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CELTIC-L  April 2002

CELTIC-L April 2002

Subject:

Re: vercingetorix coins

From:

John Hooker <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.

Date:

Thu, 18 Apr 2002 16:58:12 -0600

Content-Type:

multipart/mixed

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (470 lines) , text/plain (7 lines)

Hi Dan,

>------hmm. i was hoping that the reference that Mr.
>Allen made was perhaps based upon some common
>information
>or interpretation of which i was unaware. i'm leaning
>to the conclusion that he was relying on some dubious
>information...he certainly does seem to suggest that
>the word diota is to be found on the coin, but as you
>say, this
>seems unlikely.
>         Without any corroboration from what i had
>hoped would be Mr. Allen's original source, my own
>speculations, which i have called wild, seem all the
>more so. What could possibly have led him to include a
>mention
>of these amphora-stateres in a discussion of the
>Aquarius constellation? What's more strange is that he
>seemed quite
>casual in this reference, as if it were a commonly
>accepted interpretation that the amphorae referred to
>the Y-shaped
>"Urna" asterism to be found in this constellation...oh
>well.

There was a lot of wild speculation in the late nineteenth century, and
various sorts of mysticism were being combined. I imagine that it was in
one of these that he found this reference. I looked in a book by Marshall
Faintich (Symbolic Messengers of Medieval Man, 1995), who is both an
astronomer and a numismatist, and combines the two by hypothesizing various
astronomical features on ancient and medieval coins. He did not have any
reference to the Vercingetorix coins either.
(snip)

>----I'm aware of some of the circumstances surrounding
>Celtillus' death. I'm not clear on your wording here.

>Do you
>mean by "overlord of Gaul" merely that he was Gaulish,
>*and* an overlord, say, over his tribe? or that he was
>an
>overlord over *many* tribes, but was not sovereign
>within his own tribe? That is to say, I had assumed he
>was the
>leader of his tribe and was killed for trying to
>extend his authority over others, but you suggest he
>was already  a
>leader of many tribes, and was put to death by his own
>tribe? (Boy, if Caesar could have been aware of this
>irony!)

This is going to be long, bear with me.

In the Handford translation VII.4: "...whose father Celtillus had held
suzerainty over all Gaul".
I thought I had a Latin text version, but I can't find it. It would be
interesting to see what was given for "suzerainty" Perhaps someone else can
provide us with the Latin word. I used "overlord", as "suzerain" means
this, and also because of a British Corieltauvian coin legend that has,
along with the name "DVMNOC", "TIGIR SENO". The latter is assumed to be
another name, as there appear to be two names on this series of coins, but
it does seem to mean "elderly lord" -- perhaps "overlord". Another
Corieltauvian coin has the name "VEPOC" (presumed to be the same ruler as
those coins inscribed VEP CORF) associated with "COMES", and this also
could be a title.

Caesar's comment adds to his references to the Pan-Gallic Council, Two main
factions in Gaul, comments about Commios the Atrebatian being respected in
Britain (he later founded a dynasty there), Commios being made king of his
tribe and used as an envoy to numbers of Gaulish and British tribes by
Caesar, and various references to tribes' councillors being executed
(sometimes by their own tribe) -- all of this points to an overriding
political association of tribes that includes Britain and Gaul.


There is a lot of confusion over the exact naming of regions by Caesar, but
I don't think he was being very culture specific. He often refers to the
Belgic tribes as they formed a coalition. While he mentions Celtica, when
discussing these tribes he uses the term "Gauls", and he also uses "Gauls"
to describe encounters with the Belgae. He seems to refer mainly to
geography when he says either "Gauls" or "Britons", and in the case of the
latter says that the tribes of the coast of Britain have many of the same
names as their continental counterparts. We know this also from the British
Atrebates, Catuvellauni, and the Parisii. There are other tribes that can
(with less certainty) be placed in both Gaul and Britain.

