EPONA ENTHRONED – The Celtic Horse Goddess on a Roman Silver Plate from Petrijanec, Croatia

UD: April 2019




Discovered in 2005 at Petrijanec near the city of Varaždin in northern Croatia, the Petrijanec hoard consisted of 27,735 silver-plated bronze coins and three silver plates. The treasure represents the largest hoard of Roman coinage from the territory of modern Croatia and one of the largest third century hoards in the world. Based on the coinage the hoard has been dated to the year 294 AD.



Roman coinage from the Petrijanec Hoard





As stated, the hoard also included three silver plates, the smaller of which, decorated with an image of the Celtic Horse Goddess Epona, is of most interest in the present context.  



Silver Plates from the Petrijanec Hoard






Epigraphic dedications and images of Epona indicate her immense popularity within the Celtic world, being venerated particularly in the east of Gaul and the Rhineland, but also across the continent from Britain to the Balkans. As the Roman Empire expanded, at first she was worshipped solely among populations who came from Celtic regions, i.e. among individuals and groups of Celtic ethnicity. However, her cult rapidly became popular also among the general Roman population, especially those whose lives were connected to horses and equestrianism, and she gradually became part of the Roman pantheon, becoming the patron of horses and everything connected with horsesstables, carriages, tasks or people associated with horses, mules and donkeys.


Epona (2/3 century AD) from Contern, Luxembourg



Relief of Epona from Thessaloniki, Greece. (4th century AD)




In the case of the silver plate from Petrijanec, the middle of the plate contains a decoration in the form of a standard circular medallion with a diameter of 93mm. bearing the image of a female on horseback. At first glance it would appear that the goddess is riding side-saddle, but in fact she is seated in the direction opposite to the horse’s movement, with legs unusually outspread for horseback riding. Even though the horse is depicted moving in a trot, indicated by the uplifted left leg and raised tail, the woman’s pose makes it apparent that the horse has the function of a throne, which is a frequent motif in depictions of the Celtic Horse Goddess.



The silver “Epona Plate” from Petrijanec (Diameter 230 mm, height 25 mm, 482 g.)



As may be noted, the proportions in the image are not balanced. The horse is smaller than the woman, which is a consequence of iconographic perspective, typical of depictions of goddesses. Epona holds a cornucopia in her left hand, and a patera in her right hand, and is dressed in a robe (pallium), with her right shoulder bared. The medallion is encircled by a border 8 mm. wide, made of a series of beads and stylised palmettes. The inscription EPONA (barely visable) is engraved on the undecorated surface around the medallion, and the letters filled with niello, which is customary for silver dishes of this period. The closest analogy to the Epona plate from Petrijanec is to be found in silver dishware from Rudnik, in Serbia, where a Roman hoard with 26 silver dishes included a similar plate bearing the inscription EPONA.

















Mac Congail






UD: June 2016


warrior b


A small selection of Celtic warrior burials from Eastern Europe (5 – 1 century BC). This post will be updated periodically, as further discoveries/publications come to light.








Stupava (Malacky District), Slovakia

(Late 5th c. BC)


a - stup






a - sred

Srednica (Ptuj/ancient Poetovio), Slovenia

(late 4th / early 3rd c. BC)






Csepel Island (Budapest), Hungary

(Late 4th – 3rd c. BC)


Also: Warrior burial #149 (3rd c. BC):




Ciumeşti (Satu Mare), Romania

(mid 3rd c. BC)


a - cium






Lychnidos/Ohrid, FYR Macedonia

(mid 3rd c. BC)




Ljubljana, Slovenia

(late 3rd c. BC)




Szabadi (Somogy County), Hungary

(Late 3rd/early 2nd c. BC)


a - hun






Kalnovo (Schumen Region), Bulgaria

(Early 2nd c. BC)




Zvonimirovo (Podravina province), Croatia

(2nd c. BC)


a - cro




Slana Voda (Zlatibor district), southwestern Serbia

(mid 2 c. BC)




Desa (Dolj County), Romania

(Late 2nd c. BC)

a - rom



Montana, Bulgaria

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






Koynare (Pleven Region), Bulgaria

(Late 2nd/1st c. BC)





