Titelberg, Home of the Influential Treveri Celts

Titelberg, Home of the Influential Treveri Celts

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The Duchy of Luxembourg has a remarkable archaeological site dating from the Celtic period. It was inhabited for over 700 years and is one of the first known urban settlements in Europe. Titelberg, as the site is known, was first a Celtic town and later a Gallic-Roman settlement. Today, Titelberg is an archaeological park , protected by the government of Luxembourg.

The Long History of Titelberg

The Celts were a people who originated from what is today Switzerland/Austria. They spread across much of Western Europe and became the dominant culture in the region. The Treveri, one of the most influential Celtic tribes , occupied the region now known as Luxembourg.

Titelberg, which is located in a valley, has been inhabited by humans for millennia, but it was the arrival of the Celts that led to the development of a settlement around the metal works as there were significant iron-ore deposits in the nearby hills.

Titelberg: foundations in the residential area.

Additionally, as Titelberg was located near a major Celtic road, the town prospered, and many historians believe that Titelberg was the capital of the Treveri.

Around 50 BC, during Julius Caesar’s campaigns in Gaul, the Treveri were forced to submit to the Romans when Caesar turned the area into a Roman province. Twenty years later the town was rebuilt on Roman lines. These streets and Roman-style buildings have been unearthed during excavations.

The Romans left the town when Trier became the capital of the Roman province . Before they left, however, they destroyed the walls that they had built to protect Titelberg. Titelberg developed into an important Gallo-Roman settlement and became a metallurgical production center, and as a number of coins have been found in the area, it’s likely they had a mint. The Treveri developed a culture that was a synthesis of Celtic and Latin elements.

After the 1 st century AD, the town’s smelter and mint burned down and the town went into a period of decline, but around 400 AD, a new mint was built. There are some who speculate that this was built by the Franks who have moved in as Roman control weakened in the area. Sometime in the 6 th century, the settlement is believed to have been deserted.

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Coins from the mint of the Treveri with the depiction of the triskele (Photo by Kuenker)

Titelberg, was first excavated in the 1950s and in recent decades a great many Celtic and Roman artifacts have been found in the area.

Titelberg, One of the First Towns in Europe

The remains of the town cover an extensive area of approximately 50 hectares. Its remains are located on a small forested plateau , near a modern farm. Structures thought to be the dwellings of Celtic nobles , can be seen and near the main settlement, tombs of the local elite , who became rich thanks to the metal works , have yielded a treasure trove of archaeological finds.

Excavations at Titelberg (Tournay, D / CC BY-NC 2.0 )

The site was surrounded by 30 feet (10m) high walls during the Celtic period . These ramparts were filled with stone and earth and were a common feature on Celtic hillforts. Sadly, only one section of the old Celtic ramparts can be seen, as the rest were removed by the Romans.

A 12 feet (3.5m) wide moat or ditch , which would have protected the residential areas during an assault, divided the town’s public space and residential areas. Outlines of homes up to 50 feet wide and 25 feet long (15 by 7m) can be seen in the former residential area and remains of fireplaces and ovens have been found in these buildings.

Foundations of the settlement unearthed at Titelberg (Abd as Samad / CC BY-NC 2.0 )

In the public area, a sizeable building that could have been a council house , faced a large courtyard and traces of a Gallo-Roman temple , once surrounded by a colonnade, are visible. Although the smelter and mint burned down and were rebuilt many times, the remains can still be seen.

Visiting Titelberg, Luxembourg

The site lies approximately 1.2 miles (2 km) south-west of the town of Pétange, in the south-west of Luxembourg. While entry to the site is free, there is no public transport to the site and some of it is located on private property .

The most influential of Britain’s many historic legacies to the world is the English language. The literature created in and by our tongue over the last 700 years expresses universal human experience in the circumstances and challenges of particular times and places.

Our sceptered isle is peppered with scenes from the lives and works of our justly beloved poets, playwrights, and novelists. Most evocative and influential of these, not surprisingly, are their homes. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, here are some fascinating home visits that bring their famous residents to life.

Newstead Abbey, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire

Not all poets were starving artists. George Gordon, better known as Lord Byron, inherited Newstead Abbey with his title from a great uncle while still a boy. Byron (and his mother) lived periodically at the impressive estate, though the flamboyant romantic poet was inevitably drawn to the excitement of London.


