A ‘Taranis’ Belt Buckle from Dalj (Eastern Croatia)

UD: August 2016

 

 

Taranis buckle

 

 

 

The area around the village of Dalj (Osijek-Baranja County) near the confluence of the Drava and Danube rivers in eastern Croatia, has yielded a wealth of archaeological material indicating that Dalj was an important area of Celtic settlement in the middle-late Iron Age. 

 

 

 

DAlj

Bronze anthropomorphic figurine with penis and breasts, from the Celtic settlement at Dalj (4th – 3rd c. BC). An almost identical figurine, but portrayed with a torc, has been discovered at Prašník (Trnava reg.) in western Slovakia

 

 

 

 

 

In the year 1906 a pair of Celtic (Scordisci) belt buckles were found at the site of a destroyed Celtic necropolis at the Busija site in Dalj. Dating to the 1st c. BC, the buckles are of a specific kind called the Laminci type, the main characteristic of which is their construction, consisting of an iron plate with a button hook on the front side, on which a punctuated bronze sheet was attached with pins (Drnić 2009).

This buckle type was worn by Celtic females, and examples have been found over a wide area among the Celtic and Celto-Scythian (Bastarnae) tribes from Southern Pannonia and Romania to Ukraine (Drnić 2009), as well as Slovenia (Knez 1992:62, T. 65: 1–5), Hungary (Kovacs 1982:145-146), Serbia (Drnić op cit) and Bulgaria (Babeş 1983:207).

The decoration on such buckles generally includes different combinations of double or triple garlands, horizontal and vertical lines, concentric circles, fishbone motives, and spherical bulges. The ornament on the first Dalj buckle fits into this pattern, being decorated with two triple garlands and three spherical ornaments within the circles.

 

 

Buckle 2

 

The decoration on the second buckle from Dalj is a unique composition based around a core central symbol. In the corners of the buckle four triple garlands were placed with smaller concentric circles in between (two circles between the central motive and the lower side of the buckle remain visible).

 

Taranis buckle

 

 

The central decorative composition on the second Dalj buckle is particularly interesting. Consisting of a ‘cross within a circle’, the symbol is in fact a ‘Taranis Wheel’ which, while not hitherto found on other buckles of the Laminci type, is a common symbol on late Iron Age Celtic artifacts, and is to be found, for example, on numerous Scordisci coin issues from Serbia and Croatia dating from the same period (2nd/ 1st c. BC).

 

 

 

scor tar
Scordisci AR Drachm. Dachreiter type. (Serbia 2nd – 1st c. BC)
(Laureate head (of Zeus?) right / Horse trotting left. Taranis Wheel above)

 

 

 

 

rib ho
Celtic tetradrachms from the Ribnjacka Hoard (Bjelovar, Croatia) – 2nd / 1st c. BC. Note the Wheel of Taranis in front of the horseman on the reverse.
(After Kos, Mirnik 1999)

 

 

 

 

In the late Iron Age the multi-spoked Solar Wheel, associated with the Thunder God Taranis, is gradually replaced by a simplified 4 spoke version, depicted on numerous Celtic works of art from this period. It also appears likely that this simplified Taranis Wheel forms the basis for the ‘Celtic Cross’ in later Early Christian art.

 

 

 

Rat

Lead amulet with Taranis Wheels from Ratiaria (modern Archar) northwestern Bulgaria.
(See also https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/taranis-the-thunder-god/).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

 

Babeş M. (1983) – Paftalele Latène târzii din sud-estul Europei. Zusammenfassung: Die spätlatènezeitlichen plattengürtelhaken südeuropas. SCIVA, 34/1983,3, p.: 196–221

Drnić I. (2009) Dvije pojasne kopče tipa Laminci iz Dalja, VAMZ, 3.s., XLII 305–319

Kos P., Mirnik I. (1999) The Ribnjacka Hoard (Bjelovar, Croatia). In: The Numismatic Chronicle 159,1999

Knez, T. (1992) Novo mesto II, keltsko-rimsko grobiste Beletov vrt. Novo mesto II, keltisch-römisches Gräberfeld Beletov vrt. Novo Mesto, 1992

Kovacs, T. (1982) Latènezeitliches Gürtelblech Südlicher Herkunft in Ungaren. Savaria, 16/1982:145–159

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TARANIS – The Celtic Thunder God

UD: Jan. 2019

“And those who pacify with blood accursed

Savage Teutates, Hesus’ horrid shrines,

And Taranis’ altars cruel as were those

Loved by Diana, goddess of the north”.

