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CELTIC-L  February 2008

CELTIC-L February 2008

Subject:

Re: Thinking Celtic (was Re: Old list memories)

From:

John Hooker <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.

Date:

Sat, 16 Feb 2008 15:21:38 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (206 lines)

Hi Ray, and all,

> I am at least looking forward to reading it, because it is definitly an
interesting thought you are raising here which might, if you are right,
explain a number of historical references about druidic beliefs quite
well. If it, as a side effect, 'populates' central Europe in early La
Tène with druids (or 'proto-druids'), all the better.

I thought that these historical references should be addressed. The
references to Pythagoras seem to have been passed over, in the main,
although Rankin (1987) does address them. He cites Dodds (1951) in saying
that the influence seems more likely to have come to the Pythagoreans from
the north, than the other way round which is given by Hippolytus. Yet,
Hippolytus is the only very specific historical reference that we have and
I think it should be investigated more thoroughly.

The problem in this reference, is in taking that incident as the only
place to look for such an influence. It might have happened, as Hippolytus
said, between a Thracian and the Celts. If it did happen, then there must
have been some points of similarity in the two beliefs to allow for a
transmission that was not just rejected out of hand. Rankin says it was
imparted by Zalmoxis to the Getae of Thrace, but the passage I quoted does
not mention the Getae or that it happened in Thrace. Also, the Getae were
not Celts and seem to be related to the Dacians -- so I am a little
puzzled by this. The Getae saw Zalmoxis as their god, and told Herodotus
that he had been a slave of Pythagors but Herodotus thought that Zalmoxis
must have lived long before Pythagoras.

Pythagoras died in Metapontion in Lucania sometime in the 490's B.C. after
fleeing from Kroton in Bruttium. If his slave was Zalmoxis, and he wanted
to get in touch with Celts he would have travelled northward in Italy to
the Golasecca people. I don't think it would be out of the question to
believe that a Thracian slave of Pythagoras could have become confused
with Zalmoxis. Perhaps the names were similar, or the two stories just
became fused together. In any case, what the Getae believed just cannot be
exported to the Celts in that way.

As to what Rankin thinks, I find it somewhat implausible that Pythagoreans
would have changed their beliefs on the basis of a report from the Celts.
One of the distuingishing features, psychologically, of any mystery cult,
is that its followers have a very strong sense that what they believe is
absolutely right. This is because they are separated from the population
by secrecy and gradual levels of "epiphanies". In a sense, they become
brainwashed or hypnotized and find it very easy to fall into feelings of
superiority. This is one of the main features of the modern cult
phenomenon and it is a gradual series of agreements that makes it so.

Pythagoras was an Orphic, and that influence would have remained with him
as he investigated other matters of mathematics and geometry. The Orphics
were connected, in their beliefs, to the Dionysians and included Dionysos
in their major deities (which also included Persephone). Their main
interest, it seems thus, is resurrection, while the Dionysians appear to
have taken a broader philosophical view and perhaps placed the life force
as being more important. Neverthless, both shared the idea of a
"transmigration of the soul".

>Now, I don't know to which
> theory of origin for the Gundestrup cauldron you subscribe to, but even
if one agrees that there are some similarities between the iconography
of situla art and the Gundestrup cauldron, I don't see a chronological
or geographical link between the distribution of situla art and the
proposed places and times of origin of the Gundestrup cauldron (at least
the main theories for its origin that I know of). Also, I see
> considerable differences in the iconography of the situla art and the
Gundestrup cauldron, so the link between them, in my opinion, seems
rather weak. Now, you may be able to establish such a link, but I don't
see it as of yet.

I have not done very well in explaining the situla link, and as it is
mainly connected with the Gundestrup cauldron, I should also explain that
better.

There are two main theories for the origin of the Gundestrup cauldron, as
you know. One that it was made by Thracians, the other that it was made by
Gauls. I think that we would both agree that the latter does not stand up
to the evidence at all! One of the biggest assumptions made by those who
subscribe to the first theory is that it must have had some geographical
connection to Thrace. This has led Kaul and others to see it as being made
for the Celtic Scordisci who were close to the Thracians, geographically.

I don't think that the connections to the Scordisci are very strong at
all. They seem to have been "recruited" as the only close Celtic
neighbours of the Thracians available at the time it is believed to have
been made. Many of the Celtic design elements on the cauldron are better
equated with the iconography of Gaul. Kaul grasps at straws when he
compares the "Cernunnos" figure with an unprovenanced Hellenistic cameo
showing an antler-wearing dancer that was purchased in Istanbul with the
figure on the cauldron and says that "one possibilty [of its place of
manufacture] could be a Greek town on the Black Sea under Scythian
influence." and presumes such antlers to be connected with Scythian
shamanistic rituals. He dismisses Olmstead (who argues rather too much for
not only a Gaulish origin but also for a connection to Irish myths!) and
this is somewhat justified. But Kaul only mentions that he was "referring
to non-existant archaeological material, to support a western Celtic
tradition of this kind". I think that Kaul should have mentioned the
"2,340 pounds of silver, both unwrought and wrought into vessels of
respectable craftsmanship in the Gallic style" that was captured from the
Boii in Italy by Publius Cornelius and displayed at a triumphal procession
in 191 B.C. (Livy, XXVI.40)

Although silver vessels were made by the Etruscans, I do not think the
Romans would have had any problems in recognizing the Etruscan style and
we can be fairly sure that the Boii did not have a tradition of
silversmithing. I believe that these vessels were also of Thracian
manufacture, but were made in north Italy. There is nothing unlikely about
this as it is known that even Rhodian and Cypriote craftsmen moved there
to take advantage of wealthy and luxury-loving Etruscan patrons.