Sremska Mitrovica (Syrmia), Serbia

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

a - serb





















Mac Congail












CHASING DEMONS – Celtic Ritual Rattles

UD: June 2019


The use of rattles in folk dances and rituals is recorded in cultures throughout the world, either hand-held or attached to ceremonial costumes to dictate the rhythm of ritual dances, and to summon or repel supernatural beings or demons.


irish rattles g

Globular or pear-shaped rattles from Dowris (Co. Offaly), Ireland  (c. 850 BC)
These three rattles, or ‘crotals’, were part of a large find of bronze metalwork made in Dowris bog in the mid-nineteenth century, which included weapons, tools and elaborate sheet metal vessels.
(See Eogan E. (1983), The hoards of the Irish Later Bronze Age (Dublin)


a - a -a - Late Bronze Age rattle ceramic vogelförmige Tonrassel aus Ichstedt, Ldkr. Kyffhäuserkreis

Bird-shaped ceramic rattle from Ichstedt (Ldkr. Kyffhäuserkreis), Germany (Late Bronze Age)



In Celtic Europe rattles appear in the Bronze Age, and by the La Têne period are recorded at sites throughout the continent. Logically, regional variations are to be observed in decoration and form, and rattles of both ceramic and metal have been discovered.



Decorated ceramic rattle from a Celtic (Vaccean) burial at the necropolis of Las Ruedas (Pintia), north-central Spain (2 c. BC)

Celtic rattles discovered in the Vaccean environment from the northern Iberian plateau have been dated between the end of the 3rd century BC and the beginning of the 1st century AD.

(see: Sanz Minguez C., Romero Carnicero F., De Pablo Martinez, R., Górriz Gañán C., Vaccean
Rattles. Toys or Magic Protectors?, in Jiménez Pasalodos Raquel, Till R., Howell M. (eds.),
Music and Ritual: Bridging Material and Living Cultures, Berlin, p. 257–283)



With eastern expansion, from the 4th century BC onwards, rattles also begin to appear at Celtic sites across eastern Europe. Examples include those from Bucsu in Hungary, Hanska-Toloacă in the Republic of Moldova, Buneşti-Avereşti in eastern Romania, Novo Mesto in Slovenia, Zvonimirovo in Croatia, Čurug in northern Serbia and Kabyle in Bulgaria (Rustoiu A., Berecki S. (2015). A further example of such has recently been published from a Celtic burial at Fântânele – Dâmbu Popii in Romania, dating to the 3rd c. BC.


rattle fan romania

The egg-shaped ceramic rattle from a Celtic burial at Fântânele

(After: Rustoiu A., Berecki S. (2015) The Magic of Sounds. A Ceramic Rattle from the La Tène Grave No. 1 at Fântânele – Dambu Popii and Its Functional and Symbolic Significance. In: Representations, Signs and Symbols. Proceedings of the Symposium on Religion and magic. Cluj-Napoca 2015. p. 259-274)



Ceramic rattle from the Celtic (Scordisci) settlement at Čurug (Vojvodina), Serbia (2-1 c. BC)



Rattles have been discovered in the burials of both Celtic adults and also in funerary contexts belonging to children or youngsters, logically indicating that they were regarded as having a protective and preventive function, regardless of the gender or age of the entombed.
An example of the manner in which such metal rattles were used in Celtic music and dance is provided by the modern custom of “Căluş” or “Căluşari” from Romania, which is a male dance related to pre-Christian solar cults. In this case, the rattles are strapped to the legs of the dancers and dictate the dance rhythm (op cit). Metal rattles quite similar to those used in today’s folk costumes have been discovered in Balkan Celtic funerary inventories, for example in Celtic warrior burials # 4 and 12 from Zvonimirovo in Croatia in which the rattles were, as in modern Romanian and Bulgarian folk dances, attached to the garment or the belt.


zvonimirovo rattle and romania g

Metal rattle strapped on the leg of a modern “Căluşar” dancer from Romania, and a similar rattle discovered in a warrior burial (# 4) from the Celtic cemetery at Zvonimirovo, Croatia (2 c. BC)


( On the Celtic burials from Zvonimirovo see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/the-celtic-burials-at-zvonimirovo-croatia/ )











Mac Congail













PUPPETRIDERS – Celtic Coinage of the “Zichyújfalu” types

UD: April 2019


puppt intro


The most fascinating and enigmatic of late Iron Age European coinage, the Celtic Puppetrider tetradrachms were produced from the early 3rd c. BC onwards by the Pannonian Celtic tribes. The coinage itself features a male laureate head on the obverse, the subjects eye being represented on a number of issues by an arrowhead.


