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‘Drinking the Feast’: Alcohol and the Legitimation of Power in Celtic Europe
ARTICLE in CAMBRIDGE ARCHAEOLOGICAL JOURNAL · MARCH 1999
DOI: 10.1017/S0959774300015213

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‘Drinking the Feast’: Alcohol and the Legitimation of Power in Celtic Europe
Bettina Arnold
Cambridge Archaeological Journal / Volume 9 / Issue 01 / April 1999, pp 71 - 93
DOI: 10.1017/S0959774300015213, Published online: 14 October 2009

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Bettina Arnold (1999). ‘Drinking the Feast’: Alcohol and the Legitimation of Power in Celtic Europe. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 9, pp 71-93 doi:10.1017/
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and underwent considerable change. but the documentary evidence tal Europe as well as in the British Isles. leather.249). first appear in Continental European burials at least 300 years later. Mediterranean opinions on the subject of Celtic -The distribution and consumption of alcohol played drinking practices were not very complimentary. serving as a social lubricant as well as a social barrier. distribution and consumption of these beverages were a vehicle for inter. horn. 71-93 'Drinking the Feast': Alcohol and the Legitimation of Power in Celtic Europe Bettina Arnold Drinking and feasting were an integral part of life in Iron Age Europe and the British Isles. nor an important role in prehistoric cultures in continenparticularly objective. iron. historical. through time. The drinking dle of the fourth century BC (about 150 years after the and feasting equipment itself is made of materials as manufacture of the Vix krater). few scholars look (Joffroy 1962). 1995. The impact of contact with the Mediterranean world. Unfortunately.Cambridge Archaeological Journal 9:1 (1999).64 The central role of alcohol consumption in Celtic metre high krater of Vix. ceramic. The krater was part of the equipment in a ologists. as opposed to Spartan restraint' associated with the consumption of food and drink (Laws 1:637: Tierney 1960. blages peak in the wealthy chieftains' graves of the Late Hallstatt period. The metal. local chants. and gold. writing in the midlogical. Alcoholic beverages were important consumable status items in prehistoric Europe. In the later Bronze Age and Iron Age. themselves with the unmixed wine imported by mer1997).Enright 1996). Elaborate sets of ceramic vessels to drunkenness. both symbolic and material.and intragroup competition. and literary records. outside their own disciplines for the cognitive system 71 . 194). tion against which to interpret the archaeological feasting behaviour is documented in the archaeorecord (Champion 1985). bronze. ceramic and wooden vessels required for the preparation.99) and possiion: They are exceedingly fond of wine and sate bly as early as the Late Neolithic (Sherratt 1987. archaeworld. describes the Celts in a similar fashby the Urnfield period (Kossack 1964. pp. and the ideology of power and patronage will be discussed in relation to changing material culture assemblages. 1990. The distribution of food and especially drink in prescribed fashion played a key role in establishing and maintaining social relationships. includes the Celts in diverse as wood. and historians all describe banquets and Gaulish elite burial and was probably manufactured feasts in considerable detail within their respective by Greek artisans for a powerful northern personage spheres of interest. Scholars of Celtic literature.2-3: Tierney 1960. Significant does provide us with useful background informaritually as well as socio-politically (Murray 1996). Extravagant vessel assemV:26. their desire makes them drink it greedily. 'a list of six barbarian warlike peoples who are given silver. Diodorus Siculus. vessel preserved from the contemporary Greek . larger than any bronze culture is generally accepted (Dietler 1989b. This article will attempt a cognitive analysis of the material culture of Iron Age drinking and feasting by integrating archaeological and documentary evidence. Plato. wood and pottery products are gradually augmented and when they become drunk they fall into a stupor by imported ceramics and metal vessels in the burior into a maniacal disposition' (Diodorus Siculus als of elite individuals. gender configurations. best exemplified by the 1.

