The Celts from Northern Gaul - Third Generation Coins (c. 125 BC to c. 50 BC) - Eye Staters

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The Gallo-Belgic E coins we discussed earlier are well known as the Gallic War staters. These were not, however, the only staters minted in response to the war. The tribes allied with the Romans also minted coins to cover expenses, and these are known as the Eye Staters. These coins were ultimately inspired by the Philippus, but begin with just the remnants of Apollo’s head in a highly abstracted form. While Gallo-Belgic C focussed on Apollo’s hair and wreath, these coins focus on Apollo’s eye and wreath.

The Eye Staters are centred round a set of coins known as Scheers series 30 (see “La Gaule Belgique - Traité De Numismatique Celtique”), consisting of six classes, and having links to several other types of coins. Class 1 alone is thought to have consisted of several millions coins.

Relationship between the Eye Stater coins. The arrows show the direction of influence. Numbers are Scheers’ Series/Class

Photo copyrights: 25/2 Nomos AG; 26/2 Comptoir des Monnaies; 30/1 Mike Vosper Coins; 30/2 Comptoir des Monnaies; 30/3 © Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0); 30/4 Jean ELSEN & ses Fils s.a.; 30/5 Hess Divo AG; 30/6 Fritz Rudolf Künker GmbH & Co. KG, Osnabrück; Lübke & Wiedemann KG, Leonberg; 31/1 Paul-Francis Jacquier

There are a number of complexities with the Series 30 coins that form the core of the Eye Staters that mean our understanding of these coins is still evolving. The latest and most comprehensive work was published by Dr. John Sills in “Reversal of fortune : eye staters of the Remi and Treveri”. It’s well worth getting a copy if you are interested in these coin. The rest of this discussion is based on his work, but expand the box below if you want to know some of the problems and previous theories about the coins.

Advanced notes

On the surface, it all looks simple enough. The obverse designs of the series 30 coins are based on a large eye feature, much like we saw on the Gallo-Belgic F coins (in fact Gallo-Belgic F is one of the eye staters), and the reverse designs are based on, as usual, a horse. Two of the classes are unscribed, and the remaining four have legends. The coins are found all over Belgic Gaul, and as some of the coins can be securly attributed to the Treveri, it made sense to assign them all to the Treveri based on their very similar appearance. However, there are some complexities that make that difficult to justify.

The first problem is their distribution. Class 1 is found all over Belgic Gaul, with a cluster in the territory of the Remi. Classes 2 and 3 are found all over Belgic Gaul, but are rare inside Treveri territory. Classes 4-6 are mainly found in Treveri territory with very few found elsewhere. If these coins were all minted by the Treveri, why are classes 2 and 3 rarely found in their territory, and why do classes 4 to 6 not appear elsewhere like classes 1 to 3 did?

The second problem is that the ordering of the coins based on weight and typology leads to the unheard of situation where the coins gain legends (classes 2 and 3) only to become unscribed again (class 4) before gaining legends again (classes 5 and 6).

Scheers (“La Gaule Belgique - Traité De Numismatique Celtique”) reconciled these problems in 1977 by placing the coins in the context of the Treveri uprising of 54 BC. Her theory was that classes 1 to 3 were general currency in the area before the uprising, but once that started, coins in the Treveri territory were recalled and reminted as classes 4 to 6, leaving classes 1 to 3 to be found only outside of their territory (this theory was slightly weakened by her distribution map showing lots of class 1 coins in Treveri territory). During and after the uprising, all Treveri activity was within their territory which meant classes 4 to 6 were only used there. As for the unscribed class 4, Scheers posited that they were the coins of Indutiomarus who led the uprising. Being a hater of Rome, he also hated Roman influence, so minted his coins in the traditional, unscribed, way.

It’s a beautifuly therory, but it hasn’t survived subsequent scrutiny.

In 1997 Louis-Pol Delestrée (Les monnayages en or de la Gaule belgique dérivés du statère ‘à flan large) showed that there are actually two series of coins. Classes 1 to 3 were minted by the Remi, and classes 4 to 6 were minted by the Treveri. This left a slight issue with the distribution of class 1. Although there is a slight clustering in the territory of the Remi, the coins have a wide distribution and are common in Treveri territory as well. In 2013, Dr. John Sills resolved this (“Reversal of fortune : eye staters of the Remi and Treveri”) by showing that class 1 is actually two classes, one of which was minted by the Remi and the other by the Treveri as part of the Gallic War effort in 58/7 BC.

