Tag Archive: Celtic bronze coins


“One must have evidence, because knowledge is not mere true belief”.
(Butcharov. The Concept of Knowledge)
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THE MATERIAL EVIDENCE
A number of factors should be borne in mind when dealing with the coin collections from Bulgarian museums. Since the early 1990‟s attempts have been made by a number of Bulgarian and international experts to get access to information on the coin collections in the various museums around Bulgaria, and publish a comprehensive account of the information contained within…
FULL ARTICLE:
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New Bitmap Image 1 PAUNOV

 

 

Full text of the magnificent work of Dr. Evgeni Paunov of Cardiff University – From Koine to Romanitas: The numismatic evidence for Roman expansion and settlement in Bulgaria in Antiquity (Moesia and Thrace, ca. 146 BC – AD 98/117) – an overview of all the available ancient numismatic evidence from the territory of modern Bulgaria relating to the period between the 2nd century BC and 2nd century AD.

 

Besides an expansive study on all ancient coinage from this region pertaining to the period in question, for the first time since the Communist Period numismatic material relating to the later Celtic presence/settlement in Bulgaria  (2-1 century BC) is also presented in a comprehensive and objective manner:

 

 

 

Full Text:

https://www.academia.edu/11938672/From_Koine_to_Romanitas_The_numismatic_evidence_for_Roman_expansion_and_settlement_in_Bulgaria_in_Antiquity_Moesia_and_Thrace_ca._146_BC_AD_98_117_

 

 

 

New Bitmap Image 1 PAUNOV 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S-T hoards dist map

 

The recent publication of Volume V of the wonderful CCCHBulg (Coin Collections and Coin Hoards from Bulgaria) series has provided further valuable archaeological evidence of Celtic settlement in southwestern Bulgaria in the immediate pre-Roman period. Particularly interesting among the published ancient coinage…
Full Text:

https://www.academia.edu/16198777/Patalenitsa_II_-_Another_Celtic_Strymon_Trident_Hoard_from_Southwestern_Bulgaria

 

 

 

 

Overal Map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UD: December 2016

 

 

Rennes Region (Bretagne). Gold Stater (7.72 g) struck c. 2nd century BC.

 

 

One of the most iconic symbols on Celtic coinage, the oval shield appears either alone or as a central element in the artistic composition on Celtic coins (and other artifacts) across Europe and Asia-Minor in the 3-1 century BC period, as well as being represented on numerous Greek and Roman images depicting Celtic military equipment.

 

 

deio br.

Kings Of Galatia, Deiotaros I (c. 62-40 BC) AE. Obverse: Laureate head of Zeus right. Reverse: Large monogram and Celtic oval shield

 

 

tascio reverse.

Mounted warrior with oval shield on the reverse of a silver issue of Tasciovanus – King of the Catuvellauni tribe in southern England (25-10 BC)

 

carnyx gold stater caesar 48 bc

Celtic military equipment, including oval shield and carnyx, represented on the reverse of a Roman gold stater (c. 48 BC)

 

 

The fact that oval shields are depicted with such frequency by both the Celts themselves and their enemies, in such a broad spatial and temporal context, logically indicates that they had a political and cultural significance that went beyond their purely military function, i.e. also served as a symbol of political authority and power.

 

Rennes Region (Bretagne). Gold Stater (7.72 g) struck c. 2nd century BC.

Mounted Goddess with oval shield depicted on the reverse of a Celtic gold stater from the Rennes Region, Brittany (2nd century BC)

 

 

 

 

Among the Balkan Celts oval shields first appear on coinage of the ‘Tyle’ state in today’s eastern Bulgaria in the mid 3rd century BC, and are to be found on both tetradrachms and bronze issues of the Celtic kings of Thrace during this period.

