THE LONGEST TWILIGHT – The Scordisci/Balkan Wars of the 2 – 1 c. BC

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/a-a-a-a-a-a.jpg?w=820

“Part of this region (Thrace) was inhabited by the Scordisci … a people formerly cruel and savage, and, as ancient history declares, accustomed to offer up their prisoners to Bellona and Mars, and from their hollowed skulls greedily to drink human blood. By their savageness the Roman state was often sorely troubled…”

 

(Ammianus Marcellinus Book 27: iv,4)

 

 

PAX ROMANA

After the defeat of Macedonia in the 3rd and 4th Macedonian Wars, and the ease and speed with which Rome had destroyed the Achaean League, it appeared that the Roman conquest of southeastern Europe was unstoppable. The utter destruction of the city of Corinth in 146 BC, and the mass looting and enslavement which accompanied the establishment of the Roman province of Macedonia, were a clear warning to those who would oppose the empire.

It was therefore logical to expect that the barbarian tribes of the central and northern Balkans would quickly succumb to the Roman military machine, and the ‘Pax Romana’ which accompanied it. In fact, the conquest of Thrace would develop into a brutal and prolonged conflict which was to rage for over 150 years…

 

FULL ARTICLE:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/the-scordisci-wars/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

….

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THE TUROKOVSKI TREASURE – Another Celtic Plunder Hoard from Western Bulgaria

coin-ill

 

Discovered by accident on a rocky ridge on the southern slopes of the Ruy mountain near the village of Turokovski (Tran area, Pernik region), in western Bulgaria, the Turokovski Hoard represents the latest in a large number of ancient Plunder hoards discovered on the territory of today’s Bulgaria, relating to raids by the Celtic Scordisci federation and allied Free Thracian tribes on Roman territory during the late 2nd and 1st century BC.

 

turok

The Turokovski area where the hoard was discovered

 

The Turokovski treasure consisted of a large hoard ofMacedonian” tetradrachms produced by the Romans after the region fell under Roman rule, specifically First Region /Meris/ (ΜΑΚΕΔΟΝΩΝ / ΠΡΟΤΗΣ) coinage, depicting a Macedonian shield ornamented with stars in double crescents & grouped dots between; draped bust of Artemis right, / MAKEΔONΩN ΠΡΩTHΣ above & below horizontal club, all in oak wreath, thunderbolt outside wreath to left.  

mak-coin-hoard

                           Tetradrachms from the Turokovski Hoard

After: Пayнов E., Прокопов  И. (2006) Едно разпиляно монетно съкровище от Трънско – опит за реконструк-ция и датиране. In: Известия на Регионален исторически музей Перник ІІ(5-и регионални археологически четения, Перник’ февруари 2006)

 

When discovered, the hoard was split into two parts, totaling 199 coins, placed in two similar gray pottery jugs, and deposited close to each other; the vessels contained respectively 89 and 110 tetradrachms. Unfortunately, as with so many such ancient hoards in Bulgaria, the majority of the coins were stolen and dispersed shortly after discovery*. 71 examples were subsequently rescued and recorded, allowing the Turokovtsi hoard to be dated to ca. 120/119 BC.

The aforementioned dating of the hoard, and its discovery in an area of Thrace which at this time was controlled by the Celtic Scordisci and the Free Thracian Tribes (notably the Dantheleti and Maedi), has also enabled experts to conclude that this, as with many other such hoards of Roman coinage discovered in Thrace dating to this period, reached the region as a result of barbarian raids on Roman Macedonia (Prokopov, Paunov, op. cit.).

Celtic presence in the Pernik region during this period, which should be attributed to the Serdi branch of the Scordisci, has been confirmed by the identification of Celtic settlements such as Magaris, Magimias and Loukonanta (the Valley of Lugh), all in the Tran district where Turokovtsi is situated, as well as extensive archaeological data (Duridanov 1997:135; Mac Congail 2008:39; Falilevev 2009:281).

