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Old June 12th, 2011, 08:21 PM   #1

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Celtic Missile Weapons


In pre-Christian Celtic culture, hand-to-hand combat was the ideal way to win a battle, or put a tribal feud to rest. Most battles were preceded by single combat between champions. The mature warriors of a Celtic warband charged with shields, swords, and thrusting spears. The only manly, honorable way to kill a foe was to assault him face to face with melee weapons.

At the same token, we have profuse evidence that ranged weapons were widely used by the Celts. Javelins were particularly favored. Young warriors, teenagers who had not yet built up their muscles sufficiently to slog around a battlefield with slashing swords, carried clutches of javelins to hurl at the enemy.

The bow is rarely depicted in Celtic art or mytholgy, but it was apparently a common weapon nonetheless. Caesar relates that Vercingetorix called up all the archers of Gaul "of whom there are a very great number" for the defense of his hill forts. Arrowheads have been found at Alesia and elsewhere.

The fact that bows are seldom mentioned elsewhere, and that Vercingetorix called the archers up late in his rebellion, suggests that the bow was generally only a hunting weapon for the Gauls. Gradually in the centuries following the Roman withdrawl in the 5th Century, the bow (specifically the modernly-termed "longbow") was to become the iconic weapon of the "Welsh" Britons.

The sling is the most famous Celtic ranged weapon, and at least amongst the pre-Christian Britons it seems to have been the most common. The sling was arguably the most widely-used, and most neglected of all ancient weapons. They were used especially by the British tribes in the defense of their hill-forts from Roman legionaries.

The pre-Christian Celtic world produced at least one truly bizarre ranged weapon, the soliferrum. This was utilized by the Celtiberian tribes inhabiting Spain during the Punic Wars. It was apparently a javelin made entirely of iron, intended for use at short range against heavily-armored foes.

Last edited by Salah; June 12th, 2011 at 10:03 PM.
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Old June 13th, 2011, 02:44 AM   #2

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Some few details :

Bows and archers :

Celtic Archers (Rutenes) were hired by Caesar in 49BC, when he besieged Ilerda (Spain).

Arrowheads were found in many places within the Gallic territory (Alesia, Uxellodunum, Mont Terri,). Up to now, on the other hand, none were found in the West of Gaul (Normandy, Brittany).
Strabon wrote that Gallic archers used to execute condemned men with arrows. This has been confirmed by archaeology as 80 arrowheads were found on Bourguignon- les-Morey site, where they would have been used to execute several men.

Slings :

Slings were also used by the Gauls. There were used to throw stone or hardened clay missiles, or even incendiary ones (see BG V,43). A proof of these incendiary missiles was perhaps found in Verdun-sur-le-Doubs.
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Old June 13th, 2011, 03:08 AM   #3

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By the way, it seems that the Gauls didn't use lead missiles, contrary to the Romans (a certain number of lead Roman missiles were found, including two missiles attributed to Titus Labienus, found around Alesia - one of these shown hereafter)

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