The coin evidence also supports this connection. There is no definition
that I can think of that can separate the coin types of Gaul and Britain in
a general way. More unique, are the coins of Armorica that have a number of
features that are not found in either Britain or the rest of Gaul. The mere
fact of an early British coinage shows that there is a very real military
connection with Gaul. Most types descend from the coins that were paid by
the Greeks to Celtic mercenaries. Coin use in Britain stretches from the
Severn to eastern England as far north as Yorkshire. Very early British
Celtic coins follow two continental counterparts: The gold coins of the
Belgic Ambiani, and the cast potin (high tin bronze) copies of the Greek
bronze coins of Massilia, that are focused in Central Gaul (Bituriges Cubi
-- Aedui) territory. The actual prototypes of the gold, and copies of the
potin are commonly found in eastern England ( focussing on Kent and Essex),
and in association with each other. The Ambiani gold coins are always
well-worn, but the potin coins do not show much, if any, wear. This might
be a feature of the metal types: high tin bronze resists wear while gold is
softer and wears by having the metal redistribute itself over the coin.
Most of the early Ambiani gold coins have only a trace of tin, although
there is a very strange exception from the Snettisham (Norfolk) hoard that
has 12.47% tin and only 1% copper. The prototypes of the potin (many still
bearing the MA legend of the Massilian bronze coins, are mostly from a
hoard from Thurrock in Essex. Both the prototypes and the copies are
usually in the (very approx.) 70% Cu 30% Sn range, The prototype potin are
dated by Van Arsdell to ca. 100 B.C. and the Ambiani to 125 - 100 B.C. The
Massilian Greek bronzes are estimated at 200 -- 49 B.C. That worn Ambiani
are found in the same area as developed copies of the prototype potins,
suggests that Van Arsdell's estimate for the latter might be late by up to
half a century, and others believe this is possible.


The Pan-Gallic Council was usually held in the Carnutes territory which
Caesar says was considered to be the centre of Gaul. This only works if we
include Belgica as the Carnutes northern neighbours were the Veliocasses --
a Belgic tribe. What happened to Celtillus is in keeping with what happened
to various "councillors", and the appointment of Commios as envoy to Caesar
after he was made king of the Atrebates also points to different roles of
councillors and kings. Commios already had respect far and wide -- prior to
him being made king. That he was captured in Britain and afterwards
returned with the blame being laid on the "common people" is significant.
Later Commios was used as an intermediary in negotiations between
Cassivellaunos and Caesar. This is also significant. Cassivellaunos was
commander-in-chief of all the British forces. John Kent attributes the
"British A" gold staters to him, and I have to agree (although some don't).
Unlike all other issues of British gold coins they span tribal boundaries
that are later more defined.

The Pan-Gallic council was a meeting of the Druid class, and I think that
it is not a stretch to say that the "councillors" would have been of that
class. Once in a while one would be appointed as a commander-in-chief (like
Cassivellaunos or Vercingetorix) and sometimes one might be made a king
(like Commios) or aspire to kingship (like Celtillus). That a number of
councillors are attested for each tribe says that, while having prestige,
being a councillor of a tribe was not as high a position as being a king of
the tribe. The tribe would do away with their councillors if they thought
they had been guilty of bad judgement. Celtillus held suzerainty and was
the leader of all the druids, but this was a different sort of prestige,
and was one that was granted (and presumably could be taken away through
execution) by his peers. It was a position most often achieved through
election, but Caesar does say that they sometimes fought it out.


When Caesar speaks of the druids, he stresses their religious aspect. Other
writers treat them more as "philosophers". Caesar then talks a bit about
their acting as judges in disputes between individual and tribes, but
always makes this relative to religion. He keeps "councillors" and druids
separate in his writing, but not convincingly so. Long after Caesar, the
druids are wiped out in Britain. This would not have been due to religious
differences -- the Romans allowed all manner of strange cults to exist, and
Roman soldiers would make offerings to local gods as they believed that
these were the gods of that place -- and better safe than sorry. The druids
had a religious aspect, although they do not seem to have been priests. I
think that they were the cultural connecting principle between the tribes,
and that the power that the Romans did not like was their political sway.

