Persian Immortal vs. random Celt

More than a week later, but I only watch this on weekends.

OK, Deadliest Warrior did it again. Awesome weapons tests, mostly, and decent history, and a stupid match-up.

Some thoughts:

  • At least these two guys are from within a few hundred years of each other. That’s something.
  • “Celtic Warrior” is so vague as to be almost meaningless. There were Celts all over Europe and their kits varied considerably, from naked woad-painted Picts up in Scotland to heavily armed and armored Celt-Iberians* in Spain, and really spanning the early iron age to however late you want to call the Irish and Scots, Celts…
  • The chariots thing was a neat twist but in the Aechamenid Persian army (which featured Immortals) scythed chariots were a gimmick weapon that only occasionally did well. Also, it was more of a tank, with heavily armored horses and riders (the problem being they just weren’t that fast).
  • Celtic legends like Cuchulain rode bladed (scythed?) chariots too.
  • Pretty much the entirety of the Roman armor was borrowed from Celts: helmet shape, mail armor, and the “scutum” shield. An elite Celt (wealthy or a mercenary in Carthage or Rome or Sicily, some Galatians**) would probably have mail. But of course Deadliest Warrior likes to use cheap butted mail rather than real riveted mail, so it wouldn’t have made a difference on the show. On the other hand the Roman sword (gladius) and javelin (pilum) are more clearly copied from Iberian weapons. The Iberians had an all-iron (!) javelin that the Romans modified (using a wooden haft to save money and make them more breakage-prone so they can’t be thrown back). The Roman sword is sometimes called a ‘Gladius Hispaniensis,’ or Spanish sword, and copies the Celt-Iberian sword.
  • Thermopylae demonstrated that Persian Immortals were no match for what were arguably the greatest baddasses of history, the Spartans. But I don’t thank anyone would last long against a Spartan. I put them about on equal footing with the knight and samurai. A Celt should just run from a Spartan too.
  • The scary thing about Persian Immortals is that they probably don’t care that much if they die in battle, if the alternative is losing.
  • The Immortals had nice sidearms. Their daggers were very long, really small gladii. (Shouldn’t the plural of gladius be gladii? Radius, radii? Wish I took Latin or Greek.) That would be a wicked weapon against their typical foes, who wore little armor. But the scythed chariot was an interesting test.
  • The Persian axe is more or less perfect for what a one-handed axe should be. It will essentially ignore armor with the pick end. That will pierce helmets.
  • Celts also used javelins. Much better than slings.
  • Not as good as Persian bows, though. And the Persians had aphorisms about “shooting straight and telling the truth” as the measure of one’s manhood. They were pretty deadly. You would want Spartan armor and shield to fight that.
  • Persian probably should have won. Those spears with the metal pommels are pretty nice. That would have an interesting balance. Greeks used bronze points on the butts of their spears for the same reasons. Herodotus, I think, said the Immortals had “golden pomegranates” on their spear butts. That sounds like a pretty neat weapon. I’d rather have a nice big two handed sword, though, if I’m going to use a two-handed weapon.

So, I’d say they got the likely outcome right (Persian Immortals being better armed and trained for the most part) even if the “representatives” were a little wacky.

*The Celt-Iberians being the descendants of Celts who settled in Spain and intermarried with the locals, producing a synchretized culture and one of Rome’s more difficult conquests despite their relatively small numbers and fragmented organization.

**The Galatians were Celtic (Gallic) warriors who had the best chance to actually face Persians in battle. They carved out a small kingdom in what is now Turkey, in 279BCE. They had an interesting military, with the usual Gallic infantry (including naked fanatics) and cavalry, but also chariots (possibly including Persian-style scythed chariots!) and even some drilled “imitation legionaries”***. So they are moderately popular among war gamers, having unusual, colorful, and effective troops.

***Just as everyone adopted Napoleonic uniforms when Napoleon was winning battles, and more recently everyone copied American and Soviet military uniforms and equipment, in ancient times everyone copied the Roman kit when Rome was on the rise, so you’d see Carthaginian, Lybian, Galatian, Pergamene, and other armies fielding some troops armed and drilled like Roman legionaries****.

****But like I said, the Roman kit is basically stolen from Celtic and Iberian stuff.

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Published in: on June 24, 2010 at 5:43 pm  Comments (6)  
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. My comment on the fight was that one-on-one, I thought the Celtic Warrior had a better chance of winning. 10-on-10, maybe even on odds. 100-on-100, definitely the Persian Immortals.

  2. I saw that one as well and I think the Celt would have had it one on one as well and maybe even 10-10.

    You have disciplined martial fighters in a skirmish against skirmish that come across as a bunch of screaming weirdos. Especially considering how superstitious people were the Immortals would have thought twice before attacking painting, howling berserkers.

  3. Dude I have celtic blood and I promise I’m not being byass but the celts really would have kicked their “immortal” butts. One on one, ten on ten no difference. And its hard to aim your bow at a blue, berserk, psychopathic killer.

  4. I think the interesting thing here is that the Persian unit was an elite, well documented, fighting unit – whereas the Celtic warrior, as stated in the article, is just so vague that what exactly are they? Are we talking the elite Celtic warriors who would defend and fight alongside a warlord? or are we talking about the psychotropic induced, naked, woad covered warrior that was more likely to kill himself through sheer madness than intelligent applied fighting? Personally if you took the cream of the crop when it came to Celtic warriors against the Persion immortal, then maybe we’d have a closer match – but to have an elite unit fighting against what was the ‘norm’ in Celtic Europe is a little one sided. Also, in America, why the hell are the Welsh always left out whenever people talk about anything celtic?

    • no they arent man, they are britannic celts and they fought the english for centuries

  5. the celts sacked rome on 3 occasions, they taught the romans how to fight, it is doubtful they would win a large scale encounter against any well organised foe, they never liked, and still dont like having ‘leaders’, the word ‘keltoi’ from which the celts get their name, means free people, fiercly independant, the fact they refused to unite under one leader was their downfall,
    but in a one on one they are unbeatable in most cases


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