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Saxon Foerthling; yet I cannot concede that Ceiniawg comes from Pecunia, or Cuneus.
In Ceiniawg, then, I believe we have an original term, which shews that at one time a piece of metal of a definite form and character circulated among the Britons; and from the word for money implying silver, we know its kind. Now, Dr. Owen Pughe, with far more propriety, derives Ceiniawg from the British word Cain, bright, fair, or beautiful, evidently from the sparkling appearance of the fresh coined silver.
From what has been said, this point, I think, must be conceded, that on the arrival of the Romans the Britons had money, though it may have been confined to a single denomination of coin ; but in order to obtain a clearer insight into the matter, you must pardon the length of this letter, if I attempt to investigate the subject of coinage in a more general manner.
The inconvenience of barter in the transactions of commerce led to the adoption of the precious metals as the representatives of all commodities. At first their relative value was determined only by their weight. This is still the custom in China, where the quantity being agreed upon is cut off and weighed. It is spoken of in Genesis, xxiii. 16; and Varro tells us, that the ancient scales used by the Romans for that purpose were still extant in his time, and preserved in the temple of Saturn. But this method of transacting business was attended with much trouble, and liable to frauds in weight and purity. Hence, some nations decreed that the metals should previously be cut into certain determinate forms and magnitude, stamped with peculiar marks, by which every person might know at first sight the weight, fineness, and value of each piece. Such was the origin of coin, by which money became more current, and commercial transactions were much facilitated.
Coins were much larger at first than afterwards, being used both as weights and money. Thus the Atiic mina and the Roman libra equally signify a weight; and the otarno of the Greeks, so called from weighing, is decisive on this point. The Jewish shekel was also a weight as well as a coin, 3000, according to Arbuthnot, being equal to one talent. This is the oldest coin of which we have any mention, for it occurs in Genesis, and exhibits direct evidence against those who date the first coinage of money so low as the time of Croesus or Darius, it being expressly said that “ Abraham weighed to Ephron four hundred shekels of silver,
current money with the merchant.” It is evident, from many passages in Homer, that Talentum originally signified a pair of scales; and was then given as a name to the thing contained, instead of the containing instrument.*
As sheep and oxen were the principal objects of purchase, the earliest Roman money, Pliny+ tells us, was stamped with the figures of these animals, in the time of Servius Tullius. For proof of this practice being of higher antiquity, we can again appeal to the authority of Scripture, for there we are informed that “ Jacob bought a parcel of a field for a hundred pieces of money;" and the Hebrew word to express this is Kesitoth, which, according to the Septuagint, signifies lambs. So in the Greek, Syriac, Arabic, and Vulgate ; and Buxtorf quotes the Talmud to prove that the kesita, in Africa, was money. But Hesychius says direct, that the Athenian money was stamped with an ox; and Plutarch tells us, that this money had been struck at Athens by Theseus, before the war of Troy. Hence, one of the names of a Greek coin was Bes, the or. There is preserved in the library here what appears to be one of these pieces of Athenian money; and my friend Chantry, whose judgment in such matters is not to be impugned, says, that it is a very good specimen of art, and its antiquity proved by the relief being on the principle of those in the Elgin marbles, high at the edge and flat in the centre, by which the outline becomes more clearly defined, as such pieces are rare. The weight of this is three ounces, and it is of bronze. Among the Earl of Pembroke's coins and medals, which were published in the year 1746, is a much larger specimen, being about six inches by four, and weighing six pounds and a quarter. There was another in the Museum at St. Genevieve, at Paris, valued at four sous; and Montfaucon has engraved two in his Antiquité Expliqué. Yet my friend, the highly accomplished antiquary, Francis Dome, Esq., for whose judgment in such matters I have the highest deference, denies the authenticity of any of these specimens, conceiving them to be only casts from the originals. Yet, in such case, originals of each size must have existed, for the impress is too clear to have been reduced by the modeller to any dimensions he pleased. It is, indeed, in the very best style of Athenian art.
Varro derives pecunia from pecus; and, we are told, that
See Taylor's Elements of Civil Law, 4to. p. 488.
Gen. xxxii. 19.
in the year of Rome 300, the consuls Sp. Tarpeius and An. Terminus permitted the magistrates to impose pecuniary punishments, provided they did not exceed two oxen and thirty sheep.* Of the sheep money none has been found.
The inconvenient size of such pieces for carrying about, occasioned their reduction, when, to ensure the same respect as had been felt for the ancient coin, they were impressed with the effigy of a deity or some religious symbol. Phido, king of Argos, is recorded as the first who presumed to substitute his own name and image for that of the gods, which was considered so great an innovation that Herodotus calls bim the most insolent of mortals. This is said to have been ten centuries before Christ.
It is impossible to discover the precise time when money first began to be used in Britain and Ireland, or by whom it was introduced. Both the Phænicians and Greeks were very well acquainted with its nature and use when they traded with these islands; yet, there is nothing to show that they communicated any knowledge of it to the inhabitants. The people of Gaul could hardly fail to obtain an acquaintance with it from the Greeks of Marseilles; and the Irish, at a later period, may have learnt its utility from the Phænicians of Spain.
