LEGIO XX--The Twentieth Legion

BRITONS, CELTS AND OTHER NON-ROMANS                   3/17/14

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       This page is intended as a very basic guide for anyone starting an impression of a non-Roman such as a Briton, Celt, or German.  The information below is not exhaustive but can be considered "generally acceptable".  While you are obviously encouraged to focus on historical sources from the same time and place as your chosen impression, specific information on such details as clothing can be scarce and hard to find.  So there will be some generalizations and interpolation from other times and places, though this does not mean that (for instance) a Gallic sword from 200 BC is acceptable for use by a Briton from 43 AD.   In short, as always, where evidence is available, stick with it as closely as possible.  This will still allow quite a bit of room for interpretation and personal taste!

       Guide for clothing and gear from Vicus in the UK: http://www.vicus.org.uk/kitguide/index.htm   The Kelticos Discussion Board http://www.kelticos.org/forum/index.php is an essential resource, as is the Roman Army Talk board, particularly the "Allies & Enemies" section: http://www.romanarmytalk.com/rat/   Good books to consult include Peter Connolly's Greece and Rome at War and the Osprey volume Rome's Enemies: Gallic and British Celts, but beware: their reconstructions are not always well-documented, and are the basis of some "reenactorisms" that are best avoided.

       Since the "typical" setting for Legio XX is the invasion of Britain in 43 AD, the focus of this page will be on mid-first century Britons, though there will also be information for Gauls, Germans, and more.  Strictly speaking, the ancients did not refer to people in Britain as "Celts", but that detail will not be debated here.  It should also be noted that the Celtic world spanned a huge range of time and geography, and included a wide variety of cultures, all of which changed over time.  So one should be very careful about combining evidence or details from different times and places in creating an impression!

       For anyone planning a non-Roman impression as part of Legio XX activities, standards are as strict as for legionaries.  Equipment must be authentic and correctly made, though of course there is no uniformity.   Please consult the Commander before buying or making anything!  The pages on Cold-Weather Clothing and Civilian Clothing will be useful.

       At left, Nate Bell as a Gaul around the 2nd Punic War, and at right from the first century BC.  Also a link to a photo of Chuck Russell's impression, http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2015/2269983133_a9bb50c8f0_o.jpg, and one of his German friends, http://i131.photobucket.com/albums/p309/Doktor_Zaius/P1020184.jpg?t=1172579096 

KELTICOS DISCUSSION BOARD-- Go here and just read EVERYthing.

South Carolina

Celtic Learning Project

Vicus--British and Roman Reenactment

Chasuari--Germanic reenactors, planning for reenactment of Varus' Defeat in 2009!

Die Keltetruppe Carnyx --These folks look great!

Ulfhednar--Celts, Germanics, etc.

Simon James's Ancient Celts Page

Vicus page on British Dress

British Tribes--Map and Information


       See the Introduction to the Online Handbook for general guidelines.  Wool is the fabric of choice, followed by linen.  While various plaids and checks are ubiquitous among reenactors, there is clear evidence that solid colors were just as common.    These do not have to be loud colors, and care should be taken to avoid identifiable Highland Clan tartans.  Basic men's clothing is a tunic, trousers, shoes, and often a cloak. 

       Remember the Burden of Proof:  You may NOT use or wear something simply because it cannot be proven wrong--it is up to YOU to present evidence for anything that you want to use that is not covered in these guidelines.

RAT thread on Celtic Impressions:

Useful Kelticos threads on clothing:

World of the Ancient Britons pages on Clothing (with some debateable details):

       The TUNIC is mid-thigh to knee-length, with a straight body and horizontal slit neck, with long sleeves that fit fairly closely along the forearms.  There can be a turned-back cuff.  The entire garment can be made in one piece, or two, or with the body in one or two panels and the sleeves sewn on.  The basic patterns on the Midgard page on Tunics may be helpful, though you should omit the gores: http://www.larp.com/midgard/tunic.htm    It is possible that short-sleeved and sleeveless tunics also existed, particularly under Greek and Roman influence, but long sleeves are generally considered "safe".

