The Scottish Gael Chapter IV
Celtic population, persons and dispositions of the Celts, their military
education and institutions, anecdotes of their bravery and heroism,
exploits of the ancient caledonians and present Scots.
MANY writers of distinguished reputation have maintained,
inhabitants of the north of Europe were much more numerous formerly
than they are now, the cold of these regions being thought more favora-
ble to generation and conducive to robust old age, than the warm and
enervating climates of the south. There appears considerable force in
this argument, which is supported by the numerous armies which we
find those people successively pouring forth; but the inquiries of modern
philosophers into the causes affecting population tend to an opposite con-
clusion. It seems impossible to make any accurate estimate of the
numbers of ancient nations, for "the innumerable swarms that issued,
or seemed to issue, from the great storehouse of nations, were multi-
plied by the fears of the vanquished and by the credulity of succeeding
ages. "* It is also to be borne in mind, that, on emergencies, every man
able to carry arms was called into the field, and on all occasions, where
military glory was to be earned or national liberty and independence as-
serted, the Gauls were strikingly impatient for the combat.
The precarious supply of food in those rude ages, is advanced as an
argument of some weight against the probability of there being anciently
so dense a population as we might be led to suppose; but there was then
an abundance of game to supply the want of extensive cultivation, and
numerous herds of domestic cattle afforded a plentiful subsistence to the
The sumptuous repasts, and variety of flesh meats, among the Gauls
were subjects of remark, even to the luxurious Romans, | for they had
'the fountains of domestic felicity within themselves, and sent out plen-
* Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. t Diodorus Sic. &c
74 POPULATION OF ANC1LNT EUROPE.
tiful streams of happiness over almost all th3 world."* Whether the
Celtae were more or less numerous than has been represented, the
mrans of subsistence were abundant in Gaul; and if the Britons led a
less pleasant life than the tribes on the continent, they will not be
found, on examination, to have been so low in the scale of civilisation
as many are disposed to believe. The Celtic nations have been always
strongly attached to their primitive mode of life, and averse to the ad-
nt'ssion of any change, even of obvious advantage, especially if they
conceived it had the least tendency to effeminate their bodies or lessen
the temerity and contempt of death, on which they valued themselves;
but they were not certainly either " unable to raise themselves in the
scale of society, or incapable of industry or civilisation.""]" Their vari-
ous attainments, and progress in arts and sciences, will be elucidated in
the respective sections, where it will be seen that from these "radical
savages,"| tne Greeks and Romans learned many useful and ingenious
The Celts were neither "a feeble people,""!" nor was their population
scanty. Pausanias says, that Thrace alone was more populous than
Gaul,J and Herodotus had affirmed, that the Thracians were the most
numerous people, save the Indians alone. The ancient historians repre-
sent the Celtic migrations as occasioned by an excess of population. We
learn from Caesar, that the Helvetians mad-? war from this cause; and
both he and Diodorus say, that the population of Britain was innumera-
ble. Tacitus informs us, that Anglesea was particularly powerful in the
number of its inhabitants. |j From marks of cultivation on the moun-
tains, and that have been discovered at some depth underground, it is
believed that Ireland also was formerly well inhabited,^ but this is doubt-
ful. Similar indications are observed in Scotland, and the Romans
deemed a single legion sufficient for the subjugation of that island.
" Who among you," says Titus to the Jews, " hath not heard of the
great number of the Germans."** It was the chief pride of these na-
tions to be surrounded by a numerous company of relations. To res-
train generation and increase of children, or to kill new born infants,
crimes of common occurrence amongst more civilized nations, were by
these people "reckoned an abominable sin.""j"f The more numerous
one's children and relations were, the more he was reverenced and es-
teemed; among the Scandinavians, however, it was lawful to expose in-
fants, until the eleventh century, a practice little calculated to make this
Country "the great storehouse of nations."
Without asserting that Europe was more populous 2000 years ago
than it is in these days, which, indeed, does not appear likely, it can be
* Josephus, Jewish Wars, H. c. 16. 4. t Pinkerton.
t Lib. 1.9 Beiio Gall. v. 10.
!J Annals, xiv. II Molyneux, ap. Luckombe, &c.
'* Josephus in the Jewish Wars.
tt Gordon's Translation of Tacitus, de Mor. Germ.
CELTIC ARMIES. 75
confidently maintained, that the inhabitants were not thinly spi ead along
the valleys or dispersed among the mountains. Dense forests, it must
be allowed, overspread great tracts of country, but a sufficient space was
left uncovered, in which numerous tribes lived in all the comfort of bar-
In the works of the ancients may be found statements of the numbers
of the Celtic armies at particular times. The various legions of auxiliaries
which appear in the Notitia Imperii, prove that, by the Roman conquest,
neither Gaul nor Germany were depopulated, notwithstanding the long
and sanguinary struggles which the natives made for their independence.
When JBrennus invaded Greece, he carried with him 140,000 target-
eers, 10,000 horse, 2030 carriages, many merchants, and a great mul-
titude of other followers, all of whom perished:* yet he led an army of
152, 000 to a second invasion, and 61,000 horsemen, j JEmilius routed
the Gauls and Celtae, killing 40,030, and ravaged their country, after
they had, with an army of 200,000 men, twice defeated the Romans. J
The Cimbri invaded Italy, with a body of 3, or, according to some,
500, OJO men, besides women and children. )
When the Helvetii endeavored to establish themselves in Gaul, they
had 192,000 men in arms, the whole number that set out on the expedi-
tion, according to a census found in their camp, amounting to 368,000.jj
The Suevi, a single German nation, was divided into 100 cantons, and
could bring 200,000 men into the field. 11
The Boii, according to Pliny, on the authority of Cato, had 1 12 tribes:
in Spain he* enumerates 360 cities. Buchannan, who cites Strabo, says,
300,000 of the Celtae bore arms. Cfesar reduced under the Roman obe-
dience 400 nations and 800 cities the whole number in Gaul.** Jose-
phus gives them 315 nations and 1200 cities. |"f
When CaBsar was preparing to attack the Belgse, he applied to the
Rhemi, a friendly people, for information concerning the military power
of that division of the Celtae. The Rhemi, being allied cc by kindred and
affinity, knew how great a multitude was promised," and gave him the
The Bellovaci were the most powerful of the Belgic confederates, and
could bring into the field 103,000 fighting men; on the present occasion
they offered but 60,000. The Suessiones were their neighbors, and
had formerly been the leading tribe; they now offered 50,003. The
Nervii also promised 50,000; the Attrebates 15,003; the Ambiani 10,000;
the Morini 25,000; the Menapii 9300; the Caletes 10,000; the Velocas-
ges and Veromandui 10,000; the Adnatici 29,000; the Condrusi, Ebu
rones, Cseraesi, Posnani, who were called by one name, Germans, 40,000,
making an army of 308,000 picked men.
Plutarch, &c. Chatfield's View of the Middle Ages. || Bello Gall.
t Bello Gall. ** Appian, in the Celtic Wars. Plutarch,
-tt Jewish Wars, ii. 1C. 3.
76 CELTIC ARMIES.
At the same time another convocation of the Gauls was held, at
which it was resolved to raise a fresh army; but they restricted theii
force to such a number as might be easily regulated, and find the means
of subsistence with facility. They accordingly made the following lev-
ies. The jEduans arid their clients, the Segusiaris, the Arnbivarets, the
Aulerci, the Brannovices, and the Brannovii, 35,000. The Arverni also
35,000; the Eleutheri, Cadurci, Gabali, Velauni, Senones, Sequani,
Bituriges, Xantones, Rutheni, and Carnutes, 12,000; the Bellovaci
10,000; the Lemovices 10,000; the Pictones, including the Turones,
Parisii, and Eleutheri Suessiones, 32,000; the Ambiani, Mediornatrici,
Petrocorii, Nervii, Morini, and Nitiobriges, 35,000; the Aulerci-Ceno-
manni 5000; the Atrebates 4000; the Bellocassi, Lexovii, Aulerci-Ebu-
rovices 9000; the Raurici and Boii 30,000. From the states on the ocean,
who, by their custom, are called Armories, viz. the Curiosolites, Rhe-
dones, Caletes, Osisimii, Lemovices, Veneti, and Unelli, each 6000.*
Of these, 240,000 foot and 8000 horse were immediately mustered,
and the number, we are told, was afterwards increased. In the ten
years' war which Caesar maintained in Gaul, where he first attacked the
Helvetii and Tiguriae, defeating their army of 200, 000, j there were
slain more than a million of men, and as many were taken prisoners. J
In those unsettled times, the population fluctuated according to the
events of the frequent wars. It appears from Strabo, that before
Caesar's time the Belgas had but 30,000 fighting men. The Nervii, in
their desperate contentions, were reduced from 60,000 to 500. |J
The army of Bondiuca or Boadicea, after the destruction of London,
amounted to 230,000.11
From the ruins of houses throughout the Highlands of Scotland, Gene-
ral Stewart thinks the country must have been formerly very populous. The
same has been conjectured of the Lowlands, it must be confessed, with-
out satisfactory proof; yet the Scots and Picts must have been numerous,
for they suffered greatly in mutual slaughters; and, about the beginning
of the fourth century, they had to contend with 40,000 Roman troops,
besides their auxiliaries. Alexander II., according to Matthew Paris,
was able to raise an army of 1000 horse and 100,000 foot.
