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CELTIC-L  April 2002

CELTIC-L April 2002

Subject:

Re: Caesar on the Gauls

From:

John Hooker <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.

Date:

Thu, 11 Apr 2002 12:11:10 -0600

Content-Type:

multipart/mixed

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (191 lines) , text/plain (7 lines)

Hi Vyvyan,

>I'm not casting aspersions on your evident expertise.  Please don't imagine
>that. But for the sake of effective 'knowledge-production', we need to ask
>all the questions and follow up every lead.  As scholars we stand on the
>shoulders of giants, and giants sometimes make errors, and some errors that
>giants make are gigantic.  I think many have been made that can realatively
>easily be corrected in ancient history because of the paucity of evidence
>and the controversiality of evry little detail of every little bit of it.
>Theories that emerge sometimes need to be checked for distortive factors so
>that they can be corrected, so that the study can move to more and more
>accurate foci and become a more internally consistent discipline.

And I do this. Once I reclassified an entire coinage -- the Coriosolite.
The book will be published this year by Archaeopress at Oxford (I thought
it would be out already, but I decided to include a complete index of
motifs so it is held up a little).

First, though, it is essential to become familiar with the body of
evidence. There are essentially two ways to do this, one can read what
everyone else has said about it, or one can look at the primary evidence
(the objects themselves) within the context of the finds, and any
contemporary historic evidence that might exist. If you just follow the
first method then you are comparing studies. This can have some validity,
but one can sometimes be led down well-worn pathways of assumptions if one
is not careful. If you just do the second, then you might miss some valid
peripheral connections that could have been made by others. It is best to
do both, but to always give the primary evidence the overriding authority
in any conflict.


All of the above is applicable to any individual's study. However, if a
number of individuals are involved there is the possibility of even more.
There is a "way of not knowing" and this is something that you have a
talent for. You have not read the books and papers nor have you looked at
the primary evidence, and yet you question the conclusions of those that
have. Most people would not do this. They would keep quiet and try to
follow what is being said while also trying to catch up by reading/looking
at more. The problem that we (those of us that study this stuff) have is
that we cannot always keep ourselves from being influenced, in the patterns
of our thought, from what has gone before.

When "think tanks" are set up, it is always essential to include some
people who have not studied or worked within the subject area of the think
tank. This enables those that have to be exposed to novel ideas. Many of
the questions of the uninformed have no value, but sometimes they do. When
this happens, then shifts in the patterns of thinking can occur.

My wife has studied, and builds databases. She came about it mostly through
trial and error and read only what was needed to operate the software
needed. She already had a practical grounding in documentation and
organization. I keep myself ignorant of all the details of building
databases, but I suggest certain features that I would like to see in what
we build. What usually happens is that when I tell her what I want to see,
she says it can't be done, and then afterwards creates some work-around to
actually accomplish it. If I had already studied databases, then I might
not make these suggestions.


>Keep in mind that the word VIROS has an appropriate Latin translation in
>keeping with the hypothesis that they were minted from inferior Celtic gold
>in order to pay the VIROS (Latin 2nd declension masculine accusative plural
>of VIR -IS men/soldiers - according to Cassels Latin Dictionary), and no
>translation has yet been hazarded for VIROS as a Belgic word or name.

Chris has answered this in another message.

>What fault do you find with the hypothesis that Romans may have got Belgic
>mint-workers to design and mint the coins, to pay, of course, the VIROS?
>That would account for the quality of gold and the Belgic design features.

Setting aside the points that Chris has made about the translation for a
moment, and dealing only with the other evidence, the hypothesis falls
apart for a number of reasons:

(1)The iconography of the Belgic coins would have no relevance to a Roman
soldier. When coins that referred to the Celts were made by Romans, they
depicted what the Romans observed, or had heard about them. The best
example is the Roman Republican denarius of L. Hostilius Saserna minted in
48 B.C. The obverse bears a head of a bearded barbarian, usually assumed to
be Celtic, and often assumed to be a portrait of Vercingetorix. Behind the
head is what appears to be a Celtic shield. The reverse of this coin
depicts a warrior standing in chariot with the driver sitting "side-saddle"
on the chariot pole. Although the head is often assumed to be
Vercingetorix, the Gauls, at that time did not use chariots in warfare, so
the artist was perhaps taking a few liberties with facts and using what he
had heard, rather than what he had seen. It might well be that the head was
the sort of head he used for any barbarian, and the theme of the coin was
very generally supposed to represent the Gallic wars. On another of his
coins he shows a female head that probably only represents the Roman
personification "Gallia" There is a carnyx behind her head. The other side
of this coin depicts Diana holding a spear, a small figure of a rearing
stag in the background -- even more remote from Celtic iconography.