 

kav. bronze

Bronze issue of the Celtic king Cavaros with oval shield on the reverse – minted at Arkovna (Varna reg.), Bulgaria (2nd half of the 3rd c. BC)

https://www.academia.edu/5420363/THE_TYLE_EXPERIMENT

 

 

 

a - kerseb

Reverse of a tetradrachm of Kersebaul, one of the Celtic kings of the ‘Tyle’ state in today’s eastern Bulgaria (mid 3rd c. BC)

https://www.academia.edu/9763573/BIRTH_OF_THE_ICON_-_The_Development_of_Celtic_Abstract_Iconic_Art_in_Thrace_3-1_c._BC_

 

 

 

 

Also noteworthy in this context are the Celtic shield coins minted by the Greek city of Mesembria (modern Nesebar) on the Black Sea coast during this period. These coins, which feature a helmet on the obverse and a Celtic oval shield on the reverse (viewed from within; Price 1991, Karaytov 2000, Mac Gonagle 2013) illustrate the influence of the Celtic state on the Greek Black Sea colonies during the 3rd c. BC – a phenomenon also testified to by archaeological evidence, and confirmed in ancient sources (Lazarov 2010, Manov 2010, Mac Gonagle 2013).

 

mess shield

Bronze Mesembria Celtic Shield Issue (last quarter of the 3rd c. BC)
(After Karaytov 2000)

 

 
Also connected to the Tyle state are the Apros Celtic shield coins minted in today’s European Turkey in the second half of the 3rd century BC, which provide further archaeological evidence, again confirmed in ancient sources, that the area of south-eastern Thrace, including the immediate environs of Byzantium, was under Celtic control during this period (Manov 2010, Lazarov 2010, Mac Gonagle 2013). Exactly which tribe minted the Apros coins remains unclear, but one possibility is that that they were produced by the Aegosages tribe prior to their migration into Asia-Minor in the summer of 218 BC.

 

 

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Bronze Celtic shield coins minted at Apros (After Draganov 2001)
(Apros was located either at present-day Kestridge or further west near present-day Kermian, both in European Turkey above the Thracian Chersones and on the route of the later Via Egnatia)
On the Aegosages tribe see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/death-of-a-dream-the-aegosages-massacre/

 

 

 

mondragon-vaucluse-late-iie-siecle-av-j-c-begin-ier-siecle-av-j-c-sagum-oval-shield-right-hand-torc

Statue of a Celtic chieftain wearing a sagum, and holding an oval shield and torc  – from Mondragon (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur), France

(late 2nd / early 1st c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

Dimitrov K. (2010) Celts, Greeks and Thracians in Thrace During the Third Century BC. Interactions in History and Culture. In: In Search of Celtic Tylis in Thrace (III c BC). Sofia 2010. P. 51- 66
Draganov D. (2001) Coins of the Unknown Mint of Apros in Thrace. НСФ 8, 1-2, 25-31.
Kарайтов И. (1996) Месамбрия и келтският цар Кавар. In: More 4, 9-10, 10-14; Kарайтов И. (2000) Месамбрия и владитетелите на крайбрежна Тракия (според нумизматични данни) – INMB 3, 66-81
Карайтов И. (2000) Месамбрия и владетилите на крайбрежна тракия според нумизтични данни. Известия на Народния Музий Бургас. Том 3, 2000. 66- 82
Lazarov L. (2010) The Celtic State In the Time of Cavaros. In: In Search of Celtic Tylis in Thrace (III c BC). Sofia 2010. P. 97-113
Mac Gonagle B. (2013) https://www.academia.edu/5420363/THE_TYLE_EXPERIMENT
Manov M. (2010) In Search of Tyle (Tylis). Problems of Localization. In: In Search of Celtic Tylis in Thrace (III c BC). Sofia 2010. P. 89 – 96
Price M. J. (1991) The Coinage in the Name of Alexander the Great and Philip Arhideus. A British Museum Catalog, vol. 1, Zurich-London.
Topalov S. (2001) Contributions to the Study of the Coinage and History In the Lands of Eastern Thrace from the end of the 4th c. BC to the end of the 3rd c. BC. Sofia 2001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

strtri in

 

Celtic Strymon/Trident Coinage:

https://www.academia.edu/6355583/Celtic_Strymon_Trident_Coinage

 

 

 

3 map Fin.