 

ram

Celtic zoomorphic Ram figurine/attachment from a cult fire-pot – Breznik, (Pernik region) (2/1 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/serdiserdica/

 

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/aes-mac.jpg?w=820

Roman First Macedonian Region and Aesillas issues from the numismatic collection of the Kyustendil Regional Museum, Western Bulgaria 

(After Filipova S., Ilya Prokopov I., Paunov E. The Numismatic Collection of the Regional Historical Museum at Kyustendil (Ancient Ulpia Pautalia) Part 1: Greek, Thracian, Macedonian, Roman Republican and Roman Provincial Coins. (CCCHBulg) Volume II. Sofia 2009)

 

In the area of Bulgaria in question further such Plunder Hoards, notably those issued by the Roman quaestor Aesillas, include examples found in the villages of Zhabokrut and Krumovo (Kyustendil region, Western Bulgaria), and near the village of Chepino, Pernik region (IGCH 646). Tetradrachm hoards of the First Macedonian Region have been found in the village of Skrino, Kyustendil region, in the village of Kralev Dol, Pernik region (IGCH 894), in the village of Studena, Pernik region as well as that from the village of Turokovtsi outlined above.

 

 

Analysis of the coinage from the Turokovtsi hoard indicates that the tetradrachms had been minted only a short time before being looted by the Celts, and transferred to Thrace where they were subsequently buried. This would logically relate the treasure to raids on Roman territory by the Scordisci who by 119 BC had advanced all the way to the Aegean coast where the governor Pompeius was killed during an attack on Argos, before the Celts were finally repelled by a Roman force commanded by Quaestor Marcus Annius, who also succeeded in repulsing an further attack soon afterwards by the Scordisci, in alliance with the Thracian Maedi tribe (SIG 700 Sherk 1 48 R.K. Sherk Rome and the Greek East to the Death of Agustus (1993); CAH 9’32 = Cambridge Ancient History 2nd Edition 1984 -1989).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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*On the systematic theft of Ancient Coins from Bulgaria see:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/little-metal-men-a-statistical-analysis-of-cultural-vandalism/

On Celtic “Plunder Hoards” from Thrace see:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/the-currency-of-plunder/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Balkan Celtic Fortress at Krševica (Southern Serbia)

KALE AIR

The Kale (Turkish for fortification) at Krševica near Bujanovac in southern Serbia is situated at a strategic location where the slopes of the Rujen mountain descend towards the Vranje basin and Južna Morava valley. This exceptional strategic position had been used in the Late Bronze and Early Iron ages, but the Hellenistic settlement with acropolis was established at the turn of the 5/4 century BC. Finds of coins of Philip II, Alexander III, Cassander, and Demetrios Poliorketes correspond in general to the chronological span of the Hellenistic settlement which was the northernmost Ancient Macedonian city, and has been identified with the ancient city of Damastium, mentioned in classical sources (Popović P. 2006).

 

 

 

map k.

Location of Krševica

 

 

 

KALE acropolis

The Acropolis at Krševica – Central plateau with complex of buildings

 

(Illustrations after Popović 2006 = Popović P. (2006) Central Balkans Between the Greek and Celtic World: Case Study Kale-Krševica. In: In Homage to Milutin Garašanin. SASA Special Editions. Belgrade 2006. P 523-536)

 

 

 

 

Extensive archaeological excavations at the Krševica site have revealed a unique site in the Južna Morava valley where the significant remains of two civilizations – Greek and Celtic – have been encountered. The most massive layers with buildings, ramparts and other structures, as well as abundant finds of imported and local pottery made after Greek prototypes, date from the 4th and early 3rd  century BC.

 

Suburbium x

Suburbium, platform with ramparts and buildings at Krševica

 

hellen cer m Kale 4th-early 3rd c. BC

Hellenistic Ceramic from Krševica – 4th / early 3rd century BC

 

 

 

With the Celtic expansion into the central Balkans during the late 4th /early 3rd century BC, and the resulting collapse of the Macedonian state, the settlement at Krševica fell under Celtic control (Popović 2006, Mac Gonagle 2015). Archaeological evidence from the site indicates that this transition was a relatively peaceful one, and no significant economic or social disruption is to be observed.

