Tag Archive: Bastarnae


 

“Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye, it also includes the inner pictures of the soul ”

(Edvard Munch)

 

 

 

With the defeat of Antigonus Monopthalmus and Demetrius Poliorcetes at Ipsus, vast territories were divided among the three victors…

 

Full Article:

https://www.academia.edu/32535241/METAMORPHOSIS_IN_GOLD_-_On_Posthumous_and_Celto-Scythian_Staters_of_the_Lysimachus_type_in_Crimea_and_the_Pontus_Region

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“…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

 

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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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This article (in: Материалы по Археологии и Истории Античного и Средневекового Крыма Археология, история, нумизматика, сфрагистика иэпиграфика. (Moscow State University) Севастополь Тюмень Нижневартовск 2015. pp. 50-58.) provides an overview of the latest linguistic, numismatic and archaeological evidence pertaining to the expansion of the La Tene culture into the area of modern Ukraine and the North Pontic region from the 3rd century BC onwards. A distinction is observed between the situation in western Ukraine where the process of Celtic migration / colonization is reflected in the archaeological evidence, and further east where the presence of Celtic “warrior bands” / mercenary groups has been identified. Testimony in ancient sources to the emergence of mixed Celto-Scythian populations in this area and their ultimate contribution to the complicated ethnogenesis of the early medieval peoples, including the Slavs, is also discussed.

 

2 - 2 -2-  SETTLEMENT UKRAINE

 

Full Article (in English/pages 50-58):

https://www.academia.edu/24918722/Celto-Scythians_and_Celticization_in_Ukraine_and_the_North_Pontic_Region._In_%D0%9C%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%B0%D0%BB%D1%8B_%D0%BF%D0%BE_%D0%90%D1%80%D1%85%D0%B5%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%B8%D0%B8_%D0%B8_%D0%98%D1%81%D1%82%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%B8_%D0%90%D0%BD%D1%82%D0%B8%D1%87%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE_%D0%B8_%D0%A1%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B4%D0%BD%D0%B5%D0%B2%D0%B5%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE_%D0%9A%D1%80%D1%8B%D0%BC%D0%B0_%D0%90%D1%80%D1%85%D0%B5%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%B8%D1%8F_%D0%B8%D1%81%D1%82%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%8F_%D0%BD%D1%83%D0%BC%D0%B8%D0%B7%D0%BC%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0_%D1%81%D1%84%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B3%D0%B8%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0_%D0%B8%D1%8D%D0%BF%D0%B8%D0%B3%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%84%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0._Moscow_State_University_%D0%A1%D0%B5%D0%B2%D0%B0%D1%81%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%BB%D1%8C_%D0%A2%D1%8E%D0%BC%D0%B5%D0%BD%D1%8C_%D0%9D%D0%B8%D0%B6%D0%BD%D0%B5%D0%B2%D0%B0%D1%80%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%B2%D1%81%D0%BA_2015._pp._50-58._

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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…

 

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/10087747/Bonds_of_Blood_-_On_Inter-Ethnic_Marriage_in_the_Iron_Age

 

 

bonds-illustration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UD: April 2017

 

 

 

Bast intr

 

‘…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.

 

While archaeological/numismatic evidence indicates that the Bastarnae tribes had reached the Danube Delta as early as the second half of the 4th c. BC, they first appear in historical sources in connection with the events of 179 BC as allies of Philip V of Macedonia in his war with Rome (Livy 40:5, 57-58), and remain a constant factor in the history of southeastern Europe for over 500 years. Due to the fact that archaeologists have failed to associate a particular archaeological culture with the Bastarnae, the ethnic origin of this people has hitherto remained shrouded in mystery, with a lack of clarity on whether they were initially of Scythian, Germanic or Celtic origin. However, as illustrated below, a chronological analysis of the ancient sources relating to the Bastarnae in general, and archaeological, numismatic and linguistic evidence from the territory of the Bastarnae Peucini tribe in particular, enables us to finally shed some light on this question.

 

 

1 - a - Bastarnae

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/

 

 

 

pel

Bastarnae ‘Huşi-Vovrieşti type’ tetradrachms from the Celtic settlement at Pelczyska, Poland (2nd c. BC)
https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/02/09/the-celts-in-poland/

 

 

 

 

THE SOURCES

 

Later authors such as Dio Cassius (3rd c. AD – Dio LI.23.3, 24.2) and Zosimus (late 5th/early 6th c. AD – Zosimus I.34) define the Bastarnae as ‘Scythians’, and to a great extent this is true. By the late Roman period the Bastarnae tribes had been living in the region vaguely referred to as ‘Scythia’ for over half a millennium, and mixing with the local tribes (‘mixed marriages are giving them to some extent the vile appearance of the Sarmatians’ – Tac. Ger. 46). Thus, they were by this stage indeed Scythians, in the same way, for example, the Celtic Scordisci in Thrace are referred to in Roman sources as ‘Thracians’, having inhabited the region of Thrace for a number of centuries. However, as with the latter case, geographical situation by no means indicates ethnic origin.

 

 

 

 

1 - a - stranger

Facial Reconstruction of a Celto-Scythian/Bastarnae woman from burial # 9 at the Celtic settlement at Pelczyska (Świętokrzyskie province), Poland

(after Rudnicki, Piasecki 2005)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/barbarian-brides-inter-ethnic-marriage-in-the-iron-age/

 

Burial of a young Bastarnae horseman with La Tene weapons and bear cloak, from Mana (Orhei), 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/

 

 

 

 

 

While sources such as Strabo (early 1st c. AD – see below), and Tacitus (circa 100 AD; Tac. Ger. 43), are often cited to support the view that the Bastarnae were of Germanic origin, in fact a closer analysis of the testimony of both these sources reveals that neither is certain about who the Bastarnae were. While Strabo informs us that the Bastarnae lived mixed with the Thracian and Celtic tribes in Thrace, both north and south of the river, he also admits, ‘I know neither the Bastarnae, nor the Sarmatae nor, in a word, any of the peoples who dwell above the Pontus’ (Strabo VII, 2:4). Tacitus states the following:
Peucini, quos quidam Bastarnas, vocunt sermon cultu, sede ac domiciliis ut Germani agunt’ (Tac. op cit.), i.e. – he informs us not that the Bastarnae were Germani, but that they were ‘similar to the Germani’. In this case one should bear in mind that many of the Celts who migrated into southeastern Europe and Asia-Minor from the end of the 4th c. BC onwards originated from the Belgae group of Celtic tribes (see also ‘Galatia’ article), who are described in ancient sources as being most like the Germani.

The other ancient authors are clear on the ethnic origin of the Bastarnae. The earliest source, Polybius (200-118 BC; XXIV 9,13) refers to them as Celtic (Galatians), while Livy (59 BC – 17 AD) tells us that they had the same customs and spoke the same language as the Celtic Scordisci, and also mentions close military and political ties between the Bastarnae and Scordisci (Livy 40:57). Plutarch (46 – 120 AD; Aem. 9.6) refers to them as ‘Gauls on the Danube who are called Bastarnae’.

