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Romans vs. Druids: Best War Ever?

Yesterday's piece about Rod Hockey got me thinking about History's great military match-ups Sure, just about everybody says that War is a bad thing, but you'd be hard pressed to find a single individual who doesn't express a keen interest in some conflict, be it the Battle of the Alamo, the Siege of Troy, or the occasional dirt clod fight (Nobody ever picks Vietnam, The Battle of the Little Big Horn, or the Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior)

Lately my mind has been preoccupied with a clash that took place on the island of Anglesey in 60 CE between the Roman Empire and the Druids.

Now, it would be easy to cast this engagement as histories first conflict between a well organized and industrious civilization and a bunch of smelly, tree-hugging hippies, so that's pretty much what I'm gonna do. If you have a problem with that, you can go read a book.

You've probably hear that the Romans were extremely accommodating when it came to the religious beliefs of other cultures (for example, Jews living within the Empire were allowed to pray for the emperor instead of to him). This was ture with two notable exceptions: the Christians (whose history as lion kibble is well known) and the Druids.

The Druids earned this special distinction because they weren't just priests. They also served as advisors to the Celtic kings (who they had the right to speak ahead of in tribal councils), proto-doctors, lawyers, judges, ambassadors, and oral historians. Druids had their own "universities" where they taught, learned, memorized Druidic skills. This knowledge was always passed on by word-of-mouth: never written down: keep that in mind, it'll come up again later on.

Since the Druids were the keystone in Celtic society it didn't take long for the Romans to figure out that if they could break the Druids, they could break the entire Celtic world: If they could just find a reason to eliminate the Druids. Fortunately for the Romans (but not so fortunately for many Celts), the Druids, like the Carthagians practiced human sacrifice (although the Carthagians had the good taste to limit their sacrifices to just children)

In 54 CE, Emperor Claudius outlawed the Druids within the borders of the empire and six years later Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, the Roman Governor of Britain (and the famous fuckup behind Boudicca's uprising) launched an assault on the center of Druidic society, the aforementioned the island of Anglesey

As far as battles go, the whole affair was about as one-side as Kent State. Basically the only resistance that the Roman army had to face was the Druids attempt at psychological warfare. As the historian Tacitus would later put it:

By the shore stood an opposing battle-line, thick with men and weapons, woman running between them, like the Furies in their funereal clothes, their hair flowing, carrying torches; and Druids among them, pouring out frightful curses with their hands raised high to the heavens, our soldiers being so scared by the unfamiliar sight that their limbs were paralyzed, and they stood motionless and exposed to be wounded.

It only took the Roman soldiers a few minutes to regain their wits and courage. Embarrassed by their earlier case of willies, they set about slaughtering the Druids and raising their sacred groves.

Here's a lovely recreation, courtesy of the Tiny Plastic Players:

romvsdru1.jpg

Now at this point, you're probably asking "So, if the Romans pretty much wiped the Druids off the map, then where did these smelly, sheet-wearing hippies dancing around Stonehenge on the Winter Solstice come from?" Good question. In the eighteenth century there was a revival of Druidism in England (yes, in the middle of the Age of Reason). Since the original Druids never wrote anything down, the ceremonies of the modern Druids basically consist of crazy shit they came up with while stoned.

The Latin word of the day is:
Vulpes -is - fox

The ancient Greek word of the day:
peirathj - pirate

The Hindi phrase of the day is:
uska nam mai janti hu aur mai usko sigret ke lie paise nahi dugi! - I know his name and I shan't give him money for cigarettes!

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Comments

another classic war happened a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away.

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