 

 

 

 

 

UD: November 2016

 

 

 

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/goldh-s.jpg?w=640

 

 

One would imagine that an invasion by hundreds of thousands of barbarians would have a catastrophic effect on the economy of a region. However, this presumption has been challenged in recent years by the archaeological and numismatic data emerging from the territory which fell under the control of the ‘barbarian’ Tyle state in eastern Thrace during the 3rd c. BC.

 

The traditional description of the Celtic tribes who arrived in this area has been one of ‘thirsty savages’ or ‘gangs of mercenaries’ (latest Emilov 2007, 2010), and we have been repeatedly informed that ‘their aim was not to settle, but money and booty which could be acquired in different ways … by attacking wealthy cities, and by ravaging the countryside’ (Nixon 1977, cited by Mitchell 1993; Emilov 2010). However, repeating a simplistic stereotype does not make it true, particularly when the depiction of a culture entirely contradicts all the available archaeological and historical evidence. In this case the facts tell a rather surprising tale – a barbarian invasion that brought political stability and economic prosperity in its wake…

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/5420363/THE_TYLE_EXPERIMENT

 

S.E. Thrace map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE CURRENCY OF PLUNDER

Updated November 2013

 

 

 

Th. intr.

 

 

 

Ancient coins, and particularly hoards of such coins, are probably the most valuable indication of the geo-political situation in a region during a given historical period. A perfect example of this are a large number of hoards from Bulgaria dating to the 2nd / 1st c. BC, which contain a mixture of Celtic coins and Roman / Hellenistic issues. Particularly interesting are such hoards dating to the period of the Scordisci Wars (second half of 2nd c. BC / 1st c. BC) found at various sites across Bulgaria, which reflect the historically recorded events of the period.

 

 An interesting example of this are the exceptionally large amounts of coins of the Roman Quaestor Aesillas found in hoards together with Celtic issues. Such hoards from Bulgaria include those from Chirpan, Nova Zagora, Haskovo, Levka (Haskovo region), Stroyno (Jambol region), Belitsa (Blagoevgrad reg.), etc. Aesillas was Roman quaestor in Macedonia from circa 90 – 75 BC, the period of the most frequent and devastating raids on the Roman province by the local Celtic and Thracian tribes (see Balkancelts ‘The Scordisci Wars’ article). Other such hoards of mixed Celtic and Roman issues dating from the same period (the first third of the 1st c. BC) include those from Topolovo (Plovdiv reg.), Kolyo Marinovo and Bratya Daskalovi (both in the Chirpan area of Stara Zagora region), Dolno Botevo (Haskovo region), and the Boljarino hoard also from the Plovdiv region (Prokopov 1995). It appears that the presence of such a high number of Roman issues from this period, found together with Celtic coins in Thrace, is a result of the aforementioned attacks on Roman territory in the southern Balkans and Greece, particularly those during the first third of the 1st c. BC (on this phenomenon see also Mystery of the Illyrian Cows).

 

 

Aes mac

Roman First Macedonian Region and Aesillas issues from the numismatic collection of the Kyustendil Regional Museum, Western Bulgaria 

 

Hoards including coins of the Roman quaestor Aesillas have been found in the villages of Zhabokrut and  Krumovo (Kyustendil region, Western Bulgaria), and near the village of Chepino, Pernik region (IGCH 646). Tetradrachm hoards of the First Macedonian Region have been found in the village of Skrino, Kyustendil region, in the village of Kralev Dol, Pernik region (IGCH 894), in the village of Studena, Pernik region and from the village of Turokovtsi, Trun area, Pernik region.

(After Filipova S., Ilya Prokopov I., Paunov E. The Numismatic Collection of the Regional Historical Museum at Kyustendil (Ancient Ulpia Pautalia) Part 1: Greek, Thracian, Macedonian, Roman Republican and Roman Provincial Coins. ( CCCHBulg ) Volume II. Sofia 2009)

 

 

 

 

Aes C. Th

Original Aesillas AR Tetradrachm (90 – 75 BC) and Celtic Thasos Tetradrachms discovered during the recent excavations at Bratya Daskalovi, Chirpan region, Bulgaria.

