Celtic coin – the oldest coin in Central Europe

celt civilization
celt civilization

Even in late Hallstatt time it became a custom to consider pieces of raw iron of approximately equal weight as a measure of value, which were given the shape of elongated hryvnia sharpened at both ends, expanding in the middle. They were exported from Celtic territory to all neighbouring areas and remained a unit of value for a long time, especially in Britain. Otherwise, a certain ratio was maintained in the exchange. In Ireland, according to custom, 6 heifers, or 3 dairy cows, corresponded to the value of a slave; Celtic slaves were accepted very willingly in exchange in the Mediterranean regions; Roman traders bought, especially in later times, Celtic bread, meat, Gaul lard, ham and wool, and supplied oppidums with various products from Roman and provincial workshops, as well as southern wine. The extraordinary growth of Celtic power during the period of greatest economic and trade prosperity necessitated the minting of its own coin, the first “barbarian” coin in Gaul and in Central Europe. Back in the 4th century Celtic military units during their raids on Greece and Italy could see how convenient the money, and Celtic mercenaries in foreign service received their remuneration in the coin. While the Celts were successful in military campaigns, there was no need for their own coin. But gradually, starting from the 3rd century, when their economic base became their own production, producing more than was necessary to meet local needs, their own Celtic coin became a prerequisite for further development. In the Celtic world there were two coin systems: silver coins and coins minted from gold; much less frequently coins were minted from another metal, from copper – bronze or platinum (bronze alloy with a significant content of tin). In Czech lands Celts minted coins mainly from gold, silver coins were smaller; to the east, in the Carpathian Basin, silver coins were more common. In the west, coins made of both metals were in circulation. It was decisive, of course, to have enough metal in a certain area. The oldest Celtic coins appear in the 2nd century, mainly from its middle, and are imitated by Macedonian-Greek models. Such an example was a hundred-ter Alexander III of Macedon with the head of Pallada Athena with a high Corinthian helmet on the obverse (front side) and the winged goddess of victory Nica with a laurel wreath in his right hand on the reverse (back side). Such gold coins originally had a Greek inscription (legend), weighed about 8.4 g and their diameter reached 18 – 20 mm (whole statters; in addition, minted and their parts – a third, eighth and twenty-fourth). They are known in the Czech Republic (a mass discovery in Nechanice near Hradec Králové, Old Bídžov) and in many places in Moravia, especially in the vicinity of the Staré Gradisco oppidum, as well as in Austria and Hungary. Later on, this type of minting becomes coarser, departing from the original model. In Central Europe, from Silesia through the Czech Republic to Austria, gold coins are also found with the head of Athena Pallada on the obverse and the figure of a warrior with a shield, with a belt on his hips and a raised spear on the reverse, i.e. with motifs closer to the local Celtic environment; they weigh about 8.16 g and their diameter varies between 15-17 mm. The minting of these coins also gradually becomes coarser, the pattern becomes vaguely convex, and the figure of the warrior sometimes turns into a vague contour. The purity of gold, however, often reaches 97%. Apparently, they were in circulation during the heyday of the Oppidums, as they are also found in Stradonitsa settlement. Sometimes they used the Athena-Alkis stamp to mint silver coins as well. On the coinage business in modern France, a strong influence had Masilia, which from a very early time used coins of the Greek colonies of Asia Minor, then minted their own coin on their samples, and from the 4th century produced their own drachma (with the head of a nymph and a lion, later and with a bull on the reverse); in Masilia minted also coins in bronze and platinum. Similarly, the Rhodes, Empires and other colonies in the northern part of the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula later minted their own coins. These coins found their way to Gaul, sometimes to Central Europe, as the bronze coins, minted according to their pattern with the image of an attacking bull, were found in Bibrakat, as well as in Stradonice in Bohemia. In Gaul proper, the minting of the coin was strongly influenced by the statue of Philip of Macedon with the head of Apollo and the bug (two-wheeled carriage with buckle and chariot). The image was simplified, later instead of two horses appears only one, as a typical sign of Gaul coins. The horse on the reverse then attached another human head (androcephalous horse, that is, a horse with a man’s head). Greek names (Philip’s name) on these coins soon lost their clarity and were replaced by local Celtic names; later names on the coins appear only occasionally, most often in the territory of coaches (, Aboukatos, on the Bitourigian statue, “Niros”, on a gold coin of nerves or traverses, “Pottina”, “Lukotios”, “Vokaran”, etc.; it is possible that these are the names of tribal leaders). Roughly cast “balls” and “breasts” (globules) with almost indistinguishable images are found both in the west in Gaul and in the Czech Republic. Later on, silver coins were minted in Gaul, modeled on the Roman republican denars of the 2nd century; in the French-Swiss region, with a rider, horse and