The Celtic hillfort at Horné Orešany is situated in the Trnava district in western Slovakia, in the Little Carpathian mountains above the village. The double rampart ring of the hill fort with an area of 2 ha was discovered in the early part of this century by ‘treasure hunters’ and greatly damaged by illegal excavations.
Archaeologically confirmed early La Têne sites in western Slovakia
(On the early La Têne chieftain’s burial from Stupava see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/the-burial-of-a-celtic-chieftain-from-stupava-slovakia/ )
Research studies at the Horné Orešany site subsequently identified a massive amount of material dating from the Hallstatt to middle La Têne periods, with the vast majority pertaining to the early La Têne era (5th c. BC). From the interior of the hillfort evidence of blacksmith activities and jewellery production was identified, including 11 animal- and human-headed brooches, 10 bird-headed brooches and dozens of box-shaped belt hooks. Further discoveries (mostly by ‘treasure hunters’) have included 3 hoards of iron artifacts and two deposits of bronze ornaments, as well as at least 8 Celtic swords and 60-80 spearheads.
Bronze brooches from the Celtic hillfort at Horné Orešany (late 5th / early 4th c. BC)
(after Pieta 2010; see also Megaw 2012)
Among the most significant finds from the site are two bronze decorated axes, also dating to the early La Têne era. Although in prehistory and the Hallstatt period axes were among the most popular weapons, in the La Têne period their use is recorded only in isolated cases (Guštin 1991: 58/59, Schumacher 1989; Todorović 1972:Taf. 18:6). In Slovakia there is no evidence of the use of axes as weapons during this period (Pieta 2005:49). The ceremonial/religious function of the Horné Orešany axes is also clearly indicated by the intricate triskele decoration on the blade, and the depiction of a bearded deity who appears on both examples.
Celtic ritual/ceremonial axes from Horné Orešany (Width of blades 95/ 67 mm.) – Late 5th c. BC (after Pieta 2014)
The Face of Esus ?
In the Celtic pantheon the axe has no clearly defined role, except in the case of the God Esus. The two statues on which the name of Esus appears are the Pillar of the Boatmen from among the Parisii, and a pillar from Trier in the territory of the Treveri tribe. In both of these, Esus is portrayed cutting branches with an axe.
The Celtic deity Esus as represented on Le pilier des Nautes, discovered in a temple at the Gallo-Roman civitas of Lutetia (modern Paris/ Early 1 c. AD)
If the deity on the Horné Orešany axes is indeed Esus, it is interesting to note the sharp contrast between the Gallo-Roman depictions which present the God in human form, i.e. as an axeman, and the earlier Celtic examples in which the fusion of form and decoration culminates in the deity literally becoming one with the weapon.
Guštin M. (1991) Posočje in der jüngeren Eisenzeit. Ljubljana
Megaw V. (2012) ‘Go East Young Man!’ Antipodean thoughts on the earliest La Tène art in Slovakia (with particular reference to the fortified settlement of Horné Orešany) In: Archeológia Na Prahu Histórie. K životnému jubileu Karola Pietu. Nitra 2012, 447 – 460.
Pieta K. (2005) Spätlatènezeitliche Wafen und Ausrüstung im nördlichen Teil des Karpatenbeckens. Slovenská archeológia 53, 35-84.
Pieta K. (2012): Die keltishe Besiedlung der Slowakei. arh. Slov. Mon. Studia 12, Nitra 2010.
Pieta K. (2014) Rituelle Beile aus dem Frühlatène-Burgwall in Horné Orešany/Rituálne sekery z včasnolaténskeho hradiska Horné Orešany. In: MORAVSKÉ KŘIŽOVATKY . Střední Podunají mezi pravěkem a historií. Moravské zemské muzeum, Brno 2014. P. 717-727
Schumacher F. J. (1989) Das frührömische Grab 978 mit Beil und Axt. Wafen oder Werkzeuge? In: A.Hafner (Hrsg.): Gräber – Spiegel des Lebens. Zum Totenbrauchtum der Kelten und Römer am Beispiel des Treverer-Gräberfeldes Wederath-Belginum. Mainz. 247-254
Todorović J. (1972) Praistorijska Karaburma. Beograd
Over the past century a large amount of epigraphic, numismatic and archaeological material relating to the Celtic Eravisci tribe has been uncovered in the Budapest region of modern Hungary. However, until recently the vast majority of this material has dated to the immediate pre-Roman and Roman periods (i.e. 1st century BC onwards), while little has been known of the earlier Celtic presence in this area.