 

 

 

 

THE BASTARNAE IN THRACE

 

It was in the wake of the aforementioned events of 179 BC that the Peucini, the southern branch of the Bastarnae, were drawn south of the Danube into Thrace. They were at this stage a powerful military and political force in southeastern Europe, which is illustrated by the enthusiasm that Philip V of Macedonia showed at the prospect of being allied to them:

 ‘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).

 Although Philip’s sudden death meant that the joint attack on Rome by the Macedonians and Bastarnae came to nothing, by this time a large group of the (Peucini) Bastarnae had already migrated into Thrace, and a group of 30,000 of them subsequently settled in Dardania; another larger group of Bastarnae returned eastwards and settled in the area of today’s eastern Bulgaria (Livy 40:58), where Bastarnae kingdoms were established in the Dobruja area. At the beginning of the 1st c. AD Strabo (VII, 3:2) mentions that the ethnic make-up of this area consisted of a complex mix of Thracians, Scythians, Celts and Bastarnae:

the Bastarnae tribes are mingled with the Thracians, more indeed with those beyond the Ister (Danube), but also with those this side. And mingled with them are also the Celtic tribes…”.
A thriving ‘barbarian’ culture emerged in this area (southeastern Romania/northeastern Bulgaria) during the 2nd/ 1st c. BC, based on a symbiotic relationship between these various groups and the Greek Black Sea colonies – a culture which was brought to a brutal end in the mid 1st c. BC by the destructive rampage of the Getic leader Burebista, which also paved the way for the Roman conquest of the Dobruja.

 

 

 

aelis

Bronze issue of the (Peucini) Bastarnae king Aelis (s. Dobruja region, Bulgaria  (180-150 BC).
– Jugate heads of the Dioskouroi right, in wreathed caps / jugate horse heads right; monogram & ΠΕ (for Peucini) below

 

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

 

 

 

 

In summary, an analysis of the ancient sources would appear to indicate that the Bastarnae tribes were initially of Celtic (Belgic) origin. This is confirmed by numismatic, archaeological, and linguistic evidence from the territory of the Bastarnae Peucini tribe in n.e. Bulgaria, s.e. Romania, Moldova and Ukraine. One should also note that the first archaeological/numismatic evidence of the presence of the Bastarnae in s.e. Europe (2nd half of the 4th c. BC) corresponds chronologically with the Celtic migration into the region.

 It would therefore appear, based on the available scientific data, that the elusive Bastarnae tribes were not some mysterious Germanic people who appeared in southeastern Europe during this period, but that they, like the Galatians, were tribes of the Belgae group who migrated into the area during the Celtic expansion at the end of the 4th / beginning of the 3rd c. BC. Scientific evidence from the Dobruja region (loc cit) further indicates that the original Celto-Germanic (Belgic) nature of this culture subsequently underwent a fundamental metamorphosis due to prolonged contact and co-existence with the Hellenistic and Scythian cultures, the resulting fusion of Celtic, Hellenistic and Scythian cultural elements culminating in a unique and distinct Bastarnae ethnicity by the Roman period.

 

In the later Roman period the policy of ethnic engineering further strengthened the Bastarnae presence south of the Danube. Under the Emperor Probus (276-82) 100,000 of them were settled in Thrace (Historia Augusta Probus 18), and shortly afterwards Emperor Diocletian (284-305) carried out another ‘massive’ transfer of the Bastarnae population to the south of the Danube (Eutropius IX.25; see Balkancelts ‘Ethnic Engineering’ article). Thus, the Bastarnae presence on the territory of today’s Bulgaria, already well established since the 2nd c. BC, was further reinforced by the policies of both Probus and Diocletian.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Bastarnae in Ukraine/Crimea:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ETHNIC ENGINEERING IN THE ANCIENT WORLD

UD: Jan. 2017

ethnic

The strategy of Ethnic Engineering – the mass deportation of certain ethnic groups as part of a wider political or military plan – was common in the Ancient World, reaching its peak in the Roman Imperial period.

  The first major example in southeastern Europe is recorded at the end of the 4th c. BC, when it was implemented by the Macedonian leader Kassander in an attempt to halt the southwards advance of the Celtic tribes in the Balkans. As part of this strategy, 20,000 of the Illyrian Autariatae tribe, who had fled into Macedonia in the face of the Celtic advance, were resettled in the Orbelos area (on the modern Greek/Bulgarian border) as military settlers in order to establish a buffer zone protecting Macedonia’s northern border from Celtic expansion (Diodorus Siculus Bibliotheca historica XX. 19.1). A similar strategy was the establishment of the city of Seuthopolis/Sevtopolis on the southern slopes of the Haemus (Balkan) mountains (in today’s south-central Bulgaria), also at the end of the 4th c. BC, where the Thracian Odryssae tribe were installed by the Macedonians in an apparent attempt to defend the strategic Shipka pass.

https://www.academia.edu/4126512/Sevtopolis_and_the_Valley_of_the_Thracian_Kings

 

 

 

A variation of the same policy was implemented by the Macedonian King Philip V in 179 BC. In order to neutralize the Dardanii tribes, traditional Macedonian enemies, Philip struck a deal with the Celtic Scordisci and the Bastarnae, whereby the latter would be resettled in Dardania, thus eliminating the Dardanii threat, and ensuring Bastarnae help for Macedonia’s planned war with Rome (Livy 40:57, 41:19).

 Philip V D.

Philip V Didrachm

 

 

 

The policy of Ethnic Engineering on the Balkans during this period produced mixed results, and rather than solving the problem, it often simply postponed or relocated it. The ethnic buffer zone created to protect Macedonia’s northern border by Kassander later proved counterproductive when the Illyrians actually joined the Celtic tribes in their attack on Macedonia (see https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/06/01/the-thunderbolt/).

The Sevtopolis experiment failed miserably when, in the face of the Celtic advance, the Thracians simply abandoned the city and fled. Philip’s partially successful attempt to resettle the Bastarnae in Dardania produced no long term benefits for Macedonia, and following his death the Bastarnae refused to fight for Philip’s son, Perseus, in his war with Rome.

 

Probably the most tragic experiment in ‘Ethnic Engineering’ in the Hellenistic sphere was undertaken by Attalus I Soter, King of Pergamon, who lured the Celtic Aegosages tribe from Thrace into Asia-Minor in 218 BC with promises of rich land to settle (Poly. Hist. V 78.1). Having crossed into Asia, the Aegosages refused to become involved in the king’s conflict with Seleucus III, and Attalus rapidly abandoned them. Having become an inconvenience, the tribe were subsequently hunted down by the region’s leaders, and finally massacred at Abydas by the Bithynian King Prusias (Poly. Hist. 111 6-7):

‘Prusias, therefore, led an army against them, and after destroying all the men in a pitched battle, put to death all the women and children in their camp, and allowed his soldiers who had taken part in the battle to plunder the baggage’.

(see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/death-of-a-dream-the-aegosages-massacre/)

 

prasias c.

