The Celts had a highly developed metallurgy industry, where they reached much greater heights than, for example, the Romans in the same time period. The Celts produced long swords of excellent quality on a large scale. An impressive number of Celtic swords of various periods have been found, and they are classified into several types according to the generally accepted system of periodization of the Laten culture:
- Swords of the Laten I type (450-250 BC). The blade length of such swords is from 55 to 65 cm. There is only one exception — the length of one find reaches 80 cm. All these swords are double-edged, with a pointed tip and belong to the piercing-chopping type. The most characteristic feature of this early weapon is the special shape of the tip of the scabbard.
- Swords of the Laten II type (250-120 BC). Swords became more of a slashing weapon. The tip of the sword became rounded, and the length of the blade gradually increased until the blades reached 75-80 cm. The weight of such a sword, together with the handle, reached about 1 kg. Although the old shape of the scabbard tip continued to be used in the Balkans, in Western Europe it began to follow the outline of the sword itself more closely. Literally hundreds of them were recovered from the lake near the village of La Tene in Switzerland, and although local differences can be identified, which mainly affected the shape of the scabbard, the Laten type II fully reflects the characteristic features of swords of that period. The scabbard (usually made of iron) was made of two plates. The front, which was slightly wider than the back, curved around it at the edges. The scabbard was reinforced with a decorative overlay on top and a tip that strengthened the entire structure from below.
- Swords of the Laten III type (120-50 BC). The length of the blade continued to increase. In some of the samples found, it reaches 90 cm. Although there were still swords with a pointed tip, the rounded type at the end became predominant. The long scabbard shown in this group is found in Britain. The shape of the scabbard clearly dates back to the Laten culture, but its considerable length — about 84 cm-suggests that they should be attributed to a later period.
Drawing of swords from Connolly's book. 1-12-evolution of the Celtic sword. Scale 1:8. 1, 2, 3 — swords and scabbards from the Marne region of France. Museum of Saint-Germain. 4, 5, 6-daggers and scabbards from the Marne region in France. Museum of Saint-Germain. 7 and 7a-sword and scabbard from La Ten. Museum of Basel. Switzerland. 7b is the reverse side 7a, on which there is a loop for hanging. 7c — tip of the scabbard 7a. 8-the tip of a sword scabbard from France. C. 200 BC 9 and 9a-sword and scabbard from the Port. 10-a scabbard that was found in the Thames near London. 11, 11a and 11b-a sword, as well as the front and back sides of the scabbard from Embleton, Cumberland. 12, 12a-sword and scabbard from Yorkshire. 13-16-sword hilts. 13 — from Thorpe Bridlington. Yorkshire. 14 — from Hod Hill, Dorset. 15 — from the Marne River Valley. France. 16 — from Galtstatt. Austria. 16a — image of a pergamum handle. Turkey.
Ancient information about Celtic swords
Descriptions of Celtic swords by Roman authors have also been preserved. Dionysius describes how the Celts raised their swords above their heads, whirled them in the air, and then brought them down on the enemy as if chopping wood. It was this handling of the sword that terrified their opponents so much. However, Roman soldiers soon learned to cope with this as well.
Polybius reports that the Romans began to take the first hit on the upper edge shield, reinforced with an iron pad. A blow on the iron edge bent the sword, and the Celtic warrior was forced to straighten it with his foot, which gave the legionary the opportunity to attack a temporarily unarmed opponent. In addition, the legionnaires found out that while the Celt is dealing a slashing blow with his sword, they can deflect it with a shield and hit it from under the shield in the stomach.
If you compare Celtic swords with Roman ones, they are closest to the spats used by cavalrymen. In terms of their parameters, Celtic swords are the opposite of the most famous Roman weapon — the gladius, which was much shorter and was intended exclusively for stabbing, not chopping blows.
Celtic swords, arranged by period.
The Celts, Full name, Gladius, Spata
Celtic swords. London Museum. 50-200 AD
Celtic swords. London Museum. 1000-850 BC
Celtic swords. London Museum. Laten periods I, II, III
- Connolly P. Greece and Rome. Encyclopedia of Military History. Eksmo-Press. Moscow, 2000. Translated by S. Lopukhova and A. Khromova.