 

 

 

On the Celtic Conquest of the Central and Eastern Balkans see:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/the-celtic-conquest-of-thrace-280279-bc/

 

 

Celtic 1 Kale - 2-1 c. BC

La Tène Ceramic from the Celtic/Scordisci layers at Krševica (2/1 century BC)

 

A considerable amount of the ceramic consists of vessels characteristic of the late La Tène production from the territory of the Celtic Scordisci tribes. Besides standard forms, like ‘S’ shaped bowls, pseudo-kantharoi  etc., excavations also uncovered vessels traditionally referred to by Bulgarian and Romanian archaeologists as ‘Thracian-Dacian types of cups’ (bottom left above), which are actually Celtic lamps (Vagalinski 2011:204).

 

See also:

https://www.academia.edu/5992553/Late_La_T%C3%AAne_Ceramic_from_Bulgaria

 

 

 

la tene pits Kale Krsevica

Excavation of one of the Celtic ritual pits at Krševica

 

Celtic 2 Kale Krševica -pits - 2-1 c. BC - near Bujanovac (southeast Serbia)

La Tène ceramic from one of the ‘ritual’ pits at Krševica

The pits were of cult character and according to the main characteristics of the finds they date from the final decades of the second and the beginning of the first century BC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the gradual Roman expansion into this region during the late 2nd / 1st century BC, and the resulting war of resistance by the local tribes, Krševica became of particular strategic importance. During this brutal conflict, the fortress was used by the Scordisci Federation, in conjunction with other members of the ‘barbarian coalition’, including the Free Thracian tribes and Dardanians, as a staging-post for frequent attacks/raids on Roman occupied territory to the south. This final phase ended with the defeat of the anti-Roman coalition led by the Scordisci towards the end of the 1st century BC, and the subsequent consolidation of Rome’s control in the area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Scordisci Wars see also:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/the-scordisci-wars/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Late La Tene Warrior Burial from Koynare (Bulgaria)

koinare - Copy

 

 

 

 

The village of Koynare (Pleven region) is situated on the left bank of the Iskar river in north-western Bulgaria, an area which over the past century has yielded probably the highest concentration of Iron Age warrior burials in Europe – the vast majority discovered ‘accidentally’ by the local population (Domaradski 1984, Torbov 2000, Mac Gonagle 2013).

 

 

 

Koyn map

Finds of Celtic weapons and location of Koynare in north-western Bulgaria

(afte Paunov 2013)

 

 

 

The late Iron Age burial at Koynare has been dated to the La Tene D1 period (1st c. BC), and included material typical of a Balkan Celtic warrior burial of this period – La Tene sword/scabbard, circular shield umbo, spearheads, dagger (sica), and a H-shaped horse bit (Luczkiewiez, Schonfelder 2008).

 

 

 

SWORD/SCABBARD

 

Discovered together with fragments of its scabbard, the Koynare sword is one of over 60 examples of Celtic La Tene C2/D swords to have been discovered in the area of north-western Bulgaria between the Timok and Iskar rivers alone. These swords are identical to the Belgrade 2 / Mokronog 2-4, and Belgrade 3 / Mokronog 5-6 type Celtic swords from Scordisci burials in neighboring Serbia (Torbov 2000, Mac Gonagle 2013).

 

 

SHIELD UMBO

 

The circular shield umbo from Koynare is of the Novo Mesto type. Further examples of this specific type of Celtic shield have been recorded in north-western Bulgaria at Montana, Kriva Bara (Vratza reg.), Pleven etc. (Luczkiewiez, Schonfelder 2008).

