The most spectacular and enigmatic of Celtic coinage, the gold ‘rolltier’ staters emerge among the Celtic tribes in the area of southern Germany and Bohemia in the late 2nd/ 1st c. BC.
Rolltier stater from Osov, Czech Republic (1st c. BC)
A wide variety of compositions are to be observed on such coins, frequently referred to also as Regenbogenschüsselchen (Rainbow Cup) staters, including variants with a cross, solar symbols, triskeles and birds of prey.
Regenbogenschüsselchen/ Rainbow Cup stater of the Bird of Prey/ Torc type from southern Germany. (late 2nd c. BC)
Rainbow Cup stater with triskele and solar symbols (Hesse and Rhineland). Believed to be from the mint at Dürnsberg Oppidum near Giessen
Stater of the Cross/Rolltier type from Stradonice oppidum, Czech Republic (1 c. BC)
In the present context, most interesting are the rolltier/torc series, the composition on the reverse consisting of a torc encompassing 6 dots. While the significance of the torc, the ultimate symbol of status and power in Celtic society, is clear, more enigmatic is the obverse of the coin, portraying a mysterious hybrid creature. On the better executed examples one can distinguish that the creature is comprised of a coiled fanged serpent with what appears to be a scorpions stinger – the stance of the creature indicating that the component elements are in the process of attacking/poisoning each other.
POWER AND POISON
Viewed separately, the compositions on the obverse and reverse of the Torc/rolltier coins appear to represent two very different themes –power and imminent death. However, in Celtic art elements are rarely unconnected, and taken as a whole it appears probable that the message being conveyed is that the apparently mutually exclusive themes of power and self-destruction portrayed in the compositions are literally ‘two sides of the same coin’.