(after Prokopov I., Paunov E., Filipova S. Coins and Coin Hoards from the excavation of two burial mounds near the village of Bratya Daskalovi, Stara Zagora Region. In: Тонкова М. (ed.) Thraco-Roman dynastic centre in the Chirpan heights area. Sofia 2011)

 

 

Bd 2

Philip III (or Alexander III) original (?), Celtic ‘Philip III type” drachmas, and a Roman Republican Dinar (C. Naevius Balbus, minted in Rome in 79 BC), found together in a hoard at Bratya Daskalovi, Chirpan region

(after Prokopov et al 2011; see http://www.academia.edu/4107842/The_Celts_in_Central_Thrace)

 

 

 

 

DAMNATIO MEMORIAE

 

 

The area of modern southwestern Bulgaria in particular has recently provided us with especially valuable information pertaining to the period of the Scordisci Wars (2nd half of 2nd / 1st c. BC). Hoards of silver coins dating to this period from the area of the western Rhodope mountains and the Upper Mesta river valley typically contain a mixture of Celtic and Roman/Hellenistic issues, i.e. – tetradrachms of the Celtic ‘Thasos type’ together with tetradrachms of the Athens ‘New Style’, First Macedonian Region, and the aforementioned Roman Quaestor Aesilla, as well as large numbers of Roman Republican dinars. Examples of such hoards have been recorded from the Belitza, Blagoevgrad, Gotsche Delchev, Kustendil, and Razlog areas (Филипова Св., Прокопов И., Монети от Светилището при Бабяк. In: Тонкова, М. и Ал. Гоцев (eds.) Тракийското Светилището При Бабяк И Неговата Археологическата Среда) Sofia 2008, 168-169).

 Particularly noteworthy is the fact that many of the Celtic ‘Thasos type’ silver tetradrachms from Thrace are struck over Hellenistic/Roman issues, especially Athens New Style tetradrachms, as well as those of the Roman Quaestor Aesillas.

 

 

St. T 1

Celtic ‘Thasos type’ Tetradrachma minted over Athens ‘New Style’ original. Second decade of the 1st c. BC. (Popina hoard (#439). Silestra region, northeastern Bulgaria)

(After De Callatay, Prokopov 1994 (De Callatay F., Prokopov I. An Overstrike of a Hellenistic Tetradrachm in the Popina Hoard (ICGH 930). In: Numismatika Hronika. Hellenistic Numismatic Society. # 13. Athens 1994. P. 37-44)

 

 

 

St. T 2

Celtic ‘Thasos type’ tetradrachma minted over that of the Roman Quaestor Aesillas (early 1st c. BC)

On Herakles’ left knee the Q (short for Quaestor – similar to English P) can be seen. There are also faint traces of Alexander’s hair locks at the metal disturbance in Dionysos’ cheek from the Roman original.

 

 

 

A similar phenomenon is to be observed with ‘some thousands’ of bronze Celtic coins from the same period, also from the Rhodope/Upper Mesta area, most of which are minted over the coinage of Macedonian rulers and cities. Example of these ‘Strymon/Trident’ coins come from hoards discovered around the towns of Gotsche Delchev, Bansko, Eleschnitza, Razlog, Belitza, Jakoruka, and Ognyanovo (see Mac Congail 2013 http://www.academia.edu/4067834/Bandit_Nation_-_The_Bogolin_Hoard).

Most fascinating about these coins is that in most cases they were not produced from blanks, but overstruck on Macedonian bronze issues (late royal or autonomous/Roman). The overstrikes are clearly visible and it is not hard to identify the host coin. Apparently, no attention was paid to the size, weight, denomination of the original host, or an attempt to adjust the dies of overstrikes. Host civic coins of Thessalonica, Amphipolis, and Pella, or Macedonian ‘autonomous’ issues, most dated to the period ca. 187 – ca. 50 BC, were used for the majority of these imitations (Paunov E. (2012) From Koine To Romanitas: The Numismatic Evidence For Roman Expansion And Settlement In Bulgaria In Antiquity (Moesia and Thrace, ca. 146 BC –AD 98/117) Phd. Thesis. Schoolof History, Archaeology and Religion. Cardiff University. November, 2012).