legend “Kal”, “Kaleda”, which are sometimes attributed to the Eduys (found both in Latena and Stradonitsa settlement in the Czech Republic) or with a human figure holding a torquet in his hand. At the same time, minting also spread in the southeast, in Norika, on the territory of Romanian-Hungarian, Serbian and Bosnian. In the Carpathian regions, the model for local coins was also the tetradrachmas (four drachmas coins) of Philip II of Macedon, which were minted long after his death to pay salaries to the troops and to trade with neighboring barbarians. Minting of this coin, which was produced mainly in Amphipolis (on the Aegean coast east of the Halkido peninsula), after the fall of the Macedonian power (the Battle of Pidne in 186 BC) ceased, and therefore the neighboring tribes minted their own coin on its model. Some types of these coins were probably minted in modern Slovakia, apparently from local silver; the so-called Audoleon type (reverse image of a horse and an obscure legend, “Audoleon”) is particularly common in the vicinity of the Matra hill, a kindred Gothic type common from Burgenland to the Bratislava region. Norilsk silver coins, with a horse or rider on the reverse and with Apollo’s head on the obverse sometimes have a legend (“Boyo”, “Tinko”, “Nemeth”, “Andamati”, etc.). In Central Europe and especially often in the Czech Republic at the turn of the 2nd and last century BC gold coins (hundred ters) with the image of a boar on the reverse appear, which is consistent with the importance attached to the image of the Celtic boar
In the Czech Republic we also find golden statters with a rough depiction of the head on the obverse and with a running or bowed man with crossed sticks in his right hand and statters with a curled dragon with an open mouth on the reverse (Rolltier, this motif is attributed to the Scythian area); they are known from the findings in Osov and especially in Stradoshchy near Beroun, as well as elsewhere. In the first half of the last century, two kinds of bowl-shaped gold coins were distributed. The bowl-shaped coins found in the western regions, called “rainbow cups” (Regenbogensohiisselchen, as they shine after rain on a freshly ploughed field), are mainly found in Bavaria and are therefore attributed to windeletes; however, they are found throughout the entire territory from eastern France to the Czech Republic. They show a dragon rolled up in a ring, and the reverse shows a torquet with six balls, later only the head of a dragon or a bird and a simple wreath; in the Rhine areas it is combined with a triquetrum. Such coins are most often found in treasures. In Irsching Manhing in Bavaria there were more than 1000 of them, in Gagers south of Manhing there were about 1400 of them; they are also found in Switzerland and in Stradonitz oppidu-me. Their whitish gold often no longer reaches high purity (sometimes less than 70%). Heavy gold “breasts” (Goldknolle) up to 90% pure and weighing an average of 7.45 g are not yet clearly misshaped. The drawing on them is rough, vague, often only indistinct bulges can be seen. They are part of a known coin find discovered as early as 1771 near the village of Podmoklí near Zbíroga in the area of Rokycan (southwest Bohemia). In the bronze cauldron, apart from the silver bracelet, there were allegedly about 5000 gold coins, whole, third and eighth, i.e. gold treasure weighing several kilograms. The find was plundered, only part (about 1260 coins) managed to collect in the office of the Princes Fürstenberg. Most of these coins were then melted into the ducats of the Fürstenberg. The second group of miscellaneous coins, common in the eastern regions, are called shell-shaped statters or simply gold shells; in literature they are often mixed with rainbow cups. They come from high-grade gold (up to 97%) weighing about 6.5 g; their third and eighth coins are also minted. They are coarser, their reverse has a ray pattern in a bowl-shaped hollow (hence the name “shell”, Fig. 31), the front, convex side has a mark with five rays, reminiscent of a hand, sometimes with balls or two crescent moons. These coins are found very often in hoardings and in oppidums (Zbiro ga’s underworks, hoard of coins in Stradonica oppidum, Staré Hradisko in Moravia, etc.). In some places, shell-shaped coins were also minted from silver. The minting of silver coins was very popular in later times, apparently mainly for local circulation. Silver coins can be broken down into many types. The “Edouis” coins with the image of the head looking to the left, and on the reverse – a horse jumping to the left, weighing about 0.45 grams (in the treasure at Villeneuve-au-Roi of 15,000 coins were about 2000 of this type), coins with a cross, and sometimes also with ball-shaped bulges, called Tectosaga numismatists (often found in Wurttemberg, Baden and Swiss-French regions, usually weighing about 7 g), Carlsbad bowl type with the image of a horse on the reverse, weighing only about 4 g, and many other types. All these types of coins can be found in oppidums, for example in the Stradonitsa treasure (over 500 coins). Some of them are probably minted directly in the Stradonitsa, in particular a 0.4 g coin with its head on the obverse and a jumping horse with a mane in the form of “pearls” on the reverse. Among the finds in Staré Hradisko are mainly gold coins, while silver ones are very rare. The latest Celtic coin. In the southwest of Slovakia there are frequent findings of large silver coins (tetrodrachm) of the type, Biatek”, which are the latest Celtic coins in this area, minted until the dacia Pannonia and the adjacent