I'll try to be brief!
> On the Gundestrup cauldron:
>> 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.
> But isn't that a very weak link to situla art, given that situla art
> basically goes out of fashion in the 5th c BC? Connecting the Gundestrup
> cauldron, if that is actually it's date and place of origin (and let's
> assume so for the moment), to an early La Tène 'ritual' takeover of
> situlae used in Greek mystery cults by the early proto-druids seems like
> stretching the evidence very thin to me. This is what I meant when I
> said that this will need much more elaboration on your part, i.e. will
> require the book to make it a sound argument - if a sound argument can
> be made. I see your point here (to an extent), but the link is very
> tenuous at best.
The main Gundestrup cauldron links to situlae are:
1. The procession of warriors is a theme which appears on earlier bronze
2. The bronze coin of Ariminum showing a Celtic warrior with shield and
spear is very similar to those found on the Certosa situla -- being
changed to represent a Celtic warrior/shield. The coin is 3rd. cent. B.C.
and is geographically close to the origin of the Certosa situla.
3. The situla that is depicted on the cauldron is of 4th cent. B.C.
Apulian style and this is not only a main cente for Dionysian imagery, but
the Celts were serving all over southern Italy (Magna Graecia).
4. The "wheel-god" on another Gundestrup plate is similar to the
"wheel-turners" on the sword from Hallstatt (ECA No 96) and this sword
also has both a procession of warriors close to that on the Certosa situla
and has a procession of horsemen similar top those on the cauldron.
The "ritual take-over" is really a syncretism: On the cauldron, the fallen
warrior is being dipped into a situla. Later Celtic stories refer to the
cauldron of regeneration". The cauldron syncretises to a situla in the
Greek Dionysian mystery cults, but the Celtic versions take it directly
from the cauldron where Dionysos was cut up and boiled before his
resurrection as the wine god.
The Gundestrup cauldron mixes Celtic, Dionysian and Orphic imagery. The
sacrificed bull on the base and the bull sacrifice on one of the side
plates is purely Dionysian. The female figure with the bird is Orphic
(Persephone in the Underworld when Demeter sent a bird to find her). The
Cernunnos plate offers "a nod" to Dionysos as Lord of animals before his
resurrection, but the emblems (there and elsewhere) are representive of
Celtic campaigns in Italy. The Gundestrup cauldron, everywhere, has the
ivy plant as a connecting design element.
I should say, also, that claim that the Dionysian elements were introduced
solely because the artisans were Thracian is truly absurd. No such
principle exists in classical art -- it is always meaning-specific. This
is a problem when people who are not well-versed in art-history attempt to
tackle such things!
>> Thus the checks and balances would have emergeed, in Gaul, in the second
>> century B.C. and probably not exactly at 200 B.C. but, perhaps, a decade
>> or two later. You would have to allow for the start of problems which
>> these checks would then be implemented to resolve.
> But then, how do you relate that back to the emergence of the La Tène
> style? Again, we are considerably later here than your alleged 'mystery
> cult' influence. So your proto-druids would have watched the massive
> gold proceeds coming in from the mediterranean campaigns and mercenery
> activities for some 200 years, and only when the mediterranean campaigns
> stopped and (perhaps) fewer mercenaries were active in the mediterranean
> and the gold influx stopped, developed a system for checks and balances
> against the internal use of Gold, which wasn't coming in any more.
I do not relate the checks and balances to the emergence of La Tène style
at all. These were a later, and purely socio/economic solution that were
given, of course, a Druidic spin.
Peter S. Wells, "Settlement and social systems at the end of the Iron Age"
"Bujina (1982) suggests that the great expansion in iron production and in
forging during this period [3rd and 2nd cents B.C] occurred as a result of
the need for more and better weapons for the migrating Celts,... Through
his study of the chronological and spatial patterns at Manching, Gebhard
(1989:185) suggests that the rapid expansion of that site at the beginning
of the second century B.C. can be attributed to the arrival of Celtic
mercenaries returning to their homelands from service in the Mediterranean
world. Textual sources indicate that Celtic mercenary activity in
Mediterranean armies declined sharply at this time (Szabó 1991), and it is
reasonable to suppose that most returned to their homelands."
I should add that the term "mercenary" is wrong and derives from the spin
and mistranslation of Polybius ("Gaesati", 2.22). In the above passage
"mercenary" would have been better given as "auxilliary armies".