Clay stove from a Celtic house (#9) at Budapest-Gellérthegy (1st c. BC)
Ceramic from a Late La Tène pottery workshop at Békásmegyer (Budapest – 1 c. BC)
Celtic (Eravisci) denarius from the Budapest area (1st. century BC)
In light of the above, of particular interest have been the systematic excavations carried out over the past decade at the Csepel Island site on the Danube in Budapest. The site, better known as the personal domain of the Hungarian ruler Árpád after the migration of Hungarians into Pannonia in the early 10th century, and which remained a favourite resort of the Hungarian kings into the Middle Ages, has also proved one of the most significant Celtic sites in Eastern Europe.
Ceramic, bronze fibula and hohlbuckelring (bronze anklet) from the Celtic burials at Csepel Island (late 4th-3rd c. BC)
(On Hohlbuckelringe see:
The Celtic burial complex at Csepel Island was in use from the La Têne B1 – C1 period, i.e. from the 2nd half of the 4th until the late 3rd c. BC, and excavations at the site have uncovered 107 Celtic burials, both inhumation and cremation, dating to this period (Horváth 2012).
Celtic inhumation burial from Csepel Island (late 4th / early 3rd c. BC)
Grave goods from a Celtic warrior burial (#149) at Csepel Island:
1. Fragment of shield boss; 2. Body of shield; 3. Suspension chain; 4. Spearhead; 5. Sword/scabbard
(after Horváth M.A. (2014) A Decorated La Tène Sword from the Budapest–Csepel Island. –
Of particular interest is cremation burial #6 at the site, analysis of which has indicated that the deceased was deposited in a large chamber constructed of timber. Such Celtic burials have been previously recorded in Hungary and Slovakia but, due to practical and environmental factors, have rarely been studied in detail.
Cremation burial #6 at Csepel Island (3rd c. BC)
Graphic reconstruction of the burial based on the archaeological data
( After Horváth 2012 (in Hungarian) – https://www.academia.edu/6969233/S%C3%ADrszerkezet_rekonstrukci%C3%B3s_k%C3%ADs%C3%A9rlet_egy_La_T%C3%A8ne_kori_temetkez%C3%A9s_kapcs%C3%A1n._Versuch_der_Grabrekonstruktion_eines_lat%C3%A9ne-zeitlichen_Begr%C3%A4bnisses._Budapest_R%C3%A9gis%C3%A9gei_XLV_2012._91-110 )
On Celtic cremation burials from Hungary see also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/celtic-death/
A number of exceptional archaeological discoveries from southeastern Europe have thrown new light on the social and cultural relations between the various ‘barbarian’ peoples who inhabited this region in the pre-Roman period.
One example of this phenomenon was discovered in the Celtic burial complex at Remetea Mare in the Banat region of western Romania, which evolved from the period over LT B2 and the start of LT C1 (i.e. from circa 280 BC to the end of the 3rd c. BC). In terms of funerary rites and rituals, the cemetery at Remetea Mare illustrates the cultural mix specific to Celtic cemeteries in the east and south of the Carpathian Basin – with one notable exception.
Burial #3 at the site, which dates to the same period, is a female inhumation burial which contained a handmade bowl, a small bi-conical wheel-made vessel, iron tweezers that when discovered still preserved attached fabric pieces of the woman’s clothing, a segment of an astragal belt reused as a pendant, and a bronze Thracian brooch (Rustoiu 2011, 2012). The ‘Thracian’ brooch belongs to the IIb variant according to Zirra’s typology and is dated to the first half of the 3rd century BC (Zirra 1998). Both the funerary rite (inhumation rather than cremation – unique at the cemetery) and inventory illustrate that the woman came from a community markedly different from the one in which she died, in this case probably from a Thracian group south of the Danube, and reached the Celtic community at Remetea Mare following a matrimonial alliance established between the Celts and the Thracians, sometime in the first half of the 3rd century BC.
