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Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 4 months ago

Scots-Irish 55 BC - 842/846 AD (II/54)


1. Change list end date

2. Add Orchards and Roads

3. Reclassify chariots

4. Reclassify saints and monks

5. Reclassify fianna

6. Reclassify skirmishers


Proposer: Mick Hession


Proposal 1: Change list end date to 842AD




The current DBM list ends in 846AD, which is stated to be the point at which Irish tactics adapted in response to the Vikings. 846 is the year in which the Norse leader Turgesius was slain (O'Corrain 1972 p.91), but this of itself isn't evidence for any fundamental alteration in how Irish armies fought. In list terms, 842AD is better as it is the earliest documented instance of co-operation between Irish and Viking forces.


Proposal 2: Add Orchards and Roads to the permissible terrain types




Apple orchards should be allowed as they are mentioned in 9th century Irish legal texts (O'Corrain 1972 p.53). Several kinds of roads are also mentioned in the texts: a Bothar was a cattle-droving road, a Set was passable only on foot whereas a Rot was suitable for wheeled traffic (O'Corrain 1972 p.67). Corduroy roads made from logs have been found in bogs (Harbison 1998 p.166)


Proposal 3: Reclassify chariots and extend their availability


Replace current wording:


C-in-C – in 2-horse chariot as Irr Cv(O) @ 16AP or on foot as Irr Ax(O) @ 13AP 1

Sub-General – as above 0-1

Irish Ally-general – in 2-horse chariot as Irr Cv(O) @ 11AP or on foot as Irr Ax(O) @ 8AP 0-3

. . . . .

Only before 432AD:

Chariots – Irr Cv(O) @ 6AP *10-24


Only before 407AD

Replace chariots with Attecotti warriors – all Irr Ax(S) @ 4AP or all Irr Wb(S) @ 5AP 0-8



C-in-C – Irr Ax(O) {DBMM – Irr Ax(S)} 1

Sub-General – Irr Ax(O) {DBMM – Irr Ax(S)} 0-1

Irish Ally-general – Irr Ax(O) {DBMM – Irr Ax(S)} 0-3

Nobles – Irr Ax(O) {DBMM – Irr Ax(S)} 10-24

Upgrade Generals and nobles in 2-horse chariots or on horseback to mounted infantry Any

. . . . .

Only before 407AD

Attecotti warriors – all Irr Ax(S) or all Irr Wb(S) 0-8




The current list permits chariots until the traditional date for the start of St. Patrick's mission. Why chariots are incompatible with Christianity is unclear – perhaps they were all commandeered to convey snakes from the island?


At any rate, chariots are still depicted beyond the list's end date. One of the registers on the base of the high cross of Clonmacnoise, dated to the reign of Fland Sinna (d. 917), shows two chariots, each with 8-spoked wheels and two crew of whom one carries a spear. Identical chariots are also shown on other crosses of the same period, e.g. that of Kells, though these lack dedicatory inscriptions that would allow accurate dating. There is also an annalistic reference to chariots in a non-military context in 811AD (Byrne 1973 p.34), though Byrne does state (p.49) that they had fallen out of use for war by the early Christian period.


The main literary sources for Irish warfare in this period are the two great Irish poem-cycles of the Ruraiocht and Fiannaiocht. War- chariots are prominent in the Ruraiocht cycle which is nominally set in the 1st century AD. They do not appear in the Fiannaiocht which is set in the 3rd. However, this probably reflects that they were both written down much later, the Ruraiocht in the 8th and 9th centuries (Byrne 1973 p.48) and the Fiannaiocht in the 10th and 11th centuries (Simms 1996 p.102).


The current list classifies Irish chariots as Cv(O), presumably because other Celtic chariots are so classified. However, Irish swords, shields etc. do not follow Gallic or British models so chariots too may have been of a uniquely Irish model. One modern reconstruction from the literary and (scanty) archaeological evidence produces "a simple two-wheeled cart, containing two single seats in tandem in a light wooden frame, and drawn by horses harnessed by bridles to a yoke attached to the chariot pole" (Greene, cited by Harbison 1998 p.166). The accompanying illustration shows a much clumsier and cart-like vehicle than the traditional picture of Celtic chariots. This clumsiness, together with the presence of seats strengthens the case for a "battle-taxi" usage, which also fits the literary accounts of chariots being used to convey warriors to the battlefield. This is better represented as mounted infantry.


