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There is realy very little infomation avaialable for these interesting artifacts but luckily we have a litle more;
6th November 2009
Traditionally, it was in Thrace that fiery Ares was conceived, and likewise his antithesis, the watery charmer of beasts, Orpheus. From the sixth century B.C. onwards, his Egyptian-oriented Orphic cult propogated a universal following throughout the ancient world. Even earlier, Thrace had hosted the arrival of a heated Phoenician Bull, Dionysos, who not only came to share Apollo's abode at Parnassus but who played an essential role in the Eleusinian rites of Demeter. Far from being a barbarian backwater therefore, the Danubian realms seems to have fostered a spiritual plurality in which local traditions were freely supplemented from international sources.
Modern Bulgaria largely equates with the ancient territory known specifically as Thrace. Since its easterly limits flanked the Pontic Sea and reached down to the Bosphorus, it was an open door to the East. Through it the concepts of the Levant and ancient cultures far beyond flowed north of Greece into Danubia, Macedonia and the Balkan territories of Moesia and Illyricum. At the same time Thrace maintained close links with Athens to allow a permeation from the south of Cretan, Phoenician and Egyptian influences. During the fourth century B.C. the Macedonians conquered territories south of the Danube, including Thrace, later the springboard for Alexander's invasion of Asia. Macedonian kings, the Ptolemys, then subsequently ruled Egypt.
There had been major cultural upheavals much earlier, however. During the second millenium B.C. the Indo-European migrations began to flow west and east from Eastern Europe and the Pontic Steppes. These included Aryans, who colonised western India as far as the Indus Valley. The migrations also engulfed parts of Anatolia including the territory of the Mitanni, a number of whose rulers bore Indo-European names. In 1380 B.C. the Mitanni concluded a treaty with the neighbouring Hittite king which cited the names of their principal gods, who included twins known as the 'Nasatyas'. This epithet also attached to deities of their Aryan counterparts, who appeared in Vedic Indian legends as the 'Asvins', twin horsemen born of the Dawn and the Sun. It seems probable therefore that the migrants transplanted this concept of 'twin Horsemen of the Sun' from a Bronze Age icon originally rooted in the eastern Danubian region.
Twin equestrians certainly appear on the plaques, hence their assignment to some hypothesised 'Danubian Horsemen' cult. Over a very long period therefore, 'Danubians' would have been subject to numerous external influences emanating from the fringes of Persia, Greek communities along the Black Sea coast, sea-traders from the Aegean, overland traders from Western Europe and Attica, and conquests by Celts, Macedonians and Romans.
Having overviewed the cultural development of the region, it is now time to cut to the chase regarding the placques specifically. Despite their potential ancient links, a pre-occupation with 'Horsemen' epithets may be totally misdirected. That riders featured on the plaques is no proof the cult which incorporated them was by nature equestrian, or indeed that its adherents bore any relation to the original indigenous tribes in whose areas such plaques are now found.
The plaques were not manufactured until Illyricum, Moesia and Thrace had been taken under the umbrella of the Roman Empire. From the beginning of the first century A.D. the regions along the Danube were once again subject to much upheaval. Emperors and their armies, from Tiberius onwards, campaigned there. At one stage as many as twelve Roman legions were stationed along the river limites. From whence their contingents were gathered, particularly perhaps cavalry units, may well have impacted on the development of any Danubian cult. Likewise settlers in the newly established frontier towns were drawn from many quarters, bringing together wide-ranging religious concepts.
Somewhat conclusively perhaps, when the Romans embraced the Danube lands, although busts of their emperors were stamped upon the coinage, the legendes retained a Greek form and the reverse types exhibited Greek rather than Roman iconography. Clearly, therefore, when the plaques were manufactured, traditional Greek concepts and symbologies had long been the established lingua-franca in "Danubia".
Logic would suggest then that the symbols incorporated in the plaques would also emulate Greek origins. From where else could they have derived? There is no evidence of any early literary tradition in the Danube area. Although some Greek poets linked the Hyperboreans
I have always regarded these circular examples as the earliest examples of the plaque culture. They are styled upon early hand mirrors and were deliberately so in the tradition that you could not look directly upon a deity - just as Perseus could not look at the Gorgon!! They are obscure to the uninitiated and few clues are given regarding the rituals, unlike the later square examples with separated fields and lots of graphic detail.
Here, the central goddess holds a rope across her waist, unlike other examples in which she holds the horses by the reins. The reins may double for the rope?
All the usual ritual objects are present, a lion, a cockerel, a twin handled wine cup. These represent the ancient three seasons of the year. The snakes encompass the goddess with eternity and the equestrians flanking her are NOT the Dioscuri as some believe, but the Sun and Moon - Apollo and Artemis. ( This comes from a study of later plaques.) As I mentioned, these early plaques gave little away!! In my view the earlier types could have predated their successors by as much as a century and might be dated to the end of the first century.
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