“Celtic” and Mediterranean Interaction-(ΚΕΛΗΤΕΣ-CELTS AND THRACIANS-PART IE)

(BEING   CONTINUED FROM    09/01/19)

24.4 Politics of “Danegeld” in Hellenistic Thrace
The term “Danegeld” usually refers to tax in Anglo-Norman times, raised to pay tribute to Viking raiders in order to save a land from being ravaged. As it describes a specific measure of Medieval royal policy in times of crisis (Mason 2003), it may seem anachronistic to use the word “Danegeld” to describe an aspect of the relationship between Thracian Galatians on the one hand and the various communities in inland Thrace or Hellenic poleis of the west Pontic or Propontic coastal zones during the Hellenistic period on the other; but the purpose of these communities’ regular payments of silver objects and coins to the Thracian Galatians,
namely, to prevent plunder, was quite similar to the later practice, named after the Northern raiders. “Danegeld” deserves attention as a general model of relation between ports of trade and their “barbaric” neighbors, especially considering the testimony of Polybius (4.46.3–4) on the tax paid by Byzantion and the experience of this polis with the groups under the command of Komontorios and Kavaros (Walbank 1957, 497–500; Champion 2004, 248; Dimitrov 2010, 56).
The politics of threatening the plundering of the chora in order to receive tribute was certainly not a “Galatian” invention. An empty plot in the interior of the fortified area of Byzantion, called “to Thrakion” (“the Thracian [plot]”: Xen., Hell. 1.3.20), was probably intended to shelter the city’s extramural population in case of attack (Loukopoulou and Łaitar 2004, 918; Gabrielsen 2007, 319). Polybius notes on several occasions that the citizens suffered from pressure exerted by Thracian dynasts prior to the arrival of the Galatians,who “conquered the Thracians” and “placed the Byzantines in extreme danger” (4.45.10,4.46.2). Bearing in mind Livy’s testimony about tribal groups with two chiefs “imposing tribute upon those who sought peace” (38.16.3), it is also questionable if the “Celts, being barbarians” understood the potential profit of taxation only after their Great expedition into the Balkans (Bouzek 2007, 250). In contrast to the agricultural aspects of the “Celtic colonization”in the middle Danubian and Carpathian regions (Rustoiu 2012), the aim of the Galatian communities, including both the warrior groups and tribal segments that penetrated into ancient Thrace or Anatolia, was not “to settle, but money and booty, which could be
acquired in a variety of ways” (Mitchell 1993, 15).

Monetized economies in the Hellenistic world and its northern periphery provided
particular, long-term opportunities for acquiring wealth by mercenary service or by
demanding protection money from rulers or wealthy cities. M. Price (1991, 174, 176) has
suggested that the numerous issues of Alexander-type tetradrachms minted in west Pontic poleis were paid as tribute to Thracian Galatians. Due to this practice of “Danegeld,” H. D.Rankin (1996, 189) has even defined the kingdom of Tylis as “a powerful establishment of bandits” with “its history of extortion coming to an end in 212 BCE when the Thracians revolted from its domination and destroyed it”; the pro-Byzantine narrative of Polybius in the fourth book of his Histories certainly leaves such an impression. A short fragment from the eighth book, however, presents a eulogy of the last ruler of Tylis, Kavaros, who is portrayed as a prominent leader who “took care that the merchants sailing to Pontos” enjoyed “greater security” and “at the same time rendered great services to the Byzantines” (Polyb.8.22). His efforts to put an end to the war between the polis and Prusias, king of Bithynia,were probably followed by Kavaros’ formal recognition by Byzantion as its euergetes (“benefactor”)
(Gabrielsen 2007, 317). These events mark a final point in the transformation of
the politics of “Danegeld” from synonym of presumed “barbarian predatory economy” to a technique of political pressure for the pursuit of economic gain within a contemporary Hellenistic framework.
The city of Kabyle, Jambol region, situated at the great bend of the river Tonzos, provides some additional hints about relations between Kavaros and the polities in inland Thrace.
Fragments of two inscriptions on marble slabs, containing the letter combination Gala, plausibly restored as Galatai, could indicate a treaty concerned in part about
tribute that the polis owed to the Thracian Galatians (Emilov 2005a; Dimitrov 2010, 56;
Handzhiyska and Lozanov 2010, 267). Payments are illustrated by an issue of Alexander-type tetradrachms with the legend basileos Kavarou (“of/belonging to King Kavaros”), struck in Kabyle during the third quarter of the third century (Draganov 1993). Taking into account the continuing uncertainty about the extent of the territory controlled by Tylis, as well as ongoing discussion about the simultaneous existence of a number of other political entities in the interior of southern Thrace (latest reviews in Delev 2003; Dimitrov 2010), it remains conjectural whether Kabyle was directly integrated into Kavaros’ realm (Lazarov 2010, 110–111) or managed to keep its relative independence. On analogy with the case of Byzantion, it is reasonable to argue that the last ruler of Tylis acted as a “benefactor” of Kabyle rather than conqueror, who “took advantage of the mint of the town to issue his tetradrachms” and “to
legitimate [his] political status” (Manov 2010, 95).
Available archaeological data also does not support scenarios of immediate Celtic control in Kabyle (Handzhiyska and Lozanov 2010). A single find of a double-spring loop, belonging to a La Tène brooch, was discovered close to the left shoulder of the individual buried in tumulus no. 7 near the urban center. The item is exceptional in this local context and indicates the extraordinary use of dress accessories with La Tène design among the citizens or the elite of a polis in inland Thrace at a time when their selection of adornments followed contemporary Hellenistic fashion (Emilov 2005a).
This brief episode of Kabyle’s tributary relationship with Thracian Galatians deserves
attention as an additional example of the adaptation of “Danegeld” politics to economic realities in Hellenistic Thrace. Evidence for payments, including high value silver coins with the name of the last ruler of Tylis, fits well into the scheme described by Polybius about Byzantion.
The historiographer mentions that initially the Thracian Galatians received “Danegeld” in precious gifts (Polyb. 4.46.3), but later required annual payments in gold coins. During the time of Kavaros, the tribute from Byzantion reached a peak of 80 talents (Tomaschitz 2002,139–141; Dimitrov 2010, 56). Silver tetradrachms with basileos Kauarou correspond to the economic potential of the polis at the great bend of ancient Tonzos and reflect a short period of Kavaros’ influence over the urban center. One may only speculate whether the fragmentation of the inscriptions with Gala[tai (?)] was due to damnatio memoriae after the end of the Tylis kingdom.

24.5 Hellenization and Latenization – Two Sides of the Same Coin?

Our consideration of the subject of “Danegeld” within the context of relationships between newcomers and various communities in Thrace now leads us to one of the most controversial topics in modern scholarship about “Thracian Galatians,” namely, the nature of “Celtic”“penetration” or “settlement” in the region (Domaradzki 1980; Theodossiev 2005; 2011,15; Anastassov 2011). Ancient written sources leave no room for doubt about “Celtic” presence and activity in ancient Thrace, but archaeological proof of compact “Celtic” enclaves among “Thracians” remains problematic. The integration of personal adornment or weaponry of La Tène type in a local cultural milieu (Latenization) during the third century, as well as significant changes in material expressions of status and identity in the eastern Balkans,make the matter even more peculiar. Seven decades after Jacobsthal’s (1940) paper, “Celts in Thrace” continues to be a favorite choice of a title for publication on the subject, but recently
it is more often accompanied by a question mark, which paradoxically seems to confirm the difficulties inherent in the unilateral interpretation of La Tène finds in the region as indications of “Celtic” graves or settlements (Emilov and Megaw 2012). In this respect, some of the so-called “original Celtic” objects from ancient Thrace, the bronze fittings in “Plastic” style from the Mal-tepe tholos tomb near Mezek (Megaw 2005; 2012; Stoyanov 2005;2010), were considered by Jacobsthal (1944) to be related to the chariot burial of a Galatian chieftain of Tylis; recent reevaluation of their context suggests that a selection of decorated items and chariot pieces was deposited in the building as trophies after the victory of Antigonos Gonatas over the “border guards” (Emilov and Megaw 2012).
Some scholars discuss the local manufacture and distribution of artifacts with La Tène form as direct evidence of “Celtic” settlement in the region (Lazarov 2010; Manov 2010;
Anastassov 2011). A contextual approach to these finds, however, does not support any
unequivocal interpretation of the artifacts in an “ethnic” framework and raises numerous questions about the mechanisms of contact and the interrelations between individuals and groups with different cultural and social backgrounds. La Tène fibulae and bracelets discovered in early Hellenistic settlement centers can signal the “peaceful establishment of small groups, mostly of women, coming from Central and Western Europe” (Anastassov 2011,233), but numerous associations of La Tène jewelry with “Thracian type” fibulae and Hellenistic grave goods point to conclusions about local adaptation and integration of La Tène elements as an essential part of both male and female costume (Tonkova 2006; Emilov 2007; 2010). Matrimonial migration certainly played an important role in the diffusion of cultural templates (Rustoiu 2011), even if J. Anastassov’s (2011) vision about bands of “Celtic” brides searching for husbands in Thrace sounds rather extraordinary and is not a very credible theoretical explanation of “Celtic expansion” and “penetration.” Local manufacture of La Tène artifacts, however, involves technological transfer. Hence it is necessary to consider other “male” categories of individual or group mobility, like craftsmen and metalworkers
(Arnold 2005, 19) operating along the “Danubian corridor” (Rustoiu 2012, 367,
on mobility and affiliation of the artisans to elite).
A flat grave with a La Tène C1 sword and a Hellenistic type of helmet deposited in a deep pit in the environs of Seuthopolis (Domaradzki 1984, 133) represents a grave structure and context unusual for southern Thrace, although not uncommon for the burials of Transylvanian or Danubian “Celts.” At the current level of exploration, any attempt to define “dominant” archaeological features and to (re)construct ethnic identity on the basis of material remains seems relative and subjective. Nevertheless, the context of the grave inventory in this 1.4 m deep pit, which compares well with assemblages from the eastern parts of the La Tène zone, may hint that the deceased was not of local origin. The discovery of a deliberately deformed La Tène sword and scabbard among the remains of a funeral pyre in tumulus N1 of the Hellenistic necropolis of Philippopolis (Megaw 2004, 103;Bouzek 2005, 96; Emilov 2010, 79–82) and the association of these items with pottery sets of local and imported vessels pose additional questions about both warrior identity in relation to ethnicity and mercenary activities as a widespread category of individual and group
mobility (Rustoiu 2012; Hauschild 2012).
The graves with La Tène C1 swords near Seuthopolis and Philippopolis in Thrace, as well as the equipment of a “Celtic” warrior from Lychnidos (modern Ohrid) in the central Balkans (Guštin, Malenko, and Kuzman 2011), stand out from the general pattern as the presumed “last resting places” of “Celtic” mercenaries in the service of major urban centers (Emilov and Megaw 2012, 23). It is logical to argue that the communities under Komontorios and Kavaros’ control, known from the ancient written sources, were not the only Galatian group in Thrace. A conspicuous lack of “truly Celtic” settlements in the eastern Balkans, however,suggests a process of integration of the “western newcomers” rather than their exclusion and the formation of compact “Celtic” enclaves. A. Rustoiu (2011, 164) observes, in the same vein, that the number of assemblages with La Tène finds in “Thracian lands,” dated to the time of the Great expedition and its aftermath, “remains small, compared with the territories
inhabited by the Celtic groups in the Carpathian Basin.” The note refers to a concentration of La Tène B2–C1 fibulae, belts, and bracelets, as well as discoveries of typical “Celtic” knives (of the so-called Hiebmesser type), in the valley of the middle reaches of Golyama Kamchiya river in northeastern Bulgaria, which are frequently discussed as important proofs of a “Celtic” enclave there (Lazarov 2010; Anastassov 2011). With no reliable information about the archaeological context of these items, it remains difficult to support their interpretation as credible evidence of large-scale “Celtic” settlement in the region. Detailed typological analysis, however, confirms links between the inhabitants of the river valleys to the north of the eastern Balkan range and their contemporaries in central and western Europe after the Great expedition; and so various scenarios involving the migration or infiltration of individuals
and small groups, like warrior contingents and tribal segments from Moravia, Bohemia,
and the Carpathian basin cannot be ruled out. Bronze coins issued in Kavaros’ name have also been discovered in this region, which led L. Lazarov to conclude that, at the height of his power, Kavaros managed to include in his sphere of influence the communities situated near the chorai of the west Pontic poleis Odessos and Messambria (Domaradzki 1995; Lazarov 2010). Even the proponents of large-scale population movement, however, admit a “cultural syncretism” that is reflected not only in several types of Kavaros’ bronze coins, but also in the “material culture” of the “Celts in Thrace” (Lazarov 2010, 110). The mobility of these groups in the eastern Balkans, as well as the processes of interaction between “Hellenization”and “Latenization” affecting both “indigenous communities” (Džino 2007, 59) and the incoming migrant individuals and groups from temperate Europe (Emilov 2007, 2010),
could better explain our current difficulties in the archaeological recognition of Thracian Galatians.
Tylis as political epicenter of the “Celtic presence in Thrace” “lasted only two generations”(Cunliffe 1997, 173). The Great expedition to the Balkans and concomitant contacts between “Celts” and “Thracians” during the period of raids were followed by almost three centuries of dynamic relations between the groups in the eastern Balkans and tribal unions along the Danubian corridor or beyond the Carpathians. A “warrior ethos and cultural aesthetics that symbolized the ethos of Temperate Europe, negotiated with the existing indigenous cultural habitus” (Džino 2007) and, with cultural templates of the Hellenistic koine in wine consumption and “southern civilized manners,” continued to influence expressions of status or identity as evidenced by the archaeological record in the region. Stylistic features of a La Tène C1 sword scabbard, decorated with dragon- or bird-pair design, from the tumular grave near Pavolche, Vratsa region, in northwestern Bulgaria suggest the western Balkans or central Europe as the probable place of manufacture (Megaw et al. 2000), while the construction of this grave and the evidence for an associated funeral rite are entirely “typical” of the Triballoi during the Hellenistic period.
Different interpretations of this scabbard are possible: as booty; as evidence of gift
exchange in the framework of peer–polity interaction; or even as a status marker of a
Scordiscian warrior, who had settled under the shadows of Haemus and adopted local
funerary customs (Theodossiev 2005, 89–90).
Grave inventories in southern and northeastern Thrace dated to the very end of the third and the first half of the second century raise similar questions about the extent of “Latenization” and “Hellenization” among the warrior elite. Various elements of La Tène C1 and C2/D1 weapons and armament, including sword, chain mail tunic, and shield umbo (Megaw 2004;Emilov 2007; Anastassov 2011), accompanied the bones of the high-status individuals buried in the tumular necropolis in the vicinity of Kalnovo (Atanasov 1992) or in Sashova mogila near Shipka (Kitov 1996). Below-ground chambers with shafts in the valley of the Kamchiya river (Αtanasov and Yorgov 2007, 43–44) or the “Macedonian” barrel-vaulted tomb in the Kazanlak plain clearly recall burial rites and constructions that had been popular during the late fourth and early third century, while depositions of imported amphorae in these funerary
structures reveal active connections to Aegean and Pontic wine and oil producers, as well as the demand for these commodities among the elite in the manner of their early Hellenistic predecessors. In the case of the Kalnovo grave inventory, one could even try to imagine a biography of a warrior band leader, who spent some years of mercenary service in the armies of the Hellenistic kings, returned home in the valley of Kamchiya river, and died a decade or two after the collapse of Kavaros’ kingdom.
The best example of the middle La Tène and middle Hellenistic process of “amalgamation”is a gold double-spring fibula, discovered near the human skeleton in the chamber of Sashova mogila tomb, decorated in gold filigree and granules and inlaid with cloisonné enamel (Tonkova 2002, 106). This item, “executed in eclectic Graeco-Celtic style” (Treister 2004, 195), illustrates the adaptation of Hellenistic fashion to La Tène construction and presents an important reference point for understanding various foreign influences and local responses in ancient Thrace during the period after the “Celtic” raids and before the Roman conquest.
In contrast to conclusions about the archaeologically invisible early contacts between
“Thracians” and “Celts,” their interactions during the second and first centuries are visible not only in imagery on late Hellenistic silverware. The emergence of a supra-tribal fashion among a social stratum of cavalrymen in the Balkans, equipped with La Tène D shields and swords (Woźniak 1976; Rustoiu 2005; Łuczkiewicz and Schönfelder 2008), as well as the trends expressed in the ornaments of their wives (Guštin 2011), suggest sophisticated networks of interrelations involving mobility and exchange in central and southeastern Europe along the Danubian corridor. One can see the “barbarian commonwealth” as part of the reaction (and offering an alternative) to Roman involvement. The arrival of Roman legions,the establishment of Roman rule in this wide geographical area, and the concomitant “Romanization” (whatever that might be) bring new challenges to communities, known as “Thracians” and “Celts,” but this is a topic for another chapter.


BY Julij Emilov

SOURCE A Companion to Ancient Thrace, First Edition. Edited by Julia Valeva, Emil Nankov, and Denver Graninger.
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2015 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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