The spelling variants Treveri and Treviri are found in Latin texts from the time of Caesar's De Bello Gallico to Tacitus's Annales. Latin texts are in general agreement that the first vowel, however, is -e-. [ 16 ] For their part, Ancient Greek texts mostly give Τρηούϊροι (transliterated Trēouïroi). [ 16 ] Variants such as Treberi and Τρίβηροι (Tribēroi) appear in Pliny and Ptolemy, respectively. A few highly deviant variant forms are also attested: Τριήροι (Triēroi) in Ptolemy and Τρηοῦσγροι (Trēousgroi) in Strabo. The name has been interpreted as referring to a "flowing river" or to "crossing the river". [ 17 ] Rudolf Thurneysen proposes to interpret it as a Celtic trē-uer-o, followed by Xavier Delamarre [ 18 ] with the element trē < *trei 'through', 'across' (cf. Latin trans) and uer-o 'to cross a river', so the name Treveri could mean 'the ferrymen', because these people helped to cross the Mosel river. They had a special goddess of the ford called Ritona and a temple dedicated to Uorioni Deo. treuer- can be compared with the Old Irish treóir 'guiding, passage through a ford', 'place to cross a river'. The word uer- / uar- can be related to an indo-European word meaning 'stream', 'river' (Sanskrit vār, Old Norse vari 'water'), that can be found in many river-names, especially in France : Var, Vire, Vière or in place-names like Louviers or Verviers, etc. The first syllable is shown long and stressed (Trēverī) in Latin dictionaries, [ 19 ] according to its Celtic etymology, thus giving the Classical Latin pronunciation [ˈtreːwɛriː] . The city of Trier (French: Trèves ) derives its name from the later Latin locative in Trēverīs for earlier Augusta Treverorum.

Celtics in Spain: The Galatians

Several tribes made up the larger population of the Celtic people. Indeed, the Gaels, Gauls, Britons, Irish and Galatians were all Celtic tribes.

The Galatians occupied much of the Asturias region of what is now northern Spain, and they successfully fought off attempted invasions by both the Romans and the Moors, the latter ruling much of present-day southern Spain.

Evidence of Galatian tradition remains in the region today. Descendants of the Galatians still participate in ancient outdoor dances, accompanied by bagpipes, an instrument that is often associated with more well-known Celtic regions such as Scotland and Ireland.

In addition, a Celtic symbol called the 𠇌ruz de la Victoria” (similar to a Celtic cross) adorns the regional flag.

The Galatians also settled in nearby Galicia, a region on the northwest coast of Spain.

Nemetona – Goddess of Sacred Groves, Healing and Protection

Nemetona was a familiar goddess of the sacred groves and spaces maintained by the tribes in Gaul, the Rhineland in Germany and Britain during the Iron Age and Roman era. The Treveri paid homage to Nemetona as their divine protector in the Moselle region of Germany . The Nemetes revered Nemetona as a goddess of healing in a sacred grove at Altrip, Germany.

Nemetona is derived from the Gaulish word, nemeton, meaning “she of the sacred space” and “she belonging to the sacred grove”.

The goddess, Nemetona, personified the divine protection afforded by the sacred groves and spaces of the Celts living near or in settlements.

The divine consort of Nemetona was Mars, the Roman god of war, and Mars Loucetios, the Romano-Celtic god of lighting.

Loucetios was a deity of storms, thunder and lightning in eastern Gaul. The association between Loucetios and Nemetona suggested the union of the divinities of the sky and land blessed the fertility and fruitfulness of the earth.

Scholars believed the cult of Nemetona flourished among the Belgic tribes of north-eastern Gaul and spread across Gaul, Britain and the Rhineland in Germany during the Iron Age and Roman era.

The Celtic tribes maintained nemetons, or sacred groves, in the clearings of forests. The nemetons were the hallowed, liminal spaces of the tribal gods and goddesses. Nemetona protected the sacred spaces of the Celts and their supernatural connection to the divine beings of the Otherworld.

The tribes gathered in the sacred groves to witness the druids perform mystical rites invoking the divine protection of the goddess Nemetona.

The Roman writers Lucan, Tacitus and Pliny, described the sacred groves of the druids as dark, forbidding places.

Lucan wrote of the sacred groves near the Greek colony of Massilia in southern Gaul during the first century AD,

“There stood a grove Which from the earliest time no hand of man Had dared to violate hidden from the sun…No sylvan nymphs Here found a home, nor Pan, but savage rites And barbarous worship, altars horrible On massive stones upreared sacred with blood Of men was every tree”.

