Archaeological Journal/Volume 2/On the Torc of the Celts
ON THE TORC OF THE CELTS.
In investigating the history of our Celtic ancestors, we can place but little reliance on the traditions which have descended to us respecting them, traditions enveloped in doubt, which mere philological inquiry cannot satisfactorily resolve, and in the absence of better evidence, their remains are the chief tests of their social condition, and the place to which they are entitled among the past races of mankind. Thus the question arises, whether the art-remains of the Celts are sufficient to enable us to fix the position which that people occupied in the scale of nations?
It should always be borne in mind, that there is an art-history co-existent with the traditional or written history of every country, and that there is a relation subtle and philosophical, but not less certain, between all the products of the mind of man. Thus the same extended observation, careful comparison, and due reflection, which enable the anatomist to pronounce upon the structure of an extinct animal from the inspection of a single bone, may lead the archæologist to the mental reproduction of a departed race from scattered and apparently insignificant remains. These considerations have induced me to attempt in the present paper, a classification and description of the chief remains of Celtic art, the Torques and its varieties. It is unnecessary to preface the result of my inquiries by a discussion of that much vexed question, viz. the descent of the Celtic races. It cannot be doubted that the origin of the Celts is to he sought among those eastern hordes, which from the earliest periods were naturally pressing on towards the west, and having at length surmounted the natural mountain-barriers of Asia, spread themselves laterally southwards on its rich and fertile plains; whence they were gradually driven still more to the west by the pressure of the swarms behind them. The Celts exhibit at an early period decided traces in their language, customs, and such simple arts as they exercised, of an Indo-Germanic descent. With these remarks I shall proceed to the subject I propose to treat of.
The torques. The Latin word torques has been applied in a very extended sense to the various necklaces or collars for the neck, found in Britain, and other countries inhabited by the Celtic tribes. This word has been supposed to be derived from the Welch or Irish torc, which has the same signification, but the converse is equally plausible, that this was derived from the Latin. It bears great analogy to the Anglo-Saxon word to twist, and is agreed by all writers to have alluded to the twisted form of the ornament. The earlier Greek authors when employing the term, and the later when translating from the Latin, use the word στρέπτον that which is twisted, proofs if any were wanted, that its shape was twisted when they first became acquainted with it.The first people who appear from their monuments to have used this twisted gold ornament for the neck are the Persians, among whom we find it both in literature and in art, and there is the negative evidence of no monument anterior to them representing this decoration. , and they were bestowed by his successors as presents, or as marks of honour, and indeed were not allowed to be worn except by express permission of the king. This personal ornament may have been adopted by the Persians from their predecessors in Central Asia, the Assyrians, but it is not derivable from the Egyptians. On the staircase of Persepolis, the torques represented as a thick circle of twisted gold, with a break in the centre, and the ends terminating in the heads of snakes, is borne in tribute, or as an offering, to Darius I. , and the Phrygian Atys, Anchises,and other Asiatics wear it. In all these instances it retains its funicular or twisted type. The torques is frequently mentioned by, and was more familiar to the Romans. L. Sicinius Dentatus is stated about B.C. 386 to have had one hundred and eighty-three borne before him in his triumphs.  for the Senones joined the great league of Central Italy against Rome, and were defeated at the battle of Sentini B.C. 295. The torques is here also of funicular type, placed round the neck of the moustached Gaulish hero, whose head forms the obverse of the As grave of this town, and as the monetary issue probably took place soon after the occupation of the Gauls, as stated by Lenormant, we have here the actual torques of the fourth century before our æra. It is as will be seen funicular, but it is not evident either from the plates of Tessieri, or from the specimens I have examined, how it was attached, as it does not appear open in front. In B.C. 361, on the march of the Gauls to the Anio, T. Manlius Torquatus took as the spoil of the Gaul he had killed in single combat, the gold torques which adorned the neck of his prostrate enemy
