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Old September 10th, 2013, 04:53 PM   #1

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Celtic chariots


Chariots were a staple feature of Bronze Age warfare, from Gaul to China. In most regions they fell out of use, replaced by more efficient cavalry methods. Celtic Europe clung to its chariot tradition longer than most ancient societies, though the Gauls themselves seem to have completed the switch to cavalry by the 3rd Century BCE. The 295 BCE Battle of Sentinum was one of the last times in history that the Romans faced Gauls riding in chariots.

The usage of chariots continued in the British Isles, however. During his 55 and 54 BCE invasions, Julius Caesar was fascinated by the chariots used by his British enemies. The British chieftains Cassivellaunus supposedly gathered a force of 4,000 chariots, using them for hit-and-run attacks on the Roman legionaries while they foraged. Caesar described their tactics in his Commentaries:

In chariot fighting the Britons begin by driving all over the field hurling javelins. Generally, the terror inspired by the horses and the noise of the wheels are sufficient to throw their opponent's ranks into disorder. Then, after making their way between the squadrons of their own cavalry, they jump down from the chariots and engage on foot. In the meantime, the charioteers retire a short distance from the battle and place their vehicles in such a position that their masters, if hard pressed by numbers, have an easy means of retreat to their own lines. Thus, they combine the mobility of cavalry with the staying power of infantry.

Chariots were used not only in southern Britain, but also in Caledonia, where they were used in a massed charge at the Battle of Mons Graupius in 83 CE. Their usage in Ireland may have even persisted into the Christian era. Irish heroic cycles preserve several interesting pieces of information about chariot warfare. Charioteers were considered immune from violence, while a chariot showing its left (shielded) flank to a rival was considered a display of aggression or contempt.

Diodoros Sikulos also suggests that chariot-drivers had a special place in Gaulish society. He describes how charioteers were lower-class, but free-born commoners, who were chosen by the elite warriors to serve as their drivers. Chariot-warriors themselves were a social as well as a military elite, and their usage of the chariot was a visual indication of their influence.

By the time of Caesar, the British chariot was a light, fairly maneuverable vehicle, consisting of a platform and two, iron-rimmed wheels. Most chariots seem to have been pulled by two horses, and invariable carried only two men - the warrior and his driver, who doubled as a shield-bearer. According to Caesar, particularly daring charioteers would sometimes perform stunts, including running up and down the pole that connected the vehicle to the horses.
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Old September 10th, 2013, 04:54 PM   #2

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Old September 11th, 2013, 03:42 AM   #3
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can't imagine chariots having much effect against organized, well-armed infantry like the romans, or the macedonians for examle.
I think it's a typical product of individual warfare, for the warrior elite.
should have been nice though to watch 4000 of them ride along. It's a pity there isn't much information cassivellaunos. Must have been an important figure even before caesar to lead such a force.
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Old September 11th, 2013, 04:32 AM   #4

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They were used either as platforms for missile fire (which probaly wasn't all that accurate given the jolting the riders must have experienced) or simply to intimidate. Chariots with bladed axles (not used by the Britons) would have ranged along the edge of a formation forcing them to avoid injury and thus lose formation. In any case, the whole point is speed. Once a chariot is stationary it's useless, but then the vehicle was probably more often used as a status symbol than an actual war vehicle.
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