"Celtic" battle tactics?

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"Celtic" battle tactics?

Postby Lugorix » Wed Oct 25, 2006 12:28 am

Okay, I've gotten involved in a really cool project that I could use some help with. The local Roman and Celtic groups have been asked to help a group of 120 students to have a tactical event next March. The classes are being split into equal halves of Romans vs. Celts.

What I am starting to delve into is the tactics and such that the Celts would have used against the Romans. We know they didn't just charge the line is some chaotic last-ditch effort like is often depicted. Heck, they had standards and the carnyx for a reason.

Where can I find info on Celtic tactics? Any good sources, via the Web or some books? Suprisingly my home library has little to offer in that repect except for Simon James's World of the Celts (which for all ten pages ain't bad!).

Any help much appreciated.


Postby madoc » Wed Oct 25, 2006 10:00 am

Get a copy of caesar's gallic wars and read about what the Gauls are up to. That's about the best. All the other roman writers just stick to the "mad rush" tactic.

We do a "battle" walk through with the public at events (arm them with all our kiddie gear), maybe 50 to a hundred of them. We start them a few hundred yards away from the roman line and talk about the effects of ranged artillery, we then bring them towards a hundred yards and talk about auxillia cohorts of archers and slingers. At about fifty yards we mention the caltrops that have been dropped beforehand and their effect on people in soft soled shoes. At thirty yards it's the pila. and finally they get to fight. We simulate casualties as at stages of the attack and there is a trail of "dead" right up to our roman line.

The best is the pila as we get the front rankers to drop their shields to simulate the pila lodging in them. When they do finally reach the roman line the first thing we say is "anyone without a shield is dead within seconds". We also make sure that anyone without a shield is among the first to die from ranged weapons

After the firstwalk through, we do it again a little bit faster and have then act taking injuries and falling over each other etc.

We do talk about what the britons have; slings and javelins and a few archers and are at pains to say that these have very little effect on blokes in armour with big shields.

We also do a section on hollywood fighting (fighting without armour with just a sword, spins, kicks, mighty blows, killing lots of people at the same time, stage fighting the weapon) vs real fighting (which is obviously more like a martial arts or boxing match).
We emphasis that swords in this period are generally weak and not up to repeated clashing against other swords (a re-enctorism) or metal edged shields and also how effective a shield is.
Unfortnately, hollywood and t.v. has been lying to us all for decades and it's hard to overcome that in an hour.

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Postby nerf herder » Wed Nov 01, 2006 2:22 am

The Celts could be quite sophisticated in battle - at Telamon they formed up facing TWO directions, having been surprised by the appearance of a second Roman army.

They also suffered a decline, just as all cultures/empires did. At mount Magaba in 189 A.D., the Galatian Celts formed up in a solid mass, and didn't move at all - they were hit at the halt by a Roman charge, and that was about it for them........


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Postby Lugorix » Wed Nov 15, 2006 7:45 pm

Thanks guys. I don't think I can take seriously what Caesar wrote anyway,but it's interesting to know how the enemy was percieved. I like the idea of a "walk through" like Madoc has given. If we did more presentations I can see where this would be suitable. Most of what we do is attend fairs as living history interpretors. The schools here almost give the impression that nothing happened between the Stone Age and the coming of the Romans! People often ask what I mean when I use the term "Iron Age". So you can see this will be a fun project for all groups involved.


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