1 While some caution is commendable. Despite these potential difficulties. 72 heavily patinated by Christian influences. The problem of successive 'borrowings' of another ethnographer's ideas and/or descriptions over several centuries has been discussed elsewhere (Tierney 1960. It is at this time that the peoples known as Celts begin to appear in recognizable form in the material record. while information considered mundane. The different sources of information intersect or overlap to some extent.201). Two pitfalls facing the modern scholar attempting to derive 'facts' from these accounts are 'Randvolkeridealisierung' (Tierney 1960. 3) surviving epics and tales from Ireland and Wales. for example. The first is the tendency of Classical ethnographers to romanticize or demonize 'exotic' peoples. particularly in the areas of material culture and technology. considerable continuity through time and space in some areas of material culture. but preserving earlier non-Christian elements. 2) extensive legal tracts. 4) customs (Tierney 1960. it can also be an obstacle to creative thinking. Jackson 1969. with reference to late Iron Age evidence from the British Isles and the Continent. especially from Ireland. 4) the archaeological record. The sources of information available for drinking and feasting behaviour in the Celtic world are: 1) contemporary Greek and Roman written accounts. particularly . several significant themes related to Celtic drinking and feasting behaviour (both insular and continental) recur in Classical sources. The second refers to the borrowing of descriptions of customs from accounts of one culture and transposing them wholesale or only slightly modified to a completely different group of people. 2) antiquity and ancient history. is not relevant to the interpretation of prehistoric Iron Age Europe. This is particularly true of archaeology. although it does not claim to be exhaustive. eastern France and Switzerland north of the Alps. but the contemporary Mediterranean written sources are meagre and problematic. much less definitive. Unfortunately for modern scholars the unusual and bizarre aspects of the last two categories were generally recounted in some detail. particularly feasting and competitive display among elites. There is.Bettina Arnold underlying this drinking and feasting behaviour. The information offered by Classical sources for Celtic drinking practices will be examined first.190). This discussion will attempt a text-aided. AD 600) (Powell 1888. The argument is that the insular Celtic cultures do not resemble the earlier Continental ones in any fundamental or identifiable way. 550 BC) from Gereint ab Erbin in the Gododdin (Britain. especially those concerning the socio-political and ideological importance of drinking and feasting. however. Germany. Arafat & Morgan (1994). The definition of the term 'Celtic' itself is contested (Arnold & Gibson 1995. common knowledge or uninteresting was less frequently recorded. The archaeological evidence certainly documents major social and ideological changes in the centuries separating the chieftain of Hochdorf (near Stuttgart. 214) and 'ethnographische Wandermotive' (Tierney 1960. whenever hard facts were lacking or could benefit from being fleshed out in a more dramatic way. primarily from the Continent. that the Celtic literature of the British Isles (most post-dating the sixth century AD). Nash 1976). cognitive interpretation of the archaeological evidence for drinking and feasting behaviour from the Late Hallstatt period in west central Europe (600-400 BC). 3) way of life. More moderate researchers concede some affinity and continuity between British and Continental Celtic cultures. It also applies to disciplines like Celtic studies which could benefit from an archaeological perspective in distinguishing rhetorical or symbolic elements in literature from those which may contain historical fact. and will be used here in its most general sense. Some of these themes. 150). but continues to be used to describe the peoples linked by language and material culture from Spain to the Black Sea during the Iron Age. in the Early Iron Age of southwest Germany. have called for a more emic investigation of how contact with the Mediterranean world affected existing patterns of behaviour. Conservative scholars argue.2). which is traditionally wary of literary and historical sources. among others. The contemporary classical sources: strange people and weird practices The general formula followed by most Classical authors describing the alien cultures on their peripheries was modelled on Herodotus and consisted of several categories of information: 1) population. The synthesis of archaeological and written 'records' of Celtic 'feasting' patterns which follows attempts to do this. These are of course the best-documented sources of archaeological information and are not usually as well represented in the literature. since the burial and settlement record of the British Isles for the Iron Age is much less well documented or preserved (Raftery 1994). The discussion below will explore the foundations of this continuity through a comparison of textual and archaeological evidence. so there will be some repetition of the more seminal arguments.

handedness and generosity as important virtues. whether he One such theme is that of the king's or hero's porsurpasses the others in warlike skill or nobility of tion at. . not more than a mouthful. Athenaeus' account of a typical change in the associated paraphernalia. . in a circle with the most influential man in the centre. in particular those graves with only one world observed by Poseidonius. and accomcial groups acquire elite status markers. The lower classes drink wheaten beer prepared Generosity as the defining characteristic of a with honey. the recognized 'Bible' on the Celts. as an institutionalized form of social regulation. beverage container. enabled him to give his own potlatch(es) or actively participate in those given by his matrikin (Kan 1989. from Italy or from the territory of Marseille. a banquet. such sources provide adand beer. friendship.more 'exclusive' items.4 This is one possible explanation. Another is the concept of gueston either side the others in order of distinction . men renowned in [bat(Tierney 1960. 66). tionships' (1989. described here in a secondat his feast.248). As 10. scatters gold along the plain behind his century BC context by Poseidonius (transcribed by chariot. A change in what is being consumed by the 82). Athenaeus' account of Lavernius' banThe custom of feasting in a circle. tlers traits. The status of a Tlingit aristobut the change could equally well be explained by a crat depended on the rank and wealth of his parents restructuring of elite status markers along the lines (especially his mother). heroic feasting and combat. They use a common cup. organization. Beside him sits the host and next (Tierney 1960. Fischer 1982. The Celtic arranged in circles around central beverage vessels chieftain Lavernius. reappears in the following passage from song saying that the very tracks made by his chariot the sixth-century AD Cododdim 'After wine-feast and on the earth gave gold and largesse to mankind' mead-feast they hastened out. and forcing elites to acquire new. thereby 'deplishments in activities which generated wealth and valuing' them.99. but they Classical and insular texts. the number and scale of potlatches emulation events in which second and third tier sosponsored by his parents in his honour. mentioned by Diodorus Siculus (Tierney The drink of the wealthy classes is wine imported 1960. they set their hands to wine and mead and malt' History.65-6). 274). 1995. reckless of their lives. Kossack concludes from his interpretadescribed by Kan. 151 Egraphically recorded societies at a chiefdom level of 152D: Tierney 1960. . 