On Fr, 28.08.2009, 17:56, Kenneth Charles Simmonds wrote:
> one thing that always strikes me when reading accounts of the heroic age
> is the question of chariots.
> How did the likes of Cú Chulainn, (whether or not he had seven fingers,
> Dennis), actually use chariots under the conditions that then obtained in
> Ireland? bridgeless rivers, no roads, bogs, woods, rocks, it must have
> been a nightmare getting one's chariot to the place of combat and how
> could it have bestowed a relative advantage in battle on the user?
This is a really BIG question, and one to which I have devoted a very long
time of work. For some reason, however, I never published a lot about it.
The main reason for this is that I intended (and still intend) to write a
whole book on the subject. But this pan has now been postponed for the
next few years. There will be an article "The Old-Irish Chariot and its
Technology. A Case of Creative Transmission in Medieval Irish Literature"
in the upcoming:
Proceedings of the 13th International Congress of Celtic Studies, Bonn,
Germany, 23.–27. Juli 2007. Edited by Stefan Zimmer [= Sonderband der
Bonner Jahrbücher], Bonn 2009.
If I am not wholly mistaken, the volume will be presented in two weeks in
Zuerich at the symposium of German-speaking Celtic scholars. I did some
research together with the archaeologist Raimund Karl. He has a whole
"Überlegungen zum Verkehr in der eisenzeitlichen Keltiké" (= Wiener
keltologische Schriften 3), Wien: OeAB 2003
to which I contributed a few linguistic thoughts. Raimund has also an
entry about "chariot and wagon" in John Koch's "Celtic Culture. A
Historical Encyclopedia". Note that on several occasions Raimund refers to
an article by us that hasn't appeared yet.
To put things very briefly: There isn't any conclusive piece of evidence
that chariots were used in Irish warfare as implements of war. I went
through an extensive portion of Irish literature and excerpted all
references to the chariot. In that whole corpus I only found one or two
references that could be interpreted as speaking of chariots as
war-machines. Of these, one is rather obscure, and the other is very late
and quite obviously influenced by classical literature.
It is my conviction that the chariot in Ireland was a high-status vehicle
used for representational purposes (e.g. to show off before battle), but
that it had no purpose in the fight. It was the vehicle with which true
heroes went to their fights and went home from their fights, but they
fought on foot.
> By the way my qualification for posting in the first place (apart from
> good old-fashioned presumption) is that I am plodding my way through David
> Stifter's self-study course on Old Irish.
> (by the way it's a very good course; My only beef is with the use of Greek
> letters in transcriptions, which I find a distracting).
Thanks a lot! I am always happy to get feedback on the book (especially
positive one, of course :-)). Coming, as I do, from a classical education,
using Greek letters seemed not remarkable to me. I hope, they do not
distract you too much. In any case, there are certainly much worse things
in Old Irish than that :-)