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Ancient Celtic Coin Art

4 5 The use of coinage took hold in the Eastern Mediterranean in the 5th century BC, largely as a convenient way for bellicose city states to standardise the payment of their armies and mercenaries. The Celtic warriors of Eastern Europe were much sought after for their fierce, frightening and fearless reputation in battle, and a major part of the tribal economies were geared towards this service industry, as well as a brisk trade in slaves. As the increasing political influence of Rome disrupted trade across the entire region the traditional sources for coin began to dwindle. But gold and silver coin had become an intrinsic part of forging alliences and buying influence in the complex hierarchy of obligation and caste that characterized Iron Age society, so the Celtic tribes began to mint their own coins. The most popular models for Celtic artists were the coins struck by Alexander the Great and his father, Philip of Macedon. These had the same form we recognise today a head on the obverse with a horsedrawn chariot and rider on the reverse heads and tails. The head, being the seat of the tongue, eye and ear, was seen as the primary source of wisdom, the place where spiritual power resided. Warriors collected and honoured the heads of their enemies. Heads or images of heads were often deposited at sacred sites, especially those regarded as gateways to the Otherworld such as wells, springs and lakes. Thus a head on a coin emphasised the gravity and import of each transaction. HEAdS vessels of power a. b. d. c. e. f.
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