(2) The Roman army took with it a number of artisans  of various types and,
if they thought they might need to mint money would have taken a travelling
mint with them as well  (This is attested, not long after this time, with a
mint travelling with Mark Antony in his campaigns)

(3) The Romans could easily have provided the metal with which to make any
coins. It would be highly likely that they would carry gold with them as it
is the most portable wealth. At a later time some soldiers were paid in
gold coin although their pay was reckoned by denarii. Such military issue
gold has been found at Pompeii (suggesting a highly paid officer rather
than a common foot-soldier). Gold would have been a very valid "gift" to
lavish on compliant Gaulish chieftains.

(4) There was no need for this coinage (see below).

>You say that soldiers in the Roman army were given 'extra financial rewards
>above that of their standard pay'.  Their standard pay was in silver
>denarii.  Silver is less precious than gold, even the gold alloy that the
>Celts used. So it wouldn't have been insulting to use such coins as these as
>bonuses to reward the VIROS.  They could have got (perhaps captured) Belgic
>designers to create a kind of commemorative coin to celebrate a particularly
>satisfying victory.

(1) Base gold was not favoured by the Romans and any such gold captured
would have been taken back to Rome to be refined and was probably used to
pay back loans that Caesar took out to finance his campaigns. Despite what
Suetonius claimed that his soldiers sang about him -- likely in a good
humored way. A poetic translation by Robert Graves is:


Home we bring our bald whoremonger;
Romans, lock your wives away!
All the bags of gold you lent him
Went his Gallic tarts to pay.

(2) The victory over the Nervii was not that glorious. The Romans first had
a hard time with the Nervii defences they had walls constructed from bent
over saplings with brambles growing between them. Later, in open ground
warfare against the Belgic coalition, the whole force of the Nervii
attacked the 12th and 7th Legions who had become closely grouped on the
right of the battle, and some Roman calvary and light troops retreating
from an initial attack launched by several tribes (who had Gaulish spies in
the Roman Army and had thus managed to meet the Romans at a point to their
advantage) also ran into a force of the Nevii. Caesar grouped the two
legions together in a square formation which alleviated the general panic
of the Romans being caught unawares, and they were able to turn the battle
round. Caesar writes "So ended this battle, by which the tribe of the
Nervii was almost annihilated and their name almost blotted out from the
face of the earth". The old men and the woman and children sent envoys and
surrendered. The Atuatuci were on their way to help the Nervii, but they
turned back on hearing the news.

Later though, the Nervii enlisted the help of a number of their client
tribes (a very likely occasion for the minting of coinage by them). Caesar
was better prepared this time and lured the Gauls into a position favorable
to him. The Gauls fled when attacked. Many were unsuccessful in their
retreat and were wiped out.

Later still, he made a surprise attack on the Nervii before they were able
to organize themselves. A large number of cattle and prisoners were taken
and these were handed over to his troops as booty. The Nervii, once again
surrendered and handed over hostages.

In the rebellion of Vercingetorix, the Nervii again appeared, but as a
relatively weak force. Caesar wrote each of his books after the events, and
obviously did not edit them, so you see him saying that he wipes out a
tribe, and then they magically appear later. He apparently underestimated
the numbers that got away, and the importance of the hostages to the tribes
in question. Had there been a battle so glorious and profitable that
surplus gold was specially minted and given to his soldiers, Caesar would
never have missed the opportunity to brag about this, and the rest of the
gold would have been brought back to Rome, as I said, to pay off his debts.

In the battles against the Nervii, the toughest was the first, and this was
the fault of Caesar by allowing prisoners and "deserters" to slip away in
the night to give intelligence to the enemy, and even to trust them in the
first place. Caesar does not hide this mistake, but reports what had
happened (something that should be noticed by those that claim Caesar lied
or always put himself in the best possible light) . Being able to turn the
battle around does not make up for the fact that he allowed their advantage
at first. It does not make for a glorious battle. The subsequent battle
against the Nervii were made more efficiently but hardly glorious --
killing those that were to slow when running away is not the stuff of
legends.

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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