Julius Caesar recounted the druids meeting in a sacred grove of the Carnutes in Transalpine Gaul during the first century BC. The druids“assemble at a fixed period of the year in a consecrated place in the territories of the Carnutes, which is reckoned the central region of the whole of Gaul”.

Historians regard place names as signs of cult activities honouring the gods and goddesses.

The Latin name for the present-day city of Arras (Pas-de-Calais) in northern France was Nemetecacum, meaning “sacred grove”. The Atrebates revered the goddess, Nemetona, as the tribal protector of their sacred spaces and the namesake of Nemetecacum.

The role of Nemetona changed from a divine protector of the ancient sacred spaces in north-eastern Gaul to a healing goddess of the Nemetes in the Rhineland.

The Gallic tribe of the Nemetes, meaning “People of the Sacred Grove”, worshipped Nemetona as a goddess of a healing spring at Altrip in the Rhineland during the first century BC. The Roman god, Mars, was the divine consort of Nemetona at her cult centre in Altrip.

The capital of the Nemetes in Noviomagus Nemeton implied the Nemetona, was an ancient tribal goddess and protector.

The Treveri dedicated altars and inscriptions to Nemetona at her temple in their capital at Trier, Germany. The Treveri were a Belgic tribe inhabiting Luxembourg, southern Belgium and western Germany.

The Romans paired Nemetona with Mars at her sanctuary in Trier.The association between Mars and Nemetona suggested the Treveri worshipped the goddess as a deity of war.

Some scholars concluded the Celtic tribes revered Mars as a god of agriculture, healing and protection. The worship of Mars and Nemetona was probably connected with the land rather than war.

An inscription on a votive tablet invoked the power of the divine couple, Nemetona and Mars Loucetious, at Klein-Winternheim near Mainz, German. The tablet was in a small temple of the Treveri at Klein-Winternheim which was a cult centre of Nemetona as a regional goddess.

A Treveran called Peregrinus solicted the divine protection of Nemetona on an altar at Bath in Somerset, England. “Peregrinus, son of Secundus, a Treveran, to Loucetius Mars and Nemetona willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow”.

A depiction of Nemetona at Bath in Somerset showed the goddess seated on a throne surrounded by three hooded figures and a ram.

The Germanic tribe of the Nemeter probably dedicated an inscription to the goddess, Victoria Nmetona, on a votive tablet at Eisenberg in the Rhineland during 221 AD. Victoria Nemetona was as the divine consort of Mars Loucetius at Eisenberg.

The Celtic roots of the Nemeter may have come to the fore by invoking the goddess, Nemetona, Nemetona was possibly a warrior deity because of her association with Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory.

The evidence of Nemetona suggested she was a widely revered goddess in the Celtic world. Nemetona was a common tribal divinity in Gaul and Germany. The tribes paid homage to Nemetona as a goddess of sacred spaces although her divine attributes also included healing and possibly war.

Politics and military

Originally the oppida of the Titelberg, Wallendorf, Kastel, Otzenhausen and the Martberg were roughly equal in significance however, sometime between 100 and 80 BCE, the Titelberg experienced an upsurge of growth which made it "the central oppidum of the Treveri". [40] A large open space in the central square of the Titelberg which would have been used for public meetings of a religious or political nature during the 1st century BCE. By the time of Caesar's invasion, the Treveri seemed to have adopted an oligarchic system of government. [41]

The Treveri had a strong cavalry and infantry, and during the Gallic Wars would provide Julius Caesar with his best cavalry. [42] Under their leader Cingetorix, the Treveri served as Roman auxiliaries. However, their loyalties began to change in 54 BCE under the influence of Cingetorix' rival Indutiomarus. [43] According to Caesar, Indutiomarus instigated the revolt of the Eburones under Ambiorix that year and led the Treveri in joining the revolt and enticing Germanic tribes to attack the Romans. [44] The Romans under Titus Labienus killed Indutiomarus and then put down the Treveran revolt afterwards, Indutiomarus' relatives crossed the Rhine to settle among the Germanic tribes. [45] The Treveri remained neutral during the revolt of Vercingetorix, and were attacked again by Labienus after it. [46] On the whole, the Treveri were more successful than most Gallic tribes in cooperating with the Romans. They probably emerged from the Gallic Wars with the status of a free civitas exempt from tribute. [47]