'the unity and solidarity of clan tion* of Celtic drinking behaviour as primarily relirelatives were emphasized by the obligatory sharing gious in nature that this change is due to a change in of property and food that characterized their relareligious practices. This is both accounts stress the Celtic emphasis on openunadulterated but sometimes a little water is added. In fact.248).197). The Tlingit potlatch BC to a mix of metal and imported ceramic vessels by is a good example of a society in which feasting acts the fourth century BC (Kossack 1964.116). food. described as early as Phylarchus family.Alcohol and the Legitimation of Power in Celtic Europe structure and drinking practices: those also found in the later insular Celtic texts. describes Qackson 1969. the passage on food from Athenaeus might explain the relatively small and drink is the longest surviving portion of numbers of drinking vessels compared to containers Poseidonius' Celtic ethnography.140). also in many ethnodo it rather frequently (Athenaeus IV 36.37). drink. marriage to a person of equal proposed by Miller (1985). drinking a good chieftain or king is a common theme in both little at a time. or in several groups quet is a good example (Tierney 1960. and bardic The 'common cup' mentioned in the passage display at great length.2 Early Iron Age elites in whose burials this equipSome of the same themes appear in the Mediment is found could have been accompanied by a terranean sources. pleased by the praise of a poet and/or food cauldrons. like the leader of the chorus.3 There is another interesting point The symbolic as well as functional significance to be made here with regard to the status distinction of feasting is documented in many ethnographic conassigned by Athenaeus to the two beverages wine texts (Chapman 1980. 250) and again by Caesar (Tierney I960. in a shining array Athenaeus' verbatim transcription of four of they fed together round the wine vessel [my emphathe nine surviving extracts of Book 23 of Poseidonius' sis]. He describes successive or greater rank. but most people drink it plain.5 The Italian feast offers interesting insights into Celtic social 73 . It is called corma. and 'the poet picked it up and sang another Athenaeus). may result from similarities between geographically and When a large number dine together they sit around temporally different groups of Celts (Nash 1976. This may reflect (both mixing and serving vessels) in many Hallstatt the special emphasis on food and drink in the Celtic contexts. or wealth. p.247). Drinking equipment in West Hallstatt buriditional preindustrial configurations for modelling als changes from mostly ceramic in the sixth century prehistoric social organization.

They were able to do this because alcoholic beverages had been of fundamental religious significance and socio-economic importance in west-central Europe at least since the Bronze Age. Granted. particularly overland. and how was it organized? Perhaps equally important. how extensive was it. particularly when compared to contemporary sites in southern France (Dietler 1989a. There has been considerable debate as to how extensive the contact between West Hallstatt elites and the Mediterranean (via Massalia/Marseille) actually was (Bintliff 1984. 3) the focus of archaeologists on imported vessels as the primary trade item may be a case of the tail wagging the dog. interestingly enough. 2) the relative scarcity of such imported pottery may have been artificially maintained by elites. Hayden 1995). and was never available in large enough quantities for its distribution to have been subject to the kind of strategic manipulation possible with wine7). the maintenance of their socio-political hegemony would have 74 been much more secure if based on a consumable commodity which could be controlled and stockpiled for maximum effect by a limited number of individuals. 1985. Very few hillfort settlements of this period have been investigated systematically. Looting over the centuries has decimated high-status burials in particular. In short. could all have been used in such trade. and an increase in the number of imported vessels (indigenous to imported) is clear. Arafat & Morgan 1994. 1990).6 There may be a chronological dimension here: the initial exchange (between 600 and 550 BC) took the form of inter-elite distribution of imported drinking vessels. the picture of limited contact between the Mediterranean and the Hallstatt chiefdoms which is currently in vogue in the British literature (Arafat & Morgan 1994) needs to be re-examined. More archaeological investigation is essential if we are to advance any of these interpretations of contact between the Mediterranean and the West Hallstatt area. but it seems to have offered some elites an alcoholic beverage which could be strategically stock-piled and distributed in a way not possible with beer (which had to be consumed more or less immediately) or mead (which was much more difficult to' produce. or personal booty? If there was regular trade.Bettina Arnold merchants were described by Diodorus Siculus as regarding 'the Gallic love of wine as their treasure trove' (Diodorus Siculus: Tierney 1960. diplomatic gifts. Dietler 1990. Are the drinking vessel sets of Mediterranean manufacture in West Hallstatt elite burials trade items. but the later movement of trade goods may have focused more on the mutual exchange of perishables: forest products and other resources for wine and olive oil. and only one — the Heuneburg on the upper Danube — extensively. the new alcoholic beverage provided individuals. with the opportunity to intensify their political influence. If it was wine that was moving along the Rhone-Saone corridor and thence to the Hallstatt centres. among others). Archaeologists seem to have no difficulty assuming that trade in perishable raw materials was going the other way (Wells 1980. among others). and seems to indicate changes in drinking behaviour as well as in aspects of social organization in the West Hallstatt zone. which do not involve imperishable containers. do not appear in elite burials until the early La Tene period. partly on the basis of imported drinking vessel sets. then. Mont Lassois (France) or Chatillon-surGlane (Switzerland) suggest several things: 1) the small number and size of Attic sherds found exclusively in settlement contexts in the late Hallstatt period (and not all on hillforts: cf. since breakage or inclusion in a high status elite burial seem to have been the only ways these vessels became part of the archaeological record (Attic kylikes. On the other hand. Casks or barrels of wood. Poseidonius (quoted by Athenaeus in the passage cited earlier) was describing the social conventions of the late La Tene Celts of southern France. referred to by formalist postprocessualists as 'aggrandizers' (Clark & Blake 1994. Ultimately. . or wineskins. 1984. what was the primary focus of that trade? The sherds of Attic pottery found at sites like the Heuneburg (Germany). contact with the Mediterranean did not create the West Hallstatt chiefdoms. the number of amphorae (the distinctive pottery vessels used to transport wine and olive oil in the Mediterranean world) that are known from late Hallstatt sites is fairly modest. 249). That there is a shift in the material of which drinking vessels were made (pottery to metal). and only a very small percentage of the original number of such graves has been preserved. We should consider the possibility that once a group of primary elites had established themselves. Biel 1989) indicates that the imported pottery used to serve alcoholic beverages was curated. so such statements must remain hypothetical. The fact that very few elite burials have imported metal vessel sets as extensive as those of Hochdorf or Vix is similarly ambiguous. The pattern is suggestive. the Vix burial is right on the cusp of that transition). there are ways of transporting wine. Arafat & Morgan 1994. among whom the high-status consumption of wine seems to have been a commonplace social marker.