 

 

Mon shield

Celtic (Scordisci) shield umbo from Montana, north-western Bulgaria (late 2nd c.  BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPEARHEADS

 

In terms of typology, the spearheads from Koynare have direct parallels in Balkan Celtic burials at Turnava and Biala Slatina (both Vratza reg.), and Montana in north-western Bulgaria, as well as an example from Portilor de Fier (Mehedinti) Romania – all similarly dated to the La Tene D1 period (loc cit). Spearheads are found in the vast majority of Balkan Celtic burials from this period. The presence of two examples, as at Koynare, is exceptional, but by no means unique. Such is the case, for example, with the recently discovered Scordisci warrior burial from Sremska Mitrovica (Serbia), which included two spearheads, one ritually ‘killed’.

 

 

 

Rit serb

 

(Ritually ‘killed’) spearhead from a Scordisci burial at Sremska Mitrovica (Serbia/1st c. BC)

 

(see Balkancelts ‘The Warrior and His Wife’ article, with relevant lit.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CURVED DAGGER

 

 

Curved daggers (sica) are a frequent part of the inventory of late Iron Age Scordisci warrior burials from the territory of modern Serbia, southern Romania and northern Bulgaria. For example, at the Scordisci necropolis at Karaburma (Belgrade) 7 such curved daggers, dating from the La Tene C2-D1 period, have been registered (burial nos. 13, 25, 32, 35, 66, 97, 112) (Todorovic 1972). Decorated daggers of this type, as the Koynare example, are most commonly found in Celtic burials from northern Bulgaria and Oltenia (southern Romania) (Luczkiewiez, Schonfelder 2008).

 

 

 

mon dagg

Celtic dagger (sica) from Montana, n.w. Bulgaria, decorated with mirored bird symbols

 

(See Balkancelts ‘Sacrificial Curved Daggers’ article)

 

 

 

 

 

HORSE BIT

 

The H-shaped horse bit discovered at Koynare suggests that, as in the case of Celtic burials such as those from Pavolche and Montana in north-western Bulgaria, or the recently discovered Scordisci burials from Desa in Romania, the individual in the Koynare burial was a Celtic cavalry officer.

 

Desa h-b

H-Shaped horse bit and circular shield umbo from the Scordisci burials at Desa, Romania

(See Balkancelts ‘Desa’ article)

 

 

 

 

 

As at Koynare, the vast majority of Celtic burials from north-western Bulgaria date to the La Tene C2/D period – i.e. from the time of the Scordisci Wars with Rome in the late 2nd/1st c. BC, reflecting the high level of militarization in Celtic society in this area during the period in question.

 However, the fact that only warrior burials have been discovered from this period, and those ‘accidentally’ by the local population, reflects a chronic lack of research at Celtic sites in the area, resulting in a continuing distortion in Bulgarian archaeological science.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cited Literature

 

 

Luczkiewiez P., Schonfelder M. (2008) Untersuchungen Zur Ausstattung Eines Spateisenzeitlichen Reiterkriegers Aus Dem Sudlichen Karpaten Oder Balkanraum. Sonderdruch aus Jahrbuch des Romisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz 55. Jahrgang 2008. p. 159-210

Mac Gonagle B. (2013) https://www.academia.edu/5385798/Scordisci_Swords_from_Northwestern_Bulgaria

Megaw J.V.S (2004) In The Footsteps of Brennos? Further Archaeological Evidence for Celts in the Balkans. In: Zwischen Karpaten und Agais. Rahden /Westf. p. 93-107

Paunov E. (2013) From Koine To Romanitas: The Numismatic Evidence for Roman Expansion and Settlement in Bulgaria in Antiquity (Moesia and Thrace, ca. 146 BC –AD 98/117) Phd.Thesis. School of History, Archaeology and Religion. Cardiff University. 2013)

Szabó M., Petres E. (1992) Decorated Weapons of the La Têne Iron Age in the Carpathian Basin. Inv. Praehist Hungariae 5 (Budapest 1992)

Todorović J. (1972) Praistorijska Karaburma, I, Beograd.