In 30 BCE, a revolt of the Treveri was suppressed by Marcus Nonius Gallus, and the Titelberg was occupied by a garrison of the Roman army. [48] Agrippa and Augustus undertook the organization of Roman administration in Gaul, laying out an extensive series of roads beginning with Agrippa's governorship of Gaul in 39 BCE, and imposing a census in 27 BCE for purposes of taxation. The Romans built a new road from Trier to Reims via Mamer, to the north, and Arlon, thus by-passing by 25 kilometres the Titelberg and the older Celtic route, and the capital was displaced to Augusta Treverorum (Trier) with no signs of conflict. [48] The vicinity of Trier had been inhabited by isolated farms and hamlets before the Romans, but there had been no urban settlement here. [13]

Following the reorganisation of the Roman provinces in Germany in 16 BCE, Augustus decided that the Treveri should become part of the province of Belgica. At an unknown date, the capital of Belgica was moved from Durocortorum Remorum (Reims) to Augusta Treverorum. A significant layer of the Treveran élite seems to have been granted Roman citizenship under Caesar and/or Augustus, by whom they were given the nomen Julius. [41]

During the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius and Claudius, and particularly when Drusus and Germanicus were active in Gaul, Augusta Treverorum rose to considerable importance as a base and supply centre for campaigns in Germany. The city was endowed with an amphitheatre, baths, and other amenities, [49] and for a while Germanicus' family lived in the city. [10] Pliny the Elder reports that Germanicus' son, the future emperor Gaius (Caligula), was born "among the Treveri, at the village of Ambiatinus, above Confluentes (Koblenz)", but Suetonius notes that this birthplace was disputed by other sources. [50]

A faction of Treveri, led by Julius Florus and allied with the Aeduan Julius Sacrovir, led a rebellion of Gaulish debtors against the Romans in 21 CE. Florus was defeated by his rival Julius Indus, while Sacrovir led the Aedui in revolt. [51] The Romans quickly re-established cordial relations with the Treveri under Indus, who promised obedience to Rome in contrast, they completely annihilated the Aedui who had sided with Sacrovir. Perhaps under Claudius, the Treveri obtained the status of colonia and probably the Latin Right without actually being colonized by Roman veterans. [52] Under Roman rule, there was a senate of the Treveri including about a hundred decurions, of which the executive was formed by two duoviri. [26]

More serious was the revolt that began with Civilis' Batavian insurrection during the Year of the Four Emperors. In 70, the Treveri under Julius Classicus and Julius Tutor and the Lingones under Julius Sabinus joined the Batavian rebellion and declared Sabinus as Caesar. [53] The revolt was quashed, and more than a hundred rebel Treveran noblemen fled across the Rhine to join their Germanic allies in the assessment of historian Jeannot Metzler, this event marks the end of aristocratic Treveran cavalry service in the Roman army, the rise of the local bourgeoisie, and the beginnings of "a second thrust of Romanization". [54] Camille Jullian attributes to this rebellion the promotion of Durocortorum Remorum (Reims), capital of the perennially loyal Remi, at the expense of the Treveri. [49] By the 2nd and 3rd centuries, representatives of the old élite bearing the nomen Julius had practically disappeared, and a new élite arose to take their place these would have originated mainly from the indigenous middle class, according to Wightman. [55]

The Treveri suffered from their proximity to the Rhine frontier during the Crisis of the Third Century. Frankish and Alamannic invasions during the 250s led to significant destruction, particularly in rural areas given the failure of the Roman military to defend effectively against Germanic invasion, country dwellers improvised their own fortifications, often using the stones from tombs and mausoleums. [11]

Meanwhile, Augusta Treverorum was becoming an urban centre of the first importance, overtaking even Lugdunum (Lyon). During the Crisis of the Third Century, the city served as the capital of the Gallic Empire under the emperors Tetricus I and II from 271 to 274. The Treveri suffered further devastation from the Alamanni in 275, following which, according to Jeannot Metzler, "The great majority of agricultural domains lay waste and would never be rebuilt". [56] It is unclear whether Augusta Treverorum itself fell victim to the Alamannic invasion. [13]

From 285 to 395, Augusta Treverorum was one of the residences of the western Roman Emperor, including Maximian, Constantine the Great, Constantius II, Valentinian I, Magnus Maximus, and Theodosius I [57] from 318 to 407, it served as the seat of the praetorian prefecture of Gaul. By the mid-4th century, the city was counted in a Roman manuscript as one of the four capitals of the world, alongside Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople. [13] New defensive structures, including fortresses at Neumagen, Bitburg and Arlon, were constructed to defend against Germanic invasion. After a Vandal invasion in 406, however, the imperial residence was moved to Mediolanum (Milan) while the praetorian guard was withdrawn to Arelate (Arles). [58]