'Mead' is the stock metaphor. Austria. so that the honey used to produce the Hallstatt period mead was gathered from wild hives.9 When wine became more readily available in the areas farther from the Mediterranean sources as a result of increased trade. This is not to say that mead and plain beer were not drunk by late Hallstatt elites. This is indicated by the relative frequency with which all three beverages are mentioned in the Gododdin (which relates events c.56. have been a sumptuary restriction that did not apply in reverse. The 'jars like spouted cups' described here are probably Etruscan-inspired Schnabelkannen. 550 BC (about 400 years before Poseidonius' time) was mead. Mead and wine are the drinks most commonly cited in the Gododdin. but the same idea is sometimes expressed of other drinks (Jackson 1969. and whose memory would be disgraced if he were killed and they had not died fighting to save him. . 36).10 Wine never completely replaced mead or beer in Celtic society. served in. it appears to have replaced mead as the elite drink of choice. 151 E^152 D: Tierney 1960.35). and although the ones found in graves are primarily of bronze. while 'plain' beer was drunk by the rest of the population. Wine consumption by non-elites may. when we promised our lord who gave us these arm-rings that we should repay him for our war-equipment if ever straits like these befell him' (Jackson 1969. a bodyguard of picked and trained professional warriors whose special task it was to defend him in battle with their lives. The trenchers on which they serve the food are also of these materials..103.85.19). At the time of the Hochdorf chieftain honeyed beer or mead could have been the beverage reserved for elites and consumed on special occasions. Marne. as feasting in the great hall was the supreme form of this. The dynamics of such chiefly or aristocratic societies have parallels both in ethnographic descriptions and in the world of the Norse sagas (Sherratt 1995.e. Jackson points out the similar part played by mead in Anglo-Saxon heroic poetry.154. . This continuity can be traced through the material culture related to feasting in the Celtic world. a time-consuming and potentially dangerous activity. p. AD 600). forming alliances and securing the following of his own warrior band. particularly mead. or are woven or wooden baskets' (Athenaeus IV 36. however. while others they [sic] are made of bronze.. Athenaeus mentions servers bearing around the drink in 'terracotta or silver jars like spouted cups.. France. In return for this professional military service. We may assume a status division by Poseidonius' day in the different kinds of alcohol and the vessels from which they were imbibed. the lord supplied them with board and lodging. it is summed up metaphorically as their 'mead' . My suggestion is that intoxicating beverages were probably subject to the same rules of exclusivity as the containers they were stored in. i. Jackson discusses the role of mead in the heroic poetry of Dark Age Britain: 75 . wine would have been too costly for the average person to afford. Several centuries later. . several Classical authors describe the equipment used by the Celts at their banquets. presents. ..52. however. not wine. and drunk from. malt and ale are also mentioned (Jackson 1969. the change in drinking equipment corresponds to a change in what was being consumed by the aristocracy as a status beverage. 247). ceramic 'spouted jars' are known from: • Durmberg Graves 34. Bees were not domesticated until considerably later. but bragget. 37). the common folk could drink anything but the current status beverage and the aristocracy could drink anything they liked. and must therefore be considered an integral part of Early Iron Age elite material culture. and.Alcohol and the Legitimation of Power in Celtic Europe Yet the congealed liquid preserved in the bottom of the great bronze cauldron (also of Mediterranean manufacture) found in the spectacular Late Hallstatt burial of Hochdorf c.8 In other words. I would argue that the similarities between Celtic feasting and Homeric Greek or Norse commensality are functionally linked to social organization. Sherratt makes essentially the same point in his description of Homeric Greece: . weapons. For example. . 71. access to wine and the ability to provide ostentatious feasts were important levers of political power: the Homeric hero 'feasts at equal feasts'. wine was being served from Etruscan bronze vessels and drunk from the imported Attic kylikes found in early La Tene elite burials in the north. a king or chief supported at his court a 'warband' or 'retinue'. Even without such sumptuary restrictions. and mead produced with honey was probably not an everyday drink either. • Poix Grave 41. and the rest. it is clear from the literature that all three beverages continued to be consumed. whereas the similarities between late Hallstatt feasting and that described in the insular literature are due to a fundamental cognitive continuity. and quotes a warrior in Beowulf: T remember the time when we used to accept mead in the banqueting-hall.