The Celtic muster rolls are exactly similar to those of the Clans of
Scotland. The following list of the numbers that were to be raised for
King James, in 1704, may not be uninteresting.
Mac Donalds 1800
Mac Phersons . . 700
Mac Kenzies of Seaforth 1200
Mac Leods 700
* Bello Gal. vii. 69. 70. t Appian in Bello Celt.
t Ritson's Mem. of the Celts. Lib. iv.
|| Bel. Gal. ii. 3 1) Henry, Hist, of Britain
MILITARY FORCE OF THE CLANS. 77
Roses of Kilravock
Rosses of Balnagowan
Duke of Gordon
Grant of Balindalish
Steuart of Appin
Horse of Inverness and Morayshires . . . . 1000
General Wade gives the following statement of the Highland forces in
1715, who were engaged in the rebellion:
The Islands and Clans of the late Lord Seaforth . . . . 3000
Mac Donalds of Slate . . 1000
Mac Donalds of Glengarry 800
Mac Donalds of Moiaart v. . . . . 800
Mac Donalds of Keppoch 220
Lochiel Camerons . . . . 800
Tho Mac Leods, in all 1000
Duke of Gordon's followers 1000
Stewarts of Appin 400
Robertsons of Struan 800
Mac Intoshes and Farquharsons 800
Mac Ewens in the Isle of Sky 150
The Chisholms of Strathglass 150
The Mac Phersons 220
which agrees with the number given by Rae
The following clans, he adds, for the most part, join-
ed the rebellion of 1715, without their superiors:
The Braidalban men 10003,000
The under-written clans belonged to superiors, then believed to be
well affected to his Majesty:
The Duke of Argyle 4000
Lord Sutherland and Strathnaver 1000
Lord Lovat's Frasers . . . . 800
The Grants 800
The Rosses and Munroes 700
Forbes of Culloden 200
Rose of Kilravock 300
Sir Archibald Campbell of Clunes 200
78 PERSONAL APPEARANCE OF THE CELTS.
It would appear that the number which the disaffected could bring into
the field in the last rebellion, was 12,030,* and the others, it is
could bring nearly as many.
The song called the Chevalier's Muster Roll, contains an enumer'ation
of the various chiefs and tribes who were to take the field, and was well
calculated to keep up the spirits of the party, by the prospect of numer-
ous reinforcements. The following verse is a specimen.
" The Laird o' Mac Intosh is cumin',
Mac Gregor an' Mac Donald's cumin',
The Mac Kenzies an' Mac Pherson's cumin',
A' the wild Mac Ra's are cumin',
Little wat ye fa's cumin',
Donald Gun an' a's cumin," &c.
The patriarchal state of society in the Highlands of Scotland, where
a whole tribe labored and lived in common, was calculated to increase
the population very rapidly. A farm was often subdivided among chil-
dren, grandchildren, and other relations, until it became quite inade-
quate for the comfortable support of all. The evil was fortunately
counteracted by the military spirit which led the young Gael to seek
their fortunes in military service, either at home or abroad.
The population of the Highlands and Isles is now estimated at about
400,000. It is sometimes stated at 200,000; but if there are 80,000
families who speak Gaelic,! ana " if ^k ls tne average number of individ-
uals in a family, J the exact amount will be 420,000.
In the Gartmore MSS., which give a low estimate of the population,
it is stated, that in 1747, nearly 52,000 able men from the age of eighteen
to fifty-six could be raised.
The STRONG and ROBUST BODIES of the Celtae, their comeliness and
great strength, have been remarked by all ancient authors who have had
occasion to notice them. These qualifications must have been produced
by a sufficient supply of food, by their temperance, and by the freedom
and activity of their lives: hunting, pasturage, agriculture, and athletic
amusements, being almost their sole occupations, when not engaged rn
Both Celts and Germans were remarkably tall. They surpassed
all other men in stature; and the largest, who were called Barenses,
inhabited the extreme and most cold parts. The lowest of the Ger-
mans were taller than the tallest Romans. Hieronymus says, Gaul al-
ways abounded in great and strong men,|| who were wont to ridicule
other people on their diminutive size. IT The Senones were particularly
remarkable, being terrible for their astonishing bigness and vast arms.
The Insubres are described as more than human.** The Britons appear
* Stuart Papers, ii. p. 117. t " The Scotsman " of 12th January, 18f,28.
t Dr Mac Culloch. Pausanias, i. 35, x. 20
|| Ap. Schoepflin's Alsatia Illustrata, i. 67.
fl Homines tantul stature. ** Floras, i. 13, ii. 4.
THEIR STATURE AND STRENGTH. 79
to have exceeded even the Gauls in height. Tacitus remarks the large
limbs of the Caledonians; and some prisoners that Caesar carried to
Rome, were exhibited as curiosities for their prodigious size. Strabo
indeed says, that he had seen British young men at Rome, who stood
half-a-foot above the tallest men; but such giants were not perhaps
usually met with, for he confesses that they were not particularly well-
proportioned The Celts were, Jiowever, generally admired for their
fine figures, as we learn from Jrolybius, Arrian, and others. Tacitus
notices the advantage which this height gave the enemy on occasion of
crossing a river: while the Romans were in risk of being swept away,
the Germans could keep themselves easily above water.* These people
were celebrated for their strength, their stature, and their huge sinewy
bodies,! the Romans being certainly of inferior size compared with the
From returns made to the French government, it appears that the
stature of the people has suffered a decrease during the late wars; and
an ingenious train of argument has been deduced to show, that while
war has a tendency to lessen the size of mankind in refined nations, it
has a directly contrary effect among tribes of rude barbarians. These
people take the field en masse, but in civilized countries, the full sized
and able bodied men in the community are sent to fight for the general
safety: the army when reduced being filled up by successive levies of
the most robust individuals; hence the best men are sacrificed, while
the unhealthy and diminutive escape. Among primitive nations the
combatants encounter hand to hand, where the advantage being evident-
ly on the side of the strong, they will survive, while the weak inevitably
perish. This reasoning is specious, but it is not altogether satisfactory.
Afe we to consider this as the sole cause of the variation of stature in
the human race? So remarkable a difference between the personal ap-
pearance of the Celtae and other nations, could not have been produced
by warfare alone. J A tall man is not always strong, or able to undergo
much fatigue, and even if his strength is proportionate to his size, it does
not always render him able effectually to contend with the activity and
hardihood of one who may be much inferior in stature.
Amongst the Celtic nations, military glory was that to which they
most ardently aspired, and of their warlike prowess they were excessive-
ly vain. To distinguish themselves by deeds of valor and heroism, it
was necessary to possess strength of body, and train themselves by a
life of activity and enterprise. The peculiar state of society in which
they lived, was admirably calculated to promote military qualifications,
and preserve the advantage which nature had bestowed on the race, who
were so well formed and healthy. Their simple institutions were emi-
nently conducive to the spirit of liberty with which they were animated,
* Annals, v. t Josephus Jew. Wars, ii. vi. and vii.
t An article on this subject appeared in the " Scotsman," xii. p. 899.
80 THEIR STATURE AND STRENGTH.
and by which their physical strength was assisted; and as they could
only hope for distinction from proofs of valor and fortitude, they did not
degenerate as nations who become commercial, or are enervated by a
warm climate. As the Celts tenaciously retained their primitive man-
ners, their personal appearance was not altered, but continued to attract
the notice of surrounding nations.
Slow and late were the youth to marry, and when they did, it was
requisite that both parties should have the same sprightly dispositions,
and the same stature. They were espoused in the prime of life, and the
robustness of the parents was inherited by the children.*
The regard which the Highlanders have always paid to the personal
appearance and manly qualities of their children, 'has been often re-
marked. Next to beauty in a female, her health and person is always
considered. "A puny delicate girl hardly ever gets a husband in the
Highlands, because she neither can be the mother of a vigorous proge-
ny, nor do her part, in providing for them."
Tall as the Celtae generally were, the princes and chief men usually
exceeded the common people, both in stature and strength; for beauty
and stateliness of person were generally characteristic of nobility in ear-
ly society, and naturally proceeded from the constitution of a rude com-
munity, where superior strength and warlike accomplishments are the only
recommendations in a chief or leader, and as they intermarry with families
enjoying similar advantages, the race does not degenerate. Like the nobil-
ity of later times, the principal families in a tribe must have been exempt-
ed, in a great measure, unless during war, from those labors and privations
which the lower orders endure. In the infancy of society there is little
chance of degenerating from luxury; we consequently find, that most of
the Celtic heroes were above the common standard. Numerous disco%-
eries in ancient sepulchres prove the gigantic size and strong conforma-
tion of individuals. "j"
Teutabochus, king of the Teutoni, who invaded Italy, with the Cim-
brians, being taken prisoner, was conspicuous above the trophies, from
his extraordinary tallness. He was also of astonishing strength and
agility, being able among other feats, to vault over six horses. J The
old kings of Caledonia are described as very superior in stature and
strength. Trenmhor, like Fingal, was tall and mighty, and all tradition
proves the value in which these qualifications were held. Among the
Gael, symmetry of form and bodily strength were accounted so indispen-
sable, that as anxious- attention was paid to preserve and improve the
breed of children, as ever was bestowed, in more refined ages, on less
noble animals; but this object was attained more through the healthful-
ness and temperance of the parents, than from any particular care in the
* Tacitus de mor. Germ., who elsewhere notices their huge stature.
t Montfaucon gives an account of an interment where the skulls were found to
much thicker than in mankind at the present day. See also the discoveries of
Richard Hoare, &c. &c. &c. t Florus iii. 3.
