Tattooed Soldiers; History Fun Fact Vol. 11

Tattooed Soldiers; History Fun Fact Vol. 11
November 26
14:00 2017

Tattooed Soldiers; From Samoans to Vikings:

Tattooed Soldiers, perhaps rather warriors, seem to have always been a part of human culture. No matter whose history we look at, we can see or read about depictions, of tattooed warriors. It seems that soldiers and warriors have always felt inspired to tattoo their bodies. There are indeed many theories as to why; from intimidating the enemies, to gaining favor of the gods, showing position and rank and even displaying cultural belonging.

Some of the best cultural examples of tattooed warriors, come from quite different parts of the world, and indeed human history. The vikings, some of the most famous warriors in world history, hailing from Scandinavia. Vikings were famously known to be fierce warriors who were heavily covered in tattoos. Many of their tattoos depicted gods, myths and legends from Norse mythology. Their tattoos were meant to both intimidate opponents and praise their gods.

Another great example, comes from all the the many tribes of Polynesia, such as the Samoans. All of their young men who became warriors, needed to be tattooed as a part of their new role in life. Some of their tattoos were meant to collect mana, a force which they believed gave life and power to everything. Others were meant to give them improved combat abilities or even make them impervious to pain etc.

From The Roman To The Modern:

At another point in history, another people brandished tattooed soldiers. The great Roman Empire, from the legionnaire to the centurion, their soldiers had tattoos. Some of their tattoos shared characteristics of the vikings and Samoans, depicting gods from the roman pantheon and legends. But what is much more interesting, is that a trend we can even recognize today, began here to some extent.

Many roman soldiers, would get the banner and standard of their legion tattooed on their lower arms, along with the number of their battalion/regiment.  They did this for a couple of reasons; one reason was to easily display where they had done their service, tattooing marks from where in the world they had served as well, another reason was to show of how much combat prowess they had and a third reason was to show pride in where they served.

We see a similar tendency today in many different countries, from Scandinavia to Northern America and more.
Soldiers form a very deep bond and connection, with the other soldiers whom they serve with. Many of them of course want to show pride and loyalty, towards both these connections as well as the corps they have served in.
Tattooing the emblem of where they served, getting memorial tattoos for fallen comrades, or tattooing a memorial to where they have seen combat deployment.

Final Comments:

It is fascinating that throughout millennia, soldiers have tattooed there bodies for various reasons, they even continue to do so today. Often the tattoos even serve as a bonding tool, between the soldiers. It can make them a more tightly knit group, make them more loyal to each other and even make them more confident.
Officers more rarely have tattoos, but even among them you can still see it. So perhaps we should think twice, before we frown upon soldiers with tattoos.

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About Author



Mads W. K. Masters of science in Sociology (Cand. Scient. Soc.), from the University of Copenhagen, who specializes in embodiment sociology, but especially in tattoos and tattoo culture etc.

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