The Irish Festival will have a space dedicated to the traditional art of combat, so typical in the ancient age and passed down to today for its historical and cultural value.
You will be able to visit a military camp where armed soldiers will show in detail how life on the battlefield was: from the apparent calm of fight preparation to the actual fighting.
You will also be able to behold fighters in action: they will simulate duels with swords, spears and shield, and later share their knowledge with the visitors, illustrating the stages of maintenance of these valuable weapons (also giving trial lessons on their usage).
For the Celts fighting was truly an art. Youngsters were trained from an early age to use weapons and shields, but also educated to warfare. Despite their temper, Celts were proud and loyal during a fight, and every confrontation was implicitly regulated by strict rules: for example, a warrior could only be attacked by one man at a time.
Before they started fighting, every faction tried to undermine the other team’s confidence. For example, they had their cart parading multiple times in front of the enemy’s camp, or performed stunts with shining weapons to show their skills.
Every Celtic warrior was bound by honour, even if it meant fighting against a close friend or a brother when their leaders were on different sides.
Celts also didn’t fear death: their highest aspiration was to obtain fame as great warriors and invincible heroes, so as to survive time and history and become immortal legends in the tales of the Bards. Given the choice between a short glorious life and a long quiet existence, no fighter would have hesitated to choose an early death!
When Alexander the Great asked a Celt ambassador what was the thing his people feared the most, he was expecting “You, milord” as an answer. Instead, what he got was: “We fear no man: there is but one thing that we fear, namely, that the sky should fall on us and crush us, the earth gape and swallow us up, and the sea burst out and overwhelm us”.
The social class of the Horse Warriors was kind of a military aristocracy. They convened the legion meetings, to be held in the occurrence of an impending danger and marking the beginning of a war. The assembly expressed its consent rattling weapons and yelling, then prepared the military camp to start the war.
CELTIC MILITARY CAMPS
The Celtic camp was composed by triangular-shaped tents and yurts with a thatched roof; the latter were intended for the military aristocracy. In there the RIX (the chief) resided with his family, and of course the warriors who, when they weren’t fighting, challenged each other in strength competitions and allowed themselves only a few moments of rest to eat grilled meat and drink classic malty stouts.
The barbarian banners were displayed, with their symbols and their figures, to honour and represent all the tribes hosted in the camp.
In one of the circular tents also lived the DRUID, a sort of priest-sorcerer who interacted with the Celtic Gods and acted as an intermediary between them and the mortals, interpreting the divine will and addressing prayers and requests. It was his job to invoke the blessing of the Gods in battle, and to offer spiritual support to the warriors.
The weapon they used the most was no doubt the iron sword, forged with a “leaf” knife. The shield was also highly important (usually oval shaped). It was one of the pieces of the typical Celtic armour, along with the helmet and the chain mail (also made with leather or pressed linen).
Other key weapons were the spear, the halberd, the dagger and the javelin.
Chariots were used not only as simple means of transport, but also as real instruments of war: pulled by two or four horses, depending on the structure, they could carry one to three soldiers.