Friday, 11 April 2014

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

Gold stater of Epaticcus combining Cunobeline
and Tasciovanus iconography
Connections between the Sego coins of the Catuvellauni and the Atrebates at Silchester (Calleva Atrebatum) become stronger than a dedication at Silchester to Hercules Saegon with Epaticcus becoming the king of the Atrebates in about 35 AD.  On the coin to the right, Epaticcus has included the TASC.F legend with the ear of barley on Cunobeline's well-known staters. The TASC.F legends would thus indicate that Epaticcus and Cunobeline were brothers and the sons of Tasciovanus (if we assume F = "son of").

Hercules Saegon on an Epaticcus silver coin
The commonest coin of Epaticcus is shown on the left with the obverse bearing the unmistakable head of Herakles wearing his lion's skin headdress that we see on the silver coinage of Alexander the Great.

In Caesar's description of the Gallic deities, Hercules is curiously absent, and he gives Mercury as the deity of most importance to the Gauls, saying: "They worship Mercury most of all and have very many images of him, regarding him as the inventor of all crafts, their guide on all journeys, and they consider him to be especially important for the acquisition of money in trade." (VI, 17). Yet we see many Romano-Gallic bronze statuettes of Hercules, and they might even be commoner than similar statuettes of Mercury. Caesar has never been caught out in a lie, and besides, there would be little point for anyone to lie about this, and it does seem to have come from his own observation. The Greek orator Lucian of Samosata (sometimes given as Samothrace) resolves the dilemma in his piece on Herakles (which was written in order to promote the virtues of older orators).

While in Gaul, Lucian sees a painting of an extremely old Herakles (whom the Gauls there called Ogmios), made even weirder by the fact that Herakles "draws after him a great number of men bound by their ears, and the bonds are slender cords wrought of gold and amber, like necklaces of the most beautiful make."

Lucian goes on to say:
"Now I stood a long time looking at these things, and wondered, perplexed and indignant. But a certain Celt standing by, who knew something about our ways, as he showed by speaking good Greek — a man who was quite a philosopher, I take it, in local matters — said to me. Stranger, I will tell you the secret of the painting, for you seem very much troubled about it. "We Celts do not consider the power of speech to be Hermes, as you Greeks do, but we represent it by means of Heracles, because he is much stronger than Hermes. Nor should you wonder at his being represented as an old man, for the power of words is wont to show its perfection in the aged ; for your poets are no doubt right when they say that the thoughts of young men turn with every wind, and that age has something wiser to tell us than youth. And so it is that honey pours from the tongue of that Nestor of yours, and the Trojan orators speak -with a voice of the delicacy of the lily, a voice well covered, so to say, with bloom ;  for the bloom of flowers, if my memory does not fail me, has the term lilies applied to it. So if this old man Heracles, the power of speech, draws men after him, tied to his tongue by their ears, you have no reason to wonder, as you must be aware of  the close connection between the ears and the tongue. Nor is there any injury done him by this latter being pierced ; for I remember, said he, learning while among you some comic iambics, to the effect that all chattering fellows have the tongue bored at the tip. In a word, we Celts are of opinion that Heracles himself performed everything by the power of words, as he was a wise fellow, and that most of his compulsion was effected by persuasion. His weapons, I take it, are his utterances, which are sharp and well-aimed, swift to pierce the mind; and you too say that words have wings."
After Augustus, all western Celtic deities become associated, in their inscriptions, with Roman deities. This is because the local priests can then obtain income (and other perks) from their cults. The higher the status of the god by Augustus' classification, the greater the income . This results in quite a number of very different deities being given the same Roman name. The above passage reflects the  metaphors used by the Celts to create this transition. Eventually, after many generations, the Celtic names are dropped and the religion becomes fully Roman. This is one of the ways that the Celts Romanized themselves (although Augustus had this as his intention, he was a genius and knew that making something attractive was infinitely more effective than making it mandatory).

I would go so far as to say the the chief god of the British Atrebates at this time (and it need not be so for the continental Atrebates) was Segon. This idea is also reinforced by the vast number of the Epaticcus Herakles type that were found at the Wanborough sacred site. It also suggests that silver coins had an important role as votive offerings (and this is also supported with the evidence from some other sites)

We can safely assume, that the image and identity of Herakles was used for Segon, as with Ogmios, to emphasize strength, but strength in what? The answer to that question will have to wait until Monday -- have  a great weekend.

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