Late La Tene culture uniterrupted by Romans?
For the last few days I intensively researched La Tene period swords, both here on myArmoury, in several books and elsewhere on the internet and I came to a conclusion that I want a custom La Tene sword. The problem immediately arose: "Which La Tene period precisely and which area?" My favorite period and area is of course first half of the 4th century BC, sack of Rome by Brennus' Senones and other victories against Romans and Etruscans in that period and area. (As you can see I'm not really a fan of Romans. ;-) ) BUT, I like late La Tene swords far more. Lenticular or double fullered cross sections, long blades, more stylized hilt shapes... Late La Tene period is more famous for the fall of independent Celtic kingdoms and I went searching for areas still free of Roman domination until the mass migrations of Germanic people all over the former Celtic and Roman areas.

I found very interesting przeworsk culture:

Also it seems some Germanic tribes adopted La Tene type longswords but I don't know how common were they and how did they differ in style and decoration from La Tene swords I have seen here on forum and elsewhere.
I also considered Irish, but their swords were very short, is there any evidence of late La Tene longswords being traded to Ireland? Also, what about tribes who recognized Rome's domination, did they still use same style swords when fighting as auxiliaries as they did before?
Were there any other areas with late La Tene culture outside Roman borders?

If this was facebook, I would tagg Nathan Bell and Shane Allee. ;)
Thanks in advance for any help. Pictures are of course very welcome. :)
Hi Luka,

I'm not the best person to answer your questions, but as far as I know, all the swords in Early-Late Iron Age Ireland seem to be in the Hallstatt style, but only shorter.

Thanks Zach. My research got to the same conclusion. :)
About the Celtic areas outside the Roman Empire borders, I found that there is very few of them and these areas are usually so "muddy" it's very difficult to tell what tribe is Celtic, what Germanic, Dacian, even lazyges, archeological finds of La Tene stuff are rare and often don't even include swords...
So I decided to do some research on Celtic tribes from which Romans drew auxiliaries and who were allied to Rome. Does anybody how did that function? A Celtic tribe allies itself with Rome, it sends few hundreds/thousands warriors to fight with Romans, do they fight under their own tribal chiefs? Do they fight in their traditional manner with their old weapons or Romans impose some kind of standardization and issued weapons to them? What was the difference between allied Celtic troops and auxiliaries (if any)? Northern Italian Celtic tribes were conquered about 200BC, are there swords found from these areas from 2nd and 1st century BC? Were they different than from the still independent Celtic areas?
Zach H. wrote:
Hi Luka,

I'm not the best person to answer your questions, but as far as I know, all the swords in Early-Late Iron Age Ireland seem to be in the Hallstatt style, but only shorter.


Hi Zach. I wouldn't say that iron age Irish swords were in the "Hallstatt style". All of the swords that I've seen, I would describe as La Tene style only shorter. AFAIK some Hallstatt style swords have been found in Ireland, but sadly I've never seen one.
The treatment and equipment of allied and auxiliary troops changed a lot over time. Through the Republic, it was common for Roman armies to include sizeable contingents of allied troops, typically local but not always, and these were hired basically for that campaign. They'd be dressed, equipped, and organized in their usual native fashions, led by their own leaders.

It seems the auxiliaries were "regularized" under Augustus, formed into regular cohorts and officially enlisted in the Roman army for terms similar to the legionaries (16 to 20 years). The usual belief is that these men originally used their native weapons and armor, and over time these would be replaced as needed by Roman equipment. I'm not sure if that is based on any substantial literary or archeological evidence, or if it's simply a modern theory being parrotted through the generations. In support, there *is* the Hod Hill sword, a clearly native style British sword found at a Roman auxiliary fort. Of course, I'm not sure if there were any *British* troops stationed there--for all I know some Thracian auxiliary in completely Romanized gear picked up a British sword at the local market cuz he thought it was cool! It should also be noted that the grip on this British sword shows *Roman* stylistic influence...

By the time we get to Trajan's Column in the early 2nd century AD, most of the auxiliaries look pretty much "Roman" and "uniform", though we're pretty sure there was plenty of variation as well as some overlap with the legionary look. There are still exceptions, such as the bare-chested men carrying what appear to be regular auxiliary shields but armed with nothing but clubs--we're guessing those may be short-term "foederati", but who knows?

As to the original question, it does seem that local arms and armor traditions end with Roman occupation. As I understand it, provincials were typically not permitted to carry weapons, unless they joined the army. To all the young warriors who didn't want to give up their ways and weapons, that was a great option--heck, they'd even get paid! Fighting for foreign armies as mercenaries was already a very ancient tradition, so becoming a Roman auxiliary wasn't much of a step beyond that. But with the local markets shut down, and the Romans contracting for equipment of *Roman* types, Celtic and other typologies fade away.

Even outside Roman territory, such as up in Germany, Roman weapons become popular through trade. You may read of "Roman ban on exporting weapons to barbarians", but that actually wasn't common. There was clearly a booming arms export trade through much of the Imperial era.

Thanks Matthew. :) I was just browsing through the web page of the National Museum of Scotland and saw some bronze hilt fittings very similar to Hod Hill. It might have been a fairly popular type in Britannia during the first century.

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