Prusias I Cholus, King of Bithynia (AR Tetradrachm)

 

 

“these are degenerates, a mongrel race …”.

 

The Roman commander Gnaeus Manlius Vulso to his troops during the Galatian campaign

(Livy 38:17)

 

 

Galatia illust

                         Human remains from the Celtic Settlement at Gordium (Galatia)


 

Another variant of this policy was implemented by Gnaeus Manlius Vulso in Galatia in 189 BC, when the Roman general unleashed a campaign of systematic genocide on the local Celtic tribes. This pogrom resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of men, women and children, culminating in the massacres at mount Olympus and Ancyra (see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/the-galatian-genocide/).

Most examples of ‘Ethnic Engineering’, in its various forms, date from the Roman Imperial period. In 26 AD a plan was formulated by Rome for the mass deportation of the troublesome Celtic Artacoi tribe in the Haemus (Balkan) mountains. However, fierce resistance to Rome’s deportation policy meant that, after a bitter struggle in 26 AD, the empire abandoned its attempt to relocate the tribe (see https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/07/01/artacoi-battle-for-the-balkans-26-ad/ ).

In the later Roman period the policy had the long term effect of further complicating the ethnic mix on the Balkans. Under the Emperor Probus (276-82) 100,000 of the (Celto-Scythian) Bastarnae were settled in Thrace (Historia Augusta Probus 18), and shortly afterwards Emperor Diocletian (284-305) carried out another ‘massive’ transfer of the Bastarnae population to the south of the Danube (Eutropius IX.25). Thus, the Bastarnae presence in Thrace, already well established since the 2nd c. BC, was reinforced by the ethnic engineering policies of both Probus and Diocletian. Despite the fact that historians in the region have completely ignored the Bastarnae, such statistics are estimated to represent the majority, if not all, of the Peucini Bastarnae, and leaves no doubt that by the Late Roman period a substantial proportion of the population of the central and eastern Balkans were of Bastarnae origin (see: https://www.academia.edu/4835555/Gallo-Scythians).

Dioc. bust

Bust of Diocletian

(Arkeoloji Müzesi, İstanbul)

 

 

Once set in motion the ultimate consequences of ethnic engineering were highly unpredictable. The catastrophic potential of such a policy is best illustrated by the case of the Roman emperor Valens, who facilitated the movement of the Goths and associated tribes into Thrace at the end of the 4th c. Initially Roman allies, this relationship soon changed radically, largely due to the corruption of the imperial officials  (Jord. xxvi:134), and there followed a sequence of events which would culminate in the ‘barbarians’ turning on the empire, the destruction of the Roman army at Adrianople in 378, and the emperor himself being burned alive (Ammianus XXXI.13).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ud – January 2015

 

 

ard nou 1

 

 

A number of rather strange archaeological discoveries from s.e. Europe over the past few years have thrown new light on the social and cultural relationships between the various ‘barbarian’ peoples who inhabited this region in the pre-Roman period.

 

 One example of this phenomenon was discovered at the late Iron Age 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 mixture specific to Celtic cemeteries in the east and south of the Carpathian Basin (fig. 1)  – 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 pendant, and a bronze Thracian brooch (Rustoiu 2011, 2012) (Fig. 2). The ‘Thracian’ brooch belongs to the IIb variant according to Zirra’s typology and was dated in the first half of the 3rd century BC (Zirra V. (1998) Bemerkungen zu den thraco-getischen Fibeln, Dacia N. S., 40–42, 1996–1998, 29–53).

 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 (Triballi?) 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.

 

 

 

 

Re - Celtcrem

Fig 1- Material from Celtic Cremation burial # 9 from Remetea Mare (Different scales)

(after  Rustoiu 2011- 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)

 

 

 

Re - Th.

Fig 2 – Female Inhumation Burial (#3) from Remetea Mare

(after Rustoiu 2011)

 

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ard nou 2

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) 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)

 

 

 

 

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 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).

 

 

An example of 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; see also ‘Bastarnae’ article).

 

 

FAce o

Skull and facial reconstruction of a Celto-Scythian (Bastarnae) woman found in the Celtic burial complex at Pelczyska, Poland (1st c. BC)

(see:https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/face-of-a-stranger-a-female-burial-from-little-poland/)

 

 

 

 

 

 

BONDS OF BLOOD

 

 

Well recorded in the Hellenistic world, the aforementioned burials from Romania 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 social and political significance.

It is worth noting that these women, although living in an alien cultural 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 in the development of the mixed Celto-Thracian Zaravetz Culture in n.e. Thrace, and military alliances formed between them against Rome during the Scordisci Wars of the late 2nd/1st c. BC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UD: October 2016

 

 

histria-illustration

 

61 BC – Western Pontus (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)

 

 

AKROSAS

 

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)

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UD: March 2017

 

a-a-a-battle

 

“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)

 

 

 

PAX ROMANA

 

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.

 

 

 

The first military encounter between the Balkan Celts and the Roman empire occurred in 156 BC (Obsequens 16), but the extent or location of this clash remains unknown, and it is not until the establishment of the Roman province of Macedonia in 146 BC that this conflict intensifies. In 141 BC a Roman offensive in Thrace was repulsed by the Celts, as was a Scordisci counter-attack on Macedonia (see Kazarov 1919:75 – Кацаров Г. Келти в стара Тракия и Македония СпБАН 18, кл. ист. фил. 10. София 1918, 41 – 80). This resulted in a period of apparent stalemate which was broken in 135 BC when an imperial force defeated the Scordisci in Thrace (M. Cosconius praetor in Thracia cum Scordiscis prospere pugnauit – Livy Periocha LVI).

 

karab-weapons

Military equipment from from the Scordisci burial complex at Karaburma in the Balkan Celtic settlement of Singidunum (today’s Belgrade), Serbia
(3/2 c. BC)

 

anthro-sword-pommel-celtic-scordisci-kupinovo-syrmia-serbia-late-3rd-c-bc

 

kupinovo-hung-sword-style-scabbard-3-c-bc-check

Detail of anthropomorphic decoration on the pommel of an iron sword, and scabbard decorated in the “Hungarian Sword Style”, from the Scordisci burial complex at Kupinovo (Syrmia), Serbia (3rd c. BC)

(after: Drnić I. (2015) Groblje latenske culture/A La Têne Culture Cemetery. Arheološki muzej u Zagrebu, 2015)

 

 

 

In the 20’s of the 2nd c. BC the Scordisci also came under attack from the north. An expansion of the Germanic Cimbri tribe was finally repulsed near the Celtic settlement of Singidunum (Belgrade), and the Cimbri migrated further west (Rankin D. Celts and the Classical World. New York 1987:19). It is likely that it was during these events that the most famous of Scordisci treasures, the Gundestrup cauldron, was looted and carried off by the Cimbri (Bergquist A.K., Taylor T.F. The Origin of the Gundestrup Cauldron, Antiquity, vol. 61, 1987. 10-24).

 

 

                                           THE GUNDESTRUP CAULDRON

(National Museum of Denmark – Copenhagen)

See: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2016/09/06/the-gundestrup-ghosts-hidden-images-in-the-gundestrup-cauldron/

 

zid jew

Celtic (Scordisci) jewelry box with ‘Foxtail’ chain from the Zidovar treasure (Serbia, 2/1 c. BC)

See: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/barbarian-masterpieces-celtic-jewelry-boxes/

 

 

 

It should be borne in mind that all the information that we have at our disposal concerning this conflict comes from the Romans themselves, who tended to be rather selective in what they reported. For example, the victory of Cosconius should logically have led to territorial gains by the Romans in Thrace. However, the victory in 135 BC is followed by an ominous silence in Roman sources which is eloquent in itself. By the time of the next report relating to 119 BC (Kazarov (op cit) puts these attacks in 117 BC) the Celts have pushed all the way to the Aegean coast where the Roman governor Pompeius was killed during an attack on Argos. The Scordisci were finally pushed back by a force commanded by Quaestor Marcus Annius, (SIG 700 Sherk 1 48 R.K. Sherk Rome and the Greek East to the Death of Agustus (1993); CAH 9’32 = Cambridge Ancient History 2nd Edition 1984 -1989) who also succeeded in repulsing a subsequent attack soon afterwards by the Scordisci, in alliance with the Thracian Maidi tribe.

  The participation of the Maidi (the tribe of Spartacus, who would be captured by Rome during a latter phase of this conflict – see below) in the second attack on Macedonia in 119 BC is particularly noteworthy, because it marks the beginning of a new pattern which would continue for the next 100 years of this conflict. While the Thracian Celts continued to be the main element in the resistance to Roman expansion on the Balkans, from this point onwards they are frequently accompanied by other Balkan tribes, notably the Bastarnae, Dardanii, and the Free Thracian tribes (Maidi, Triballi, Denteletes, and Bessi).

 

  In the aftermath of the events of 119 BC, the empire finally seems to have realized the gravity of the barbarian threat. In 115 BC Quintus Fabius Maximus Eburnus, who had been consul in 116 BC, was sent to Macedonia. Eburnus was renowned as a strict authoritarian figure who had sentenced his own son to death for ‘immorality’, and it appears that it was he who drew up the plans for the Roman conquest of Thrace (Valerius Maximus 6.1.5–6; Pseudo-Quintilian, Decl. 3.17; Orosius 5.16.8). As part of this strategy a Roman fortress was established at Heraclea Sintica (at today’s Rupite near Petritch in s.w. Bulgaria) under a commander called Lucullus. This garrison was situated in the strategic Struma river valley, the only practical route for a large military force to move into western Thrace. The culmination of the Roman strategy was the invasion of Thrace in 114 BC by a Roman army led by Gaius Porcius Cato.

 

 

Depiction of a Celtic (Scordisci) chieftain on a sliver/gilt plate from the Jakimovo treasure (Northwestern Bulgaria) II – I c. BC 

 

 

sco good

Inscribed cult relief bearing a dedication to the Celtic tribal God Scordus (Sofia region, Bulgaria 4th – 3rd c. BC) (After Manov 1993)

( See: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/serdiserdica/ )

 

 

 

 

 

THE STRUMA MASSACRES

 

 

‘The cruelest of all the Thracians were the Scordisci…”.

(Florus, Epitome XXXVIIII (The Thracian War) III. 4)

 

struma

 

 

 

The events of 114 BC were to prove catastrophic for the Romans. As mentioned, a Roman fortress was established on the upper Struma river at Heracleae Sintica, and two cohorts of Roman soldiers were stationed there under a commander called Lucullus (Front. Strat. 3,10,7). This fortress was on the border of, or even possibly within, the territory of the Celtic tribes in Thrace, and appears to have been intended as a staging post for further Roman expansion northwards. In 114 BC a Roman army, led by the consul Gaius Porcius Cato, marched along the Struma Valley into Thrace (Liv. Per. 63′a; Flor. 1.39, 1-4; Dio Cass fr. 88’1; Eutrop. 4.24.1; Amm. Marc. 27.4.4). The purpose of this attack appears to have been twofold – to eradicate the barbarian threat to Roman Macedonia, and to expand the empires power into the territory of today’s western Bulgaria.

 

 

 

 The western Rhodope mountains

 

 

This heavily afforested and mountainous area of the western Rhodope mountains is ill suited for the conventional military tactics of an imperial army, but perfect terrain for the surprise attacks and ambush tactics used by the Thracian Celts in this period. It would appear that the Roman consul completely underestimated the situation both in terms of the terrain, and the military potential of his enemy. The invading Roman army was wiped out, and the Celts counterattacked.

After the destruction of Cato’s army the Celts advanced on the Roman garrison at Heracleae Sintica. In light of the fact that a large Roman army had just invaded Thrace it appears that the last thing the garrison was expecting was a Celtic attack. The ensuing events are described by the Roman historian Frontinius (40 – 103 AD) in his work Strategemata (3,19,7):

“Scordisci equites, cum Heracleae diversarum partium praesidio praepositus esset Lucullus, pecora abigere simulantes provocaverunt eruptionem; fugam deinde mentiti sequentem Lucullum in insidias deduxerunt et octingentos cum eo milites occiderunt”.

The attack on Heracleae was marked, not by the headlong barbarian charge often associated with the Celts, but by a much more subtle and successful tactic. A small group of Celtic horsemen were first dispatched and, pretending to drive off the livestock, provoked Lucullus into a fatal error. No sooner had the Roman force emerged from their defenses to hunt down the ‘barbarians’, than the main body of the Celtic cavalry attacked. What followed was less a battle than a massacre, in the aftermath of which the Roman commander and 800 of his soldiers lay dead.

 

In a series of devastating attacks, the Thracian Celts had brought Roman expansion on the Balkans to a brutal halt.

 

 

( See also : https://www.academia.edu/4067834/Bandit_Nation_-_The_Bogolin_Hoard )

 

 

 

Material from the burial Scordisci Cavalry Officer at Montana (N.W. Bulgaria)

(RGZM – Inv. # 0.42301/01-08; late 2nd / 1st c. BC)

 

https://www.academia.edu/26277623/A_CELTIC_SCORDISCI_CAVALRY_OFFICER_FROM_MONTANA_BULGARIA_

See also: https://www.academia.edu/5385798/Scordisci_Swords_from_Northwestern_Bulgaria

 

 

 

 

 QUI VENTUM SEMINAT …

 

 

The Scordisci victories of 114 BC brought a predictable reaction. The Celts were attacked in Thrace in 112 BC by the Consul Livius Drusus (Liv. Per 63′a; Flor. 1.39’5; Dio Cass. fr. 88’1; Festus Brev 9’2; Amm. Marc. 27.4’10), but the real retaliation for the events of 114 BC came three years later. In 109 BC a Roman army entered Thrace commanded by Minucius Rufus and, according to Roman sources (Flor. 1.39.5; Liv. Per. 65′a; Frontin Strat. 2. 4’3; Festus Brev 9’2; Eutrop 4.27’3; Amm. Marc. 27.4’10) and an inscription from Delphi (probably raised by Rufus himself), defeated the Scordisci and the Thracian Bessi tribe.

