Culture: Celtic Briton
Setting: Roman wars, Britain 55BC-AD84
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Matyszak 2004 p178-179
"Even before the revolt of Boudicca, Romans and Britons were thoroughly disillusioned with each other. The emperor Claudius had launched the invasion of Britain in AD 43. He hoped for military glory to boost his reputation, and for the reputed riches of the island to replenish the level of imperial coffers diminished by his profligate predecessor Gaius (better known to posterity as Caligula). For their part, some Britons, for example the Trinovantes, had turned to Rome for relief form the oppression of other tribes. Some petty kings, looking across the channel, ahd seen that the Roman occupation of Gaul had brought peace, wealth and even high political office to those noblemen quick enough to adjust to the changed conditions.
"Now, almost twenty years later, the Roman invaders were still fighting. They had found the reputed wealth of Britannia was largely an illusion, and the gold, furs and pearls which the island did produce could be found with less trouble elsewhere. The leadership of the indomitable Caractacus inspired resistance from the fens of East Anglia to the mountains of Wales, and even long-conquered areas had a tendency to flare up in renewed revolt."
* Doughtery 2010 p198 caption
"The ancient Britons fought in a typically 'barbarian' style, using long slashing swords that were unsuited to close-order formations. Individual skill and aggression could bring victory against fellow Britons, but the disciplined Roman forces were adept at defeating chaotic barbarian onslaughts."
* Matyszak 2004 p185-186
"The Britons whom Paulinus was fighting were not very different from the Celtic warriors of Gaul who had opposed Caesar. They were lightly armed, mainly with spears. Swords and armour were for the rich. Unlike the Gauls, the Britons mainly fought on foot, though the aristocracy formed an elite cavalry force. They were also one of the last armies of antiquity to use light chariots, though these were used to move small bands of men quickly around the battlefield rather than as fighting vehicles. Dio reports these as charging the Romans, but they would have been little use in this capacity. Despite popular legend, the chariots did not have scythed wheels and would have been a major hazard to their own side had they been so equipped."
* Allen/Reynolds 2001 p21-22
"Of all the Celtic jewellery, the most impressive in the eyes of Mediterranean commentators was the neck-ring, or 'torc'. To the Romans it characterised the Celtic warrior although it was not unique to the Celts. The torc could be of gold, bronze or iron according to the wealth of the wearer. It is quite possible that it possessed a symbolic significance since not all were made of precious metal. It was almost certainly an indication of rank (the Gauls presented a golden torc to the Emperor Augustus supposedly 45 kg [100lbs] in weight), with perhaps in some cases ritual or religious overtones. Many representations of Celtic deities are portrayed wearing the torc."
"It was the Phoenician traders who first taught the Britons how to make metal weapons. Ornamental bracelets and torcs made from twisted gold wire were often worn."
* New Larousse encyclopedia of mythology 1968 p241
"The torc appears on the Gundestrup cauldron and on several Romano-Celtic sculptures as well as being mentioned in Irish mythology. There exist many splendid torcs of bronze and gold, including the beautiful examples from Broighter, Co. Derry and Snettisham, Norfolk. They appear to have been some form of amulet, perhaps serving a purpose similar to that of the votive wheels of Britain and Gaul."
* Scullard 1979 p15
'The physical appearance of the Celts is revealed in skeletal remains, in representations in plastic art and, above all, in descriptions given gy classical writers, who were gretly struck by their height, fair skin, blue eyes and blond hair, so different from the shorter, darker men of the Mediterranean world. Celtic graves often contain remains of both long-headed and round-headed men, and it may be assumed that the former represent the Celtic type, the latter descendants of the older Bronze Age population. So in Britain both types lived together, but the chieftains and warriors were drawn from the tall, fair, long-headed men who impressed and terrified the Greeks and the Romans in battle. The nobles grew long moustaches but otherwise were clean-shaven, and the warriors stiffened their hair into quills with lime."
* Ashdown 1910 p4-5
"The men were habited in a loose-fitting sleeveless tunic, confined at the waist by a belt. Diodorus tells us the Belgic Gauls wore dyed tunics beflowered with all manner of colours, and possibly the Britons may have imitated them. The tunic partly covered the braccæ, or trousers, an article of apparel by which all barbaric nations seem to have been distinguished from the Romans. They reached from the waist to the feet, and were either close-fitting or loose; if the latter, they were partly confined by bandages passed round the limb at wide intervals. By the use of the term 'braccæ,' signifying spotted, we may infer that these garments were fashioned from the native cloth, the predominating colour in which was red.
"The Sagum was a cloak dyed blue or black, which had superseded the skins still worn by the inhabitants of the interior. The hair was long, and fell in curls down the back; the face was clean shaven, except for the moustache, which was apparently cultivated to its utmost extent, and occasionally reached to the chest. Probably no covering for the head was in use."
"By this time the art of spinning coarse cloth had been introduced to Britain. This woollen cloth was dyed various colours using herbs, the blue extracted from woad being particluarly popular. The tunic, mantle and loose pantaloons were made from this coarse cloth, while the shoes were made of raw cowhide."
* Scullard 1979 p14
"[W]oolen and linen clothes were certainly used before Caesar; the application of woad was presumably restricted to battle, of painted on the body, though the reference may be to tattooing"....
* Matyszak 2004 p186
"[An] offputting [to the Romans] habit of the Britons was that they painted themselves blue with woad before going into battle. Apart from terrifying their enemies, the Britons benefited from the antiseptic qualities of the woad, which helped to prevent wounds from becoming infected."