Biblical Archaeology Review 31:1, January/February 2005


Northern France (Gaul)

This second-century B.C. gold coin demonstrates the cultural syncretism of the classical world. Minted by the Ambiani tribe of northern Gaul, whose capital is present day Amiens, France, the coin bears an abstract image of the Roman god Apollo with laurelled hair. The image is, moreover, modeled after the tetradrachma of distant Macedonia.

Very little is known about Gallic religion or Celtic religion in general. Julius Caesar, who left a thorough yet thoroughly unreliable description of Gallic civilization, created an enduring confusion by equating Gallic gods with Greek and Roman ones, calling them by their Greek and Roman names and obscuring whatever differences they may have had from the classical deities. In Gallic culture, Apollo was generally associated with the indigenous god Belenus, “the Bright One.” The image on the coin could be Apollo, or it could be Belenus or some other deity depicted using a style borrowed from classical representations of Apollo.

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