Gold medals ca 300 - 400 AD

Gold medals ca 300 - 400 AD

In 264 AD we get real evidence that Heruli were furnishing a cohort (500 men) in the palace guard. That helps us to tell about the finds of golden medals and copies in Scandinavia that seems to begin with Constantine I and the new solidus

Constantine I, Constans, Constantius II, Medallion, gold medal, two-sided medal, one-sided golden bract, solidus, aureus, Valentinian I, light cavalry, World Tree, Serpent Pit, Manus Dei, Sun-Eagle, Sun-King, Nordic World Order, Celtic flying hair, Langobards, Breza futhark

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This essay about is divided in several files because of the many pictures. That makes it faster to open a file. It could be confusing when there are several files on the same topic as this on medallions, medals and bracts with a head. Medallions are made for women I think, while the gold medal originally was given for honour by the Roman emperor. In Scandinavia they copied that as two-sided medal with a head. Later they invented the one-sided golden bract with a head. The second category is the Sun- rider and the third is the world order/ mythic bracts. Here I am analysing the ideas in suitable categories. For conventional categories see under The Head.

In the Constantinian dynasty the emperor bust is much the same at first look. Here the profile of Constans and Constantius II with diadem, hair bond and the draped dress at the neck. The same style continued the rest of the 5th century

The around thirty early medals and copies are worn and often found in female graves. Maybe they have bee worn by women for hundred years and more and left to Mother Earth in late 5th or in 6th century. For our purpose it is convenient to analyse these two categories from the same times and look at texts and motifs and the few data around the finds. See also the file Heads. Naturally there is no big difference in motif in the bract with head / A-bract

It is difficult to see the difference between the gold coin solidus and the emperor medal from pictures. The only difference is the ear if it is left but the weight is usually higher. The solidus weigh normally ca 4,3 gram or in the class with a normal finger ring. A typical weight for Scandinavian copies of Roman coins/ medals is diameter 35 mm and weight 20 grams. That is around 5 solidus that could be compared to the normal salary 8 - 9 solidus a year.

On a few copies they have welled ear directly on a solidus. The goldsmiths love to make borders on medals as well as bracts and as decoration they used gold granulate or very small pearls of different sizes. It must have been a very tricky work to make patterns of spirals and circles in that size on a medal/ bract with diameter 20 to 50 mm. Even on king size 50 - 100 mm it has been finicky work since they filled out the space with figures and sometimes even using filigree. The punched sunbeams and other patterns are also made with precision. Such work will never be seen again in this world.

Naturally many scientist have been on this topic the age of many finds in 19th century. But I am not so sure that the early scientist had the best frames for interpreting the ideas and the art. Much water has been running and with that new facts. I am searching for the original ideas and I cannot use the Edda literature since that came later than 4th century AD and there is not much in the art corresponding to the Edda.

The symbolism in 4th century shows many influences from Rome before they created the dominating "Sun Rider" and the "Serpent Pit". Christianity could have influenced the later but there is more old fertility of Mother Earth in that. Christianity normally condemns fertility. In Christianity The Serpent is much like Satan, while in reality it is the womb of Mother Earth

It all came with the import and the salary given in gold to the legionaries. Until the time of Constantine I they were paid in gold aureus and after that in solidus. In the finds from Brangstrup, Fyn, Denmark there is 49 golden coins from the period 270 - 361 AD and 13 coins minted by Constantine I. After that follow on Fyn and in the Scandinavia gold medals of the Constantine dynasty and the Valentinians. A lot of copies were made on golden bracts so the motifs cover even the 5th century.

We cannot see if the first legionaries were from Fyn or from those at the Black Seas. But I suppose the Herulian remains we see in South Scandinavia was born by the trade at Rhine. By tradition they served the emperors in Rome until the wars against Attila. The first copies of the heraldic horse was maybe inspired by coins of Probus 276 - 282 AD. Pegasus was fix stars of spring equinox …see the Sun Horse.


Godey, Sunmaure Norway medal with Constans and the "sun chariot"

Motifs of this kind feed the fantasy easily. Especially if you believe the worst about "those wild Vikings in North" and think they were shamans. Else the emperor image shows that the shamans were those in Rome, since we can see the name Constans and the Roman bust on the averse.

My image of Roman culture is "The Barbarian Sun Eagle from Rome" attacking Celts and eating northward until they got enough resistance …today the Battle Eagle comes from Western and I cannot see much sun in that … I have still not forgotten that the boys of Mother Svea are starving citizens of Sweden only because that Battle Eagle from Wild West is above our heads. The polish of civilisation is easily gone.