PR eyear

Obverse of Celtic tetradrachm of the Puppetrider/Triskele type (Hungary, late 3rd c. BC)


The reverse depicts a horseman with left arm raised, of whom only the upper part of the body is represented. Behind the riders head and in front of the horse is a Celtic inscription while below the horse, on the majority of such coins, is a triskelion/triskele, a common symbol on late Iron Age Celtic coins and other artifacts. The triskele variants date from the mid 3rd c. BC onwards, while rarer issues which feature a monogram from the coinage of the Paeonian king Audoleon, from which the Celtic puppetrider types are believed to have evolved, date to a slightly earlier period.


tri and mono

Puppetrider tetradrachm with triskele, and the earlier type with Audoleon monogram

(both from the Zichyújfalu hoard; see below)





As mentioned, the vast majority of puppetrider coins are of the aforementioned triskele type. Based on the recorded finds of such, the epicentre of production and distribution lay in the area of today’s central Hungary where, besides numerous single finds, two major hoards of such have been found in close proximity – those from Zichyújfalu, which included 268 Celtic coins, 262 of the triskele type, and Dunaújváros (also in Fejér county) (Kerényi 1960; Göbl 1972: 51-52) which included a similar, slightly larger, hoard of such coinage (see map 1 below).




zichy ho

Puppetrider/Triskele tetradrachms from the Zichyújfalu hoard

(after Torbágyi 2012)


A second concentration of puppetrider/triskele coinage has been identified around the villages of Sióagárd/Baranyamágócs, slightly to the south. These coins, however, are artistically and technically inferior to the aforementioned issues, and should therefore be seen as contemporary Celtic imitations of the latter.


sig tds


Puppetrider/Triskele tetradrachms from Sióagárd

(after Torbágyi 2012)


Although Celtic coinage of the Puppetrider/Triskele types circulated chiefly in the aforementioned area of Central Hungary, finds such as those from Diex in southern Austria, Batina in eastern Croatia, Bač in northern Serbia, as well as Bratislava and Görgő in Slovakia, and Ungvár in western Ukraine (loc cit), indicate that this type of coinage circulated widely among the Celtic tribes of Eastern Europe during the period in question.



Distribution of recorded finds of Celtic Puppetrider/Triskele type coinage (3rd/2nd c. BC)





Literature Cited


Göbl R. (1972) Neue technische Forschungsmethoden in der keltischen Numismatik. Anzeiger der phil.-hist. Klasse der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 109/1972: 49-63.

Kerényi A. (1960) Sztálinvárosi kelta éremlelet. (Trouvaille de médailles celtiques à Sztalinváros /Intercisa/) Numizmatikai Közlöny 58-59/1959-1960: 3-6, 83.
Torbágyi M. (2008) Der „Zichyújfalu” Typ mit Audoleon Monogramm. Festschrift für Günther
Dembski zum 65. Geburtstag. NZ 116-117/2008: 87-93.

Torbágyi M. (2012)Der Münzfund von Zichyújfalu 1873, In: VAMZ, 3. s., XLV (2012) p. 537-552









Mac Congail
































The Celtic Burial Complex at Zvonimirovo (Croatia)

UD: April 2019


intr. ill


The late Iron Age burial complex at Zvonimirovo-Veliko Polje (central Podravina province) in Croatia is rapidly developing into one of the most significant archaeological sites of its kind, with each excavation season uncovering new material which increases our understanding of the Celtic population who inhabited this region of Europe.


Map z

Location of the Zvonimirovo-Veliko Polje site


The site was discovered in 1992, when artifacts of the early medieval Bijelo Brdo culture were found during ploughing. However, rescue excavations at the Medieval cemetery in 1993 produced a surprise when a Celtic cremation burial was also discovered. During 1994, two more Celtic burials were found, one of which was a warrior burial. Based on the typological characteristics of the finds from three graves dated to the second century BC, the La Tène cemetery at Veliko Polje in Zvonimirovo has been ascribed to the territory of the Balkan Celtic Taurisci tribe.


