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5 years ago  ::  Oct 10, 2009 - 1:22PM #1
Warriorprincessdanu
Posts: 9

I am currently taking a class in Just War Theory (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_War).  So, I was wondering if the Celts had anything comparable.  What was the Celtic philosophical thought on war?


I understand that there may not be an answer to this, as there are so few written records from the ancient Celts.  But if anyone knows the answer, or knows where I might be able to find the answer, I would greatly appreciate it.


Emily


P.S.  I used to post on here as "The Celt" but I lost my password and had to creat a new account.

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5 years ago  ::  Oct 17, 2009 - 11:41PM #2
gorm-sionnach
Posts: 1,663

Oct 10, 2009 -- 1:22PM, Warriorprincessdanu wrote:


I am currently taking a class in Just War Theory (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_War).  So, I was wondering if the Celts had anything comparable.  What was the Celtic philosophical thought on war?


I understand that there may not be an answer to this, as there are so few written records from the ancient Celts.  But if anyone knows the answer, or knows where I might be able to find the answer, I would greatly appreciate it.


Emily


P.S.  I used to post on here as "The Celt" but I lost my password and had to creat a new account.




 


Considering that the Celts were a largely Warrior-elite dominated society (and existing law tracts clearly show this to be the case, though how far back this social state can be authentically traced is difficult, but I digress). As far as I am aware there isn't anything this comprehensive available from the Celtic sources. Further, any of the availabel sources, namely the Irish, are going to be influenced by the Christian scribes and more accurately reflect the political views of the period in which they were written. Mind you there are rooms full of manuscripts which have yet to be translated, so there may very well be something comprable in Old Irish.


Having said that, it is reasonable to look at the warrior elite type and the assorted myths to postulate that the Celts (or at least the higher ranked groups) were warriors, and warfare was constant. In the Gaelic case, the wars tended to be insular (with the exception of expansion into Scotland) the Gaels primarily fought amongst themselves. Cattle raiding was common (as Cattle was one fo the basic units of Gaelic wealth). One should also consider the Fianna, large bands of irregular guerilla troops who were essentially roving mercenary forces, supported primarily by hunting in summer, and living off the citizenry during winter. Such a group would not have been necessary (or practical) unless a fairly constant state of warring was on going.


As far as formalized rules or war, I'm not familiair with anything about it, but I havent focused much on that aspect yet.


 

Truth in our hearts, Strength in our arms, Fulfillment in our tongues.
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4 years ago  ::  Dec 10, 2009 - 1:53PM #3
Bairre
Posts: 122

Peter Berresford-Ellis' book The Celts has a chapter on this, and he as postulated a book devoted to the topic.


As far as what is known from contemporary sources at the time; i.e. Roman and Greek sources, Celtic warriors were fierce in battle and there were often groups of Gaesatae who fought totally naked, which scared the Romans who wrote of them.  They were similar to the Norse Berzerkr in many regards and have been speculated to have been Druid-warriors, though this is only speculative, based on their similarity to the Berzerkr.


They often decided battles in single combat.  This confused the Romans at first, as during their early skirmishes and battles if the Celts won or lost in single combat they assumed the battle to be decided and left.  However, there are multiple accounts of their tactics and the Romans extensively used Celtic War tactics.


The Celts preferred light armour, and would often fight with nothing more than a shield and helmet.  Elites and cheiftans would often use Roman and Greek armour, and later after chainmaile had been invented this was commonly used by elites, though usually unaffordable by the common soldier.  Leather armour was common as well. 


The Celts were masters of metalworking, and both the Greeks and the Romans commented on their superior swords.  Early on, the Celts used short, broad swords similar to Greek spathas or the Roman gladius.  These typically had anthropomorphic hilts.  Later, the Celts developed a longer sword similar to the later Norse broad swords.  These too, has anthropomorphic hilts and were commonly decorated with etchings.  The most famous Celtic sword is the Claymore.  This was a development that happened in the Late Middle Ages, around the 13th Century CE.  This mirrored other long sword types that had been developed in Mainland Europe, primarily Germanic regions.  However, one distinctive version of the long sword is the Irish long sword which had a ring pommel with the tang passing through the pommel so as to resemble as bisected circle. 


However, swords were not a common weapon usually, as they were expensive.  It was often the case that soldiers fought with axes, clubs, hammers, but especially spears.  The Celts were renown for their spear fighting and developed different types of spears for different martial funtions.  Spears played an important part in the Mythology of the Insular Celts, especially the Irish.  Lugh was said to have a magical spear which has much in common with Odin's magical spear Gungnir.  Cuchulainn also had a magic spear which was given to him by his martial trainer, the Warrioress Scathach, which was named Gae Bulg. 

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