Drinking horns were another important item in the arsenal of Celtic drinking equipment. so that there was not a man of a half-bally in Ulad that did not come there . 3. vol. . She gave a share (of cheese) to every three' (1888. in three divisions. three large basins or serving trays and nine plates of bronze were found in the Hochdorf burial. and three months for his Three.15 It takes Carpre Cathead and his fellow conspirators three half years to prepare their feast in Morand's Fiirstenspiegel. a human banquet. and the length of time required to consume the provisions laid before the company are a constant theme in the Irish and Welsh literature. Germany.3) Fintan's banquet. so that the allowance of a hundred of food and ale reached every nine of them (Hennesy 1889. is similarly lavish. Germany (Haffner 1972). all in BadenWiirttemberg. in Kappel Grave 2 (Kimmig & Rest 1954. Baskets have been found in a secondary burial in the Rauher Lehen tumulus (Bittelef ah 1981. Provisions for food and ale were poured out for them. which are frequently mentioned' (1969.b. described in the same poem. 491). a demon banquet' (Senchus Mor. 13). Grave 23. Mael Duin and his company 'sleep an intoxication of three days and three nights' during their visit to the lofty island (Stokes 1888. In the Mabinogi it takes Owein three years to prepare the banquet in 'Question: How many banquets are there? Answer — honour of Arthur's arrival.. Multiples of three as a means of describing the preparations for a banquet. The extent of the banquet was a hundred vats of every kind of ale. . Wooden or basketry vessels certainly existed. Conor's officers said that all the nobles of Ulad would not be too many to partake of that banquet because of its excellence. the numbers of guests. we find the following description of Conor's regal generosity as reflected in his feasts: A year was the province thus. 204-22).14 The discussion which follows attempts to test this theory against both the written and the archaeological evidence. A wooden bowl was found in Hundersingen Tumulus 4. and they spend nine nights feasting before the visiting Number symbolism and feasting in archaeology noblemen are murdered (there are. The allowance of meat and drink to officers 1901. Kimmig 1988. which Hennesy describes as 'the only story to be found in the existing remains of Irish literature. .262). three and literature conspirators) (Thurneysen 1929. In the Mesca Ulad. a godly banquet. and in Tumulus 1 of the Geigerle cemetery (Keefer 1977. 152 D-F: Tierney I960. Rheinland-Pfalz.19).12 The 'vats filled with expensive liquor' described by Athenaeus in his account of 'the wealth of Lavernius. 487). naturally. they were too poorly preserved to say). 248) undoubtedly resembled the huge bronze cauldron from the Hochdorf burial (total capacity 500 litres) or the even larger Vix krater. although other vessels types are also used. Jackson notes that the banqueters described in the Goddodin 'drank chiefly out of horns. iv). Baden-Wiirttemberg. Eight of the nine drinking horns from the Hochdorf burial were of horn (possibly aurochs or some other species of cattle. 34). • and the Heuneburg.company and Arthur's to consume it (Gantz 1976. 1865. the material culture of drinking and feasting seems to have remained remarkably constant for about 1100 years in two different parts of the Celtic world. 384). As if only a company of nine had reached the place — so were they attended.Bettina Arnold • Sien. p. • the Hellbrunnerberg in Austria. and also rife with number symbolism: The Ulidians arrived to the festive assembly. (Hennesy 1889. . In conclusion. Given the ritual as well as socio-politi76 . father of Bituis. until the feast of Samhain was made by Conor in Emain-Macha. in Hennesy et al. in Grave 6 of the Hohmichele tumulus (Riek 1962. we would expect this pattern to be reflected in the material culture of feasting as well. for example. At the island of the brazen fortress they are refused entrance twice: "Then they saw before them in the house a couch for Mael Duin alone and a couch for every three of his people . 1985). but these are rarely recovered from Early Iron Age contexts owing to problems of preservation. and each one held about 1. especially multiPowell as follows: 'The Penteulu: his allowance is ples of three. Celtic society is characterized by a heavy and attendants at the court of Ancwyn is quoted by emphasis on number symbolism. 92). 65).11 Bronze 'trenchers' or basins are known from most wealthy chieftains' graves of the continental Celtic Iron Age. cal significance of drinking in Celtic society. who was dethroned by the Romans' (Athenaeus IV 37.1 litres (Biel 1982a. the chief feature of interest in which is based upon the result of a drunken revelry' (1889.13 Such quantities of liquor would indeed have taken even a company of hard-drinking Celts several days to consume. They were ringed with gold and bronze bands (which is why they could be identified and recovered). the quantity of food and drink consumed. 209).

