The Celts in Battle/The Picts

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The Celts in battle:

The bravery of the Celts in battle is legendary. They often spurned body armour, going naked into battle. Celtic society was typically more equal in terms of gender roles. Women were on more or less equal footing as men, being accomplished warriors, merchants and rulers. Other Roman historians tell us more of the Celts. Diodorus notes that:

Their aspect is terrifying...They are very tall in stature, with rippling muscles under clear white skin. Their hair is blond, but not naturally so: they bleach it, to this day, artificially, washing it in lime and combing it back from their foreheads. They look like wood-demons, their hair thick and shaggy like a horse's mane. Some of them are clean-shaven, but others - especially those of high rank, shave their cheeks but leave a moustache that covers the whole mouth and, when they eat and drink, acts like a sieve, trapping particles of food...The way they dress is astonishing: they wear brightly coloured and embroidered shirts, with trousers called bracae and cloaks fastened at the shoulder with a brooch, heavy in winter, light in summer. These cloaks are striped or checkered in design, with the separate checks close together and in various colours.

[The Celts] wear bronze helmets with figures picked out on them, even horns, which made them look even taller than they already are...while others cover themselves with breast-armour made out of chains. But most content themselves with the weapons nature gave them: they go naked into battle...Weird, discordant horns were sounded, [they shouted in chorus with their] deep and harsh voices, they beat their swords rhythmically against their shields.

Ordinary Celtic soldiers, often naked except for golden neck torcs, worked themselves into a fury before entering into battle and then fought wildly like beasts. After battle a victorious Celt would ride off with the heads of slain enemies dangling from the neck of his horse. Later, the heads would be nailed to the doors of their homes or embalmed with cedar oil in order to be publicly displayed. Typically, this preservation treatment of heads was reserved for distinguished, high-ranking enemies. Diodorus also describes how the Celts cut off their enemies' heads and nailed them over the doors of their huts, as Diodorus states:

In exactly the same way as hunters do with their skulls of the animals they have slain...they preserved the heads of their most high-ranking victims in cedar oil, keeping them carefully in wooden boxes. - Diodorus Siculus, History.

Celtic Weapons and Armory

The Celts - Who Were They?

The Celts in battle

The Picts

" Venit et extremis legio praetenta Britannis, Quae Scotto dat frena truci ferronque notatas Perlegit examines Picto moriente figuras"

The above words of the Roman poet Claudian perhaps give the only physical description of the race of people known as Picts who once raided Roman Britain, defeated the Angle-Saxon invaders and in one of the great mysteries of the ancient world, disappeared as a separate people by the end of the tenth century. "This legion, which curbs the savage Scot and studies the designs marked with iron on the face of the dying Pict," are the Claudian words which give some insight as to the name given by Rome to the untamed tribes north of Hadrian's Wall . The Romans called this pre-Celtic people Pictii, or "Painted," although Claudius' words are proof that (as claimed by many historians), the ancient Picts actually tattooed their bodies with designs. To the non-Roman Celtic world of Scots and Irish and the many tribes of Belgic England and Wales they were known as "Cruithni" and for many centuries they represented the unbridled fury of a people who refused to be brought under the yoke of Rome or any foreign invader.

From The Kingdom of Scotland: "According to the Huntingdon Chronicle, MacAlpin "was the first of the Scots to obtain the monarchy of the whole of Albania, which is now called Scotia." From that time on, the Picts, the tattooed or painted people, have remained a shadowy, poorly documented race. It is a pity that no Pictish literature has survived. All we have are the sculptured stones with their remarkable designs incised that show warriors, huntsmen and churchmen."

The Shadowy Painted People