A similar case has been recorded recently at Aradu Nou in the Banat region, where the inhumation burial of an Illyrian woman, dating to the late 4th/early 3rd c. BC, was discovered in the Celtic burial complex.
Female Inhumation Burial (#3) from Remetea Mare (after Rustoiu 2011)
Burial of an Illyrian woman in the Celtic cemetery at Aradu Nou (Banat) in western Romania (late 4th/early 3rd c. BC).
Dating to the initial phase of Celtic expansion into this area, her interment in a Celtic cemetery again indicates a matrimonial alliance contributing to the cementing of inter-cultural relations during this period. Such alliances also logically contributed to the creation of complex social networks between the elites of different communities.
(after Rustoiu A., Ursuţiu A. 2013)
Dating to roughly the same period as the Aradu Nou example are two female inhumation burials in graves # 63 and 67 from the Celtic (Scordisci) burial complex at Karaburma, Belgrade. In this case, the women have been identified as of Pannonian origin (Ljuština M., Spasić M. (2011).
Material from the burials of two Pannonian women in the Celtic burial complex at Karaburma, Belgrade. (1-5 = Duchcov fbula, biconical iron fragment, silver earrings, glass beads and ceramic bowl from burial #63; 6-7 = sliver earrings and glass beads from burial #67).
(after Ljuština, Spasić 2011)
Another example of such matrimonial alliances between the indigenous Balkan tribes and the Celts comes from a cremation grave, discovered by chance in 1977 at Teleşti in the Oltenia region of Romania. Its inventory consisted of a fragmentary bronze belt, two fragmentary bronze brooches (probably a pair; one destroyed on the pyre), four glass beads and fragments of a blue glass bracelet, an iron horse-bit and two iron elements which probably belonged to a ceremonial cart. The entire assemblage is characteristic for the Celtic environment dating from the Lt C1 phase (second half of the 3rd century and the beginning of the 2nd century BC). The funerary inventory from Teleşti represents the burial of a Celtic woman in a Thracian context. As is the case at Remetea Mare, this burial also points to the existence of an inter-ethnic matrimonial alliance. Her belt, as well as other garment accessories, suggests that the deceased came from a Celtic area, probably in Transylvania or Scordisci territory in Serbia/Bulgaria (Rustoiu 2012).
THE WOMAN IN GRAVE 9
Direct testimony to such matrimonial alliances is also recorded at the beginning of the 2nd c. BC. In this case the Macedonian king Philip V, in order to secure a military alliance with the Celto-Scythian Bastarnae tribes, arranged for his son to be married to a Bastarnae princess:
“The envoys whom he had sent to the Bastarnae to summon assistance had returned and brought back with them some young nobles, amongst them some of royal blood. One of these promised to give his sister in marriage to Philip’s son, and the king was quite elated at the prospect of an alliance with that nation” (Livy 40:5).
In relation to the aforementioned Bastarnae, of further significance is the inhumation burial of a woman in the Celtic burial complex at Pelczyska in southern Poland. Dated to La Têne D2/late 1st c. BC, once again the woman came from outside the community and is believed to have reached the Celtic settlement at Pelczyska through a marriage arrangement between the local Celts and the Bastarnae. Extensive contacts between the settlement at Pelczyska and the Bastarnae have been confirmed by the large number of Bastarnae silver tetradrachms of the ‘Huşi-Vovrieşti’ type found at the settlement (Rudnicki 2003). There also exists the possibility that the coinage represents part of the woman’s dowry.
Skull and facial reconstruction of a Celto-Scythian (Bastarnae) woman found in the Celtic burial complex at Pelczyska, Poland (1st c. BC). The skeleton is that of a mature female (adultus maturus), circa 30-35 years of age.
(after Rudnicki, Piasecki 2005)
Bastarnae ‘Huşi-Vovrieşti type’ tetradrachms from Pelczyska (after Rudnicki 2003)
Well recorded in the Hellenistic world, the aforementioned burials from Romania, Serbia and Poland represent the first direct archaeological testimony that such matrimonial alliances were also common among the ‘barbarian’ peoples of Europe. Such marriages would logically have had both a major social and political significance.
