Throughout history the Celts have become famous for having been skilled & brutal warriors, it was said by historians of the time that they went into battle in a spiritual frenzy, banging on their shields & roaring at their enemies, all of which were believed to be a tactic used to frighten their opponents.
But aside from skilled warriors with a love of battle the ancient Celts have gone down in history for using other strategies in warfare, most famous of which was their reputation for meeting their enemies wearing nothing more than their weapons.
Some have believed that this shocking break from battlefield etiquette is nothing but a myth but evidence surviving from ancient texts tells of a particular group of Celts known as the Gaestate who appear to confirm the rumours of naked warriors. The Greek historian Polybius writing on a battle between the Celts & Romans wrote, “The Celts had drawn up the Gaesatae to face their enemies. The Insubres & the Boii wore trousers & light cloaks, but the Gaesatae in their overconfidence had stood in front of the whole army naked, with nothing but their arms”. Polybius goes on to say that the intention to go into battle without clothing was to intimidate & terrify their enemy, however, the historian Diodorus Siculus who also wrote on the subject, said that the reasons for fighting naked were not to do with intimidation but instead came from the Gaestates complete faith that nature would protect them more than any armour.
But whatever the motivation for these men to go to battle in the buff the effect on those who saw them, coupled with the roars of warriors & sounds of battle trumpets, would have no doubt had the desired effect to both confuse & terrify their enemies, but the Gaestates were not the only ones to use shocking visuals to distract the enemy, Julius Ceasar, who had also written of naked warriors in Gaul, also wrote of the blue-painted Celts of Britain with hair spiked up, dyed with lime, heavily tattooed & adorned with torques & armlets, the description of which conjures up images of the most mystical & fierce sounding warriors. Seeing as the Romans had once seen Britain as an Otherworldly place filled with supernatural beings the sight of these painted warriors would have given a terrible appearance in battle & would have reinforced the unease that many Romans would have felt over such a distant & foreign feeling land.
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