 

 Besides thousands of stray finds and smaller hoards, 7 larger hoards of such coins have been recorded in the Western Rhodope mountains and Struma Valley of today’s south-western Bulgaria.

 

map

Major hoards of Celtic Strymon/Trident type coinage recorded in south-western Bulgaria

(after Paunov 2012)

 

 

A particularly interesting example is that of the Bogolin 1989 hoard, which gives us a valuable insight into the phenomenon which was the Celtic economy in this area during the period in question. The Bogolin hoard initially consisted of circa 400  bronze coins, of which  100+ have subsequently been stolen. At the moment, 285 coins from this hoard are reportedly kept in the Blagoevgrad museum (Prokopov 1991, 1997; Paunov 2012; Paunov, Filipova, Prokopov 2013. See Mac Congail 2013 http://www.academia.edu/4067834/Bandit_Nation_-_The_Bogolin_Hoard).

 

 

Bog.

Celtic AE Strymon/Trident from the Bogolin hoard (Blagoevgrad Museum)

(after Paunov et al 2013 (in print)

 

 

 

In the case of the Bogolin hoard, according to analysis all 285 coins are overstruck on Macedonian coins (either Macedonian royal coinage of that of the Roman Macedonian province), i.e. all these Celtic issues were struck on coins plundered during the ‘barbarian’ raids, once more emphasizing the extent of the attacks on Roman territory during this period.

 

 

 

The historical context in which these coins were produced – during a bitter struggle between the ‘barbarians’ and the Roman empire, should be borne in mind. From a psychological perspective the fact that the Celtic population in Thrace took the trouble to mint over the Roman/Hellenistic coins is a clear political statement – a rejection of the images portrayed on the originals, and by extension the ‘classical’ culture which produced them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Download Pdf. version of this article:

http://www.academia.edu/4963636/Plunder_Coinage_from_Thrace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

The recently published Celtic coins from the numismatic collection of the Kyustendil regional museum (Filipova S., Ilya Prokopov I., Paunov E. The Numismatic Collection of the Regional Historical Museum at Kyustendil (Ancient Ulpia Pautalia) Part 1: Greek, Thracian, Macedonian, Roman Republican and Roman Provincial Coins. ( CCCHBulg ) Volume II. Sofia 2009) generally reflect the numismatic picture in southwestern Bulgaria in the immediate pre-Roman period. Locally produced (‘barbarian’) silver coinage circulating in this area between the 3rd and 1st c. BC ranged from Celtic imitations of the Macedonian issues of Philip II and Philip III (3rd – 1st c. BC) (fig. 1, 2) through early Celtic imitations of Thasos tetradrachms (fig. 3) (from the late II c. BC).

 

 

 

 

 

The Kyustendil region of Bulgaria

 

 

 

 

Fig. 1 –  Celtic AR Imitation of the ‘Philip II type’ – 3rd c. BC. (Kyustendil Museum Collection)

(after Filipova et al. 2009)

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 2 – Celtic AR Imitation of the ‘Philip III type’ – 2nd c. BC. (Kyustendil Museum Collection)

(after Filipova et al. 2009)

 

 

 

 

Fig. 3 – Early Thraco-Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’ from the Kyustendil Museum Collection. Late 2nd c. BC

(after Filipova et al. 2009)

 

The view expressed in some literature that these early Thasos imitations were produced and circluated in Thrace by some ‘unknown Romans’ – almost 100 years before Rome conquered the area – directly contradicts all the known historical facts relating to this period (on the chronology of the Roman conquest of western Thrace see ‘The Scordisci Wars’ article).

 

 

 

Also noteworthy are the particularly high number of hoards from this area of western Bulgaria which include Roman issues, notably of the Roman Quaestor Aesillas, and the 1st Macedonian region (fig. 4). As outlined elsewhere (see ‘Damnatio Memoriae – Plunder Coins from Thrace’ article), large amounts of these coins were brought into the area prior to the Roman conquest of Thrace as a result of raids/attacks on Roman Macedonia and Greece during the Scordisci Wars, particularly in the first half of the 1st c. BC (for more details see ‘Damnation Memoriae’ and ‘Scordisci Wars’ articles).