       TROUSERS can be long or short.  At the moment, all the evidence for long trousers indicates that they were rather close-fitting like the Thorsbjerg trousers, with or without feet.  See the Cold Weather Clothing page.  Short trousers also fit snugly.  Again, the basic patterns on the Midgard page on Braies can help, just modify the length and width as needed: http://www.larp.com/midgard/braies.htm   However, be sure to make the seat baggy, for example with rectangular inserts, or the snug legs will prevent easy movement and lead to burst seams!  Better to use an actual ancient pattern.

       --There is NO EVIDENCE for baggy trousers tied at the ankle! 

       Leggings can be made of a rectangle of fabric wrapped around the lower leg, tied at the ankle and below the knee. 

       SHOES are most easily made from an oval of leather or hide, with the back sewn shut, and holes punched around the perimeter for a lace.  More complex shoes made with multiple lacing tabs might have another layer of sole sewn on as well.  Long or short socks sewn from wool can be worn, or the foot can be wrapped in a diagonal square of cloth (fold the front point over the toes, then the side points). 

       DO NOT wear knee-high "Apache" boots or we will burn them off your feet.  Don't wear vambraces or wide kidney belts, or Renn-faire style shirts or bodices.  Don't drape odd pieces of leather or hide on yourself--cloaks of animal hide are perfectly good if made in a rectangular or trapezoidal shape sewn from multiple pieces.


       The vast majority of British and Gallic warriors did not have armor, but were typically equipped with shield and spear.  Consider that a perfectly adequate amount of military equipment!   If you wish to equip yourself to a higher level, take your time to research the appropriate items, and be sure your equipment is historically accurate and well-made.

       SHIELDS were flat and constructed of vertical planks, with a horizontal handgrip.  Typically the wood was thicker in the center and thinner towards the edges.  Obviously if modern plywood is used it needs to be entirely covered, with leather, rawhide, linen, or felt.  The facings can be wrapped around the edge, or a separate rim can be stitched on.  Some shields may have had a partial or complete metal rim, similar to that on a scutum.  There was a variety of shapes in use, including ovals and oblongs, and some with scalloped or concave ends (apparently only found in Britain).  Sizes also varied.  The boss can be an elongated wooden style (like half a football), with or without an iron or bronze reinforcement, and with or without vertical wooden spines extending almost to the top and bottom edges; or a domed metal Roman or Germanic style boss can be used. 

       HELMETS were apparently uncommon in Britain.  By the first century AD, most of the Caesarian-era Montefortino, Agen, and Port styles were most likely out of fashion.  Coolus types may be the best bet. 

       ARMOR appears to have been rare in Britain as well, but would have been mail much like a Roman hamata.  Mail should be made of mild steel (or wrought iron!), with alternating rows of solid and riveted rings.  Please avoid butted mail!

were the most common weapon.  Shafts were made of ash, generally an inch or less in diameter and 6 or 7 feet long, smaller javelins about 3/4" diameter.   Heads were iron, and ranged from 3 or 4 inches up to about 12 or so--8" to 10" is a good range.  It is surprisingly difficult to find a good, plain commercially-made spearhead that isn't too big!  However there are some distinctly Celtic types available with scalloped edges or holes in the blades.

        SWORDS will be very distinctive to a particular impression, and should be chosen with care.  A sword should not be crude or poorly made.  An essential discussion on MyArmoury,  http://www.myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=194   Also  http://www.myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=3990 

Also see the page of Things to Avoid.

--MyArmoury discussion on Celtic metal scabbards, http://www.myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=3478 
--MyArmoury discussion on German weaponry, http://www.myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=12632 


Iron Age Armory--Shane Allee, Indiana, http://www.ironagearmoury.com/  Top-notch!

Templ Arms--Patrick Barta, Czech Republic, http://www.templ.net/english/  Incredible work, but long backlog.

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