Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The Sego legend on coins of the Catuvellauni -- part one

Gold stater, Sego type, in association with
Tasciovanus, Catuvellauni, VA 1845-1.
This coin: wt. 5.42 g. CCI -680189. British Museum.
Found near Tring, Hertfordshire in 1919
Ornamented tablet containing TASCIO
Warrior on horse brandishing carnyx, SEGO
(For a complete online listing of Sego types, see Robert Van Arsdell, Celtic Coinage of Britain, Plate 76)

Most of the names appearing on British Celtic coins are unknown to history. Sego is such a name. It translates to "victory" or "strength" (Xavier Delamarre,  Dictionnaire langue gauloise) and is a very common element in Celtic inscriptions and place names -- for example, Segobriga (Segovia, Spain).

The coin on the right certainly does not invalidate the meaning with its depiction of a Celtic warrior on horseback brandishing the Celtic war trumpet or carnyx. Unfortunately, the same depiction appears on coins only bearing the name of Tasciovanus who first appears in history as "Tenvantius" in Geoffrey of Monmouth. Of course, Geoffrey's history has been notorious almost since it was written, and is satirized by Gerald of Wales. In any case, Geoffrey has very little to say about the period and about the only thing we have from him that is backed up with evidence is that Cunobeline was Tasciovanus' son. This evidence are coins bearing the legend TASCIOVANI . F. (The F. is taken to indicate filius (L). Even this might be questioned. Was Cunobeline a real son or some sort of adopted successor? There is a regional focus to the filius legends to around Harlow, Essex and we might thus expect the area to have both Catuvellauni and Trinovantes connections. In what appears (from alloy details) to be coins of what Van Arsdell calls "the Interregnum", and the Sego coins are part of this, there are other names appearing on coins also bearing Tasciovanus legends: Andoco, Dias, and Rues. These are assumed to be unsuccessful candidates for rule after Tascivanus, but with the coin legends being the only evidence, we can have little certainty. None of these also incorporate filius in the legend. The use of filius is also problematical as Tasciovanus uses Celtic in his legends and not Latin -- for example, RICON Which appears to refer to kingship (Rix, Rig) (perhaps great or divine king), instead of using the Latin REX.

With the SEGO element, we do not have to ponder much. Not only is it common in Celtic inscriptions etc. but Delamare and others also point to the Germanic Sieg (victory). It would appear to have a very early source. Being so common, though, it presents us with a number of possibilities of interpretation -- Sego can be, not only a personal or place name element, but also a tribe (Segontiaci) or a deity name (Hercules Segon). These are just some of the topics I will discuss in this series.

Part two tomorrow.

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