It is worth noting that in each case these women, although living in an alien environment, retained their own cultural identity, and upon their deaths their respective customs and burial rites were respected by their host tribe. Such inter-ethnic marriages undoubtedly acted as a catalyst for the development of the symbiotic relationship which evolved between the local tribes and the Celts, resulting in close social, cultural, and political ties. This phenomenon is to be observed in the material culture, and manifests itself, for example, in the development of a mixed Celto-Thracian culture in Thrace, and military alliances formed against Rome during the Scordisci Wars of the late 2nd/1st c. BC.
Ljuština M., Spasić M. (2011) Celtic Newcomers between Traditional and Fashionable: Graves 63 and 67 from Karaburma. In: Iron Age Rites and Rituals in the Carpathian Basin. Proceedings of the International Colloquium Târgu Mureș 7–9 October 2011. P. 367-375.
Rudnicki M. (2003) Celtic Coin Finds from a Settlement of the La Têne period at Pelczyska. In: Polish Numismatic News VII, 2003. P. 1-24.
Rudnicki M., Piasecki K. (2005) A Late La Téne Inhumation Grave from Pelczyska: Comments on the Cultural Situation in the Upland Area of Little Poland (with an analysis of the anatomical remains by Karol Piasecki). In Celts on the Margin – Studies in Euopean Cultural Interaction 7th Century BC – 1st Century AD. Krakow 2005. p. 195 – 206
Rustoiu A. (2011) The Celts from Transylvania and the eastern Banat and their Southern Neighbours. Cultural Exchanges and Individual Mobility. In: The Eastern Celts. The Communities between the Alps and the Black Sea. Koper–Beograd 2011. p. 163-171
Rustoiu A. (2012) The Celts and Indigenous Populations from the Southern Carpathian Basin. Intercommunity Communication Strategies. In: Iron Age Rites and Rituals in the Carpathian Basin. Proceedings of the International Colloquim from Târgu Mureș 7–9 October 2011. (Târgu Mureș 2012).
Rustoiu A., Ursuţiu A. (2013) Indigenous and Celtic Garment Assemblages in Banat and the Surrounding Areas at the Beginning of the La Tène Period (Observations Regarding the Silver Spiral Earrings). In: Archaeological Small Finds And Their Significance. Proceedings of the Symposion:costume as an identity expression – Cluj-Napoca 2013. p. 77-88
Zirra V. (1998) Bemerkungen zu den thraco-getischen Fibeln, Dacia N. S., 40–42, 1996–1998, 29–53
Some of the most spectacular Celtic archaeological discoveries in recent years have come from the Scordisci hillfort at Zidovar (Banat region) in north-eastern Serbia, which has yielded a vast array of artifacts of various materials, mostly dating to the 2/1 centuries BC.
The hill at Zidovar – site of an important Celtic (Scordisci) hillfort from 3-1 century BC
Silver finger rings, brown bear tooth talisman, and silver bird pendants from the Zidovar hillfort (2/1 c. BC)
(See also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/celtic-scordisci-bird-pendants/)
Among the most exquisite artifacts from Zidovar are 2 lavishly decorated silver jewelry boxes, and the lid of a third such box decorated with 4 spokes, thus constituting a solar/Taranis wheel.
Silver lid of a jewelry box from Zidovar (2/1 c. BC)
Silver jewelry box from Zidovar
Construction of the complete jewelry box from Zidovar
All 3 jewelry boxes have a high percent of silver (average values over 95 wt%). Copper is the main alloying element (average values from 1.5–4 wt%). Lead contributes less then 1 wt%, and tin was not detected in the metal of any of the boxes.
(after Živković J., Rehren T., Radivojević M., Miloš Jevtić M. and Jovanović D. (2014) XRF characterisation of Celtic silver from the Židovar treasure (Serbia). In: UNDER THE VOLCANO. Proceedings of the International Symposium on the Metallurgy of the European Iron Age (SMEIA) held in Mannheim, Germany, 20–22 April 2010. p. 157-174)
The chain used on the jewelry box is also noteworthy. These are of the ‘Foxtail’ type, similar examples of which are to be found in a number of necklaces from Zidovar and other Balkan Celtic sites.