For me the Roman letters are worse than Latin and reminds of some texts on northern bracts and medals. But here we understand that the driver has the sun crown on his head we see on early emperors. On the streets in Rome they could make the wild ride in a chariot with four horses.

We see the early emperors wearing the "spike crown", i.e. sun crown with flames. Maybe they really believe they were born as sons of the sun. They were naturally right however we do not care that the sun keep biosphere going on no individual could take credit for that

Constantine I started minting of the gold solidus in 310 AD and gave it the weight ca 4,62 gr = 1/72 of the Roman pound. However later the weight may vary a little. The minting person would gain a lot of making them smaller than the promised weight and value. The earlier aureus was set to 1/60 of the pound or 5,54 grams. The legionaries preferred to be paid in gold since there was a lot of inflation from time to time in the Roman Empire

Valentinian I was born in Pannonia / Hungary and he was elected emperor by the armies in 361 AD. We know that he used a cohort (500 men) in the palace guard. Since there are finds of golden bracts in Roman style from Hungary and we have finds of golden medals from Zealand, Jutland and Norway to connect these facts is easy. And it is the same with golden medal of the preceding Constantinian dynasty with finds from Fyn and Norway

When we see that they copied these emperor busts and otherwise used the Roman style to see the influence at the time of these emperors is easy. Sometimes the drawing technique is not the beats and we have to think of the small bracts that we magnify to really see the motif. On the other hand when we see the fine technique in filigree and using gold pearls we see they were skilled.


 Reverses from Hove, Sognefjordane and Vika, Traundelag size 37 and 39 in diameter

These two together tell us about the armour of the "light cavalry" consisting of spear, short sword called "spatha" and originally from used by the Celt and so also the round shield. Observe the rings in the reins that must be Scandinavian style.

Of 12 golden medals made in Scandinavia 7 have a rider on the reverse. Another has a soldier with spear and shield at foot and two have a pair holding a trophy.

The averse from Vika

To think this motif is timeless is easy when we compare it with some find from Bronze Age and maybe earlier. The World Tree is symbol of continuous growth and the Family Tree that is always in mind of the lady at home. He brings home the trophy symbol of the gain and also on the Roman coins they use a ring as symbol.

The trophy staff is also a Roman symbol and we see it in Scandinavian shape at the medal from Aak, Maure Norway. WE would perhaps call her goddess but in everyday life they were just role models or archetypes. We can read from Beowulf that the hero brought home the gold to the Queen of House and she gave him a ring for his work. Those verses are written long time after the happenings so the gold shines brighter and is more frequent than at the particular times.

On the copy from Aneby Smaaland the rider stands in front of a girl with twig like that on Vika. On the averse there is the bust and in front of that a serpent and it all strengthen the impression that fertility of their home was more important than gold. There is no good taste in gold and when it is eaten it is gone. But the guard tree and the fields at home renew the harvest every year.

When seeing 145 golden bracts with the "Serpent Pit" motifs to think of fertility is easySince that at least some of them are found as amulets in female graves to think of female "buyers" or deciding the motif is easy. They were not generally interested in spears and swords and heroes.

We find the hand also in Mauland, Rogaland. On the same side there is hand = Manus Dei behind the bust. There is also a hand at copy medal from Lilla Jored, Bohuslaen. We can expect Christianity since there was also a silver cross in the grave. The head was originally the emperor as sun-king and in Scandinavia they there was since Bronze Age the concept ANSUR for the idol of settlement with name after the local idol. So as idea there is no big step between the concepts. On the medal from Svarteborg, Bohuslaen there is ahead on both sides and it very worn so we cannot see other motifs.

Sun-Eagle carries the Sun-king on this worn medal from Tunalund, Hjaelsta, Uppland and we find it also on medals from Aak, Maure and Mauland, Rogaland in Norway.

Constantine I founded Constantinople as a suitable place for defending the eastern part of the empire. Both the Persians and the Goths in east were threats. Before that they had tried the tetrarchy with seats in Tessaloniki, Milan and Trier besides Rome. But that became too difficult to rule so many subordinates.

