The Belgic Spear – The Gae Bolg by Colin Dykes

It occurred to me, as I referred briefly to the Gae Bolg, that it was a feared weapon, and wondered why. It made me think of Roman Military tactics, and Roman use of the Pilum, especially during the battle during which Boudicca’s army was slaughtered. 
The Romans drew  Boudicca’s army into a narrow field, where the 80,000 warriors had to funnel through a narrow space, densely-packed and perfect targets for a volley of 10,000 spears from the Romans. 
The Pilum was a fiendishly-clever weapon, and the Romans each carried two Pili. This throwing spear had a barbed point, making it difficult to extricate from anything it pierced (shield or body). Behind the point it was made of soft iron that bent on impact. So it couldn’t be picked up and thrown back and if it penetrated a shield it would bend and make it almost impossible to continue to use the shield. Being barbed it was almost impossible to extricate from a shield, so most of Boudicca’s warriors would have abandoned their pierced shields and charged on – and that’s when the Romans launched their second volley of Pili, into massed ranks of now unprotected warriors. Fiendishly clever, on the right battlefield.
The Belgae had fought huge battles against the Romans and must have experienced the terror of the two waves of Pili.
If the Fir Bolg (Men of the Belgae) adopted that two Pilum tactic and took it with them to an Ireland accustomed to walking up close to your opponent for close-range fighting, it must have been terrifying to have showers of barbed spears raining down on them – The Gae Bolg WAS feared. Maybe that’s why?
Notably, Laeg had to retrieve one of Cuchulain’s spears from a dead victim, by cutting the victim open, supporting the idea of a barbed spear, but personally, I have some doubt that this was a weapon used in one-on-one combat, as in Hector vs Achilles, but rather a weapon used as part of a volley. Of course skilled individuals might have been able to aim at particular targets, maybe at exceptional distances ….
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