Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Carnyx - Celtic War Trumpet

Gallic Boar-Headed Carnyx (War Trumpet), Tintignac, France, 1st Century BC

The carnyx was a bronze wind instrument used by Iron Age Celts to rally troops and strike fear into the heart of their enemies from around 200 BC to 200 AD. It took the form of a very elongated ’S’ shaped tube. The horn’s bell was usually shaped like an animal’s head with its mouth wide open. Seven carnyces were discovered at Tintignac; six of them have boar-shaped heads and the seventh takes the shape of a a serpent-like beast.  
The tall, upright carriage of the carnyx allowed it’s frightful sound to be heard over the heads of soldiers engaged in battle. The Greek historian Polybius (200-118 BC) was so impressed by the sound of the Gallic army and their carnyces that he wrote “The Romans, on the other hand, while encouraged by having got their enemy between two of their own armies, were at the same time dismayed by the ornaments and clamour of the Celtic host. For there were among them such innumerable horns and trumpets, which were being blown simultaneously in all parts of their army, and their cries were so loud and piercing, that the noise seemed not to come merely from trumpets and human voices, but from the whole country-side at once. ” (Histories II, 29)