 

 

 

 Inscription from Delphi mentioning the victory over the Scordisci and Bessi in 109 BC

(Dittenberger SIG 3, 348)

 

 

 It is interesting to note that the campaign of 109 BC was launched, not along the Struma valley where Cato’s army had been destroyed, but along the Maritza (Hebrus) river valley, a route more suitable for a Roman army. Furthermore, this campaign appears not to have been directed at a specific military target, but at the ‘barbarian’ population in general. Thus, while the Scordisci are again mentioned as the focus of the Roman campaign, it was the Thracian Bessi tribe along the Hebrus river who bore the brunt of the Roman attacks. In fact, until this point the Bessi tribe had taken no part in attacks on Roman forces on the Balkans, nor had they played any role in the Celtic campaign against Rome. It would appear that the Thracian tribe simply happened to be ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’.

 

 In terms of Roman expansion in the Balkans, Rufus’ victory in 109 BC did not lead to any territorial gains, and the Roman forces retreated south into Macedonia, indicating again the punitive nature of the campaign. During their homeward march a large part of the Roman army was drowned when the ice on the Hebros (Maritza) river cracked underneath them (Flor. 1.39.5).

 

 In the long term, the events of 109 BC did not significantly affect the geo-political situation in the Balkans. Rome had still not achieved a foothold in Thrace, and the attack on the Bessi tribe had the effect of turning this tribe into one of Rome’s most bitter enemies. In the ensuing conflict the Bessi became one of the most enthusiastic participants in attacks on Roman Macedonia, and continued to resist the Romans in Thrace even after the end of the Scordisci Wars. These events also forged closer links between the Bessi tribe and the Celts in Thrace.

The Roman campaign of 109 BC also appears to have had another long term effect. While encounters in this conflict prior to this had largely been confined to attacks on military targets, in subsequent ‘barbarian’ attacks on Roman occupied areas of the Balkans brutal tactics similar to those used by the Romans along the Hebros valley are recorded.

 The next phase of this war was to be marked by a spiral of atrocities on both sides. If the Roman strategy had been to terrorize the Celtic and Thracian tribes into submission, they had failed miserably. There is a proverb coined by the Romans themselves – ‘Qui ventum seminat, turbinem metet’ (He who sows the wind, will reap the whirlwind). In the decades which followed, the Romans on the Balkans were about to reap the whirlwind.

 

 

 

Celtic Thasos type tetradrachma from central Bulgaria   (1st c. BC).

 

The deteriorating political situation and the growing brutality of the conflict is accompanied by an increasing abstractionist tendency in Celtic art in the region

( https://www.academia.edu/6144182/Celtic_Thasos_Type_Coinage_from_Central_Bulgaria )

 

 

Attacks on Roman Macedonia by the Scordisci and their Thracian allies, notably the Maidi tribe, continued throughout the final years of the 2nd c. BC, and the first decade of the 1st c. BC (St. Jerome, (Hieronymus) 170.1; Obseq. 43; Hieron. Chron. 1917; Flor. XXXVIIII, iii, 4; Cic. Pis. 61; Festus. Brev. 9’2). The militarization of Celtic society in Thrace during this period is evident from the dramatic increase in finds of La Têne weaponry from this period compared to earlier phases. The turbulent events are also reflected in mass ‘war’ burials such as that at Slana Voda, and in the numerous hoards of Hellenistic and Roman ‘plunder coinage’ from Thrace found together with Celtic issues from this period, which bear clear testimony to the ‘barbarian’ attacks on Roman Macedonia and Greece ( see: https://www.academia.edu/4963636/Plunder_Coinage_from_Thrace ).

 

 nw map

Distribution of Celtic weapons in northwestern Bulgaria – 2nd – 1st c. BC (See: https://www.academia.edu/5385798/Scordisci_Swords_from_Northwestern_Bulgaria )

 

 

1 - 1 - -1 - kale KRs

The Balkan Celtic fortress at Krševica near Bujanovac in southern Serbia

 

With the gradual Roman expansion into this region during the late 2nd / 1st century BC, and the resulting war of resistance by the local tribes, Krševica became of particular strategic importance. During this brutal conflict, the fortress was used by the Scordisci Federation, in conjunction with other members of the ‘barbarian coalition’, including the Free Thracian tribes and Dardanians, as a staging-post for frequent attacks/raids on Roman occupied territory to the south.

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/12/06/the-balkan-celtic-fortress-at-krsevica-southern-serbia/

 

 

 

By the beginning of the 1st c. BC the Roman forces on the Balkans were feeling the strain of the apparently endless attacks from the north. In 90 BC the dam finally burst and, confronted by yet another Celtic/Maidi attack, the Roman borders disintegrated (Kazarov op cit.). The events which followed are described by the Roman historian Florus (Epitome of Roman History XXXVIIII, iii, 4). The Celtic tribes, now joined by the Maidi and Denteletes, as well as the Dardanii, swarmed through Macedonia, Thessaly and Dalmatia, even reaching Epirus on the Adriatic coast. According to the Roman historian:

“Throughout their advance they left no cruelty untried, as they vented their fury on their prisoners; they sacrificed to their gods with human blood; they drank out of human skulls; by every kind of insult inflicted by burning and fumigation they made death more foul; they even forced infants from their mother’s wombs by torture”.

 In this litany of evil atrocities committed by their enemies, special mention is reserved by the Romans for the Celts – “The cruelest of all the Thracians were the Scordisci, and to their strength was added cunning as well” (loc cit.).

While much of the above account may be put down to Roman hysteria and exaggeration, it is clear that from 90 BC onwards the empire had lost de facto control over large parts of the Balkans and northern Greece. By 88 BC, i.e. 2 years after the collapse of the Roman borders in Macedonia, the Scordisci and their allies had swept through northern Greece and reached Dodona in Epirus where they, according to Roman accounts, destroyed the temple of Zeus (Kazarov 1919 with relevant lit). How exactly the barbarians ‘destroyed’ a temple which the Romans had already destroyed (by the army of Aemilius Paulus in 167 BC) is unclear. Presumably the Scordisci destroyed what the Greeks had managed to rebuild in the interim period. One of the repeating phenomena during this period is Roman reports of the ‘barbarians’ destroying Greek temples/sacred sites which had already been destroyed and looted by the Romans themselves (see below).

 

 

The Theatre at Dodona

 

 

 

It was not until 3 years later (85 BC) that Sula led a Roman army against the Scordisci and ‘punished’ the barbarians (Granius Licinianus 27-28; Appian Mith. 55 c; Livy Per 83’a). Although the exact nature of this ‘punishment’ is unclear, Florus gives us an account of the fate of those who fell into Roman hands:

 

“Severe cruelties were inflicted upon the captives by fire and sword, but nothing was regarded by the barbarians as more horrible than they should be left with their hands cut off and forced to survive”. (Flor. XXXVIIII, iii,4)

 

 

Bust of Sulla in the Munich Glyptothek

 

 

 

Instead of containing the situation, Sulla’s campaign produced the same vicious reaction as Minucius Rufo’s had in the previous century. No sooner had Sula left for Asia, than the Celts and their allies stormed south once more. Overrunning the southern Balkans and northern Greece, they swept through the Peloponnese. By the winter of 85/85 BC they had reached Delphi where, two centuries after Brennos’ army, they once more ‘destroyed’ the most sacred of Greek religious sites. (Plut. Num. 9; App. Illy. 5; Eusub. II; Eutrop. V, 7,1; Plut. Sula 23).