MODES OF REARING CHILDREN. 01
education of the children, for the son of the chief had no more attention
paid him than was bestowed on his foster-brother.
The Germans made no distinction between the lord's son and the
slave; they were both reared naked, and nourished with the milk of their
The wet nurses in the Isles were not allowed to drink ale, from a be-
lief that the milk was thereby deteriorated.
The Irish children, as soon as bom, were wrapped in a blanket, and so
continued until they could walk.*
The Highlanders bathe their children every morning and evening in
cold, or, sometimes, in warm water: and they did so for themselves when
they grew up."|" The cold water rendered them less susceptible of the
piercing blasts to which they were exposed. It is customary with those
who wear the kilt, to wash their limbs at least every morning, and when
one assumes this dress only occasionally, some recommend, as a pre-
ventive from catching cold, that the legs should be anointed with whis-
key. The Gaelic youth of the better sort were not accommodated with
bonnets, shoes, or stockings, even in the rigor of winter, until they were
eight or ten years old, and upwards.
The Celts were not only tall, but were well formed. Amongst the
Highlanders, it has been remarked, that there are hardly any crooked
or deformed people, except from accident, and some have asserted that
they never saw a naturally misshapen person in the Highlands. The
people of Scotland have, generally, an aversion to persons who have any
natural defect, believing them unlucky, and marked out for misfortune ;J
a prejudice that, if not occasioned, may be strengthened by the rare-
ness of these objects.
The common Highlanders, from hard, and often scanty fare, are usu-
ally inferior in stature to the chief and better sort. This was more
perceptible formerly; but although few have attained the gigantic size of
"Big Sam," a native of Sutherland, who was porter to the Prince of
Wales, they are by no means diminutive. They are well formed, ex-
tremely hardy and active. Their erect and easy gait is striking; and an
English resident among them, a hundred years ago, remarked that the
common people walked "nimbly and upright, and had a kind of stateli-
ness in their poverty."^ The Irish were noticed, two centuries since,
as being "of good proportion and comely stature;" || but the personal
appearance is so much affected by the supply of food, and manner of life,
that, like the Scots, they have not, latterly, been so remarkable for their
size.lT Tyrconnel, at the revolution, raised several regiments, e\ery
t Martin. Memoirs of Donald Macleod. Children among the Goths were dipped in
stream or lake soon after their birth. Pinkerton.
J This seems to arise from a belief that the fairies have something to do
See one of Kelly's proverbs. Birt. || Barnaby Riche.
fi Luck<v>mbe says, on the authority of a military officer, that Irish
recruits were, ia
genera), shorter than those of England.
82 HARDINESS OF THE HIGHLANDERS.
man of which was six feet high.* It was accounted handsome by the
Irish ladies, to be tall, round, and fat,| but they were also " big and
lazy," being suffered from their youth "to grow at will." The ancient
Britons, we are told, excelled both in strength and swiftness. J
The Celts were undoubtedly very strong, but they were extremely
oppressed by the heat of a warm climate, and suffered much from thirst;
fur they were able to endure a degree of cold that would chill other
troops, but were languid and feeble under the rays of an Italian sun. ^
The hardy manner in which the Celts brought up their youth, contri-
buted, in a very material degree, to produce their strong and robust
frames, and enabled them, through life, to contend with all sorts of
fatigue, and surmount difficulties, which others would have sunk under.
The Cimbri exposed themselves naked to showers of snow, and amused
themselves by sliding down the frozen Alps on their shields. The in-
difference of the Highlanders to cold, is evinced by their scanty clothing.
A less equivocal proof was formerly afforded, in the fact that they fre-
quently slept in the open air, during the severity of winter. Burt, who
wrote in 1725, relates, that he has seen the places which they occupied,
and which were known by being free from the snow that deeply covered
the ground, except where the heat of their bodies had melted it.
The anecdote which the same writer applies to Keppoch, and others,
to a chief of the Camerons, shows how highly they valued themselves
on their hardihood. The chief is represented as giving great offence to
his clan, by forming the snow into a pillow before he lay down, a plain
indication that he was beginning to degenerate.
The Highlanders were so accustomed to sleep in the open air, that
the want of shelter was of little consequence to them. It was usual be-
fore they lay down, to dip their plaids in water, by which the cloth was
less pervious to the wind, and the heat oftheir bodies produced a warmth,
which the woollen, if dry, could not afford. An old man informed me,
that a favorite place of repose was under a cover of thick over-hanging
heath. The Highlanders in 1745 could scarcely be prevailed on to use
tents. It is not long since those who frequented Lawrence fair, St-
Sair's, and other markets in the Garioch of Aberdeenshire, gave up the
practice of sleeping in the open fields. The horses being on these oc-
casions left to shift for themselves, the inhabitants no longer have their
crop spoiled, by their " upthrough neighbors," with whom they had
often bloody contentions, in consequence of these unceremonious visits.
Strabo and Polybius notice that the Celts and Iberi always slept on
the ground, .even in their houses, a custom which the Scots and Irish
retained. If the Highlanders went into other countries, they preferred
wrapping themselves in their own plaids, to making use of the beds of
the people among whom they came, apprehensive that such indulgence
would tend to impair their natural hardiness.
* Dairy m pie's Mem. of Great Britain f Campion.
t Herodian, iii. 47.
Floras, ii. 4. Plutarch, in vita Crassi. Appian, Parthick's. Livy.
THE HAIR OF THE CELTS. 83
The HAIR of the Celtic race was naturally fair or inclined to red, and
they took great pains to deepen the color. The children, from their
birth, were for the most part white or gray headed, but as they grew up
the hair became like that of their fathers.* Among the Britons it was
also yellow, but it was less so than that of the Gauls. f The Welsh call-
ed the Irish, Wyddil coch, red-haired. J In an old poem we find a he-
ro's " body like the white chalk, his hair like the flowing gold;" and an
old Cornish song extols a pretty rnaid for her white face and yellow hair.^
Flowing locks of this color were praised as most graceful and becoming,
by the bards who addressed the sun as " the golden-haired." This was
admired in the Celtic youth of former times, and "the yellow-haired
laddie " and "lassie w' the lint whiteJocks," continue favorites with
their descendants in the present day.
The red-haired Spaniard is noticed by Silius,|| the Getae plaited their
yellow locks, and the Albani glistened with shining hair. IF The Budini,
who were a Getic nation, had also the red hair and blue eyes,** whicl
characterized the whole Celtic race. They wore their hair long and
flowing, from which Gaul received the appellation Comata, or, as Pliny
more strongly expresses it, Capillata.tt They turned it backwards from
the forehead to the crown, and thence to their \ery necks, that their
faces might be fully seen. From this manner of wearing it they look,
says Diodorus, like Pans and Satyrs.
The Caledonians were distinguished by "their golden hair flowing
over their stately shoulders."^ The long hair of the Britons was turn-
ed back on the top of the head, and fell down in a bushy wreath behind.^
Bondiuca, or Boadicea's hair reached below the middle of her back.
Long hair was a mark of freedom among many nations, slaves being
obliged to cut it close. In France it was long regarded as indicative of
nobility. [HI In the old laws of Scotland is a curious intimation, " Quhen
ane frie man to the end he may have the mantenance of one greit and
potent man, randers himselfe to be his bondman in his court, be the haire
of his foreheid," &c. This is surely derived from a more ancient era
than that of the regulated feudal system. The act proceeds to say, that
if the man should afterwards withdraw, when brought back, and the sur-
render of his liberty proved, " his maister may take him be the nose, and
reduce him to his former slaverie."1I^F
Lycurgus was accustomed to say, that long hair added grace to hand-
some men, and made those who were ugly more terrific. The long
* Diod. Sic. Amm. Mar. xv. 10. Tacitus. Claudian in Rufinum, iii.
t Lucan. Strabo. Caesar. J Roberts.
Pryce's Archseologia. || Lib. xvi. v. 471.
fi Isodore, xix. 23. ** Herodotus.
tt Lib. iv. c. 17. tt "Am follt oir mu an gu aillean ardo
Whittaker's Hist, of Manchester. |||| Gregory of Tours.
Till Quoniam Attachiamenta, Ivi. Dr. Jamieson has remarked a vestige of this
gular custom in the amusement of " Tappie tousie," still practised among the
children. Etymol. Diet.
