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Ancient Celts

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These models are suitable for use as most European Celts, and were sculpted by Michael and Alan Perry. Scroll down for an article on collecting a Celtic army by Adrian Garbett.

The British Celts were closely related to the Continental Celts, and it was reported that certain tribes and clans could be found on both sides of the Channel. This led to British support for their Continental brethren during the wars with Julius Caesar which, unfortunately, brought the Britons to the attention of Rome.

Consequently in 55 BC Caesar led an expedition in force to reconnoitre the south east corner of Britain. However, nearly 90 years elapsed before a major invasion force of four Legions plus auxiliaries was landed in 43 AD, led by Aulus Plautius. The subjugation of Britain was completed by 75 AD.

The Britons fought valiantly and with ingenuity, but apart from the early stages of the revolt led by Boudicca in 61 AD they proved unable to withstand Roman military might in open battle.

By Adrian Garbett


This was very similar to that of their Gallic neighbours, with collar length hair ranging from mid-brown to blonde, and a clear, light complexion. Truculent and impressive moustaches were sported. The use of woad for body decoration was dying out in the south but remained popular in the north (see the notes on the Picts). This consisted of greeny/mid-blue swirls and spirals. Clothing normally consisted of loose trousers gathered at the ankles, sometimes supplemented by a tunic with long or short sleeves and/or a cloak. These could be left their natural colours or dyed in earthy reds, browns, yellows and blues, with the addition of brighter dyes traded from the Continent. Checks and stripes were the most common clothing patterns, making a British army particularly colourful.

British chieftains were numerous. Though most of their names have been lost, some, along with their achievements, were luckily recorded for posterity by their opponents. The following are available as personality figures in this range: Togodumnus, who led the initial resistance to the Roman invasion, only to lose his life in the first year of the war; Caractacus, who was chief of the Catuvellauni and fought the Roman invaders until driven into south Wales, from where he launched raids until his eventual defeat at Caer Caradoc; he then sought refuge with Cartimandua, queen of the Brigantes, but she handed him over to the Romans; she was married to king Venutius, who she deposed in favour of his armour-bearer Vellocatus. Cartimandua then made the Brigantes clients of the Romans. During a period of chaos in 69 AD as four rivals struggled for the Imperial throne, Venutius struck back at his ex-wife and regained control over the Brigantes until he was finally ousted in 71 AD and the whole happy family disappear from history.

Queen Boudicca of the Iceni (a Norfolk tribe) is probably the most famous Ancient Briton of all, and the personality set representing her cries out to be used as the centrepiece of an army depicting the revolt of 61 AD, when the wronged queen sacked Londinium. Joined by the Trinovantes tribe, she took Britain to the verge of freedom, only to be defeated by the conqueror of Druidic Anglesey, Governor Suetonius Paulinus, near modern Towcester. Boudicca committed suicide rather than bow to Rome. She is recorded as having flowing red hair, and this is well depicted in the figure.



These were the vehicle of choice for many cultured British heroes and they were used in considerable numbers up until the demise of the independent British kingdoms. They made a great impression on all who saw them in action, due in no small part to the skill and daring of the drivers and their warrior companions. The vehicles and ponies in the British Celtic range can be mixed with the Bronze Age chariot ponies. Charioteers are provided in the packs, but more variety can be achieved by using other warriors in appropriate poses and adding wire reins. The choice of fighting crew is tremendous. By using infantry with the bases cut off at sole level, you can potentially have a different figure in each chariot. Warriors were also known to run up the chariot poles to hurl javelins at their enemies, and some figures lend themselves to this minor but striking conversion. Chariots would be at least partially painted, if only for weather-proofing.