Shield boss94

(Illustrations after Dizdar 2013)


So far the Celtic cremation burials discovered at Zvonimirovo date from the early 3rd – late 2nd c. BC. These include a number of multiple burials, and several individual finds from destroyed graves have been documented, indicating that the number of graves was considerably greater.

Zn g 11

Burial LT 11 from Zvonimirovo which contained the remains of a man and a young girl

Zvon. gbead

(After Dizdar 2004; on multiple burials from the site see also:


(Burnt) bronze belt from burial LT 29 Zvonimirovo


A further 6 cremation burials (LT 94-LT 99) were excavated during the 2012 season at Zvonimirovo. The most interesting of discoveries from these excavations included warrior burials with weapons – ritually bent swords in scabbards (associated with belt sets and long spears), a long tanged iron knife, and shield bosses.

The toiletry items in the burials consist of scissors and razors, while the costume is represented by iron fibulae of Middle La Tène type. A female burial contained costume and jewellery items, while ceramic vessels and animal bones were found as goods in graves of both sexes. Based on the weapons and costume items, the latest burials have been dated to the Mokronog IIb/La  Tène C2 phase.

pot 96

The pot from grave LT 96 is decorated with stamped concentric circles, connected with garlands executed by a series of tiny impressions.





Further rescue excavations at the Zvonimirovo-Veliko polje site in 2014 uncovered 6 more La Têne cremation burials (LT 102- 107). Apart from warrior burials, most interesting was a double female burial (LT 103).

a - a - a - Kantharos LT104 Zvonimirovo

Kantharos discovered in a Celtic burial (LT 104) during the 2014 excavations at Zvonimirovo (3rd c. BC)

(After Dizdar 2015)



Excavations during the 2015 season revealed 6 further Celtic cremation burials (LT 108 – LT 113). Noteworthy were the deep, larger pits of female graves LT 109 and LT 110; in the LT 110 grave, a bowl was placed on the bottom of the pit, with the burnt remains of the deceased placed on top of it with a bronze fibula and probably a burnt bracelet.


Detail of burial LT 110 with the burnt remains of the deceased laid above the pot


Next to a warrior burial (LT 112), which included weapons and toiletries, graves were found which, based on the clothing and jewellery features, belonged to female burials. Grave goods consisted of ceramic vessels (pots and bowls), and the burials dated to the LT C2, i.e. Mokronog IIb phase.



Warrior burial LT 112 at Zvonimirovo

(after Dizdar 2016)


A further recently discovered phenomenon at the complex was identified in female burial LT29, where a wooden burial chamber was constructed. Wooden “coffins” like that from the Zvonimirovo cemetery have recently been documented at many eastern Celtic burial complexes, notably in Hungary and Slovakia.



Zvonimirovo-Veliko polje: Reconstruction of female grave LT 29 with wooden burial chamber (3/2 c. BC)

After Dizdar M.(2016) Late Iron Age Funerary Practice in Southern Pannonia. In:Proceedings of the 14th International Colloquium of Funerary Archaeology in Čačak, Serbia 24th – 27th September 2015. Beograd – Čačak, 2016. pp. 293-312











For a full report on the 2012 excavations (in Croatian) see:


2014 Report:


Report on the 2015 Campaign:












Mac Congail









UD: April 2019


The practice of suttee (Sati) – the ritual sacrifice, willingly or otherwise, of a man’s wife upon his death – is well testified to in ancient sources with both Greek and Roman authors describing this horrific custom (Plutarch, Moralia, p. 499c.; Aelian, Varia Historia, 8. 18; Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 5. 27, 78; Propertius, 4. 12. 15–22; Valerius Maximus, Factorum et Dictorum Memorabilium Libri, 2. 6. 14).

The Mahasati (the great Sati) or the Sahagamana (joint departure) system of cremating a woman alive on the death of her husband is an ancient custom in India, and Sati appears in both Hindi and Sanskrit texts, where it is synonymous with ‘good wife’, the term suttee being commonly used later by Anglo-Indian writers…





Intro. illus.















(Download PDF.)



Danube tor












THE WARRIOR ON THE HILL – An Extraordinary Burial from the Tribanjska Draga canyon in western Croatia

UD: Feb. 2019




From the hills east of the Tribanjska Draga canyon in western Croatia, not far from the Adriatic coast, comes one of the most enigmatic ancient burials from Eastern Europe.


