romano british

The so-called “Colchester Vase,” depicting four gladiators named by inscriptions as Secundus, Mario, Memnon, and Valentinus.  Artist unknown; ca. 175 CE.  Found in a Roman grave at West Lodge, Colchester (= ancient Camulodunum), England, UK; now in the Colchester Castle Museum.  Photo credit: Carole Raddato.

sonnetscrewdriver  asked:

Am I right in thinking some Celtic peoples practiced something akin to tattooing? I'm sure I've read stuff by Roman historians about it, so obviously grain of salt and all that.

They did, yes. Most likely body painting rather than tattooing, but then, it might have been tattooed in.

The common misconception is that they used woad, which, unusually, isn’t actually Caesar’s fault for once. Instead, it’s the fucking English, of all people. In the 1600s there was obviously that big mad scramble to colonnise the “New World” i.e. cyfe everything not nailed down, and England wanted to justify why it should get the indigo plantations instead of the Spanish on Moral Grounds (OH MY GOD I KNOW). So, Queen Lizzie One went ‘Hey, my granddad was Slightly Welsh, and that’s Celtic, and they used woad and also did tattooing, maybe that’ll work.” And so, they put about that woad - a relative of indigo - was what her ancestors had used culturally, and therefore indgo was part of her heritage.

It was not true.

The Insular Celts did use woad, that much is true, but they used it as an antiseptic, mostly. While it is a relative of indigo, it doesn’t produce anything close to the dyes you get from that one; the colour is similar, but not remotely as strong, and even with the best mordants it washes easily out of cloth. It was a medicinal plant, basically. There’s a theory that they would bathe in the stuff before battle as part of a ritual, but that was probably because it you’ve basted yourself in Savlon before running at swords and other pointy things, you’re much less likely to die of secondary infection (or, as you might perceive it, it means the gods have lent you protection.) And, of course, woad is an astringent. If you tried tattooing in an astringent, the best you could ever really hope for was semi-permanent bruising.

But, there are accounts of Pretty Blue Patterns on the skin, so PREPARE FOR TEDIOUS HISTORICAL CITATIONS

So first up we’ve got our boy Caesar, of course. Exhibit A, taken from De Bellum Gallico:

Omnes vero se Britanni vitro inficiunt, quod caeruleum efficit colorem/All the British colour themselves with {glass}, which produces a blue colour.

More on that in a bit. Next, Exhibit B, Claudius Claudianus:

Venit et extremis legio praetenta Britannis, Quae Scotto dat frena truci ferronque notatas/[This legion], which curbs the savage Scot and studies designs marked in iron on the face of the dying Pict.

Again, I’ll come back to that. Exhibit C is this sexy motherfucker:

Lindow Man! The most complete bog body found in Britain. I shan’t go into the debate surrounding how he died. That’s a rant for another time. The important thing here is the copper found on his skin.

So, let’s kick off. Caesar there is doing some Classic Caesar Bullshit, look - the only time the man ever came to Britain was to briefly do a meet-and-greet with a single south-eastern tribe in, like, Kent, before fucking off back to Rome, but he always was very good at ascribing the actions of one person to an entire people because Caesar was a massive fucking tool; so yeah, grain-of-salt. But it’s probably fair to say he was giving a good overview of a common practice in the south-east of Britain, at least.

And what’s interesting is the word he used for the colouring substance, which I have here translated as ‘glass’; but the word was ‘vitro’. Vitro was a contemporary-to-Caesar Roman blue-green glass, ver’ ver pretty:

- and, crucially, the major additive to create that colour was, in fact, iron(II) oxide. Let’s revisit Exhibit B: Claudianus’ Picts, who ‘marked their faces with iron’. For ages, historians interpretted that very literally, and thought they were practising facial scarification; but there’s a whole host of reasons why that’s unlikely, not limited to the potential to kill yourself with sepsis when you live in an arse-frozen Scottish highland with no NHS.

What seems more likely, it seems to me (and others, this isn’t just my theory)… Is that the Picts, much like the Insular Celts, were of course highly skilled metal workers, and therefore produced a lot of useful compounds in their forges that they realised could be used for pigments. Because these people were incredible metal workers, as we know:

If you’re that good, you have an extensive and highly skilled cultural knowledge bank around the raw materials you’re using, you know? You know what iron and copper and tin can do, though admittedly, I don’t think they worked out that copper poisoning was a thing.

We’ve found Romano-British cosmetics, incidentally, that back this up. In 2004, they found a villa that contained a half-used pot of Romano-British foundation made of animal fat, starch and, crucially, tin oxide. When rubbed onto the skin it makes you pale while leaving a light, powdery texture. It also, unlike the lead-based continental equivalents, didn’t corrode the skin like wax under a fucking candle.