Lucanus (Pharsalia, Book 1)

gdd tar

The three Celtic deities best known from classical sources are Teutates, Esus, and Taranis. Teutates is identified with Mars or Mercury, and receives as human sacrifice drowned captives and fallen warriors. Esus too is identified with Mercury, but also with Mars, and he accepts as sacrifice prisoners who are hanged on trees and then dismembered.

The Celtic ‘Thunder-God’ – Taranis, who is also known from nine inscriptions found in Italy, Germany, Hungary, Croatia, France and Belgium, and figures as the character of Taran in the Cymric (Welsh) Mabinogi of Branwen ferch Llŷr, is identified with Jupiter, as a warlord and a sky god. Human sacrifices to Taranis were made by burning prisoners (Mac Congail/Krusseva 2010).

Taranis (with wheel and thunderbolt) (0.103 m.)

(Le Chatelet, Gourzon, (Haute-Marne), France)

 

 

Noteworthy is the fact that the main Celtic God, Lugh/Lugus, is not mentioned by Lucanus (op cit), leading to the suggestion of Rübekeil (2003:38), in view of his hypothesis of a Celtic origin of the Germanic god Odin, that Lugus refers to the trinity Teutates-Esus-Taranis considered as a single god (Rübekeil L. Wodan und andere forschungsgeschichtliche Leichen: exhumiert, Beiträge zur Namenforschung 38 (2003), 25–42).

 Based on writings in the ninth century comment on Lucan, the Berne Scholia, and descriptions in Caesar’s De Bello Gallica, Taranis has been identified as the deity to whom both Julius Caesar and Strabo describe human sacrifices being offered by being burnt alive in ‘wicker men’. The Berne Scholia also describes Taranis as a ‘master of war’, and links him with the Roman deity Jupiter. Taranis’ name is derived from the Proto-Celtic root  *torano- ‘thunder’ [Noun] (GOlD: Olr. torann – ‘thunder, noise’ W: MW taran [f] ‘(peal of) thunder, thunderclap’, BRET: OBret. taran gl. tonitru, MoBret. taran [m] CO: OCo. taran gl. tonitruum, MCo. taran).

statue-de-jupiter-taranis-la-main-droite-une-roue-a-dix-raies-attribut-gaulois-et-ayant-a-sa-gauche-un-aigle-oiseau-de-jupiter-musee-lapidaire-davignon

Jupiter Taranis – Roman era statue of Taranis syncretised with Jupiter, with eagle and solar/Taranis wheel (attributes of the respective deities) in the  Musée lapidaire d’Avignon.

The Gaulish word for ‘thunder’ is preserved in the Gasconian dialect of French (taram). The Celtic forms are best explained by a metathesis *tonaro- > *torano-. The unmetathesized form is perhaps attested as the OBrit. Theonym Tanaro and in the old name of the river Po, Tanarus ‘thundering’. (REF: LEIA T-l13, GPC III: 3447, Delamarre 290, Deshayes 2003: 714; See Matasovic R., Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic. Leinen/Boston 2009. P. 384, with relevant lit.).

a - a Fragment of bone with insc. to Taranis in a C-et script from Sottopendonda Italy 4-3 c. BC

Fragment of bone with inscription to Taranis in a Celto-Etruscan script, from Tesero di Sottopendonda (Trente) Italy (4/3 c. BC)

THE WHEEL OF TARANIS

Bronze applique,  decorated with zoomorphic/bird figures and solar/Taranis wheels, discovered in the Forest of Moidons (Burgandy), France

(6th c. BC)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is a-boii-tótfalu-type-w.-hungary-2c.-bc.jpg

Stallion with 3 penises, under Taranis wheel – reverse of a Celtic issue of the Tótfalu type from western Hungary (2c. BC)

Associated with the Celtic Thunder God is the Solar Wheel or Wheel of Taranis. The wheel was an important symbol in Celtic polytheism, associated with a specific god, known as the wheel-god, identified as the sky-, sun-, or thunder-god, whose name is attested to as Taranis by Lucanus (op cit). Numerous representations of the Wheel of Taranis are found on coins and other artifacts across Celtic Europe, from Britain in the west to Thrace in the east:

8-spoked votive wheels (rouelles / bronze), thought to correspond to the cult of Taranis. Thousands of such wheels have been found in sanctuaries and other sites across Celtic Europe.