84 MODE OF WEARING THE HAIR
shaggy hair of the Gauls imparted a terrible appearance as they rageo
about in the field of battle.*
The Suevi had a mode of wearing their hair, which was imitated by
some of the other Germans, but among these the practice was confined
to the youth. It was twisted in a peculiar way, and bound up in a knot,
and so fond were the Suevians of this ornament, that even when gray
haired, they continued to raise it back in a stern and imposing manner,
but with some it was only tied at the top of the head. The princes paid
more attention to this arrangement of their hair than the common peo-
ple, carefully disposing it when going to war, in order to increase their
height, and terrify their enemies. | Each tribe had perhaps a peculiar
fashion of wearing their hair.J The head which appears at the end of
the first chapter, is from a shield of the Brisigavian auxiliaries, and the
one here shown is from an antique discovered in Holland.^
The two figures which form the vignette to this chapter are from an an-
cient sculpture, and illustrate the peculiar mode of dressing the hair,
which Martial calls the " Auris Batavorum;"|| and the one at the end
represents a figufre in Montfaucon, of unknown antiquity.
The Catti, who were hardy, robust, and of stern countenance, let
their beards and hair grow to a length rarely to be seen amongst other
nations. This practice was usually in consequence of a vow, that they
should not cut the hair of their heads or beards until they had slain one
of their enemies. When they had been fortunately able to do this, they
made bare their face over the gory body, and said that now they had
acquitted themselves of the debt contracted by their birth, and rendered
themselves worthy of their country and their parents. IT Thus when
Civilis who headed an extensive revolt of the Germans, had routed the
Roman legions, we are told that " he cut off his long locks, lank and
red."** But many of the Catti presented this terrible aspect when
white with age, abating nothing of the grimness and horror of their
countenances even in peace. These sturdy veterans always occupied
the front of the army, and made the first assault. IF They were indeed
a peculiar band, for, avoiding the trouble of any domestic charge, and
* Amm. Mar. xvi. 10. t Tacitus, de mor. Germ.
t" Crinibus in modum tortis venere Sicambri." Martial, ap. Wolfgang,
Petri Serverii, Tab. Ant. Batavicarum.
|| Caniegetier's Diss. de Brittenburgo, &c. 1734.
H Tacitus, de mor. Germ. ** Tacitus Annal.
MODE OF WEARING THE HAIR. 85
possessing no house, they wandered about " sorning " on the other
members of the community, on whom they appear to have thought they
had a good claim for subsistence as long as they lived.
The Britons and inhabitants of Ireland wore their hair long, and al-
lowed their beards to grow only on the upper lip. Even until a later
period, the Irish strictly adhered to this ancient practice, which was at
last abolished by Act of Parliament, a statute being passed, ordaining
none to wear their beards in that manner.* " A thicke curled bush of
haire hanging downe over their eyes, and monstrously disguising them,"
was termed "glibes." By cutting off these "writhed glibbes," or let-
ting them fall down on the face, a person was not easily recognised. It
was surely in consequence of this custom, that Gildas says the Picts
" covered their villatious countenances with hair,"y and that the Irish
were stigmatized as "shag-haired villains." Sometimes it would appear,
that for their safety they denuded themselves of their hair, but necessity
alone compelled the adoption of such a measure, for it was otherwise
reckoned " notable villainy to crop the glibbes in front. "J Cluverius ob-
serves that the Irish were the last of the Celtic race who retained the
custom of wearing the hair in the ancient manner.^ The Scots .High-
landers, about a century ago, wore it fastened in the peculiar way which
is here shown, and which is a later instance of the ancient mode of hair
They are yet fond of wearing their hair long; and many are to be
seen who continue to tie it behind, in the same manner as represented in
the Frontispiece. This fashion of tying the hair was called clubbing, a
term evidently derived from the Gaelic, and more particularly applied to
the form used by the women, and not yet laid aside in the north of Scot-
land, where it is turned up in a knot before and behind.
The practice of encouraging the growth of the hair on the upper lip
only, was not without occasional exception. Diodorus says, that while
some shaved their beards, others did so but in part, which last method
was invariably adopted by people of rank. These allowed the musta-
chios to grow to such a length, that they fell down over their mouths,
and in eating, part of the meat occasionally got entangled in the hair;
and when they were drinking, the liquor would run "through the mus-
tachios, as through a sieve. "|j
* Spenser's View of Ireland, p. 32. t Chap. 15. 2. t Campion.
It was so worn in remote parts, in the seventeenth century. Riche. Indeed,
the end of last century, the Irish sailors continued to plait or dress their
hai- in a
peculiar manner. || Diod. Sic.
86 BEAUTY OF THE CELTIC FEMALES.
Both Gauls and Germans often washed their heads, and, to beautify
the hair and increase its brightness, they used a preparation of tallow,
and ashes of certain vegetables,* into which some coloring matter was
probably put. We thus see that the Gauls were the inventors of soap,
and by its frequent use, in which the men indulged more than the women
their hair became as hard and strong as a horse's mane.f In the time
of Valens, the Roman troops coming suddenly on the German army,
which lay in a valley, beheld some of them washing and bathing in the
river, others busy in coloring the hairs of their head, and making it shine
The care with which these nations cherished their hair was remarka-
ble. A striking instance of their solicitude respecting it, is afforded by a
young warrior who was condemned to be beheaded. His last and most
earnest request was, that it might not be stained with his blood, or ex-
posed, after his death, to the rude touch of a slave. ^ In some instances,
ringlets of auburn hair have been found in the tombs of the early x
The COMPLEXIONS of the Celts were fair and succulent, IF apparently
from their northern climate, but attributed to their being always clothed
except in battle,** and to their long indulgence in bed during peace.
From whatever cause, their bodies were remarkably white, compared
with other nations.^
That the genuine descendants of this race are distinguished like their
ancestors, by a dusky, sallow, sunburnt hue, has been asserted by those
who have shown more anxiety to maintain a system, than to investigate
truth; but it is unquestionable that the " Candida corpora " and " coeru-
lei oculi," always characterized the Celtae. There is nothing more
clearly expressed by those ancient authors who have described the peo-
ple; and these features must have been striking, to be so particularly
noticed. The Gauls, the Germans, and the Britons were alike distin-
guished by their fair hair and blue eyes, and the Goths of later ages dif-
fered little from their Celtic progenitors.
Their EYES were blue and large, but when enraged they darted fury,
and, having naturally a stern look, it is said to have then been awful.
Their aspect must have been remarkable. Ammianus Marcellinus,
himself a veteran soldier, who had often fought with these fierce nations,
confesses, that in the cast of their eyes there was something terrible. JJ
The women were very beautiful,^ and were as tall and courageous as
the men. mi The beauty of Claudia Rufina, a British lady,1Tl[ is celebrated
* Pliny, xxviii, 12. t Diod. Sic.
| Amm. Mar. xxvii. 1. Henry's Hist, of Britain.
|| Douglas's Nennia Britannica.
IT Diod. Sic. " Clear." White." Amm. Mar. xv. 10
** Livy, xxxviii. 21. It Isodorus, xix. 23.
U Amm. Mar. xv. 10, xvi. 10. Tac. de mor. Germ.
Athenseus observes " Celtse pulcherrimas haberit uxores," xiii 8.
J||| Diodorus. 1T1T Robert's early History of the Cymri
VOICE AND MANNER OF SPEAKING. 87
by Martial. Ammianus seems to represent the females as stronger than
their husbands, but he probably means in domestic warfare only.* They
paid much attention to their persons, especially in Aquitain, where you
could not see a woman, however poor, in foul and ragged clothes, as in
other places. |
Small eyebrows were considered very beautiful among the ancient
Caledonians, and some females received their names from this handsome
feature. Caol-mhal signifies a woman with small eyebrows. The he-
roes of Morven were not insensible to the power of female eyes. Dar-
thula was so called from the beauty of her's; and a common phrase in
the Highlands to this day, when extolling the beauty of a woman, is to
say, she is lovely as Darthula.J
The TEETH of the Celtae were sound and of a beautiful whiteness.
This is observable in all their interments, where they are found to retain
the enamel when every other part has gone to decay. Sir Richard
Hoare, who has probably seen more of their sepulchral remains than
any other person, has invariably found the teeth well preserved.^}
The VOICE of the Celts was loud and terrible; and although they
spoke little, even their ordinary words were dreadful. |J The voice of the
Cimbri differed from all other men, and their language was scarcely hu-
man: they filled the air with howlings and bellowings, like wild beasts. 1F
Pliny, alluding to their defeat by Marius, says, the disaster made them
yell again;** and the horrid din and clamor which they made the night
before the battle, resounded through the woods and mountains, and
struck the Roman soldiers with great terror.
From some accounts, the Celtic nations appear more than human
It is to be presumed, that the terror they inspired, occasioned many
exaggerated representations of their personal appearance; but there is
a sufficient uniformity in the descriptions, to show that they were a very
singular people. They had a terrible aspect, an awful and loud voice;
their stern looks were sufficient to intimidate most people, and their bare
appearance, when irritated, struck the beholder with terror and dismay.
The " loud and sonorous voice " of the ancient Celts was inherited by
the Caledonians, and was esteemed a qualification of some importance.
When Fingal raised his voice, " Cromla answered around, the sons of
the desert stood still, and the fishes of the troubled sea moved to the
depths." Columba, when performing service in his church of lona, is
said to have been heard at the distance of a mile and a half.
The Celtic nations spoke very little, and their language was dark and
figurative :"j"f their manner of talking was solemn and mysterious, the or-
dinary words of most of them, as well when they were at peace, as when
they were irritated, being dreadful and full of menace. jj They \\ere
* xv. 10. i Amm. Mar. xv. c. 12. | M'Pherson in Ossian, &c.
