----- Original Message -----
From: "John Hooker" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, 8 April 2002 3:39 AM
Subject: Re: Caesar on the Gauls
> Hi Vyvyan,
> >> Now for the clincher: there are typical Nervii gold coins bearing the
> >> legend VIROS.
> >Hmmm. In Latin that is the accusative plural of a man, or in military
> >a soldier. (It also means slimes). I will accept this as evidence that
> >there are instances of Nervii gold coins bearing Roman Legends.
> It doesn't hold up. "Os" is a name ending in Gaulish. "Vir" is sometimes
> written for "ver". It is so on some of the coins of Verica of the British
> Atrebates -- who, incidently, was recorded in Latin as "Bericus".
It doesn't fall down, either.
On the one hand, VIROS does happen to be the accusative case of the plural
form of the Latin noun VIR, meaning men, or soldiers. If you don't know
anyone who knows any Latin, you could confirm what I'm saying here by
looking in any Latin grammar book for beginners and you'll find VIR VIRI (m)
in the vocab at the back among the words most frequently encountered by
students of Latin. 2nd declension masculine endings, both singular and
plural will normally be found set out within the first few lessons.
On the other hand, you're having to take wild guesses as to what it could
possibly mean in Gaulish. Supporting you in the attempt, there is data from
a surviving Celtic language closely related to, if somewhat more evolved
than, the one from which you claim this coin's inscription comes: Gaeilge.
Bhfear and bhfir are eclipsised forms of the Gaeilge 'fear' (man) and 'fir'
(men). Older forms appear in the names Fergus and Fir Bolg.
If, as you say, -os is a name ending, it could possibly be a variant of the
-as ending in Thomas, Jonas, Tobias, etc, from Biblical sources. It appears
in other languages as -es as well. In some cases it appears to have the
sense of a collectivity, abstraction or plural. In support of this
hypothesis, there seems to have been a lively trade in ideas between the
Galilean Gauls and those of Western Europe right up until the Roman
expansion. You'd still have to identify the hypothetical Gaul whose name it
is and explain why his/her name is on it, but it is a hypothesis.
So neither hypothesis is entirely baseless.
I find it a lot easier to believe that it is Latin and therefore that
VIROS means soldiers-as-recipients (of an action, in this case, the meting
out of their pay). I find it easier to believe that while Romans prided
themselves on using only fine gold, in times of exigency, such as in war
time and during the aftermath of war, pending the restoration of trade
industry and primary production, they sometimes did use inferior Celtic gold
to pay soldiers of the lower orders, which they marked as VIROS, meaning
(payable to the) soldiery, to distinguish it from the coins of purer gold
with which those of noble rank were paid.
So we have two hypotheses, both supported by some evidence and neither
So at this stage, rather than playing conkers with them, each trying to use
his/her own hypothesis to smash the other's, I'll keep both in mind while I
try to peruse all relevant evidence and watch with equal honesty for
anything that supports either, and just as assiduously for that which
detracts from either, impartially,
> These Nervii coins were once thought to be possibly coins of their
> neighbours, the Viromandui, and that was dismissed because of both their
> type, and their provenances. So with all the weight of the evidence taken
> into consideration, I don't think you can demonstrate any sort of Roman
> involvement at all.
> >I could start another wild controversy here by pointing out that the word
> >Nervii is a literation of two syllables that resemble my pronunciation of
> >Norway, only shifting the vowels back along the tongue somewhat, and ask
> >anyone knows for sure that they weren't the people who later gave their
> >to the land we now call Norway. But it would probably be better not to.
> I am absolutely sure that it would be better not to.
> >> I am still not following you regarding the Arverian coins with the
> >> VERCINGETORIX legend, are you trying to say that they are somehow Roman
> >> Romano-Celtic?
> >I'm just finding it very hard to believe that Vercingetorix would write
> >Latin without a lot of help from the Romans.
> He was not writing in Latin, he was writing in Gaulish. He was using the
> same letters that the Romans used. The use of these letters has nothing to
> do with being culturally Roman, they are just an alphabet that was used
> over a wide area by diverse peoples. In Latium, and in Campania, Italy, we
> have some essentially Greek silver coins, following Greek weight
> with Greek types, and these too have the same alphabet that was used by
> Romans. These coins were minted before the Romans minted silver coins of
> their own.
Oh, I see. Thank you, John. Very informative. I've never come across this
numismatic alphabet information in books dealing with ancient alphabets.
It represents a new area for me to investigate.
> Instead of saying "Celtic coin legends in Latin" say "Celtic coin legends
> in an Italiot script" and you will be on more solid ground. We see many
> Celtic coins with a Greek theta in combination with non-Greek letters --
> this again points to a possible northern Italian influence as northern
> Italian scripts had a theta as well as letters that looked more Latin than
> Greek. The northern Italian L is very similar to the latin L but with a
> more acute angle. It does not look like lambda. It might be difficult to
> draw an absolute line between northern Italian and early Latin. Celtic
> tribes from as far away as Saar in Germany had been importing northern
> some southern) Italian goods for a long time. This was not "Roman trade".
Very lucid. Thank you.
> And perhaps you could explain why the Romans would have helped
> Vercingetorix to do anything but capitulate.
Sorry. I meant coerced, and I should have said what I meant the first time.
> >Who is Vincent Megaw?
> J. V. S. Megaw -- do a web search. You don't look at Celtic artifacts
> either eh?
Give me time - I'm just learning my way round the web.
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