Tорбов Н. (2000) Мечове от III- I в. пр. Хр. открити в сиверосападна България. In: Исвестия на музеите в сиверосападна България. т. 28. 2000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celtic Strymon/Trident Coinage

strtri in

 

Celtic Strymon/Trident Coinage:

https://www.academia.edu/6355583/Celtic_Strymon_Trident_Coinage

 

 

 

3 map Fin.

 

 

 

 

 

TILL DEATH DO US PART – The Mass Grave from Slana Voda

UD: May 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

“To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace”.

 

Words of the Celtic Chieftain Calgacus

(Agricola (30)

 

 

 

 

 

In the year 1971 an extraordinary archaeological discovery was made at the locality of Slana Voda (Salty Water), near the village of Krajčinovići, in southwestern Serbia. A mass burial containing 25 partially burnt skeletons was found, along with a wealth of archaeological material, including pottery, bronze dishes, jewelry, 60 iron swords and other weaponry (Zotović 2007).

 

 

Slana Voda b.

 The Mass Grave from Slana Voda

(after Zotović R. Social and Cultural Aspects of the Burial Krajčinovići –Slana Voda (South-West of Serbia, Middle of II c. BC. In: Acta Terrae Septemcastrensis, VI, 1, 2007. Pp. 199-205).

 

 

 

 

The site is remarkable for a number of reasons, foremost among them the fact that it had previously been thought that his part of western Serbia was uninhabited in the late Iron Age, i.e. this was the first archaeological material to be found in the area dating between the 5th c. BC and the Roman period (loc cit.). Therefore, the site provided the first confirmation that western Serbia was indeed inhabited in the pre-Roman period.

 

The material from the burials is also particularly noteworthy, consisting of mostly Celtic material (with older Illyrian influences to be observed in some of the pottery), and imported Hellenistic pottery and jewelry, which illustrates trade contacts between the Celtic population in this area and the Hellenistic world. Two further Celtic burials across the border in modern Bosnia Herzegovina were excavated in the 20th c. at Mahrevići by Čajniče (Truhelka,  Ć. 1909. Gromila latenske dobe u Mahrevićima kod  Čajniča,  Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja u Sarajevu XXI, p. 425-442) and Vir by Posušje (Marić, Z. 1962. Vir kod Posušja, Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja u Sarajevu N.S. XVII, p. 63-72). At both of these sites the burial rituals (positioning of the bodies etc.) and archaeological material uncovered were similar to the Slana Voda burial.

 

 

 

 

Sl. We

Weaponry from the Slana Voda Burial

(after Zotović 2007)

 

 

 

 

 

Till Death Do Us Part

 

 

  The positioning of the bodies, burial ritual, and accompanying archaeological material at Slana Voda indicate that this a war burial carried out at the middle of the 2nd c. BC (Zotović op. cit.), which coincides chronologically with the first historical accounts of conflict between the Roman Empire and the Balkan Celtic tribes (see ‘Scordisci Wars’ article). From a human perspective, perhaps most noteworthy about the Slana Voda burial (as is the case with the mass graves at Mahrevići and Vir) is the fact that the bodies are of male and female ‘warriors’, i.e. of both men and women, arranged together with their weapons.

 

 

 

Sl. j.

 

Jewelry from the Slana Voda Burial

(after Zotović 2007)

 

 

 

 

 

The archaeological evidence from Slana Voda illustrates that the burial was carried out under conflict conditions, yet time was taken to give the dead an ordered burial, and no distinction was made between the men and women, who had apparently died together. Chronologically, this burial coincides with the first phases of Roman expansion in the region, and the mass grave at Slana Voda would appear to mark the arrival of ‘Pax Romana’ in this part of the Balkans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Celts in southern Serbia see also:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/12/06/the-balkan-celtic-fortress-at-krsevica-southern-serbia/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FROM GODS TO MATCHSTICK MEN – The Art of the Scordisci Wars

UD: November 2018

abst

 

“The more horrifying the world becomes, the more art becomes abstract”.

