Tag Archive: Tyle state

UD: April 2018


“On their heads they put bronze helmets which have large embossed figures standing out from them and give an appearance of great size to those who wear them; for in some cases horns are attached to the helmet so as to form a single piece, in other cases images of the fore-parts of birds or four footed animals”.

Diodorus Siculus (on Celtic helmets) (History V.30.2)




While horned helmets among the Celtic tribes are well documented in artwork and coins from the period, actual archaeological confirmation of the existence of this particular type of helmet has been rare. Indeed, until now it was thought that the only known example from Iron Age Europe was the Waterloo Helmet found in the River Thames in London, which is ceremonial in nature and differs greatly from Celtic horned helmets depicted elsewhere.


Bronze ceremonial horned helmet with repoussé decoration in the La Tène style, discovered in the River Thames at Waterloo Bridge, London

(ca. 100 BC)



Warrior with horned helmet depicted on a stele from Bormio (Lombardy), Italy

(early 4th c. BC)


Bronze statue of a naked Celtic warrior with horned helmet and torc. Originally from northern Italy, and presently in the Antikensammlung (SMPK), Berlin

(3rd c. BC)



However, despite the belief that the Waterloo Helmet was the only example of such from Iron Age Europe, a further example is to be found in the bronze horned helmet discovered near the modern village of Bryastovets (Burgas region) in eastern Bulgaria.


The Bryastovetz Horned Helmet from Eastern Bulgaria (3rd c. BC)


 (After Fol A., Fol V. (2008) The Thracians. Sofia; Fol, a former Communist minister, member of the Secret Police, and founder of the Institute of Thracology, incorrectly places the village of Bryastovets in the Targovischte region of northern Bulgaria (!) ) *


Location of  Bryastovetz


In the Balkan context Celtic warriors wearing such horned helmets also appear on two panels of the Gundestrup cauldron, which is believed to have been produced in northwestern Thrace in the late 2nd c. BC by the Scordisci tribes:


Scenes from the Gundestrup cauldron (plates C and E) depicting Celtic warriors wearing horned helmets

See also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2016/09/06/the-gundestrup-ghosts-hidden-images-in-the-gundestrup-cauldron/



 The area of today’s eastern Bulgaria where the Bryastovetz helmet originates was located within the territory of the Celtic ‘Tyle’ state in the 3rd c. BC, and is rich in Celtic numismatic and archaeological material from this period. Celtic tribes are also recorded in this area of s-e Thrace in the 2nd century BC (Appianus, Syriaca 6.22), and it appears likely that the helmet originated from a Celtic warrior burial in the area, most probably an aristocratic burial associated with the Celtic ‘Tyle’ state of the 3rd c. BC.



Sadly, as with many Celtic artifacts from Bulgaria, although illustrations of this helmet have been published in a number of popular books on ‘Thracian Treasures’, it is not on display to the public, nor has it been made available for wider academic study. Officially, this unique Celtic treasure is now in the National Museum in Sofia under inv. # 3454. One can only hope that this is indeed the case…












*On Alexander Fol and ‘Thracology’ see:



On the Celtic Tyle State see:




















UD: November 2016






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”.



















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)





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)






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.




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/





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















UD: September 2016






One of the most tragic tales in ancient history is surely that of the Aegosages, a tribe whose dream of a new home drew them into a vortex of treachery, war and ultimately doom.



The Aegosages (Αἰγοσάγες) were originally one of the tribes which had settled in today’s eastern Bulgaria at the beginning of the 3rd c. BC, forming part of the Celtic ‘Tyle’ state in that region. In 218 BC they received an invitation from Attalus I Soter (Σωτὴρ), King of Pergamon, who promised them rich lands to settle in Asia-Minor (Poly. Hist. V 78.1). However, having crossed over from Thrace it soon became clear to the Aegosages that Attalus’ offer was a double edged sword. The King of Pergamon intended to use the Celtic tribe in his ongoing war against Seleucus III, because of ‘their reputation for valor’ (Poly. V 111.1).




The Hill of Arkovna (western Varna region), center of the Celtic ‘Tyle’ state in eastern Bulgaria



Attalus I, King of Pergamon. (Berlin, Pergamonmuseum).



Bronze Celtic shield coins minted at Apros by the Aegosages tribe prior to their migration into Asia-Minor in 218 BC
(Apros was located either at present-day Kestridge or further west near present-day Kermian, (both in European Turkey) on the route of the later Via Egnatia)





 However, there was one major flaw in Attalus’ plan – the Aegosages had come to Asia to live – and not to die for Attalus. Tricked into participating in the King’s campaign of terror against the cities in Aeolis, the Aegosages proved to be less than enthusiastic about a war in which they had no interest. The Celts steadfastly refused to participate in the conflict, and ‘detached themselves from the column on the march and encamped by themselves, and were altogether most insubordinate and self-assertive’ (Pol. V 78 3-5). Finally, when they were camped by the river Megistus, ‘an eclipse of the moon took place, and the Gauls who had all along been aggrieved by the hardships of the march – since they made the campaign accompanied by their wives and children who followed them in wagons – considering this a bad omen, refused to go any further’ (Poly. V. 77).

 This eclipse of the moon provides us with valuable information in pinpointing the exact date of these events as it occurred precisely on September 1, 218 BC (Taking Bucak, Turkey as an approximation to the ancient Selge, at latitude f 37N28 = +37.47°, longitude l 30E36 = 30.60°. From NASA’s Catalog of Lunar Eclipses, -0299 to -0200 for Sep 1, 218 B.C. (-217): p -0217 Sep 01 16:26 T+ 63 -0.179 2.559 1.533 109m 47m 22.4 22.43 -10.2 Time of Greatest Eclipse t 16:26 = 16.43. Greenwich Sidereal Time at 00.00 UT GSTO 22.4, Right ascension of the Moon ra 22.43, Declination of the Moon d -10.2).


 When it became clear that the Celts would not fight for him, Attalus quickly abandoned them near the Hellespont, where they had no choice but to scavenge from the surrounding towns. At Illium an army was sent against them by Prusias Cholus (Προυσίας Α’ ὁ Χωλός “the Lame), King of Bithynia, led by a general called Themistes. Subsequently, the Aegosages were expelled from the area, and cut off from supplies and food in the apparent hope that they would starve to death. Finally they wandered to the Abydas area, hoping to make this area their new home. It was not to be…



            Prusias I Cholus, King of Bithynia (AR Tetradrachm)



The Aegosages tribe had now become an inconvenience. Cut off from the Thracian Celts, and lacking the military strength of the Celtic tribes who had preceded them into Asia-Minor (see main ‘Galatia’ article), they were easy prey for a Hellenistic army. Finally, at Abydas the Bithynian king decided to resolve the problem ‘once and for all’. The men of the tribe attempted to defend their camp against the Bithynian army, and were slaughtered. The events which followed are described by the Greek historian Polybius (Hist. V 111 6-7) as Prusias’ greatest victory:

‘Prusias, therefore, led an army against them, and after destroying all the men in a pitched battle, put to death all the women and children in their camp, and allowed his soldiers who had taken part in the battle to plunder the baggage’.



For the Aegosages tribe the dream had begun almost 100 years before, and had taken them thousands of miles through southeastern Europe and Asia-Minor. Drawn into Asia by promises of a new home, their refusal to go to war had sealed their fate, and their journey finally came to an end.














Mac Congail