UD: April 2019
“In war, truth is the first casualty.”
Despite centuries of archaeological research, our understanding of the Ancient World still relies heavily on ‘histories’ written by Greek and Roman authors – documents which present a combination of fact, propaganda and pure fiction, but which continue to be presented as historical fact.
Classical sources relating to ‘barbarian’ populations are particularly imaginative. Greek writers inform us that the Celts “…consider it honorable to eat their dead fathers and to openly have intercourse, not only with unrelated women, but with their mothers and sisters as well” (Poseidonios, ap Diod.5.32-3, Strab.4.43). In addition to these interesting cultural traits, such classical sources also inform us of the most sensational ‘historical events’. For example, the testimony of the Greek writer Pausanias who describes the atrocities committed by the Celts during the invasion of Greece in 278 BC: (the sack of Kallion)
“…the most horrifying evil I have ever heard of, not like the crimes of human beings at all. They butchered every human male of that entire people, the old men as well as the children who were still at the breast; and the Celts drank the blood and ate the flesh of those of the slaughtered babies that were fattest with milk. Any woman and mature virgin with a spark of pride killed themselves as soon as the city fell; those who lived were subjected with wanton violence to every form of outrage by men as remote from mercy as they were remote from love: they mated with the dying; they mated with the already dead” (Paus.l0.22.2).
Following this entertaining detour, the Celts, we are reliably informed, then attacked the ‘center of the world’ at Delphi, where they were defeated by a combination of earthquakes, thunderbolts, and the personal intervention of Zeus and Apollo, accompanied by a gang of ‘White Virgins’ (Pausanias, Description of Greece 10.23, Junianus Justinus, Epitome of Pompeius Trogus’ Histories 24.7-8).
Detail of a terracotta frieze depicting Celtic warriors plundering a temple – from Civitalba (Marche), Italy. The scene is believed to represent the sack of the temple at Delphi by Brennos’ army
(2 c. BC)
Statue of Apollo stepping on a Celtic shield, dedicated in Delphi after the ‘victory’ over Brennos’ Celts. (Marble copy found in Delos)
Decree of the city of Kos passed after the attack by the Celtic army on Delphi in 279 BC (Syll.3 398; April-July 278 BC). The text thanks the Gods for personally appearing on earth to rescue the Greeks… (!)
The aforementioned events at Delphi were then followed by an equally sensational series of events at Lysimachia in 277 BC where the Celts, rather surprisingly, decided to butcher their own families before engaging in battle with the Macedonian king Antigonus Gonatas, during which they were annihilated by an army of ‘elephants, furies and ghosts’ (Justinus 26:2).
Two years later the Celts had the misfortune to be once more ‘annihilated’ by another Hellenistic army and their elephants. This time the conflict was in Asia-Minor with the Seleucid Empire, and an army led by Antiochus I Soter. Once again the Greeks won a heroic victory, poetically described by Lucian:
“It was a Homeric scene of ‘rumbling tumbling cars’; when once the horses shied at those formidable elephants, off went the drivers, and ‘the lordless chariots rattled on,’ their scythes maiming and carving any of their late masters whom they came within reach of; and, in that chaos, many were the victims. Next came the elephants, trampling, tossing, tearing, goring; and a very complete victory they had made of it for Antiochus. The carnage was great, and all the Galatians were either killed or captured” (Lucian vol. II, Zeuxis and Antiochus).
The surprise of the Celts at these ‘unknown beasts’ is rather remarkable considering that they had faced the army of Antigonus Gonatas, complete with battle elephants, shortly before, and had destroyed the Macedonian army of Ptolemy Keraunos, and his battle elephants, shortly before that. Apparently, after each successive battle they had forgotten about the elephants…
Terracotta statuette from Myrina (Turkey) (late 3rd c. BC)
The statuette depicts a battle elephant stepping on a Celtic warrior. It is believed to be a representation of the battle between Antiochus I and the Galatians in 275 BC.
We are also informed that the Galatian army at this battle consisted of over twenty thousand cavalry and an even greater number of heavily armed infantry. From a mathematical perspective, such an army of at least 40,000 Galatians is indeed remarkable, especially considering that 2 years earlier the combined Celtic tribes who had crossed over into Asia-Minor had consisted of just 20,000 individuals, of whom only 10,000 were warriors (Livy 38.16:9). No matter how prolific the Celts were, it appears rather unlikely that they could have produced a further 30,000 + fully grown warriors in the space of 2 years…
The aforementioned accounts/events are only a small sample of the inherent contradictions and absurd accounts upon which our understanding of ancient history continues to be based, a history based on racial stereotypes, within the framework of ancient classical propaganda, presented as historical fact.