Notable Celts

Boudica and Her Daughters near Westminster Pier, London, commissioned by Prince Albert and executed by Thomas Thornycroft / Photo by A. Brady, Wikimedia Commons
  • Cartimandua, (or Cartismandua, ruled ca. 43 B.C.E. – 69 B.C.E.), was a queen of the Brigante], a Celtic tribe that lived between the rivers Tyne and Humber, that formed a large tribal agglomeration in northern England. She was the only queen in early Roman Britain, identified as regina by Tacitus.
  • Camma, priestess of Brigandu, wife of Sinatos.
  • Boudica, (also spelled Boudicca), and often referred to as Boadicea, outside academic circles, (d. 60/61 B.C.E.) was a queen of the Brythonic Celtic Iceni people of Norfolk in Eastern Roman Britain who led a major but ultimately failed uprising of the tribes against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire. (See Battle of Watling Street)
  • Scáthach (Shadowy), a legendary Scottish warrior woman and martial arts teacher who trained the legendary Ulster hero Cúchulainn in the arts of combat. Texts describe her homeland as “Alpi,” which commentators associate with Alba, the Gaelic name of Scotland, and associated with the Isle of Skye, where her residence Dún Scáith (Fort of Shadows) stands.
Vercingetorix surrenders to Caesar. Illustration by Alphonse Marie de Neuville from the English 1883 edition of François Guizot’s The History of France from the Earliest Times to the Year 1789. / Wikimedia Commons

Material culture Treveri_section_7

The territory of the Treveri had formed part of the , covering the Hallstatt D and La Tène A-B periods (from 600 to 250 BCE). Treveri_sentence_122

During the century from 250 to 150 BCE, the area between the Rhine and the Meuse underwent a drastic population restructuring as some crisis forced most signs of inhabitation onto the heights of the Hunsrück. Treveri_sentence_123

Following this crisis, population returned to the lowlands and it is possible to speak with confidence of the Treveri by name. Treveri_sentence_124

Much of the Treveran countryside seems to have been organized into rural settlements by the end of the 2nd century BCE, and this organization persisted into Roman times. Treveri_sentence_125

Even before Roman times, the Treveri had developed trade, agriculture and metal-working. Treveri_sentence_126

They had adopted a money-based economy based upon silver coins, aligned with the Roman denarius, along with cheaper bronze or bronze-lead coins. Treveri_sentence_127

Trade goods made their way to the Treveri from Etruria and the Greek world monetary evidence suggests strong trade links with the neighbouring Remi. Treveri_sentence_128

Iron ore deposits in Treveran territory were heavily worked and formed part of the basis for the area's wealth. Treveri_sentence_129

Before and for some time after the Roman conquest, Treveran nobles were buried in chamber tombs which were covered with tumuli and filled with sumptuous goods including imported amphorae, weaponry and . Treveri_sentence_130

By the 2nd century CE, wealthy Treveri were building elaborate funerary monuments such as the World Heritage-listed Igel Column, or the sculpted grave-stones found at Arlon, Neumagen and , all of which depict the deceased's livelihood and/or interests during life. Treveri_sentence_131

As cremation had become more common under Roman rule, gravestones often had special niches to receive urns of ashes as well as grave-goods. Treveri_sentence_132

Roman-era grave-goods included the remains of animals used as food (particularly pigs and birds), coins, amphorae, pottery, glassware, jewellery and scissors. Treveri_sentence_133

Burial replaced cremation again in the late 3rd century. Treveri_sentence_134

The Treveri adapted readily to Roman civilization, adopting certain Mediterranean practices in cuisine, clothing, and decorative arts starting as early as the Roman occupation of the Titelberg in 30 BCE. Treveri_sentence_135

As early as 21 CE, according to Greg Woolf, "the Treveri and the Aedui [were] arguably those tribes which had undergone the greatest cultural change since the conquest". Treveri_sentence_136

The Romans introduced viticulture to the Moselle valley (see Moselle wine). Treveri_sentence_137

In general, the archaeological record attests to ongoing rural development and prosperity into the 3rd century CE. Treveri_sentence_138

Along with the neighbouring Remi, the Treveri can be credited with a significant innovation in Roman technology: the vallus, a machine drawn by horses or mules to reap wheat. Treveri_sentence_139

The vallus is known from funerary reliefs and literary descriptions. Treveri_sentence_140

The many individual Treveri attested epigraphically in other civitates may attest to the development of a Treveran commercial network within the western parts of the Empire. Treveri_sentence_141