 

 

Temple of Apollo at Delphi

 

 

 

 

At the end of the 80’s of the 1st c. BC the central Balkans again became the focus of large scale Roman military action. Presenting themselves as protector of the Greeks, the Romans launched yet another campaign to ‘punish’ the barbarians, this time for the sacrilege at Delphi (although again the temple had been plundered by Sula’s Roman forces long before the barbarians got there). The campaign of 81 BC, led by Cornelius Scipio (App. Ill. 5 a-b) appears, like those of Minucius Rufo and Sula in 114 and 85 BC, to have been punitive in nature and, like the previous ones, had no real long term geo-political effect.

 

 

1 - 1 - 1 - DRUIDS 1

1 - 1 - 1 - DRUIDS 2

1 - 1 - 1 - DRUIDS 3

The Druids Cave – Part of a large hoard of Celtic (Scordisci) material (14 sets of weapons, harness gear, jewellery… ) discovered in a cave on the Juhor Mountain in central Serbia.

 

 

 

 

 

COME INTO MY PARLOUR … 

 

 Five years after Scipio’s campaign Rome once more attempted a large scale invasion of Thrace. In 76 BC Appius Claudius Pulcher, who had been governor in Macedonia since the previous year, led a large Roman army against the Celts in southwestern Thrace. (Liv. Epit. XCI; Flor. II, 39.6; Eutrop. VI,2; Oros. V 23.19; Amm. Marc. XXVII, 4.10) It should be noted that in this case the term Scordisci is applied by the Romans to the tribes of today’s southwestern Bulgaria who lived in the Rila/Rhodope mountains area. This once again clearly illustrates that the term was used by the Romans to refer to all the Celts of Thrace, whether in today’s Serbia, northern Bulgaria or, as in the present case, southwestern Bulgaria. Thus, the tribes targeted by Pulcher’s army were the same ones who had destroyed the army of Porcius Cato, and massacred the Roman garrison at Heraclea Sintica, in 114 BC.

 

 The Celtic tactics in 76 BC, however, were very different to those which had been employed 40 years earlier. Instead of engaging in a full-scale military confrontation with what was probably a superior military force, the Scordisci employed a more subtle course of action. Pulcher’s force encountered no major resistance as they advanced into the Thracian mountains. However, as Cato’s army had learned in the previous century, entering the Rhodope mountains was one thing – getting out again was a completely different story.

 

 A prolonged and vicious conflict developed in the mountains of Thrace between the Romans and the local population. Roman sources speak of a series of ‘small battles’ and ‘skirmishes’ which are consistent with a guerilla campaign in which the Celts, familiar with the terrain, gradually wore down the Roman force. This conflict, which is reminiscent of the Roman campaign in northern Britain in the 2nd c. AD, finally took its toll, not only on the Roman army, but on its commander. After months of illness and military failure, Pulcher himself died, and the remains of the Roman army once more withdrew from western Thrace.

 

 

Celtic Strymon/Trident coin from s.w. Thrace (late 2nd/ 1st c. BC)

( See: https://www.academia.edu/6355583/Celtic_Strymon_Trident_Coinage )

 

 

 

Despite the latest failure in the Rhodope mountains, Rome was gradually making advances in other parts of Thrace. During the campaigns of Cnaeus Scribonius Curio in w. Thrace from 75 BC the Romans finally penetrated the Struma valley and reached the Danube (Liv. Per. 92’a; Front. Strat. 4.1’43; Flor. 1,39’6; Festus Brev. 3’2, 7’5; Eutrop. 6.2’2). During the Curio campaign large numbers of the native population were enslaved by the Romans, one of whom was a chieftain of the Maidi tribe – Spartacus. In this case, however, it appears that Rome had taken the vipers to her bed. In 73 BC a number of Thracian and Celtic slaves, led by Spartacus and the Celt Crixus, rose against the empire in a rebellion that would shake the very foundations of Rome. (Cic. Att. 6.2’8; Sall: Hist. 3’60-61; Liv. Per. 92’a; Vell. 2.30’5; Tac. Ann. 15’46; Plut. Crass. 8, 1-3; Flor. 2.8’3; Appian B. Civ. 116’a-b; Eutrop. 6. 7’2; August De Civ. 3.26’b, 5.22’a; Oros. 5.24’1)

 In Thrace itself, however, Curio’s campaign, and that of Lucullus in 72/71 BC in eastern Thrace, in which the latter conquered the Pontic cities and the central Thracian Valley, meant that the local tribes were now fighting an increasingly defensive war. Ironically, in the decades which followed it would not be Roman military force alone which would finally achieve the conquest of Thrace but, as with so often in Balkan history, treachery from within.

 

 

 

 

THE DACIAN DISASTER

 

For over 100 years the unity of the Balkan peoples – Thracians, Celts, Dardanii and Bastarnae – had held back the tide of Roman expansion in southeastern Europe. In the mid 1st c. BC this unity was torn asunder by the greed and ambition of one of these tribes, who unleashed an orgy of violence and destruction on its neighbors which would create the conditions for final conquest that Rome herself had failed to achieve.

 

 The Thracian Getae tribe who inhabited the area of today’s s.e. Romania and n.e. Bulgaria had been one of the main components in the barbarian resistance to Rome from the 2nd c. BC onwards. In 61 BC they were again part of the force which, led by the Bastarnae, delivered a humiliating defeat on the Roman army of G. Antonius Hybrida (‘The Monster’) at the Battle of Histria (Dio Cass. 38. 10. 1-3; Liv. Per. 103’b; Obseq. 61’a; see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/akrosas-the-king-who-scared-a-monster/).

 

 However, after Histria the relationship between the Getae (referred to in Roman sources by the geographical term ‘Dacians’) and their neighbors changed radically. From 60/59 BC the Getae tribe, under a leader called Burebista, who was apparently guided by a wizard called Deceneus, launched a series of brutal attacks on their former allies. The territory of the Celtic Boii and Taurisci in the west and the Scordisci in Thrace were laid waste and Burebista also ‘conquered’ the territory of his recent allies the Bastarnae in Dobruja, as well as the largely defenceless western Greek Pontic cities (Strabo 7.3.5, 7.3.11, 16.2.39;  Jordanes Getica 67; Suetonius, Caesar 44.6). Towns such as Olbia, Histros and Mesambria which resisted him were destroyed. Burebista subsequently declared himself ‘King of all Thrace’ as attested to by the Dionysopolis decree (ψήφισμα) (lines 22–23; dated to June-August 48 BC -Mihailov, IGBulg I2, 13 = V, 5006; Dittenberger, Sylloge inscriptionum Graecarum, II, 762).