(Musée d’Archéologie Nationale, France)

8-spoked (lead) votive Taranis wheel from the Celtic (Scordisci) settlement at Čurug, Vojvodina Province, Serbia (2-1 c. BC)

gold-beads-and-pendants-from-necklace-in-a-bog-near-szarazd-regoly-hillfort-late-2nd-c-bc-szarazd-regoly-tolna-county

Gold beads and pendants, including solar/Taranis wheels, from the Celtic Szárazd-Regöly hoard, discovered in a swamp near Regöly hillfort (Tolna), Hungary

(1st c. BC)

Gaul. Aedui tribe. (Circa 80-50 BC)

AR Quinarius. Helmeted head of Roma left /  horse prancing left, Wheel of Taranis below.

thasos-taranis-rev

Reverse of a Balkan Celtic tetradrachm from central Bulgaria. Note the solar/Taranis wheel in the top left corner.

(1st c. BC)

https://www.academia.edu/6144182/Celtic_Thasos_Type_Coinage_from_Central_Bulgaria

1 c. BC CALÈTES (Pays de Caux) Quart de statère, de Bordeaux-Saint-Clair - électrum - 1 c. BC OBVERSE

Obverse of a quarter stater of the Caletes tribe with solar/Taranis wheel on the subjects face, discovered at Bordeaux-Saint-Clair (Haute-Normandie), France (1 c. BC)

Belgic Gaul, Treviri AV Stater. ca. 60–30/25 BC.

Celticized horse rearing left, in upper field star, V with dotted border, & cross with four annulets between arms, pellet-cross under belly, star under tail; Wheel of Taranis, two stars & globule in front, above a row of pellets, herringbone pattern, solid line above which three stars.

THUNDER ON THE BALKANS

In southeastern Europe a range of Celtic artifacts have also been found which depict the Wheel of Taranis. The Celtic deity holding the solar wheel is represented, for example, on Plate C of the Gundestrup Cauldron thought to have been produced by the Thraco-Celtic Scordisci tribes in northwestern Bulgaria in the late 2nd c. BC. Artifacts depicting the Wheel of Taranis in this region range from Celtic coins dating from the 3rd c. BC onwards, to Romano-Celtic artifacts from the same region dating to the 3rd/4th c. AD.

Taranis with Wheel as depicted on plate C of the Gundestrup cauldron

In the 20’s of the 2nd c. BC the Scordisci tribe in Thrace came under attack from the north. An expansion of the Germanic Cimbri tribe was finally repulsed near the Celtic settlement of Singidunum (Belgrade), and the Cimbri migrated further west (Rankin D. Celts and the Classical World. New York 1987:19 ). It is likely that it was during these events that the most famous of Scordisci treasures, the Gundestrup cauldron, was looted and carried off by the Cimbri (Bergquist A.K., Taylor T.F. The Origin of the Gundestrup Cauldron, Antiquity, vol. 61, 1987. 10-24).

See also:

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

Celtic tetradrachms from the Ribnjacka Hoard (Bjelovar, Croatia) –  2nd / 1st c. BC. Note the Wheel of Taranis in front of the horseman on the reverse. A large number of tetradrachms found in this hoard bore the symbol of the Taranis Wheel (Nos. 45 – 64).

(After Kos P., Mirnik I. The Ribnjacka Hoard (Bjelovar, Croatia). In The Numismatic Chronicle 159 (1999)

a - Taranis b buck

Celtic belt buckle of the Laminci type with Taranis Wheel from Dalj, eastern Croatia (1 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/a-taranis-belt-buckle-from-dalj-eastern-croatia/

Scordisci AR Drachm. Dachreiter type. Serbia/Bulgaria (2/ 1 c. BC)

Laureate head right / Horse trotting left. Wheel of Taranis above

Evidence for the worship of Taranis across Europe, and the depiction of the Solar Wheel associated with this Celtic deity on coins and other artifacts, is particularly important as it again illustrates that although regional differences existed between the pan-Celtic peoples in terms of material culture, certain core religious beliefs and iconography were shared, and remained constant despite temporal and geographic dispersion.

Mac Congail