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PIXTILOS Celtic coins series


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One of our newer members wrote to inquire about my PIXTILOS series Celtic coins. He owns two of the ten defined types and was curious as to what I thought about the symbols on the coins. We exchanged ideas off list and I thought it was a good excuse to organize my small collection, my smaller but growing examples of the prototypes, and launch a discussion of the inspiration behind many Celtic coins. In brief, many (but certainly not all) Celtic coins drew their inspiration from earlier coins produced by their more "civilized" neighbors. The last statement is made with tongue in cheek. The Greeks, Romans, and others certainly viewed their Celtic neighbors as barbarians, but they employed them to fight their wars and the Romans ultimately integrated them into Roman society.


The series of coins with the inscription, PIXTILOS, are now thought to originate from a villa near Chartres in the Yvelines district in the area attributed to the Celtic Carnutes tribe, perhaps the issue of a locally powerful individual who aligned himself with the Romans and more specifically Augustus. They are dated to the period 40 B.C. to 30 B.C. Simone Scheers published an article in the 1979 issue of Revue Numismatique assigning the currently referenced Class typology. Delestrée and Tache assign the coins to their Series 454 while maintaining the Scheers Class typology. Where Scheers defined 10 classes, D&T add an eleventh, coins with the TITIVS legend.


I'll start with Class I, Griffon Attacking




La Tour's image (reproduced at Statere - Monnaies Gauloises) helps one understand what is portrayed on the corroded image shown above.




Scheers describes the obverse as a head of a female left, wearing a diadem, the hair retained at the nape of the neck in a loop, from which a ribbon falls down freely. The inscription in front reads FIXTIL (La Tour shows a clear PIXTIL). D&T picture a pristine example of the coin with a clear PIXTILO with the O smaller than the other letters as the word disappears behind the bust. The reverse sports a winged griffon with the head of lion attacking a man lying on his back pushing back at the animal with his hands. The legend above reads, FIIX in Scheers study. D&T generally read the F in both instances as a poorly formed P.


Scheers attributes a denier of Julius Casear with a portrait of Venus as the prototype for the obverse portrait. Compare them for yourself:




The reverse Celtic figure is interesting. Later Roman coins sometimes show a Roman soldier (sometimes the emperor) on horse striking a reclining barbarian. These are later than the PIXTILOS series. I do not know of an earlier example in the European coinage, but that is the result of my ignorance and not an exhaustive search. One would assume the attacking griffon represents the power of the local chieftain, Roman authority, or perhaps a Celtic deity. Caesar identified the Celtic gods by aligning them with the Roman gods. I doubt that they truly aligned, although they may have merge into a common set of deities in time. Whatever the case, it would be a mistake to assume that the female on the Celtic coin is Venus just because the image on Caesar's is identified as Venus.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Class II Wolf and Lizard (LT 7095)






Head of woman to left with diadem; some curls fall down in the neck; in front, PIXTIL. On the reverse is a she-wolf upright left, with head turned left over the shoulder towards a lizard.


Scheers proposes that the diadem head to right is probably an imitation of the head of Salus on the denier of D. Junius Silanus struck about 91 B.-C. (89 B.C.) (Crawford 337/2). I don't have one of these Republican prototypes in my collection as yet.


The reverse resembles the Celtic bronze, LT 6322, with the monogram AK where a bird watches for a lizard, which is represented in the same attitude as on the currency with legend PIXTILOS.


A nice example of the type. The legend is fully visible, but the head of the wolf could be better.

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  • 2 months later...

Class III Bird (LT 7070)






Head of woman right with diadem, the long hair gathered at the nape of the neck forming a ponytail; in front, PIXTILOS. The reverse features a hand holding a branch and a bird with open wings apparently eating berries on the branch; below, PIXTILOS.


Scheers proposes that the head on the obverse shows a resemblance with the winged bust of the Victory on the denarius of C Valerius Flaccus, struck about 82-81 B.C. The hair is drawn and tied behind in a chignon or bun with two braids at the top of the head. This hairstyle inspired the ponytail and the diadem in Gallic currency.




The Celtic coin is perhaps my best piece of the series and the coin that set me on the road to collecting this series. The berry has not been identified, but I suspect it might be an olive branch for a number of reasons that I won't go into here for lack of space.

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