  

In his quest for personal power, the brutality of Burebista’s attacks on his neighbors had reached genocidal proportions (Strabo VII 3:2, 11). For example, the territory of the Boii tribe after Burebista’s expansion was known as the deserta Boiorum (deserta meaning ’empty or sparsely populated lands’). The period of Burebista’s attacks also coincides with the end of local (Celtic and Bastarnae) coin production in this area, indicating that the economic and cultural status quo in the area was fatally disrupted during this period. Archaeological data from today’s southern Dobruja region also indicates the nature of Burebista’s ‘Dacian’ expansion. Of 70 late Iron Age settlements in today’s northeastern Bulgaria, only 29 survived into the Roman period and even at those there is no certainty of continuous habitation (Torbatov S. The Getae in Southern Dobruja in the Period of the Roman Domination: Archaeological Aspects. In: Actes 2é Symposium International Des Etudes Thraciennes, Komotini 1997. P. 512-51).

 

 

   From a geo-political perspective, Burebista had destroyed the unity of the native population and severely weakened the very tribes who had for so long constituted the main opposition to Roman expansion. By the end of his reign the ‘Great Dacian King’ had created optimum conditions for Rome to complete her conquest of southeastern Europe – including Dacia itself.

   In the 40’s of the 1st c. BC the fortunes of the Getae turned. Supporting Pompey in the Roman civil war, Burebista became the target for the victorius Caesar (Strabo VII:3.5). However, before the Romans could reach them the Getae became the subject of revenge attacks from their old allies, particularly the Bastarnae. In 44 BC Burebista was murdered by his own people and, in the face of repeated Bastarnae attacks, the Getae turned for help to their only remaining ‘friend’ in the region – Rome.

 

   As Roman expansion in Thrace gathered pace, the Bastarnae crossed the Danube in 29 BC to come to the aid of the Scordisci tribes in today’s northwestern Bulgaria. The Roman forces, led by the proconsul of Macedonia M. Licinius Crasus, and helped by the Getic king Roles, defeated the Bastarnae and forced them back across the Danube. Roman sources tell us that the Bastarnae were ‘destroyed’ by Crassus (Dio Cass. 51,25-27), but, as with so often in Roman accounts, this is a gross exaggeration. In fact, the Bastarnae would continue to be a major thorn in Rome’s side for centuries, and an enthusiastic participant in every major ‘barbarian’ attack on Roman Dacia and Thrace right up to the collapse of the empire.

 

 

 

 

TWILIGHT

 

  Crassus’ campaign of 29 BC and a subsequent one the following year in which he ‘punished’ the Scordisci tribes of northwestern Bulgaria (the Serdi, Meldi and Artacoi) (Dio Cass. 51. 26-27), marked a watershed in the history of Thrace. Soon afterwards a Thracian puppet government, drawn from members of the Odrysae tribe who had collaborated with Rome (loc cit), was installed to preside over the Romanization of Thrace. This so-called Sapaioi dynasty had little or no popular support in Thrace and Roman armies had to repeatedly intervene to save the new Thracian ‘kings’ from their own people.

 (On the Odrysae Puppet Kings : https://www.academia.edu/4126512/Sevtopolis_and_the_Valley_of_the_Thracian_Kings )

 

 

 

Bronze issue of the Thracian ‘King’ Rhoemetalkes.

Laureate head of Caligula left / diademed & draped bust of Rhoemetalkes III left

see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/the-thracian-puppet-kings/

 

 

 

 In the final decades of the 1st c. BC the Roman conquest of Thrace, after almost exactly 150 years of resistance by the native tribes, had finally been achieved. Or had it ?

 

Before the dust settled on Roman Thrace there was one more surprise in store for the empire.  In 16 BC, as the new imperial order was gradually being imposed, Celtic tribes swooped from the Thracian mountains, swarmed into Macedonia, and laid waste to the Roman province once again (Dio Cass. 54.20). This attack, which can only have come from the Celts of the Rhodope area of today’s southwestern Bulgaria, was a brutal reminder to Rome that although the cities and plains may have been ‘civilized’, in the mountains of central and western Thrace the ‘wolves’ still roamed…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SHIELDS

Mac Congail

 

 

“One must have evidence, because knowledge is not mere true belief”.

 

(Butcharov. The Concept of Knowledge)

 

 

 

Perhaps the most iconic of Celtic Iron Age weapons, in its classic form the Celtic shield consisted of an ovoid shield board with a long, spindle-shaped umbo with a spine extending vertically along the shield board. Both Greek and Roman art depicted the oval shield with the spindle boss as an identifying feature of the ‘barbarian’ Celt’s shield (see ‘Shield Coins’ article). Since the main components of these shields are organic, surviving archaeological evidence is limited.

Such shields are known from approximately the 6th century BC to the early centuries AD through artwork, scattered remains of fittings, and in a few rare instances, wholly preserved shields, such as those from the site of La Têne itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The earliest evidence for Celtic shields on the territory of today’s Bulgaria dates to the second half of the 4th c. BC when warriors on the friezes of the Kazanlak / Seuthopolis tomb are depicted with the distinctive oval Celtic shields (Domaradski 1984, Mac Congail 2008, Emilov 2010). Celtic presence in this area at this early stage is confirmed by La Têne B artifacts from the villages of Ivanski, Malomir, Sveschtari (Dom. 1984:134, 138; Mac Congail 2010:51) and from the Schumen/Veliko Tarnovo areas (see ‘New Material 1 + 2’ articles). Depictions of Celtic oval shields also appear on a number of coins minted by the Celtic ‘Tyle’ state in eastern Thrace in the 3rd c. BC (See ‘Shield Coins’ article).

  Such shields have been registered in eastern Bulgaria at sites such as Kamburovo (Targovischte region – Novo Mesto 169 type) (Domaradski 1984; Emilov 2010), the Celtic warrior burials at Kalnovo (Schumen region) (Atananassov 1992; Megaw 2004), and in the chieftains burials at Sashova and Fomus tumuli near the Shipka pass (Manov 2010). Further La Têne shields, but dating to the Roman period, have been found at the Taja site, to the west of Sevtopolis (See below).

 

  As with finds of La Têne swords, scabbards, chainmail etc., the majority of Celtic shields found in Bulgaria have been discovered in the west of the country. At Gorna Malina in the Sofia region a Celtic shield of the Karaburma type has been registered (Emilov 2010). Also from the Gorna Malina area (Bailovo) comes the earliest Celtic sword from Bulgaria, which dates to the La Têne B2 period (see ‘Sacrificial daggers, Swords and Settlements’ article). To the southwest of the Bulgarian capital an oval Celtic shield was found in 1989 in a burial at Dolna Koznitza (Pernik region) which had been disturbed by ‘treasure hunters’. Associated with this Celtic shield was an inscribed Macedonian shield, suggesting that the burial is related to the first phase of Celtic expansion into the area at the end of the 4th / beginning of the 3rd c. BC. (Manov, Staikova 1992).

