“Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye.. it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.”
A most spectacular metamorphosis is to be observed in Celtic gold staters of the Lysimachus type produced during the late Iron Age, culminating in enigmatic images which allow a rare insight into the ‘barbarian’ imagination and beliefs.
Besides original lifetime issues of the Macedonian king (Fig. 1), numerous posthumous variants were produced by various authorities from the mid 3rd c. BC onwards. For example, imitations of the Lysimachus stater were minted by the western Pontus (Black Sea) Greek cities of Tyras, Istros, Tomis and Kallatis, as well as Mesambria, Odessos and Byzantium (Dimitrov 1987, Karayotov 1994, Vîlcu et al 2011 a,b & 2012 a,b) (Fig. 2 – 4). Production and circulation of such continued up until the 1st c. BC, as is illustrated, for example, by the discovery of ‘barbarian’ Lysimachus staters in the Bastarnae Bulgarevo hoard, which has been dated to the Mithridatic period (see Balkancelts ‘Akrosas’ article).
Fig 1 – Lysimachus AV Lifetime Stater (297/6 – 282/1 BC). Alexandria Troas. Vs.: Alexander Head with Diadem and Ammons horn n. r. Rs.: BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΛΥΣIMAXOΥ, Athena with Nike enthronend, Monogramm.
Fig 2 – Lysimachus posthumous AV Stater. (Byzantium mint 225-205 BC) Diademed head of deified Alexander right, wearing horn of Ammon / BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΛΥΣIMAXOΥ, Athena seated left, holding Nike, with shield, spear behind (SNG COP 1086)
(After Petac, Vîlcu 2012)
(after Draganov 2012)
The conquest of the region by Rome logically meant that the production of such issues was discontinued. The resulting vacuum was quickly filled by the local tribes, who produced their own unique versions in the late 1st c. BC/early 1st c. AD (Fig. 5-7). Examples of the latter have been discovered throughout Eastern Europe, as far east as the Colchis region (today’s Georgia), and as far west as northern Italy (Arslan 1988). Although generally attributed to the Transylvanian Celts (loc cit), their geographical distribution, particularly in the east, strongly indicates a connection to the Celto-Scythian Bastarnae.
Whereas the aforementioned imitations of the Lysimachus stater were exactly that – copies of the Macedonian original, Hellenistic in terms of artistic execution and the Greek inscription – the barbarian issues, while retaining the core compositional elements of the Macedonian prototype, are entirely Celtic in nature. This results in artistic compositions of an abstract/iconic nature, typical of Iron Age Celtic art (see Mac Congail, Krusseva 2010). This process of artistic metamorphosis is also to be clearly observed on Balkan Celtic coinage based on the Philip III type (loc cit), which also reaches its artistic culmination in the 1st c. BC:
(On the distribution of these coins see : https://www.academia.edu/3488614/Celtic_Coin_Hoards_from_Thrace)
Fig. 7 – Late Celtic (Celto-Scythian?) variant of the Lysimachus gold Stater
(note, as in fig. 6, the birds around the head of the goddess on the obverse)
As may be observed, the obverse of the Lysimachus type coinage undergoes a fundamental transformation from the portrait of Alexander on the Macedonian original and Hellenistic imitations, to the depiction of an avian deity on the Celtic coins, which again shows remarkable compositional similarities to the portrayal of the deity on the late Philip III types. This phenomenon, the depiction of the Bird Goddess / Catubodua , is to be observed on numerous types of Eastern Celtic coins (Macedonian, Thasos and Paeonia types; see Mac Congail/Krusseva 2010) during this period.
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