Carnutes & Senones

The following brief account concerning some coins of the SENONES and their important neighbours, the CARNUTES, borrows material from Wikipedia and other references mentioned below. The coins of these two tribes have an eagle theme – an interesting departure to the horse theme of many British and continental Celtic coins.  Not surprisingly, there are many similarities in the designs appearing on many of the coins from the two tribes.

Wikipedia tells us that the Senones, were a Celtic people of Gallia Celtica, who in Caesar’s time inhabited the district which now includes the French departments of Seine-et-Marne, Loiret and Yonne. From 53-51 B.C. they were engaged in hostilities with Caesar, brought about by their expulsion of Cavarinus, whom Caesar had appointed their king. In 51 BC a Senonian named Drappes threatened the Provincia, but was captured and starved himself to death. From this time the Gallic Senones disappear from history. In later times they were included in Gallia Lugdunensis. Their chief towns were Ageclincum (later Senones, the modern Sens), Metiosedum (Melun; according to A. Holder, Meudon), and Vellaunodunum (site uncertain).

The Carnutes, a powerful Celtic people in the heart of independent Gaul, dwelled in a particularly extensive territory between the Sequana (Seine) and the Liger (Loire) rivers. Their lands later corresponded to the dioceses of Chartres, Orléans and Blois, that is, the greater part of the modern departments of Eure-et-Loir, Loiret and Loir-et-Cher. The territory of the Carnutes had the reputation among Roman observers of being the political and religious center of the Gaulish nations. The chief fortified towns were Cenabum (mistakenly “Genabum”), the modern Orléans, where a bridge crossed the Loire, and Autricum (or Carnutes, thus Chartres). The great annual druidic assembly mentioned by Caesar took place in one or the other of these towns.

In the 1st century BC, the Carnutes minted coins, usually struck with dies, but sometimes cast in an alloy of high tin content called “potin.” Their coinage turns up in hoards well outside their home territories, in some cases so widely distributed in the finds that the place of coinage is not secure. The iconography of their numismatics includes the motives of heads with traditional Celtic torcs; a wolf with a star; a galloping horse; and the triskelion. Many coins show an eagle, with the lunar crescent, with a serpent or with a wheel with six or four spokes or a pentagrammatic star, or beneath a hand holding a branch with berries, holly perhaps. The wheel with four spokes forms a cross within a circle, an almost universal image since Neolithic times. Sometimes the circle is a ring of granules. It would be easy to make too much of the symbol as it appears on coinage, but among the Celts, rather than a solar symbol it may represent the cycle of the year divided in its four seasons. Note the symbols on the following two Carnutes coins:

Two examples of a Carnutes coin sold on eBay during March 2011 – the first one going for 224 Euros and the second for 92 Euros. Note the two out-stretched eagles; also on coin 1 at top left can be seen most of a pentagram shaped star, and on both coins, between the two bird heads, is seen a cross with dots in the quadrants.  The wavy line, top right, is interpreted as a serpent.

Compare the Carnutes coins to some examples of the Senones below…

Firstly, a rare variety of the fairly common “YLLYCCI” Senones bronze coin. This one is 16 mm across and weighs 2.94 gm.  On the obverse note the S shape in front of the mouth – is this meant to be an “S” or is it a  a serpent? Note that on some varieties of the coin the S is inverted. On the reverse, amongst the various shapes present note the pentagram and the serpent. Dated to 100-50 BC.

Two reverses from more common varieties of the “YLLYCCI” coin. At top center on both coins note the pentagram, followed by two globules with central dots, and then the cross with dots in the quadrants. On the RH coin we can see the same symbols but in a different order.

Note the similarities between the Carnutes and Senones coins – the heads on the obverse of the coins are clearly very similar, and on the reverse of the coins we see the Eagle motif, the serpents, the pentagram and the cross with dots in the quadrants. What is the meaning of these shapes? Cosmological perhaps…

A little more historical info on the Carnutes…

In the time of Caesar the Carnutes were dependents of the Remi, who on one occasion interceded for them. In the winter of 58–57 BC, Caesar imposed a protectorate over the Carnutes and set up his choice of king, Tasgetius, picked from the ruling clan. Within three years, the Carnutes had assassinated the puppet king.  On 13 February 53 BC the Carnutes of Cenabum massacred all the Roman merchants stationed in the town as well as one of Caesar’s commissariat officers. The uprising was swiftly a general one throughout Gaul, under the leadership of Vercingetorix. Cenabum was burnt by Caesar, the men put to the sword and women and children sold as slaves, and the booty distributed among his soldiers, an effective way of financing the conquest of Gaul. During the war that followed, the Carnutes were able to send 12,000 fighting men to relieve Alesia, but shared in the defeat of the Gallic army. Having attacked the Bituriges Cubi, who appealed to Caesar for assistance, they were forced to submit.  Cenabum, however, remained a mass of ruins garrisoned by two Roman legions for years.

After they had been pacified, though not Romanized, under Augustus, the Carnutes, as one of the peoples of Gallia Lugdunensis, were raised to the rank of civitas soda or foederati, retaining their own self-governing institutions, continuing to mint coins, and only bound to render military service to the emperor.  Up to the 3rd century, Autricum (later Carnutes, whence Chartres) was the capital, but in 275 Aurelian refounded Cenabum, ordaining it no longer a vicus but a civitas and named it Aurelianum or Aurelianensis urbs (thus eventually “Orléans”).

Carnutes – The PIXTILOS series of coins

Some Carnutes References:

Senones References

Wikipedia article:


2 Responses to Carnutes & Senones

  1. Pingback: Weblinks of interest for Metal Detectorists … | Evalmedi's Weblinks

  2. Decimus M. says:

    There is a lot of question marks regarding this coins. I believe person on coin could be Vercingetorix, and birds are not eagles but cormorans. There is lot of them nowdays in Loire Valley.

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