“Part of this region (Thrace) was inhabited by the Scordisci … a people formerly cruel and savage, and, as ancient history declares, accustomed to offer up their prisoners to Bellona and Mars, and from their hollowed skulls greedily to drink human blood. By their savageness the Roman state was often sorely troubled…”
(Ammianus Marcellinus Book 27: iv,4)
After the defeat of Macedonia in the 3rd and 4th Macedonian Wars, and the ease and speed with which Rome had destroyed the Achaean League, it appeared that the Roman conquest of southeastern Europe was unstoppable. The utter destruction of the city of Corinth in 146 BC, and the mass looting and enslavement which accompanied the establishment of the Roman province of Macedonia, were a clear warning to those who would oppose the empire.
It was therefore logical to expect that the barbarian tribes of the central and northern Balkans would quickly succumb to the Roman military machine, and the ‘Pax Romana’ which accompanied it. In fact, the conquest of Thrace would develop into a brutal and prolonged conflict which was to rage for over 150 years…
Ceramic askos with wonderful zoomorphic decoration from Goričan (Međimurje County), Croatia.
An askos is a type of vessel used to pour small quantities of liquids such as oil. It is recognisable from its flat shape and a spout at one or both ends that could also be used as a handle. They were usually painted decoratively like vases and were mainly used for storing oil and refilling oil lamps.
Depiction of a Celtic (Scordisci) chieftain on a sliver/gilt plate from the Jakimovo treasure (Northwestern Bulgaria) II – I c. BC
The Celtic deity Esus (aspirated Hesus) has hitherto been known only from a small number of images and epigraphic material dating from the Roman period and later…
“Who can I recite my work to here, but yellow-haired
Coralli, and the other tribes of the barbarous Danube?”
(Ovid, Ex Ponto. Book EIV.II To Cornelius Severus: A Fellow Poet)
Ovid’s unenthusiastic audience during his exile on the Pontus, the Celtic Coralli/Κόραλλοι tribe (Julian C. Histoire de la Gaule I 303 n. 3, Kazarov 1919:67, Domaradski 1984:111, Duridanov 1997 with cited lit.), were one of the barbarian peoples who constituted the unique…
A search on the online encyclopedia Wikipedia will reveal to the curious that, “The modern, western image of a dragon developed in western Europe during the Middle Ages through the combination of the snakelike dragons of classical Graeco-Roman literature, references to Near Eastern European dragons preserved in the Bible, and western European folk traditions”. We are also reliably informed by anonymous ‘experts’ that, “The oldest recognizable image of a fully modern, western dragon appears in a hand-painted illustration from the bestiary MS Harley 3244, which was produced in around 1260 AD”.
MS Harley 3244 – “The First European Depiction of a Dragon”
What is understood by a ‘fully modern dragon’ is debatable, but as with many historical and archaeological “facts” pertaining to European culture. presented on a medium from which the vast majority of today’s generation form their perception of the past, the conclusions presented on the tradition and origin of dragonesque creatures in Europe are hopelessly inaccurate and misleading.
In fact, even a quick overview of the actual archaeological evidence reveals that depictions of dragonesque creatures are common in Europe from the Iron Age onwards, appearing on jewelry, coinage, weapons and other artifacts throughout the La Tène period in particular.
Double-headed dragonesque / serpentine creature depicted on a decorative bronze element discovered in a Celtic chariot burial at Cuperly (Marne), France
(5th c. BC)
Bronze Celtic fibula from Pilsen in the Czech Republic (5th c. BC)
Dragonesque fibula (bronze) from a Celtic burial at Arbedo (Ticino), Switzerland (4 c. BC)
As with all aspects of Celtic art, the stylistic execution of such dragonesque creatures varies greatly, from relatively naturalistic to quite schematic images such as the iconic “dragon-pair” images found across Europe on Celtic scabbards and other artifacts of the middle La Tène period.
Detail of decoration on a “dragon-pair” scabbard from a Celtic warrior burial at Chens-Sur-Léman (Haute-Savoie), France (late 4th/early 3rd c. BC)
“The Dragonmaster” – Exterior plate B of the Gundestrup cauldron
Potin (billon) coin minted by the Bituriges Tribe in central France (1 c. BC)
Thus, despite what some would have us believe, the dragonesque beasts which populate Medieval European literature / art and survive in the consciousness and popular culture of the modern world, derive not from “Graeco-Roman literature and Biblical sources”, but are the offspring of fantastic creatures born in the dark and shining fantasy of Celtic Europe…