See his interesting work on ancient Wiltshire. || Amm. Mar. xv. 10. Livy,
If Plutarch in Bello Cimbrico. ** xxvi. 4.
tt Diod. Sic. tt Amm. Mar. xv. 10.
88 PRONENESS TO WARFARE.
hyperbolical in their own praise, and spoke contemptuously of all others.
"My pointed spear, my sharp sword, my glittering shield," said an old
Celtic hero, "are my wealth and riches; with them I plough, with them
I sow, and with them I make my wine: whoever dare not resist my
pointed spear, my sharp sword, and my glittering shield, prostrates him-
self before, and adores me as his lord and his king."* The celebrated
Macdonald, of Barisdale, in the last century, had a high opinion of his
own merits, although he was considered by others as a very licentious
freebooter. On the silver ornaments of his sword belt, he displayed his
vanity in a classical address to that weapon."]" "The insolency of the
Gauls appears to have been notorious. "J They were "most grievously
provoking;" but if they " were apt to menace others, "'it was probably
most observable towards those who were laboring to subdue them, for
most nations are inclined, on such occasions, to utter their defiance in
no very pleasing expressions. When Alexander attacked the Scyths,
they threw out the most opprobrious and railing language, after their
The Celts were also extremely irascible, being naturally passionate, ||
managing their affairs more by rage and fury than by reason. IF The
Germans were accustomed to fall upon their enemies, without much con-
sideration, as it appeared, of what they were about; for they did not
reason, but went rashly into danger without just hopes.** The Gauls
were so liable to sudden excitation, that, in the very midst of eating, they
would rise in a heat, and, without regard to their lives, fall to it with
their swords. As they were hurried into war by an irresistible impa-
tience, proceeding from a simplicity of feeling that prevented reflection,
the same sincerity led them soon to relent and be appeased. Their first
heat being spent, they often became disheartened. U or rather appeared
so, and relinquished the prosecution of a war as suddenly as they had
engaged in it. An enterprise was abandoned, when the heat in which
they took arms had abated. However creditable this might have been
to their subsequent reasoning, it subjected them to a charge of incon-
sistency, and threw a shade on their military fame. Hannibal, in his
march through Italy, prevented the Gauls in his army from deserting,
by placing his cavalry in the rear,"j"j~ but he certainly gave them the se-
verest part of the service, for they suffered more than any others of his
They were much given to brawls, and exceedingly insolent; and the
women were particularly famous in this sort of wrangling, of which we
* Athenaeus, xv. c. 14. See the parabolical speech of the Druid Sithama, in
fill of Tura." Smith's Gallic Ant. p. 318.
t " Haec tibi erunt artes, pacis componere mores;
Parcere subjectis, et debellare superbos."
t Polybius iii. See Tac. de mor. i. 66, and throughout his works.
Diodorus. || Josephus, Ant. xix. 1. 15. Seneca de Ira. iii. 3.
IT Polybius. ** Josephus, Ant. xix. 1. 15. Ibid. Jew. Wars, vii. 4. 2.
ti Polybius, iii.
THEIR MILITARY EXPLOITS. 89
have a lively description from the pen of honest Marcellinus. " If any
of them," says he, " be set a brawling, having the snrew, his wife, (who
is commonly the stronger, by far, of the two, and of a sallow complex-
ion,) to take his part, a whole band of strangers is not able to match him;
especially when, setting out her big neck, with swollen veins, she falls a
grating her teeth and levelling her snow-white arms, of a mighty large
size, once begins to lay about her with fists and heels together, like the
bolts and darts discharged with violence from a military engine."* The
Celta3, as may be readily believed, from their fiery dispositions, were
prone to war. Their propensity to fight led them into hostilities on very
slight occasions, and impelled them to undertake the most dangerous ex-
peditions. Athenseus says, they would wage war for meat and drink; but,
surely, the want of either was a powerful stimulus. The whole race was
warlike and fierce, and ready to fight with the greatest ardor, in open
contention, without malignity, and with the utmost strength and courage,
but accompanied with a rashness and temerity not very compatible with
military discipline,"!" and that often brought disasters which their daring
and undaunted bravery could not avert. At the same time, this hot tem-
per enabled them to surmount obstacles and achieve exploits that they
were perhaps inadequate to accomplish, if unirnpassioned. It was equal-
ly true of them as of the Scots' Highlanders, who, when kept passive,
were observed to "lose their ardor." The military prowess of the Celts
was proverbial. Tacitus says, the Germans thought it more honorable
to live by their sword than the labor of any occupation. " The Gauls,"
he remarks, "were prompted to fight, by liberty, the Germans, by the
allurements of spoil; the Batavians, by glory. "J " The Celts carried
their rights on the points of their swords, and said all things belonged to
the brave who had courage to seize them."^
These restless warriors repeatedly invaded Italy with terrible devas-
tation. In this country, peopled in the most early ages by the Celtae,
many of the ancient nations continued to preserve their original manners
when the Roman empire was in its zenith, and they long retained the
martial spirit inherent in the race. Those nations of Gauls which dwelt
in Italy, in the beginning, not only held the country, but acquired the
alliance of most of their neighbors, who were terrified at their fury.JJ
The Gauls under Brennus, chief of the Senones, having for some
cause attacked the Tyrrhenians, the Romans sent ambassadors to learn
the reason of the war, who, arriving when the two armies were ready to
engage, very inconsiderately joined the latter people, and killed one of
their princes. After the battle, the Gauls sent to Rome to demand that
the ambassador should be condemned as one who without cause had
done them this injury, and thereby given just provocation for war. The
* Lib. xv. c. 10. t Strabo, iv. p. 195. Polybius, &c.
t Annals iv. He elsewhere says, the Gauls had become rich and un warlike.
German wars raged with most fury when he wrote.
Livy, v. 35. |] Polybius, ii.
90 THEIR MILITARY EXPLOITS.
justice of the request was at once admitted by the senate, who orderec
the offender to be given up; but the influence of his friends prevailed
with the people, who insisted on the decree being reversed. The Gauls
were greatly enraged when they learned this decision, and increasing
their army to seventy thousand they marched straight to Rome. They
were met at Alia, ten miles from the city, by the Roman troops, who were
speedily driven from the heights where they had posted themselves, in
disorder to the plain, and routed with dreadful slaughter.
The victors, according to their custom, spent the first day after the
battle in cutting ofFthe heads of the slain; but on the fourth, they ad-
vanced to the walls of Rome, broke down the gates, and laid the whole
city in ashes, except a few houses on Mount Palatine. They were
frustrated in their attempts on the capitol by the well known alarm that
was given by the sacred geese, but were only induced to abandon their
design on payment of one thousand pounds of gold, with which they re-
tired, after having occupied Rome seven months. So far, indeed, the
Celts had done pretty well; biit on their march homewards, they attack-
ed Veascus, partly to revenge the assistance which the inhabitants had
afforded their enemies, and partly to augment their booty by the sack of
the place. The Romans having pursued them under the leading of
Camillus, totally overthrew them, and recovered their gold and most of
the other plunder.* It was only after this repulse of Brennus, that the
Romans appear to have taken courage to attack the Italian Celts. "f
In the time of Asdrubal, the Gauls descended into Italy with fifty
thousand foot, and twenty thousand cars and horsemen. The Romans,
at this time, thought it impossible long to hold their country, unless they
had subdued these nations; J and, before their final subjection, they were
so terrible to the Romans, that, when the Gauls appeared, old age did
not excuse any from the war: even the priests, who were exempted
from military duty on all other occasions, being obliged to take the field
when these formidable enemies were to be opposed,^ and they solemnly
cursed all who took money from the treasury, except for the Gallic wars.
In the account of the Cimbrian invasion, we have a striking picture
of these ferocious nations. The magnitude of the armament filled all
Italy with the greatest alarm, and the extraordinary strength and hardi-
hood of these people impressed the Romans with the utmost terror.
When they beheld the Cimbri, of immense stature and horrid counte-
nances, exposing themselves naked to showers of snow, climbing to the
mountain tops, and sliding down the frozen precipices on their shields,
for mere amusement, and tearing up the neighboring hills to form a pas-
sage across a river, &c., the Roman veterans began to desert their col-
ors, and at last fled.|| Yet by the excellent generalship of Marius, and
the military discipline of the Roman army, they were eventually defeat-
ed in two battles, with incredible slaughter. Plutarch tells us, the lands
* Diod. Sic. xii. t Polybius, i f Ibid. ii.
Appian, Civ. Wars, ii. || Polyaenus, viii. 10. Plutarch de Bello Cimbrico.
