>sorry it's taken so long to get back to you about these vercingetorix
>coins, it's been a busy month.
I've been busy too so there's no problem.
>my interest in these coins was sparked by a reference in an old book by
>R.H. Allen,"Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning"...in a long discussion
>about the constellation Aquarius, as he is detailing different
>historical conceptualizations of this star group, he relates how this
>constellation has been immemorially connected to the pouring of water
>from a bucket or urn, and that sometimes it was conceived of as the
>container alone(i.e without the attendant pourer)...(it seems this idea
>of an amphora,( or situla, or urna, or kalpis/kalpeis) was specifically
>connected to the stars gamma, zeta, epsilon,and pi-which make a Y shape)
>in the middle of this discussion he throws in a reference to
>Vercingetorix' stater marked "diota", a two eared jar.i found this
>rather curious. what led Mr. Allen to the conclusion that the amphora
>was meant to refer to this asterism? he doesn't seem given to wild
>speculation in the book, though in cataloguing all the known references
>to star lore he may be repeating someone else's unfounded speculation.
>if this is the case i wonder what his original source was.
It sounds as if he is making the claim that the coin shows the word itself.
If this is so, then I don't know which specimen he was looking at. One of
them has some marks in the illustration that might mean something more if
one could see the actual coin, but I doubt it.
>ok so here's my own wild speculation:
>1) amphorae in general are a big part of the evidence we have regarding
>the trade between the mediterranean and celtic areas of europe from very
>early on. the wine trade was pretty substantial (i don't know about
>olive oil or other things like garrum [sp?] sauce etc...).
Yes, wine was the most important import to the Celts as far as I can see.
>2) if the cultural hierarchy of the celts was influenced or maintained
>by the ability of "the elite" to provide luxury items to their
>supporters, amphorae might have been a symbol of that status deriving
>from and denoting one's wealth and power...
This seems in keeping with what we know about feasting and the like.
>3) if the gauls borrowed some of the classical world's ideas about
>astrology, they too might have been familiar with the "amphora"
>conception of part of the aquarius constellation.
Classical authors have mentioned the druid's study or discussion of the
cosmos, so this is a reasonable hypothesis. Coming up with more specific
evidence to a specific constellation might be a bit of task though. A
first step would be to see if what there is that might suggest an attention
to constellations generally, as opposed to solar/lunar cycles. Perhaps
there is something in Strabo or Diodorus, or some later hints in say, Lucian.
>4) we know that vercingetorix, although of an "aristocratic" family, was
>not a king, but rather had the authority of supreme war leader conferred
>upon him in 52 b.c. at Bibracte.
Vercingetorix father, Celtillus, was an overlord of Gaul who had been put
to death when he tried to make himself king of his tribe, the Arverni. This
points to a rather odd political structure. We would think today that
holding power over all of Gaul would be higher than being a king, but
perhaps this overlord position was not as important, in the mind of
Celtillus, to his being king of his own tribe.
It seems that being an overlord was more of an administrative position, or
something like a modern "Speaker of the House" or "Chairman of the Board".
Given that the two main factions were led by the Aedui and the Arverni,
Celtillus might have been closer to being like a modern "Prime Minister"
within a monarchy. There seems to be no direct modern parallel, so I'm
flailing around a bit with this -- it's a bit away from my area of knowledge.
>5) i don't know when exactly this meeting took place, but given that the
>focus of activity formerly centered at Bibracte was moved later to
>Augustodunum, i would guess that this was a meeting similar to the one
>in the territory of the Carnutes which Augustus relocated to Lyon (in an
>attempt to demonstrate 'the unity of Gaul and rome, by equating himself
>with Lugh' as Barry Cunliffe puts it.) Thus i would guess that this
>meeting coincided with whatever continental equivalent of Lugnasad they
>had, with the accompanying council meetings, fairs etc.
The annual meeting of the tribes was, as Caesar says held in the territory
of the Carnutes, and it was the Carnutes who as a prelude to these events,
said that all should stand together, and offered to strike the first blow.
This suggests to me that they did so, not on a whim, but to demonstrate
their traditional role as moderators -- a sort of Gaulish Geneva. It might
have seemed to them appropriate to hold the official pan-Gallic council in
another place (Bibracte) at this time as it was not a meeting for various
reconciliations of opposing factions, but a council of war. So it might
have not just been similar to the meeting in the territory of the Carnutes,
but the same, and held on the established date.
>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.
>9) the horse too might be associated with the Lugnasad council, although
>the horse is a pretty common motif and certainly has much more likely
>warrior-elite associations...interestingly none of the coins has any
>chariot symbols, nor wheels, nor weaponry...
That is a problematical area. Speaking generally, the chariot often
vanishes on coins. Sometimes there is a trace left of a wheel that assumes
a special role as a symbol in its own right. The earliest coins of the
Arverni depict the chariot, but the horse does rise to prominence. One
earlier coin appears to have a shield below the horse with a boss and a
strengthening rib that runs above and below the boss. Later, some coins
depict a horse and rider.
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. With so few motifs possible on such a small group
of coins, the absence of even a general type of motif might have no
significance. Weaponry on its own is a rare motif, it most often occurs as
something held by a warrior.