This torques is represented placed on the obverse of a denarius of the Manila family struck by L. Torquatus A.V.C. 691-707, and is funicular, terminating in bulbs at the ends. The torques was always retained as the badge of the Manlia family; it occurs on the denarii of D. Silanus, possibly the consul A.V.C. 675; he was a descendant of D. Junius Silanus who was disinherited by Manlius Torquatus, and subsequently adopted into the Julian family. Also on the denarius of L. Sylla, minted by some one of the Manila family. Several golden torques, the largest of which was dedicated by the conqueror to the Capitoline Jupiter are enumerated among the spoils taken by Marcellus in his victory over the Insubrian Gauls, B.C. 196, and P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica, B.C. 191, had fourteen hundred and seventy, which he had taken in action from the Boian Gauls, carried in triumph before him. On the occasion of the Transalpine Gaulish chieftain Belinus sending an embassy to proffer aid to the Senate during the Macedonian war, B.C. 186, we find that body presenting him with a torques of gold of two pounds weight = 21 oz. 17 dwts., together with two golden pateræ of four pounds each, a horse with its trappings, and armour for a horseman.Polybius, in his description of the Celts, mentions about the same time the torques under the name μανιάκης, in a manner which shews it to have been unusual, and not employed as an ordinary object of attire, in the Roman armies which he accompanied. It still continued among the Celts as with the Persians an honorary mark of distinction bestowed upon their valiant or elective aristocracy, and the first ranks of the battlefield were manned by the Celtic torquati. The Druids appear from evidence nearly contemporaneous, to have worn the same decoration. I would refer to this period the torques seen on some of the gold Gaulish coins, imitations of the Philips of Macedon, and struck at different intervals from Brennus' invasion of Northern Greece, B.C. 278, till the age of Augustus. on the reverse the imitation Victory in the biga, the horse having a human head, and beneath the chariot a fallen Roman soldier. The Gaulish Victory holds the reins in her left hand, and in her right the torques, or solid armilla, with open and bulbous ends, replacing the Greek crown, thus shewing that among these people it was held in similar honour. Another coin of the same metal in a more debased style of art, and not so distinguishable, also represents the Victory with the torques. The coin of mixed metal engraved in Ruding may also be intended to represent a figure holding the torques. Virgil and Propertius writing under Augustus mention the torques as terminating in hooks in the same way as many of the funicular torques are now found, and the Gauls send an enormous honorary torques of 200lb. Roman weight to conciliate the emperor's friendship. Strabo writing under the same emperor and his successor mentions this decoration as worn by the British, some of them made out of the tusks of the sea-horse, and Florus describes the torques as part of the spoils obtained by the elder Drusus from the German Sicambri and Cherusci. Boadicea was distinguished in the time of Claudius, according to the description of Dio Cassius writing under Severus, as wearing a large torques. IO IO TRIUMP[E], the cry in the triumphal procession, and on the reverse a torques, and two bracelets (armillæ) to indicate the people, probably the Germans, conquered by Domitian. Pliny writing under Vespasian states the use of the gold torques among the Gauls, A.D. 79, especially as worn by the Druids. Under the Antonines it is seen on the sarcophagus of the Vigna Amendola representing the exploits of the Romans over the Gauls, Britons, or Germans, or possibly the Marcomanni, as proposed by Blackie. . Under Commodus it is mentioned as the ornament of gladiators, probably because these men were universally Germans and Gauls. Herodian under Gordianus Pius A.D. 247, alludes to the iron torques round the neck and loins of the British Celts. A succession of authors down to the eleventh century continue to mention it, but, as it had been adopted by the Romans, probably in relation to them only. A considerable change however took place in its application as the Romans came in contact with the Celtic population, and were forced by their political necessities to incorporate the hardy barbarians in their service. It gradually became with them a military order, bestowed upon the field of battle, especially after engagements with the Celtic or German races. The first mention of such an employment of it is by Julius Cæsar, who bestowed a pair of golden torques on the præfect of the Cassian horse. Augustus continued the custom, and an inscription records a donation of this emperor.
Although few instances occur on monuments at Rome, of Romans wearing this decoration, it is not improbable that the provincial officers wore it in their local jurisdictions. M. Cœlius the officer who was killed in the fight with Arminius, and whose monument exists at Dusseldorf, wears a funicular torques round the neck. This was under Augustus; and Flavius reproaches Arminius himself with receiving a torques from the Romans.