So, step in Lindow Man! Copper deposits were found on his skin, and although decomposition has meant it’s not possible to see them exactly, they did tests to see it the copper was in the places you’d expect painting vs places you wouldn’t, and the results certainly supported the theory. I believe other bog bodies have just about had visible blue swirls, too.

And, unlike woad, you can tattoo iron oxides into the skin without issue. Technically you can tattoo copper in, but Lindow Man was most likely painted. I’d say that was just as well, since tattooing copper would kill you - but Lindow Man died horribly and violently and got chucked in a bog for two millennia, so ultimately, I doubt it made much difference to him. Though, a bonus fact: he had excellent white teeth, perfectly manicured nails, and his hair and beard had been trimmed with scissors, giving us concrete evidence of hygiene practices and tools among the Celts.

To round off: it seems likely they did something, though whether it was painting or tattooing, we don’t really know. It was probably done with metal compounds, and certainly not with woad. Queen Lizzie One lost the indigo plantations to the Spanish anyway. Lindow Man’s life was fabulous if riddled with parasites, right up to the point it very abruptly wasn’t, somewhere in his 20s.

And the Celts made exquisite metal stuff.


Celtic Coin of the Dobunni King Corio

This is a ‘Tree Type’ gold stater of the Dobunni tribe. It was struck circa 20 BC  to AD 5 during the rule of Corio. On the obverse is the image of a tree-like emblem known as a Dobunnic Tree, with a pellet below. The reverse bears the name Co[rio] above a triple-tailed, stylized Celtic horse, with a wheel below and other symbols in the field.  The Dobunnic Tree’s meaning is unclear although corn, ferns and a form of a wreath have all been suggested as explanations.

The Dobunni were one of the Iron Age tribes living in the British Isles prior to the Roman invasion of Britain (43-84 AD). They lived in the southwestern part of Britain that roughly coincides with the English counties of Bristol, Gloucestershire and the north of Somerset, although at times their territory may have extended into parts of what are now Herefordshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, and Warwickshire. Their capital acquired the Roman name of Corinium Dobunnorum, which is today known as Cirencester. Unlike the Silures, their neighbors in what later became southeast Wales, the Dobunni were not a warlike people and submitted to the Romans before they even reached their lands. Afterwards they readily adopted the Romano-British lifestyle.

Corio was a 'king’ of the southwestern Dobunni. No one knows if 'king’ is the correct term for their leaders however, it is likely that this is what the Romans called them. The Dobunni rulers are only known from names found on their coinage and the exact order of each of their reigns has yet to be determined. Some of the other Dobunni kings’ names are Anted, Eisu, Aatti, Comux, Inham and Bodvoc.

2ps as Pets

Allen / America: Rottweiler 

Oliver / England: British Shorthair

Francois / France:  Orbiculate Cardinalfish

Zao / China: Capuchin Monkey

Vlad / Russia: Siberian Husky

Matthieu / Canada: Polar Bear (mainly because he’s so attached to his own)

Luciano / Italy:  European Shorthair

Lutz / Germany: German Shepard

Kuro / Japan:  Boa Constrictor

Flavio / S. Italy: Pomeranian

Gillen / Prussia: Red Canary 


Yarnbury Castle, Wiltshire, England

Yarnbury Castle is a multiphase, multivallate Iron Age hillfort near Steeple Langford in Wiltshire. Excavations have revealed Iron Age and Romano-British pottery, Roman coins and burials of human remains. There is much evidence of prolonged and extensive settlement of the site including around 130 separate structures of various sizes, most probably representing a mix of round houses, pits, and other features. Stonehenge, Avebury stone circles and other ancient landmarks are also located in Wiltshire.

anonymous asked:

Hi! I was wondering, speaking of Odin, do you think he is related to Merlin at all? One breathes on a piece of driftwood and creates humanity, one guides King Arthur and is imprisoned in an oak.

Er. Um.


And also yes.

That yes is based on the fact that Merlin is actually a literary character formed of multiple people.  Specifically Geoffrey of Monmouth combined Myrddin Wyllt with Ambrosius Aurelianus, a Romano-British war leader. Myrddin was a court bard who lost his mind after his king lost a battle and went to live in the Forest of Caledonia. (Let’s also not forget Lailoken, another North British bloke who went nuts and went to live in the forest).

In pre 12th century literature, Myrddin is said to have existed circa 6th century, and given a bunch of prophecies about Britain in his madness.

It seems to me that Britain has a tradition of prophetic madmen - as does Ireland and its mythology. Madness and magic and the occasional severed head. Insanity and battle prowess, poetry and prophecy.

