Historum - History Forums  

Go Back   Historum - History Forums > World History Forum > European History
Register Forums Blogs Social Groups Mark Forums Read

European History European History Forum - Western and Eastern Europe including the British Isles, Scandinavia, Russia


Reply
 
LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
Old April 26th, 2015, 08:15 AM   #1
Citizen
 
Joined: Apr 2015
From: Waterford, Munster, Republic of Ireland
Posts: 3
Were the Gaelic Celts honourable?


I realise 'honourable' is a loose term, like I remember hearing that a samurai murdering an entire village of innocent people does not contradict bushido, but my modern standards...

I'm asking this because I'm born and raised Irish (one quarter welsh, but we,re all Gaelic), and I want to know more about my ancestors.

Like, I heard somewhere that the Gaelic celts could be so intimidating, they could win battles without even ENTERING battle. Does this mean that, if an opponent drops on his knees and begs for mercy, the celtic warrior is honour bound to spare him? Or if a boy runs at him with a stone, would he just knock the boy down, which he could do easily, or would he kill the boy? Do they kill their opponents quickly?

I'd be interested to hear your information on this. Thank you in advance!

Also, fun fact: Romans thought we were barbarians for sacrificing willing men for important religious reasons, but they through innocent, begging slaves into pits to be mauled to death by lions. Ironic isn't even an adequate adjective for this.
CelticAndProud is offline  
Remove Ads
Old April 26th, 2015, 10:34 AM   #2

Salah's Avatar
Public Enemy No. 1
¤ Blog of the Year ¤
 
Joined: Oct 2009
From: USA
Posts: 23,268
Blog Entries: 182

Unfortunately we don't have any sources on this subject that weren't either Romanized or Christianized to varying extents. We don't have any literary sources that depict the pre-Christian 'Celtic' peoples through their own eyes.

Warriors in the Celtic-speaking sphere, in general, seem to have had a thing for collecting heads. One Greek historian described how disembodied enemy heads were treated with reverence, being preserved and put on display.

Occasional atrocities were attributed to Celtic peoples by Roman sources - the most heinous dating to the uprising of the British Iceni in 60-61 CE. But as always, there's no way to determine where "history" ends and "chauvinistic propaganda" begins.

Single combat between champions was a big deal, and it certainly had an accompanying share of taboos and rituals associated with it.
Salah is offline  
Old April 26th, 2015, 10:42 AM   #3

Scaeva's Avatar
Historian
 
Joined: Oct 2012
Posts: 4,848

Did the Celts or Druids Perform Human Sacrifice? | Celtic Studies Resources
Scaeva is offline  
Old April 26th, 2015, 11:24 AM   #4
Suspended indefinitely
 
Joined: Sep 2013
From: Ireland
Posts: 7,436

This is a link about Cloneycavan man, a king who was sacrificed by his Tuath. The King usually got the chop if the Tuath were beginning to get a little over superstitious. This usually happened after crop failures or long winters; anything that made their lives harder. The Celts in Ireland were very superstitious people who lived in a very harsh world. I think 'honourable' in the context of the time is certainly the wrong word to use. If they were in battle and a boy ran at one of them with a stone, the boy would surely be cut down. Like barbarian tribes on the continent, everyone could be involved in the battle so everyone was fair game.

[ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clonycavan_Man]Clonycavan Man - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]
Eamonn10 is offline  
Old April 26th, 2015, 12:00 PM   #5

Matthew Amt's Avatar
Historian
 
Joined: Jan 2015
From: MD, USA
Posts: 1,960

Quote:
Originally Posted by CelticAndProud View Post
Also, fun fact: Romans thought we were barbarians for sacrificing willing men for important religious reasons, but they through innocent, begging slaves into pits to be mauled to death by lions. Ironic isn't even an adequate adjective for this.
It's ironic that you ask about "honor" and then come up with a comment like this. The Romans thought of non-Romans as "barbarians" merely because they were not Roman or Greek. Certainly many Romans held barbarians in contempt, for any number of reasons, or none at all, which was exactly what every society back then did. It should also be noted that some Roman writers were actually impressed by parts of Celtic culture, including their bravery.

According to the evidence we have (written and archeological), not everyone staked down in a bog by Celtic people was a willing participant. Such deaths could be inflicted as punishment for certain crimes, and some could simply have been murders. We don't always know!

The Romans did use slaves as gladiators, many of the men being foreign warriors taken in battle. It's hard to think that this was as bad as being sent to the mines, for instance, since gladiators were often famous celebrities, and could look forward to a wealthy retirement after a few years in the arena. Animal hunters could be very similar, but yes, I believe the Romans did use the public animal hunt games as a form of execution for criminals, too.