Under Tiberius, Rufus Helvius, a common soldier, was presented by his commander, L. Apronius, with torques and hasta for saving the life of a citizen, and Tiberius sent him besides the civic crown. C. J. Serrætor, in the same reign, is presented with the larger torques, for services in the Dalmatian war.
Under Nero the usage is mentioned as confirmed for the general to bestow torques upon deserving soldiers. They are mentioned in the entry of the German legionaries into Rome. Vespasian gave several torques, armlets, and horse-trappings, to L. Lepidius, and Annæus Proculus; and Q. Albius, in the Parthian war, and Caius Numisius, a Roman horseman, received a torques and armillæ from Titus. Quiutus Albius, a trumpeter of the Illyrian cohort, obtained the same for services in the Parthian war from Trajan. M. Licinius Mucianus was similarly rewarded by the same emperor, for his valour in the Dacian war. C. Arrius Cornelius Clemens was presented with torques and armillæ by Hadrian in the Dacian war, and the soldiers engaged in the war in Britain were generally rewarded with the torques, armlets, horse-trappings, and fibnlæ. Under the decadence of the empire, the torques was given by the Roman commanders, and many who subsequently obtained the purple had been thus decorated when in the military ranks, as Maximin by Severus, Claudius II., or Gothicus, by Valerian, who gave him a torques of a pound weight, and Probus.
At the proclamation of Julian by the soldiery at Paris, A.C. 300, Maurus, one of the legion of Petulantes, probably a Celtic levy, "abstractum sibi torquem quo ut draconarius utebatur capiti Juliani imposuit." The draconarius, or dragon bearer, was an officer of a cohort of a later period; and on the column of Trajan, the Dacians (not the Romans) carry this standard. Hence it is probable that among the barbarian troops of the empire the officers retained their national marks of distinction; and as the troops of Rome became almost entirely levies from the Celtic and German youth, it is not extraordinary to find that under Theodosius, the torques was a part of the military dress of the tribune. In A.D. 380 Vegetius mentions the two orders of torques, as duplares and simplares: and Ambrose, A.D. 390, alludes to the same decoration. But as late as Arcadius it does not appear to have been an ordinary decoration, while the manner in which Agathias describes the Medes under Justinian, shews that it was not an usual ornament in the Roman empire in the middle of the sixth century, and in the eleventh it seems obsolete among the Romans.
The tore is occasionally mentioned, according to Dr. Pughe, in Welch literature, as in the expressions tynu torc, to draw, a torques, or contend for the mastery; "eurdorçogean," or those wearing the golden torques, are much praised by the bards of the Cymwry. Aneurin, the author of Gododin, a poem on the battle fought against Iddra, at Cattaeth, in the sixth century, states that he was one of the three out of three hundred and sixty-three wearing them, who escaped that terrific slaughter. A princc named Llewelin auch dorchag, or Llewelin of the Golden torques, is also mentioned in the Welch annals.
Irish literature seems much richer in its notices of the torc. According to Macgeoghegan's translation of Clonmacnoise, of the twelfth century, said to be a transcript of Seancus Moir, compiled in the fifth century, gold mines were discovered in the reign of Teghernmas, twenty-sixth king of Ireland, who caused Ucadon of Acalaun, at Fothart, county of wicklow, to make gold and silver pins, to put in men and women's garments about the neck. He died, according to Flaherty's Chronicle, A.M. 3034—B.C. 789. In the Irish Annals, Minemon, of the Hibernian line, A.M. 3.222—B.C. 781, was the first native monarch who decorated the necks of his nobility with collars, and gave them bracelets; under his son Aldergoid rings came into use.