During the early 2nd century CE, Augusta Treverorum was an important centre for the production of samian ware (along with Lezoux and Rheinzabern), supplying the Rhineland with high-quality glossy red pottery which was often elaborately decorated with moulded designs. Treveri_sentence_142

Treveran villa architecture shows both coexistence and mixture of typically Gallic and Germanic traits. Treveri_sentence_143

In some villas, such as at and Echternach, small rooms opened onto a large central hall, rather than onto the front verandah as in most places in Gaul this arrangement has been considered typically ‘Germanic’, and may reflect a social structure in which extended families and clients all lived in a patron's home. Treveri_sentence_144

On the other hand, typically ‘Gaulish’ villas are also found in Treveran territory. Treveri_sentence_145

The Treveri &ndash the tribe which Trier was named after

When Caesar invaded Gaul, he faced a large number of chiefs who were locally rooted, had an impressive military power but without allies, were not equal opponents for the Roman legions.

The reconstruction of Altenburg gives an excellent example of how to imagine a fortified Celtic hilltop settlement. Photo: Chris mz, CC-BY 3.0.

A centre in which many of those princes lived was located among the Meuse, the Moselle and the Rhine, between Hunsrück and Eifel. According to today's administration units, this area is located in Luxembourg, Saarland and the western Rhineland. We do not know how the people who settled there called themselves. The Romans termed them Treveri. Today, archaeologists assume that they were autochthonous, which means that their culture probably developed out of the Hunsrück-Eifel culture dating to the Late Hallstatt and Early Latène periods.

A view of the ruins of the oppidum Titelberg. Photo: Jean & Nathalie, CC-BY 2.0.

More than 50 temples and cult sites as well as 200 hilltop fortifications have been located in the Treveri region, among them the well explored Titelberg in South Luxembourg. There was an oppidum. That&rsquos the name archaeologist give today to a fortification which is permanently populated by merchants and craftsmen. Shortly after the beginning of the first century, the Titelberg became the centre of the Treveri. A great part of the booming trade took place there.

A grindstone made of basaltic lava, called &ldquoNapoleon&rsquos hat&rdquo. Photo: Hawobo, CC-BY 3.0.

In Château-Salins and Marsal, two small villages situated in the middle of the triangle by Saarbrucken, Nancy and Metz, were rich salt deposits. They were exploited and the materials were shipped across the Rhine and the Moselle.
Another important product came from the lava and basalt quarries of the Eifel. The best grindstones were produced out of that stone and wanted all over Central Europe. They have been found so many times in excavations during the 19th century that they got an own nickname: &ldquoNapoleon&rsquos hat&rdquo.
The natural Moselle ford was of great importance for the fluent trading transactions because it could be crossed close to present Treves in favourable weather conditions. Probably, there already existed a small settlement in the Bronze Age but it was certainly not nearly as important as the Titelberg.

Naturally, the Treveri employed the Greek invention brought to their country by the Celtic mercenaries. An abundance of different coin types is associated with the Treveri. The type &ldquoAugenstater&rdquo is probably the most famous coin type, depicting a stylised eye on the obverse. The Treveri obtained the gold for that from placers they collected by washing them out of the rocks in the rivers and streams.

It is controversial, whether this very rare quarter stater, that only eleven specimens are known of, really comes from the mint of the Treveri. The depiction of the triskele, one of Europe&rsquos oldest symbols, is remarkable. We do not even slightly understand its meaning. Maybe it represents the sun as an ever-repeating cycle.

These Quinarius types, occasionally called type &ldquoSpitzmausnase&rdquo, are being found along the Moselle. Even though the Macedonian example of the &ldquoPhilippstater&rdquo had been long forgotten, the Celts still remembered centuries later that a coin needs to depict a head on the obverse and a horse on the reverse.

This example, which depicts a crouching little man holding a branch, is a completely distinct composition. There is a snake below. We do not know which local tradition this motif is linked to.

The potin coins of the Treveri are very rare. This piece imitates a much more famous type by the Remi, which probably increased its acceptance. The Remi were a close-by tribe living in the region around Reims.
Above all, this piece is particularly interesting due to its very good condition. It clearly shows that the warrior holds a bow and a shield and not a lance and a torque, as described elsewhere.