A third problem which appeared after Scheers published her theory, is that the archeological evidence placed the start of these coins somewhere between 120 BC and 90BC, making them too early to be Gallic War related. However, the numismatic evidence does place them at the start of the Gallic War, and is much more convincing than the archeological evidence.

The result of this confusion is that you will find coins in this series attributed to the Remi, Treveri, or both (and occasionally the Suessions; I skipped over that theory), and with dates ranging from 120 BC to 50 BC. What you will almost never find is them mentioned in the context of Gallic War currency. That link was made by Sills.

The Eye Staters began with the Remi, and the Scheers 30 class 1 coins:

Scheers 30 class 1 (6.1g)

Copyright Mike Vosper Coins

At the start of the war the Remi were under the control of the Suessiones, a situation that was reversed when the Suessiones were defeated in 57 BC and the Remi allied with Rome. The Remi probably started minting the coins at this point. Shortly after, the Remi’s neighbours, the Treveri, also started minting Eye Staters of the Scheers 30 class 1 type. The Treveri were one of the strongest Gaulish tribes and were allied to Rome at the start of the war, although they had a history of changing sides when it suited them. Class 1 of the series 30 Eye Staters was the largest of the classes, and was probably needed by these tribes to cover the costs of the Belgic campaign in 57 BC.

It’s possible that this is the point where the Suessiones, now under the control of the Remi, started minting Gallo-Belgic F with an eye on it:

Gallo-Belgic F started life (for only one die) with a fairly standard obverse derived from Gallo-Belgic C. The eye copied from the Remi Eye Staters was a later addition.

As the war progressed, the coins from the Remi and Treveri diverged. The Remi classes 2 and 3 carry the legends “Vocarant” and “Lvcotios”. An analysis of the metal content suggests that class 3 (Lvcotios) was minted before class 2 (Vocarant):

Although both classes seem to have been similar in size, the class 3 coins (Lvcotios) are found over a large area whereas the class 2 coins (Vocarant) are only known from a few find spots. One theory is that class 3 might have been minted to pay Gallic cavalry, and class 2 to pay tribute to someone (possibly Rome). Both classes are likely to have been minted around 54 to 53 BC when Labienus and his troops were stationed with the Remi to campaign against the Treveri, Senones and Parisii. Lvcotios and Vocarant are likely to have been magistrates rather than chiefs.

The Treveri on the other hand came under the rule of Indutiomarus who switched sides and rose up against the Romans in 54 BC. The class 4 coins of series 30 are thought to be related to this military action.

In 53 BC the Treveri hired Germanic mercenaries which is possibly the reason why the Eburones, a client of the Treveri, started minting coins with a Germanic Triskeles on the obverse, and a series 30 class 4 reverse. These are known as Scheers series 31 coins:

The last two Treveri Eye Staters, series 30 classes 5 and 6, carry the legends “Pottina” and “Arda” respectively:

The Pottina coins were struck in 53 or 52 BC, and the Arda coins were struck sometime between 52 and 50 BC. The reasons for striking these coins aren’t known, but they were possibly to cover the costs of fighting the Germanic tribes in 52 BC, or to pay the same Germans who were now helping them fight the Romans in 51 BC.

Finally, there’s a series of tri-metallic coins from the Bellovaci known as “à l’astre” staters (star staters) that appear to be inspired by the eye on Gallo-Belgic F, and possibly the star on Gallo-Belgic G and the reversed S on the later Gallo-Belgic E coins:

Further Reading

The definitive work on these coins is by Dr. John Sills in his paper “Reversal of fortune : eye staters of the Remi and Treveri”, published in “De Nummis Gallicis – Mélanges de numismatique celtique offerts à Louis-Pol Delestrée”. It’s essential reading if you are interested in learning more about these coins.

The data on the coins mentioned in this section in Scheers’ book “La Gaule Belgique - Traité De Numismatique Celtique” is still relevant today, even though her theory is no longer considered correct. The book is in French, so be prepared to spend some time translating it if you can’t read French.

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