THE KING WHO SCARED A MONSTER – On the Battle of Histria (61 BC)

UD: May 2017

 

 

histria-illustration

 

“… to the Maeotic Lake on the east, where it bordered on Pontic Scythia, and that from that point on Gauls and Scythians were mingled”.

(Plut. Marius: 11: 4—5)

 

 

 

 

61 BC – Western Black Sea coast

 

 

THE MONSTER

 

A Roman army marches on the Greek city of Histria to crush a rebellion by the local population. The situation is even more ominous for the Greeks, because the Roman commander is none other than the Governor of Macedonia Gaius Antonius (the uncle of Mark Anthony), a notoriously cruel and brutal man, who had earned the name Hybrida (the Monster) for his systematic atrocities against the local population in the region (Pliny, Nat. Hist. viii. 213; Dio. Cass. XXXVIII). However, before Hybrida’s army can reach Histria a barbarian army, drawn from the local population, mobilizes to save the city.

The events which follow are to rank among the most embarrassing in the history of the empire…

 

 

 

Histria m.

Location of Histria

On Celtic and Celto-Scythian settlements in this area – Noviodunum, Aliobrix, Durostorum etc. – see also:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/%CE%BA%CF%8C%CF%81%CE%B1%CE%BB%CE%BB%CE%BF%CE%B9-people-of-the-rock/

 

 

 

 

THE KING

 

The interior of eastern Thrace/Scythia Minor during this period was inhabited by a unique population of Thracian (Getae), Celtic, and Celto-Scythian (Bastarnae) tribes. During Rome’s recent conflict with the Pontic King Mithridates VI the Celts and Bastarnae had allied themselves against the empire (App. Mith. 69, 111; Justin 38:3, Memnon 27:7). At the Battle of Chalcedon, for example, the Bastarnae had dealt a severe blow to the Romans – “In the land battle the Bastarnae routed the Italians, and slaughtered them” (Memnon op cit). Indeed, according to Appianus, his Celtic allies had stood with Mithridates to the bitter end in the conflict:

“Seeing a certain Bituitus there, an officer of the Gauls, he said to him, ‘I have profited much from your right arm against my enemies. I shall profit from it most of all if you will kill me.

…Bituitus, thus appealed to, rendered the king the service he desired”.

(App. Mith. 111)

 

As with so many ‘barbarian’ leaders of the European Iron Age, the Bastarnae king who faced the Roman army at Histria in 61 BC has hitherto remained nameless. However, recent numismatic evidence from the southern Dobruja region of today’s n.e. Bulgaria has yielded information which may allow us to finally identify the ‘hero of Histria’.

 During the 2/1 century BC six Peucini Bastarnae kings in this area struck coins in their names. Emerging numismatic data indicates that the latest of these was Akrosas, whose coinage was minted for him at the Greek colony of Dionysopolis (today’s Balchik) (See ‘Sariakes’ article with relevant lit.), near the Bastarnae settlement of Peuce (loc cit), once again confirming that this area was the center of (Peucini) Bastarnae political and economic power in the 2nd/ 1st c. BC.

 

 

 

Mag. We.

Lead measure weight of Dionysopolis bearing the ΕΥ from the name of the monetary magistrate Eukles (genitive ΕΥΚΛΕΟΥ)

(after Draganov 2012)

 

 

 

Magi.

Bronze issues of Dionysopolis bearing the name of the magistrate ΕΥΚΛΕΟΥ

(after Draganov 2012)

 

 

 

Akro. Mag

Akrosas bronze issues bearing the name of the king and the ΕΥ of the Dionysopolis magistrate ΕΥΚΛΕΟΥ

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/peucini-bastarnae-the-land-of-esus/

 

 

 

duran-burials

Celto-Scythian (Peucini Bastarnae) burial from Durankulak Island (Dobrudja), north-eastern Bulgaria

(2nd c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/peucini-bastarnae-the-land-of-esus/

 

 

 

Of great importance in establishing the chronology of Akrosas’ rule is a hoard of gold and bronze coins discovered in 1968 at the village of Bulgarevo in the s. Dobruja region (near the Peucini settlement of Tirisis – see ‘Sariakes’ article). This hoard, found scattered in a field near the village, besides bronze Akrosas issues, also yielded 4 rare barbarian gold staters of the Lysimachus type, dated to the Mithridatic period (Youroukova, Draganov, op cit), which chronologically indicates that Akrosas was most probably the Bastarnae commander at the Battle of Histria in 61 BC.