At first, the Treveri supported Caesar&rsquos invasion with their impressive cavalry. However, this policy was controversial. Caesar reported on two parties that had formed within the tribe of the Treveri. The men around Cingetorix supported Rome, whereas the followers of Indutiomarus wanted to remain independent. 54 BC, Cingetorix managed to send Indutiomarus and 200 of his followers into exile with great support from Caesar and his troops. As a result, Cingetorix became the sole leader of the Treveri. Ejected Indutiomarus found allies among the Eburones, the Remi and many other tribes. They helped him with returning to the territory of the Treveri and exile Cingetorix for his part. Now, Indutiomarus was the sole leader and used his position to lay siege on Labienus&rsquo troops in their close-by camp with the help of his entire army. Indutiomarus and his men rode every day around the Roman camp to boast and to impress. Labienus prepared himself for that, made a sortie and actually managed to kill Indutiomarus. With this, the resistance was broken for the moment and Labienus and his men were able to withdraw.

Augusta Treverorum. Model of Roman Treves, approx. 360/370 AD in the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier, built by Joachim Woditsch. Photo: Stefan Kühn. CC-BY 3.0.

However, the Romans left behind strong military forces on the Petersberg in Treves in order to be able to react immediately in case of another uprising riot by the Treveri. 18/17 BC, a solid bridge was built near the Moselle ford so that the soldiers could instantly intervene even during thaw, should it come to riots somewhere on the Treveri territory. Treves developed out of this small military settlement with the strategically well based bridge and got its name from the tribe which Caesar &ldquopacified&rdquo: Augusta Treverorum. After the reorganisation of Gaul under Augustus in 22 BC, Treves became part of Gallia Belgica with the capital Reims. However, Treves flourished and prospered due to the important bridge on the way between the fertile Gaulish hinterland and the fortified Rhine border that constantly required replenishment. Treves became one of the most important trading centres for goods. And at some point, the Romans started placing their administrative bodies in Treves instead of Reims, as they had done before. Treves became the centre of Gallia Belgica and when Diocletian for his part completely rearranged his imperium, it was absolutely certain that only Treves could be the place where one of the Tetrarchs would have his headquarters.

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Historical Evidence and the Celtic Identity

Ruins of ancient Celtic village in Santa Tecla, Galicia, Spain

To understand historical evidence and the Celtic world in all its complexity, we have to think about two interlocking stories. The first story is the story of what actually happened in the areas we now think of as Celtic in some fashion, as we currently understand it. The second story, which is equally fascinating, is the story of how the legend of the Celts developed over time and influenced the politics and society of the Celtic realms in particular, but also of the whole world.

What We Talk about When We Talk about Evidence

To tell these two stories, we will need to discuss several kinds of evidence. Scholars like to talk in terms of evidence, which is simply the material they use to create a picture of what happened in the past. The Celtic story draws on many different academic disciplines, or approaches to knowledge, and, in many ways, the story of the Celts also allows us to tell a fascinating story of how these disciplines developed. Here, I just want to say a few words as we get started about these different disciplines and where they enter the story of the Celts.

This is a transcript from the video series The Celtic World. Watch it now, on Wondrium.

So let me say something about these various approaches to knowledge that are going to help us understand the Celtic phenomenon, and I’m going to discuss them roughly in the order in which they developed as distinct methods for approaching the study of the past. Each approach has its own strengths, but also important limitations that we need to be aware of so that we can interpret the evidence in the best possible way.

I’m going to start with history, which is my own discipline. The most important method used by historians is the analysis of written texts. We actually have lots of texts written about the ancient Celts, and we can learn a lot about the Celts from the works written by the ancient Romans and Greeks who encountered them.

Starting from about the 6th century, the residents of the Celtic Fringe themselves wrote an enormous amount of material that we can read and analyze, though some of it is very obscure and difficult to understand. But we have lots and lots of written evidence that we can use to learn about the Celts, using traditional methods of textual analysis. Of course, these methods of analysis are very old historians have been analyzing written texts for more than two thousand years. But we will see that the ways in which we analyze texts can change over time. History is a discipline that is always renewing itself.

Of course, textual analysis has many drawbacks as well as advantages. We are limited by what remains. There are many things we’d like to know about the past, but if nobody chose to write them down, or if texts that recorded this information were lost, we are out of luck. We are also at the mercy of the biases of those who wrote the texts that do survive. These authors were not necessarily trying to enlighten us on the points about which we have questions. In some cases, we can tell that authors are distorting the past for their own purposes. In other cases, we probably don’t even register the distortion we are being fooled. But we must proceed bravely anyway.

