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Weapons and Arms of Ancient Germanic Warriors

By Gambargin
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Many ancient Germanic warriors were for the most part of their life peasants, as such, their equipment reflected the status of their economy. From isolated farms, tribal community to a thriving trading settlements, many of the equipment used by the Germanic warriors were also tools of their trade and survival, such as spears, javelins, bows and knives. Interestingly enough, compared to their Celtic neighbors, early ancient Germanic societies were poor in Iron, so the precious metal was used sparingly for the most practical purpose; a contrast to the celts who adorned their arms and armor with rich gilded decoration :)

For the most part, it was thanks to the customs of both the Celts and the Germanic people that archaeologist have managed to unearth plenty of weapons from the bogs of northern Europe as well as graves of their warriors. Grave belonging to rich or notable warriors often unearth more potteries than weapons, while bogs finding unearth many weapons; this is probably attributed to the religious obligation of the Celts & Germanic people to 'sacrifice' the weapons of their enemies, an account that was recorded by Roman historian Orosius during the Cimbri & Teutones invasion. 

Spears such as that depicted (A) & (B) were more common among the ancient Germanic warriors, whose equipment were highly influenced by the Celtic Iron age of the Halstatt and La Tene Culture. Javelins were also common, employed as a skirmishing weapon as well as hand to hand combat (in extreme circumstances). Curiously enough, the Germanic angons javelin of the 6th CE showed (C) with iron heads and shank showed similar design with the Roman pilum, which brings into question whether the angon was designed to weigh down enemy's shield. Historically speaking however, angons were mostly found in graves and their mass use was somewhat speculative. 

Swords were very rare among the early ancient Germanic societies, even rarer than their celtic counterpart. This is because iron was very limited, as such, the task of creating a sword was not only difficult, but also very expensive. Generally speaking, swords were mostly used by highly renowned and rich warriors, chieftains and their bodyguards/retainers. Heavy sword such as that based on the Halstatt heavy sword (F1) & the curve pommel late Halstatt sword (F2) were perhaps more common in the 8th BCE, while from 5th BCE onwards, la Tene design (F3) became adopted. By the 1st AD, the Germanic tribes came in regular contact with the Roman world, so Roman swords such as the long spatha and the shorter gladius quickly found their way amongst the possession of the Germanic warriors, either through loot, trades, indigenous production or from serving the Roman army as auxillaries. On the other hand, for the majority of ancient Germanic Warriors, short single edge knife (D) were used. Axes as depicted (E) were more popular amongst the Germanic people of eastern Europe. 

Shield was an important part of Germanic warrior's equipment since antiquity; it was easy to produce and maintain, giving it high affordability compared to body armors. Indeed, Roman accounts often mentioned that Germanic warriors were armed with spear and shields, with only the chieftain and his elites wearing body armor (mail). Historically speaking, their designs are somewhat speculative, but followed similar fashion to the ones used by the celts. Historical finding such as the wooden rectangular shield and celtic oval shield (G1), showed consistency with the ones depicted in Roman accounts (G2). 

I have to point out though that the sketches here are for the most part speculative and a crude reconstruction from personal research. So if anyone has suggestions or feedback, please let me know :D

===Drawing Source===

A - Celtic spearheads of the La-Tene Period
B - Germanic spears of various design
C - 6th CE Angons javelin head (France, Austria)
D - Germanic saax (6th CE from Oxford) and Iron sax knives (1st BCE from Hjortspring)
E - Various Iron axes
F1 - early Halstatt heavy sword (8th BCE)
F2 - late Halstatt 'antler' curve pommel sword (7th BCE)
F3 - La Tene iron sword with scabbard (5-6th BCE)
F4 & F5 - Roman spatha and gladius (1st - 5th CE from Thorsbjerg Moor, Germany). 
G1 - Shield of various design. Oval shield is based on contemporary celtic design, while the rectangular wooden is based on the one found in Hjortspring Boat.
G2 - Shield derived from Roman coins such as arius of Marcus Aurelius (late 2nd CE) and the coins of Domitian.

Credits to Pelycosaur24 :iconpelycosaur24: for the historical resources of Halstatt and Celtic culture.

Created as part of Gambargin's Monthly Historical Sketch Series that aims to portray various cultures across the globe in the context of history, as a spin-off from the Historically Wrong Sketch Series :) (Smile)

Part 4: Ariovistus, a Suebian War-Leader (1st BCE)

Ariovistus, a Suebian War-Leader (1st BCE) by Gambargin

Part 2: The Early Ancient Germanic Warriors

The Early Ancient Germanic Warriors by Gambargin

Image size
2979x4236px 4.65 MB
Shutter Speed
1/25 second
Focal Length
5 mm
ISO Speed
Date Taken
Sep 3, 2016, 12:07:57 AM
© 2016 - 2021 Gambargin
anonymous's avatar
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TheTank1978's avatar
Great drawings!

Regarding the usage of swords by the early Germani, La-Tene swords only became relatively common in the later part of the Pre-Roman iron Age.
Before that they were very rare. 
Most Germanic La-Tene swords were long La-Tene C/D types, often with a blunt point and they were carried around in metallic scabbards.
These weapons were often associated with mounted warriors.
La-Tene used by the Germanics were mostly considered imitations and not imports of spoils of war.
These swords types were replaced in the first century ad by swords influenced by Roman designs (Gladius and the Spatha).
The Germanics used another (native) style sword, a single edged slashing weapon not to be confused with the Seax.
Single edged swords first appeared in the 4 century BC in the famous Hjortspring deposit but Single edged swords used in various forms until the 3 century AD.
The older types of single edged swords varied in size and shape, most were rather short (+/- 40 cm blade length)  but some longer rapier like types also were found.
These early single edged swords had in common that the tang in the center of the blade.
Late type Single edged swords (100 BC till 300 AD) were often longer and more robust (70 cm blade lengths) but the main difference what that the hilt was an extension of the back of the sword.
A lot of these swords resemble Iberian falcata type swords but with straight single edged swords.

The following website has some nice reconstructions of Single edged swords from the first century BC to the early Roman iron age.…
aristi1982's avatar
Soooo ilustrative!
Gambargin's avatar
Thank you federico :D
Gwaylar's avatar
Yeah, I'll take one of each.  Nice work
Gambargin's avatar
Thank you sir! :)
Arminius1871's avatar
Did the Germanics really use so many celtic weapons?

I´m not sure if Hallstatt- and La Tene culture tribes can be considered germanic,
weren´t they celtic?
Gambargin's avatar
Celtic weapons such as swords were more commonly used by the germanic societies prior contacts with the Romans, though while many were imports, the were indigenous germanic weapon productions. The size would have been very limited as compared to the celts, since ancient Germanic societies were poor in Iron, just enough to equip the warrior elites.

The Halstatt and the La Tene were celtic cultures. The term is used because they were one of the most influential iron-age culture in the ancient era, at least prior to 2nd BCE :).
Arminius1871's avatar
Yes true they also used roman weapons if they could afford or get some in a fight^^

What I read in a good book is, that yes the Celts lived in half of Europe from Spain to Ukraine.
But then disappeared nearly completely from the continent/ were romanized or germanized.

The Teutons, Kimbri and Ambrones were the ones who broke the celtic ring around the Germanics in Northern Germany.
anonymous's avatar
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