 

 

Gold Bulga h.

Gold Lysimachus type staters from the Bulgarevo hoard

(after Draganov 2012)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/metamorphosis-in-gold-on-posthumous-and-celto-scythian-staters-of-the-lysimachus-type-in-crimea-and-the-pontus-region/

 

 

 

AKROs BRON

Bronze Issues of the Bastarnae leader Akrosas from the Bulgarevo hoard

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BATTLE

 

For Rome, the Battle of Histria was a complete fiasco. As Hybrida’s army approached the city, a large force of Bastarnae cavalry swept down on the Romans and the Roman governor, apparently caught unawares, detached his entire mounted force from the marching column and retreated, or, as the Roman historian Dio Cassius rather bluntly puts it – ‘and thereupon he ran away…‘ ( Dio. Cass. XXXVIII). Without cavalry support, the Roman infantry were left exposed, and massacred. The Bastarnae subsequently captured several of the Roman vexilla (military standards), which made the humiliation complete.

 

 

 

Burial of a young Celto-Scythia horseman with La Tène weapons and bearskin cloak,  from Mana, Moldova. (1 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2017/01/29/the-bear-claw-warrior-burial-of-a-celto-scythian-bastarnae-horseman-from-mana-orhei-district-moldava/

 

 

 

In the short term, Akrosas’ victory at Histria resulted in the complete collapse of the Roman positions on the lower Danube, but ironically Hybrida’s defeat set in motion a cycle of events which would ultimately bring the region under Roman rule. Shortly after the battle, the Thracian Getae, who had been Bastarnae allies at Histria, launched a series of brutal attacks on their neighbors and the Greek Pontic cities. Under the command of a leader called Burebista, who declared himself “King of all Thrace”, by the time the Getae had finished their rampage the barbarian coalition which had defeated Hybrida in 61 BC was destroyed, and the tribes who had constituted this alliance weakened to such an extent that, despite further resistance by the Celtic and Bastarnae tribes in 29/28 BC, by the end of the 1st c. BC Thrace had fallen completely under Roman control.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Celto-Scythian Bastarnae tribes see:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/celto-scythians-and-celticization-in-ukraine-and-the-north-pontic-region/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SARIAKES – The Wheat King

UD: Feb. 2016

 

 

 

Recently published archaeological and numismatic evidence from the Dobruja region (s.e. Romania/n.e. Bulgaria) has shed new light on the elusive Celto-Scythian kings who ruled in this area in the Late Iron Age, and provided vital information both on the geographical area controlled by the Bastarnae leaders, and the chronology of their rule.

 

 

 

 

SARIAKES

 

An inscription on an altar (fig. 1) discovered at Cape Kaliakra in the Southern Dobruja region of today’s Bulgaria has yielded the first concrete evidence about the territory controlled by the (Peucini) Bastarnae king Sariakes in the early 2nd c. BC. Cape Kaliakra, where the altar was discovered, was known in the Late Iron Age as Tirizis (loc cit), and lay slightly to the east of the Bastarnae settlement of Peuce in the Balchik/Dionysopolis area. Previous numismatic and archaeological evidence has confirmed a Celtic (Celto-Scythian) presence in the area, and the Cape Kaliakra inscription to ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΣΑΡΙΑΚΟΥ provides further epigraphic evidence that this area was controlled by the Bastarnae during the period in question.

