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\"Celtic\" military technology and the Romans
#1
Hi there,

Does anyone know of any primary evidence indicating that the Romans appropriated Spanish, Gaulish, Germanic or British weapons and armour to make the Roman legionary as we know it?

This book (http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Te...Z4_PLChykC) claims that the Romans copied the shields, helmets, swords, pila and such forth from those classed loosely as 'Celts' and I'm wondering whether anyone has come across any evidence of this.

Thanks,
Michael
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#2
Gladius
Quesada has a very detailed treatment on Iberian swords and their connection to the Gladius. He argues (complete with good tables and illustrations) that there is a clear evolution from La Tene I swords, to locally produced Celtiberian swords (which were produced after the Gauls had moved on to blunter La Tene II types), to the Republican roman types (such as the Delos sword) , and finally to the recognizable imperial types. He also mentions that the pugio is clearly based off of Iberian dagger. This argued in detail, but I think that the connection is non-controversial. The article is available here:
http://www.uam.es/proyectosinv/equus/war...C%20rd.pdf

EDIT: I'd also like to note that you can make a good argument that the spatha is at least celtic influenced. After all, it was a cavalry sword, and it was long. Celts used long swords, and served in Roman cavalry at the time it was introduced. While it's not really a "Celtic" sword, I'd be surprised if it was not introduced because cavalry auxilia (many of whom were from Gaul) wanted a gladius but longer, like their ancestral weapons. Though maybe thats not it, and it just made sense to make a longer gladius!

Horned Saddle
Once piece of equipment that I am personally quite curious about is Celtic saddle. It is generally regarded as Celtic based on two pieces of evidence. First is that the Glanum relief (1st cent BCE) shows a riderless horse bearing a horned saddle. As the battle appears to be between Celts and Romans, it is assumed that riderless horse is meant to be Celtic. It is therefore assumed that the horned saddle at this time was a recognizably Celtic feature.

The second piece of evidence is the Gunderstrup Cauldron. This piece is harder to interpret because it is very abstract. The maker is also uncertain as it may be Celtic or Thracian (or even some other group). Finally, the date is fairly uncertain, but possibly as early as the second cent BCE. It depicts several horsemen, who horses appear to wearing typical Celtic tack. There are slight bumps in front of and behind the rider,that may be a Celtic saddle.

I personally think that this is enough evidence to suppose a Celtic origin, but not really enough to fully rule out the possibility of the horned saddle as a Roman invention. The cauldron is just too uncertain to be fully credible and that leaves Glanum as the first clear attestation on the type. However, the well attested Celtic tradition of horsemanship (as well as the lack of Roman horse tradition) still somewhat favors a Celtic origin. Mr. Radpour, who sometimes posts here, posits an eastern origin to the type. But as far as I know, all eastern evidence of the horned saddle post dates Glanum and also post dates Roman contact with east, indicating that origin is more likely Celtic (if not Roman). If anyone has more info on this, please share it!


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#3
Scutum
We don't have all that much evidence for early Roman shields, except for the Fayum Scutum (image attached). The fayum scutum might not even be Roman, but may have belonged to a Hellenistic soldier armed in the Roman fashion. Regardless, the origins are obscure. The scutum certainly bears some resemblance to Celtic shields (see again cauldron). The Chertsey Shield in the British Museum bears some resemblance as well.
However, Plutarch, in Parallel live, life of Romulus (at 21) Claims that Scutum was adopted from the Sabines. There is some evidence that other central Italians used similar shields (see attached image), so this may be true.
This is further confused by the fact that the Greeks adopted a "thueros" type sheild, resembling a smaller scutum. See Sidon Stele for example. This may have been adapted from the Celts (probably Galatians) but may have also been adopted from the Romans after Pyrrus's war.
As such, I can't really reach a conclusion. The Celts may have introduced the proto-scutum to the Romans and the Greeks, or they could have introduced to the Samnites (and Sabines) who then introduced it to the Romans, who then introduced to the Greeks. Or, it could even be an Italic invention. Really, its all up for interpretation, though I'd really love more info if anyone has it.
Also, for what it's worth, the classic scutum seems to mostly a roman innovation. Plutarch, in Parallel live, life of Camillus, attributes the addition of metallic edging on the scutum to Camillus, and the rectangular curved shapes appears to be a roman innovation as well, as it lacks any other precedent. Likewise, I know of no Celtic shield made using the Roman "plywood" construction; all seem to be solid or planked. This may be a Roman innovation as well.
That said, it seems very likely that the clipeus shields used by auxiliary infantry and cavalry in the imperial period were of Celtic origin. These were more similar in size and construction to Celtic shields. This is not surprising, as may Auxilia of this time were of Gallic origin.

