Gallic cavalry take trophies from the battlefield

Headhunting in the Army

In this image we see a group of Gallic soldiers who are devotees of an ancient headhunting cult.  Head hunting in western europe has a long tradition, a tradition entrenched amongst the celts, germans and gallic tribes.  The theological background is based on the premis that the head is the seat of the soul and by taking the head you take the soul.  That soul would remain bound to the head for as long as the head lasted.  For the ancients death was a process not an instantaneous event, as it is for us.  A soul could only move on when the funeral rites were completed.  From archaeological study we see ancient British bones being stripped of the flesh to speed up the process and from the ghost stories of ancient Rome houses remain haunted until a bodies of murdered men were recovered and disposed of correctly.  In fact when we read Livy the Romans and Greeks could expect only to cross the river Styx, into Elysium if they were buried with the correct funeral rites, to throw a criminals corpse into the river Tiber was a terrible, terrible metaphysical punishment.  This is part of living in society, obeying traditions, social mores and rituals that make a person a citizen of Rome or member of a tribe.

In the case of the heads they would be preserved and kept, possibly to allow the ghosts of the vanquished men to linger, muttering in the shadows about their great conquests and the great man who had conquered them.  In addition the psychological impact of fighting someone who wants to cut off your head and ride about on his horse with it.  This person already has a brace of heads and a very big sword.  A terrible and frightening thing.

These valuable terrible soldiers were assimilated into the army by the application of the auxiliary system and the flexible religious organisation.  By using allied and native troops as light infantry alongside the heavy infantry, in the form of the Legions, the Roman military machine could operate in a vast variety of enviroments ranging from the deserts of Africa, to the mountains of Scotland and the plains of Greece.

The complicated and flexible religious system of the Roman empire enabled the army to bind the soldiers with the imperial cult, the cult of the standards whilst at the same time pursuing mystery religions like the Mithraic mysteries or Head hunting.  The Empire secured the loyalty of the men, the good will of the gods and the moral, spiritual and religious values that made them the effective warriors that they undoubtedly were.  Mithras encouraged military virtues vital to  a selfless, obedient, loyal,  integrity bound, disciplined and courageous army, head hunting encouraged the wildness, the sudden explosive energy and power of a cavalry built to destroy the opposition.