 

 

KK - Sarinsc

 

Fig 1. The Cape Kaliakra / Tirizis inscription

(after Драганов Д. Монетите на Скитските Царе. София 2012)

 

 

 

Kap. tir

Cape Kaliakra

 

 

 

 

The dedication on the altar was made to the Bastarnae king by a Macedonian called Antigon, which also provides a possible chronological framework for the rule of Sariakos. We know from ancient sources that in the second decade of the 2nd c. BC Philip V of Macedonia sent envoys to both the Thracian Celts (Scordisci) and the Bastarnae to solicit their help in his planned war with Rome. Livy informs us that:

‘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)

 

 

 

The testimony of Livy again emphasizes the geo-political importance of the Bastarnae in the region, and the Kaliakra/Tirizis inscription provides the first archaeological confirmation of the contact between the Macedonians and the Bastarnae of today’s northeastern Bulgaria during the period in question.

Further information about the Bastarnae king, Sariakes, comes from extensive numismatic material discovered in the area. Besides a number of bronze issues, Sariakes was the only one of the Bastarnae kings to have minted silver coinage during this period (fig. 2). Silver coinage circulating in this area in the the 2nd/1st c. BC consisted of issues of the Greek Black Sea colonies or that produced by the Thracian Celtic tribes, which makes the silver Sariakes issues particularly noteworthy.

 

 

Sarsilv

Fig. 2. Silver Sariakes coinage (early 2nd c. BC)

 

See:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/peucini-bastarnae-the-land-of-esus/

 

 

 

 

The iconography to be observed on both the silver and bronze (fig. 3) Sariakes issues gives us an important insight into the cultural processes at work among the Bastarnae tribes during this period. As with the other Peucini leaders, the coinage of Sariakes is Hellenistic in nature. This process of Hellenization is to be also observed on the coinage of the Celtic Tyle state which controlled this part of Bulgaria in the previous century, and the portrayal of Greek divinities – Demeter, Zeus, Apollo, Heracles, the Dioscuri etc. – on this coinage illustrates that the Bastarnae in this area (at least the aristocratic class), as with the Galatians, had become heavily Hellenized.

 

 

A Sar bron

Fig. 3 – Sariakes Bronze issues

 

 

 

 

 

THE WHEAT KING

 

 

A particularly interesting feature to be observed on the coinage of Sariakes, and other Bastarnae kings, is the recurring presence of the wheat symbol on the reverse of their coinage. The Dobruja area has traditionally been the ‘breadbasket’ of the region, with production of wheat playing a key role in the economy. The wheat symbols on the coins of Sariakes is again an indication that the prosperity of the barbarian Zaravetz culture in this area in the Late Iron Age was largely due to the production and export of wheat along the Danube through Celtic ports such as Mediolana, and to the Hellenistic world through the Greek Black Sea ports.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See also:

https://www.academia.edu/4118437/Mediolana_and_the_Zaravetz_Culture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PEUCINI BASTARNAE

UD – Nov. 2015

 

 

 

 

 

‘…the Gauls on the Danube who are called Bastarnae, an equestrian host and warlike’.

(Plut. Aem. 9.6)

 

Opc

 

 

The Peucini were the southern branch of the Bastarnae tribal confederation, initially settled in the Lower Danube region, specifically around the island of Peuce, from which they took their name – while those who took possession of Peuce, the island in the Ister, are called Peucini’ (Strabo Vii, 3,17).

 From the end of the 3rd/beginning of the 2nd c. BC (coinciding chronologically with the collapse of the Celtic Tyle state in eastern Thrace) the Peucini began to expand southwards into sub-Danubian Thrace, where they are referred to variously as ‘Galatians’, ‘Bastarnae’ or ‘Gauls’. In 179 BC they first appear in historical sources as allies of the Scordisci and the Macedonian king Philip V, who intended to send them against Rome. The geo-political significance of the Peucini at this stage is noted by ancient authors. Livy informs us that:

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. History of Rome. Book 40:5).

