Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Night Work

Best thing I’ve learne about in a long time: the Harii, the Germanic tribe alleged to paint their bodies and armor black for “ghostly” stealth attacks. From Tacitus’s Germania:
As for the Harii, quite apart from their strength, which exceeds that of the other tribes I have just listed, they pander to their innate savagery by skill and timing: with black shields and painted bodies, they choose dark nights to fight, and by means of terror and shadow of a ghostly army they cause panic, since no enemy can bear a sight so unexpected and hellish; in every battle the eyes are the first to be conquered.
On one hand, I wonder why the sight is necessarily hellish, since, if it was dark out, it would just look like nothing, at least until limbs started to get lopped off. On the other hand, why didn’t other hostile tribes existing in light-skinned back country or yore think to do this?

In conclusion, an artist’s interpretation of a Harii attack:


Okay, fine, I’m the artist.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:26 AM

    They were indeed a fierce and terrifying tribe. The warriors who practiced this method of combat were called "Skadugangans"in their own language in those days. What few enemies survived their raids were convinced they were evil spirits from the underworld. Even the other tribes neighboring their territory, fierce and wild as they were, lived in constant fear of them as they never new when or where an attack would come from. the name Skadugangans means Shadow Goer or Shadow Walker in the old Germanic language.

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