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Old April 30th, 2015, 09:39 AM   #1
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Boudicca was a murderer... but were the Gaels the same?


Sorry to post this general topic again, but I came up with a different way of asking it.

Boudicca suffered, I know. But when she attacked Condulum and Londinium, she murdered unarmed women children, and mutiliated and impaled innocent female aristocrats out of revenge, even though she KNEW women had NO say in Roman politics and military decisions. Though she was a brilliant military leader, she was a disgrace to the honour of the North-western Celts...or was she?

Would my ancestors, the Gaelic celts (and PLEASE no more sub-discussions or disputes in this thread over celtic ancestory! It's a waste of pages) have perpetrated such acts as well? Like, I know they HATED Romans, but would they really commit the same UNSPEAKABLE ATTROCITIES as Boudicca if they were in her position? Like, storming civillian barricades and leaving NO ONE, not even children, alive? Or mutilating and murdering innocent Roman citizens?

I know most of our info on the Gaels comes from Roman scholars, who were infamous for making their foes look like barbarians, but combining that with the knowledge we have today from other sources (again, please stick to the original question of this thread), would they have commited the attrocities the Iceni Warrior Queen did?

Last edited by CelticAndProud; April 30th, 2015 at 09:43 AM.
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Old April 30th, 2015, 09:41 AM   #2

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Firstly, as you point out, its anyone's guess as to whether Boudica's followers really perpetrated the atrocities that have been attributed to them.

Secondly, from my studies of history, it seems that no human society at any time or place is incapable of that kind of cruelty. The Gaelic-speaking peoples of historic Ireland would have been no different than people anywhere else.
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Old April 30th, 2015, 10:33 AM   #3

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I have read the 'Gaels' liked to adorn the entrance to their halls with the severed heads of their enemies and if a particularly tough or prestigious foe was defeated liked to turn his skull into a drinking cup.

They most certainly practiced human sacrifice.

I really think you have to get away from judging history through the light of modern morals.

Use 'context' to understand the time eg If I found out that my neighbour had arranged a marriage for his 14 year old daughter to a middle aged Politician/Soldier I'd be disgusted and call the Garda.

In first century Rome I'd be impressed and hope I got an invite.
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Old April 30th, 2015, 10:37 AM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevinmeath View Post
I have read the 'Gaels' liked to adorn the entrance to their halls with the severed heads of their enemies and if a particularly tough or prestigious foe was defeated liked to turn his skull into a drinking cup.

They most certainly practiced human sacrifice.

I really think you have to get away from judging history through the light of modern morals.

Use 'context' to understand the time eg If I found out that my neighbour had arranged a marriage for his 14 year old daughter to a middle aged Politician/Soldier I'd be disgusted and call the Garda.

In first century Rome I'd be impressed and hope I got an invite.
Agreed, and I love your example here as well.
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Old April 30th, 2015, 10:54 AM   #5

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Yes.

There was no concept of human rights as we know them today. The conquered and defeated had no rights beyond those granted to them by their conquerors. That was true across nearly the entire ancient world. Prisoners of war were usually enslaved and sometimes massacred. Towns or cities that fell after a siege were typically looted and the women raped. Many would be enslaved, and sometimes the entire population of a town or city could be massacred. War in the ancient world was a much more brutal affair than it typically is today. The fall of Berlin in the Second World War or the Rape of Nanking are probably the closest modern examples to what the sack of an ancient city would look like.

The Romans vilified Boudicca not necessarily because she was more brutal than other warlords or generals of her era, though its possible some of the tortures attributed to her army were unusual, but because the victims were Romans or Romanized Britons and the historical account came to us through the Romans. The Romans could be just as brutal when they sacked a city. When Julius Caesar took the Gallic city of Avaricum after a siege for example, near the entire population of 40,000 was butchered. Only 800 were said to have survived.

Last edited by Scaeva; April 30th, 2015 at 10:59 AM.
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Old April 30th, 2015, 11:15 AM   #6

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Originally Posted by CelticAndProud View Post
...................... Like, I know they HATED Romans, but would they really commit the same UNSPEAKABLE ATTROCITIES as Boudicca if they were in her position? Like, storming civillian barricades and leaving NO ONE, not even children, alive? Or mutilating and murdering innocent Roman citizens?

.......................
Why do you think they 'hated' Romans?

