The life of a Gallic warrior

The Celtic world is the subject of a certain enthusiasm in current work. In France, renowned specialists such as Christian Goudineau or Jean Louis Brunaux are advancing the knowledge of those who have long been called, through a rather partisan vision of History, "Our ancestors the Gauls". However, academics are not alone in working for knowledge of the Gallic past; troops of historical reenactments, populated by enthusiasts bring back these remote times and give us new images of these famous Gauls, popularized by Asterix.

The book

The first thing that jumps out at you when you take the book in hand is its visually pleasing appearance which clearly encourages reading and discovery. Its balanced construction between texts and photographs (which we will come back to) makes it very accessible to all audiences. There are no large blocks of abstruse texts but lighting based on the image which greatly facilitates understanding. The story, built on emblematic characters, is clarified at the end of the book with a trombinoscope, saving when you do not read it very closely. At the end of the book there is also a very recent bibliography written in a rather strange way for those who are used to university books; indeed it is more written which makes it undoubtedly more accessible than an indigestible list even if it loses some details (number of pages ...).

The pedagogy of the book

The accessibility of the book is really the element that impressed us the most. The inaccuracy and the romantic aspect of the images of Epinal are much criticized. They nevertheless had, despite their sometimes readily ideological message, a powerful force of suggestion, to such an extent that they are still fixed in the collective imagination today. However, this book seems to us to have really very well associated the image, an image that speaks, in the service of a much more scientific and much less partisan History. This is an excellent initiative on the part of this already quite famous historical re-enactment troop; the Ambiani. They combine a great historical requirement and this saving desire for openness, to make discover the real Gauls. This is very commendable on their part since they have been able to avoid the pitfall of reconstruction which can lead to a fold in an ivory tower.

At the same time, the book offers points on events allowing everyone to situate themselves and discover the context in which the fiction that serves as the framework for the book takes place. Indeed, the fact of having treated the editorial staff not in the form of a catalog of Gallic society at the time of the conquest, but in the form of a story, very well conducted, which facilitates access. and more can more easily arouse the interest of the youngest. They will also be able to identify with the hero that we follow throughout this story that we meet when he is still a child. In the same way and for the general public in general, this presentation also makes it possible to represent the notion of generation and to understand that certain Gauls lived before, during and after the conquest, something that we quickly forget; indeed the Roman model, after its sudden arrival, will be quickly adopted, and this is very well explained in the book. We can also point out the presence of maps, which show the plural aspect of the sapling before the conquest, the movements of armies, the location of towns and battles ... The geographical dimension is obviously essential in History, as are the chronological data which tend to be overlooked in educational programs. The book therefore completes this gap wonderfully, all in a fairly fun way.

Accuracy of information

However if the work is general public it is nonetheless of an excellent scientific level and we can only congratulate the work done by the Ambiani who know their subject admirably and approach all the important aspects of the life of a Gallic warrior. A fundamental point; the ritual probation of the young warrior, which is a structure of so-called archaic societies and which completely structures the future of the child, the future free man if he passes through the trials successfully. The bonds of man to man are very clearly represented, the importance of fidelity, of the oath, of honor, in short numbers of social interactions so different from ours and this until homosexuality between warriors. This last fact makes it possible to understand the extreme distance of the old mentalities compared to those existing in ours and to avoid the error which would follow if we started to think the past according to our modern thought.

This is the reason why this little book will also be useful to those who wish to write about this period as a novice to avoid anachronisms. Beyond "mentalities", we encounter craftsmanship, architecture with a reconstruction of a murus gallicus, war and its procession of arms, which also re-establish some truths and in particular the proximity of equipment between Gauls and Romans (although obviously the chain mail, known and probably invented by the Gauls were much more widespread among the Roman legionaries). The seriousness of this work is in any case confirmed by the preface by Christian Goudineau, an eminent specialist in the Gauls. On the other hand, one thing shocked us a bit at the end of the book; indeed a character is killed for his Gallic religious convictions, but it does not seem to us that the Romans persecuted a single religion of a conquered territory. Moreover, there are more representations of Gallic deities at the time of Roman Gaul than before. But hey, here is a question of specialists that does not detract from the seriousness and relevance of the work done.

In conclusion

In France there is a real craze for history, in a somewhat diffuse way, a movement which sometimes ignores itself but which does not deny what we can see in our activities. It is precisely in this area that this book proves to be an excellent tool. He doesn't laugh at the buyer. He is pedagogical and not inaccurate: everything is said, supported by years of work and sources. The photographs are often superb (with a small drawback for certain somewhat static combat scenes but at the same time with metal weapons it is advisable to pose more than to make large erratic movements) and are undoubtedly a precious tool to replace in the spirits the ancient evocations of Gallic warriors with bronze breastplates and winged helmets. It is therefore a book to be placed with confidence in all hands. We learn a lot, read it quickly and come back often!

The life of a Gallic Warrior: The end of independence: 80-33 BC, by Ludovic Moignet Editions Calleva, April 2011.

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