(Paul Klee)

 

It is said that art mirrors life, and nowhere is this to be more clearly observed than in the art produced by the ‘barbarian’ tribes during the Scordisci Wars of the late 2nd / 1st c. BC.

 

Fig. 1 – Original Thasos AR tetradrachm, 164/160 BC.

Wreathed head of Dionysos right. HPAKΛEOYΣ ΣΩTHPOΣ ΘAΣIΩN, M inner left field, Herakles standing left, holding club and lion skin

 

The original Greek issues (fig. 1) depict typical examples of Hellenistic art – static and anatomically accurate images of Greek Gods, in this case Dionysos and Herakles. In the original Thasos images idealization of the subject is to be observed, a trait typical of Hellenistic art.

 In the second half of the 2nd c. BC the ‘barbarian’ tribes of today’s Bulgaria began to copy the Thasos coins. Early imitations (Fig. 2/3) remain very close to the Greek original, both in terms of imagery and the use of Greek inscriptions on the coins. Indeed, some of the early copies are so close to the originals that experts have great difficulty distinguishing them from the Hellenistic originals.

 

Fig. 2

Fig. 3

 

However, even at this early stage certain divergences from the originals are to be observed. These coins, while remaining true to the Greek iconography and continuing to use the Greek inscription/alphabet, begin to show clear distinguishing characteristics. For example, the head of Dionysos on the obverse begins to take on more masculine characteristics – square chin, larger nose, etc., which is at variance with the effeminate features of the Greek deity on the originals.

In the early decades of the 1st c. BC the real process of artistic metamorphosis begins. The subjects take on a more abstract aspect, and attempts to ‘copy’ the Hellenistic images and inscriptions are abandoned.

Fig. 4 – Celtic ‘Thasos type’ tetradrachma minted over that of the Roman Quaestor Aesillas (early 1st c. BC)

On Herakles’ left knee the Q (short for Quaestor – similar to English P) can be seen. There are also faint traces of Alexander’s hair locks at the metal disturbance in Dionysos’ cheek from the Roman original. The historical context in which these coins were produced – during a bitter struggle between the ‘barbarians’ and the Roman empire, should be borne in mind. From a psychological perspective the fact that the Celtic population in Thrace took the trouble to mint over the Roman/Hellenistic coins, instead of simply using the classical issues, is a clear political statement – a rejection of the classical images portrayed on the originals, and by extension the culture which had produced them (see: https://www.academia.edu/4963636/Plunder_Coinage_from_Thrace).

 

During this period new details also begin to appear, such as the case in fig. 5a, where the lion-skin of Herakles on the reverse of the Greek coin has now been transformed into a child in the Celtic image, or 5b where the Wheel of the Celtic Thunder God Taranis appears on the reverse of the coin.

 

Fig. 5a

thasos-taranis

Fig. 5b

 

1-thasos-meltdown-comparisosn

Reverse of an original Hellenistic issue (early 2nd c. BC), and Celtic issue from central Bulgaria from the late 1st c. BC

 

The brutal conflict with Rome during the final phases of the Scordisci Wars, and the accompanying misery of everyday life, is reflected in increasingly abstract and surreal images. A metamorphosis is to be observed in the images which reflect core Celtic religious iconography, foremost among them the image of the human headed serpent which has evolved on the obverse (fig. 6), or the appearance of the bird goddess, depicting the Badhbh Chatha – the Celtic Goddess of War (fig. 7/8). 

Fig. 6

Fig. 7Fig. 8

 

At this stage the subjects on the reverse become even more schematic, depicting images such as the ‘Wicker Man’, or the clawed creature depicted in fig. 9; images which reflect the final phases of a brutal war – a conflict which shortly afterwards culminated in the destruction of the culture which produced them.

 

Fig. 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Text after Крусева Б. / Мак Конгал Б., Хората, които се превърна в слънце – Krusseva B. / Mac Congail B., The Men Who became the Sun – Barbarian Art and Religion on the Balkans. Plovdiv, 2010.