My helmet is a swan and my chariot is full of eels.

Let us forget, for the moment, how ridiculous the Tintignat helmet is and instead, consider one of the more intangible elements of history: sound.

This recent blog post describes the Tintignac find in France and its spectacular haul of substantially complete Carnayces (pl. of Carnyx). These trumpets are well attested in other literary and iconographic sources from the 3rd century BCE, and their sound is described, by contemporaries, as “harsh” and “appropriate for the tumult of war.”1 Now, keep in mind that this is what Diadorus Siculus considered apt for war, and not a modern ear. While we have our own personal impressions of what ancient and medieval warfare looked and sounded like, we can’t always assume the same aesthetic values at work across time.

That being said, I think the sound that trumpeter John Kerry gets out of this pre-Titignac reproduction is safely ‘bellicos’, at least by the 17 second mark.

Any historical question that deals with how something was ‘performed’, be it music, dance, ceremony, or violence, is really difficult to answer. However, they are really attractive questions and even if you don’t get too far towards an answer, the results are often fascinating enough to keep you interested.

NOTES

1 I quote from the source used by the History Blog, which appears to be a digital version of Diadorus Siculus, The Library of History vol III. C. H. Oldfather, ed. Leob Classics Ed. (Cambridge, MA.: Yale University Press, 1935), 183.

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One thought on “My helmet is a swan and my chariot is full of eels.

  1. Imagine dozens of these sounding at once, and potentially reverberating off surrounding hills, forest, etc. Must have been quite intimidating, especially for the first time.

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