three equal chiefs bounding forward together. Three in fight. who was writing in the period 270-260 BC. or perhaps a chieftain's entourage or retinue traditionally consisted of eight others besides himself. but a few pas. Patrick says to Caeilte. It may be that in the fully equipped chieftain's burial. the curvilinear triskele. like five. two of these chariots before her. often of gold. They argue that multiples of three men. or goblets of crystal and gold?' And Caeilte answers that 'the number of the horns that were in my lord's house was as follows — twelve drinking horns and 300 made of gold .148). Nine men might have been required for a quorum.). easily(?)' (Jackson 1969. .193). multiples of three were also meant to represent a symbolic or actual number of guests or followers. On the other hand. known as \he galloglassf also fought in groups of three. one of the most common elements in late Iron Age design. and a boy to cook for them.k sages are of ethnographical interest. There are numerous examples from other sources (triple-headed deities. in hardship. multiples of three have both rhetorical and symbolic significance. only the chieftains are numbered and elegized. had both military and magico-religious significance in Celtic culture: Irish literature abounds with 'companies of nine'. Two other examples are the nine plates from the elite burial of Corminboef. is an obvious example from the decorative arts. and two chariots at either side. The galloglass fighting unit consisted of the fighter.223). 'it has been described as the northern counterpart of the sacred seven of Near Eastern cults' (1961. they routed the enemy bitterly. The poet was obviously concerned less with historical accuracy than with traditionally auspicious number configurations. 'Good Caeilte. etc. English) armies at Catterick/Catraeth as late as AD 600. were there drinking horns. they slew .).. There is no doubt that the number three and its multiples had magico-religious significance for Celtic peoples (Ross 1986. This configuration was probably an extremely ancient one.77-82). symbolized the whole (Rees & Rees 1961. given the fact that almost all other chieftains' graves from this period were disturbed before excavation. and nine men in particular (3 x 3). is described as follows: Tt was his custom to attack in front of nine champions in the presence of the battle-shout of the army. It may simply be a coincidence that the Hochdorf chieftain had nine drinking horns hanging on the walls of his burial chamber and nine plates with three serving basins stacked up on his fourwheeled wagon. In the literature.196) axe at a time when the axe was no longer commonly used as an offensive weapon (Patterson pers. three battle-peers. or cups. . Switzerland (Drack 1989. three bold horsemen. a groom. 123). indicated by the galloglass preference for the battle 77 Drinking horns. The triangle is its geometric counterpart in Early Iron Age ceramics and metal work. 'The Colloquy of the Ancient Men'. tripods. called a 'spar'. and two behind. according to Rees & Rees. One of these is the description of St Patrick's encounter with the remnants of the Fenian bands and their account of their wanderings in Agallamh na Senorach. the total number of Mynyddog's forces might have been anything up to three thousand (Jackson 1969. and to provoke them' (Jackson 1969. comm. 15). He describes the Celtic battle-custom called trimarcisia in which two servants of a mounted cavalry-man provide him with remounts or take his place in battle. Cynddilig of Aeron. and her own chariot in the middle between them'.192). This is strikingly illustrated in a description of Medb's mode of travel in Tain Bo Cuailgne (The Cattle Raid of Cooley): 'and nine chariots with her alone. Their main interest is historical. in the houses in which you dwelt in before our time. and in a considerable number of cases it is made clear that the nine consist of a leader and eight others [my emphasis]. and the eight small cists and one large bucket from the elite burial of Kappel am Rhein (Dehn 1979). Another passage from the same poem describes a fighting configuration of three champions: 'Three lords wearing gold torques.. Nine. one of the champions elegized in the Gododdin. but it is the close association between this number in the archaeological record and drinking and feasting in the literature which is intriguing. appear frequently in the early Irish tales.16 Significantly. and the number 300 as a multiple of three conforms to the rhetorical pattern and symbolism of the poem. (Tierney I960. The Briton war chief Mynyddog reportedly led 300 picked chiefs or 'knights' into battle against the Saxon (i. it is possible that multiples of three were common in the drinking and serving vessel sets placed in Iron Age burials of wealthy individuals.Alcohol and the Legitimation of Power in Celtic Europe three messes and three hornfulls of the best liquor that there shall be in the house' (1888. There is some evidence from both the Classical sources and Celtic literature for this: The accounts of the invasion of Greece and the attack on Delphi by the Gauls in Pausanias and Justin are thought to be derived from Hieronymous of Cardia. The number nine is one of the most important multiples of three in Celtic tradition. The medieval Scots mercenaries in Ireland.e.123).