Scordisci ‘Foxtail’ necklaces from Zidovar
(see also: https://www.academia.edu/7915664/Celtic_Foxtail_Necklaces )
Such chains are believed to have developed from Hellenistic prototypes, and the merging of Hellenistic and Celtic artistic models and influences on the Balkans from the late 4th century BC onwards resulted in a spectacular fusion of forms culminating in unique compositions in glass, ceramic and metal.
Celtic kantharos of the ‘Danubian Type’ with anthropomorphic decoration from Blandiana, Alba County, Romania (3rd c. BC). Such kantharoi were developed by the Balkan Celts from Hellenistic prototypes.
Celtic gold ‘Janus Head’ pendant from Schumen region, Bulgaria (3rd c. BC)
Full view of the Celtic jewelry box with ‘Foxtail’ chain from Zidovar (2/1 c. BC)
The sheer amount and diversity of artifacts discovered at Zidovar logically indicates that this area was one of the key centers for the production of Balkan Celtic jewelry in the late Iron Age. From a wider perspective, the level of technical accomplishment and craftsmanship to be observed on these and other recently discovered Balkan Celtic works of art is on a par with anything produced by ‘classical’ cultures, and the treasures from the Scordisci hillfort at Zidovar once again testify to the artistic and material sophistication which had been achieved by European Celtic society prior to its systematic destruction by Rome.
Some of the most fascinating archaeological discoveries in recent years have come from the Bronze and Iron Age site at Cliffs End Farm on the Isle of Thanet (Kent), in south-eastern England. Of the wealth of material uncovered at the site most enigmatic is pit #3666, which tells a tale of bizarre ritual practices and human sacrifice.
Sharp weapon trauma to the skull of an elderly female from pit 3666 at Cliffs End (see below)
A large number of cases of human sacrifice among the late Bronze and Iron Age European population have been revealed in the past decades at sites ranging from the Celtic (Galatian) settlement of Gordion in today’s Turkey to the Bog Bodies of Northern Europe. In many of these cases evidence indicates that sacrifice was accompanied by complex rituals including manipulation of body parts and excarnation.
Remains of two women ‘ritually sacrificed’ at the Celtic settlement at Gordion (Turkey). The uppermost of the women had suffered blows to the head and a broken neck; large grinding stones had been placed on top of the lower woman (2nd c. BC)
(After Dandoy et al 2002; see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/06/10/galatia/)
Two bodies found together in a bog at Drenthe in The Netherlands. Initially their intimate pose led to speculation that they were a man and woman buried in a romantic embrace. Subsequent analysis showed that in fact both were men, one of whom had had his stomach sliced open. (1st c. BC)
Body of a young man (in his early 20’s) found in a bog at Clonycavan (Meath), Ireland (and facial reconstruction).
The man had been ritually sacrificed – disemboweled and struck three times across the head with an axe and once across the body. He also had his nipples cut off. (4/3 c. B C)
Among the other numerous examples of such is the late Iron Age shaft discovered at Holzhausen in Bavaria with a post at the bottom used for impaling victims (the pole when analyzed had traces of human flesh and blood). A similar example comes from Garton Slack in East Yorkshire (England), where a young man and a woman of about thirty were found huddled together in a shaft – a wooden stake between them pinning their arms together. The woman was apparently pregnant, since a fetal skeleton was found beneath her pelvis (Green 1992: 183-84 – Green, M.. J. Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend. New York).
The aforementioned site at Cliffs End in Kent has once again provided more questions than answers concerning these enigmatic rituals. The first remarkable fact at the site is the distorted demographic structure which includes a disproportionate number of teenagers, the complete absence of children under the age of 6 and, most strikingly, an abnormal male/female ratio, i.e. many more women than men are represented in the burials – the proportion being an inexplicable 71/29 % in the early Iron Age. All 4 ‘elderly’ people (over 45 years of age) were also females.
