Imitations of Greek, Roman and Iberian coins in Gaul: Imitation of denarius "Baskunes" in Belgic Gaul.
Translation of an article published in Spanish: “El Eco Filatélico y Numismático”
(June 2007). Vol.62 (n. 1153): pp.60-61 & Ibid. (July-August 2007), Vol. 62 (n. 1154): pp. 56-58.
(June 2007). Vol.62 (n. 1153): pp.60-61 & Ibid. (July-August 2007), Vol. 62 (n. 1154): pp. 56-58.
The term "Keltoi", or "Celtic" in Greek, first appears in the sixth century BC to refer to people living north of the Greek colony of Marseille, and the Romans designated with the name "Gauls" of a league to Celtic peoples who lived on the continent.
The first Celtic coins appeared in the second century before our era(1), and copied the figures appearing in the Macedonian gold coins of Philip II and Alexander the Great (382-336-323 AD) and probably brought in as payment on services to Gallic mercenaries returning to their land of origin (Figure 1).
|Figure 1 .- Prototype staters of Philip II of Macedon (359-336 BC) and imitations of Ambiani gold, second century BC|
In a second step, as the probable result of trade with the Romans, the Gauls made their cash in silver pattern, based on the denarius of Rome, which in many areas replaced the former gold coin from the second half of century BC. During this time, a new type of lower monetary value appeared, the "Potin", coin cast in molds with an alloy of copper, lead and tin (Figure 2). Finally bronze coins arose in late period in Gaul (except in Narbonne, where it already existed, as in the Iberian Peninsula, due to Roman influence) to the years 70-60 BC, and in the northwest of the Gaul (Gaul Belgium many coins in various sanctuaries were minted.
In many cases, other currencies such as the Massaliote drachma and Roman denarii were imitated (Figure 3), developed a varied typology which includes portraits, mythological figures and monsters and animals dominated by the horse and wild boar. Among the Celts of the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of the continent there is a noticeable stylistic difference, while the first reliably reflect the themes represented in the strictest of Greco-Roman artistic tradition, clearly indicating the name of the mint, the Celtic coins of the rest of Europe developed a personal style, traditionally described as "barbarian art", and which is but an abstract art very similar to that developed in the twentieth century, moreover, these currencies do not normally carry epigraphic information to identify the place of production.
In this article we focus on one of the Celtic peoples of Belgian Gaul, the tribe of the "Ambiani", which we can locate in the region surrounding the current village of Amiens in northern France. In this area were issued two series of coins that have unique characteristics, the first type and size imitates the Iberian denarius "Baskunes", although in this case the material used in its manufacture is bronze, not silver, and the second series mimics the previous currency iconography on the reverse, but substantially changed the obverse.
The question arises, how came the denarii "Baskunes" to this remote region of Belgian Gaul?, And why were imitated precisely these dinars?. But before attempting to answer these questions, we briefly analyze the characteristics of the Iberian mint of "Baskunes”.
For many years, researchers (linguists, numismatists and historians) have assumed that the term "Barskunes / Baskunes" is clearly identified as "Basques" who inhabited the area around Pamplona, a deduction which seems evident from the phonetic similarity between terms. But in recent years, things have been complicated somewhat due to an interesting discovery in the Iberian language(2), that the suffix "-s" is not as was thought a nominative plural of an ethnic group, but the ablative singular of a toponymyc name!. Accordingly, the meaning of "Barskunes" becomes "to Barsku. That is, the mint or people who issued these coins would be called "Barsku" (or at a later Basku). This new interpretation presents us with two new issues, the first coin bearing the name can be interpreted as "for use by Barsku" or "made for Barsku" so we could think of traveling craftsmen, knowledgeable of the technology manufacture of coins, which would move through the area offering their services to the people of the area. These are likely not very large emissions, recruited more as a sign of prestige than as a genuine financial need, and this subtle way, little by little would be introduced in the habit of using the currency in pre-Roman populations that had never before used. This interpretation, which at the moment is a mere hypothesis, would explain the enormous similarities that occasionally we can find in images of different Iberian mints, since they are the same artesans who manufacture the coins for several different populations. The second question is that "Barskunes" would be a Celtic term to designate the people of "Barsku" (subsequently lost the letter "r"), possibly of Basque ethnic. When we speak in the Basque language now, in the original language should say "Euskara", ie that the term "Basque" is not "Basque", is "Euskara". The same may have happened more than two millennia ago, and could well be the Celtic border who coined this term (Basku-Basque) to denote a village inhabited by people of ethnic Basques who had not developed the writing. In fact the first explicit reference to the Basques is quite late and goes back to 76 BC in a quotation from Livio (XCI) referred to Sertorian wars. The other classical sources about the Basques are from a later period (Pliny, Strabo, Ptolemy .....). Besides the traditional location of the mint "Baskunes" in the vicinity of Pamplona today, other locations have been proposed as Rocaforte-Sangüesa (Canto, 1997), based on the name that the Arabs gave to this area, "Baskunsa "(very similar to the name of the mentioned city that issued coins).
Another surprising fact is the vast amount of silver denarii issued in the mint "Baskunes" in a period of less than a century, since they began to be manufactured, probably starting in the fall of Numancia (133 BC) until the end of indigenous emissions, after the battle of Munda (45 BC). This fact is justified only in a context of almost continuous war situation, where it was necessary to pay troops of indigenous mercenaries as allies against other peoples Celtiberian, and also in the civil wars that the Romans themselves staged in the Iberian Peninsula.
Among the coins minted in Gaul by the Celtic peoples, we find some curious bronze imitations of the denarius of the mint of "Baskunes", which have been found in excavations in some sanctuaries in northern France (as in that of Digeon). The first author to describe these coins is E. Lambert in 1864, who published a picture of this coin (Plate VIII, n. 18), but considers that it is an Iberian currency, and as such it has been transmitted in the literature until well into the twentieth century.
|Figure 4 .- Denarii of the mint "Baskunes.|
It is assumed that the first silver coins "Baskunes" began to be minted in the second half of the second century before our era, these early pieces were of good style (Figure 4a,b) and continued to be made to reach the copious emission of the first third of the first century BC, related with Sertorian wars (83 - 72 BC), where there are frequent little treasures of deniers that include coins of the mints of Baskunes, Sekobirikes and Turiasu (such as cave Usategi in Ataun, Gipuzkoa, N. Spain) . These late coinages have a more degenerate style, where for example the obverse bust in Baskunes denar has a large nose, and beard is resolved with a few heavy points (Figure 4c). This increase in the size of the nose is typical when the dies wear out and are manually retouched to prolong life. It is precisely one of these late emissions that the Celts used as a model of the Ambiani in northern Gaul (Figure 5).
|Figure 5 .- Ambiani Celts imitations: "IMONIN bronzes".|
The two types of emissions that copy the Iberic coin of Baskunes are very different and give us valuable clues about the manufacturing techniques used. In the first case (3), the perfect similarity, both obverse and reverse, among the bronzes "IMONIN" and its prototype denarii "Baskunes" leads us to think that these Iberian denarii could serve as a model or "Patriz" (Figure 5). From its own coins (denarii Baskunes) could be obtained the Matriz, possibly reproducing the dies in wax, surrounding them with clay to form the mold, which is then filled in with molten bronze, using the technique of lost wax used in antiquity. Some small changes were introduced in the dies, as on the obverse: adding front of his face, a small snake or dragon, and below a circle inscribed with a point (which would be the Iberian syllable "Ku") by contrast in the legend on the reverse, the letter Iberian "Ku" lost its central point and became the Latin letter "O". Also on the back, amending the rider's head, making it more by highlighting the curious procedure, by a point, which becomes the eye, from which emerges a spiral line, placing in the top four small peaks which simulate hair of the head. Also changes the horse's tail and the last two letters of the Iberian legend "E" and "S" are converted to "I" and "N". All these changes could be easily added after obtaining the negative image (“Incusa”) into a soft material (wax or clay) from an original coin "Baskunes.
The second issue is completely different and was conducted with new dies, completely transforming the front, replacing the bust by a drawing a couple of “torqueses” in a central position and under them a necklace, topped with animal heads, above, figures of appearance plant and along the bottom, a series of semicircles with an interior point.. On the reverse remains the figure of the rider with his sword, though heavily modified, in this case appears the text "IMONO" where the letters "O" have the central point of the syllabic letter "Ku", as appears on the denarius Baskunes, but curiously not represented in the previous emission. This same symbol is also engraved on the back of the horse. In a coin (Figure 6d) a small figure under the horse appears, and there seems to be a bird head, which is also represented in some of the Celts emissions.
These two types of coins did not appear together, and occur in different geographical areas, while the first, the close imitation of the denarius Baskunes, is located north in the Department of the Somme in the Picardy (Digeon shrine in southwestern Amiens), the second type, termed "homotypia of contiguity" (4), occurs further south, in the department of "Seine-Maritime (Rouen findings) and according to this, it would be a further issue that the first imitation copies. But one fact to consider is the conservation in these pieces (IMONO bronzes) of the Iberian syllabic letter "ku" in the legend on the reverse, which had disappeared in the previous type (IMONIN bronzes). This fact allows us to raise another hypothesis, the denarius "Baskunes" was imitated at the same time in two areas close independently and using different techniques in the first case (IMONIN) using deniers themselves as punches to make the stamps, and the second (IMONO) opening new dies, which allowed the operation to introduce major changes in the grounds, preserving in this case only the figure of the reverse of the Baskunes denarius.
These are not the only issues where horsemen are in the currencies issued by the Celts of Belgian Gaul, we also see the rider carrying a "falx" sickle of war or similar to the Iberian emissions of mints from "Oilaunikos "and" Umanbaate "(Figure 7), the latter also located in Basque territory, although in this case we can not prove that emissions are copied to these Iberian mints.
|Figure 7 .- a: Bronze Ambiani with rider wearing the falx. b: Aes of the mint Umanbaate (|
As for the dating of the imitations of Baskunes denarius, the most relevant data come from the excavations of the sanctuary Digeon (Somme), where it appeared several pieces of the first type in an archaeological context (along with brooches and Roman coins) (5) that permit dating for these emissions, between 40 and 70 of our era, ie a century after it ceased production of the Iberian currency "Baskunes" (in 45 BC) and that the Gaul had been completely conquered by Caesar (51 BC). Paradoxically, while the Celts were still coining this imitation of Iberian coinage, near the place of the prototype (Baskunes), numerous Roman Cascantvm ases were issued in the time of Emperor Tiberius. The Ambiani imitations were manufactured probably during the reign of the emperors Claudius and Nero!.
It may surprise the different timing of the denarii Baskunes (first century BC) and his gallic imitations (first century AD), but for example we saw previously how the Greek gold stater of Philip II and Alexander the Great, were imitated by Ambiani no less than two centuries later!.
(1) Traditionally been considered the first gold gallic coins were produced in the third century BC, but recently has been delayed this timeline based on metrological studies.
(2) VILLAR, F. (1995). Estudios de celtibérico y de toponimia prerromana. Univ. Salamanca, 276 pp.
(3) IBÁÑEZ, M., 1993. Relations entre
(4) DELESTRÉE, L.P., 1996. Monnayages et peuples gaulois du Nord-Ouest. Ed. Errance.
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Monnaies du sanctuaire de Digeon ( Ch. Somme). En: Monnaies
gauloises découvertes en fouilles. Dossier de Protohistoire 1: 125-137.