According to Mr. Petrie, Cornac Mac Ast wore a fine purple garment, a gold brooch on his breast, and a mun torc, or collar of gold, about his neck, and a belt of gold set with precious stones around him. In the legend of St. Brendan, the torc of the king Dermot Mac Ceareb Heoil is mentioned, for the king in a dream beholds an angel taking it, and giving it to St. Brendan. The king Brian Boroimhe, A.D. 1004, on leaving Armagh, where he had sojourned a week, left a collar of gold weighing 20 oz. on the altar of the church at Innisfallen; and in A.D. 1150, according to the Annals of the four masters, Flabbert O Bolchan, abbot of Derry, made a visitation in Kinleogan, county Tyrone, and received from Murcheartach Huachlochluin, king of Ireland, twenty oxen, the king's own horse, and a gold ring of 5 oz. weight; in A.D. 1151, he made a visitation to Siol-Cathasaich, and received from Cuculad O Flan, a horse and a gold ring of 2 oz. weight; from each noble, a horse, and from every master of a family a sheep. In the memoirs published by the Ordnance surveyors mention is made of rings presented to the crib or successor of Kolumbkill, to whom, in A.D. 1151, Cooly O Flynn presented one of 2 oz., and in A.D. 1153, one of an oz. weight. In a MS. of Trinity college, Dublin, the balls of gold, at the end of the moinche, are described to be as big as a man's fist.
One continuous stream of history and art shews that this singular decoration had essentially the same form from the fourth century before, to the tenth century of our era. The true difficulty is the determination of the relative antiquity of the different forms, a task at present, owing to the total want of sufficiently accurate notices of finds, all but impossible.
Funicular torques.—The shape of the oldest torques was funicular; if a rope were taken, cut to a length suitable to the neck, and tied at each end with a single knot, it would nearly represent this object, which was no doubt originally suggested by some such simple form.
Leaving the rope unconnected at one point, was a much simpler contrivance than a clasp, as the elasticity of the metal allowed of its being stretched to fit the neck, to the size of which it then contracted, and the weight of the bulbs at the ends kept the collar in its place. This primitive funicular type is found on the as of Ariminum, on the necks of Persians in the Mosaic of Pompeii, on the small Mercury of Knight found in France, on the coins of the Manila family, on the so called dying gladiator, and on the precited . coin of Domitian; and, under certain modifications, it was continued till a very late period; indeed Mr. Petrie would assign some found at the Tara hills to a period as late as the 10th or 12th century.
This type, the funicular, generally consists of a prismatic wire twisted by the goldsmith into a single rope, with the spirals at a great distance. The earliest without doubt should be those of massive form and ruder pattern, terminating in solid and heavy bulbous or glandular extremities, but few of these exist. The next in point of age and style are those in which the metallic wire still retains its funicular type, but where owing to a scarcity of metal, or a desire to render the decoration more elegant, the ends have been hollowed into cups, appearing more or less bell-shaped, or pyramidal. Such are the bronze torques found by M. De Ring in the plains of the province of the Bas Rhin.
In a more common type, but one which is probably to be referred to a later period, possibly to the fourth or fifth century, the ends terminate in solid cylinders, as if to interlace. A large gold torques, or rather belt of this shape, is in the collection of the Museum, and another found at St. Leu d'Esserens, Canton de Creil, is exhibited in the Bibliothèque Royale at Paris. Some light is thrown upon the way in which this was adjusted by the gold torques discovered at Boyton in Suffolk. The extremities were secured by the aid of two small rings, a contrivance which supposes a greater state of refinement and mechanical knowledge than the open and bulbous ends. But the most remarkable varieties of this type are those published by Mr. Petrie as found at the Tara hill in Ireland. From the extremity of the cylindrical termination of these proceeded a thin wire, terminating in another cylinder.
One was large enough to wear round the loins, and the wire seemed intended to be attached to a cloak or garment so as to allow of its being employed at the same time as a fibula.
A torques found, with a bronze celt, on the Quantock Hills, probably Celto-Roman, was of bronze and massive, and exhibits a mode of adjustment which they had probably adopted from their Roman masters, one end terminating in a ring, the other in a hook. Such a mode of wearing it was probably in vogue as early as Augustus, for Propertius alludes to a hooked torques, and the "lactea colla auro innectuntur" of Virgil would apply either to the funicular type or the hooking end of the ornament, A thin and delicate torques of this type exhibited by me, from Major Moore, before the committee of the Institute, was purchased at Dublin.
