Tag Archive: Bastarnae Moldova


 

 

“…the Bastarnæ, the bravest nation of all”.


(Appianus, Mithridatic Wars 10:69)

 

 

 

The most enigmatic ‘barbarian’ people to appear in southeastern Europe in the late Iron Age are undoubtedly the Bastarnae (Βαστάρναι / Βαστέρναι) tribes.

 

 

FULL ARTICLE:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/who-were-the-bastarnae-2/

 

 

 

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b-claw-warrior

 

 

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

(Plut. Aem. 9.6)

 

 

 

Discovered by locals in 2011 near the village of Mana (Orhei district) in Moldova, and subsequently investigated by archaeologists, the Mana III burial represents a unique archaeological find from this part of Moldova and provides invaluable information on the Celtic/Celto-Scythian population which inhabited this part of Europe in the immediate pre-Roman period.

 

location

Location of Mana

 

 

 

The cremated remains of the deceased had been placed in a bronze vessel, and subsequent forensic analysis of the remains from the burial pit (58×63 cm; depth 78 cm) established that the body was that of a boy warrior, aged between 14-16 years old. During the cremation process the body had been subjected to temperatures reaching 900 degrees C.

 

burning

(Illustrations after Tentiuc I., Bubulici V., Simalcsik A. (2015) A cremation burial of a horseman near the village of Mana (the Orhei district) (Un mormânt de incineraţie al unui călăreţ războinic descoperit lângă satul Mana (Orhei). In: Tyragetia. Archeologie Istorie Antică, Vol. IX [XXIV] nr. , pp. 221-248. Chişnău 2015)

 

 

 

“… 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)

 

 

Besides the aforementioned bronze situla in which the cremated remains were placed, burial goods in the pit included a ceramic bowl of a type specific to the so-called Poieneşti-Lucaşeuca culture associated with the Celto-Scythian Bastarnae tribes, an iron spiral bracelet and military equipment consisting of a La Tène iron sword/scabbard, spearhead, shield umbo and spurs. Noteworthy is the fact that the La Tène weapons were all ritually ‘killed’, i.e. bent or otherwise deliberately deformed in the well documented Celtic fashion, indicating that although the Bastarnae tribes had become a complex mix of Celtic and Scythian cultures by the late Iron Age, their material culture and religious rites remained strongly Celtic in nature (Tentiuc et al 2015).

 

spearh

Ritually killed spearhead from the Mana III burial

 

sword

Iron Sword from the Mana III Burial

 

 

 

 

The Bear Claw Cloak

 

According to forensic evidence, the boy warrior had been dressed in a bear hide worn as a cloak which was also incinerated during the subsequent cremation process. This was confirmed by the presence of ten bones among the remains which have been identified, taxonomically and anatomically, as distal/terminal phalanges (corresponding to claw) of a mature bear – Ursus arctos. The presence of only two claws indicates that the bear hide had been used as a cloak (loc cit).

 

bear

Cremated remains of the Bear Claws from the Mana Burial

 

 

 

 

‘…the Bastarnæ, the bravest nation of all’.
(Appianus, Mithridatic Wars 10:69)

 

Although the exact circumstances in which the boy warrior from Mana met his fate will probably never be known, the chronological context in which he was buried (first half of the first century BC) suggests a number of possibilities. During the Mithridatic Wars the Balkan Celts and Bastarnae supported the Pontic leader against Rome (App. Mith.: 69, 111; Justin. 38: 3, Memn. 27: 7; McGing 1986: 61; see Choref, Mac Gonagle 2015). At the Battle of Chalcedon, for example, the Bastarnae dealt a severe blow to the Romans – “In the land battle the Bastarnae routed the Italians, and slaughtered them” (App. Mith. 71; Memn. 27:7), and the Celto-Scythian tribes remained loyal to Mithridates until his final defeat in 63 BC.

Even after the end of the Mithridatic Wars, the Balkan Celts and Bastarnae continued to resist Roman expansion on the Lower Danube and Pontic region. In 61 BC a “barbarian” coalition, led by the Bastarnae, dealt a spectacular defeat to the Roman army of Gaius Antonius Hybrida (“the Monster”) at the Battle of Histria (Choref, Mac Gonagle op cit.). Besides the conflict with Rome, there exists the possibility that the Mana warrior fell defending his people against the Thracian Getae tribe who, under their leader Burebista, launched a genocidal campaign against their neighbors (Celtic, Greek and Bastarnae) towards the mid 1st century BC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Bastarnae see also Choref/Mac Gonagle 2015:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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