Pilum
I'm no expert on the history of the pilum, but Ross Cowan makes a convincing argument that the pilum is the heavily modified descendant of long shanked javelins adapted from the Samnites. The Romans believed the weapon to be of Samnite origin, and I am inclined to agree. That said, I think there is evidence for long shanked javelins used by Celts as well, so this can't be fully settled. See: http://www.academia.edu/5957991/The_Samnite_Pilum


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#4
It is likely that the Romans adopted mail armour from the Gauls too.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#5
I heard that Celts were the original inventors of mail. However, I read about a Etruscan mail find, apparently made of an odd pattern (not 4-in-1). Does anyone have more details about that? Pictures?

I'd also personally appreciate it if anyone has more information about the Celtic origins of Roman helmets, especially the imperial types. It seems pretty clear that the Montefortino is vary similar to Celtic types, but with italic style cheek guards added. And the evolution of Montefortino to Coolus to Imperial Gallic/Italic (as well as the various auxiliary variations) also seems clear. But I've never been sure about the Port types, which really look proto-Imperial helmets. Are they purely celtic, or are they Celtic copy of then existing Roman styles? Or are they Celtic adoptions of the improvements already made by Romans, along with some new features?
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#6
The Etruscan example isn't really mail. It is just long chains joined with a few cross links. It was attached to the bottom of a cuirass so I think it was an attempt to replace pteryges with something more effective. The earliest examples of proper mail seem to have been Gallic.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#7
Dan Howard: I know that you're a maille expert, but what counts as mail and what not? Is this Etruscan piece of joined metal links not mail?
It looks like the Japanese style of fastening the chains together with connecting rings going to every second pair of chain rings. Not 4-in-1, but maybe possibly perhaps a precursor to that...?
And the Etruscans also used double rings, as clearly can be seen in this picture.
Yes, it's fastened to a cuirass and it's only a part of that armour, but could it be an earlier example of mail than the celtic ones we know of?


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Antonius Insulae (Sakari)
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#8
Quote:Dan Howard: I know that you're a maille expert, but what counts as mail and what not? Is this Etruscan piece of joined metal links not mail?
If it doesn't form a mesh then it isn't mail. It could be a precursor to mail.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#9
I'd second that. Those gaps between the linked points don't look like they'd protect like mail would.
Dan D'Silva

Far beyond the rising sun
I ride the winds of fate
Prepared to go where my heart belongs,
Back to the past again.

--  Gamma Ray

Well, I'm tough, rough, ready and I'm able
To pick myself up from under this table...

--  Thin Lizzy

Join the Horde! - http://xerxesmillion.blogspot.com/
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#10
Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't it usual to take and improve existing technology and learn from neighbors?

The Roman Legionary was not a Celtic idea; the Republican Legionary was a citizen soldier from one of the better possible economic backgrounds in Rome and so able to afford the weapons and armor in question and when conscripted would be expected to fight as the Republic had voted led by the magistrate who was voted into office.

There are some similarities to Celtic culture but correct me if I'm wrong most Celts couldn't afford armor.

That would indicate to me there was a very real class difference between the Roman Legionary and much of his Celtic enemy army; not to delve into Marxist thought but the influence for a Roman Legion I think is much more Greek. They to drafted better off men into being soldiers, they to expected citizens who could afford it to fight as the city had voted and they to would have had armies of landowners. What the Romans did differently was ditch Greek gear and tactics; but I think the legion had more in common with Greeks as opposed to Celts despite the well known technology and gear influences they took from the Celts.