It was difficult enough over time to get a brother or relative in the other part Constantinople. All the time the governors from the provinces were looking for an opportunity to take a bit or the whole cake. Usually the emperor was ruling from the most unstable province ... observe that most of the time there were threat to several provinces at a time. Originally the Constantinians came from Serbia and the later Valentinian from Hungary. We have to observe the divided rule because we see the same trend of double rule on Scandinavian bracts

The least worn Roman medal given by Valentinian I find at Hauge, Rogaland Norway

We have six finds of Roman gold medals from Constantine I 306 - 337 AD; two from his son Constantius II 337 - 364 AD; two from next dynasty Valentinian I 364 - 375 and one from his brother Valens 364 - 378 AD that got the East empire and was seated in Constantinople.

Solidus find together with golden bracts we have at Beresina Ukraine one coin from Constantius II together with Balder Bract and Sun rider bract. Another from Landegge, Hanover Valentinian I solidus together with 3 equal sun rider bracts and 1 snake pit bract.

This medal in entirely local style from Lyngby, Randers with Celtic hair loop, the double-serpent, swastika and the three connected circles are probably the moon terminuses. On the reverse there are four encircled circles for the quarters of the sun year..

This double-sided medal plus another from Frejlev, Lolland are totally different from the rest of the medals. On that from Frejlev the averse head has a little touch of Roman style. But the reverse has three circles touching each other. It surely symbolises the moon year

Both of them show that they intended to picture the Nordic World Order. We see the Roman influence only in the hair bonds still used with " Celtic flying hair" and the visible part of the dress with a buckle sometimes. They were experimenting with the Sun Eagle and some put in the end of the hair loop and other in the front as headgear. A special feature was the Parthian headgear … see The Flying Horse There are 16 "original" motifs but the motif and the style influenced that many more.

To some extend the Roman hairstyle influenced the golden bracts. They often mention the "battle style" of the Celts when they greased the hair and whitened it with lime. That was a symbolic act when going to "another world" of battle. We know such things from other cultures and the armour and outfit is a part of that. But there seem to have been a fashion even in Rome that they used a hairstyle in pig's bristle or "shaving brush"-style

…nowadays they use some special "jelly". Unfortunately I have a baldhead. Otherwise I would make some trials in making a cock-comb from left eye to right ear. I think I would be the only in that style? Nowadays it so important to be original and to be seen as the first and only.

Statistics bracts and runes

Around 1000 medals and golden bracts in finds from entire Europe

445 different motifs

200 sun riders 45 % of them 16 motifs with eagle helmet

145 snake pit 32, 5 %

40 sun king head 9 %

40 1- 3 "mythic persons" 9 %

20 medals 7 imported 4,5 %

389 localities Mackeprang 1952 … some new have been added

Last find 2001 at Bornholm 5 golden bracts and 6 solidus in a necklace

16 % finds in graves

42 % hoard finds

42 % undefined finds mostly after the plough



3 ritual necklaces

ca 25 neck-rings of ritual type (not snake neckrings)

Heaviest neck-ring ca 2 kilos Peterfitz, Polen

ca 450 early rune texts and half of them on golden bracts

79% of the texts in Germany are on "gifts for a woman" mainly on fibulas. That suggests that they maybe were given to a woman by traders or mercenaries.42 % are from Baden-Württemberg, 22 % from Bayern and 22 % from Niedersachsen - Schleswig 22 %. Maybe we should mention the area with the cruciform fibula in Bonn - Koblenz. Traders stayed for long near their market.

The early futhark (alphabet) from Vadstena, Kylver, Grumpan in Sweden but also from Breza, Bosnien and Charnay, Frankrike. Uncounted fragments from … Aquincum, Ungarn … Lindkaer Jutland and Beuchte Niedersachsen.

Early rune finds outside Scandinavia

Belgium 3, Bosnia 1, France 4, Netherlands 2, Poland 5, Romania 2, Ukraine 1, Switzerland 2, Bohemia 2, Germany 96, Hungary 7, Austria 1 and around 30 in England

Total ca 156

Source Kiel project

Plaster cast of the futhark from the Breza church

The Heruli became brothers of the Langobards through the marriage of king Rodulf's daughter with king Vaco and their son became king Valtari 540 - 547 AD.

Here we can quote a few lines from an article by Dr. T. Looijenga "Who wrote the Breza futhark, and why?"

"The Langobards therefore seem to have lived in the Breza region from around 535 until 567 AD, some thirty years. One of these is, I think, the most likely candidate to have cut this futhark in the column."

Maybe we should rather say that some in the Herulian suite wrote it on the half-pillar in the Church of Breza that Emperor Justinian build at this time. There is also a pillar with Latin alphabet and it seems to have been custom. The pillar fragment is less than two feet high and the text is 1 - 2 inches high in freehand. Again we get an opportunity to connect the runes to the Heruli.