One of the most singular varieties of the funicular torques is that found in Mecklenburgh, on a skeleton which had a diadem of copper, and a bronze sword; the ends terminate in spirals, as several armillæ and phaleræ do under the later periods of Roman art.
The funicular torques has been often found in England, Ireland, and Wales. One is described in the Catalogue of Mr. Woodward's Collection in 1728; a second was found at Ware in Norfolk. A silver one is mentioned by Pennant in his History of North Wales; another was found in 1692 near the castle of Harlech, Merionethshire, and a third on the margin of Llyn Gwernan, or the Aldertree pool. They are stated to be frequently found in Ireland with bracelets; those found at Tara have been described; another was discovered close to the cromlech at the island of Magee, county Antrim, in 1817, and detached portions of the same, and of other similar ornaments or armlets, in March, 1834.
Want of space compels me to reserve the continuation of this subject for a future number. SAMUEL BIRCH.
- The authors in this country who have written on the torques, have universally followed the learned John Scheffer, "de Antiquis Torquibus." 16mo. Holm. 1656.
- Pughe, in Archæol., vol. xxi. p. 557.
- Petrie in Proc. Royal Irish Acad. 1827.
- Xenoph. Cyr., lib. i.
- Dio. LXII. s. 1. Joseph. x. 2. Suid. voce τορκουατος.
- Cf. Isidor. Orig. xix. c. 31.
- Josephus x. c. 12. mentions Abimelarodach promising a στρέπτον, but we should recollect the application of the same word, Septuag. Gen. xli. 42. to the collar worn by Joseph, decidedly not a torquis. Cf. Sir G. Wilkinson, Mann. and Cust. of Egypt. Ser. II. vol. iii. Pl. 80.
- Arrian. Exp. Alex. VIII.
- Aelian. I. 22. Plut. vit. Artax. Curt. iii. 22.
- Joseph, loc. cit. Xenoph. Cyropæd. 1. i. Nepos. vit. Datamis. c. 5.
- Kerr Porter's Travels. I. pl. xxxiv. sq.
- Museo Borbonico. viii. pl. 34.
- Millingen Anc. Uned. Mon. P. xii.
- Virgil, Æneid. Ovid. Met. v. f. 1. 1. 52.
- Valer. Max. iii. c. ii, s. 26. ibid. iv. 8 c. 1. Plin. viii. c. 27. Aul. Gell. xi. c. 11, &c. Dion. Hal. viii. 10. Solin. Polyhist. c. Fulgent. de prise. Sermon. Cicero. Fin. 11. 22. Offic. iii. 31. Gell. ix. Ammian. Marcell. p. 226—228. ed. Merceri.
- Maichi et Tessieri Aes Grave. Classe iv. tav. I.
- Lenormant, Revue Numismatique. 1844.
- Liv. vii. c. 10.
- Morell. Thes. Num. p. 200. the horseman on the reverse is supposed to be Manlius Torquatus himself; ibid. This torques was taken from the family by Caligula. Sueton. Vit. Calig. c. 35. For this object being sold, cf. Plin. xxxiii. 1. Flor. I. c. 13.
- Morell. Thes. Num. II. p. 222. tab. I. vi.
- Morell. Thes. Num. II. p. 251.
- Liv. xxxiii. c. 22, it is of course necessary to read unum magni ponderis, the largest.
- Liv. xxxvi. 40.
- So I read instead ofBelanus—as we have Cuno-belinus, both on coins and in Dio, lx. 20, for Bellannus; cf. the Ancyran inscriptions discovered by Mr. W. R. Hamilton, Franz. Corpus, Insc. Græc. Pars xviii. p. 88. Βασιλεῖς [βρέταν]νων Δ[ά]μνων, or rather Δ[ύ]μνων Βελλάυνος, and the Latin transcript of Gerhard, Archæolog. Zeitung, No. 2, Feb. 1843, p. 23. [reg]es Britann[orum] Bella[unus].
- Liv. xliv. 13; Plin. xxxiii. c. 11, probably refer to this epoch.
- Hist. xi. Cf. Plant. Amphitryon. Lucil. apd. Nonium. lib. xi. Fl. Pompon. v. Nævius in Charisio.