These would be some of the few warriors to wear body armour. This was made from mail - a Celtic invention - and would supplement the slightly more common helmet (used as the pattern for Roman types) and oval shield. Nobles would lead from the front, on foot or in a chariot, and would try to outdo each others’ heroic deeds. This could lead to contingents of British armies acting independently at best and treacherously at worst. Favoured symbols of strength and daring were the horse, boar and cockerel, which were frequently displayed on standards. To add to the clamour and chaos of any ancient battle the Britons used an upright trumpet with a horse-head bell called a carnyx, which emitted a raucous braying that sounded like a wild animal. Because of the closeness of the British and Continental Celts it is perfectly acceptable to mix figures from the Republican Roman range for more variety



The most numerous element of a British host, these were fairly highly regarded by their Roman enemies, who knew they had to stop the initial rush of a British warband or see their formations swept away. Their main weapon was the long Celtic sword, although many also carried one or more light javelins. It is this weapon which is most often remarked upon. All the variants in this figure range can be used for warbands, as can most other Celtic infantry. Their large oval shields were brightly painted in swirls, spirals and checkerboard patterns chiefly in blue, red, black and white, adding to the army’s colourful appearance.

Naked fanatics 
Though these were a dying breed by the 1st century AD it is possible that the more northerly tribes, who had less direct contact with the ‘civilising’ influence of Rome, may have continued the practice of ritual nudity. The two nude figures can be mixed with Pictish naked warriors.

Slingers were used in large numbers and would present a formidable threat, as slingstones were regarded as one of the deadlier missiles of the period, requiring specialised medical care and instruments for those wounded by them. The slingers themselves would probably not have been considered to belong to the warrior class and would not be expected to engage in close combat. Adolescent warriors would provide another source of skirmishers. These would operate ahead of the main warbands, showing their bravado by hurling javelins — and insults, no doubt — at the enemy while sensibly keeping out of the way of the serious fighting. Quite large numbers of excitable youths could be present at battles, and I would recommend converting any clean-faced figures to this type by the substitution of several lighter javelins in place of a spear, and a smaller round shield instead of the large oval variety.



British cavalry were not highly regarded by the Romans (they are described as ‘contemptible’ in a contemporary document), who nevertheless still made strenuous efforts to ensure that they were not surprised on the march by the highly mobile Britons, who used their cavalry for scouting and raiding, a role in which they excelled. So although outclassed in a straight fight the British cavalry were still an integral and useful arm of the native forces. They were mounted on tough little ponies whose small size did not allow for heavy armour, so, unlike their Gallic counterparts, they were lightly equipped, often wearing only trousers and carrying just a shield and javelins. A few imported horses would also have been available but were very rare, so you might like to mix in lighter ponies from other ranges. To the variants in the British range you can add unarmoured Gallic cavalrymen.



These were an unusual accompaniment to British armies. The heroic culture of the Celts meant that a good battle was always witnessed by as many family and friends as possible to ensure that reputations and deeds were verified. This became an early version of a spectator sport, with a stadium in the form of wagons, and ‘fans’ in the form of the above-mentioned wives, children, slaves, etc. The connection goes further, in that it was not unknown for the crowd to invade the pitch to finish off wounded opponents or to defend the wagon camp against a victorious enemy.



Before the arrival of the Romans the British Celts raided and fought amongst themselves almost continually. The initial Caesarean reconnaissance involved an army based on the reforms of Marius, but this was obviously a one-off conflict. The early Imperial Roman army was the only major external enemy of the Ancient Britons. Following the completion of the conquest of southern Britain in 75 AD the Romans moved north against the Caledonian tribes, the conflict carrying over into the Middle Imperial Roman period from 193 AD until the annihilation of the Caledones in 211 AD. It is likely, though not recorded, that the Caledones also fought against the Picts and Scots-Irish, and almost certainly fought the Britons.



These were limited to Romans meddling in internal conflicts and would have ranged from a cohors of Auxilia to a detachment of Legionaries with supporting equites alares and Auxilia.



This far northern branch of the Ancient Britons is recorded being defeated by Agricola at the battle of Mons Graupius in 84 AD. Their armies differed from the southern Britons in having only three components: noble chariotry, massed warbands, and aggressive skirmishing javelinmen. Body armour was very rare. Their shields were the usual ovals, supplemented by long oblong types. The chariotry would be similar to that of the southern Britons but with less armour for the nobles. The skirmishers would not be adolescents but were similar to the main warband, with round shields. Warband warriors can be represented by any British or Continental Celtic figure that is naked or bare-chested. This unusual variant of the Ancient British army fought against the Romans between 75 AD and 211 AD, when they were wiped out by the campaigns of Septimius Severus.

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