against storms they warded off disease and restored the sick to health they maintained social stability and provided military victories for the troops.

The gods would do such things in exchange for proper worship, which at all times and everywhere involved saying the right prayers and performing the appropriate sacrifices. If the gods were not worshiped in these ways—if they were ignored—they could bring disastrous retribution: drought, epidemic, economic collapse, military defeat and so on.

But the key point is that the gods were principally active𠅏or good or ill—in the present life, to worshippers in the here and now. Almost no one in the Roman world practiced religion in order to escape eternal punishment or receive an eternal reward—that is, until the Christians came along.

Unlike pagans, Christians claimed there was only one God and that he should be worshiped not by sacrifice but by proper belief. Anyone who didn’t believe the right things would be considered a transgressor before God. And, most significant of all, rewards and punishments would be dispensed not only in this life, but in the life to come: either eternal bliss in heaven or everlasting torment in the fires of hell. Religion had never promoted such an idea before. Christians created a need for salvation that no one knew they had. They then argued that they alone could meet the need. And they succeeded massively.

Jesus cures a sick man who is unable to reach the pool at Bethesda, which contains healing waters. (Credit: Culture Club/Getty Images)

It ‘Proved’ Its Superiority

Everyone in the ancient world knew that divinity was all about power. Humans cannot control whether it rains or an epidemic destroys the community or a natural disasters hits but the gods can. They can provide for humans what mere mortals cannot do for themselves. This stood at the root of all ancient religion. And it became the chief selling point of the Christian message. Christians declared that their God was more powerful than any other god—in fact, more powerful than all the supposed other gods combined. God alone was God, and he alone could provide what people need.

The power struggle between the Christian and pagan gods is on full display in a wide range of ancient texts. Consider the apocryphal book called the Acts of John, an account of the missionary escapades of Jesus’ disciple John the Son of Zebedee. At one point in the narrative, John visits the city of Ephesus and its renowned temple to the goddess Athena. Entering the sacred site, John ascends a platform and issues a challenge to a large crowd of pagans: They are to pray to their divine protectoress to strike him dead. If she fails to respond, he in turn will ask his God to kill all of them. The crowd is terrified—they have already seen John raise people from the dead, and they know his God means business. When they refuse to take the challenge, John curses the divinity of the place, and suddenly the altar of Artemis splits into pieces, the idols break apart and the roof caves in, killing the goddess’s chief priest on the spot. The crowd makes the expected response: “There is only one God, that of John…now we have converted, since we have seen your miraculous deeds.”

Although obviously legendary, the tale conveys an important truth. Miraculous powers were the Christians’ evangelistic calling card, their compelling proof. Jesus himself, the son of God, had performedone miracle after the other. He was born of a virgin he fulfilled prophecies spoken centuries earlier by ancient seers he healed the sick he cast out demons he raised the dead. And if all that wasn’t enough, at the end of his life he himself rose from the grave and ascended to heaven to dwell with God forevermore. His disciples also did miracles𠅊mazing miracles𠅊ll recorded for posterity in writings widely available. And the miracles continued to the present day. People became convinced by these stories. Not en masse, but one person at a time.