South East Europe and Hellenistic influences

In various parts of South-Eastern Europe, extending into Greece and Asia Minor, finds have been made of archaeological material, including grave-goods, of La Tene type, that inevitably have been interpreted as evidence for the historically documented invasions of Celts into those regions in the third century bc. In Romania, one such burial, combining Hellenistic with 'Celtic' types, was the third-century warrior's grave at ^iumejti, in the district of Maramurej near the border with Ukraine. The rite was apparently cremation, which in the adjacent cemetery outnumbered inhumations. Principal among the grave-goods was an iron helmet of eastern Celtic type with cheek-pieces, to which had been added a magnificent crest in the form of a bronze bird of prey, of which the wings are hinged to the body in order to allow them to move (Figure 6.5). The warrior's equipment also included a socketed spear, a pair of Hellenistic greaves and a suit of chain mail, to which had been attached a small bronze disc with a relief triskele as its central design and S-motifs arranged in a series of symmetrical panels around its edge.

Further south, near the Bulgarian border with Turkey, the burial at Mezek affords an even more striking confrontation of Celtic and Thracian traditions. Apparently inserted as a secondary deposit in a Thracian tholos tomb were the remains of a Celtic chariot burial. The primary burials were undoubtedly of the local Thracian aristocracy of the fourth century bc, but inserted into the tomb in the third century was a burial accompanied by the fitments of a chariot, including ornamented La Tene-type reinrings and linch-pins. One bronze-covered iron terret is embellished with a pair of goggly-eyed birds of prey overspreading a pair of faces entwined with S-motifs, all rendered in an unmistakably western 'Disney Style'. Several other attachments bear simplified versions on the same theme. A bronze and iron linch-pin is ornamented with a series of bosses and meandering S-motifs to give the impression of a 'Disney' style face, comparable to a series known from the same period in Western Europe. A group

Celtic Helmet With Bird
Figure 6.5 Helmet with bird-crest, ^iumejti, Romania. Photo: National Historical Museum of Romania, Bucharest.

of gold beads had presumably once formed a necklace, the form of which Jacobsthal believed would have been the equivalent of the type of gold torc represented at Gasic in Serbia, dating from the later third or second century bc. This piece has frequently been compared to examples from south-western France from the Toulouse region and it may even have been derived from Western European workshops. But its ornamentation is simpler than some of the latter, being a series of relief elements of sub-floral design arranged repetitively around the entire circumference, very like one of the gold torcs from Fenouillet in the Haute-Garonne (Jacobsthal, 1944, no. 62). The west—east associations invite the conclusion that this was the burial of a marauding Celtic warrior, or a mercenary in a foreign land. Just conceivably it could have been the product of a diplomatic gift borne to the grave by its Thracian recipient, but the traditional explanation will probably continue to carry greater conviction.

A find that has been treated as the ultimate demonstration archaeologically of the historically documented invasions of Greece and Asia Minor is the discovery of hollow-cast anklets of La Tene type in a well at Corinth, apparently part of a votive deposit, the associated ceramics with which were dated not later than 300 bc. The anklets were of the plain variety with eight hollow hemispheres, two within the opening sector. As we have seen, they are particularly characteristic of Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia, with some examples in Bavaria and the west, but with few finds south of the lower Danube. Associations in Central Europe, as at Andelfingen in Switzerland, and at the Steinbichel and Hundersingen cemeteries at Manching, place them in the transition from La Tene B to La Tene C.

In view of the undoubted interaction between the La Tene Celtic world and SouthEastern Europe from the third century at least, it would hardly be surprising to find evidence of Hellenistic influence, or the influence of Thracian and Dacian styles in works of Celtic craftsmanship, or even imports from these regions. Just such may be the great silver ring from Trichtingen, near Stuttgart (Figure 6.6). Silver is not the prime medium of high-status craftsmanship in the Celtic world, though it is characteristic of Thracian and Dacian metal-working. Likewise, while the torc is certainly a Celtic icon, the use of animal heads as terminals is again alien to Celtic tradition, being more commonly featured in Achaemenid art. The bull's head terminals display more detail than is normal on the simpler moulded heads of the Plastic Style, though the melancholy expressions of the beasts would not be out of keeping with Celtic taste. Both are depicted wearing twisted buffer torcs of La Tene type, but the intricate ornamentation of the body of the torc itself is unlike Celtic ornament. The weight of the torc - more than 6kg - is often remarked, not because of the intrinsic value of the piece (much of the weight is in its iron core) but because it could hardly have been worn, even for ceremonial occasions, and has thus been supposed to have adorned a statue or wooden totem. Its combination of traits, Celtic and foreign, makes it a product of the long-distance connections exploited by the Celts from the later fourth century, and evidence for their clear attraction to the exotic themes and orientalizing styles.

In less spectacular but more regular fashion, reciprocal influence from the Hellenistic world can be seen in the pottery vessels with high, paired handles from cemeteries extending through the middle Danube from South-East Europe to the Carpathian Basin, which bear a clear resemblance to Hellenistic kantharoi (Kruta and Szabo, 1982). In seeking a model for the Danubian potters, however, Szabo has pointed out that the only actual Greek imports into this region are bronze kantharoi like that from the cemetery at Szob in Hungary, datable to the third century bc. Among exotic imports, one of the most prestigious is the drinking-horn with its terminal in the shape of a sea-serpent from a cremation burial at Jaszbereny-Cserohalom in Hungary, possibly a gift or trophy in the possession of a Celtic warrior from exploits in Thrace. Quite evidently, however, this region of South-Eastern Europe in the third century was a cultural melting-pot of various influences, including some from regions further east. A striking example is afforded by Szabo's Hungarian comparison (1992, 177) of the bronze deer with turned-back head from Rakos with the incised representation of a deer in similar pose being attacked by voracious predators on the pottery vessel from Labatlan, the former being a modelling in the Plastic Style of an animal drawn from the artistic iconography of the Steppes.

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