As they officiated in matters of warfare, and told who could fight with
who, or even end that fight, they also had a hand in the money supply.
Money was first used in a military context, and then appears to have been
used in political tributes. The iconography of the coins is amazingly
consistent when compared to other aspects of Celtic society. All the coins
use religious symbolism with the major differences showing up in Armorica
and in central Europe, and there are prior artistic factors based on trade
that allow for some of these differences. This religious symbolism does not
extend much into other objects used by warriors such as weaponry and
horse/chariot fittings. By the time that the Romans had considerable
influence on the society, the coins increased in the numbers of
denominations and the lower denominations first showed Roman influence. It
was this time that the money had a closer relationship to Roman money and
was used in the market place by the common person. Similarly, as the
"councillors" started to vanish, the religion started to take on  the
appearance of varieties of Roman-like god cults complete with statuary and
inscriptions that combined Celtic and Roman deities. The common man started
to exhibit more religious practices than before, when the druids held
supreme power. Earlier offerings were often expensive and high status
goods, later, they were low value coins and sheep etc. Most of these later
offerings were at Roman facaded temples.


Caesar says that druidism originated in Britain. I don't think we can take
this at face value. Peripheral areas of the Celtic world showed more
conservatism. Britain exhibits a relatively late introduction of La Tene
art, and chariots were used there in warfare long after they were abandoned
for that use on the continent. Similarly, Armorica exhibits coin
iconography that would not be totally out of place in the Rhineland two or
three hundred years earlier (they are later forms, but the prototypes are
culturally closer). We see the same relationship in Ireland. Some Irish La
Tene art is an evolved form of what first appears in Britain, as some
British La Tene art is an evolved form of what first appears on the
continent. Conservatism would give the impression of an original, purer
form to those unfamiliar with these processes.

This brings us to the subject of a unified Celtic culture. The available
evidence points to a political structure with a religious twist that was
connected closer in the upper levels of society. The biggest differences
between regions are in the objects that were used by the lower levels:
common pottery, house designs, farming techniques. All these things had
their own conservatism. For example, Simon James points out the round huts
of the Britons compared to the rectangular houses of the Gauls, yet these
house designs predate the Iron Age in both regions. Houses do not need to
be replaced that regularly, but they do need repairs -- hence the long
continuity. Aboriginal lower classes are always there, everywhere, and as
they supply the food and the cheap labour it would be foolish to kill them
or drive them off. If these lower classes want to prosper, then they marry
into, or otherwise adopt the culture of the newer arrivals. Instead of
looking for definitions of culture in houses, pots, farms, or DNA
molecules, we should look more to language, art, and military/political/
economic affiliations.

Starting with Celtillus and Vercingetorix, I've brought Commios and
Cassivellaunos into the same picture. A sub-society of druid class that had
greater communication and power with other tribes, and yet who sometimes
held a precarious position within their own tribe within the warrior class.
Some were made, or aspired to be kings and thus gain(ed) a more localized
(and perhaps safer) power base. Caesar was not an idiot. If he needed a
good envoy he would have picked someone who was a rising star among many
Gaulish and British tribes. He would tempt them with kingship of their own
tribe. Hence he chose Commios and did just that. Vercingetorix too, had a
lot of influence at the start, and soon won the rest. He possibly learned
from his father's mistakes. Of course, Caesar did not predict that Commios
would tire of being a Roman puppet, and Vercingetorix must have had greater
hopes than being dragged through the streets of Rome and then executed --
but sometimes things just don't go according to plan.


