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Celtiberian Helmet
Period: Fifth to fourth century BC
Culture: Celtiberian
Material: Bronze
Dimensions: 37 cm H
 
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Our helmet has a rich green patina with the main characteristics of the Celtiberian type, combining the original Chalcidian form with an elevated crest-holder, deriving from southern Italy. It is adorned with a fine linear relief that follows the contours of the nose guard and eye apertures, a design that is repeated above, but ends in symmetrical volutes. On each side of the helmet is a plume holder and a suspension ring is positioned above the nose guard, another in the centre of the helmet’s rear. It retains its cheek-guards, elegantly curving forward in the form of a ‘chevron’, which are incised with circular motifs each side of the hinges, adjoining the elegant contouring of the ear apertures.


Helmets of this character were an innovation compared with the Archaic Corinthian form, providing ventilation, improved vision and audibility, as tactics of warfare continued to evolve through the Classical and Hellenistic periods. The unique design of Celtiberian helmets logically evolved through cultural contact with the Western Greeks, who founded the cities of Emporiai, Zakynthos, and Hemoroskopeion on the eastern coast of the Iberian peninsula between the eighth and sixth centuries BC, the coast further south being dominated by the Phoenicians in this period.


The term ‘Celtiberian’ was used by Greek (Ephorus of Cyme) and Roman writers (Strabo) to describe several peoples – the Arevaci, Belli, Berones, Lusones, Titii – who inhabited the middle Ebro valley and eastern Meseta in north-central Spain. Their script, religion, and a number of their artefacts distinguishes them from their neighbours to the west and east; although their pottery and richly decorated weapons were widely adopted by the indigenous peoples in the central and northern regions of the Iberian peninsula. Most of the population lived in hill-forts known as castros, although towns became established after the fifth-fourth centuries BC. Akin to other Celtic peoples in western Europe, they progressively succumbed to the military and political might of the expanding Roman Republic. Their first encounter was with Cato in 195 BC, and successive wars with Rome occurred in the second century BC (between 181 and 179), with an interlude of peace brokered by Tiberius Gracchus, followed by the twenty-year war of Numantia, which resulted in a crushing defeat by the Republic. Their fate was sealed in the early first century BC by Pompey who sacked the major Celtiberian towns after they had supported his rival Sertorius (72 BC).


Helmets of a similar type, style, and date range are in the collection of the Mougins Museum of Classical Art (MMoCA 174, 267, 506).

Provenance

Private Collection, Portugal, acquired 1980s.
London Art Market.
Private Collection, London, 2010-2016.