Celtic silver coins from Tótfalu


Archaeological site: Szentendre Island, Tótfalu
Inventory no.: VVM 31–53.
Material: silver
Date of issue: First trimester of 1st century BC
Storage: Gödöllő, Ferenczy Museum Center

The Celts were the first to mint coins in the Carpathian Basin from the middle of the 3rd century BC copying a Greek design that gradually more and more of Celtic art and myths. The horse, with or without its rider, often interpreted as a sun symbol is the most common Celtic coin design. The occasionally appearing bird image can be linked to the warrior gods of Celtic mythology.

The Celts were the first to mint coins in the Carpathian Basin from the middle of the 3rd century BC copying a Greek design. They primarily copied Philip II of Macedon’s (359 BC- 336) 14-gram tetradrachms displaying the head of Zeus and a rider. Initially these copies were very similar to the original, but in the course of time they adopted more and more of Celtic art and beliefs. Motifs from other, more distant Celtic regions as well as own self-coloured images by Celtic artists and masters replaced the Greek design. The horse, with or without a rider, is one of the most general coin designs. The horse, similarly to the wheel, is regularly interpreted as a sun symbol. Thus they can be connected to Belenus, whose other names, “luminous” or “shining,” suggest that he can be considered as a certain type of Sun God, and who was identified with Apollo of Greco–Roman mythology in Antiquity. The bird, possibly a raven, occasionally appearing above the horses on the reverse of the Tótfalu silvers, can probably be linked to the warrior gods of Celtic belief. The raven belongs to the entourage of Lugus, one of the main deities in Gallia. In Roman times he was identified with Mercury. This Gaul Lugus may be the same as Lugh from Mediaeval Irish legends, god of all trades and arts as well as the divine military leader. The raven or crow can, however, also be an attribute to other deities. In the Irish-Celtic myths, war, too, has its goddesses, and they, or one of them, appear in the form of ravens or crows over the battlefields.

Context: The coins were found during the building of a dam on Szentendre Island in 1903. Unfortunately the altogether 2.5 kilograms of silver coins did not remain a hoard but were distributed among different public and private collections.

Dr. Melinda Torbágyi

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