Discovered by local shepherds in 2006, the cremation burial in the Sveta Trojica area yielded a Roman sword (Gladius of the ‘Mainz’ type), a spearhead, shield boss and nails, as well as a ceramic urn and ‘chalice’ – the nature of the weapons and Roman caligae type nails indicating that the burial was that of a Roman soldier, and dated to the early 1st c. AD. However, it also became clear from the geographical context and the burial ritual that this was no ordinary ‘Roman’ burial.


Sveta weapons
Weapons from the Warrior Burial at Sveta Trojica
(after Tonc et al 2010: Tonc A., Radman-Livaja I., Dizdar M. The Warrior Grave from Sveta Trojica near Starigrad Paklenica. In: Proceedings of the International conference Weapons and Military Equipment in a Funerary Context. Zagreb 2010. pp. 245 – 258)


Sveta m.

Location of the Site



In the late Iron Age this area was inhabited by an Illyrian Liburnian population, the burial rite practiced by whom was inhumation, thus ruling out the possibility that this was a local individual who had served in the Roman army. Furthermore, in the area where the burial was discovered no evidence has been found of a garrison or other Roman military presence which would explain the burial of a Roman soldier at this location. A further surprising twist is that the sword from the burial shows clear evidence of having been ritually ‘killed’, indicating that the deceased was actually of Celtic origin (loc cit).
Sveta urn
The Funerary Urn from the Burial at Sveta Trojica
(after Tonc et al 2010)

So how does one explain the burial of a Celtic warrior with Roman weapons in an area inhabited by Illyrians?

It is a well documented fact that a large proportion of Roman forces on the Balkans, and other parts of the empire, consisted of soldiers of Celtic origin. For example, recent research from Romania shows that circa 25% of the Roman peregrine population in Dacia were Celts:


Ethnic origin of Roman auxiliary troops in Dacia



In the western Balkans, a number of other cases have been registered of Roman soldiers buried according to Celtic ritual. Such is the case, for example, with ‘Roman’ burials at sites such as Novo Mesto – Beletov Vrt and Verdun pri Stopičah in Slovenia, where the weapons were also deformed in the distinctive Celtic fashion (Tonc et al 2010).


Thus, in light of the available archaeological evidence it appears that the warrior from Sveta Trojica was part of a Roman military unit which passed through this region of Croatia at the beginning of the 1st century. The fact that he was buried according to Celtic ritual further indicates that this Roman force also contained other individuals from this ethnic group and represents further evidence that, although formally ‘Romans’, these warriors retained their own religious traditions and sense of ethnic identity.













̾Mac Congail

THE POWER OF 3 – Eastern Celtic Helmets

UD: March 2019

Helmet 1intr


Celtic helmets from the late La Têne period form 3 main groups – single unit helmets found mostly in France and Switzerland; 2-part helmets, composed of a calotte and/or type Port neck guard, which are found both east and west of the Alps; Eastern Celtic 3-part helmets of the Novo Mesto type….


Full Article:











Mac Congail












HOUNDS OF THE EMPIRE – Celtic Roman Legions on the Balkans

(UD: November 2018)

Early Roman Tombstone of Genialis - Roman cavalryman - Genialis was a Frisian (from Holland) in a unit of Thracians (modern Bulgaria) - Cirencester


The Roman conquest of southeastern Europe logically led to the influx of substantial numbers of Roman military units into the region to consolidate the empires control. The presence of Celtic military units in the Roman army on the Balkans are well recorded. For example, in the Roman province of Moesia Superior the Celtic cohors I Lusitanorum (Celtiberian), III Gallorum, IV Gallorum, V Gallorum, VII Gallorum and VIII Gallorum  are mentioned in a diploma from 28 April 75 (RMD I 2); II Gallorum Macedonica, V Gallorum, I Flavia Hispanorum milliaria and V Hispanorum from 16 September 94 (CIL XVI 3, RMD V 335); I Lusitanorum, II Hispanorum, II Brittonum (milliaria) and III Brittonum  from 8 May 100 (CIL XVI 46; see Matei-Popescu 2006-2007)