A Quick Introduction to Historical Linguistics

Another discipline that is absolutely essential to understanding the Celts is historical linguistics, the study of how languages are related to each other and how they change over time. Languages can be related to each other almost the way members of a family are related to each other, or like branches of a tree. Historical linguists try to determine how closely related to each other different languages are, and this can allow them to make certain hypotheses about the people who spoke them. People who speak closely related languages may have started out living close together, and sometimes the specific words in those languages can tell us something about where the people might have lived in the past for example, if a language has a lot of words for snow, the people who spoke it probably came originally from an area with cold winters.

Historical linguistics is crucial to our story for many reasons. One of the most important of these is because it is through linguistics that the connection among all the Celtic peoples was first made, and particularly the connection between the residents of Ireland and Britain and the Celts of the continent, starting in the 16th century. It turned out that the languages spoken in Ireland and Britain were related to the language spoken in Gaul in the time of Julius Caesar. We will have much more to say about this connection later. So, it was really historical linguistics that helped create the idea of the Celts as a unified phenomenon in the first place. Since the 1990s, historical linguists have been doing pioneering work in trying to determine whether newly found stone inscriptions from Spain and northern Italy were written in Celtic languages or not. The work of linguists, then, is crucial to the question of determining who is and is not a Celt, a question to which we will return many times in this course.

Linguistics can also tell us some very important things about historical developments. For example, if we understand how the Celtic languages changed over time, we can often tell when a particular important event took place because of how that event is recorded in the Celtic languages. An important example is the Christianization of Ireland. We know that Ireland started to be Christianized in the 4th century, because we know that certain words about Christianity that were borrowed from Latin into Old Irish would look one way if they were borrowed in the 4th century, and another way if they were borrowed in the 6th century, due to the way the language had changed in the meantime. The study of the Celtic languages will play a very important role in this story.

Finally, of course, historical linguistics is vital because we need a thorough understanding of the Celtic languages themselves if we are to understand the texts that were written by the people we are trying to study. Here is where the techniques of textual analysis and linguistic analysis intersect. Historians and linguists have to work hand in hand, particularly when studying the Celts. As I said, the field of historical linguistics has been part of the effort to understand the Celts since the 16th century, and as the discipline of linguistics as a whole has advanced, new insights about the Celtic languages are continually coming to light. Like history, linguistics is a relatively old discipline that is still producing new information.

Of course, linguistics, like textual analysis, has its own drawbacks. Languages are very complex, and if you are trying to see relationships between languages, it can be easy to focus on the features that look similar and ignore the differences, or vice versa, so caution is required.

Archaeology and the Study of Artifacts

Another important academic discipline that is vital to study of the Celts is archaeology, which really developed as an academic discipline starting in the 19th century. If historians concentrate on texts, and linguists concentrate on the languages in which those texts were written, archaeologists work without any texts at all, although of course they are happy to draw on texts when they prove helpful. The work of an archaeologist is focused almost entirely on physical artifacts.

Academic archaeology grew out of the sort of treasure hunting we might associate with Indiana Jones, but it quickly settled into the disciplined pursuit of knowledge about cultures from the past, as these cultures reveal themselves in the objects they created and the structures they built.

Archaeologists created the idea of the discrete “culture” that could be identified by groups of artifacts occurring together if you find certain kinds of pots, certain kinds of weapons, and certain kinds of personal objects, like jewelry, together in a region, you are probably looking at people who considered themselves to belong to the same ethnic group. The discrete culture theory that archaeologists developed has proved very influential in the creation of the idea of the Celts. Archaeology is very important particularly to the study of the ancient Celts because very, very little written material has survived from the Celts themselves.

Archaeology is very important to the study of the ancient Celts because very little written material has survived from the Celts themselves.

But the drawback of archaeology is precisely the fact that the artifacts cannot talk. We can’t be sure from looking at pots or brooches what languages their owners spoke, or to which ethnic groups artifact owners believed themselves to belong. And we are also limited by what has happened to survive, and what archaeologists have happened to find.

Living in the Future: DNA Evidence

But we are also going to talk about a brand-new kind of evidence: DNA evidence. Scientists can now do two kinds of DNA analysis that can help us understand the ancient Celts. They can analyze the DNA of bones preserved in ancient burials, and they can also analyze the DNA of living persons to help them understand something about where different populations came from and how they are related to each other. Is there something distinctive genetically about the Celtic regions? How does DNA shed light on some of the big questions about Celtic identity?

Historical evidence covers a lot of ground, from ancient texts to the latest scientific advances, and all of it will help us to understand the world of the Celts.