The first direct information we get respecting the Britons is from Cæsar,+ who says, (utuntur aut æreo aut taleis ferreis ad certum pondus examinatis pro nummo,) “they use, instead of money, pieces of brass or iron plates reduced to a certain exact weight."
This assigns to them one step beyond the practice of the Chinese. Both Mr. Pegget and Dr. Borlase || are of opinion that the pieces of brass or rather bronze were not stamped, and in this I myself am strongly inclined to acquiesce. Borlase has
Borlase has engraved some plates of iron with holes in the centre, which he conceives to be those spoken of by Cæsar, without ever reflecting the impossibility, from the humidity of our soil and climate, that they could have so long existed. The truth is, they are plates belonging to brigandine jackets, and probably not older than the time of
Collectanea de Reb. Ilibern. † Bel. Gal. I. v. c. 12. In other editions the passage is “ Nummo utuntur parvo et æreo, aut ferreis laminis pro nummo.
Essay on the coins of Cunobelin, p. 34. 35. || History of Cornwall, p. 266.
Queen Elizabeth, whence others, as he says, were found in the wall of an old tower. But after all, although Cæsar observed that the internal commerce of the country was thus carried on, such exchange partakes somewhat of the character of barter. The ceiniogau or silver pieces were probably withheld from his sight, as it was expected he would demand tribute; and such were what were used in the commercial transactions with Gaul. Indeed we learn from the Triads, that, but shortly before Cæsar's invasion, the country had been almost drained of its coins, owing to the quantity carried away by the army of Caswallawn, when crossing over to the continent he joined the maritime tribes of Gaul against that general. This occasioned it to be called the silver host; for notwithstanding they took gold with them also, if there were some medals, the greater portion of that -metal was doubtless in ornaments. If gold was ever found in this island the quantity must have been very small, but most of the lead mines yield an ample portion of silver.
The Britons, therefore, might have coined themselves, having learnt the art from the Gauls, the coining being of the simplest kind, the die being struck only on one side. This operation was performed by the feryllt, and consisted merely in holding a piece of metal on an anvil with a pincers, while a blow was given by a hammer in which the matrix for the impression was cut. A brass coin of Agathorles king of Syria, in the collection here, shows a projection on one side from which the heated metal had been dropped into water, and which served as a hold for the pincers, while it is evident there had been two blows with the hammer, a double impress proving the fact.
Gaul, in the time of Diodorus Siculus had long been famed for the abundance of its gold, and the Gauls for their dexterity in discovering, refining, and working that metal. Indeed this author tells us that they made not only their coins, but rings, chains, and other trinkets of pure gold without alloy. * Montfaucon has given a plate of
gold coins, or perhaps medals, struck by the Gauls. Dr. Borlase has had others engraved, found on Karnbre-hill, which greatly resemble them; many have been found in the isle of Sheppey and in Wales.+
Although Dr. Borlase contends that those he has given,
Diod. Sicul. 1. v. s. 27.
retain a style and character of their own, “sufficient to mark them as the property of a distinct people," and therefore British; most antiquaries of the present day are inclined to attribute them to the Gauls. Indeed they seem rather to have been medals used by the Druids of both countries than pieces of money.
But the silver coins much resembling them were, probably, struck in this country, in imitation of those of the Gauls, and of these between seventy and eighty were found in a tump near Banbury camp, in 1783, which is a circular intrenchment not far from Hameldon hill in Dorsetshire.* If So, we have here the ceiniogan of the ancient Britons.
The gold medals, like those of the early Greeks, and of most other nations of antiquity, are impressed with religious devices, the symbols of heathen superstition. The portico of a Greek temple was easy to pourtray, especially as excellent artists abounded in that country; but as the Gaulish designers were incapable of representing the perspective of a circular temple, we must not be surprised that it was expressed by studded circles, serving rather as the groundplan than the elevation. No. xvi. of the plate of medals exhibited by Borlase, has on it, on one side, a female profile, on which is a laureated diadem, displaying two rows of curls above it, and this figure is clothed in a garment, the folds of which rise up round the neck, close to the ear. The reverse (for some of these are impressed on both sides) has a horse, a circle, balls and crescents. The horse has the head of a bird, a body bent downwards in the shape of a boat
, and little groups of balls and leaves substituted for legs. This grotesque singularity, which may be observed in a variety of specimens exhibited by Borlase, Gibson, and Gough, the Rev. Mr. Davies observes, cannot be wholly ascribed to the rudeness of the designer's art, or to the accidental wandering of an unpractised hand, especially as the profile on the other side is well proportioned, and neither destitute of spirit nor expression. In this favorite figure then, we must view some complex symbol, some representation of a group of ideas which the designer had in contemplation.t We shall find that it has relation to the Helio-arkite superstition of Gaul and Britain. The most prominent subject on these medals, the monstrous horse with the head and
* Hutchin's Dorset.