Sunday, 9 February 2014

The typical Celtic warrior who was often a farmer to trade!

AD 71 Brigantia. In general terms, my Brigante warriors might have been farmers - men of the soil if not in war mode.

Back then working the plough meant driving a beast of burden to pull the iron ploughshare, or else you did it yourself with a 'yoke on shoulders' technique or broke the soil with a sharp pick. 

In Brigantia, the landscape varies tremendously (the northern England of today) so some of the flatter, valley field areas might have been worked by oxen-driven ploughs, but much of the land was hilly and rugged. Those Celtic farmers were more likely to have done much of the turning of the soil by themselves, or by using their small Celtic horses. Breeds of Celtic horses tended to be a lot smaller than today and generally a lot smaller than those the Roman Army imported from Europe when they arrived in greater numbers, during and after the invasion in AD 43.

All of these reasons made the tendency towards strong and healthy men working the land. Those not strong just didn’t survive!

If a Brigante Celt wasn’t a farmer tending his strip field, then he might have been a horse-handler. The Celtic tribe valued their horses very much and being a horseman was a prestigious position in the tribe: training of the horses a serious business. A horse bred for the yolk was important for the agrarian economy. A horse bred to carry a warrior into battle had to be trained to become inured to the noise and stench and frenzy of the engagements they were involved in. A horse trained to pull a Celtic chariot in battle was sometimes crucial to the success or failure of war. Therefore, a horseman was a valued commodity- think strong and fit…and you will have the image of Gabrond, one of the Garrigill brothers, who was in charge of the training grounds for mounted warriors and for the training of the charioteers.

If not a farmer, or a horseman, then a Celt might have been of the warrior classes or a trainer of the youth of the tribe. Being adept at defending the tribal lands was crucial to the psyche of the Celtic tribe and as such defence was very important. All men and most women (to some extent) were warrior trained- excepting those who for some reasons or other didn’t merit the usual tribal status e.g. someone who had broken tribal rules or was an implant from another place. It’s thought that Celts in northern Britain, of the time and place that I’m writing about, probably didn’t have slaves as such. It’s more likely that captives from warring tribes were forced into a more menial role as servant of the tribe in general, without the ownership factor that the Roman Empire put on slaves. Making and keeping the tribe able to defend their territory was a constant business and it was the duty of all to ensure they were ‘fit for the task’.Brennus of Garrigill in Book 1, THE BELTANE CHOICE, is the tribal champion at single combat. Brennus is centre stage in Book 2 AFTER WHORL:BRAN REBORN but he is no logner fit to be any tribe's champion. He therefore finds himself a new role that is just as important, perhaps even more so than before the battles at Whorl.
Upper echelons of the tribe included those with special training: the bards, the druids, the spokesmen for the tribe and maybe the healers (I say maybe, because female healers –who were midwives and for general treatment- were not quite the same as those who might be named ‘more skilled healers’). These men and women were probably also trained in defence- though their daily undertaking was more peaceful. In my Celtic Fervour series there are a number of this class/ level who are important characters. I've used the image at left for my Druid Tuathal in AFTER WHORL: BRAN REBORN who plays a very important function, and Ineda of Marske becomes a healer, trained by her grandmother who was the healer of her small village.

Then there were the topmost classes: the chiefs and offspring of the chiefs. These men (and women) would have had warrior training but would also have needed to be able to learn negotiating skills to do well as ambassadors of the tribe. It was not a certainty that the offspring of a chief would become the next chief of a tribe. A man or woman had to earn the job, they had to be nominated and then voted into the slot by the elders of the tribe. If you were not fit for tribal leadership it appears you’d be rejected- why have a weak leader? (I’m sure in reality there were exceptions and weak leaders did occur) The old chief Tully of Garrigill is a man I see as being very typical of a large settlement though not the most important chief of his Brigante federation of tribes. Tully is not of the status of King Venutius of the Brigantes, yet he is nonetheless very important in his more northerly location in Brigantia. Similarly, Callan of Tarras of the Selgovae would be important yet is not the Selgovae high chief.

As sons of Tully, the Garrigill brothers are conferred the nominal status of 'prince'- though they are not the offspring of the High King. Nara of the Selgovae is a 'princess' - again because she is the daughter of a chief though not the offspring of the High Chief. 


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