> But that not only makes the whole (central & southwestern European)
> Celtic World totally fixated on the mediterranean for over two hundred
> years (for which we hardly have any evidence to support such an
> assumption), only to develop 'checks and balances' against its effects
> on the 'Celtic core' when this fixation stops. That doesn't seem very
> likely to me.
I don't know about "totally fixated". I certainly never said that. Those
at home carried on as best they could considering that they were not so
wealthy after those armies left for the Mediterranean. Those who went to
the bases in Italy and henceforth served under various important military
leaders such as Alexander of Epeiros, Dionysos I, Pyrrhos, the city of
Taras, the Carthaginians and so on were probably fixated on the
Mediterranean at those times! Also, such a long period (more than 200
years in all) of connections could hardly be said to have not influenced
them in many subjects!
I do understand that this might be a hard pill to take for people who
believe the Celts to have evolved entirely at home and without outside
influence, but, frankly, the world just does not work like that.
Connections are many and varied in most cultures. Such a "purist" attitude
is just wishful thinking.
> What is perhaps even worse, the 'checks and balances' you propose to
> have been introduced around 200 BC would have been introduced at the
> point were the settlement evidence shows an increasing centralisation of
> populations and possibly also power in ever fewer hands, which in the
> course of less than a hundred years, possibly even less than 50 years,
> leads to the emergence of the first oppida and (probably associated with
> these) late La Tène 'pricipes' which seem to do exactly what the 'checks
> and balances' you propose allegedly were supposed to prevent: competing
> for power with ever larger private armies. And at that time, i.e. the
> 2nd c BC, we also get the first near-contemporary or even contemporary
> historical sources telling us about these princes and their 'knightly'
> retinues, and increasingly hear of frequent internal strife in the
> 'Celtic core'.
Not at all! First, the building of such large centres moves a lot of
capital into building so it cannot be used to build large armies. The
large centres function as a balance of power. The bellicose nature of the
warriors can be preserved by forcing them to split into smaller groups
(that is much smaller than the huge armies in Italy). Thus I say that
warfare was somewhat "ritualized" and this is supported by Diodorus
Siculus (V, 31, 2-5) who says of the Druids:
"Frequently when armies confront one another in line of battle with swords
drawn and spears thrust forward, these men intervene and cause them to
stop, just as though they were holding some wild animal spellbound with
The Druids needed to allow an outlet, but kept things in check. This is
actually very common in tribal societies. Prior to that time, in Gaul,
things were more peaceful because the large armies were away. This is why
I look at post-200 B.C. Gaul as a League. This seems to be backed up,
also, by Caesar's accounts of pan-Gallic councils -- and the divisions of
all levels of society into two factions. In this way, the best interests
of all tribes could be better addressed than allowing anarchy and the
possible emergence of a tyrant who could enslave all of the others. These
were lessons that the Celts learned from the Greeks, first hand.
(especially under their main employer Dionysos I).
>> Collis gives La Tène A-B1, 475-350 B.C. as the shift to central
>> Germany/northern France for displays of great wealth. Such wealth would
>> be needed, at the very outset, to raise large armies.
>> He gives La Tène B2-C1, 350-150 B.C. as consisting of dispersed
>> settlements and a lack of ostentatious wealth and limited Mediterranean
> Yes, but that doesn't necessarily correspond with the settlement
> evidence. Isolated farmsteads seem to dominate the picture in much of
> Europe until approximately the end of B2, let's say until around 250-220
> BC, when increased nucleation seems to start. The settlements appearing
> then can be seen as the precursors to the oppida, only not yet
> necessarily on hilltops or defended.
So you are saying that my chronology is more accurate than Collis. I place
the major defended oppida at around 200 B.C., but the arrival of armies,
back in their homelands, was not a sudden move at that time. Many would
have started going back after the fall of Taras in 272 B.C., and some
subsequent defeats (such as 225 B.C. Also, the Carthaginians did not treat
the Celts serving under them as well as did Dionysos, much earlier. The
firts movements back might have been more of a trickle than an exodus.
Your dates fit well into this scenario.
>> Finally, he gives La Tène C2-D 150-20 B.C. as the period of inceased
>> centralization and the emergence of large defended oppida.
> Yes, but that's more like the end of a process of centralisation going
> on for about the previous century, culminating in large population
> agglomerations in what can be called the 'first towns north of the Alps'
> (to quote one of John Collis' subtitles).
I have no problems with at at all.