>>6) during this festival of Lugh, in early August, the
>sun would be in
>>the constellation Leo. this means that the opposit
>sign, Aquarius,
>would
>>be dominating the nighttime sky .
>>7) we know the celts' emphasis on the "night" half
>beginning their
>>calendar days, so i would speculate that the
>nighttime sky may have
>been
>>more important than the star group that was occupied
>by the sun.
>
>>8) if vercingetorix was trying to advertise his
>authority conferred by
>>this council, the amphora might be a symbol of elite
>status, and the
>>associated "gift system", but also might have
>suggested the council
>that
>>met at Lugnasad.
>
>I'm not too clear on this.
>
>------i'm not sure if you're politely disagreeing with
>me, or if i simply haven't articulated these
>half-formed ideas too
>clearly.:-)

Neither, I am following what you say, but I am not sure about the evidence
one way or the other.

>While it seems a rather thin assertion now, I had
>previously assumed that there was some well accepted
>connection
>between the amphorae and the constellation Aquarius.
>Thus I was trying to understand what Aquarius might
>mean to
>the celts, especially in the context of Vercingetorix.
>Aquarius would have been present in the nighttime sky
>during the
>time of this Pan-Celtic council, and so might have
>been used as a symbol denoting the council. Of course,
>without
>this "well accepted" connection between Aquarius and
>the amphorae and Vercingetorix, I'm afraid I've
>allowed
>myself to get a bit ahead of the game here...Absent
>this "connection", you're suggestion of the horse and
>amphorae
>suggesting victory over the romans seems more likely
>to me for two reasons:
>1) there are many examples of horses and riders riding
>over "defeated" enemies, suggesting that this motif
>was
>common and easily understood. thus a horse "over" an
>amphora = Celts "over" Romans is quite simple and
>logical.
>2)the amphora, as you say, is an unusual symbol. But
>certainly the council of the Carnutes was not an
>unusual event.
>So why would this unusual symbol develop during this

>one time, in order to depict, as i have asserted
>(probably in
>error), the "authority" of this council? However the
>union of the Celts against Rome was a rather unusual
>event, and it
>would seem likely to find an unusual symbol connected
>to it. Thus your explanation seems more likely to me.

 Well, it's just a suggestion, and I don't have much supporting evidence. A
Roman precedent would be the two captives that are seated at the foot of a
Roman trophy, but other early Roman coins do not show any other symbolism
that supports this in a general way, and often the name of the issuing
authority is below the main reverse motif, so they are not usually using
this metaphor. I'm not sure about the origins of the horseman riding over
the enemy motif, but I believe that, in coinage, the Roman spearing a
fallen horseman is 4th century A.D. Mind you, these coins have "Fel. Temp.
Reparatio" so they allude to bringing back happier days -- presumably it
was a lot of fun to spear fallen horsemen ;-)

>In dealing with the significance of the absence of any
>element, it is
>necessary to be discussing more coin types that we
>have here at our
>disposal. For example, I've often commented on the
>lack of boars as
>dominant motifs on gold coins (one exception being the
>enigmatic
>scyphate
>Corieltauvian coins). No boar is the sole or main
>motif on any other
>Gaulish or British gold coins, but is very common on
>silver and bronze
>coins from most regions.
>--------this is off the subject of Vercingetorix, but
>this is interesting. What's your explanation for their

>existence on
>silver coins but not gold? might the boar symbol
>itself have been associated with a class of people
>less given to
>issuing gold than silver(or more given to receiving
>silver than gold)? i.e. poorer? i know that the boar
>sometimes has
>lunar associations, would this have made it more
>aesthetically appropriate for silver than for gold? (I
>remember saying
>earlier in this thread that i was no numismatist. Now
>you've got me curious about something i adamantly
>insisted i
>had no interest in!) :-)

Your latter idea about the lunar aspect is right. Silver can represent the
moon, and bronze can represent the night, but gold is to do with the sun.
When the boar appears on gold coins, it is as a subsidiary element,
sometimes in the hair of the deity. The boar is also used as  a subsidiary
element on other coins as well, and some areas and times used silver and
billon instead of gold, but for the same purposes. In these cases, the boar
is still only subsidiary. I'm glad to have whetted your appetite for coin
iconography!