The high crosses and poems also depict warriors riding horses. I suggest these are still mounted infantry (see my Norse Irish proposal on the introduction of true cavalry in Irish armies).


Only richer warriors could afford chariots/horses of course. Their equipment was not substantially different from that of poorer warriors, except that they tended to possess swords (Charles-Edwards p.27) so they are still Ax(O) in DBM. Poetic accounts emphasise the deeds of the upper classes, stressing heroic close quarter warfare with spear and sword (though still with a fair bit of spear-chucking, it must be said) which may possibly justify Ax(S) in DBMM.


Proposal 4: Reclassify praying saints and monks


Replace current wording:


Saint and/or praying monks – Irr Hd(I) @ 0.5AP 0-2




Saint and/or praying monks – Irr WWg(I) {DBMM – Irr Bg(S)} 0-1




Hd(I) seems an odd classification for an element whose sole purpose is to raise the morale of one's own troops, as its zero element equivalence means an army would be untroubled by its loss. There is also absolutely no evidence for Irish armies using their local hermit as a sacrificial forlorn hope, which is the more general use for Hd (I). WWg(I) is a better fit for DBM; Bg(S) an even better fit for DBMM.


Proposal 5: Reclassify fianna


Insert a line after "Warriors – Irr Ax(O) @ 3AP":

Upgrade Warriors to Diberga and Fianna – Irr Wb(F) 0-6


Delete the options to upgrade generals on foot to Irr Wb(F) and to upgrade warriors to fianna after 432AD.




Diberga and Fianna were terms used to describe devotees of pagan warrior cults. Some were young nobles passing the interval between the end of fosterage and attaining their inheritance in a life of banditry. They were noted for their savagery and wore a distinctive hairstyle known as the culan – shaved at the front and grown long and plaited at the back. They also wore "devilish tokens" on their heads, unfortunately not described further. Such warriors could provide a useful stiffening to the battle line. The cults themselves seem to have died out by the 7th century, but there is a possible late reference in 847AD and similar free bands existed into the late 13th century (Simms 1996 p.100).


In the Fiannaiocht poem-cycle the Fianna are described as being the household troops of the king, and that is reflected in the current list. However, that is simply a backward projection from the 11th/12th century when the tales were first written down and household mercenaries were commonplace. The very earliest poems in the cycle are clear that the Fianna led a more independent existence (Simms 1996 p.102).


Proposal 6: Reclassify skirmishers




Skirmishers – Up to half Ps (S), remainder Ps (I) 5-20



Skirmishers –Ps (I) 0-20




I would make the javelin-armed skirmishers Ps(I) (under DBMM, at least) as there is no direct evidence for their existence, let alone any special effectiveness. I suspect they are based on the general assumption that youths in Celtic societies would fight as javelin-armed skirmishers rather than in the battle line.




- The Red Branch Tales. Translated by Randy Lee Eickhoff, Tom Doherty Associates, 2003. ISBN 0-312-87018-3


- Byrne, Francis J: Irish Kings and High-Kings, Four Courts Press 1973. ISBN 1-85182-552-5


- Charles-Edwards, T.M.: "Irish Warfare before 1100", in A Military History of Ireland. Edited by Thomas Bartlett and Keith Jeffery, Cambridge University Press 1996 ISBN 0-521-62989-6


- Harbison, Peter: Pre-Christian Ireland, Thames and Hudson 1988. ISBN 0-500-27809-1


- O'Corrain, Donncha: Ireland before the Normans, The Gill History of Ireland Vol. 2. Gill and MacMillan 1972 ISBN 7171-0559-8


- Simms, Katharine: "Gaelic Warfare in the Middle Ages", in A Military History of Ireland. Edited by Thomas Bartlett and Keith Jeffery, Cambridge University Press 1996 ISBN 0-521-62989-6

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