For our rubric dedicated to reenactors and their impressions, today we present you “Valaunos”, an hypothetical Lepontic warrior from the 2nd-1st century BC, by Enrico Lanzalone of Insubria Gaesata, which we thank for sending us pictures and text.
The Prealpine and Alpine “Insubria”, under the sphere of influence of the Roman Republic during the 2nd century BC, saw in that period a new flourishing of the Celtic culture. Such flourishing was favoured by the trades and the pacts of foedus established with the new superpower, which respected the territorial indipendence of the locals.
This was a new historical phase for the people of the Lepontii, who lived on the northern shore of the lake of Verbano (between Piedmont, Lombardy and Switzerland), a phase that will endure and continue in the Imperial Roman period.
The territory of the Lepontii became a recruiting pool of allies and auxiliaries for the Roman legions. Having studied the necropolises of Giubiasco and Ornavasso and their materials, the group Insubria Gaesata decided to reconstruct one of such allies, a high ranking warrior. Impersonated by Enrico Lanzalone, the noble warrior “Valaunos” sports a number of items connecting him with the Lepontic region, apart from his armour and clothing, reconstructed by comparison with outer Celtic sources.
The conflicts that Valaunos could have seen (from the 2nd to the 1st century BC) are only hypothetical, but plausible: the wars against the Salassi, the Cimbric Wars, the conquest of Gallia Narbonensis, the Social War.
Specialized in Alpine warfare, warriors like Valaunos were then incorporated in the Cohortes Aplinorum, mantaining an ethnic prevalence until Late Antiquity (a signifer of the limitanei called Lepontius is attested in the 4th century AD).
The defensive equipment of this Lepontic warrior is constituted by three main elements: shield, chainmail and helmet.
The shield is a reinforced thyreos, decorated with various symbols from Iron Age engravings from Verbano and Val Grande, and with the famous trident of “Borvius”, representend in a relief from Borvio (5th century BC). The thyreos, even if not always fit for Alpine warfare, is a common mean of protection in Ornavasso and Giubiasco necropolises, maybe even a status symbol.
The lorica hamata, a non-riveted model from the 3rd-2nd century BC, is not directly attested in the Lepontic region. However, written sources, archaeological finds from France and visual sources suggest that chainmail was worn by high ranking Celtic figures, and that was introduced by them in the Italian peninsula.
The helmet, a particular gallo-italic Alpine model dated between 3rd and 2nd century, is a clear ethnic symbol of the warrior. In fact, it comes from the necropolis of Giubiasco, from which this model takes its name. Apart from giving a good protection, such a oblong helmet was probably a status symbol, easily recognizable on the battlefield.
The offensive equipment is made by two main elements: spear and sword.
The spear is based on a great number of finds of spearheads and butts from the Lepontic region, while the sword, a La Tène C type, is based from a find from Cuvio (Varese, Lombardy), the sheath of which, however, was incomplete.
The warrior would have completed its weaponry with pila (found in the Ornavasso necropolis) and other types of javelins, as testified in the deposit/necropolis of Arsago Seprio – the missiles are not present in this reconstruction.
The suspension belt in organic material was widely used in the Lepontic region and in the Italian Alpine area in general. Suspension systems made with chain didn’t have too much success in this area.
Many ornaments complete the panoply: glass bracelets, an element previously imported but produced on the shores of Lago Maggiore since 2nd century BC; an amber bracelet, a symbol of wealth in the ancient world; and a glass necklace, with the eye decoration so appreciated by the Celts.
Valaunos also wears a twisted torque and a necklace with a “latenian” head, based on finds from the Cimbric area. These are clear symbols of the trades of the Lepontii with the Celts from the other side of the Alps.
Last but not least, a brooch type “Ornavasso”: another clear ethnic symbol of the Lepontii.
For the reconstruction, thanks to:
–Insubria Gaesata, which made the final result possible and the members of which helped in produce some of the elements, such as shield and spear;
-Daniele Giannotti, for the sword handle;
-Serena, my sister, for the pictures.
Dott. Enrico Lanzalone