- Strabo, lib. vi. Diod. de Gallis. v. Plin. xxxiii. 1.
- Ruding, Annals of Coinage, Pl. 2. fig. 22.
- Annals, Pl. 4. fig. 77.
- Æneid. viii. Propert., lib. iv. Eleg. from the neck of Viridomarus, a Celt or Gaul.
- Quintilian vi. 4. To this period must be referred the torques on the Gaulish coins of Divona. Rev. Num. vi. 166—170.
- Lib. vi.
- I. 13. barbara spolia.
- Lib. lxii.
- Cf. Quintil. vi.
- xxxiii. c. 2.
- Blackie, John, in the Annali del Instit. Archæol. di Roma. III. p. 287. sq.
- Osservazioni artistici antiquarii sopra la statua volgarmente appellata il gladiatore moribondo del Prof. A. Nibbi estratto dell. Ephemeridi litterarie di Roma. Aprili 1831, pegg. 51.
- Capitol. vita Com.
- xxxiii. c. 2.
- Cf. Scheffer. p. 55. sq.
- Hirtius, Bell. Hisp. vi. 26.
- Sueton., vita Aug. c. xxv.—xliii. Quint. vi. c. 4.
- Gruter, Corp. Insc., p. xcii.
- Wagener, Handbuch der vorzüglichsten in Deutschland entdeckten Alterthümer. 8vo. Weimar, 1842. pl. 138. 1323.
- Tacit. Ann. ii. c. 29.
- Tacit. Annal., iii. c. 21.
- Gruter, p. xcvi.
- Seneca, de Benef., c. 5.
- Tacit. Hist. ii. c. 89.
- Gruter, mxcvi. 4.
- Smetius, fo. lxxvii. b.
- Gruter, ccccxliii.; also, Quintil., lib. vi. 4.
- Ibid.; also Sil. Ital., lib. xv. at this epoch.
- Sinetius, fo. lii.
- Scheffer. loc. cit. p. 30.
- Paus. ii. 89.
- Capitolinus, vita Maximin.
- Pollio, vit. Claudii, apud Hist. Aug. Scriptores.
- Vopisc. vit. Prob.
- Ammian. Marcellin. xx. 4. cf. Paulus Diaconus, lib. xi.
- Prudent, de Peristephan. cf. Curopal. off. Const. Sidon. Apollin. viii. 574. c. xxvii. 426.
- ii. cxvii.
- De Inst. Virg. et de Jejunio.
- No torques occurs on the necks of any Roman on the Sculptures of the Thermæ Arcadianæ. Banduri., Imp. Orien. p. 513.
- De Bello Gothico, lib. iii. cf. Jornandes de Success. Justinian. Ammian., l. xxix.
- Archæol., vol. xxi. p. 517.
- Archæol., vol. ii. p. 37. Petrie in Dublin Penny Journal, vol. iii. p. 413.
- Archæol. loc. cit. Petrie, 414. ibid.
- Trans. of Roy. Irish Academy, 4to. Dublin, 1839. p. 183.
- Petrie in Dublin Penny Journal, vol. iii. p. 413.
- Petrie in Trans. Roy. Irish Acad., loc. cit.
- For an allusion to this type, cf. Virgil, Georg. iii. Isidor. xix. c. 31.
- M. de Ring, Etablissemens Celtiques dans la Sud-ouest Allemagne, 8vo. Friburg. 1842.
- Archæol., vol. xxvi. p. 471.
- One of these was unfortunately lost.
- Dublin Penny Journal, vol. i. p. 457. Transact. Roy. Irish. Acad., vol. i. p. 457.
- Archæol., vol. xiv. p. 94.
- Wagener, Handbuch der vorzüglichsten in Deutschland entdeckten Alterthümer. 8vo. Weimar. 1842. Pl. 36. No. 384.
- Gent. Mag. Sept. 1800.
- Llwyd's Merionethshire. Gough's Camden, iii. 174.
- Pughe, Dr. W., in Archæol. xxi. 557.
- Dublin Penny Journal, vol. i. p. 244.