THE STRUMA MASSACRES (114 BC)

UD: October 2017

 

charge

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

Towards the end of the 2nd century BC relentless attacks from the north by the Celtic Scordisci and the Free Thracian tribes, notably the Maidi (the tribe of Spartacus) and Denteletes, threatened to overrun the Roman province of Macedonia. By 115 BC the situation had become so chronic that 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 eradication of the ‘barbarian’ threat and 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 the old Hellenistic settlement of 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 the Consul Gaius Porcius Cato.

 

 

denarius-of-the-consul-gaius-porcius-cato-who-led-the-first-major-roman-invasion-of-thrace-in-114-bc

Silver denarius of the consul Gaius Porcius Cato, who led the first major Roman invasion of Thrace in 114 BC.

 

rup-location

Location of Heraclea Sintica/Rupite

 

terracotta-mask-a-fragment-of-a-terracotta-figurine

Roman Terracotta mask from Heraclea Sintica

 

 

The events of 114 BC were to prove catastrophic for Rome. As mentioned, a Roman fortress had been established on the upper Struma River at Heraclea 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.

 

ruins-wide

 

ruins

Ruins of the Roman Settlement at Heraclea Sintica

 

missile

Roman stone projectile, (7.5 kg in weight), discovered at Heraclea Sintica

 

 

 

In 114 BC the army of Gaius Porcius Cato marched along the Struma river 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 Cato’s campaign appears to have been twofold – to eradicate the threat of the Celtic and Free Thracian tribes to Roman Macedonia, and to expand the empires power into the territory of today’s western/southern Bulgaria.

 

 

rhodope

The western Rhodope mountains

 

 

This heavily afforested and mountainous area of the western Rhodope mountains is ill suited for the conventional military tactics of a Roman army, but perfect terrain for the surprise attacks and ambush tactics used by the Balkan 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. Instead of expanding Roman power into the central Balkans, the invading Roman army was wiped out, and the Celts counterattacked.

 

 

 

Material from the burial of a 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_

 

Part of a large hoard of Celtic (Scordisci) material (14 sets of weapons, harness gear, jewellery… / 2-1 c. BC) discovered in a cave (known locally as the “Druids Cave”) on the Juhor Mountain in central Serbia.

 

 

 

 

THE BATTLE OF HERACLEA SINTICA

 

After the destruction of Cato’s army the Scordisci advanced along the Struma river towards the Roman garrison at Heraclea 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 subsequent 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”.

Thus, the attack on the Roman fortress at Heraclea 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 charged out of the forest. 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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MIGRATION AND ETHNOGENESIS – Celto-Scythians and Celticization in Ukraine and the North Pontic Region

UD: Nov. 2017

 

 

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._

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPOILS OF BATTLE ? – Greek Helmets in Celtic Burials

UD: May 2017

 

Baux-de-Provence, Provence Corinthian helmet - Celtic grave - 2nd half - 6th. c. BC (2)

 

 

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).

 

 

greaves cium

Bronze greaves from the Celtic chieftain’s burial at Ciumeşti

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/prince-of-transylvania/

 

 

sevt hel

Greek helmet from a Celtic warrior burial at Sevtopolis* (after Getov 1962)

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

 

*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.

 

 

Ritually “killed” Thracian sword of the rhomphaia type found in the recently discovered Celtic shrine/ritual area at Sboryanovo in northeastern Bulgaria (3rd c. BC).

https://www.academia.edu/32172303/FALL_OF_THE_CITY_OF_WOLVES_A_Celtic_Chariot_Burial_from_Sboryanovo_in_n.e._Bulgaria

 

 

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).

 

x - Baux-de-Provence, Provence Corinthian helmet - Celtic grave - 2nd half - 6th. c. BC (1)

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

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.

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/the-negau-inscriptions/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

 

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:

https://www.academia.edu/4910243/THE_KINGMAKERS_-_Celtic_Mercenaries

Mac Gonagle B. (2014) The Celtic Burials from Kalnovo (Eastern Bulgaria):

https://www.academia.edu/4096257/The_Celtic_Burials_From_Kalnovo_Eastern_Bulgaria_

Mac Gonagle B. (2015) On The Celtic Conquest of Thrace (180/279 BC):

https://www.academia.edu/10763789/On_The_Celtic_Conquest_of_Thrace_280_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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE CELTIC CONQUEST OF MACEDONIA AND THRACE (280/279 BC)

UD: October 2017

 

 

conquest
 .
Until recently our knowledge of the events surrounding the Celtic migration into southeastern Europe at the beginning of the 3rd century BC has relied exclusively on Greek and Roman ‘histories’, with little or no reference to modern archaeological evidence which supplements and, in many cases, contradicts these accounts. However, over the past decades a wealth of new archaeological data from the region concerned finally allows us to furnish a more accurate picture of events surrounding this dramatic episode in European history…
.

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/10763789/On_The_Celtic_Conquest_of_Thrace_280_279_BC_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE LOST CITY OF ‘HILL’ – On the Localization of the Celtic Capital in Eastern Bulgaria

UD: November 2016

 

 

Tyle

 

 

One of the great archaeological mysteries which has occupied academics on the Balkans since the 19th century has been the search for the elusive capital of the Celtic kingdom in eastern Thrace – Tyle/Τύλις, which is mentioned by Polybius (iv 45-46):
“after they (the Celts) crushed the Thracians and turned the town of Tyle into the capital of their kingdom”.

 

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FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/9437514/THE_LOST_CITY_OF_HILL_-_On_the_localization_of_the_Celtic_capital_in_Eastern_Thrace

 

 

 

 

 

tyle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celtic Shield Coinage

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