THEIR MILITARY RENOWN. 91
of the Massilians were amply manured by the slain, wbose bones were
so numerous, as afterwards to be used in enclosing the vineyards; the
few who escaped the disaster retiring to the mountains around Verona
and Vincenza, where their descendants still exist. Before they entered
Italy, they had been opposed in their march through Gaul by the Ro-
mans, who lost sixty thousand men in the attempt.* From the first
mention of the Cimbri, the Romans had been two hundred and ten years
in conquering Germany, where they lost five armies. f Titus, to dissuade
the Jews from a war with the Romans, represented to them the madness
of contending with those, by whom the strong Germans, who, wherever
they went, performed marvellous exploits, had been overcome. J " Who
is there among you that hath not heard of the great number of the Ger-
mans? You have yourselves seen them to be strong and tall: " these
"who have minds greater than their bodies, and a soul that despises
death, and who are in rage more fierce than wild beasts."^
The Gauls, he continues, became tributary to the Romans, not be-
cause they were of " effeminate minds, or ignoble, for they bore a war
of eighty years, for their liberty."^ These nations, indeed, fought so
desperately, that their fame was spread abroad both far and wide, and it
was an object with many powerful States, to retain bodies of them in
their service, at much expense. Being held in this estimation, and re-
collecting the daring exploits of their ancestors, it was no wonder that
they became so proud of themselves as to despise all other people. ||
Polybius declares, that "never until this day were greater wars than the
Gallic, either for obstinacy of courage, or the resolution of the combat-
ants; the greatness of armies, or the slaughter of men. "IF " These are
they," says another, "who took Rome; these robbed the temple at
Delphos; these laid a great part of Europe and Asia under tribute, and
took possession of some of the countries they had subdued: mixing with
the Greeks, they were called Gallo-Grecians. They often routed and
cut up many great armies of Romans. "||
The Gauls who had escaped from Delphos, after they had vanquished
the Thracians, settled about Byzantium, and built the royal city Tyle.
The Byzantines saved themselves from plunder by paying tribute to the
Gallic king, Comontoire, sometimes thirty thousand, sometimes fifty
thousand, and at other times one hundred thousand crowns. Finally,
they were forced to give eighty thousand crowns yearly, until the time
of Clyare, when the Celts were extirpated by the Thracians.**
When any of the Eastern States wished to raise an army for some
desperate undertaking, they recruited in Gaul; and when a faithful body-
guard was wanted, the Celtne were engaged at any price. The Cartha-
ginians, especially, had always numerous bodies of these troops in their
armies, which were chiefly furnished by Gaul and Spain.|| Mithrada-
* Diod. Sic. Fragment, xxxvi. t Tacitus.
t Josephus Jew! Wan vi. 6, 2. Ibid. ii. 16, 4. || Diod. Sic. v. 2.
fl Lib. ii. ** Polybius, iv. ft Diod. &c.
t)2 THEIR MILITARY EDUCATION.
tes, king of Pontns, boasted that he had in his army those Gauls who
had always frightened the Romans.* Dionysius, the tyrant, engaged
two thousand Gauls and Celtiberians to assist the Lacedemonians, and
gave them five months' pay in advance. The Greeks, who had a suffi-
ciently high opinion of their own abilities, in order to try the valor of
their new allies, drew them out against the Boeotians and their confedo
rates, whom they very speedily overthrew. During the time they serv-
ed, we are told they were of great use, and purchased much renown. |
Apollodorus, king of Cassandria in Macedonia, armed and engaged
with large rewards a life-guard of these men.J Perseus of Macedonia
bargained for 20,000 of them; and Herod, king of the Jews, received,
as his body-guard, 400 who had served Cleopatra in the same capaci-
ty. The Celtic legion, who were the guards of Caligula, hearing of
his assassination, instantly drew their swords, and marched to the thea-
tre, determined in their rage to put every soul to the sword. || The
Gauls were among the ancients, what the Swiss have been in modern
The whole education of the Gauls was intended to qualify them for
the profession of war. They never permitted their children to appear
before them in public, until they were able to bear arms;1T and to pre-
vent their young men from becoming fat, they were kept at work, and
were obliged to wear a girdle, to determine their just size, which if they
exceeded, they were fined.**
Among the Germans, no one was allowed to bear arms until the com-
munity had attested his ability to use them. If found worthy, he was
dignified by one of the rulers, or his father, in the midst of a public as-
sembly, with a shield and javeline, and from thenceforward he became a
member of the commonwealth.
There was but one sort of public diversion among these people, and it
shows in a strong light the estimation in which military prowess was
neld. The young men flung themselves naked amongst sharp swords
and darts, where they fearlessly danced amid the loud applauses of the
spectators: a performance which they executed with much grace, but
not for hire. To please their admiring countrymen was their sole and
highest reward. ft
The Scotish tribes in Ireland, we are told, trained up their youth to
martial exercises from their seventh year, and they were honorably re-
warded according to their proficiency. JJ The Scots Highlanders prac-
tisec the same custom; and as the military character of the Britons
* Justin, xxxvii. t Diod. Sic. xv. 8. t Diod. Sic.
Josephus Jew. Wars, i. 20, 3. || Josephus Jew. Ant. xix. i. 15.
IT Bello Gall ** Strabo, iv. p. 199. ft Tacitus de mor. Germ.
}} Harl. MS. 5280 contains an account of the renowned Irish Militia, with
course of probation, and exercises, written before the 10th century, by
lourd Mac Tuathal, in the reign of Cormac Mac Airt. Astle has noticed this
MILITARY ENTHUSIASM. 93
closely resembled that of the continental Celts, they had also a puhiic
investment of their youth with arms. The remains of this custo^n existed
in the Highlands and Jsles almost within memory of man. The princi-
pal persons in a clan were obliged to give public proof of their valor and
dexterity in the use of their arms, before assuming any command.
The first meat which an Irish infant anciently received, was put into
its mouth on the point of a sword by the mother, with many imprecations
and prayers, that he might not die otherwise than with honor in battle.*
Giraldus Cambrensis notices a custom, which prevailed in some parts
even in the sixteenth century: the right arm was left unchristened, so
that it might be able to give a sure and deadly blow."}"
The chief himself was not acknowledged until he had thus proved his
right. J With so careful an attention to military education, is it surpris-
ing that the nation should be warlike? To the Caledonians, the Britons
of the south said, the Gods themselves were not equal. Herodian de-
scribes them as insatiably fond of slaughter; and so little have their pug-
nacious habits been changed by time, that for nearly eighteen centuries,
they have lived in almost continual war, either amongst themselves or
with others. From the most early ages, the Scots were extolled for
their valor. "Ilz sont asses hardi et chevaleraux de leur personnes,"
as an old French writer says. And they still nobly support the charac-
ter which their ancestors acquired, as fierce and unyielding warriors.
No age among the Gauls was exempt from the wars, from the youth
capable of bearing arms to the hoary head; nor was it necessary to
urge any to take the field, for all went with the utmost cheerfulness; and
it is a remarkable and sanguinary proof of the martial spirit of these stern
warriors, that the unfortunate individual who arrived last at their assem-
blies, was publicly put to death.
No obstacles could deter them from the prosecution of a war, for,
when they had once resolved to take up arms, they were determined to
encounter the most numerous and fearful disasters. ||
The Gauls who engaged with Hannibal, declared themselves ready
to undergo any danger with him: unfortunately, the campaign turned
out none of the easiest, IT for these daring and hardy auxiliaries.
This forwardness to put themselves on arduous expeditions and readi-
ness to undertake difficult operations, has distinguished the Celts in all
ages. At the siege of Roxburgh, in 1322, the Highlanders were order-
ed to climb a precipice on which the English were posted, which they
very soon accomplished, putting the enemy to immediate flight.** We
t Campion. This reservation could only have been made, from retainhg the
itive mode of performing baptism by immersion.
t Dr. Macpherson, &c.
Berlin's Description des royaulmes d'Angleterre etd'Ecosse. Paris, 1558, ed.
don, 1775. " Ilz sont hardis et vcrtueux comme lions ;" he elsewhere
|| Amm. Mar. xv. 10. II Polybius. The Gauls always suffered most
** Lord Haile's Annals.
94 THE CELTS SUPERIOR TO THE ROMANS.
also find that Donald of the Isles came to one of the sieges of Roxburgh,
with a great body of men, " armed in Highland fashion, with habergioris,
bows and axes," anxiously desiring leave to march into England before
the army, " to take upon them the first press and dint of the battle."*
The Romans had no inclination to admit that they were ever defeated
yet, in the various details which are preserved concerning the Gallic
wars, they acknowledge enough to prove, that, although their military
discipline gave them a decided advantage, they never met with a more
determined resistance; and, although ultimately successful, many battles
* were certainly extremely unfavorable, if not dishonorable, to the Roman
arms. The testimony which the conquerors of the world have borne tc
the intrepid bravery and undaunted resolution of the Celta?, is highly to
be esteemed, for the admission of an enemy may be safely received,
when discreditable to himself.
Tacitus admits that the Roman arms were tarnished by the brave Ger-
mans; and Sallust, in Cataline, says the Gauls were superior in military
prowess to his countrymen.f The Batavi, Matiarii, and Lancearii,
Gallic and German auxiliaries, stood their ground in that battle where
the emperor Valens fell, when all the Romans fled.J The great Caesar
himself, on many occasions, speaks in terms of admiration of the valor
and heroism of these nations. The Nervii, he says, overcame difficul-
ties, which, though seemingly insurmountable, appeared yet as nothing
to men of their resolution and magnanimity. In a certain battle, the
slain were so numerous as to form a pile, from which the survivors, as
from a rampart, continued to hurl their javelins on the enemy, and dis-
puted the field with so much perseverance, that in the sanguinary con-
flict their name was almost extinguished. On many other occasions, we
find whole bodies were slaughtered to a man, rather than yield. The
Gallic foot at Telamon, Polybius says, fell on the spot where they had
Their contempt of death was very remarkable. Aristotle says " they
fear neither earthquakes nor inundations." This fearless disposition led
them to behave as if they were insane, for, according to some writers,
they would not retire from their houses if they were falling about their
ears, and would rush into the water as if they were able, with sword in
hand, to beat back the encroaching waves. However much of this may
be 'true, they certainly fought with a desperation and fury almost incred-
ible. At Thermopylae, they rushed on the Greeks with a ferocity re-
sembling that of wild beasts; "their rage, while life remained, suffer-
ing no abatement, though they were wounded by the battle-axe, cut down
with the sword, or pierced with darts and arrows." Some of these Gauls
tore the lacerating darts from their bodies, and discharged them back on
the Greeks, or, as they lay wounded on the ground, pierced with them
those who stood near them.