So the Celts made execution private and secretive, hiding the crime and punishment away. The Romans made it into a public spectacle, generating some revenue and creating a huge morality statement and object lesson. (And it wasn't a "pit", but a large open arena, ringed by thousands of seats.)

Just different ways of doing things. Why throw vitriol after all these centuries?

Matthew
Matthew Amt is online now  
Old April 26th, 2015, 12:17 PM   #6
Historian
 
Joined: Oct 2014
From: appalacian Mtns
Posts: 3,240

Quote:
Originally Posted by CelticAndProud View Post
I'm asking this because I'm born and raised Irish (one quarter welsh, but we,re all Gaelic), and I want to know more about my ancestors.
Hi, I am also 3/4 Gael and 1/4 Welsh. And 100% American. Glad too meet you. Be warned there are a lot of anti-Celtic Saxons on this site, but there are a few of us here.
M9Powell is offline  
Old April 26th, 2015, 12:18 PM   #7

Devdas's Avatar
Historian
 
Joined: Apr 2015
From: India
Posts: 3,120

Romans mainly contributed to negative publicity of Celtic people.
Devdas is offline  
Old April 26th, 2015, 12:29 PM   #8
Suspended indefinitely
 
Joined: Mar 2014
From: Canterbury
Posts: 8,881
Blog Entries: 2

Well you've came to the right website What time period are you mainly interested in: ancient Gaels, medieval ones, or later? Because the answers are different for each. As it's the era with the most material from the Gaels' own perspective, all my answers here apply to the medieval period (500-1500).

Quote:
Does this mean that, if an opponent drops on his knees and begs for mercy, the celtic warrior is honour bound to spare him?
No. Historically, they probably would spare him, because they took slaves and hostages. But they weren't honour-bound to do so.

Quote:
Or if a boy runs at him with a stone, would he just knock the boy down, which he could do easily, or would he kill the boy?
If the boy was fighting in an enemy army, Gaelic norms of war held that a soldier was perfectly entitled to kill him. But culturally it was frowned upon for a soldier to kill someone well beneath him in age or experience.

Quote:
Do they kill their opponents quickly?
In my years reading Gaelic war-poetry, I've seen they had plenty of anger but almost no sadism. War was just a thing that they did. They didn't see any sense dragging it out.

Last edited by Domhnall Balloch; April 26th, 2015 at 12:35 PM.
Domhnall Balloch is offline  
Old April 26th, 2015, 01:03 PM   #9
Historian
 
Joined: Oct 2014
From: appalacian Mtns
Posts: 3,240

They had their own sense of honor, which may or may not be simular to another cultures.
M9Powell is offline  
Old April 26th, 2015, 01:35 PM   #10
Suspended indefinitely
 
Joined: Mar 2014
From: Canterbury
Posts: 8,881
Blog Entries: 2

The Jackal in Far Cry 2 accidentally summed up their honour system pretty well:

Quote:
Men have this idea that we can fight with dignity, that there's a proper way to kill someone. It's absurd, its aesthetic, we need it to endure the bloody horror of murder. You must destroy that idea, show them what a messy horrible thing it is to kill a man, and then show them that you relish in it. Shoot the wound, and then execute the wounded, burn them, take them in close combat. Destroy their preconceptions of what a man is and become their personal monster.

When they fear you, you become stronger, you become better. But let's never forget, it's a display, it's a posture, like a lions roar, or a gorilla thumping at his chest. If you lose yourself in the display, if you succumb to the horror, then you become the monster. You become reduced, not more than a man, but less. And it could be fatal.
I need to break the habit of using pop culture quotes in historical threads, but it's genuinely a good summation of what comes through of Gaelic war culture from their poetry and others' accounts of them

They wouldn't baulk at violence that was deemed necessary or just (including against disarmed people and innocents targeted for revenge purposes) but thought unnecessary, sadistic, or humiliating violence - particularly against the weak (not necessarily the disarmed) - distasteful and unnerving, and disliked people who let it go to their heads.

Last edited by Domhnall Balloch; April 26th, 2015 at 01:49 PM.
Domhnall Balloch is offline  
Reply

  Historum > World History Forum > European History

Tags
celts, gaelic, honourable



Thread Tools
Display Modes


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Gaelic Games - Hurling General Michael Collins Art and Cultural History 2 September 10th, 2012 12:04 PM
Gaelic Games : Football General Michael Collins Art and Cultural History 23 May 24th, 2012 04:16 AM
Gaelic archers Salah War and Military History 3 May 10th, 2012 07:08 PM
Scots and Gaelic Chookie European History 0 September 8th, 2009 12:28 PM

Copyright © 2006-2013 Historum. All rights reserved.