part of Slovakia. Apparently, they were minted directly in the Bratislava region, where there are other traces of the dense late Latenian settlement, and they date from approximately the second quarter of the last century, approximately 75-60. These large silver coins weighing an average of 16.5-17 g served as a model for Roman denars in the last century. On their front side is a simple depiction of a head or two heads, of which one partially covers the other (Figure 32), on the reverse is a depiction of a rider, griffin, lion, centaur or other animal, and sometimes a coiled dragon. The letters on these coins are Latin capitals; they are, in fact, the oldest Latin letter in Czechoslovak territory. The personal names of the princes or chiefs are probably given on the coins, most often the name Biatek or Biat (hence the name, Biatek coin), but also many others: Nonnos, Devil, Buzu, Titto, Coviomarus, Fariarix, Macchius and others. In addition to large silver coins were minted smaller, so-called Simmering type (the name at the place of discovery – Symmering Vienna), sometimes with the legend “Nonnos”. Treasures of silver coins of Biatek type are found mainly in Slovakia, in Bratislava region. Of the 14 treasures known so far, 6 were found in Bratislava itself (the last one, found in 1942, was saved 270 coins), one was found in Retz, the rest in Stupava, Trnava and Jarovec (former Deich-Jarndorf). The latter also contained a golden shell-shaped statter with the legend Biatek of the same type found in Bohemia without a legend; this suggests that some of the Celts (battles) moved their settlements in the first half of the last century from Bohemia to the Nanono-Slovak area. Findings of Biatek type coins are also found in neighboring Austria, in the part that is an extension of the Bratislava region. The burial of these hoardings in southwestern Slovakia is undoubtedly connected with the disturbing times during the war between the battles and the dacha around 60 B.C. After the defeat of the battles, these coins were probably still in circulation for a short time, but new ones were not minted anymore. The more difficult question is who had the right in the Celtic world to mint the coin. Many researchers believe that the coins were issued mainly by large representatives of the nobility, princes and leaders (the legends of some coins support this view), certain types of coins are considered tribal or suggest that the right to mint them belonged to the oppidums, which are also often considered the residence of the princes. The development of the Celtic coinage business in Central Europe generally lasted about one century. It is rather difficult to establish the exact location of Celtic tribes in Central Europe, and the question whether the structure of Central European Celtic tribes during the culmination of Celtic power, during the heyday of the oppidums, is quite uniform, remains open. Celtic coins clearly reflect the characteristics of the entire Celtic development. And there is no complete uniformity in minting; we find many types of coins and significant variations in their weight. Two-shoulder precision scales were therefore an inevitable accessory in trade deals and are found in large quantities in oppidums (Bibracta, Hradiste u Stradonica, Tršisov, Staré Hradisko etc.). In some cases, mainly in the west, it was even necessary to mark or countermark coins already issued. Therefore, it can be assumed that there were many minting places and that they did not always coincide with the centers of individual tribes, as even the production centers during the heyday of the Celtic environment did not always coincide with the political center of the tribe. Trade and economic interests at that time already fully prevailed, and the old tribal community gradually lost its original meaning; unification of separate parts of different tribes became common. The minting of coins in some oppidums, such as in Manhing or in the settlement of Stradonitz, is undoubtedly proved” by findings, mainly clay tablets with bowl-shaped recesses for casting coins of rough shape, which then by minting acquired its final form. Some of these plates still bear traces of gold. But absolutely the same plates we find on the settlements near Nové Strášeci (Tuchlovice). Obviously, every major production center could start producing coins, observing only the generally established customs in the coinage business. When making payments, the coins were weighed and their value was determined by the weight and quality of metal. In the second half of the last century, the Celtic coinage business in Central Europe was in decline. Only Celticised Eravises in the vicinity of Budapest are attributed coins, which are minted on the model of Roman denariums from the middle of the last century. We also find them in Slovakia, often with the legend “Iravisci”, “Ravis”, “Ravit”. Norice coins were also in circulation before Roman domination. In Gaul, after the victory of the Romans, some cities retained for a short time the right to issue their own coin; but all this was already the sunset of the independent Celtic coin business. Celtic coins are also found in burials as an offering, sometimes right in the mouth of the deceased, and help us more accurately date the findings. The considerable artistic value makes the Celtic coin be included in the general framework of the Celtic art, as on the coins there are various motifs typical for Celts: a wild boar, a horse, a warrior, a motif of a severed head, a torquet, a triskeles triquetrum, a wheel with rays, etc.

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