>> The differences between the start of La Tène C2 at 150 B.C. and my
>> estimation of about 200 B.C. to about 180 B.C. is minor and I think that
>> the events leading up to these defended oppida etc. would allow for
>> these few decades. Of course, we might both be a bit off and somewhere
>> around 165 B.C. might have been the focus for the chaecks and balances I
>> speak of. All of these dates are very approximate and I cannot imagine
>> what sort of evidence could get them finer tuned than they are.
> But again, then you get your proposed 'checks and balances' roughly at
> the time when both the settlement evidence and the first contemporary
> eyewitness historical records speak of competing societies with princes
> with private armies. This is more than just fiddling a bit with datings
> of settlement evidence, this seems to me a more fundamental problem. Not
> one that could not possibly be explained away, but nonetheless a serious
Of course there were competing armies. That is why these checks and
balances had to be implemented! These armies had returned home and were
eager to compete between each other in order to preserve their traditions.
>> The setting up of large bases in Italy -- including Bologna and Milan,
>> suggests to me that much of the wealth obtained from the many campaigns
>> would not have gone back home until the Romans finally came into control
>> of these areas. Also, anyone back home who happened to have accumulated
>> a bit of wealth in this rather poorer period would have likely just left
>> with his hired troops to take advantage of the volatile situations in
>> the Mediterranean.
> Again, this puts much too much emphasis on the importance of the
> mediterranean on central European economies and societies. It basically
> assumes that the whole of the 'Celtic core' was totally dependend for
> wealth and riches on the influx of mediterranean gold and other
> treasures, something that in my opinion is largely contradicted by the
> evidence for increased craft industrialisation and the increased
> importance of organised production of raw materials (e.g. salt mining,
> iron production, gold 'mining' etc.). There is simply no reason to
> believe that Iron Age economies in the 'Celtic core' were anywhere near
> as dependent on the mediterranean than you propose.
Like I said, it might not be a popular view in many circles, but looking
at the times and levels of wealth, the evidence does support it: an
initial wealthy period leading to the formation of large armies who then
move south and serve as auxilliaries is is backed up by history. A
subsequent increase in wealth for those who have left coupled with a
decrease in wealth for those who stayed. Finally, an increase in wealth
when they return which is then followed by a gold monetary economy based
on the Greek (and using Greek gold)and the setting up of a Gaulish league
also based on the Greek model, the use of Greek in accounts, traditions of
not commiting philosophy to writing which is based on the Greek Mystery
Cults, many and varied developments of an art that is based on that of
northern Italy with the emphasis on that of the Mystery Cults. This is
rather a lot of evidence!
[I leave out the situla discussion as that is covered above]
>> The meander pattern (Greek key) is hardly adopted in any form and these
>> geometric shapes that include right-angles are soon evolved out.
> Yes, but that may be much more to do with the fact that angled Hallstatt
> patterns are equally not continued, and that La Tène art is generally
> very curvilinear, rather than angled.
You place the cart before the horse here! These design changes did not
happen like random weather. There were agencies at play, and the agency
that abandoned the geometric was the same that developed the curvilinear
-- that is, the syncretization of Celtic beliefs and the Greek Mystery
>> These abstract derivations carry the very idea of zoë which is the very
>> core of Dionysian belief.
> I'm sorry, but this is a pure assumption, as far as I can see. Also, the
> abstraction does not occur in anything like the same degree as in La
> Tène art in the exemplars from which the motives are taken. So why
> should the 'proto-druids', even if they take over the Greek ideas,
> express the very core of the Dionysian beliefs 'more properly' than the
> Greeks themselves? You have lost me completely here.
No, Kerényi devotes the entire introduction in his _Dionysos_ to zoë and
bios and this work is one of the standards on Dionysianism. The reason
that the proto-Druids were able to express the heart of the Dionysian
belief is that the Greeks kept it secret and only depicted what was seen
by the public in the pottery depictions - although they did use "secret
imagery" such as the ivy-scroll that could be seen by the uninitiated as a
purely decorative element. Kerényi deciphers a lot of Dionysianism rather
well and he also uses various Roman wall paintings (in private residences
not intended to be in public view and sometimes rather secretly so)
> But doesn't the very fact that the are selecting deliberatly tell us
> that they are not buying a 'package', but picking parts of the imagery
> selectively to suit their own ideas of what they want to express?
Of course, this is the nature of syncretism: what is received has to
resonate with what is already there. They did not copy the Dionysian Cult
wholesale, and the Christians did not, either -- yet Price's study is well
evidenced and exhaustive.
>> Sometimes it is difficult to see how the year was divided in certain
>> areas, but it is safe to assume that it was divided in some manner. The
>> imagery of the boar and the hero is reported in central Europe (G.