 Although Philip’s sudden death meant that this Macedonian/Celtic coalition against Rome never materialized, the same source makes it clear that by this time the Bastarnae were firmly established in eastern Thrace (Livy 40:58).

( on the Bastarnae tribes see also: https://www.academia.edu/4835555/Gallo-Scythians )

 

Celto-Scythian (Peucini Bastarnae) burial from Durankulak Island (Dobrudja), Bulgaria good

Celto-Scythian (Peucini Bastarnae) burial from Durankulak Island (Dobrudja), north-eastern Bulgaria

(2nd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 THE “LAND OF ESUS”

 

 

The main centre of Peucini political and economic power in southern Dobruja (n-e Bulgaria) was concentrated in the territory around the Kavarna/Balchik/Kaliakra area on the Black Sea coast, where we encounter the settlement of Peuce in the Balchik area (IGBulg V, 5011 (terr. Dionysopolis), probably the center/capital of the Peucini kingdom. This is confirmed by the fact that many of the Peucini Bastarnae coins were minted in Dionysopolis/Balchik. Close to Peuce was the settlement of Tirizis/ Τιρίζης, located on cape Kaliakra (Men. Perg., Per. 156; Strabo 7. 6.1) which appears to bear the name of the Celtic deity Esus (Proto-Celtic = *tīrro – land, *tīros- ‘land, earth’ [Noun] – GOlD: OIr. tir [0 n]; W: OW tir, MW tir [m], BRET: MBret tir [m], Co: OCo. tir gl. tellus, Co. tyr; the second element from the Celtic deity Esus (Lucanus, Bellum civile I.445, Marcellus of Bordeaux, De medicamentis 15.106, p. 121), – the name meaning literally ‘the Land of Esus’.

 

Archaeological and numismatic evidence from this area of north-eastern Bulgaria, particularly around the aforementioned Kavarna area, indicates that by the 2nd/1st c. BC the material culture of the Peucini was a mixture of La Têne and Hellenistic cultures (Mac Congail 2008:52), which explains why archaeologists have hitherto been unable to identify a distinct Bastarnae culture.

 Numismatic material from this period is particularly indicative of the geo-political and economic status quo in this region in the period directly before the Roman conquest. Coinage circulating in this area in the 3rd – 1st c. BC, besides issues of the Greek Black Sea colonies, consisted of coinage of the Celtic Tyle state (3rd c. BC) found at the villages of Bozhurets, Septemvrijtsi and Sveti Nikola, again in the Kavarna area, Celtic silver Philip II and III type drachms and tetradrachms, and Zaravetz bronze and lead issues.

 

 

In addition to this highly complex mix of Greek and ‘barbarian’ coinage, during the 2nd / 1st c. BC the Celto-Scythian leaders of the Peucini Bastarnae also issued a limited number of their own coins.

 

 

 

BASTARNAE ROYAL COINAGE

 

So far coinage of six Bastarnae kings in the Dobruja region of southeastern Romania/northeastern Bulgaria have been identified – Kanites, Tanousas, Charaspes, Aelis, Akrosas and Sariakes, and their coins have been found almost exclusively around the West Pontic Greek cities of Istrus, Tomi, Callatis, Dionysopolis and Odessos. They are roughly dated to the 2nd / 1st c. BC and, as with the coinage of the Celtic Tyle state in this region of the previous century, are Hellenistic in nature, in terms of artistic style and iconography. Some of the iconography, notably the obverse Head of beardless Heracles in lion skin, are also similar to the Celtic Tyle coins and, as with the Celtic kings of Tyle before them, the Peucini leaders used the royal title ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ on their coinage.

