(Plate E)

On the left-most side of the plate, the standing god wears what seems to be a pigtail or a tight-fitting knitted cap with a tassel. He is much larger than the rest thus dominating the whole scene. He holds a small man upside down over a bucket-shaped object; he seems to be either plunging the man in the bucket or pulling him out. Before the god, under the bucket, a dog is depicted in midair as if leaping up. The rest of the scene is filled with two rows of warriors vertically arranged along with the dividing stem of a tree in between: the upper warriors are horse-riders and the lower warriors are foot-warriors holding spears and shields. The last three men in the lower row are blowing musical instruments which are safely identified as the Celtic instrument, carnyx. Over the carnyx in the far right corner is depicted a ram-headed serpent similar to that on plate (A).

Along with the plate (A), plate (E) is said to be the most Celtic in its iconography because of the presence of the carnyx. It consists of a long thin tube at the top of which is added a boarís head with jaws wide open and a projecting mane on the back. The decorated helmets of the warriors in the upper row are also Celtic. Here, we have five different types of helmets: one has a boar on top, one a pair of crooked thin horns ending in knobs, one a crescent shape with concave side down, one a bird with its wings folded. These helmets with various adornment fit with Poseidoniusís description. Besides, Olmsted notes that the weapons of the soldiers such as shields with circular bosses are those of western and central Europe.

However, there are some details which are not apparently Celtic. For example, the distinctive costumes of the men, of the same type as those elsewhere on the bowl, are not characteristic of Celtic Gaul, as Müller observed long ago. Most notably, the round disc securing the straps on the horse is exactly the same type as an iron phalera from southern Europe. Both discs consist of a round central decoration surrounded by smaller circles at the circumference. Based on this observation, Bergquist argues that it points to the eastern origin of the cauldron: he quotes from Allen(1971: 24) that the auxiliary horsemen of the Romans, many of whom came from Thrace rode on horses "plentifully decked with phalerae" and that such cavalry are possible agents of the transmission of the phalerae across Europe. Also, the similar arrangement of figures and plant pattern is found in the Thracian helmet from Agighiol on which the horse riders are depicted in parallel below the horizontal line of ivy pattern. (Bergquist and Taylor:14)

Concerning the symbolic content of the scene, quite a few interpretations have been made. The most widely accepted one is that the scene portrays a ritual dipping and that the bucket-shaped object is a cauldron of rebirth. This cauldron of rebirth is associated with Celtic gods, particularly the Dagda in later Irish literature. Since the scene depicts the warriors and the idea of the dead being reborn into an after life is common to Celtic mythology, the theme of rebirth seems quite convincing. In favor of this interpretation, Ellis Davidson reads the dog and the horned serpent as symbols of the Other world. On the other hand, Gricourt (1954) suggests that the scene depicts the dead warriors marching in as spear men below and riding away alive as horsemen above. However, there seems to be no guarantee for his interpretation. Olmsted challenges this usual interpretation by asking why the resurrected warriors rise in rank, marching up as dead foot soldiers to ride off as horsemen after resurrection. Furthermore Olmsted argues that the bucket shaped object is not a cauldron and that the scene depicts a death by drowning which is often found in Irish tales such as Aided Muirchertaig maic Erca and Aided Diarmada. Another quite interesting interpretation is made by Kimmig (1965). He suggests that the foot soldiers are carrying a tree which is to be placed as a votive offering into one of the sacred pit shafts which have been excavated on Celtic territory.


 (Agighiol helmet)

 

Go to the Main Page, Plate (A), (B), (C), (D), (E), (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (g), (base)