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The Harii (Latinized West Germanic "warriors"[1]) were, according to 1st century CE Roman historian Tacitus, a Germanic people. In his work Germania, Tacitus describes them as painting themselves and their shields black. This served both to hide them in the dark and to keep any metal weapons from catching any light so as not to give away their positions. The Ghost Warriors, also known as Night Raiders, got their name due to their skills at night raiding, as a ghostly army, much to the terror of their opponents. Theories have been proposed connecting the Harii to the Einherjar of much later Norse mythology, and to the tradition of the Wild Hunt.


Regarding the Harii, Tacitus writes in Germania:

As for the Harii, quite apart from their strength, which exceeds that of the other tribes I have just listed, they pander to their innate savagery by skill and timing: with black shields and painted bodies, they choose dark nights to fight, and by means of terror and shadow of a ghostly army they cause panic, since no enemy can bear a sight so unexpected and hellish; in every battle the eyes are the first to be conquered.[2]


According to John Lindow, Andy Orchard, and Rudolf Simek connections are commonly drawn between the Harii and the Einherjar of Norse mythology; those that have died and gone to Valhalla ruled over by the god Odin, preparing for the events of Ragnarök.[2][3][4] Lindow says that regarding the theorized connection between the Harii and the Einherjar, "many scholars think there may be basis for the myth in an ancient Odin cult, which would be centered on young warriors who entered into an ecstatic relationship with Odin" and that the name Harii has been etymologically connected to the -herjar element of einherjar.[3] Simek says that since the connection has become widespread, "one tends to interpret these obviously living armies of the dead as religiously motivated bands of warriors, who led to the formation of the concept of the einherjar as well as the Wild Hunt".[4]

Harii tactics[edit]

Germanic Warriors were, as a general rule excellent spear fighters.[citation needed] Unlike other warriors, such as the Greeks, who generally used spears in formation fighting, the warriors of Germania used spears in single combat.[citation needed] Rather than straight foreword thrusting, the Germans used large swing circular motions, spinning them around their head, while slowly letting the spear slide further down their hand.[citation needed] This gives them the advantage of catching the enemy off guard by allowing the spear to strike further out than they originally thought.[citation needed] In addition to their spear German warriors carried large oak shields to protect their body.[citation needed] While an effective companion with their spear, it works well with the Germanic short sword, which was basically a slightly larger version of the seax.[citation needed] This sword had a thick back allowing for a sturdier blade, bit also a very fine point, allow for stabs into armor gaps. Because of the blade short length when used the Germanic shield. Their shields were so effective that even the Romans tried to copy their shields.[citation needed] Germanic Warriors were trained at the youngest possible age, similar to Spartans, Samurai, and other warrior cultures. Their clubs were hardened in such away that they could not be cut in half.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Simek (2007:132).
  2. ^ a b Orchard (1997:36).
  3. ^ a b Lindow (2001:104–105).
  4. ^ a b Simek (2007:71).