 

 

Fig. 4 – Roman First Macedonian Region and Aesillas issues from the numismatic collection of the Kyustendil Regional Museum.

 

(after Filipova et al 2009)

 

 

 

 

 

 In terms of lower denomination/value Celtic coinage, the presence in the Kyustendil region of Celtic bronze Strymon/Trident issues dating to the 2nd/1st c. BC  (fig. 5) clearly illustrates that this type of coinage was also in wide circulation in this area of modern Bulgaria during the immediate pre-Roman period (on the distribution of this coinage in Bulgaria see numismatics section 6).

 

 

 

Fig. 5 – Celtic Strymon/Trident bronze issues from the Kyustendil Museum Collection (2nd – 1st c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

  Two major groups of regional coinage are to be identified among the Bulgarian Celts in the 3rd – 1st c. BC – the Strymon/Trident coinage, and the Zaravetz lead and bronze issues. Unlike the silver Thasos, Philip II and Philip III models, which circulated over a wide geographical area (see relevant sections), the Strymon/Trident and Zaravetz coinage circulated within limited geographical areas – the former mostly in the region of today’s southwestern Bulgaria, and the latter among the Celtic tribes of northeastern Bulgaria and southeastern Romania.

  As with all Celtic coins from the territory of today’s Bulgaria, the Strymon/Trident bronze issues are almost unknown in scientific publications, and information on them comes exclusively from collectors, ‘treasure hunters’, or secondary sources. The coins themselves are based on a rare Macedonian issue of Philip V or Perseus, dated 187 – 168 BC. (Fig. 1)

 


                          Macedonian original of Philip V or Perseus (187 – 168 BC)

(BMC 12.43)

 

The Celtic models (Fig. 2-3), like the Macedonian originals, feature the head of the river-god Strymon on the obverse, and a trident on the reverse. From an artistic perspective these coins show few of the trends evident on the other Celtic coins from this period. They are what they appear to be – rough, functional coins, loosely based on Macedonian originals, intended for everyday use as low denomination currency units by the Celtic tribes of this area.

They have been found mostly in the area of today’s Bulgaria stretching from Serdica (Sofia) in the north, to the Bulgarian-Greek border in the south. A particularly high concentration is to be noted in the latter area (s-w Bulgaria) where ‘many thousands’ of these coins have been discovered. (1)


                    Fig. 2 /3 – Celtic Strymon/Trident issues (2nd -1st c. BC)

SNG cop. 1299

 

 

This is particularly true of the area of the western Rhodope mountains and especially in the upper Struma and Mesta river valleys. In this area hoards of these coins have been discovered around the towns of Kyustendil (map 6n #1), Blagoevgrad (map 6n #2), Gotsche Delchev (map 6n #3), and Razlog (map 6n #4)(2). Further examples have been recorded from the areas around the villages of Kochan (Fig. 4) (map 6n #5)(3), Bansko (map 6n #6), Eleschnitza (map 6n #7), Belitza (map 6n #8), Babyak (map 6n #9), and Jakoruda (map 6n #10)(4). Numerous finds have been recorded from the Serdica area (map 6n #11) (5),  while the largest hoard of coins of this type has been discovered at Ognyanovo in the Pazardjik region (map 6n #12)(6).

Fig. 4 – Celtic Strymon/Trident coins recently discovered by ‘treasure hunters’ at the village of Kochan (Blagoevgrad region) in the western Rhodope mountains (7)

 

The Circulation of Celtic Thasos model tetradrachmas in this area during the same period (II-I c. BC) has already been noted (see Thasos model – numismatic section). However, while the silver Thasos models circulated throughout the area of today’s Bulgaria, the Strymon/Trident type appears to have been produced by, and circulated only among, the Celtic tribes who dominated southwestern Bulgaria in the pre-Roman period. The archaeological and numismatic evidence also links this Celtic population with the cult complexes in this area such as that at Babyak (see also the ‘Cult firepots’, ‘Evil Eye and Little Glass Men’, and ‘Killing the Objects’ articles)

 

So who exactly were the Celtic tribes who produced the coins in question, and how do they fit into the historical context of the region?

