Ancient Physical Descriptions of Britons, Gauls & Celts

Ancient Physical Descriptions of Britons, Gauls & Celts


Ancient Physical Descriptions of Britons, Gauls & Celts

“By far the most civilized [of the Britons] are those who dwell in Kent. Their entire country borders on the sea, and they do not differ much from the Gauls in customs. Very many who dwell farther inland do not sow grain but live on milk and flesh, clothing themselves in skins. All the Britons paint themselves with woad, which produces a dark blue color; and for this reason they are much more frightful in appearance in battle. They permit their hair to grow long, shaving all parts of the body except the head and the upper lip.”   

– Julius Caesar


“And this race of men from the plains were all the harder, for hard land had borne them; built of stronger and firmer bones, and endowed with mighty sinew, they were a race undaunted by heat and cold, plague, [and] strange new foodstuffs.”

– Lucretius


“Physically the Gauls are terrifying in appearance, with deep sounding and very harsh voices. The Gallic women are not only equal to their husbands in stature but rival them in strength as well.”

Diodorus Siculus


Ancient Physical Descriptions of Britons, Gauls & Celts


“Their [the Britons’] hair is not only naturally blond, but they also use artificial means to increase this natural quality of color. For they continually wash their hair with limewash and draw it back from the forehead to the crown and to the nape of their neck, with the result that their appearance resembles that of Satyrs or of Pans, for their hair is so thickened by this treatment that it differs in no way from a horse’s mane. The men of Britain are taller than the Celti, and not so yellow-haired, although their bodies are of looser build.

The following is an indication of their size: I myself, in Rome, saw mere lads towering as much as half a foot above the tallest people in the city, although they were bandy-legged and presented no fair lines anywhere else in their figure.”    

– Strabo


“As is so often the case among barbarians, it is difficult to say whether the men who first dwelt in Britain are indigenous or whether they came thither. We may deduce arguments from the fact that their physical characteristics differ. For the reddish-yellow hair of the inhabitants of Caledonia [Northern Britain or Alba], as well as their sturdy limbs, point to a German origin; the swarthy complexion and curly hair of the Silures [from South West Britain], together with their position opposite Gaul, make us believe that the Iberians in ancient times crossed over and seized these territories. Those who are nearest to the Gauls resemble them, whether from the persistence of heredity, or whether, since the lands stretch out opposite each other, the climate has given the same character to the individuals.”

– Tacitus


Ancient Physical Descriptions of Britons, Gauls & Celts


“[Queen Boudicca of the Iceni] was huge of frame and terrifying of aspect with a harsh voice. A great mass of bright read hair fell to her knees….Boadicea mounted the general’s tribunal—her stature was of the largest —her appearance terrible—her aspect calm and col­lected—her voice deep and stern. Her hair fell as low as the hips, in long golden tresses, collected round her forehead by a golden coronet. She wore a Tartan dress, fitting closely to the bosom, but below the waist opening in loose folds as a gown. Over it was a chlamys, or military cloak. This was her usual attire—on this occasion she carried also a spear.”            

– Dio Cassius


“Almost all the Gauls are of tall stature, fair and ruddy, terrible for the fierceness of their eyes, fond of quarreling and of overbearing insolence.”

– Ammianus Marcellinus


Ancient Physical Descriptions of Britons, Gauls & Celts


“The Silures [from South West Britain] have swarthy features and are usually born with curly black hair, but the inhabitants of Caledonia [Northern Britain or Alba] have reddish hair and large but flaccid bodies. They are like the Gauls or the Spaniards, according as they are opposite either nation.”     

– Jordanes

Read More in Historical


Posted in Historical and tagged , , , .