Ireland and Rome;-

History Ireland


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Old April 30th, 2015, 11:22 AM   #7
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I have read the 'Gaels' liked to adorn the entrance to their halls with the severed heads of their enemies and if a particularly tough or prestigious foe was defeated liked to turn his skull into a drinking cup.
I would appreciate a source for that assertion. I have argued elsewhere that the Irish only took heads to prove the identity of their slain victim in order claim the bounty from the English. In Irish mythology there are plenty of examples of stories about decapitating enemies, but these cannot be held up as history. You say that you read somewhere that the 'Gaels' ( a word having a much wider catchment than just the Irish) liked to decorate their halls with severed heads, etc. What is the evidence?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevinmeath View Post
They most certainly practiced human sacrifice.
Again, what is the evidence for this statement?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevinmeath View Post
I really think you have to get away from judging history through the light of modern morals.

Use 'context' to understand the time eg If I found out that my neighbour had arranged a marriage for his 14 year old daughter to a middle aged Politician/Soldier I'd be disgusted and call the Garda.

In first century Rome I'd be impressed and hope I got an invite.
Good point, and I couldn't agree more. But the OP has couched his question about the Gaels using generalisations and loaded and emotive language, viz. were the Gaelic Celts murderers? Did they kill innocent children? Did they mutilate and impale innocent females, etc? It would be better to answer the question as historically accurately as possible by quoting sources without further mussying the water by making unsupported assertions. By sources I mean primary ones, not the secondary ones.
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Old April 30th, 2015, 11:25 AM   #8
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The Gaels actually liked the Romans. Rich lucrative targets for raiding, cute Italian hotties for the taking. Rome's lack of adequate naval power in the Irish sea, left them and their western settlements vulnerable particularly in the 300-420 era and even later for romanized Welsh and Britons.
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Old April 30th, 2015, 11:52 AM   #9

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I would appreciate a source for that assertion. I have argued elsewhere that the Irish only took heads to prove the identity of their slain victim in order claim the bounty from the English. In Irish mythology there are plenty of examples of stories about decapitating enemies, but these cannot be held up as history. You say that you read somewhere that the 'Gaels' ( a word having a much wider catchment than just the Irish) liked to decorate their halls with severed heads, etc. What is the evidence?.
Well for a start the period in question there were no 'English' to give heads to in order to claim bounty.

The 'Cult of the Head' I would have thought well known.

".............The taking of heads as trophies is well documented, with enough classical, mythological and archaeological evidence to back it up. It is however harder to prove the reasons for the practice, did it imply a sacred act, a way of demonstrating prowess on the battlefield, or a combination of the two? ................

...................
There is evidence to suggest that the positioning of skulls, discovered during excavations of Celtic earthworks, indicate that heads were displayed upon entrance gates of hillforts and sanctuaries. The shrine at Roquepertuse in modern day France was entered through a brightly painted stone archway, into which human skulls were placed in niches within the upright pillars.

A stone tete coupee, complete with grasping hand was unearthed in Entremont, along with numerous head groupings. Many have been found throughout the British Isles, with a great many found within the kingdom of the Brigantes in the north of modern day England......."


Celtic Heritage


Quote:
Originally Posted by Harpo View Post
Again, what is the evidence for this statement?.................. .

"Here’s the short answer: yes, the Celts do appear to have performed human sacrifice as part of their religious rituals. And, since the Druids were the religious/scholar/priestly social class, they almost certainly would have participated in human sacrifices, and probably officiated at them...."

Did the Celts or Druids Perform Human Sacrifice? | Celtic Studies Resources
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Old April 30th, 2015, 11:53 AM   #10

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The Gaels actually liked the Romans. Rich lucrative targets for raiding, cute Italian hotties for the taking.
Ha, love it! Of course the reality is that the Gaels only liked Romans "well done", since they had to cook out all the smell of fish sauce and garlic.

Answering the original question seriously and convincingly is almost impossible. It's probably safe to start with the assumption that Gaelic society (depending on your own personal definition of "Gaelic", of course!) was probably like most others before or since: Most people followed most of the rules most of the time. "Murder" had a different definition than it does today, and the brutality of warfare were not regarded as we see it today, either. Certainly there were actions which were horrifying and seen as atrocities, but you get the feeling after a while that the horror of an enemy's brutalities was played up as a reason to dish out the same or worse in revenge. Since many of these societies placed a high value on a warrior's prowess, an excuse for waging the next war was always handy.

Add to that the tendency to distrust anything recorded about Celts or Gaels by non-Celts and Gaels (i.e., everything, for several centuries), and there's no way PROVE how things actually were.

Would the news reports from the last few days be different if Baltimore was mainly inhabited by Gaels? Dunno.

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