The Celtic eastwards expansion of the 4th / early 3rd century BC, and resulting clash with military forces of the Hellenistic world, has logically left substantial archaeological traces, which include Hellenistic military equipment discovered in Balkan Celtic warrior burials. Notable examples of such are the Hellenistic greaves from the burial of a Celtic chieftain at Ciumeşti (Satu Mare) in Transylvania, or Greek helmets discovered in Celtic warrior burials at Seuthopolis/Sevtopolis and Kalnovo in south-central and eastern Bulgaria (Getov 1962; Megaw 2004, Mac Gonagle 2014, 2015).
Bronze greaves from the Celtic chieftain’s burial at Ciumeşti
Greek helmet from a Celtic warrior burial at Sevtopolis* (after Getov 1962)
*Repeated requests to Kazanlak museum for academic access to the extensive Celtic material from the ‘Valley of the Thracian Kings’ have been denied. It has also come to our attention that some of this material has recently ‘disappeared’ from the museum.
While the aforementioned cases are clearly to be explained as trophies taken by victorious Celtic armies after the defeat of Macedonian forces, or evidence of the well documented Celtic mercenary activity during this period (Mac Gonagle 2013, 2015), more problematic are a number of Hellenistic helmets discovered in western Celtic burials which date to a much earlier period. Examples of such include the recently published Corinthian helmet discovered in a Celtic burial at Baux-de-Provence (Provence), in southern France, which was actually found in 1813, but only recently ‘rediscovered’ (Jourdan 1897, Garcia 2013). The typology of the helmet dates it to the 6th century BC (Garcia op cit), and 2 further examples of this kind of helmet have been discovered in the Lyon area in east-central France (Boucher 1970, Vial 2003).
Corinthian helmet from Baux-de-Provence (mid 6th c. BC)
Whether these Corinthian helmets, and other examples such as the Etruscan Negau type helmets, dating to the 5th century BC, from Ženjak in Slovenia or Agde (Hérault) in south-eastern France (Feugère, Freises 1994-1995) were imports into the Celtic sphere, or represent evidence of Celtic mercenary activity prior to such being recorded in ancient sources, remains unclear.
Negau type helmet from Ženjak, Slovenia
These helmets are of an Etruscan design from circa 500-450 BC called the Vetulonic or Negau type, which are of bronze with a comb-shaped ridge across the skull, and a protruding rim with a groove right above the rim. However, inscriptions on the helmets are believed to have been added at a much later date (2nd c. BC), and the deposition has been dated to circa 50 BC – i.e. shortly before the Roman conquest of the area.
Boucher St. (1970) Bronzes grecs, hellénistique et étrusques des Musées de Lyon. Lyon, Audin et de Boccard.
Getov 1962 = Гетов Л. (1962) Нови данни за въоръжението у нас през латенската епоха.Археология 3, 41-43
Garcia D. (2013) Le casque corinthien des Baux-de-Provence. In: L’Occident grec de Marseille à Mégara Hyblaea. Hommages à Henri Tréziny Bibliothèque d’Archéologie Méditerranéenne et Africaine 13 pp. 85-90
Feugère M., Freises A. (1994-1995) Casque de type Negau découvert près d’Agde (Hérault). RAN, 27-28, 1994-1995, p. 1-7.
Jourdan A. (1897) Guide du visiteur dans l’antique ville des Baux. Avignon, Aubanel.
Mac Gonagle B. (2013) The Kingmakers – Celtic Mercenaries:
Mac Gonagle B. (2014) The Celtic Burials from Kalnovo (Eastern Bulgaria):
Mac Gonagle B. (2015) On The Celtic Conquest of Thrace (180/279 BC):
Megaw V. (2004) In the footsteps of Brennos? Further archaeological evidence for Celts in the Balkans. In: Hänsel B., Studenikova E., (eds.) Zwischen Karpaten und Ägäis. Neolithikum und ältere Bronzezeit. Gedenkschrift für Viera Nemejcova-Pavukova. Rahden /Westf. 93-107
Vial J. (2003) Carte archéologique de la Gaule, 34/3. Le Montpelliérais. Paris, Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres.