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
Petrijanec images after ŠIŠA-VIVEK M.,LELEKOVIĆ T., KALAFATIĆ H. OSTAVA RIMSKOG NOVCA I SREBRNOG POSUĐA IZ PETRIJANCA. In: OPVSC. ARCHÆOL. VOL. 29. ZAGREB 2005. pp. 231 – 246
As stated, the hoard also included three silver plates, the smaller of which, decorated with a figural 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 horses – stables, 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.