The mortuary rites at Cliffs End, including manipulation, curation and excarnation of bodies, have their roots in the late Bronze Age, and continue into the Iron Age. The most fascinating example from the former period is pit #3666, in which the orchestrated burial group focused on the body of an old woman who had been slain by multiple sword blows to the back of the head. The woman was subsequently laid out with a piece of white chalk up to her face, her index finger positioned in a pointing position. Two lambs were placed in her lap.
Detail of the elderly female buried in pit #3666
In the same pit, in association with the woman’s body, were placed 2 children and a teenage girl, the teenager’s head and upper body placed over the head and neck of a cow (!). The manipulated body parts of an adult male were also discovered.
View of pit #3666 from the north
(Cliffs End illustrations after McKinley, Jacqueline I., Jörn Schuster, and Andrew Millard, “Dead-Sea connections: a Bronze Age and Iron Age ritual site on the Isle of Thanet”, in: Koch, John T., and Barry Cunliffe (eds), Celtic from the West 2: rethinking the Bronze Age and the arrival of Indo-European in Atlantic Europe, Celtic Studies Publications 16, Oxford, Oakville, CT. 2013. 157–183).
Manipulated body parts of the adult male from pit #3666
The violent death of the elderly woman in pit #3666 is the latest in a long series to be explained by ‘ritual sacrifice’. In fact, this may be only part of the story in such cases, for the extremely brutal nature of many of the slayings clearly suggests an aspect of deliberate cruelty/punishment not consistent with mere sacrifice.
In the late Iron Age the Roman general Caesar (DBG 6:16) claims that those chosen for such fates were those who had “participated in theft or brigandage or other crimes”, i.e. most of those sacrificed by the Celts were criminals, because those are “more pleasing to the immortal gods” (loc cit). While the testimony of classical authors concerning the European ‘barbarian’ population has often tended to be highly inaccurate, this combination of sacrifice/execution would at least partly explain the brutality to be observed in many of these cases, as well as the apparent contradiction between the cruelty inflicted on the victims and the lavish burial rites accorded them, i.e. as a criminal the individual was punished according to the severity of their crime(s), and as a sacrifice to the gods their remains subsequently treated with the utmost respect.
Thus, it appears likely that many of the “human sacrifices” practiced by the European population of this period differ from those carried out by modern societies only in their method of execution…
On the Question of Human Sacrifice among the Celts see also:
One of the most iconic symbols on Celtic coinage, the oval shield appears either alone or as a central element in the artistic composition on Celtic coins (and other artifacts) across Europe and Asia-Minor in the 3-1 century BC period, as well as being represented on numerous Greek and Roman images depicting Celtic military equipment.
Kings Of Galatia, Deiotaros I (c. 62-40 BC) AE. Obverse: Laureate head of Zeus right. Reverse: Large monogram and Celtic oval shield
Mounted warrior with oval shield on the reverse of a silver issue of Tasciovanus – King of the Catuvellauni tribe in southern England (25-10 BC)
Celtic military equipment, including oval shield and carnyx, represented on the reverse of a Roman gold stater (c. 48 BC)
The fact that oval shields are depicted with such frequency by both the Celts themselves and their enemies, in such a broad spatial and temporal context, logically indicates that they had a political and cultural significance that went beyond their purely military function, i.e. also served as a symbol of political authority and power.
Mounted Goddess with oval shield depicted on the reverse of a Celtic gold stater from the Rennes Region, Brittany (2nd century BC)
Among the Balkan Celts oval shields first appear on coinage of the ‘Tyle’ state in today’s eastern Bulgaria in the mid 3rd century BC, and are to be found on both tetradrachms and bronze issues of the Celtic kings of Thrace during this period.