 Of particular interest is an observable pattern of dispatching Celtic military units to areas in which a significant Celtic presence is recorded in the pre-Roman period. Examples of such are the cohors IV Gallorum equitata stationed at Oescus (near modern Gigen, Pleven region) between AD 62 and AD 71 (Boyanov I. 2008), which later formed the garrison at Salsovia on the southern bank of the St Gheorghe arm of the Danube in Tulcea County, Romania (see Haynes et al. 2007), or the ala Gallica I stationed at Ratiaria (near modern Archar, Vidin region) in the 1st c. AD (Gerov 1980:164), ala I Gallorum  et Bosporanorum (based in Securisca, pres. Cherkovitsa – Nikopol district, Pleven region), ala I Claudia Gallorum Capitoniana (based in Augustae, pres. Harlets, Vratza region; see S. Maschov 1994), all in former Scordisci territory in northern Bulgaria. Another example is that of the cohors quarta Gallorum which was stationed at Ulicitra (location unknown; Not. Dign., or. XL 46-49) in the province of Rhodopa, were Rome had experienced intense resistance from the Celtic tribes in the 2nd / 1st c. BC. 

In northeastern Bulgaria the cohors II Lucensium was stationed at the former Celtic settlement of Abritu (Abritus, near Razgrad). The cohors was named after the Lucenses, a Celtic tribe in Spain from which many of the recruits for the cohort came. This is confirmed in a military diploma from Moesia, dated 78 AD (CIL, XVI, 22). An inscription from the 2nd c. from Abritus provides evidence of the presence of the Celtiberian cohors II Lucensium as well: the tomb-stone of Gaius Iulius Maximus – an equestrian attached to this cohors – G(aius) I(ulius) Maximu/s/, eq(ues) coh(ortis) ІІ Luc(ensium), singul(aris), vixit, a(nnis). The cohors were probably stationed here up to CE 136 and took part in the Dacian wars of Emperor Trajan. After 136 AD it was garrisoned at Cabyle (near modern Jambol; see Ivanov R. Roman Cities in Bulgaria (in print).

 (After Martini, Paunov 2001)


 Until now the overall proportion of the Roman forces in southeastern Europe which consisted of Celts has remained unclear. However, recent research into the subject has provided surprising results and given us a valuable insight into a wider question – who exactly were the ‘Romans’?

Peregrinus was the term used during the early Roman empire, from 30 BC to 212 AD, to denote a free provincial subject of the Empire who was not a Roman citizen. Peregrini constituted the vast majority of the Empire’s inhabitants in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. In frontier provinces, the proportion of actual Roman citizens was extremely small. For example, one estimate puts Roman citizens in Britain ca. 100 AD at about 50,000, less than 3% of the total provincial population of ca. 1.7 million.

  In the empire as a whole, we know there were just over 6 million Roman citizens in 47 AD, the last quinquennial Roman census return extant. This was just 9% of a total imperial population generally estimated at ca. 70 million at that time. Thus, between 30 BC and 212 AD the Peregrini made up the vast majority of the population of the empire. In 212 AD, all free inhabitants of the Empire were granted citizenship by the Constitutio Antoniniana, abolishing the status of peregrinus (Scheidel W. 2006:9).

Military equipment from the burial of a Celtic warrior serving in the Roman army, discovered in the Tribanjska Draga canyon in western Croatia (1st c. AD)


DACIA – A Case Study

 The ethnic origin of ‘Romans’ is a complex issue. For example, a statistical analysis of the ‘Roman’ names in the peregrini in Dacia indicates that only 29 % actually had Italic names, while almost as many (25 %) carried Celtic names (Graph 1). Remarkable is the disproportion existing between the names of the soldiers and the names of other characters from the military environment. More precisely, the majority of Celtic names come from the category of soldiers’ children (Varga 2010), indicating that many Celts took Roman names for official purposes, presumably to enhance their chances of advancement within the imperial military structure. However, this Romanization was obviously superficial, as indicated by the fact that they continued to give their children traditional Celtic names.

Graph 1 –

The ratio of peregrines’ names in the Roman auxiliary troops of Dacia

(After Varga 2010)

Table 1 –

Ethnic Structure of the peregrine names from the military environment

(After Varga 2010)

Graph 2 –

Ratios of soldiers names and the general peregrine population (other characters) .