The reason I am mentioning this is just as a reminder that the cultural ideas that made up a Legion wasn't taken from the Celts like the technology; I don't mean in any way to diminish the importance of Celtic weapons or armor development or the importance of Romans taking it on for themselves and improving it into what we see as the classic legionary. I find what the gear could tell us fascinating; particularly when it comes to the metallurgy.
Dan
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#11
Here are some Japanese weaves. They could be classed as mail because they form a mesh.
Source: Sasama Yoshihiko, An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Japanese Arms and Armour"

[Image: 52bdebf4024f17282c09c8e89acbee0e.jpg]
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#12
Quote:The reason I am mentioning this is just as a reminder that the cultural ideas that made up a Legion wasn't taken from the Celts like the technology;
I doubt anyone would argue that it was. I do, however, think there are certain parallels between the Greek citizen-soldier and the tribal or early feudal military aristocracy; that is, they are both drawn from the wealthier classes who have a modicum or more of political power.
Dan D'Silva

Far beyond the rising sun
I ride the winds of fate
Prepared to go where my heart belongs,
Back to the past again.

--  Gamma Ray

Well, I'm tough, rough, ready and I'm able
To pick myself up from under this table...

--  Thin Lizzy

Join the Horde! - http://xerxesmillion.blogspot.com/
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#13
Quote:
MagnusStultus post=359120 Wrote:The reason I am mentioning this is just as a reminder that the cultural ideas that made up a Legion wasn't taken from the Celts like the technology;
I doubt anyone would argue that it was. I do, however, think there are certain parallels between the Greek citizen-soldier and the tribal or early feudal military aristocracy; that is, they are both drawn from the wealthier classes who have a modicum or more of political power.

I would argue that the hoplite/legionary class is too large to have a parallel with feudal nobility, and isn't wealthy or powerful enough in society to.

To use the example of the legionary because every single Greek Polis had different laws so hoplite generalization wouldn't be too accurate the wealth requirement of 11,000 ases before Cannae reduced to 4,000 ases afterwards in order to find conscripts would have much more in common with middle class then nobility considering as late as Augustus the property requirement to be an equestrian was 100,000 denarii.

The ideology as well as class was also too different for comparison; the feudal noblemen just owed fealty to his liege and followed where he led; the citizen voted and had an opportunity to speak against something he objected to and whatever side he took fought the way the popular assembly voted.
Dan
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#14
The Celts had a reasonably sophisticated society. However, we only see it in distorted form either via Early Christian influenced writings from Ireland and Wales or through the comments of Greek and Roman observers. As has been pointed out the Roman legionary was drawn from the middle classes of Roman society - Celtic society had very little that was similar to the Roman bourgeois. The Celts produced few urban centres and those they did produce were late in their history as an independent society. There was a servile class, though not on the scale of Greco-Roman slavery, which could not bear arms, a sort of semi-free peasantry, free farmers and a tribal elite of chieftains and their retinues. Additionally, they had a class of ‘men of skill’ druids, poets, and certain craftsmen. The tribal elites would have been relatively small in number but have been well trained and skilled in arms and have had good quality equipment – though ‘heroic nudity’ seems to have been practiced by some elite warriors. The remainder of the free male population would have been expected to own arms, probably just spears and a shield, but would only have been called upon to fight in large-scale conflicts and emergencies; the ‘normal’ warfare of cattle raiding etc. would have been carried out by the warrior elite only.
Unlike the Roman state, Celtic tribes or tribal confederations could not field large forces of fully equipped troops; though, given their metallurgical prowess, their elite warriors would have had superior quality equipment than most Romans.
Martin

Fac me cocleario vomere!
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#15
Very briefly about saddles...

The quickest way to potenially determine horned or not horned saddles is to look for the breeching straps (an integral part of the saddle design when horns are used).

The Glanum relief shows the fallen horse ("Celtic") with a different set of trappings to the ridden horse (Roman?).

There is also another picture I am seraching for (Roman, Replublican period I think) of a horse falling with his rider still on; IIRC, that has no breeching straps either.
Moi Watson

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Merlot in one hand, Cigar in the other; body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOO HOO, what a ride!
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