>> Dobesch, Zu Virunum als Namen der Stadt auf dem Magdalensberg und zu
>> einer Sage der kontinentalen Kelten, Carinthia 187, 1997, 107-128)and
>> this is thoroughly connected with the myths of light/dark halves of the
> Well, that may be. However, the Virunum legend is attested late and in a
> thoroughly romanised context and is used to explain the thoroughly Roman
> placename Virunum. There is little reason to assume that this could not
> have equally easily been introduced in a Romano-Norican context at a
> very late stage. As such, it tells us little if anything about beliefs
> in Noricum in the pre-Roman Iron Age.
No, this is not part of any, original, Roman mythology and Ovid borrows
the theme (much syncretized) from the Greeks (and the Germans -- in the
case of the log). The earliest Greek account is in Homer.
>> The important part of the adoption of the mystery cults was a change in
>> how people viewed the nature of the psyche and this was a major human
>> development -- why Alan Knight calls it "The great reformation". It is
>> the source of the greatest religious transformation in the western
>> world. It should have been more of a valid question in the past as to
>> why the Celts did _not_ engage in it. It is the most important aspect of
>> Christianity and even the Egyptian religion was changed by it. Even in
>> the east Taoism really came about in roughly the same time period, as
>> did Buddhism and both are strongly related to it. It seems to be
>> virtually a change in the way that Man's mind works!
> Nonetheless, this is putting the cart before the horse: mystery cults
> had a great influence on religions in the 1st millennium BC (ok, let's
> assume so for the moment), therefore they _must_ have influenced Celtic
> religion as well, now let's go and find that influence and attribute one
> major change in material culture in the European Iron Age to it.
There is nothing wrong with the formation of a hypothesis, especially if
it come about through observation (as in my studies of Celtic
> Now, of course, this may have been the case, and it may be a good
> explanation for (at least some of) the evidence. And I agree that it
> will never be possible to establish a solid chain of cause and effect
> for the process by which these beliefs could have been transferred into
> the European Iron Age (if they were). But that doesn't say that your
> argument is as of yet strong enough to really support the theory that it
> did. Which is pretty much waht I said before: I do see nothing in the
> evidence that flatly contradicts your theory, but I don't yet think it
> has been sufficiently demonstrated to be taken as a likely (let alone
> the most likely) explanation for the emergence of La Tène or druidism,
> let alone for the two as intrinsically linked.
I think I have demonstrated it enough (even here). There are many
published theories, such as James, which rest only on absence of evidence.
Mine has lots of evidence and although anyone could pick it apart
piece-meal -- the totality of it taken together does provide a very strong
case that does not rest on varied explanations, but is coboth consisitent
and inter-disciplinary. Assumptions are widely accepted if they support
the prevailing modern views and I think that this is a glaring fault in
> Which of course is all very convenient - there is some mystery cult that
> we know little about (other than that it existed), that wasn't allowed
> to be written about (particularly where the 'meat' of the belief was
> concerned), and while all the non-hidden was perfectly superfluous and
> irrelevant, it was the hidden bits (which we really don't know all that
> much about) which were meaningful and therefore copied. And that (which
> is really mostly about what we would like to believe about this) we copy
> onto the druids, which we know to have been equally mysterious. Now to
> me, that sounds a bit like a ancient world conspiracy theory. But such
> conspiracy theories are exceptionally hard to prove even today, let
> alone in Antiquity...
It just takes good detective work. You can only deal with the evidence you
have -- to ignore it all is easy -- replacing each bit of the historical
or art-historical evidence with "they probably didn't mean that"; "This
historian is probably lying"; "This is depicted because the artist was
Thracian" and all of the other various cop-outs that are little more than
laziness and the conservatism of modern belief. It is only really
respectable to critically examine the evidence first and not just dismiss
it because it does not follow any modern belief system.
I follow Arthur Conan Doyles's "When you have eliminated the impossible,
whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
> Anyway, as I said, I'm looking forward to the book, where you will
> hopefully be able to go into more detail to explain your theory, and
> where you may very well be able to make a much stronger argument to
> support your theory than on a mailing list as this.
Oh yes, I have been working on it for a few years and it is already large
enough for a decent-sized book while not even half-way done! It is far
more interdisciplinary than my first book and I am not sure how well this
will be received by publishers. On my interpretation of the Gundestrup
imagery, Vincent Megaw thinks it "more plausible than most" (although I
have not convinced him, yet, of my revised dating!)
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