 

Confirmation of Celtic settlement in this area, as well as the recent identification of Rupite (Pernik region) as the site of ancient Heracleae Sintica, clarifies the geographical context of the historical events mentioned in classical sources. In 117 BC the Celts launched a major attack on Roman Macedonia along the valley of the river Struma (the same route which had been taken in the previous century by Brennos’ central army during the invasion of Greece), penetrating all the way to Thessalonika where Pompey, the Roman governor, was killed. It appears certain that this attack and those which followed were carried out by the Celtic tribes who lived in today’s southwestern Bulgaria, i.e. those who produced the Strymon/Trident coinage outlined above. This is logical not only from a geographic and logistical perspective, but also supported by the fact that in subsequent attacks the Celts were accompanied by other ‘barbarian tribes’, notably the Thracian Maedi and Bessi, both of whom also lived in the Rhodope mountains area of Bulgaria. The attacks on Roman Macedonia were also certainly facilitated by the fact that, according to Livy (XLV, 30), a Celtic population was already settled during this period in Macedonia itself – around the towns of Beroea, Pela, and Edessa.

                                    Southwestern Rhodope Mountains

 

 

THE RHODOPE MASSACRES


Despite the escalating attacks on the Roman province of Macedonia, the empire continued its expansion towards the central Balkans. A Roman fortress was established on the upper Struma river at Heracleae Sintica (Rupite, Pernik region), 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 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 Bulgaria. The events which followed were to prove catastrophic for the Romans.

 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 closest Roman target was the garrison at Heracleae Sintica. The ensuing events are described in detail by the Roman historian Frotinius (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.

   The events of 114 BC – the destruction of Cato’s army and the subsequent massacre of the Roman garrison at Heracleae, taught Rome a costly lesson. Further attacks by the Romans on the Thracian Celts, such as that in 109 BC by the consul Minucius Rufus, were launched along the valley of the Maritza river, or other routes more suitable for a Roman army. (11) Roman expansion on the Balkans continued unabated over the next century. (See ‘The Scordisci Wars’ article) However, no further attacks were ever directed at the Celtic tribes of the western Rhodope mountains. It is interesting to note that even during the Roman period the road system built by the empire in this region of Bulgaria shows unexplained diversions in order to avoid certain areas, (12) indicating that some parts of this inhospitable region never fell under Roman control. 

 

 

Map n6



(Does not include Celtic coins from the 3rd c. BC Tyle state, Zaravetz issues from northeastern Bulgaria, or Celtic imitations of Paeonian coins (4th – 3rd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

  1. Filipova, Prokopov 2008 = Филипова Св., Прокопов И., Монети от Светилището при Бабяк. In: Тракийското Светилището При Бабяк И Неговата Археологическата Среда. Sofia, 2008
  2. Filipova, Prokopov op cit; Тонкова М., Гоцев А., Резултатът от археологическите проучвания на тракийското светилище при с. Бабек. – Археологически открития и разкопки през 1994, Смолян 1995, 54 – 56; Prokopov I., Imitations of Bronze Coins in Thracia during the 1st c. B.C., in Proceedings of the XII Internationaler Numizmatischer Kongress, Berlin 1997, 369-377; Прокопов И., Варварски подражания на македонски бронзови монети. – ИИМКН, V/2, 1998, c. 357 – 360
  3. See Fig. 4
  4. Filipova, Prokopov op cit
  5. LMC
  6. FIlipova, Prokopov op cit
  7. http://bg.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9A%D0%BE%D1%87%D0%B0%D0%BD
  8. Filipova, Prokopov op cit
  9. Kazarov 1919: 76; Mac Congail 2008: 20-21
  10. Loc cit
  11. 11. Mac Congail op cit, with relevant lit. (attached Pdf.); ‘Scordisci’ appears to have been a generic term used by the Romans for the Thracian Celts. For more on this see ‘The Scordisci Wars’ article.
  12. Filipova, Prokopov op cit.