.23). whenever they came to the pouring out the quantity of liquor they held was immense' (Ross 1986.. The importance of a fair was proportionate to that of the king who presided over it. satirists. a feast by day' (Hennesy et al 1865-1901. an activity in which only marginal individuals like those listed (lewd persons. vol. only two gold drinking horn terminals were found in the early La Tene Kleinaspergle burial near Stuttgart (Jacobsthal 1944. The distinction made between the demon and the human banquets is important because it indicates that any excessive consumption of alcohol and food in large groups by 'sons of death and bad men' (Hennesy et al 1865-1901. vol. vol. when Kei counsels him 'not to abandon the custom of the court for this lad's sake': 'Not so. 1963). Binchy discusses the system of reciprocity in pre-Christian Ireland at some length (1936. jesters.139). but the basic elements of obligation exist in any society where patron-client relationships define social interaction. 3. and there was an elaborate programme of public business and entertainment (Binchy 1958. horse racing.Bettina Arnold be attended by tribesmen from these petty kingdoms also . Only son of Kian from the transmontane country long as others come to us. viz. He afforded a bright example. harlots and bad people in general) would engage. 1941. the 'godly banquet'. to whom the rulers of several tuaths owed allegiance. (The Gododdin ofAneurin Cwawdrydd: Powell 1888. Awareness of such a pattern might serve to stimulate reanalysis of previously excavated material. 3. that multiples of three had particular significance in Celtic art. held in the neighbourhood of the chief stronghold and attended by all the tribes of the province. From several statements in the laws (e. 25). 1958. Culhwch insists. 25) gathered for purposes of debauchery was considered taboo. and feasting customs as early as the Late Hallstatt period. besides the exchange of goods and the holding of games. he was a golden torque wearer. and the gatekeeper goes to complain to Arthur. . he was a courteous warrior. who replies.17). who tells him 'Knife has gone into meat and drink into horn. given the pattern of horns from the Hochdorf burial. and there is a throng in Arthur's hall. and the more gifts we distribute the greater will be our reputation and fame and glory' [my emphasis] (Gantz 1976. 158. i. or the significance of number symbolism in drinking equipment was not constant through time on the Continent. no one may enter' (Gantz 1976. heathens. mountebanks. Either there were seven additional horns made of perishable material without metal decoration in this grave. Hence a fair held by an over-king. Most important of all was the provincial fair. He led a hundred men. to which his (the tenant's) deserts entitle him. . . The obligation of the chieftain to his vassal lords is illustrated in the following passage from the Mabinogi when Culhwch arrives at King Arthur's court and is refused entrance by the gatekeeper. good Kei. Jackson 1969. This type of banquet. On the other hand. a feast without ale. The reciprocal nature of the relationship between a chieftain and his warrior nobles was subtle but clear. There is little doubt. it was an obligation. handsome and gorgeous. a banished knight. outlaws. part of the relationship between a man of high status and the men who put him in a position of authority. Clearly caution is indicated when analyzing such a fragmentary material record. is described as being 'given for earthly obligation' (Hennesy et al 1865-1901. 139). as distinct from the recreational 'demon banquet'17 and its antithesis. The association of multiples of three with drinking horns in this passage is suggestive. He poured out wine. including important lawsuits between different kindreds and the issue of special ordinances was transacted . a supper with ale. Excepting the king of a lawful dominion or a craftsman who brings his craft. might 78 .124-5). 21).103). 106). the 'public business' of the tuath. 3. Binchy is describing a much more centralized and politically stratified society than probably existed during most of the pre-Roman Iron Age. 3. Finn had. He was a sent offspring. buffoons. vol. it lasted several days. Crith Gablach) it is clear that the king of each tribe was bound to convene an oenach at regular intervals.e. and that was maintained' through a redistributive mechanism which was centred around the 'human banquet' of the Senchus Mor: 'What is the human banquet? The banquet of each one's feasting house to his chief according to his (the chief's) due. At such gatherings. 1865-1901. his sovereignty depended on their support. The generosity expected of a model chieftain was more than just a desirable quality. however. military configurations. We are noble men so The role of the oenach: redistribution and reciprocity When he went forth in the country his praise went before.g. and various athletic competitions. 'a banquet for which another is given in return' (Hennesy et al.

Here is a paragon among chieftains. Now each in turn was brought up to that cauldron and everyone was given a fork-thrust of it. Occasionally revolts were staged or attempts made on the life of the most powerful individual present at such a gathering. And remarkably wise. Renowned overwhelmed Affluence he provided. and every due share besides. They all listened to him. and customs. and their eulogies were chanted for them.. to wit. vol. and families. Senchas clapped his hands. 25). 'Give ye. blood or both) is best illustrated by instances of a breakdown in the system. now. and arts. a chine for a literary sage. . and their poesies. This passage is one of the oldest in the Senchiis Mor. 275-9). heads for charioteers. again the Mesca Ulad: When they were merry. Distributors came to distribute. where various vassal groups 'fasted' against the king/chieftain and threatened supernatural sanctions against anyone attending the oenach in order to get the compensation due them (1958. And from the Gododdin. with a view to the fair holding of the banquet. and valuables. A minister of mead he would be.19 In return for services rendered. . Red gold he deserves. The function of a feast as a reaffirmation of an individual's relative ranking in the group is symbolically represented by the coire aisicain or ansirc. through the medium of feasting and giftgiving.20 the chieftain is praised for his generosity at the end of a feast. the eulogy for Eidol. Wherefore in that assembly his proper due fell to each (Stokes 1891. who has 79 been generous to you. is a good example of such a temporary breakdown caused by violation of the obligatory generosity and gift-giving required of the model chieftain: There was great dissatisfaction among the vassal farm tribes of Ireland during the time of the three Irish kings . the model ruler. . because it used to return and to deliver to every company their suitable food. The vassal farmers were discontented with the pow- . your blessing on the Prince who has protected you. and their harmonies were played.206). The mead and wine were divided By this knight of the battlefield In small measures . the ideal leader of men. 3. also described by Athenaeus.. Coups were frequent occurrences (Binchy 1958. So then his proper portion came out to each. Their lays. and jewels.. The political significance of maintaining this balance. which supports the contention that although drinking behaviour as recorded in the laws has obviously been modified by the influence of Christianity18 (the godly banquet is described as given 'for heavenly reward') (Hennesy et ah 1865-1901.49). according to grades. He gave protection FroTn the violence of a foe (Powell 1888. it also served to rank his followers according to their relative status within the uppermost echelon. And shelter he rendered. 