* Pitscottie's Chronicles, p. 102, 8vo. 1 C. 53.
t Aram. Mar. xxxi. Pausanias, x. c. 21.
ANECDOTES OF HIGHLAND BRAVERY. 95
At the battle of Falkirk, in 1745, the cavalry had rushed on tho reb-
els, broken their ranks, and were trampling them under the horses' foet.
"The Highlanders, stretched on the ground, thrust their dirks into the
bellies of the horses. Some seized the riders by their clothes, dragged
them down and stabbed them; several, again, used their pistols; but
few had sufficient space to handle their swords." The cavalry were
eventually repulsed, the Highlanders pursuing them and running as fast
as the horses could gallop.*
No man, says Caesar, speaking of a battle which lasted from one
o'clock in the afternoon until evening, saw the back of an enemy; and,
even when compelled to give way, the Gauls rallied at their carriages,
and renewed the fight with greater obstinacy, until the night was far
spent. "j" In another engagement with the Romans, the first ranks of the
Gallic troops were swept off by the javelins of the enemy, and their
army attacked both in front and rear, yet not a man offered to fly, but
stood and fought until every soul was cut off.J
Amongst many instances of personal bravery and heroism, it is related
by the same accomplished writer, who was an eye witness of the trans-
action, that, at the siege of Avaricum, a Gaul planted himself before the
gate and in the face of the whole Roman army, continued to cast balls
of burning pitch and tallow, in order to set fire to the towers which the
enemy had raised, until he was shot dead by an arrow. The danger of
such a position did not prevent its being instantly occupied by another
Gaul, who was almost as quickly brought down. His nearest compan-
ion, undismayed at death, stepping over the bodies of his brave com-
rades, resumed the perilous duty and shared their fate. Still a fourth
warrior placed himself with alacrity in the fatal spot, and he too fell a
speedy sacrifice to his temerity; yet until the conflict ceased, the place
was not abandoned.^
In the disordered retread at Culloden, an English cavalry officer ad-
vanced in front of his regiment, to catch one of the flying Highlanders
who had come rather close to the line. The fellow quickly brought him
down with his broadsword, and having despatched him, he deliberately
stopped to take his watch, in front of a whole squadron of the enemy. ||
In that disastrous battle, the heroism of Gillies Mac Bane was most
eminently displayed, and worthy of a better fate. This gentleman was
major of the regiment of clan Macintosh; and when the Argyle militia
broke down the park wall which enabled them to attack the Highlanders
in flank, the brave Gillies stationed himself at the gap, and, as the ene-
my entered, they severely suffered from the irresistible strokes of his
claymore. As John Breac Mac Donald, who stood beside him, ex-
pressed it, " he mowed them down like dockins." At last, finding him-
* Chevalier Johnstone's Memoirs, p. 92. On this occasion, Macdonald of
nald was with difficulty rescued from under a dead horse that had fallen on
t Bello Gall i. 20. t Bello Gall. vii. 5G.
Bello Gall vii. 12 !| Chev. Johnstone.
9f5 GILLIES MACBANE.
self opposed singly to a whole troop, he set his back to the wall and de-
fended himself with the fierceness of desperation, keeping the enemy
long at bay, and killing an almost incredible number. Some officers,
admiring his valor, endeavored to save his life, but poor Gillies feli
where he had slain thirteen of his foes. According to som,e accounts,
the number was much greater. A descendant of this brave man, who
has lost a leg, resides at Chelsea, and is remarkable for his fine stature
and proportion. The following verses are said to be from the pen of
The clouds may pour down on Culloden's red plain,
But the waters shall flow o'er its crimson in vain ;
For their drops shall seem few to the tears for the slain
But mine are for thee, my brave Gillies Macbane !
Though thy cause was the cause of the injured and brave ,
Though thy death was the hero's, and glorious thy grave ;
With thy dead foes around thee, piled high on the plain,
My sad heart bleeds o'er thee, my Gillies Macbane !
How the horse and the horseman thy single hand slew !
But what could the mightiest single arm do ?
A hundred like thee might the battle regain ; ^
But cold are thy hand and heart, Gillies Macbane!
With thy back to the wall, and thy breast to the targe,
Full flashed thy claymore in the face of their charge ;
The blood of their boldest that barren turf stain ;
But alas ! thine is reddest there, Gillies Macbane!
Hewn down, but still battling, thou sunk'st on the ground,
Thy plaid was one gore, and thy breast was one wound ; i
Thirteen of thy foes by thy right hand lay slain ;
Oh ! would they were thousands for Gillies Macbane !
Oh ! loud, and long heard, shall thy coronach be ;
And high o'er the heather thy cairn we shall see ;
And deep in all bosoms thy name shall remain,
But deepest in mine, dearest Gillies Macbane '
And daily the eyes of thy brave Boy before
Shall thy plaid be unfolded ; unsheathed thy claymore;
And the white rose shall bloom on his bonnet again,
Should he prove the true son of my Gillies Macbane !
As it was equally shameful for a general to desert his troops, as for
them to abandon their commander, he shared the same fate as his follow-
ers; and it is related that no prince ever survived the loss of his crown.
Correus, the chief of the Bellovaci, though his army was put to the rout,
would neither quit the field nor accept of quarter, but continued to fight
with undaunted courage, wounding many of the victorious Romans, who
EXPLOITS OF THE TWO CELTIC LEGIONS. 97
were at last obliged to despatch him with their javelins.* " Some,'
says another, " before all their blood was shed, rose up ere they died, to
do some more service. Others, when both knees were tired, bowing the
left leg, would rest themselves by thus reclining, yet ready to give a
fresh assault, which is a token of obstinacy and stiff resolution, in the
highest degree, "t
At the siege of Amida, the two legions Magnentiae, raised in Gaul in
the time of Constantius and Julius, immortalized themselves. They
were composed of valiant men, both active and nimble, excellent for
fighting on even ground, but unfit for besieging, for they would not lend
a hand to help any man at the engines, or in raising bulwarks, but fool
hardily would sally forth and fight, courageously indeed, but they often
returned many fewer than when they went out. When the city gates were
at last closed, and they could not by any entreaty be allowed to make their
usual sorties, they gnashed their teeth like wild beasts for vexation. At
length, throwing off all restraint, they threatened death to the tribunes if
they should offer to oppose their resolution of breaking out of the city, to
attack the besieging Persians, and forthwith began to hack and hew down
the gates with their swords, being exceedingly afraid lest the place should
be taken before they had got to the open field, there to perform exploits
that were worthy of Gauls. With great difficulty they were induced to wait
for a short time, until they could march out, and attack the advanced posts
with some appearance of success. They therefore sallied out on a certain
night by a postern gate, armed with axes and swords, praying for success
to the Heavenly power, but proceeding with the utmost caution, holding
their breath until they reached the outwatches, who were instantly des-
patched ; when the whole body ran furiously toward the carnp, designing to
surprise the king. But the enemy being alarmed, and speedily standing
to their_arms, the Gauls made a halt, and most valiantly, with wondrous
strength, slashed and cut down with their swords, all that stood in their
way. The whole host pouring around them, the Gauls thought it pru-
dent to retreat, and yet not one of them turned his back, but they retired
gradually within the rampart, sustaining the overwhelming assault until
they at last got into the city at day-break, with the loss of four hundred
slain and many wounded, having thus very nearly surprised and killed,
not Rhesus and the Thracians before Troy, but the king of the Persians,
guarded by a hundred thousand armed men. The leaders of these
Gauls, as most valiant heroes, t were greatly honored by the Emperor,
who commanded statues of them, in their arms, to be set up at Edessa,
a place of much resort. This is from the pen of Ammianus Marcelli-
nus,J who served in the same campaign, and who, in a subsequent book,
gives us another anecdote of these heroic warriors. After the death of
Julian, the Gauls were pitched on as the most expert swimmers, to cross
the Tigris. Whether this was to encourage the rest of the army to at-
tempt the passage, from their success, or, as it would otherwise appear, to
* Bello Gal. viii. 16. Pansa. t Amm. Mar. t Lib. six. c. ft
98 THE BRITISH TRIBES.
deter those who thought the plan of attack advisable, by showing, from the
fate of the auxiliaries, the desperate nature of the measure, is doubtful,
but the Gauls were let out of the place at night, and, sooner than any
one could have imagined, they reached the further bank, and trod undei
foot, and cut in pieces, those Persians who opposed them.*
When the ambassadors of the Celts, who lived near the Ionian bay,
met Alexander in the city of the Getae, with offers of friendship and
proposals for a league, that great monarch took an opportunity of asking
these people, what they were most afraid of, believing that the dread of
incurring his displeasure and suffering from his vengeance, must have
been the strongest feelings at the time. The Celts replied with charac-
teristic simplicity and indifference, that they were afraid of nothing more
than that the sky should fall on their heads! They were admitted by
the conqueror amongst the number of his friends, and dismissed with a
remark, that the Celts were a very arrogant people."]"