  Also noteworthy from the aforementioned Dolna Koznitza site is a bronze frontlet and other artifacts executed in the distinctive Celtic Plastic style common from the 4th c. BC. The frontlet with a 3 dimensional head above opposing rams heads, as with other Celtic works of art from this period found in Bulgaria, such as the Mezek chariot attachments or the golden Janus heads from Schumen, conforms exactly to the definition of this Celtic art style – ‘protruding, non-representational relief ornament cast in bronze and demonstrating a particular type of abstraction of human and animal heads’ (Megaw 2001: 139, 140-141,144).

 

 

 

Celtic Bronze frontlet from Dolna Koznitza (Pernik region, Bulgaria)

 

 

 

NORTHWESTERN BULGARIA

 

 

As with the majority of La Têne material dating to the II – I c. BC, it is northwestern Bulgaria which has yielded the majority of finds of Celtic shields. Novo Mesto 169 type shields have been found at Koynare (Pleven reg.) and at Smochan and Dojrentsi in the Lovech region (Emilov 2010; on other Celtic material from these sites see ‘Sacrificial daggers, Swords and Settlements’ and ‘Chainmail’ articles) In the Montana/Vratza regions Celtic shields (umbos), all accompanied by La Têne D swords of the Belgrad 3/Mokronog 5-6 type (Torbov 1997, 2000), and other La Têne material consistent with similar Scordisci burials across the border in Serbia, have been recorded at Kriva Bara (Montana region), where the recent publication of La Têne ceramic confirms Celtic settlement until at least the 1st c. AD (Vagalinski 2007), as well as at Dobruscha, Varbeschnitza, Galiche and Tarnava in the Vratza region (Torbov op cit).

 Particularly interesting is the Germanic (Bastarnae) influence in the construction of the Tarnova shield (Domaradski 1984: 144), which may relate this burial to the battles between the Roman forces of Crassus and his ‘Dacian’ allies and the Bastarnae/Scordisci in 29/28 BC. The presence of the Bastarnae in this area of northern Bulgaria is also confirmed by other archaeological evidence (e.g. from the Panagurischte Kolonii site – see  ‘Sacrificial daggers, Swords and Settlements’ article), topographical traces (see  ‘Celtic Settlements in Northern Bulgaria’ article), as well as extensive finds of Bastarnae coins of the Huşi Vovrieşti type found in north-central and north-western Bulgaria (See Numismatics section, and Mikolajczyk 1984). Thus, while the majorty of Celtic material from this part of Bulgaria is connected to the Scordisci tribes (Serdi, Meldi, Artacoi), some of it, such as the Tarnova burial, may be associated with the Celto-Germanic Bastarnae tribes (see Bastarnae article).

    Besides the aforementioned burials, Celtic Novo Mesto 169 type shields are also depicted on the silver Scordisci treasures from Galiche and Jakimovo (Emilov op. cit.). At the latter site recent publication of La Têne ceramic, similar to that found at Kriva Bara and underneath the Roman Castra Martis at Kula in the Montana region, confirms Celtic settlement at that site until at least the 1st c. AD. (Vagalinski 2007). The Scordisci treasures from Jakimovo and Galiche will be dealt with separately.

 

 

 

 

Depiction of a Celtic (Scordisci) chieftain on a sliver/gilt plate from the Jakimovo treasure (Northwestern Bulgaria) II – I c. BC

 

 

 

TAJA

 

 The latest Celtic shields found on the territory of today’s Bulgaria have been discovered at the Atanasza site near the village of Taja in the Balkan mountains. Celtic presence in this area of the central Balkans from the 3rd c. BC until the 3rd / 4th c. AD is testified to by a large amount of Celtic material from the Sevtopolis/Kazanlak area, as well as from the villages of Kran, Dolno Sahrane, and from the Shipka Pass area to the northwest of Sevtopolis (e.g. Sashova and Fomus tumuli) (Manov 2010). This material is to be related to the Celtic Artacoi tribe who inhabited this area from the late Iron Age until the Early Christian period (see Artacoi article – forthcoming).

 

 At the Taja site two La Têne shield umbos were found in ‘rich’ warrior burials (Tumulus # 3, burial # 1 + 3; other burials yielded typically only ceramic or ceramic and a single spearhead). The shield umbo from burial # 3 was associated with a Middle La Têne sword and scabbard (Group B according to De Navarro’s classification) (Domaradski 1993), while the shield itself is characteristic for the La Têne D period, similar to the aforementioned examples from northwestern Bulgaria. Associated ceramic dates this burial to the 1st / 2nd c. AD. Burial # 1 yielded a further La Têne iron shield umbo, as well as a La Têne sword and accompanying scabbard of the Noric tradition (Werner 1977; Domaradski op cit.). Both the Celtic sword and shield show modifications based on Roman models of the 1st / 2nd c. AD, while the burial itself dates to the late 2nd / 3rd c. AD (Domaradski op cit). Weaponry and other material from the site were killed in the distinctive Celtic fashion, a custom also to be observed in this area at Celtic burials from Sevtopolis, and at sites such as Skalsko and Chervenvruh (see ‘Killing the Objects’ article) from the 3rd c. BC until the Early Christan period (3rd / 4th c. AD).

 Settlement at the Taja site began not earlier than the late 2nd / 1st c. BC, i.e. within the framework of the Scordisci Wars, and the movement of a Celtic population into this mountainous area during this period is to be related to the Roman advance into western Thrace. Two separate Roman campaigns were undertaken against the Celtic Artacoi tribe in this area, in 29/28 BC by Crassus and in 23/24 AD by Sabinius (see ‘Artacoi’ article – forthcoming), but archaeological evidence from the central Balkan mountains of Bulgaria indicates the survival of a Celtic population in this area into the Early Christian period.

 

 

 

Map Sh. 1

Distribution of Recorded Celtic Shields in N.W. Bulgaria

 

 

* Provisional (April 2012). Map includes only La Têne weaponry, other Celtic material from this area will be dealt with separately

** Celtic coinage does not include Celtic Paeonia issues or Bastarnae coins

 

 

 

 

 

Literature

 

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Christov Iv., Rock Sanctuaries of Mountain Thrace. V. Tarnovo. 1999

Домарадски М. (1984) Келтите на Балканския полуостров. София.

Домарадски М., Могилен Некропол в м. Атанасца при с. Тъжа, In: Първи Международен Симпозиум “Севтополис”, Надгробните Могили в Югоизточна Европа. Казанлък, 4-8 юни 1993 г., Pp. 267 – 306.

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Торбов Н. (2000) Мечове от III- I в. пр. Хр. открити в сиверосападна България. In: Исвестия на музеите в сиверосападна България. т. 28. 2000.

Torbov N. (2005) Curved Thracian Knives from North-Western Bulgaria, in: Heros Hephaistos, Studia in Honorem Liubae Ognenova – Marinova. Veliko Tarnovo, 2005. P. 358 – 367

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