Now, when we look at the Cernunnos figure on the cauldron we can see a far
stronger parallel to many such figures at Val Camonica (as is compared by
Miranda Green in _Symbol and Imagery in Celtic Religious Art_, 1992 ed.
fig. 54. pp. 134-8 than to some unprovenanced gem from Istanbul. She does
not make the communicative connection, though, just listing examples of
stag imagery which includes the Cernunnos figures.

To strengthen the connection to Italy for the Gundestrup cauldron, it is 
best to show other connections besides the Cernunnos figure. One of the
failings of interpretations of the gundestrup imagery is that the
non-Celtic elements are passed of as "Greek" or "Thracian" without any
attempt to define them a little better as to culture and geography.

This is where the situla first comes in to the picture. The vessel that is
depicted on the "procession" plate on the cauldron is of very similar
shape, in its body, to the Apulian red-figure pottery situla dated to ca.
350 B.C. and in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston attributed to the
Varrese Painter, (26.7 cm, Gift of Horace L. Mayer and Paul E. Manheim, by
exchange, and the Helen and Alice Colburn Fund 1992.317):

http://www.davidrumsey.com/amico/amico201576-14854.html

We have to allow a slight difference as it was probably not modelled after
this particular situla, but one of similar form, and that it was being
depicted in the Thracian native style.

The procession, itself, can be compared to the much earlier procession on
the Certosa situla, and Bologna, of course, was founded by the Boii.
Although this situla is far earlier, such vessels must have still been in
existence there and a bronze coin from Ariminum in Umbria shows an almost
identical warrior with his shield and spear, and in the same pose -- it
could have been taken directly from that situla or one just like it. The
warrior on the coin is Boii and it was minted after 268 B.C. (BMC 1.8)

On other plates, the hippocamp is certainly not eastern its style(It does
not have the fish or lobster-like tail typiacl of these) but its looped
serpentine tail is very typical of Italian or Sicilian models. Another
Italian late third century copper coin from Metapontion in Lucania has a
hippocamp on the helmet worn by Leukippos. The tail is not only
serpentine, but it loops, as does the example on the cauldron. Because of
the odd shape of the composition of the hippocamp on the cauldron, I
believe its was modelled after a helmet decoration. The figure of Herakles
strangling the Nemean lion is taken from a sculpture(?) which served as
the model for some coins of Herakleia in Lucania and tha boy on the
dolphin is the well-known badge of Taras in Calabria and was used on most
of their coins.

The cities of Herakleia and Taras were the sites of campaigns fought by
Pyrrhos -- who used Celtic troops -- and elephants (with disastrous
results for most of the poor creatures). The elephants on the Gundestrup
cauldron are accompanied by a female figure with her hands on her breast
in a gesture of grief. The battle at Herakleia, in particular, is noted
for its large number of deaths ("Pyrrhic victory") Taras was lost to the
Romans in 272 B.C. These campaigns were heavily populated with Celts and
the major recruiting area for them in Gaul was Picardy and the Somme
valley (John Sills). This is consistent with the Celtic iconography on the
cauldron.

There are a number of other Italian stylistic connections that I do not
mention here, but these should suffice.

I date the cauldron thus to ca 270 - 200 B.C. and say that it was made in
North Italy by Thracian craftsmen, most likely for the Senones.

The spurs are used to date the cauldron later as they are assumed to be
Celtic and not Thracian, as I believe them to be. I cannot get a copy
(even through inter-library loan) of "On the spurs’ development in Thrace,
Macedonia and Illyria during the Early Hellenistic times", mentioned here:

http://www.anamnesis.info/bios.php

But they are discussed in Xenophon's treatise on horsemsnship (Book 8 and
Book 10)

The whole thing about the Stara Zagora phalera is just wrong. In my
opinion it is a Late Thracian revivalist work under Rhoemetalces I, who
was a puppet of Augustus. The Sark hoard phalera are of the same time. The
native Thracian art was starting to come to an end about the time of
Lysimachos and was eventually replace by the late Classical/Hellenistic
styles. The Stara Zagora phalera was found with Augustan period silver
cups. Herakles has a Roman haircut and was copied from a denarius of
Brutus that circulated in Thrace showing his ancestor. the stipple work on
these late pieces is far cruder and looser than that on the Gundestrup
cauldron which also shows on the native style, and not a native classical
pastiche as on the other phalera. Silver phalera were popular during the
time of Augustus. Far too late to have anything to do with the Gundestrup
Cauldron.

As I have things I must do, I'll continue later or tomorrow with the
points you bring up about the settlements (which has been inspiring a
little more research on my part!)

Cheers,

John

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