All of these things are archetypical - deep patterns which may exist independently of humanity, but manifest in a particular way when minds encounter them through experience, song, story, or dream.

Merlin and Gandalf are archetypal wizards, or rather are products of the wizard-poet-prophet-magus-madman conflux - Gandalf being liberally sprinkled with, and emerging from Odinic/Wodenic traits Tolkien found in his studies.

Because these islands produce prominent wizards and witches. It’s what they do. Albion makes wyrd folk to do hir work.

(That’s not to say such folk are not made elsewhere, far from it)

But woven in with that conflux are other patterns. The Tree(s). The Lake/Sea/Well and their Ladies and Gentlemen. The Birds and their Language. The Beasts [the deor/deer in older tongues].

All part of a deep, deep set of things which we experience as Images - that call out to us, desirous to mate with our souls in an ecstatic hieros gamos. Is Odin connected to Merlin? 

Sympathetically, magically? Archetypically? Hell yeah. Like calls to like.

But beyond that, well…


Back from my first reenactment event (Romano British)!
I’m disgusting, sweaty and my arms are gunna hurt like a bitch tomorrow but reenactments are literally conventions for history nerds and I loved it!!!
Also turns out I’m shit at single handed spear and shield so I AM GUNNA HAVE TO PRACTICE THIS BECAUSE WOW
Pictured: auxiliary tabby in full kit and auxiliary tabby selfie

St. Patrick’s Bell and Its Shrine

A simple bell (encased in the pictured shrine) is reputed to have belonged to St. Patrick. It is made of two sheets of iron which are riveted together and coated with bronze. It is frequently mentioned in written sources as one of the principal relics of Ireland.

The inscription along the edge of the backplate of the bell’s ornate shrine records the name of the craftsman and his sons who made it, and Domhnall Ua Lochlainn, King of Ireland between AD 1094 and 1121, who commissioned the shrine; Cathalan Ua Maelchallain, the keeper of the bell, is also mentioned. Remarkably, the shrine remained in the possession of this family until the end of the 19th century.

St. Patrick was a 5th-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the “Apostle of Ireland”, he is the primary patron saint of the island along with Saints Brigit and Columba.

When he was about 16, he was captured from his home in Great Britain, and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After becoming a cleric, he returned to northern and western Ireland. In later life, he served as an ordained bishop, but little is known about the places where he worked. By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.

Saint Patrick’s Day is observed on March 17th,  the date of his death c. 460 AD.

More about St. Patrick

@fyeahmyths Summer Myth Event Day 6: Northern or Eastern European Pairing/Creature/Event

The Welsh Dragon (Welsh: Y Ddraig Goch, meaning the red dragon, pronounced [ə ˈðraiɡ ˈɡoːχ]) appears on the national flag of Wales. The oldest recorded use of the dragon to symbolise Wales is in the Historia Brittonum, written around AD 829, but it is popularly supposed to have been the battle standard of King Arthur and other ancient Celtic leaders. Its association with these leaders along with other evidence from archaeology, literature, and documentary history led many to suppose that it evolved from an earlier Romano-British national symbol.[1]During the reigns of the Tudor monarchs, the red dragon was used as a supporter in the English Crown’s coat of arms (one of two supporters, along with the traditional English lion).[2] The red dragon is often seen as symbolising all things Welsh, and is used by many public and private institutions.

Ragnar Loðbrok is very much a Scandinavian King Arthur. He varies between mythic and semi mythic, with some deeds being true and others being totally made up. Some deeds are committed by other Vikings who existed and who have been tied to this one figure. Furthermore, just like King Arthur, it’s unclear where he actually comes from. In Britain, King Arthur is claimed by multiple areas and as such he may be Welsh, English, Scottish, Irish, Cornish or Breton (or Romano-British), while similarly, Ragnar Loðbrok may be Danish, Swedish or Norwegian.

What is true is that his “sons” existed. Ivarr the Boneless, Ubba, Bjorn Ironside, Sigurd-snake-in-the-eye and Halfdan Ragnarrson have all been recorded in historical records by Anglo-Saxon, Irish and Frankish sources and have been attributed to being “sons of Ragnar Loðbrok”. Whether it is true, a boast of some of the men (a bit like saying you’re descended from the gods) or whether the sources were just being poetic, no one is sure. What is certain, however, is that the deeds of Bjorn, Ivarr, Ubba and others are definitely true, as they left their mark on the world and devastated the Christian kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England, the Gaelic kingdoms of Ireland, the Carolingian Empire, the embattled Spanish defenders and the Ummayaad Caliphate and even the Italian peninsula.

Over the next few days and weeks, I’ll be taking a look at this interesting “family” and bringing you their deeds. If you’re a fan of the show Vikings, I encourage you to have a look