>10)the curious s-scroll above the horse on many of the coins might be
>related to the vegetal-style S's that seem to appear everywhere in
>celtic art. these S-scrolls are often on either side of a human head in
>many representations. i have seen it suggested that these S-scrolls are
>somehow linked to representations of the god Lugh, sometimes the head
>may be so abstracted that the S'scrolls may themselves come to stand as
>a sort of a glyph for the god.
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. The Celtic "Jupiters" have a number of solar signs in attendance.
Berresford-Ellis has Lugus as a Celtic "Mercury", but Rhys says he is much
more than this. There is a large amount of information about Lug and his
various name variations in Rhys (Hibbert Lectures, 1898) but one comment I
will single out: "The Lammas fairs and meetings forming the Lugnassad in
ancient Ireland, marked the victorious close of the sun's contest with the
powers of darkness and death..."
With the S scroll, iconographically, we have a similar problem to the
horse: there are just too many of them. This is both good and bad. Many
times, the S scroll appears as a single motif and not as part of an overall
decoration. This demonstrates that it is much more than just part of the
repertoire of Celtic artists.
>the face that is surrounded by these opposing S-scrolls often has the
>curious "leaf-crown" sometimes interpreted as mistletoe, which is also
>associated with Lugh. on a few of the coins, Vercingetorix's hair is
>abstracted into very similar leaf shapes, like paisley comma shapes...
>in many of the same representations of the face with S-scrolls and leaf
>crown, there can be found a three-form motif sometimes interpreted as a
>triple pointed beard, but sometimes occurring on the forehead of the
>leaf-crown figure, sometimes (e.g. on thestone pillar from Pfalzfeld)
>they are in the form of a fleur-de-lis attached to the head.
>11) if this vegetal-face figure can be interpreted as Lugh, his
>associated symbols then seem to be this S-scroll glyph, this triple
>fleur-de-lis thing, and the comma-like leaf shapes...i have seen Lugh
>also associtaed with dogs...
The fleur de lis is sometimes substituted for the pellet in circle motif at
the top of the sceptre held by the chariot driver on Armorican
(Coriosolite) coins. Clearly a variety of solar symbol. This driver is also
often riding over a figure of a boar where the base line shows a sun
"rising". The leaf crown shape (singular, not opposed) also appears
frequently in front of the chariot on other Coriosolite coins. The S shape
is incorporated, very obviously, into the arrangement of chariot/driver on
the same Coriosolite series that show both of the sceptre designs.
>now looking at the iconography of the 12 different coins, there are only
>8 symbols besides the horse (which occurs on every coin): a "dotted
>disc", an amphora, a "lyre"?, a 4-fold 'cross', a dog, an S-scroll, a
>"fleur-de-lis" like symbol, and a crescent moon.
>the "lyre" and the "cross" each appear only together, and on only two
>coins. the fleur-de-lis symbol and the dog also appear only together and
>on two coins. on the other eight coins there is an amphora on seven of
>them. the S-scroll occurs 5 times. the dotted circle may be a solar
>symbol, but it may also be a lunar symbol.( it does not appear in
>conjunction with the crescent)...they might be equivalent symbols (they
>easily might not be)
>the combination of symbols is as follows: amphora and moon-3 times;
>amphora and S-scroll-4 times; S-scroll and moon-1 time.
>i would speculate that of the 10 coins other than the lyre coins,
>thereis a symbol associated with Lugh on seven of them, and a symbol
>associated with the Lugnasad council (not counting the horse) on seven
>of them. every single coin except the lyre/cross coins has a symbol
>either associated with Lugh or Lugnasad.(though the lyre coins also have
I presume that the dotted disc is what I call a pellet in a circle. Some
instances of this at the top of the coin are likely the bottom part of the
lyre. This lyre shape is very common on Armorican coins where it almost
always has four strings. On other Armorican coins of various tribes an
interlocked double S shape at the ear position of the head also has a
pellet in a circle within the lower loop of the lower S.
>i think these coins were an attempt to advertise vercengetorix's
>authority, conferred upon him at Lugnasad, while also associating
>himself with another "dux bellorum" of mythology, lugh himself. (this
>presupposes that Lugh fulfilled a similar mythological function in
>continental myth as he did in insular myth...but if not "dux bellorum",
>at least "transcendent figure"...)
>are these interpretations completely ridiculous?
As I said, I'm not sure about the constellation link. As for the rest, I
don't think it is ridiculous at all, and there seems to be plenty of
available evidence to support this association with Lug. I don't, however
find it particular to the coins of Vercingetorix, and can see this same
association on many Celtic coins. The amphora, though, is not very common.
As signifying a Roman import, we might wonder about it in the context of
Vercingetorix. This is complete supposition, but a possible answer to it
being used might mean that it signifies Rome and the horse above it
signifies a Gaulish victory over Rome. This doesn't explain why apparently
earlier coins would also have an amphora unless they are also contemporary
and only some were minted in the name of Vercingetorix. The weights of the
coins do not show any great differences between the amphora coins with the
name or without, but there are not enough of them to establish any
statistical proof of this one way or the other. What is interesting,
though, is that even earlier coins of the Arverni (and some are most
certainly earlier) do not have an amphora, nor do the late silver and
bronze coins that often bear other names.
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