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Celtic Coin Depicting Horse & Rider

Celtic Coin Depicting Horse & Rider

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The Celts were not a single unified people, but a number of different peoples who lived in central Europe and western Europe during the Iron Age and spoke related languages belonging to what modern linguists call the Celtic language family. Although the explorer Pytheas of Massalia described Ireland and Britain as being north of the Celtic lands, the inhabitants of these islands also spoke Celtic languages. Considering the diversity of the ancient Celts, any statements about Celtic hairstyles will be generalizations. However, writers describing the Celts of Gaul and Britain usually emphasized the Celtic fondness for long hair. For instance, the Roman writer Dio Cassius described the Celtic warrior queen Boudica as having hair that hung all the way to her hips.

Celtic warriors favored fierce-looking hairstyles. The writer Diodorus Siculus claimed that Celtic men would use lime water to wash their hair, allowing them to shape it so that it looked something like the mane of a horse. A coin depicting the Celtic war leader Vercingetorix shows his long hair streaming out behind his head as if stiffened with lime. Warriors favoring this horse-mane hairstyle may have been trying to invoke the aid of the Celtic horse goddess Epona, according to "Lords of Battle: The World of the Celtic Warrior" by Stephen Allen. Lime water may have been used to create other intimidating hairstyles as well. A pot found in Essex shows Celtic cavalrymen with spiky hair, according to "Animals in Celtic Life and Myth" by Miranda Green.

Celtic Coin Depicting Horse & Rider - History

Artifacts and coins shown on this website are a representation of what may be found.
Not all items found on the tours are displayed on this website.
Click on any coin below to view the finds!

Each year new artifacts and coins are found due to the farmer's plow turning the ground and reaching down into fresh soil. Luck naturally plays a large part. However any individual in the field for the first time has the chance of making a WONDERFUL AND SIGNIFICANT DISCOVERY! Being in the region where the MOST potential exists increases the odds of being "LUCKY." And archaeologist are still searching for the burial place of the Celtic Queen Boudicca, who massacred 70,000 Romans in 61 A.D. (Her homeland, to which she retreated, is in the vicinity of where you will be metal detecting.) Metal detecting for Artifact and coin finds of Celtic, Roman, Saxon, Viking, and Medieval to more recent times — a span of over 2000 years — is possible in this area of England!

Neolithic age begins 3,500 B.C.
Bronze Age begins 2,100 B.C.
Iron age Begins 500 B.C.

Celtic Britain

— Click on any coin above to view pages of Celtic coins and artifacts —

Migration of Celtic people from Southern Europe 550 B.C. Celtic coins are often made of bronze, sometimes of silver and gold. They also had gold ring money (see example above) They produced there coins primarily in two ways struck and cast. Celtic coins are very artistic, depicting animals, gods, humans. The boar and the horse are frequently depicted for they were the companions of the hunter and the soldier. Symbolic stars are often present, especially the sun and the moon with imaginary animals, half-human, half-beast.

Roman Britain

— Click on any coin above to view pages of Roman coins and artifacts —

CLAUDIUS, in 43 A.D., directed his 40,000 troops straight to Colchester, where he established an ostentatious capital for Roman Britain. During the following years, the rich farmlands to the north became the location of wealthy Roman Villas, Imperial Estates, Forts, Camps, Towns, and soldiers' land grant properties. Roman Coins during the Empire were struck (rather than cast). Each coin was struck by hand. Roman coins did not have any denomination, or numerical value printed on a coin. A coin's value was based on the relative values of the precious metals (bronze, silver, and gold) that it was made from. So a gold coin was literally worth its weight in gold. In 23 BC, Augustus overhauled the coinage system creating the following relationships: 1 Gold Aureus= 25 silver Denarii 1 Denarius = 4 Sestertii = 8 Dupondii = 16 Asses = 64 Quadrans.

Anglo-Saxon Britain

— Click on any coin above to view pages of Saxon coins and artifacts —

Following the abandonment of England by the Romans in 407 A.D., England underwent a series of invasions by an assortment of Germanic tribes, namely the Saxons, Angles and Jutes. This period lasted until the Norman Conquest in 1066.

Anglo-Saxon gold tremisses were minted from about 630 A.D. By the middle of the seventh century the gold coins were increasingly being debased with silver and by about 675 A.D. had been completely replaced by silver. Silver rather than gold was the currency metal in England for most of the period 600-1066 AD. These were the first English pennies but they are commonly known by their name Sceattas. Sceattas continued to be produced and issued up until the middle of the 9th century. It is thought that such a silver penny represented the value of about one day's work for a Saxon peasant.

617 A.D. marked the First invasion by the Vikings. King Alfred defeats the Vikings but allows them to settle in Eastern England in 878 A.D. Edward the Confessor was the last Saxon King descended from Alfred the Great. When he died in 1066 without an heir, his nephew William of Normandy invaded England, defeated the Saxons at the Battle of Hastings, and claimed the throne.

Medieval Britain 1066 A.D. through 1484 A.D.

— Click on any coin above to view pages of Medieval coins and artifacts —

In England from the time of the Norman invasion (1066 A.D.), silver was the main metal used for hammering. Gold was coined only regularly from 1344 base metal Farthings were first issued during the early 1600s.

Tudor Britain 1485 A.D. through 1600 A.D.

— Click a coin above to view pages of Tudor - modern coins & artifacts —

For those who seek additional Information on artifact and coin finds you could discover in England, please see the links page. If you want more historic information there are also some great links for that.

Chris Rudd

Celtic coins, Ancient British coins, Iron Age coins, kelten münzen, monnaies gauloises – call them what you will – here is where you can buy them. Here is where you can sell them. Here is their home.

Chris Rudd is the only dealer who deals only in Celtic coins. Chris Rudd is also the only auctioneer, valuer, book publisher and bookseller who is dedicated exclusively to Celtic coins.

Our speciality is Ancient British coins. Every month we offer you the best choice of Ancient British coins. At auction and at fixed prices, on line and in our monthly catalogues. All guaranteed genuine or we refund your money in full.

Buying or selling? Identification? Valuation? Coin dealers? Coin auctions? Celtic art? Celtic history? Celtic mythology? Druids? Iron Age Britain? Ancient coins? Numismatics? Archaeology? Metal detecting? Whatever your interest, I’d like to help you.

My service is personal. My advice is free – just email [email protected] Welcome to the magic of Celtic! Welcome to the home of Celtic coins!

Elizabeth Cottam

Dubno (Togodumnus?) gold quarter stater, c.AD 35-43, ABC 3008. Auctioned by Chris Rudd for £10,200 . Unlesss otherwise stated all
images on this website are © Chris Rudd. For permission to reproduce
any please ask [email protected]

The stunning hoard of 32 Celtic gold coins was found by a metal detectorist in 2003 and 2004 in a field near Henley, Oxfordshire. The coins date from roughly the time of Julius Caesar&rsquos two short-lived invasions in the 50's BC. They were minted by the Atrebates, probably at Silchester.

The image of the horse is likely to have had a special significance for the inhabitants of Oxfordshire in the Iron Age. It is highly reminiscent of the White Horse on the Ridgeway. This landmark had a much earlier origin in the Bronze Age, but it must have remained a prominent part of the ritual landscape in the Iron Age.

The hoard is the most northerly example of the Iron Age practice of concealing coins in containers made from the hollow flint nodules which are found in layers in the Upper Chalk of the Downs.

The coins are made of gold, alloyed with silver and copper. They are all of the same type, distinguished by the lack of a design on one side and a horse with a triple tail over a wheel on the other.

The Celts began producing coins in imitation of the coinages they received from the Macedonians as mercenary pay. Celtic coinage spread from the Danube to Britain. This history explains why the image of a horse and wheel on the coins in the hoard is derived ultimately from Macedonian gold coinages which depicted the two horse chariot with which Philip II of Macedon, Alexander&rsquos father, was victorious in the Olympic Games.

Gold Coin from Henley Hoard with the image of a horse

Coins and container of hoard found at Henley, Oxfordshire

Macedonian gold coin depicting the two horse chariot with which Philip II of Macedon, Alexander's father, was victorious in the Olympic Games


Evidence from the Roman period presents a wide array of gods and goddesses who are represented by images or inscribed dedications. [3] Certain deities were venerated widely across the Celtic world, while others were limited only to a single region or even to a specific locality. [3] Certain local or regional deities might have greater popularity within their spheres than supra-regional deities. For example, in east-central Gaul, the local healing goddess Sequana of present-day Burgundy, was probably more influential in the minds of her local devotees than the Matres, who were worshipped all over Britain, Gaul and the Rhineland. [4]

Supra-regional cults Edit

Among the divinities transcending tribal boundaries were the Matres, Cernunnos, the sky-god Taranis, and Epona. Epona, the horse-goddess, was invoked by devotees living as far apart as Britain, Rome and Bulgaria. A distinctive feature of the mother-goddesses was their frequent depiction as a triad in many parts of Britain, in Gaul and on the Rhine, although it is possible to identify strong regional differences within this group. [5]

The Celtic sky-god too had variations in the way he was perceived and his cult expressed. Yet the link between the Celtic Jupiter and the solar wheel is maintained over a wide area, from Hadrian's Wall to Cologne and Nîmes. [6]

Local cults Edit

It is sometimes possible to identify regional, tribal, or sub-tribal divinities. Specific to the Remi of northwest Gaul is a distinctive group of stone carvings depicting a triple-faced god with shared facial features and luxuriant beards. In the Iron Age, this same tribe issued coins with three faces, a motif found elsewhere in Gaul. [6] Another tribal god was Lenus, venerated by the Treveri. He was worshipped at a number of Treveran sanctuaries, the most splendid of which was at the tribal capital of Trier itself. Yet he was also exported to other areas: Lenus has altars set up to him in Chedworth in Gloucestershire and Caerwent in Wales. [6]

Many Celtic divinities were extremely localised, sometimes occurring in just one shrine, perhaps because the spirit concerned was a genius loci, the governing spirit of a particular place. [6] In Gaul, over four hundred different Celtic god-names are recorded, of which at least 300 occur just once. Sequana was confined to her spring shrine near Dijon, Sulis belonged to Bath. The divine couple Ucuetis and Bergusia were worshipped solely at Alesia in Burgundy. The British god Nodens is associated above all with the great sanctuary at Lydney (though he also appears at Cockersand Moss in Cumbria). Two other British deities, Cocidius and Belatucadrus, were both Martial gods and were each worshipped in clearly defined territories in the area of Hadrian’s Wall. [6] There are many other gods whose names may betray origins as topographical spirits. Vosegus presided over the mountains of the Vosges, Luxovius over the spa-settlement of Luxeuil and Vasio over the town of Vaison in the Lower Rhône Valley.

Divine couples Edit

One notable feature of Gaulish and Romano-Celtic sculpture is the frequent appearance of male and female deities in pairs, such as Rosmerta and ‘Mercury’, Nantosuelta and Sucellos, Sirona and Apollo Grannus, Borvo and Damona, or Mars Loucetius and Nemetona. [7]

Antlered gods Edit

A recurrent figure in Gaulish iconography is a deity sitting cross-legged with antlers, sometimes surrounded by animals, often wearing or holding a torc. The name usually applied to him, Cernunnos, is attested only a few times: on the Pillar of the Boatmen, a relief in Paris (currently reading ERNUNNOS, but an early sketch shows it as having read CERNUNNOS in the 18th century) on an inscription from Montagnac (αλλετ[ει]νος καρνονου αλ[ι]σο[ντ]εας, "Alletinos [dedicated this] to Carnonos of Alisontea" [8] ) and on a pair of identical inscriptions from Seinsel-Rëlent ("Deo Ceruninco" [9] ). Figured representations of this sort of deity, however, are widespread the earliest known was found at Val Camonica in northern Italy, [ citation needed ] while the most famous is plate A of the Gundestrup Cauldron, a 1st-century BC vessel found in Denmark. On the Gundestrup Cauldron and sometimes elsewhere, Cernunnos, or a similar figure, is accompanied by a ram-headed serpent. At Reims, the figure is depicted with a cornucopia overflowing with grains or coins. [2]

Healing deities Edit

Healing deities are known from many parts of the Celtic world they frequently have associations with thermal springs, healing wells, herbalism and light.

Brighid, the triple goddess of healing, poetry and smithcraft is perhaps the most well-known of the Insular Celtic deities of healing. She is associated with many healing springs and wells. A lesser-known Irish healing goddess is Airmed, also associated with a healing well and with the healing art of herbalism.

In Romano-Celtic tradition Belenus (traditionally derived from a Celtic root *belen- ‘bright’, [10] though other etymologies have been convincingly proposed [11] ) is found chiefly in southern France and northern Italy. Apollo Grannus, though concentrated in central and eastern Gaul, also “occurs associated with medicinal waters in Brittany [. ] and far away in the Danube Basin”. [12] Grannus's companion is frequently the goddess Sirona. Another important Celtic deity of healing is Bormo/Borvo, particularly associated with thermal springs such as Bourbonne-les-Bains and Bourbon-Lancy. Such hot springs were (and often still are) believed to have therapeutic value. Green interprets the name Borvo to mean “seething, bubbling or boiling spring water”. [12]

Solar deities Edit

Though traditionally gods like Lugh and Belenos have been considered to be male sun gods, this assessment is derived from their identification with the Roman Apollo, and as such this assessment is controversial. [ citation needed ] The sun in Celtic culture is nowadays assumed to have been feminine, [13] [14] [15] and several goddesses have been proposed as possibly solar in character.

In Irish, the name of the sun, Grian, is feminine. The figure known as Áine is generally assumed to have been either synonymous with her, or her sister, assuming the role of Summer Sun while Grian was the Winter Sun. [16] Similarly, Étaín has at times been considered to be another theonym associated with the sun if this is the case, then the pan-Celtic Epona might also have been originally solar in nature, [16] though Roman syncretism pushed her towards a lunar role. [ citation needed ]

The British Sulis has a name cognate with that of other Indo-European solar deities such as the Greek Helios and Indic Surya, [17] [18] and bears some solar traits like the association with the eye as well as epithets associated with light. The theonym Sulevia, which is more widespread and probably unrelated to Sulis, [19] is sometimes taken to have suggested a pan-Celtic role as a solar goddess. [13] She indeed might have been the de facto solar deity of the Celts. [ citation needed ]

The Welsh Olwen has at times been considered a vestige of the local sun goddess, in part due to the possible etymological association [20] with the wheel and the colours gold, white and red. [13]

Brighid has at times been argued as having had a solar nature, fitting her role as a goddess of fire and light. [13]

Deities of sacred waters Edit

Goddesses Edit

In Ireland, there are numerous holy wells dedicated to the goddess Brighid. There are dedications to ‘Minerva’ in Britain and throughout the Celtic areas of the Continent. At Bath Minerva was identified with the goddess Sulis, whose cult there centred on the thermal springs.

Other goddesses were also associated with sacred springs, such as Icovellauna among the Treveri and Coventina at Carrawburgh. Damona and Bormana also serve this function in companionship with the spring-god Borvo (see above).

A number of goddesses were deified rivers, notably Boann (of the River Boyne), Sinann (the River Shannon), Sequana (the deified Seine), Matrona (the Marne), Souconna (the deified Saône) and perhaps Belisama (the Ribble).

Gods Edit

While the most well-known deity of the sea is the god Manannán, and his father Lir mostly considered as god of the ocean. Nodens is associated with healing, the sea, hunting and dogs.

In Lusitanian and Celtic polytheism, Borvo (also Bormo, Bormanus, Bormanicus, Borbanus, Boruoboendua, Vabusoa, Labbonus or Borus) was a healing deity associated with bubbling spring water. [21] Condatis associated with the confluences of rivers in Britain and Gaul, Luxovius was the god of the waters of Luxeuil, worshipped in Gaul. Dian Cécht was the god of healing to the Irish people. He healed with the fountain of healing, and he was indirectly the cause of the name of the River Barrow. [22] Grannus was a deity associated with spas, healing thermal and mineral springs, and the sun.

Horse deities Edit

Goddesses Edit

The horse, an instrument of Indo-European expansion, plays a part in all the mythologies of the various Celtic cultures. The cult of the Gaulish horse goddess Epona was widespread. Adopted by the Roman cavalry, it spread throughout much of Europe, even to Rome itself. She seems to be the embodiment of "horse power" or horsemanship, which was likely perceived as a power vital for the success and protection of the tribe. She has insular analogues in the Welsh Rhiannon and in the Irish Édaín Echraidhe (echraidhe, "horse riding") and Macha, who outran the fastest steeds.

A number of pre-conquest Celtic coins show a female rider who may be Epona.

The Irish horse goddess Macha, perhaps a threefold goddess herself, is associated with battle and sovereignty. Though a goddess in her own right, she is also considered to be part of the triple goddess of battle and slaughter, the Morrígan. Other goddesses in their own right associated with the Morrígan were Badhbh Catha and Nemain.

God Edit

Atepomarus in Celtic Gaul was a healing god. Mauvières (Indre). The epithet is sometimes translated as "Great Horseman" or "possessing a great horse".

Mother goddesses Edit

Mother goddesses are a recurrent feature in Celtic religions. The epigraphic record reveals many dedications to the Matres or Matronae, which are particularly prolific around Cologne in the Rhineland. [7] Iconographically, Celtic mothers may appear singly or, quite often, triply they usually hold fruit or cornucopiae or paterae [2] they may also be full-breasted (or many-breasted) figures nursing infants.

Welsh and Irish tradition preserve a number of mother figures such as the Welsh Dôn, Rhiannon (‘great queen’) and Modron (from Matrona, ‘great mother’), and the Irish Danu, Boand, Macha and Ernmas. However, all of these fulfill many roles in the mythology and symbolism of the Celts, and cannot be limited only to motherhood. In many of their tales, their having children is only mentioned in passing, and is not a central facet of their identity. "Mother" Goddesses may also be Goddesses of warfare and slaughter, or of healing and smithcraft.

Mother goddesses were at times symbols of sovereignty, creativity, birth, fertility, sexual union and nurturing. At other times they could be seen as punishers and destroyers: their offspring may be helpful or dangerous to the community, and the circumstances of their birth may lead to curses, geasa or hardship, such as in the case of Macha's curse of the Ulstermen or Rhiannon's possible devouring of her child and subsequent punishment.

Lugh Edit

According to Caesar the god most honoured by the Gauls was ‘Mercury’, and this is confirmed by numerous images and inscriptions. Mercury's name is often coupled with Celtic epithets, particularly in eastern and central Gaul the commonest such names include Visucius, Cissonius, and Gebrinius. [7] Another name, Lugus, is inferred from the recurrent place-name Lugdunon ('the fort of Lugus') from which the modern Lyon, Laon, and Loudun in France, Leiden in the Netherlands, and Lugo in Galicia derive their names a similar element can be found in Carlisle (formerly Castra Luguvallium), Legnica in Poland and the county Louth in Ireland, derived from the Irish "Lú", itself coming from "Lugh". The Irish and Welsh cognates of Lugus are Lugh and Lleu, respectively, and certain traditions concerning these figures mesh neatly with those of the Gaulish god. Caesar's description of the latter as "the inventor of all the arts" might almost have been a paraphrase of Lugh's conventional epithet samildánach ("possessed of many talents"), while Lleu is addressed as "master of the twenty crafts" in the Mabinogi. [23] An episode in the Irish tale of the Battle of Magh Tuireadh is a dramatic exposition of Lugh's claim to be master of all the arts and crafts. [24] Inscriptions in Spain and Switzerland, one of them from a guild of shoemakers, are dedicated to Lugoves, widely interpreted as a plural of Lugus perhaps referring to the god conceived in triple form. [ citation needed ] The Lugoves are also interpreted as a couple of gods corresponding to the Celtic Dioscures being in this case Lugh and Cernunnos [25]

The Gaulish Mercury often seems to function as a god of sovereignty. Gaulish depictions of Mercury sometimes show him bearded and/or with wings or horns emerging directly from his head, rather than from a winged hat. Both these characteristics are unusual for the classical god. More conventionally, the Gaulish Mercury is usually shown accompanied by a ram and/or a rooster, and carrying a caduceus his depiction at times is very classical. [2]

Lugh is said to have instituted the festival of Lughnasadh, celebrated on 1 August, in commemoration of his foster-mother Tailtiu. [26]

In Gaulish monuments and inscriptions, Mercury is very often accompanied by Rosmerta, whom Miranda Green interprets to be a goddess of fertility and prosperity. Green also notices that the Celtic Mercury frequently accompanies the Deae Matres (see below). [12]

Taranis Edit

The Gaulish Jupiter is often depicted with a thunderbolt in one hand and a distinctive solar wheel in the other. Scholars frequently identify this wheel/sky god with Taranis, who is mentioned by Lucan. The name Taranis may be cognate with those of Taran, a minor figure in Welsh mythology, and Turenn, the father of the 'three gods of Dana' in Irish mythology.

Wheel amulets are found in Celtic areas from before the conquest.

Toutatis Edit

Teutates, also spelled Toutatis (Celtic: "Him of the tribe"), was one of three Celtic gods mentioned by the Roman poet Lucan in the 1st century, [27] the other two being Esus ("lord") and Taranis ("thunderer"). According to later commentators, victims sacrificed to Teutates were killed by being plunged headfirst into a vat filled with an unspecified liquid. Present-day scholars frequently speak of ‘the toutates’ as plural, referring respectively to the patrons of the several tribes. [2] Of two later commentators on Lucan's text, one identifies Teutates with Mercury, the other with Mars. He is also known from dedications in Britain, where his name was written Toutatis.

Paul-Marie Duval, who considers the Gaulish Mars a syncretism with the Celtic toutates, notes that:

Les représentations de Mars, beaucoup plus rares [que celles de Mercure] (une trentaine de bas-reliefs), plus monotones dans leur académisme classique, et ses surnoms plus de deux fois plus nombreux (une cinquantaine) s'équilibrent pour mettre son importance à peu près sur le même plan que celle de Mercure mais sa domination n'est pas de même nature. Duval (1993) [2] : 73

Mars' representations, much rarer [than Mercury's] (thirty-odd bas reliefs) and more monotone in their studied classicism, and his epithets which are more than twice as numerous (about fifty), balance each other to place his importance roughly on the same level as Mercury, but his domination is not of the same kind.

Esus Edit

Esus appears in two continental monuments, including the Pillar of the Boatmen, as an axeman cutting branches from trees.

Gods with hammers Edit

Sucellos, the 'good striker' is usually portrayed as a middle-aged bearded man, with a long-handled hammer, or perhaps a beer barrel suspended from a pole. His companion, Nantosuelta, is sometimes depicted alongside him. When together, they are accompanied by symbols associated with prosperity and domesticity. This figure is often identified with Silvanus, worshipped in southern Gaul under similar attributes Dis Pater, from whom, according to Caesar, all the Gauls believed themselves to be descended and the Irish Dagda, the 'good god', who possessed a cauldron that was never empty and a huge club.

Gods of strength and eloquence Edit

A club-wielding god identified as Ogmios is readily observed in Gaulish iconography. In Gaul, he was identified with the Roman Hercules. He was portrayed as an old man with swarthy skin and armed with a bow and club. He was also a god of eloquence, and in that aspect he was represented as drawing along a company of men whose ears were chained to his tongue.

Ogmios' Irish equivalent was Ogma. Ogham script, an Irish writing system dating from the 4th century AD, was said to have been invented by him. [28]

The divine bull Edit

Another prominent zoomorphic deity type is the divine bull. Tarvos Trigaranus ("bull with three cranes") is pictured on reliefs from the cathedral at Trier, Germany, and at Notre-Dame de Paris.

In Irish literature, the Donn Cuailnge ("Brown Bull of Cooley") plays a central role in the epic Táin Bó Cuailnge ("The Cattle-Raid of Cooley").

The ram-headed snake Edit

A distinctive ram-headed snake accompanies Gaulish gods in a number of representations, including the antlered god from the Gundestrup cauldron, Mercury, and Mars.

This table shows some of the Celtic and Romano-Celtic gods and goddesses mentioned above, in Romanized form as well as ancient Gaulish, British or Iberian names as well as those of the Tuatha Dé Danann and characters from the Mabinogion. They are arranged so as to suggest some linguistic or functional associations among the ancient gods and literary figures needless to say, all such associations are subject to continual scholarly revision and disagreement. In particular, it has been noted by scholars such as Sjoestedt that it is inappropriate to try to fit Insular Celtic deities into a Roman format as such attempts seriously distort the Insular deities.

Celtic coins features

The different designs in ancient Celtic coins are records of Celtic symbology.

Antique Celtic coins started out as imitations of ancient Greek coins, later old Roman gold staters.

As time went by, the images on the coins gradually evolved becoming more original to include Celtic motifs and subjects.

Here are some of the most common features of Celtic coins:

Abstracted Figures in Celtic coins

Ancient Celtic coins are recognized for their distinct abstracted designs and expressionistic images.

When ancient Celts started minting their own coins, they incorporated their art into it. This transformation from the classical images of Greek coins became the trademark of Celtic coins.

Animated figures, bizarre representation of Celtic signs and symbols, and hard lines are common among different Celtic tribes from Western and Central Europe.

The famous head of Apollo from the gold stater of Philip II of Macedon slowly evolved to become more Celtic in form.

Horses in Celtic coins

Horses are considered to be a Celt warrior’s best friend. The excellence of Celtic horsemanship impressed the Romans that they adapted it into their own cavalry training.

This value towards horses is mirrored in the coins that the Celts produced. Celtic coins often have horse images on them.

Older coins had the horse drawing a chariot similar to that of the Greek gold stater. Subsequently, it advanced into a figurative horse composed of pellets and adorned with a rider in chain mail and other Celtic symbols.

This relationship between the horse and its rider is highlighted in a man-headed horse images common among Gaulish Celt coins.

The Head in Celtic coinage

The Celts considered the head to be the container of one’s soul. During battles, a victorious Celtic warrior decapitates his foe and displays the head as trophy, even embalming the head for preservation to show it off to strangers.

This belief was translated into their coinage. Heads of tribal leaders and decapitated heads with ropes are common in Celtic coins. The heads portrayed in Celtic coins differ from other ancient coins. Theirs are more animated, stronger and more bizarre.

In terms of worth of a Celtic coin, presence of the bust of a prominent Celtic historical figure, like that of Vercingetorix and Queen Boudica, significantly increases the coin’s value.

Creatures in Celtic coinages

The Celtic people were animists – those who believe that all aspect of the natural world has spirits anyone can communicate with. This philosophy towards nature was rendered into the coins that they minted.

Apart from the horse, there is also a wide variety of animals in Celtic coins. Butterflies, dolphins, eagles, boar, bulls and starfish are examples of prevailing imprints in the coin.

Mythical creatures such as the dragon, the Sphinx and the centaur are also common Celtic coin patterns.

Significance of the Triquetra, Tuim, and Triskelion

The famous Celtic spirals and knots reflect their belief in eternal life and in the complex relationship which humans have with the natural world and the divine. The Triquetra is also known as the Trinity Knot. It is the most common Celtic knot and when it is surrounded by a circle it reflects the unity and the trinity of the heart, the mind, and the soul. This symbol also suggests three different but interlocked levels of the mental, spiritual, and physical or phases of time, as in the past, present, and future. Finally, the Triquetra is a symbolic representation of triple deities, such as a lunar goddess called the Great Mother and the war goddess Morrigan.

The triquetra design on the cover of a replica of the Book of Shadows. ( Public Domain )

The Tuim knot, on the other hand, symbolizes the four seasonal lunar holidays as well as the four traditional elements. The triple spiral represents the continuity of life and the manner in which life travels in cycles. The triple symbolism here represents body, mind, and spirit or birth, death, and rebirth.

The Triskelion, or Triple Spiral, is another popular Celtic triple symbol. It has been depicted since at least Neolithic times and can be seen at the entrance of Newgrange in Ireland. As it is so old, scholars have had difficulty in pinpointing exactly what it is meant to symbolize, but there are two main interpretations.

First, the appearance of energy spiraling out from the center suggests it may represent movement or motion, or action, cycles, progress, revolution, and competition. Secondly, the Triskelion could depict a specific cycle of events or relationships, such as life-death-rebirth, spirit-mind-body, mother-father-child, past-present-future, power-intellect-love or creation-preservation-destruction. In general terms, some say the Triskelion is a symbol representing the unity of eternal life, spiritual growth, and the flow of nature.

Celtic Coin Depicting Horse & Rider - History

This glossary explains the meaning of some of the ancient, technical, or hobbyist words used elsewhere on this site, and on other sites too. It includes a few words that relate to ancient history but not directly to coins. I'll add to it as more words come to mind. Words that show up as links are defined somewhere else in the list. If you would like a word added, please email me.

For more detail, I recommend a search on Forum's Numiswiki.


An ornamental curved extension of the stem post on the prow of a galley, sometimes with the addition of a carved animal's head in front. Galleys were often used on ancient coins to symbolise sea power or the successful completion of a journey. See also aplustre. There are several examples on my galley page.

acroterium or acroterion

An ornament, such as a decorative knob or a statue, on the pediment of a temple or other building. Some are at the apex, others are at the corners. The plural is "acroteria."

AE or Æ

An abbreviation used in coin descriptions meaning that the coin is of base metal or alloy, that is, not silver or gold usually copper, brass or bronze. When used with a number, as in "AE23," "AE3" and so on, it indicates the size of the coin. For Greek coins, the number identifies the diameter of the coin in millimetres. For Roman coins, numbers from 1 to 4 indicate a size range. AE1 is over 25mm. AE2 is 21-25 mm. AE3 is 17-21 mm, and AE4 is less than 17mm. The abbreviation AE is derived from the Latin word aes. See also AR and AU.

aegis or ægis

A small leather cloak, or sometimes a shield, with the head or mask of Medusa (a gorgoneion) mounted on it. Shown sometimes by itself, sometimes worn or carried by Athena. For a look at the different ways it was shown on Roman and Greek coins, see my aegis page.

Agathodaemon or Agathodaimon or Agathos Daimon

In ancient Greece, a presiding spirit or genius of vineyards and grainfields, a bringer of good fortune. Represented on Roman Alexandrian coins as a serpent, often bearded, sometimes wearing the skhent, the double crown of Egypt. Alexandrian deities were often subjected to multiple syncretisations, so this is clearly not quite the same creature as the Greek Agathos Daimon.

Brass, bronze or copper base metal coinage. The first Italian base metal coinage was "aes rude," meaning rough or raw metal, and was just chunks of metal, as the name suggests. Later, there were heavy bars with simple designs known as "aes signatum," meaning marked or stamped metal. (An aes signatum is available to handle in the coin gallery of the British Museum in London.)

A cylindrical purple silk roll containing dust, held by the Byzantine emperors during ceremonies. It was intended to remind the emperor of his mortality.

A headband, often made of metal.

An abbreviation used in coin descriptions meaning that the coin is of silver. It derives from "argentum," the Latin for silver. See also AE and AU.

The first letter of the Greek alphabet, also used in ancient times as a numeral. Represented on ancient coins as an upper-case A. Used in the mintmarks of Roman coins to indicate officina 1. Also, of course, used as a letter in the legends of Greek and provincial Roman coins.

A tall vase, common in the ancient world, used for storage and transport of items such as grapes, wine, garum and oil. The neck was thinner than the body, and there were two looped handles on either side of the neck. Some were decorative. The simpler type, used for transporting goods, was made in the thousands and had a pointed base designed to be pushed into soft earth or sand. The word is often used wrongly in coin descriptions when the vessel shown is actually a volute krater.


The name given in modern times to a Roman coin thought to be twice the value of a denarius. Originally a silver coin. The amount of silver in the mix dropped drastically over the years, and later antoniniani were hard to tell from copper or bronze.

The hat worn by some Roman priests, with a spike fixed to the top.

aplustre or aphlaston

The high upcurving decoration on the stern of a galley. Sometimes spelled "apluster" in the American fashion. "Aphlaston" is the Greek name. Characters with a naval connection were sometimes shown on coins holding a miniature aplustre. Galleys were often used on ancient coins to symbolise sea power or the successful completion of a journey. See also acrostolium. There are several examples on my galley page.

A Greek word for the white wool netting which covered the Omphalos, and was also worn by soothsayers. It was related to the casting nets used by hunters. It was made of raw wool which had been carded, but not spun or died. Paintings and copies of the Omphalos showed it with this netting. It can be seen on the example to the right, criss-crossing between the body of a snake.

The Russian name for a cubit, a measure of length which was standardised at 28 inches by Peter the Great. This name is often given to the measuring rod which is sometimes shown carried by Nemesis on Roman provincial coins.

Pronounced "ass." A copper Roman coin of low value, one-quarter of a sestertius. The plural is "asses". See also aes.


A sprinkler, one of the implements of the priestly colleges often shown grouped together on coins. There is an aspergillum second from left on this coin.

An abbreviation used in coin descriptions meaning that the coin is of gold. It derives from "aurum," the Latin for gold. See also AE and AR. Au is also the international chemical symbol for gold.

A man whose job was to divine the future by watching the behaviour of birds. For example, predicting the success of a course of action by observing the flight of birds across the sky, using a lituus. The process is called "augury." The assemblage of priestly instruments on this coin includes a lituus on the right.

In popular culture, the name "Caesar" is often used as a title for all Roman emperors. This indicates that from the Roman viewpoint, our popular culture is barbarous in nature. Julius' successor, Octavian, took the title "Augustus" and soon became known by that title. Thereafter, the reigning emperors were referred to as Augusti, and the title "Caesar" was used by intended heirs or subordinate partners. Only in outlying countries was the term "Caesar" retained for the emperor, which led to the use of titles such as "Tsar" and "Czar."

A gold coin of the late Roman republic and early Roman empire. Valued at 25 denarii. The plural is aurei.

baetyl or baetylus

A sacred stone. There were several in the ancient world, some of them very famous, such as the omphalos in Delphi, and the stone which personified the Syrian sun god Elagabal, which the emperor known as Elagabalus brought to Rome. Coins often showed them in their shrines, like the stone of Zeus Kasios on the right. Some, like the stone of Elagabal and the stone of Zeus Kasios, may have been meteorites. Others, like the omphalos of Delphi, were most likely carved.

To the ancient Greeks, this meant anything non-Hellenic. To the Romans, who took the word from the Greeks, it meant anything not Greek or Roman, or later, anything outside the Roman empire. In modern times, it means things associated with barbarians, people who have not developed a modern civilisation. But if a coin is referred to as "barbarous" it means that it was produced unofficially in an outlying area of the Roman empire, or even outside the border. ("Barbaric" usually means violent and cruel, and is not the best word to use here.) A "barbarous radiate" is a small bronze coin with a radiate portrait on the obverse. The word came from the Greeks, who reckoned that anyone who spoke a language other than theirs sounded as though they were just going "bar &ndash bar &ndash bar."

The second letter of the Greek alphabet, also used in ancient times as a numeral. Represented on ancient coins as an upper-case B. Used in the mintmarks of Roman coins to indicate officina 2. Also, of course, used as a letter in the legends of Greek and provincial Roman coins.

A chariot drawn by two animals, usually horses, but sometimes shown on coins being pulled by other creatures such as elephants, goats or even lions or snakes for ceremonial or symbolic purposes. See also quadriga.

An alloy of bronze (which consists of copper and tin) and silver. The silver content ranges from very high, so that the coin looks like silver, to very low, so that it looks like bronze. See also potin.

A coin which has been mis-struck in such a way that the reverse of the image of one side appears on the other side as an incuse. This occurs when a freshly struck coin sticks to one of the dies and impresses itself into the next blank flan instead of the die it is obstructing.

An alloy of copper and tin, more durable than either alone, and which when new has a shiny yellow appearance. Used for many coins, ancient and modern. The surface rapidly tones to an even brown, and can end up richly patinated. See also billon and potin.

The Latin word for the skull of an ox, sometimes used as a symbol on ancient coins. Sometimes shown decorated with garlands. The plural is "bucrania."

Referring to the eastern remnant of the Roman empire after the downfall of Rome and the western empire. Although "remnant" may not be the right word, as the empire and its descendants lasted for almost a millennium. Byzantine coins are reckoned from the reign of Anastasius I, starting in 491 CE, to the end of the Empire of Trebizond in 1461 CE. The inhabitants did not name themselves "Byzantine." They still thought themselves to be Roman, and usied the Greek word Romaion, a name which is often preferred in modern times.

An ornamental rod twined with two snakes, which face each other at the tip. The rod is often shown winged. It is an attribute of Mercury, the messenger of the gods, and symbolises trade and prosperity. It probably derives from the ribbon-draped willow wand traditionally carried by messengers. When carried by Hermes, the Greek equivalent of Mercury, it is called a kerykeion. It is sometimes confused with the staff of Aesculapius (Asklepios in Greek), which also has an entwined snake, but which has a quite separate medical symbolism. Shown on many ancient coins, either carried, used as a symbol, or as the main type. For some examples, see my pages on Mercury, Felicitas and the corn supply to Rome.

The family name of the man who did not quite become an emperor of Rome, and also, later, the title used for an intended heir, or later still, a junior or subordinate emperor working as an obedient (in theory) partner of the reigning Augustus.


A mythical animal with the forepart of a goat and the tail of a fish. Sometimes shown in pairs, back-to-back, when the fishy tail is not clearly visible.

In modern usage, an engraver of coin dies. "Caelator" is a real Latin word, but its use with this meaning (and a modern American spelling) is a recent invention. In ancient times it referred to "caelatura," which seems to have meant some sort of fancy metal-work not connected with coinage.

A race of mythical creatures with the body of a horse and the upper body and head of a man, connected where the horse's neck would be.

A rustic lyre, made from a tortoise shell. It was supposed to have been invented by the god Hermes and given by him to Apollo. The larger professional lyre is a kithara.

Chimaera or Chimæra or Chimaira or Chimera

Chimaera (sometimes "the Chimaera," but actually Chimaera was its name) was a mythical creature. According to Homer, it had the body and head of a lion, the tail of a snake, and a goat's head growing from its back. According to Hesiod it had three heads a lion in front, a dragon at the back and a goat in the middle. It was supposed to be able to breathe fire. The Homeric type appears on several coins. This creature was killed by the legendary hero Bellerophon, riding the winged horse Pegasus.

A monogram made up of the Greek letters Chi and Rho. See Christogram

A simple ancient Greek cloak, probably formed by draping a square of wool diagonally. Typically worn by a traveller, hence worn by Hermes and Mercury. A flimsy cloak usually called a chlamys is often the only clothing of heroically nude figures such as Sol, Mars or Genius on Roman coins, shown draped over the shoulders or off one arm, enhancing rather than concealing the nude form. For more detail, see this chlamys footnote.


A monogram made up of the Greek letters Chi and Rho, which look to us like X and P. These letters make up the start of the name of Christ in Greek. Sometimes called a Chi-Rho. Often shown on coins being engraved on a shield, or on a labarum.

A small column or pillar, often with an inscription, sometimes shown supporting some object on Roman coins.

Two heads in profile next to each other, so that both profiles can be seen. See jugate.


A type of Roman medallion with a depressed border inside the rim.

On ancient coins, this means wheat or barley, not maize. Many coin descriptions, especially older ones, were written using "corn" to mean the local grain crop, in the British fashion. Maize was not a food crop in the ancient world. There are some examples on my page on the corn supply to Rome.

cornucopia or cornucopiae

A horn which in legend contained endless good things, usually shown with fruits overflowing or being poured out. The word was originally two words, cornu copiæ, meaning "horn of plenty," so although the standard English word is "cornucopia," it is often seen in coin descriptions as "cornucopiae." Often carried by personifications on ancient coins. There are many examples on my horn of plenty page.

criocamp or criocampus

A mythical sea creature with the head and forelimbs of a ram, and a sinuous fishy rear end. Scarce on coins, and perhaps only appears on this antoninianus of Gallienus. See also hippocamp.

Wearing a cuirass, the top section of a suit of armour. Used to describe the bust of an emperor. Often used together with draped, as "draped and cuirassed," in which case only a fraction of the armour might be visible.

A curule chair was a folding camp-stool with curved legs, symbolic of and used by certain senior Roman magistrates, particularly the curule aedile. Consuls were also entitled to such a chair.

The fourth letter of the Greek alphabet, also used in ancient times as a numeral. Represented on ancient coins as a triangle, &Delta, often with decorative serifs. Used in the mintmarks of Roman coins to indicate officina 4. Also, of course, used as a letter in the legends of Greek and provincial Roman coins.

A silver Roman coin, produced during the Republic and the first three centuries of the Empire. Sixteen times the value of an as, four times the value of a sestertius. The plural is "denarii".

An ornate headband, tied at the back. Late Roman coins commonly show the emperor wearing a diadem of pearls, or sometimes rosettes and laurel leaves, to indicate royalty. In coin descriptions, a person wearing one is said to be "diademed".

In connection with coins, this means the stamp which placed the impression or design on a blank coin flan. Two dies were required, one for each side. The flan was placed on the lower die, which usually had the obverse image the upper die, with the reverse image, was placed on top of it, and was struck one or more times with a hammer. Not to be confused with Julius Caesar's famous saying when he crossed the Rubicon, "Alea jacta est," usually translated as "The die is cast." That die is the singular of dice.

Digamma or Wau

The sixth letter of the archaic Greek alphabet, still used in ancient times as a numeral even though it was no longer part of the written alphabet. Represented on ancient coins either as a capital S or as a similar character with the lower curve elongated and straightened. Used in the mintmarks of Roman coins to indicate officina 6. Very often referred to in coin descriptions as a Stigma this is inaccurate.

Having two columns. On Roman coins, they usually belonged to a shrine or temple. The word describes the number of columns shown on the coin, not the number the actual temple might have had. See also tetrastyle and hexastyle.

Wearing clothing other than armour. Used to describe the bust of an emperor. Wearing clothing without armour would be "draped" wearing something such as a cloak over armour would be called "draped and cuirassed".

A Roman coin, usually made of brass or copper. Twice the value of an as. On dupondii, the head of the emperor was usually radiate, and this can be recognised even when the coin is quite worn to distinguish it from an as. The plural is "dupondii."

The eighth letter of the archaic Greek alphabet (but only the seventh letter in the ancient written language - see Digamma). Also used as a numeral. Represented on ancient coins as a capital H. Used in the mintmarks of Roman coins to indicate officina 8. Also, of course, used as a letter in the legends of Greek and provincial Roman coins.

The fifth letter of the Greek alphabet, also used in ancient times as a numeral. Represented on ancient coins either as a straight-backed capital E, or a lunate Є. Used in the mintmarks of Roman coins to indicate officina 5. Also used to indicate the value of a Byzantine 5-nummus coin. Also, of course, used as a letter in the legends of Greek and provincial Roman coins.

A space at the bottom of the reverse of a coin. Often, a line is drawn to separate this space from the rest of the coin. Mint marks are often found here on Roman bronze coins. Sometimes part of the legend is placed here, for example on some Roman silver coins.

fascis or fasces

A bundle of sticks, particularly the bundle containing an axe which was carried by lictors, who preceded Roman magistrates when they walked through the streets. It symbolised their authority.

When used of coins, this means the flat undecorated area, usually between the legend and the central design or type. Sometimes, mint marks or other control marks are placed here.

The blank from which a coin is struck. Flans were made and prepared in different ways in different places and times. Commonly they would be a weighed and perhaps smoothed disk of metal, which would be heated just before the coin was struck.

A bag, bellows, money-purse or scrotum. Used to mean a type of late Roman coin from the time of Diocletian, perhaps because it was worth enough smaller coins to be a purse-full in itself. Also used for certain large Byzantine or Romaion coins which had a value of 40 nummi.

fourée or fourrée

An ancient counterfeit or unofficial coin with a base metal core and a precious metal surface. They are often very patchy, and sometimes only a bronze core remains to be seen.

The third letter of the Greek alphabet, also used in ancient times as a numeral. Represented on ancient coins as an inverted upper-case L, &Gamma. Used in the mintmarks of Roman coins to indicate officina 3. Also, of course, used as a letter in the legends of Greek and provincial Roman coins.

Head, or face, or mask of a gorgon, particularly of the gorgon Medusa. Used on coins and amulets and the Aegis. For some examples, see my pages on the story of Medusa and ancient coins showing the Aegis.

griffin or gryphon

A mythical creature having the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle.

A narrow-necked jug, one of the implements of the priestly colleges often shown grouped together on coins. There is a guttus on this coin, the second object from the right.

An agricultural implement with a hooked extension, used like a sickle or scythe, used by Saturn and shown with him on Republican coins and a coin of Gallienus. Also, when adapted as a hand weapon, the type of sword used by Perseus to kill Medusa. There are some examples on my page about the story of Medusa.

Having six columns. On Roman coins, they usually belonged to a temple. The word describes the number of columns shown on the coin, not the number the actual temple might have had. See also distyle and tetrastyle .

hippocamp or hippocampus

A mythical sea creature with the head and forelimbs of a horse, and a sinuous fishy rear end. Some have wings, and some do not. See also criocamp.

A many-headed water monster that lived in Lake Lernea, which Hercules killed as one of his twelve labours.

A design which is below the level of the coin's surface rather than standing out above it, which would be much more usual. Sometimes done on purpose, sometimes by accident, as in a brockage. Many Greek coins have the reverse design inside a larger incuse square.

The tenth letter of the archaic Greek alphabet (but only the ninth letter in the ancient written language - see Digamma). Also used as a numeral. Represented on ancient coins as a capital I. Used in the mintmarks of Roman coins to indicate officina 10, and in combination with other letters to indicate higher officina numbers. Also, of course, used as a letter in the legends of Greek and provincial Roman coins.

Two heads joined at the back and facing in opposite directions, like the god Janus.

Two heads in profile next to each other, so that both profiles can be seen. Sometimes called conjoined.

In ancient Greek culture, a basket with a flared top, used to carry corn and also other light materials. Sometimes referred to as a "bushel measure." Sometimes copied as a miniature in metal or ceramics as a symbolic item, or to hold votive offerings. Sometimes shown on Roman coins worn as symbolic headgear by deities or personifications, and when it is, coin descriptions often incorrectly call it a polos or a modius. There is a kalathos and some examples of modii on my page about the corn supply to Rome.

An ancient Greek drinking cup, with two large handles that rose above the rim. Shown on coins by itself, or being carried by characters associated with carousing, such as satyrs.

The staff of Hermes. See caduceus for details.

A lyre, a larger professional version of the simple folk instrument called a chelys. "Kithara" is the Greek word the Latin version is "cithara."

Korybant or Corybant

An attendant on the goddess Cybele, usually one of a group. The plural is "Korybantes." They wore crested helmets and armour, and worshipped the goddess with dancing to the beat of a drum. The example on the right appears to be naked to the waist.

A large ceramic or bronze container used by the ancient Greeks for mixing wine and water, ready to drink. There are four different types, of varying shape. The one most often seen on ancient Greek coins is a volute krater. In coin descriptions, this vessel is often incorrectly identified as an amphora.

A standard with a Christogram, often shown on coins of the family of Constantine the Great.

A double-headed axe, sometimes carried by Zeus or Jupiter, sometimes used as a symbol.

A shepherd's throwing stick, sometimes referred to as a boomerang, used for bringing down small creatures such as rabbits. The word is also sometimes used to refer to a shepherd's crook, which in latin is a pedum, but that confuses the two separate uses of such a thing, perhaps because it is sometimes hard to tell which one is being shown. But that is not always so. The first example shown here might indeed be either based on its appearance. The second example is clearly a throwing stick.

A large bowl sometimes placed on a tripod.

When used of coins, this means the writing on the coin, usually excluding the mintmarks and any special marks in the field. Typically, the legend runs around the outside edge of the coin, though there are exceptions, especially with non-Roman coins.

A liknon was a shallow high-backed basket, used to throw up threshed corn to separate the grain from the chaff. This object is sometimes called a winnowing fan &mdash in fact, this device is the first meaning of the word "fan" given in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Pronounced "lee-mays". Latin for a limit or boundary, and in relation to coins it means the boundaries of the empire. Limes coins, coins of the limes, and limes falsa all mean base metal versions of silver coins, usually found near the north and east boundaries of the Roman empire and assumed to have been made there. Some are cast, some appear to have been struck, and many are so well engraved that there is a view that they were made with official dies. This is strongly disputed by other respected experts, who believe they are contemporary fakes.

A curved wand used by an augur. The augur would use the lituus to mark out the divisions of the sky in which he would make his observations. Sometimes shown on Roman coins together with other implements of the priestly colleges such as a jug or guttus, a knife, a sprinkler or aspergillum, a patera, an apex, a bucranium, and a simpulum. The plural is "litui."

Curved in the shape of a crescent moon. Used, for example, to describe a lunate Epsilon, Є.

Literally, the hand of God. On coins, it refers to the depiction of a hand reaching down from above on late Roman bronze coins, often holding a halo above the head of the figure on the coin.

Literally a napkin or tablecloth, used to dry the hands when they were washed after a meal. The sort of cloth dropped by the emperor or presiding magistrate to signal the start of a race. Later, an attribute of the consuls. On late Roman bronze coins, sometimes shown gripped by the emperor on the obverse. The origin of the modern word "map," which now means something rather different.

mint mark or mintmark

A sequence of letters or symbols that show which mint, and sometimes also which officina, produced a coin. Often to be found in the exergue or the field of Roman coins.

A basket or container used as a measure for corn. Often shown on Roman imperial coins as an indication of the corn supply, and sometimes worn as a symbolic hat by personifications to which the corn supply was relevant. The Greek equivalent is a kalathos. Many coin descriptions incorrectly identify kalathoi as modii. For some examples, see my page on the corn supply to Rome.

Two or more letters combined into a single design. An obvious example on Roman coins is the christogram found on late Roman bronze coins. Many Greek and Roman republican coins also used monograms.

A coin with the obverse of one type and the reverse of another. These coins are made in official mints but are clearly mistakes caused by using the wrong dies. Often they are discovered because the obverse is of an emperor and the reverse is of his empress, or of a previous emperor.

mural crown

A crown or headdress in the shape of a city wall. A personage wearing such a crown is said to be turreted.

The Greek for a cane or wand. On coins, it refers to the stems of giant fennel used to construct the thyrsos of Dionysos. Some coins show the god carrying two narthex wands.

A fawn's skin. Originally worn by hunters, later by worshippers of Dionysos and by Pan and fauns. The example shown here is carried over Pan's left arm - you can see two hooves dangling from it.

Having a nimbus or halo surrounding the head. Often seen on Byzantine coins, rare before that.

A small Byzantine copper coin, rarely seen but used as the base value for larger copper coins. These multiples had a large letter on the reverse which showed their value in nummi in the Greek style. Those seen most often are: M for 40 nummi (see "follis"), K for 20 nummi, I for 10 nummi and Є for 5 nummi.

The front, or "heads" side, of a coin. On Roman Imperial coins, usually shows the head of the Emperor or a relative. On Roman Republican coins, can show a variety of themes. On Greek coins, it's sometimes not even clear which side of the coin we are referring to. The other side is called the reverse.

A workshop within a mint. Most mints had several workshops and it seems that it was sometimes useful to be clear about who had produced which coins. Therefore, mint marks or marks in the field often included this information.

Oinochoe or Oenochoe

A small jug with a spout and one handle, used for pouring wine into drinking cups.

The Omphalos was a sacred stone sited near the prophetic chamber of the oracle of Delphi. The word means "navel" in Greek, indicating its position in the centre of the Hellenic world. There were several copies, and some other stones are sometimes given this name, but the Delphi stone is the original and the one which is usually meant by the term. Apollo, the patron deity of the Delphic oracle, is often shown seated on the Omphalos. It was usually shown on coins as covered by a white wool netting, the agrenon, though this is worn to invisibility on many examples. See also baetyl.

orichalc or orichalcum

A brass alloy which was used to make such Roman coins as sestertii and dupondii. An earlier Greek meaning is "mountain copper."

The sacred statue of Pallas Athene, also called Minerva, carrying shield and spear, which was held in safe keeping by the Vestal Virgins. Sometimes shown carried on Roman coins.


A Roman military cloak worn over armour for warmth. Sometimes shown on coins just as a fold over the shoulder of the armour. Heavier than a chlamys.

A short triangular sword or long dagger. Often carried on Roman coins, sheathed, hilt outwards, by the emperor or by Virtus.

A shallow dish from which a sacrifice or libation could be poured, often onto an altar. Many Roman coin reverse types show figures holding a patera, which symbolised piety and religious intent. Some coins showed creatures with religious connections, such as snakes and peacocks, being fed from them. The nearest Greek equivalent was the phiale.

On coins, the triangular space between the roof of a temple and the lintel or ceiling line, usually containing some form of decoration. See also acroterium.

A shepherd's crook. Examples on coins are sometimes labelled as a lagobalon, a rabbit hunter's throwing stick. The example shown here might be either based on its appearance.

Pegasus or Pegasos

A mythical winged horse, supposedly born fully formed from the severed neck of the Gorgon Medusa when she was killed by Perseus. Later ridden by the hero Bellerophon. Appeared on many Greek and Roman coins, as shown on my Pegasus page. Called Pegasos by the Greeks and Pegasus by the Romans.


An ornate drinking vessel consisting of a drinking horn decorated with a model of the forepart of the mythical winged horse Pegasos. Appears on coins of Skepsis. In real life, the horn would be larger in proportion than shown on this coin.

petasos or petasus

A broad-brimmed Greek sun-hat, typically worn by travellers and so worn by Hermes and Mercury. The petasos of Hermes and Mercury is usually shown winged, representing great speed as much as flight. "Petasos" is the Greek word "Petasus" is Latin.

In ancient Greek culture, a shallow dish, metal or ceramic, from which a libation of wine could be poured. It had a raised dimple in the centre into which a steadying finger could fit from below and a thumb could rest on top, and so might be called a "phiale mesomphalos." The nearest Roman equivalent, but lacking the dimple, was the patera but many Roman coins showed a phiale mesomphalos rather than a patera, as can be seen by the placement of the thumb or finger.

phoenix or ph&oelignix

Pronounced "fee-niks". A mythical bird that at the end of its life was said to make a nest of cinnamon twigs, set light to it and burn up, then rise renewed from the flames. Often used as a symbol of eternity or immortality. A radiate phoenix on a globe is seen on several Roman coins.

A felt cap, more or less conical, worn by freed Roman slaves, and known as the cap of freedom a similar cap is worn by the French Marianne and appears on the so-called Mercury dime, with the same meaning, though in those cases it had a turned-over top and was called a Phrygian cap. Held on Roman coins by Libertas, the personification of freedom. It was also associated with the Dioscuri, the heavenly twins, and when two pilei were shown on a coin, that is what they symbolised.

Cylindrical headwear worn by some eastern deities. The name is often inaccurately applied to a kalathos.

The formal and religious boundary of the city of ancient Rome, marked out by white stones. It did not include all of the famous seven hills. Tradition held that it was the line marked out with a plough by Romulus when he founded the city. The pomerium was extended by Claudius and perhaps also by others.

An alloy of copper, tin and lead, of varying proportions but higher in lead than most ancient bronze coins, which are essentially copper and tin. The lead content gives a smoother look and feel to the surface of such coins and sometimes allows a red patina to form. It was used in Gaul to make Celtic coins, and in Alexandria to make later Roman tetradrachms. See also billon.

A Greek pottery vessel designed for pouring.

A frontal view of an animal. On coins, typically the forepart of an animal (or mythical creature) cut off at the middle.

The front of a sailing vessel, for example a galley. Sometimes shown apart from the rest of the vessel, sometimes in miniature with a figure standing on it, often resting a foot on it. There are several examples on my galley page.

The double crown of Egypt. An alternative spelling of the word skhent.

Carthaginian. The word derives from the Greek for Phoenician. Carthage was originally a Phoenician colony, whose name meant "New Town" in the Phoenician tongue.

A copper coin worth a quarter of an as. This was really small change. The plural is "quadrantes."

A chariot drawn by four creatures, usually horses, but sometimes shown on coins being pulled by other creatures for ceremonial purposes. Ben Hur raced a fast quadriga in the film. See also biga.

A half-denarius or half-aureus coin. The plural is "quinarii."

Wearing a crown of spiky rays, representing the rays of the sun. Early Roman emperors were shown radiate on some coins later ones, on most of their coins. The Roman sun-god Sol and the Greek sun-god Helios were always shown radiate &ndash see my page on Sol for examples.


When used of Roman coins, it means an issue that replicates an older coin, perhaps with a few minor changes. Sometimes this was done to ensure that revered predecessors stayed circulating on the coinage when old coins were recalled for a change in the money system. Sometimes it was to honour a particular ancestor.

The back, or "tails" side, of a coin. On Roman Imperial coins, usually shows propaganda of some kind. On Roman Republican coins, usually shows a theme which glorifies an ancestor of the moneyer. On Greek coins, it's sometimes not even clear which side of the coin we are referring to. The other side is called the obverse.

In coin descriptions, this usually refers to a spear held point downwards, which is supposed to be a less aggressive stance than when it is held with the point upwards.

A drinking vessel in the shape of a horn. Originally, made from a horn, and with a hole at the end to drink through. Often ornamented with animal's heads. See also Pegasosrhyton.

The Greek word for Roman, referring to the eastern remnant of the Roman empire after the downfall of Rome and the western empire. This adjective is often preferred to Byzantine.

rostral column

A column with the foreparts of galleys mounted on it, celebrating a naval victory.

rostral crown

A wreath or crown consisting of miniaturised foreparts of galleys, awarded by the Senate to leaders of naval victories.

The ram or beak on the prow of a galley, often with two or three prongs. Although at or under the waterline in real life, so as to sink rammed ships, often shown above water level on coins. The word also came to mean the speaker's platform in the Roman forum, which had the beaks of galleys mounted on it.

saccos or sakkos

A bag, sometimes worn over the hair and head of females on Greek coins. It could be bound with cord to form attractive shapes.

sceptre or scepter

A staff or rod which might have ornamental ends, carried as a symbol of royalty, or by some deities. Sceptres were sometimes long, often taller than the person carrying them and sometimes short, and held almost playfully. Some emperors were shown carrying a sceptre tipped with an eagle. ("Scepter" is the American spelling.)

A coin struck in the Roman Republic and the early Imperial period, with a value of half an as. The plural is "semisses".

serrated or serratus

Having a notched edge. Typical of some Roman republican denarii and the flans of some Seleucid bronze coins. The modern adjective is "serrated" "denarius serratus" is Latin for a serrated denarius.

A large Roman brass coin. Four times the value of an as. The plural is "sestertii".

A small ladle used in religious ceremonies. Sometimes shown on Roman coins together with other implements of the priestly colleges such as a jug, a knife, a sprinkler, a patera, an apex, a bucranium, and an augur's lituus. The plural is "simpuli".

A metallic jangling rattle, carried by the goddess Isis, along with her situla, and used by her priests to draw attention to the various stages of their ceremonies. The plural is "sistra." See my page on Isis for examples.

A water carrier in the form of a large jug or a bucket. A ceremonial situla, sometimes with an appearance of basket-work, is carried by the goddess Isis, along with her sistrum. See my page on Isis for examples.

The double crown of Egypt, combining the crowns of the older separate kingdoms of the upper Nile and the lower Nile. The illustration on the right is not very clear it shows the shkent on the head of the serpent Agathodaemon. An alternative spelling of the same word is pschent.

A deep drinking mug with two loop handles at its sides. The handles may be horizontal or vertical in orientation, or one of each in a so-called "owl" or "glaux" skyphos. The handes are relatively plain and do not loop high and ornately like those of a kantharos.

A decorated hair band which forms a U-shape around back of the head. Also used to refer to a full hair band when the rear part is the dominant feature. (Definition from Numiswiki)

A mythical creature. In Greek myth she was unique, a creature called Sphinx who had the body of a winged lion and a human head. Other mythologies have multiple sphinxes, including the Egyptian, where they were usually temple guardians and of course there is the famous Egyptian sphinx at Giza with the body of a recumbent lion and the head of the Pharaoh Khafra.

A casting sprue is a projection on the edge of a coin, showing that the flan was cast rather than shaped in any other way. It is the place where the blank coin was broken away from its attachment before the pattern was struck onto it. Some coins were legitimately made this way. On coins that were not, it is a sign of a fake.

A pole or spear which acted as the emblem of a cohort within a Roman legion. The pole was decorated with disks, wreaths and battle honours, and a hand was often fixed on the top. Not the same device as the eagle fixed to a pole which was the emblem of the whole legion.

Star-shaped, or radiating from a central point. Sometimes the actual pattern is some way away from the ideal. The example shown is a double stellate pattern.

stephane or stephanos

A Greek word meaning a crown or coronet, shown worn by some females on Greek and Roman coins. Sometimes referred to as a diadem, even though it does not resemble the ornate type of headband normally called by that name.

A name often wrongly used for the Digamma or Wau, the sixth letter of the archaic Greek alphabet, which was used as a numeral in ancient times, including on ancient coins. "Stigma" actually represents the medieval (manuscript) and modern (15th-19th century printing) ligature of two letters, S + T, and has nothing to do with the archaic Digamma the name came to be used in that way purely because of a coincidence in the shape of the characters concerned. For more detail, see this stigma footnote.

A set of pipes made from hollow reeds of different lengths tied together. Carried by the god Pan, who supposedly invented them, and sometimes called "pan pipes".

tainia or taenia

Literally a ribbon, the word also means a traditional Greek headband. "Tainia" is the Greek word and "taenia" is the Latin version. It can be distinguished from a diadem by not having ties at the back.

A square tablet which could be marked with various information such as a watchword. It is often stated that the tablet carried on Roman coins by Liberalitas is a tessera marked with points which represent gifts such as money and corn. However, it is clear on early medallions showing liberalitas scenes that this is actually a counting board, a board with circular depressions holding coins which allowed a standard sum to be quickly and easily measured and then poured into the recipient's toga.


A coin valued at four drachms. What constituted a drachm varied with place and time, and an ancient tetradrachm can be a large, heavy silver coin or a smaller potin one.

Having four columns. On Roman coins, they usually belonged to a temple. The word describes the number of columns shown on the coin, not the number the actual temple might have had. See also distyle and hexastyle .

The ninth letter of the archaic Greek alphabet (but only the eighth letter in the ancient written language - see Digamma). Also used as a numeral. Represented on ancient coins as a capital O with a central line, &Theta. Used in the mintmarks of Roman coins to indicate officina 9. Also, of course, used as a letter in the legends of Greek and provincial Roman coins.


A representation of a bolt of lightning, having a central core from which spiky or decorative lines emerged to either side. Often shown with wings. Usually shown by itself carried by Zeus (Greek) or Jupiter (Roman) carried by his daughter Athena (Greek) or Minerva (Roman) or grasped by an eagle, Zeus' sacred bird.

thymiaterion or thymiaterium

Often called a candelabrum-altar, this was a stand which held a bowl or dish at about waist height. The bowl probably held hot coals or charcoal so that incense dropped on it would smoke attractively. "Thymiaterion" is the original Greek word and "thymiaterium" is the Latin equivalent. On Roman coins, various characters are shown dropping incense onto a thymiaterium as an act of piety.

thyrsus or thyrsos

A staff traditionally made from a stem of the giant fennel plant (sometimes called a ferula), wound with ivy and sometimes with ribbons, and tipped with a pine cone. Carried by Dionysos, and representing his spirit. "Thyrsos" is the Greek word and "thyrsus" is the Latin version.

Wearing a toga. Some Roman coins show the emperor togate, sometimes with the toga pulled up over the head in a religious scene.

When used in coin descriptions, this means something held at an angle, usually across the body, rather than straight up and down. For example, a spear, a long sceptre, or a long caduceus.

Literally, having three teeth. Used to mean a spear with three prongs, the traditional weapon of Neptune (Roman) and Poseidon (Greek).

A bronze coin of the Roman republic, valued at four unciae, or one-third of an as. The plural is "trientes."

Literally, having three feet. Normally applied to a three-legged altar, or a stand for a large bowl usually called a lebes, a combination that coin descriptions often call a tripod-lebes. A tripod-seat on its own is associated with Apollo, because the priestess of his shrine at Delphi sat on a tripod to give oracular pronouncements.

A mythical creature with a human body and the tail of a dolphin or fish. Triton proper was a Greek god, the messenger of the sea, the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite. The name can also refer to lesser creatures with the same form, who could be either male or female. The female Triton shown here is a variant with wings.

The weapons and armour of a defeated enemy, attached to a pole. Shown on Roman coins carried by Mars and sometimes by Victory, or standing with one or a pair of captives bound at its foot. May be called a tropaion on descriptions of coins from Greek-speaking areas.

Wearing as a headdress a crown representing a city wall, sometimes with towers and turrets of different heights. Sometimes referred to as a mural crown.

A simple drum composed of a membrane stretched over a circular support, like a tambourine without the jangles. It is shown on coins carried by, or accompanying, Cybele and the Magna Mater. There are examples on my Cybele page.

When used of Roman coins, this means the main design on the reverse, usually inside the legend and above the exergue.

A bronze coin of the Roman republic, valued at one twelfth of an as. The plural is "unciae."

When used of coins, it means that the coin was not made in an official mint. It might be a contemporary fake, or a coin made for local use in the absence of official small change (sometimes called "money of necessity"). Examples include the so-called barbarous radiates, and most fourrée coins.

The military standard of a subdivision of a Roman legion.

Vows. On coins, usually for the safety of the emperor. Late Roman bronze coins showed vows both given and renewed for five years or multiples of ten years.

The seventh letter of the archaic Greek alphabet (but only the sixth letter in the ancient written language - see Digamma). Also used as a numeral. Represented on ancient coins as a capital Z. Used in the mintmarks of Roman coins to indicate officina 7. Also, of course, used as a letter in the legends of Greek and provincial Roman coins.

The Significance of Celtic Coinage

"Traditional historians have tended to overlook the role played by Celtic coinage in the early history of British money." There is a paucity of written evidence from the period before the Roman conquest but "hundreds of thousands of Celtic coins have been found, mostly on the Continent, where hordes of up to 40,000 coins have been discovered. In a number of instances we have learned of the existence of certain rulers only through their representation on coins (though some are spurious)."

The quotations are from page 114 of the 3rd edition of the book by Glyn Davies, (or page 113 in the 1st and second editions).

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.

Celtic monetary development is seen in its most concentrated form in Britain. Originally the Ancient Britons used sword blades as currency before they started minting coins. The earliest Celtic coins found in Britain "were of pure gold, being direct imitations of the gold stater of Philip II of Macedon. the spread of knowledge of such coinage is. generally held to be the result of migration and in particular the use of Celtic mercenaries by Philip and Alexander." Britain was probably the last of the major Celtic areas of northern Europe to begin to mint, and the last to maintain independent minting before being overwhelmed by Rome. The earliest known date for copies of Philip's stater in Britain is 125 BC. As their experience of minting grew the Celts' designs became more original. As befitting a pastoral people the horse was a common feature. The Celtic love of hunting was also illustrated by the boar designs favoured by the Iceni of East Anglia, and as farmers they also gave tribute to the fertility of East Anglia by prominently depicting ears of wheat, similar to that on modern French coins.

In addition to gold and silver coins, the Celts on the continent and in southern Britain also produced potin coins using various combinations of copper and tin. These were small in size and were cast, not struck or hammered as were the dearer gold and silver coins. Since their intrinsic value was low it is probable that they circulated as tokens, accepted for trade at a higher value than the value of the metal of which they were composed. No great skill was required in their manufacture and therefore it is quite possible that the ubiquitous Celtic smiths were able to supply local demands to supplement the official issues.

The Romans, naturally, imposed the use of their own coinage in Britain. Towards the end of their occupation of Britain and other Celtic lands the small brass and copper minissimi coins produced by the Romans for low value purchases, served a somewhat similar purpose to the earlier potin coins.

With the collapse of the Roman empire and the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain, minting and the use of coins ceased for a couple of centuries, the island reverting to barter and to using other standards of value. Nowhere was the disruption accompanying the empire's decline and fall more marked than in Britain which reverted, suddenly in some areas and fairly quickly everywhere, to a more primitive, less urbanized, moneyless economy.

In his concluding chapter where he sums up the lessons of history, Glyn Davies describes how the quantity of money has repeatedly tended to oscillate between periods of excess, causing inflation, and periods of shortage restricting trade and economic activity. He notes that "after the fall of Rome Britain showed the unique spectacle of being the only former Roman province to withdraw completely from using coined money for nearly 200 years. the absence of money reflected and intensified the breakdown of civilized living and trading." (page 641).

In an earlier chapter he gives a detailed account of the re-emergence of minting in Anglo-Saxon times. Although their first coins were copies of French ones the English soon became masters of the art and English coins became models to be copied in Scandinavia and eastern Europe. The production and diffusion of Saxon coins was given an immense boost by the Viking invasions. In order to buy off the invaders the English mints produced huge quantities of silver coins for the payment of Danegeld. In Ireland too Vikings exacted tribute from the native inhabitants. On page 39, Glyn Davies explains the origin of the phrase "to pay through the nose" as coming from the unfortunate habit of the Danes in Ireland in the 9th Century who slit the noses of those unable or unwilling to pay the Danish poll tax.

Wales lagged far behind England in the re-adoption of coinage, as shown by the paucity of evidence for minting by native princes.

Other sources have pointed to the importance of cattle as a form of money in medieval Wales.

Another Davies (no relation this time!), R.R. Davies in his book The age of conquest: Wales 1063-1415. Oxford: O.U.P.,1987, points out that English coins may have circulated in Wales to some extent before the conquest, but even as late as the 14th century payment in cattle was still very common.

The Welsh were by no means unique in using cattle as a form of money. Glyn Davies in his History of money discusses what we can learn about the origins of money from the study of primitive forms of money such as cattle, on which he has three pages (pages 41-44). He describes cattle as mankind's "first working capital asset" (page 41). The origins of several English words provide evidence for the importance of cattle in this connection. The author points out that the words "capital", "chattels" and "cattle" have a common root. Similarly "pecuniary" comes from the Latin word for cattle "pecus". Glyn Davies also notes that in Welsh the word "da" used as an adjective means "good" but used as a noun means both "cattle" and "goods".

The use of cattle as money is not restricted to the remote past either. Certain African tribes, e.g. the Kikuyu, have regarded cattle as money until very recently and the author observes (page 43) that attachment to cattle as a store of wealth has deleterious environmental consequences making the development of monetary systems and institutions that satisfy the needs of the rural African population particularly important.

Thus the transition that Welsh underwent (much later than the English) to living and working in a society whose functioning depends on modern forms of money, is one that has been repeated on a far vaster scale within living memory in parts of the Third World.

Not only the Welsh but also their fellow-Celts, the Irish, were relatively late in western Europe in adopting the use of coins. After the Act of Union in 1707 the Scots used the same coinage as the English but Scotland played a notable role in the development of modern banking, the overdraft being one of their innovations, as described on pages 272-279 of Glyn Davies' History of Money.

Although the role of the Welsh in banking has been much less significant than that of the Scots, during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution an important part was played by Wales in the use of tokens as a substitute for official coins, and since 1968 when the Royal Mint started production in Llantrisant Wales has supplied coins not only for the whole of Britain but also for many foreign countries.

St. George the Dragon Slayer

According to legend, St George was a Roman soldier who was born in the third century AD and was condemned to death by the Roman Emperor Diocletian for refusing to give up his Christian faith.

Over the following centuries, St George became a hero figure, symbolising courage and strength. In his book Gesta Regnum, the historian William of Malmesbury recorded a vision of St George joining English knights in the Battle of Antioch in 1098. The description inspired a vigorous cult of St George among the crusading knights.

A shrine was erected for St George at Lydda, supposedly the place where the Greek hero Perseus rescued Princess Andromeda from an evil sea serpent. Perhaps that&rsquos why the saint&rsquos story became intertwined with the legend of killing a ferocious creature. The shrine soon became a special place for crusading knights on their way to the Middle East.

By the thirteenth century, St George the Dragon Slayer was being portrayed with the red cross of the crusader. He symbolised the victory of good over evil, and became one of medieval Europe&rsquos greatest legends.

By 1348 St George had become such a symbolic figure in England that Edward III made him the nation&rsquos patron saint. The King also instigated the Order of the Garter, the highest award he could bestow on his subjects. Its official sanctuary is the Chapel of St George at Windsor Castle, and its insignia contains the badge of St George slaying the dragon.

St George and the gold Sovereign

Over the ages, St George continued to inspire people. For instance, Shakespeare ended his famous battle speech in Henry V with the words, &ldquoCry God for Harry, England and St. George.&rdquo

The patron saint also struck a chord with his namesake, King George IV. When George IV wanted to introduce a new coin he picked the saint as the coin&rsquos subject.

The new gold Sovereign was created in 1817 and was designed by the Italian gem engraver Benedetto Pistrucci. His approach to the design was a refreshing change to the heraldry that had traditionally featured on coins.

Pistrucci created a motif of St George slaying the dragon, and gave him a sense of movement and confidence. St George was portrayed as a naked Greek horseman, effortlessly keeping control of his horse while fighting the wounded dragon.

The coin design has become a classic, and the coin expert Humphrey Sutherland praised it as one of the noblest innovations in English coin design from 1800 to the present day. Many collectors and historians would agree with him.

Saint George speeches

Saint George became the patron saint of England after the great warrior King Henry V used him in his speeches to motivate his soldiers. This has been attributed to the Battle of Agincourt when Henry V beat the French in 1415. Ever since then, St George has been the patriotic rallying point for the English people.

Henry V (16 September 1386 &ndash 31 August 1422) was the second English monarch of the House of Lancaster. Despite his relatively short reign, Henry's outstanding military successes in the Hundred Years' War against France, most notably in his famous victory at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, made England one of the strongest military powers in Europe. Shakespeare&rsquos play Henry V has the famous speech which ends mentioning St George

Watch the video: Semenenko Celtic Papers 1 (July 2022).


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