(After Varga 2010)

A stark discrepancy is to be noted in the survey between the statistics given for soldiers names and those of the general peregrine population (Table 1/ Graph 2). While ‘Thracian’ names are carried by 26 % of the soldiers, Thracians represent only 10 % of the general peregrine population. Conversely, according to the study, only 19 % of Roman soldiers had Celtic names, although Celts made up 33 % of the general peregrine population in Roman Dacia.

While the Celtic names in the study are clear, the statistic for ‘Thracian’ names is more problematic. For example, the name Bitus Sola is identified by the author as Thracian, although both Bitus* and Sola are well recorded Celtic name elements (On Sola/Solia see Holder AC 2 1602, 1607). This again draws attention to the phenomenon of Celtic personal names in Thrace (and Dacia) being categorized as ‘Thracian’. A fundamental reappraisal of the data is necessary in order to clarify what percentage of these names are actually Thracian (/Dacian) and how many are in fact those of Thracian Celts.


The Men With No Names…

One should also note the conspicuous absence of one particular ethnic group in this equation – the so-called Dacians. While all the other major ethnic groups on the Balkans are represented to varying degrees in the general peregrine population of Roman Dacia – Thracian (10 %), Greek (12 %), Celtic (33 %) (Graph 2), there is no evidence for a separate ‘Dacian’ ethnic group. Conversely, the particularly high proportion of the general Roman peregrine population (33% according to the study) which consisted of ethnic Celts also partly explains the high frequency of Celtic personal names recorded in Thrace and Dacia during the Roman period.

Thus, the Celtic ethnic presence in southeastern Europe, already firmly established during the migrations of the 4th / 3rd c. BC, was strengthened by the additional influx of large numbers of Celts serving in the Roman legions from the 1st c. BC onwards, as well as the forced relocation of hundreds of thousands of Celto-Scythians by the emperors Probus (276-82; Historia Augusta Probus 18) and Diocletian (284-305; Eutropius IX.25) into the territory of today’s Romania and Bulgaria.





On Celtic personal names in Thrace see also:  












Boyanov I. (2008) Oescus – from Castra to Colonia Archaeologia Bulgarica XII 2008, 369-76. Sofia.

Gerov B., Beiträge zur Geschichte der römischen Provinzen Moesien und Thrakien. Gesammelte Aufsätze I  (Amsterdam 1980)

Haynes I, Bogdan D, Topoleanu F. 2007) Salsovia: A Roman Fort and Town on the Lower Danube. The Lower Danube in Antiquity (VC C BC-VI C AD) 2007)

Holder A. (1896-1907). Alt-celtischer Sprachschatz, Bd. I-III – Nachdruck Graz 1961-1962

Ivanov R. (2012) Roman Cities in Bulgaria. (in print)

Марков Н. (2005) По Следите на Античната Магия. София.

Maschov S. (1994) Die Spätantike Befestigung und Früh-Byzantinisch Stadt von Augusta bei dorf Hurletz, Vratza bezirk. – In: G. S. Susini (ed.), Limes, Studi di Storia, vol. 5. Bologna 1994, S. 21–36

Rodolfo Martini R., Evgeni Paunov E. (2001) Early Roman Imperial Countermarked Coins from Moesia: First Critical Observations. Acta Musei Varnaensis II. Numismatic and Sphragistic Contributions to History of the Western Black Sea Coast. International Conference. Varna, 12 – 15 September 2001. P. 159-174.

Matei-Popescu  F. (2006-2007) The Auxiliary Units From Moesia Superior in Domitian’s Time and the Problem of CIL XVI 41. EPHEMERIS NAPOCENSIS, XVI–XVII. p. 31–48

Scheidel W. (2006) Population & Demography (Princeton-Stanford Working Papers in Classics)

Strobel K.  Die  Legio  V  Alaudae  in  Moesien.  Eine  Phantomtruppe  der  römischen Militärgeschichte. Historia 37, 1988, 504–508

Varga R. (2010) The Military Peregrini of Dacia: Onomastical and Statistical Considerations. Analele Universităţii Creştine „Dimitrie Cantemir”, Bucureşti, Seria Istorie – Serie nouă, Anul 1, Nr. 4, 2010, p. 108-116

Mac Congail