Bronze issue of the Celtic king Cavaros with oval shield on the reverse – minted at Arkovna (Varna reg.), Bulgaria (2nd half of the 3rd c. BC)
(On whom see: Mac Gonagle B. (2013)
Reverse of a tetradrachm of Kersebaul, one of the Celtic kings of the ‘Tyle’ state in today’s eastern Bulgaria (mid 3rd c. BC)
Also noteworthy in this context are the Celtic shield coins minted by the Greek city of Mesembria (modern Nesebar) on the Black Sea coast during this period. These coins, which feature a helmet on the obverse and a Celtic oval shield on the reverse (viewed from within; Price 1991, Karaytov 2000, Mac Gonagle 2013) illustrate the influence of the Celtic state on the Greek Black Sea colonies during the 3rd c. BC – a phenomenon also testified to by archaeological evidence, and confirmed in ancient sources (Lazarov 2010, Manov 2010, Mac Gonagle 2013).
Bronze Mesembria Celtic Shield Issue (last quarter of the 3rd c. BC)
(After Karaytov 2000)
Also connected to the Tyle state are the Apros Celtic shield coins minted in today’s European Turkey in the second half of the 3rd century BC, which provide further archaeological evidence, again confirmed in ancient sources, that the area of south-eastern Thrace, including the immediate environs of Byzantium, was under Celtic control during this period (Manov 2010, Lazarov 2010, Mac Gonagle 2013). Exactly which tribe minted the Apros coins remains unclear, but one possibility is that that they were produced by the Aegosages tribe prior to their migration into Asia-Minor in the summer of 218 BC.
Bronze Celtic shield coins minted at Apros (After Draganov 2001)
(Apros was located either at present-day Kestridge or further west near present-day Kermian, both in European Turkey above the Thracian Chersones and on the route of the later Via Egnatia)
On the Aegosages tribe see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/death-of-a-dream-the-aegosages-massacre/
Dimitrov K. (2010) Celts, Greeks and Thracians in Thrace During the Third Century BC. Interactions in History and Culture. In: In Search of Celtic Tylis in Thrace (III c BC). Sofia 2010. P. 51- 66
Draganov D. (2001) Coins of the Unknown Mint of Apros in Thrace. НСФ 8, 1-2, 25-31.
Kарайтов И. (1996) Месамбрия и келтският цар Кавар. In: More 4, 9-10, 10-14; Kарайтов И. (2000) Месамбрия и владитетелите на крайбрежна Тракия (според нумизматични данни) – INMB 3, 66-81
Карайтов И. (2000) Месамбрия и владетилите на крайбрежна тракия според нумизтични данни. Известия на Народния Музий Бургас. Том 3, 2000. 66- 82
Lazarov L. (2010) The Celtic State In the Time of Cavaros. In: In Search of Celtic Tylis in Thrace (III c BC). Sofia 2010. P. 97-113
Mac Gonagle B. (2013) https://www.academia.edu/5420363/THE_TYLE_EXPERIMENT
Manov M. (2010) In Search of Tyle (Tylis). Problems of Localization. In: In Search of Celtic Tylis in Thrace (III c BC). Sofia 2010. P. 89 – 96
Price M. J. (1991) The Coinage in the Name of Alexander the Great and Philip Arhideus. A British Museum Catalog, vol. 1, Zurich-London.
Topalov S. (2001) Contributions to the Study of the Coinage and History In the Lands of Eastern Thrace from the end of the 4th c. BC to the end of the 3rd c. BC. Sofia 2001
As all animals, the bear held a special significance in Iron Age European society, encapsulating the qualities of strength and potency, and portrayed in numerous works of Celtic art and attested to in inscriptions from across the continent.
Group of 3 sandstone bear statues found at Armagh, Ireland (the smallest now missing)
(pre-christian period, i.e. pre-5th c.)
The Celtic word for bear – *artos (OIr. Art, MW arth , OBret. Ard-, Arth-, MoBret. Arzh; Masasovic ELPC) is reflected in numerous Celtic personal names – in simple names such as Artos, Artus (Delamarre 2007:27; CIL XIII 10008,7: Artus Dercomogni (from Maar, near Trier), derivatives such as patronyms, e.g. Galatian Artiknos, and hypocoristica of the type Artillus, Artilla. A fine example of the latter has been found in Trier (CIL XIII/1.1, no. 3909):
HIC QUIESCIT IN PACE URSULA . . . ARTULA MATER TIT(ULUM) POSUIT
In this case mother and daughter have the same name, the mother still in Celtic, the daughter already in the Roman tongue. This is typical for the language switch implied in Romanization throughout the empire.