( On the Coinage of the Celtic Tyle state in this area see: https://www.academia.edu/5420363/THE_TYLE_EXPERIMENT )

 

 

 

AELIS

 

Aeli. 1
a. Obv.: Heads of Dioscuri jugate wearing laureate pilei, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ (r. from above) ΑΙΛΙΟΣ (l. from above). Two horse foreparts jugate, r. (AE; 23 mm; 8.80 g; Kavarna museum (Bulgaria)
b. Obv.: Head of Helios radiate facing. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕ (l. from below) ΑΙΛΙΟΣ (r. from below). Rayed sun. (AE; 17 mm; 4.52 g)

 

 

KANITES

 

Kani. 1

 

a.       Head of Demeter veiled and wearing corn wreath, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ (r., from above) ΚΑΝΙΤΟΥ (l., from above). Torch and corn ear. (AE 24 mm; 11.08 g)

b.      Obv.: Head of Zeus diademed, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕ (r., from above) ΚΑΝΙ (l., from above). Bird on thunderbolt, r. (AE; 22 mm; 9.25)

 

 

TANOUSAS

 

Tano

a.       Obv.: Heads of Demeter and Kore jugate, veiled and wearing corn wreaths, r. Countermark, head of Hermes, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ (r., from above) ΤΑΝΟΥΣΑ (l., from above), ΒΑΚ (below). Two corn ears. (AE; 24 mm; 8.40 g)

b.      Obv.: Heads of Dioscuri jugate wearing laureate pilei, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕ (r., from above) ΤΑΝΟΥ (l., from above), ΒΑΚ (below). Two horse foreparts  jugate, r. (AE; 15 mm; 3.34 g)

 

 

CHARASPES

 

Char.

a.       Obv.: Heads of Dioscuri jugate wearing laureate pilei, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ (r., from above) ΧΑΡΑΣΠΟΥ (l., from above). Bird on thunderbolt, r. (AE; 23 mm; 9.50 g)

b.      Obv.: Head of beardless Heracles in lion skin, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ (r., from above) ΧΑΡΑΣΠΟΥ (l., from above). Corn ear, quiver, bow. (AE; 22 mm; 8.54 g)

 

 

AKROSAS

 

Akr.

a.       Obv.: Heads of Dioscuri jugate wearing laureate pilei, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕ (r., from above) ΑΚΡΟΣΑ (l., from above). Two horse fore-parts jugate, r. (AE; 24 mm; 9.50 g)

b.      Obv.: Heads of Demeter and Kore jugate, veiled and wearing corn wreaths, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕ (r., from above) ΑΚΡΟΣΑ (l., from above). Two corn ears. (AE; 24 mm; 6.22 g)

 

( https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/akrosas-the-king-who-scared-a-monster/ )

 

 

 

 

 

SARIAKES

 

Sari

a.  Obv.: Head of beardless Heracles in lion skin, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ (r., from above) ΣΑΡΙΑΚΟΥ (l., from above). Bow, quiver, thunderbolt (above), corn ear. (AE; 24 mm; 9.25 g)

b.  Obv.: Head of Zeus diademed, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕ (r., from above) ΣΑΡΙΑΚ (l., from above). Bird on thunderbolt, r. (AE; 24 mm; 10.80 g)

( see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/sariakes-the-wheat-king/ )

 

 

 

The fact that these Celto-Scythian kings issued only bronze coinage is significant from a geo-political perspective. The theory of a unitary (Scythian) state in this region during the late Iron Age, based only on a number of lower value (bronze) coins, minted by the Greek Black Sea colonies for these leaders, is logically flawed. The Bastarnae coinage had a mainly symbolic function, and comprised only a small fraction of the overall coin pool in the area during this period, which consisted primarily of Greek and Celtic coinage.

 

 The Bastarnae royal coinage adds an important piece to the puzzle, and increases our understanding of the socio-political and ethnic status quo in this part of south-eastern Europe. The available archaeological, linguistic and numismatic evidence from this region clearly indicates that a unique culture developed between the 3rd and 1st c. BC, based on a symbiotic and prosperous relationship between the barbarian (Celtic, Bastarnae, Getae) tribes, and the Greek Black Sea colonies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

( see also: https://www.academia.edu/4118437/Mediolana_and_the_Zaravetz_Culture )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail