The ancient Celts who inhabited the British Isles in the fourth century B.C. were descendents of an early Indo-European Bronze Age people who mingled with wanderers of central Asia. The Celts were skilled in horse breading and the use of iron. The earliest archaeological evidence of the Celts comes from the Hallstatt site in Austria around 700 B.C. The word Celt comes from the 'Greek word Keltoi' meaning 'barbarian.' For 500 years, the Celtic warriors were paid mercenaries of Greece and other major powers.
Celtic tribes spread from central Europe west to transalpine Gaul into present-day Spain, Portugal, France, and Belgium. The Celtic tribes controlled trade routes along the Rhône, Seine, Rhine, and Danube rivers. As they moved west, the warriors use of iron weapons helped them dominate other tribes. By the fourth century B.C., Celtic tribes began attacks on Rome and Greece. In 390 B.C. the Celts raided Italy and sacked Rome. The Celts settled in Cisalpine Gaul, in northern Italy between Apennines and the Alps. Here the Celts menaced Rome until their defeat in 225 B.C.
In Greece, Celtic tribes sacked Delphi in 279 B.C. The Celtic tribes then crossed into Asia Minor and looted the area. In 230 B.C. the Celts were defeated by Attalus I of Pergamon (current day Turkey.) By 124 B.C. Rome controlled Cisalpine Gaul in northern Italy. In Transalpine Gaul, from the Rhine and the Alps west, the Celts were pressed by Germanic tribes from the west and Romans from the south. In 58 B.C. Julius Caesar's campaigns began the annex all of Gaul and Roman assimilation of the Celts in Europe.
The Celts in the British Isles
In 333 B.C. Celts tribes began settling the British Isles. Two Celt groups occupied the British Isles. The first were the Gaels. They spoke the Celtic language of the Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, and Manx people. The second Celt group were the Brethons who came from what is modern day France. The Breton's spoke the Celtic language of the Welsh, Cornish, and Breton people.
In Britain and Ireland the Celtic tribes had a mixed farming economy. They used and manufactured iron weapons and utensils. The Celtic oral literary traditions and arts were highly developed.
The Celtic social system comprised three classes.
1) a warrior aristocracy and freemen farmer class.
2) the intellectuals included druid priests, poets, and jurists; and
3) every one else.
Celtic kings and queens in Britain, Scotland, and Ireland were selected from the warrior leader class. They were by election under a legal system called tanistry. The tanist or heir was elected during the lifetime of the king or queen and operated as second in command. At the death of the monarch, the tanist became ruler of the tribe. This Celtic practice of election would later came into conflict with the English practice of primogeniture or succession through the first born son.
Celtic Gold Coinage
>From the end of the second century B.C., Celtic tribes in Britain began manufacturing coins in a variety of metals. However, the Celtic gold coinage of the British Isles represents the final artistic and technical flourish in the 350 year use and development of Celtic coinage.
British Celtic coins are strongly influenced by the gold stater of Philip II of Macedon struck in gold of about 90% purity. These coins were issued by Philip II, Alexander the Great, and their successors from 359 to 294 B.C. The Greeks employed huge numbers of Celtic mercenaries. The Celts were first exposed to significant quantities of coinage in trade with the Mediterranean world. Celtic warriors took these coins back to their homelands. Soon Celtic tribes began to produce their own versions of the stater for their trade.
The first significant developments in British Celtic coinage were directly related to continental types: a series of gold imports from Belgium themselves inspired ultimately by the gold Philip I's stater. Soon a range of Greek imitations and varieties of coins were produced by the Celtic tribes who settled the British Isles. The following are reproductions of these gold Celtic coins.
1. Ma Wonersh Gold Stater
To the north of the Themes River, in England, the Trinovantes tribe produced these early uninscribed gold staters. The obverse shows a crossed wreath design with crescents back to back. The reverse shows a spiral above a horse with a wheel below the horse. These coins were found in Buckingham, Bedfordshire, Hertford, and East Essex. (Spink 36)
2. Cheriton “Smiler” Gold Stater
The obverse of this early gold stater shows two eye spirit facing viewer with a broad 'smile.' The reverse shows bones, beads and plants. (Spink 24)
3. Celtic Volisios Gold Stater
This Volisios Dvmnoscoveros gold stater is an example of a coin inscribed with the ruler of the tribe. The obverse shows VOLISIOS between three lines a wreath. The reverse shows a horse facing right with DVMNOCOVEROS around the coin. (Spink 416)
4. Tasviovanus Gold Stater
This gold staters struck between first century B.C and first century A.D. The obverse design incorporate two crescent in wreath with V in the design. The letter “V” stands for the mint Verulamimum (St.Albans) The reverse shows a horse walking right with two wheels and a hand below. (Spink 214)
5. Dobunni Anted Rig Gold Stater
The Dobunnic territory stretched from Glostershire, Hereford and Worcester into Somerset and Wiltshire. The Anted Rig gold stater's basic design stands out among the gold coins of the Gauls and ancient Britons. The obverse: shows the Dobunni symbol of a single tree. The reverse shows ANTEDRIG above a triple tailed horse facing right with a wheel below. (Spink 379)
6. Cunobelin Gold “Corn Ear” Stater
King Cunobelin ruled over the unified territories of the Trinovantes and Catuvellauni from the early first century to 40 A.D. The obverse shows a corn ear dividing the inscription CAMV an abbreviation for the Colchester mint. The reverse shows a horse facing right with branch above. nThe letters CVNO below the horse are the first letters of the Cunobelin's name. (Spink 281)
7. Gallo-Belgic Gold 'A' Stater
This is an excellent example of the first type of coin to circulate in Britain. It was probably made in northern France or Belgium. Gold coins like this crossed over the English Channel, perhaps in trade or as gifts between high-ranking individuals. These coins were imported from 150 B.C. To 50 B.C. This design is several stages removed from the Greek gold stater of Philip II of Macedon. The obverse shows a left-facing head with full hair. The original Greek two-horsed chariot on the reverse of the coin has been transformed here into a lively, abstract depiction of a horse surrounded by a large array of symbols. (Spink 2) The Iron Age artists who made the Celtic coins integrated contemporary and ancient themes into their art. Celtic gold coins display abstractions and pattern making, while adopting representations of ancient Greek coins. The coins of the Celts are one of the best sources to learn the pre-Christian Iron Age arts and beliefs.
The coins in this 8x10 collection are gold plated lead-free pewter replicas of original Celtic coins. The word COPY is stamped on the reverse of each coin in accordance with the Hobby Protection Act off 1973.