‘Bear’ is also found in Celtic nominal compounds, cf. Comartio-rix ‘king of [men] comparable to bears’, or Artebudz (Ptuj, Slovenia), which appears to be a late form of *Arto-buððos ‘having a bear’s penis’ (according to Eichner et al. 1994; see also Zimmer 2009).
In the insular sphere a number of names continue the Old Celtic formations. Cf.:
Old Irish Artbe = Old Welsh Artbeu = Old Breton Arthbiu, all < Old Celtic *Arto-biu̯o- = ‘quick as a bear’;
Old Irish Artgal = Old Welsh Arthgal, Middle Welsh Arthal, < *Arto-galno- = vigorous like a bear’ (see Zimmer op cit).
The Brogdos Inscription from Poetovio
(after Istenič 2000; see https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/between-birth-and-death-celtic-graffiti/)
The most extraordinary Celtic inscription to be discovered at Poetovio, Slovenia was found on a beaker at the site. Dated to the 2nd/3rd c. AD, and written in a Celto-Etruscan script, the inscription reads ARTEBUDZ BROGDUI which has been translated as ‘Artebudz for Brogdos’. Both names are Celtic, and the vessel was a votive offering to Brogdos – a deity guarding the border between the world of the living and the after-world (Eichner et al 1994:137; Egri 2007).
Other artifacts from south-eastern Europe, such as a ceramic bowl decorated with a zoomorphic/bear handle from the pre-Roman layers at Viminacium or brown bear teeth used as pendants/talismans from the Celtic hillfort at Zidovar (both Serbia), indicate that the bear was particularly revered by the Balkan Celtic tribes.
Celtic (Scordisci) zoomorphic bowl from Viminacium, Serbia (1 c. BC)
Brown bear teeth talismans from Zidovar, Serbia (2/1 c. BC)
In Celtic culture the bear was associated with the Bear Goddess Artio – attested to in inscriptions such as those from Daun (CIL 4203), Stockstadt (CIL XIII 11789), Heddernheim (CIL 13, 7375) (all Germany), as well as Weilerbach (Luxembourg) (CIL XIII 4113) and Muri (near Bern) in Switzerland (CIL 13, 05160). The latter inscription comes from a bronze sculpture which depicts a large bear facing a woman seated in a chair, with a small tree behind the bear. The woman seems to hold fruit in her lap, apparently feeding the bear.
The goddess Artio from the Muri statuette group, a noted collection of Gallo-Roman bronze figures found in Muri bei Bern, Switzerland in 1832
The Muri sculpture bears the inscription Deae Artioni / Licinia Sabinilla = To the Goddess Artio (or Artionis), from Licinia Sabinilla, and is valuable evidence that the cult of the Celtic Bear Goddess survived into the Roman period.
Delamarre, X. (2003) Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise. 2ème éd. Paris: Errance.
Delamarre, X. (2007) Noms de personnes celtiques dans l’épigraphie classique. Paris: Errance.
Egri M. (2007) Graffiti on Ceramic Vessels from the Western Cemetery at Poetovio. In: Funerary Offerings and Votive Depositions in Europe’s 1st Millennium AD. Cluj-Napoca 2007. P. 37 – 48.
Eichner, H., Janka, I., Milan, L. (1994) Ein römerzeitliches Keramikgefäß aus Ptuj (Pettau, Poetovio) in Slovenien mit Inschrift in unbekanntem Alphabet und epichorischer (vermutlich keltischer) Sprache. Arheoloski Zbornik 45, 131–42.
Istenič J. (2000) Poetovio, the western cemeteries II. Ljubljana.
Matasovic R. (2009) An Etymological Lexicon of Proto-Celtic. University of Leiden = ELPC
Šašel Kos (1999) Pre-Roman Divinities of the Eastern Alps and Adriatic – Situla 38, Ljubljana.
Zimmer S. (2009) The Name of Arthur – A New Etymology. JCeltL, 13 (2009), 131–6
On animals in Celtic culture see also:
On Celtic personal names see: