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Gold coins of the Sequani Gauls, 5-1st century BCE. Early Gaul coins were often inspired by Greek coinage.[1]

The first coins to be minted in Europe were by the Celts and by Philip II of Macedon.[2] They were first minted in the 4th century B.C. and flourished around Europe for around 400 years. Celtic coinage emerged in the 4th century BCE, and, influenced by trade with and the supply of mercenaries to the Greeks, initially copied Greek designs.[3] Celtic coinage was influenced by Greek designs,[4] and Greeks letters can be found on various Celtic coins, especially those of Southern France.[5]

Contents

Gaul coinage

Celtic coin designs progressively became more abstract as examplified by the coins of the Parisii.
Veneti coins, 5th-1st century BCE.

Greek coinage occurred in three Greek cities of Massalia, Emporiae and Rhoda, and was copied throughout southern Gaul.[3]

Northern Gaul coins were especially influenced by the coinage of Philip II of Macedon and his famous son Alexander the Great.[3] Celtic coins often retained Greek subjects, such as the head of Apollo on the obverse and two-horse chariot on the reverse of the gold stater of Philip II, but developed their own style from that basis, allowing for the development of a Graeco-Celtic synthesis.[3]

After this first period in which Celtic coins rather faithfully reproduced Greek types, designs started to become more symbolic, as exemplified by the coinage of the Parisii in the Belgic region of northern France.[3]

The Armorican Celtic style in northwestern Gaul also developed from Celtic designs from the Rhine valley, themselves derived from earlier Greek prototypes such as the wine scroll and split palmette.[3]

British Celtic coinage

Coin of the Trinovantes.
Coin of the Regnenses.

Traditional historians have tended to overlook the role played by Celtic coinage in the early history of British money.[6]

The Boii tribe gave their name to Bohemia and Bologna; a Celtic coin (Biatec) from Bratislava's mint is displayed on today's Slovak 5 crown coin.

The images found on Celtic coins include giants trailing decapitated heads on rope, horsemen charging into battle, gods and goddesses, skulls and chariot wheels, thunderbolts and lightning, the sun and the moon. They are miniature masterpieces of surreal art.

A tribe of Celts called Eburones minted gold coins with triple spirals (a Celtic good luck symbol) on the front, and horses on the back.[7]

The coins were either 'struck' or 'cast'. Both methods required a substantial degree of knowledge. Striking a blank coin formed in a clay was one way. After forming the blank, it would have been flattened out before striking with a die made from iron or bronze. The tiny details engraved on dies were just a few millimeters in diameter. Casting a coin required a different technique. They were produced by pouring molten alloy into a set of molds which were broken apart when the metal had cooled.

Biatec original coin on the left; a modern 5 koruna on the right.

With the Roman invasion of Gaul, Greek-inspired Celtic coinage started to incorporate Roman influence instead, until it disappeared to be completely replaced by Roman coinage.[3]

Notes

  1. ^ Boardman, p.308
  2. ^ School of Archaeology, University of Oxford http://web.arch.ox.ac.uk/coins/cci8.htm
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Celtic culture: a historical encyclopedia" John T. Koch p.461- [1]
  4. ^ Boardman, p.308
  5. ^ Celtic Inscriptions on Gaulish and British Coins" by Beale Poste p.135 [2]
  6. ^ Davies, Glyn. A history of money from ancient times to the present day, 3rd ed. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2002. 720 pages. Paperback: ISBN 0 7083 1717 0. Hardback: ISBN 0 7083 1773 1.
  7. ^ Cache of Celtic Coins Uncovered in Dutch Cornfield Associated Press November 16, 2008

References

  • Boardman, John The Diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity, Princeton 1993 ISBN 0691036802
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