Celtic, the whole institution having been borrowed by the Romans from the Celtic horsemen who formed so important an element in their mounted force.

A Passage from Arrian

After telling how the ground was specially selected and prepared, he proceeds: 'Then those of them who are conspicuous for rank or for skill in horsemanship ride into the lists armed with helmets made of iron or brass and covered with gilding to attract the particular attention of the spectators. Unlike the helmets made for real battle, these helmets do more than serve as a protection to the head and cheeks; they are made to correspond in every way to the faces of the horsemen, with openings at the eyes large enough to admit of a clear view and yet sufficiently small not to involve exposure. They have yellow plumes attached to them, not to serve any useful purpose, but rather for display. If there be but a slight wind, then when the horses gallop in the charges, the plumes make a brave show, waving in the air 'under the influence of the breeze. And the horsemen carry oblong shields, not like shields for real battle but lighter in weight—the object of the exercises being smartness and display—and gaily decorated. Instead of breast-plates, they wear tunics, made just like real breast-plates, sometimes scarlet, sometimes purple, sometimes parti-coloured. And they have hose, not loose like those in fashion among the Parthians and Armenians, but fitting closely to the limbs. Their horses are most carefully protected by frontlets, but do not require any side armour, for the javelins they use for exercise are of wood without any metal. Even so they might injure the eyes of the horses, but they fall harmlessly on their flanks, particularly as these are for the most part protected by trappings.'[1]

Arrian then describes at length the sort of exercises for which these preparations were intended. The horsemen rode in squadrons headed by a standard-bearer. Some carried ordinary Roman ensigns. Others had Scythian pennons made of bright-coloured cloth stitched together in the form of a serpent, which filled as it was borne swiftly through the air. The evolutions performed were of a most complex character, requiring great skill in horsemanship. As the rider dashed on, showers of wooden spears were discharged with great rapidity. These gave place to more serious exercises in which blunted spears were employed. But the latter were levelled against the opponent's shield, never against the helmet, which was not strong enough to withstand a thrust.

1 C. 34. I am indebted to Mr. George Macdonald for supplying this passage.