>>Miranda Green shows the figure of the Wheel-God from
>Le Chatelet with a
>thunderbolt in one hand and a ring over that shoulder
>from which hangs
>a
>number of S shapes. She suggests that these shapes are
>spare lightning
>bolts.
>
>-------------------------Is this the one where he
>appears to be brandishing a baguette? :-)

LOL. Yes, that's the one!

>i have seen Lugh's name derived from the word for
>"lighning flash"...and the alternate interpretation of
>Lugnasad not
>as the victory of the sun over death, but rather the
>victory of the tribal/cultural gods over the
>destructive aspect of the
>sun (i.e. the midsummer destructive heat "overcome" by
>the fertilizing rain. the sun is like a good thing
>gone
>bad..thus in insular myth, Lugh (lighning bolt
>associations, perhaps indra-like associations with
>release of the
>waters?) overcomes Balor (destructive "eye" of the
>sun). Thus we have the tribal gods in a mediating role
>which
>transforms the fomorian chaos into culturally useful
>forms...

I am skeptical about this. It is an unusual association. The Calydonian
boar emits lightning when it appears, and lightning happens in that Welsh
story about the fountain. Lightning also seems to be occurring every time
that someone knocks on a castle door in Transylvania in the middle of the
night ;-). I think the long standing metaphor is the sudden communication
with the Otherworld in some form. I believe it just denotes some form of
eeriness, or the power of various gods.

>with this in mind, i'm looking at the stone pillar
>from Pfalzfeld...if as you say, the fleur-de-lis thing
>is a substitute
>solar symbol ( i'm also thinking of the triplicity of
>Bride, and her possible fire/solar associations, and
>the lyre/apollo
>connection), and we assume that these S-scrolls are
>lightning,  then we might have a representation of a
>"solar Head"
>surrounded by lightning, and from which comes the
>vegetation "leaf-crown"...in insular myth after Lugh
>cuts off
>Balor's head, he puts it on top of a pillar
>stone...there might be something to this, connected

>with some vestigial
>agricultural sacrifice perhaps...

There is something in this. The conflict between light and dark does always
get associated with the seasons and the cycles of growth, both in Celtic
iconography and in Greek (Persephone in the underworld = winter) There is
also the sacrificial king idea that ties in nicely too.

>the problems i have always had associating the
>S-scroll specifically with lightning, rather than more
>generally with
>Lugh, is that it seems to develop so documentably from
>earlier La Tene vegetation-patterns..."lightning"
>always
>seemed less likely a reading than leaves, but with
>regard to the lightning-flash's possible connection to
>agriculture,
>maybe a "vegetal-lightning bolt" is within the realm
>of possibility.

 As I said above, I think we can have a double/related meaning.

>what's very interesting to me is the idea of the
>"trefoil/fleur-de-lis" and possible solar
>connections...where might i
>find a picture of these Armorican coins? (i seem to be
>getting closer and closer to shelling out some cash
>for a
>numismatic book ) : - )

You can keep hold of your cash for a while longer:

trefoils:

http://www.writer2001.com/catd.htm (Coin 13)
http://www.writer2001.com/catg.htm (coin 27)

S -scrolls: also in the above (coin 13, in the chariot driver's body, and
also everywhere through the coinage in the obverse head at the ear position
-- the pellet in circle appears in the lowest loop in all of groups a to d
and vanishes during group e)

Singular leaf crown shape:

http://www.writer2001.com/catm.htm (the mane ornament on all the ponies)

The index page to my book shows a pastiche I did using various photos of
these coins, if you want to see more than line drawings:

http://www.writer2001.com/improvisations.htm

Cheers,

John

http://www.writer2001.com/
Hooker & Perron, Total Project Coordination
Database-Web...Graphics...Custom Maps...Colour Suites...Expert Systems
Building the Celtic Coin Index on the Web:
http://www.writer2001.com/cciwriter2001/



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