The Nervii openly declared their resolution of neither sending am-
bassadors to Caesar, nor accepting his peace on any terms .J
The obstinate and persevering resistance, and the daring attacks of
the Celtae, more particularly the British tribes, could not fail to make a
strong impression on the Romans. None of the race were more ardent
in the cause of liberty than the Britons; and before they had to contend
for their own freedom, they were in the practice of assisting their friends
on the continent with considerable bodies of troops, during their des-
perate contentions with the Romans, which is the chief cause assigned
for Cassar's invasion. Tacitus avers that the natives surpassed the Gauls
in bravery and love of freedom, and declares that Caesar " by a prosper-
ous battle only struck the natives with terror, that he was the discov-
erer, not the conqueror of the island."
The fortitude and unshaken perseverance of the Britons, their vigi-
lance and enterprise in their endeavors to preserve their independence,
are amply evinced throughout the long and sanguinary struggle. Noth-
ing but the superior arms and discipline of the Romans, assisted by the
introduction of arts, the enervating baits of pleasure, and charms of vice,
enabled them to provinciate and keep possession of the southern parts
of the island. Their tremendous power could not but have been long
known to the Britons, through the Gauls, who had themselves experi-
enced it, at the cost of upwards of a million of men, slain in the field,
yet the appearance of those mighty conquerors on the shores of Albion
did not dispirit the warlike inhabitants.
Caesar, on his first descent, was evidently defeated. He procured
from his country a thanks offering of twenty days, but the only proofs of
his conquest were two hostages, received from cities perhaps not quite
removed from Roman influence. In his second attempt, the natives were
*Ibid. xxv. c. 9. t Arian i. 4. Ed. Amstel. 1668, p. 11. Strabo. t Bella
Lucan, with whom Tysilio, an ancient Welsh Bard, coincides. Robert's early
Hist, of the Cumri.
more resolutely determined to resist his amis, and the bloody conflict
that ensued on his landing, is almost admitted to have ended in his de
feat. After his death, Britain was scarcely considered as a Roman ac-
quisition, and it was reserved for succeeding commanders, by sacrifices
of blood and maxims of deep policy, to break the spirit, and sap the vir-
tues of a rude and patriotic people.
The island became better known after the Romans had established
themselves, and its intercourse with the continent had consequently in-
creased, while Gaul, finally reduced to subjection, was but a province of
the mighty empire. Several of the tribes also began to find the advan-
tage of the alliance and protection of their conquerors, dissensions
were fomented in favor of the Romans, and disunion facilitated the com-
plete subjugation of South Britain.* 1
Fierce and daring by nature, the inhabitants were subdued to quies-
cence with that refined policy, which, by the fascinations of luxury, gilds
while it rivets the chains of slavery, and brings the enervated wearer to
submit, without regret, to wear a yoke, which still preserves an appear-
ance of independence. In the pleasures of Roman society and civilisa-
tion, the tributary Briton forgot his subjection; but a numerous part of
the population sternly refused all advantages, as unworthy of comparison
with the enjoyment of liberty. The free and unconquered tribes, by
the incessant annoyance they gave to the legions, made Britain a most
troublesome and precarious acquisition. Although often coerced, the
high-spirited Celts were never broken-hearted. The Caledonians, al-
though amazed at the vast armies and fleets led against them, were not
daunted, but made extensive preparation for the defence of their coun-
try, and that with so much ardor and assiduity, that Tacitus, in relating
the expedition of Agricola, astonished at the greatness of their exertions,
insinuates that it was very much magnified by fame. Not only did
they stand on the defensive, but immediately began to storm the Roman
forts and castles, and, by the boldness of their proceedings, struck Agri-
cola's army with terror. When repulsed in an attack which they made
on the ninth legion, they nevertheless " abated nothing from their feroci-
ty; they ascribed their failure to the chance of war, and not to their in-
feriority, and boldly continued to keep the field." Defeat seems on this,
as on other occasions, to have roused the Celts to greater exertions
The youth, and even the old men poured to the army from all quarters,
and, undismayed by former losses, they posted themselves with firm de-
termination to stand for their country and their liberties, at the foot of
the Grampians. There they were indeed defeated, but they did not
submit to the victors. They rallied their forces in the woods, and
checked the pursuit. The Romans were obliged to retire southwards,
the Caledonians followed them, retook the districts which had been over-
* The Chamavii and Angrivarii vanquished the Bructeri in a pitched battle,
the latter lost sixty thousand men, " to the joy and recreation of the
Tacitus, in the enthusiasm of Amor Patriae.
100 PERSEVERING EFFORTS OF THE CELTS
run, demolished the fortifications that had been recently erected, and
again saw their country freed from the presence of their enemies, and
burning with revenge, they passed the walls and ravaged the northern
Hadrian, Severus, and other emperors, visited Britain for the express
purpose of subduing the refractory tribes, and securing the northern
frontier, but their powerful armies and vigorous operations failed in sub-
duing the stubborn natives. Neither the formation of military roads, by
which they were enabled to conduct armies with facility into the reces-
ses of the country, nor the establishment of numerous stations and forts
of great strength, produced this desirable result. Nor did the high-
minded Caledonians value the offer of citizenship, which they could have
freely embraced; but notwithstanding the repeated losses, and severe
chastisements which their temerity brought on them, they obstinately
preferred a life of freedom, to an existence branded with the mark of
The continued efforts of the Welsh to preserve their independence,
were worthy of a branch of the great Celtic race. Gir. Cambrensis
says, that Henry II. informed the Emperor Emanuel, that they were
BO warlike, it was easier to tame wild beasts, than daunt their courage.
The determined opposition which the Scots ever made to the attempts
of the English Kings, to reduce them to subjection, is a proof of the
high value they set on national independence, and the steadiness with
which they continued to protect it. Although the country was repeat-
edly overrun by the armies of-England, the national archives and rega-
lia carried off, they valiantly contended under the illustrious Wallace
and Bruce, until they had finally achieved their complete emancipation.
"It is not glory," say the Scots nobility, in their letter to Pope John,
in 1320, concerning their wrongs, "it is not riches, neither is it honor,
but it is liberty alone that we fight and contend for, which no honest
man will lose but with his life."
The long and persevering exertions of the Scots, in the cause of the
Stewarts, is no less worthy of remark. The misfortunes of the gallant
Montrose, and no less worthy Dundee, and the severe punishments
which their frequent rebellions brought on them, did not detach them
from the interest of the expatriated family. After the accession of the
Prince of Orange, the Highlanders became more submissive; but one
of Dundee's unfortunate officers says that " nothing but King James'
special command" could have put a period to the war at that time.
The Clans, however, took the field in 1715, were in arms in 1719, and
were still ready to vindicate their supposed liberties in 1745, when the
final struggle of the Celtic race for their independence took place.
On this last occasion, the privations they suffered did not impair their
ardor. Their cheerfulness never forsook them, even when they were
in want of almost every necessary, were surrounded with difficulties,
and had to undergo extreme fatigue. On their retreat from England,
HARDIHOOD OF THE GAEL. 101
although they had performed with astonishing celerity a long march in u
bad season, as soon as they had forded the Eske, which reached as high
as the neck, and were in Scotland, the pipers struck up their favorite
strath-speys, and most of the army began to dance.
When the Highlanders rendezvoused at Ruthven after the battle at
Culloden, instead of being depressed at their loss, they scarcely consid-
ered it a defeat, but were burning with impatience for revenge. '' I was
delighted," says the Chevalier Johnstone, " to see their gaiety."
Civilis, a celebrated German leader, attacked the Roman army four
times in one day, and instances are found of the Gauls maintaining des-
perate battles for several successive days, such was the persevering ob-
stinacy of these nations.
Dundee's troops in many of their marches, which were always made
with wonderful expedition, had neither bread, salt, nor any sort of liquor
except water, and that during several weeks, yet they never complained.
The Highlanders were well known to be "a people, that can endure
all the hardships of war, being bred to all manner of cunning in relation
Sir J. Dalrymple, in his Memoirs of Great Britain, ii. p. 53, thus
speaks of them. " The lightness arid looseness of their dress, the habit
they had of going always on foot, and never on horseback, their love of
long journeys, but above all, that patience of hunger and every kind of
hardship, which carried their bodies forward, even after their spirits
were exhausted, made them exceed all other European nations in speed
and perseverance of march. Montrose's marches were sometimes sixty
miles a day, without food or halting, over mountains, along rocks, and
through morasses, &c."
ft It is not easy," says Home, " to conceive how they really did live,
and how they endured the want of those things which other people rail
the conveniences and even the necessaries of life."
When the Highland companies were raised in the service of govern-
ment, it was soon observed that they became less hardy than their coun-
trymen who lived in their wonted state of rudeness and freedom.
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