'cauldron of restitution'. Their music.119). . It is not a hand in a poor garnered field. And rewards he gave for song. and treasures were distributed to them (Hennesy 1889. Plentiful are food and ale for you with the Prince who has protected you' (Hennesy 1889.. son of Ner: Eidol was a man Of the best conduct. Binchy discusses the frequent cases of 'hinderings' at feasts. a haunch for queens.. This practice. Pre-eminent he was. described in Morands Fiirstenspiegel. And this is why it was called coire aisic.Alcohol and the Legitimation of Power in Celtic Europe The fact that these individuals are 'outside' society is significant and emphasizes the role of the banquet or feast as a mechanism for enforcing and maintaining social order.. a shinbone for young lords. which is described as follows in 'Cormac's Adventure in the Land of Promise': It was a cauldron of this kind that used to be of old in every hostel of the royal hostels of Erin. The revolt of Carpre Cathead and his fellow conspirators. The human banquet not only strengthened and reinforced the bond between a chieftain and the warrior nobles in his retinue. between the chieftain and his dependents (who could be of paramount status within their own domains and as such were a real threat to each other and to the chieftain to whom they were usually bound by necessity. is well illustrated in the following passage from the Mesca Ulad: His drinking house was afterwards arranged by Conor according to deeds. a thigh to a king and to a poet. and parts. Possessor of mead . it is clearly an ancient institution. Great and immeasurable was the burden of taxation and the size of the tribute and the pressure of domination under the three kings.117). . and cup bearers to deal and door-keepers for door-keeping. and their minstrelsy.13). .

. that is. The were drunk his men stormed the place and seized flaw of most cultural ecological and materialist exthe four usurpers. wealth can be and ordered his men to follow. feasting and gift-giving were probably imporupheaval. in the Bruiden of Mac-da-Reo in Brefne. company for a feast and the right to rule is clearly 80 . Clients and exHeuneburg hillfort.Bettina Arnold erful servitude which oppressed them. 22 and led Cu Choingelt to the house where the four In societies dominated by what Lenski has called murderers were holding a feast for their inauguration as lords of the territory.249). Dillon describes a similar attempted coup in Caithreim Cellaig which cannot get the feast. or of his working party. to the making of his dun (the capital site of a late Hallstatt/early La Tene Carpre Cathead leading chieftain). One of the problems with using the later While I would not like to make too much of this Celtic literature from the British Isles as a source of analogy. those supplies were cut off. Their followers were slain beplanations of redistributive systems (the Northwest fore their eyes. and by the time the slaughter is over a new had already been promised to the assembly. In the Mabinogi. He went disguised the 'redistributive ethic' (1966. the symbol of sovereignty. In fact. The secondary elites who most likely constituted the chiefly retinues were Blair Gibson has translated one of the passages then in a position to challenge the ruling or primary dealing with this form of obligation from the Senchus elites for their failure to live up to their end of the Mor as follows: 'Manual labor. so that the kingship would be with themselves. but Cu Choingelt bade the assemCoast potlatch is a good example) is their neglect of bled guests continue the feast. the feast belonged to her and as well. And this then was the decision which they made: to organize a feast in the house of Carpre Cathead. 65. Since he ruling class has seized power. Put more succinctly. a man for all social contract. (Thurneysen 1929. the insular literature helps us tended kin relations23 probably made up the labour colour in the largely monochrome picture we have pool of these Irish Late Iron Age elites. Gwawl consents to wait a year-and-a-day for ends in death for the would-be usurpers: Rhiannon. i. Rhiannon rescues Pwyll by stating that while she is Pwyll's to give (and Pwyll had promised Gwawl 'anything7 in a fit of The mead flows freely at the banquet. the evident breakdown of social order docuworking hypotheses for Early Iron Age social ormented in the archaeological record c. be dependent on such imports (through the mechain which a client owes his aristocratic patron labour nism of redistributive feasting along the lines of the oenach). When all within given to others to send a variety of messages. and by the impressive burial mounds characteristic of the Early The connection between the right to assemble a Iron Age. then internal revolt may have resulted once in the construction and maintenance of cashels and raths. and to invite their overlords to the feast there and to murder them. The region. and one of of events on the Continent. . and by the hardship of their service . 55-G). Pwyll is on the verge of celebrating his marriage to Rhiannon when his rival Gwawl appears on the scene and demands her and the feast. 400 BC in the ganization on the Continent is its overemphasis on West Hallstatt area (marked by the abandonment of the heroic warrior construct at the expense of most the 'Fiirstensitze' and Tiirstengraber' of the late other forms of dependent relationships. for example. Trade routes to the south were disrupted tant means of communicating rank and status by the shift of Greek trade from Massalia to Spina as relationships between individuals and groups bethe main port. 308). a successful inauguration feast was a prerequisite for leadership status. If political stability in this area had come to Irish legal texts also discuss this form of obligation. the residences of the early Irish elites. drinkHallstatt period) might be due to a similar internal 21 ing. or a conspiracy to overthrow the clan chieftain on the his hosting with him' (1990. This also stopped the flow of feasting yond the chieftain and his entourage. and the blood prenuptial generosity). While there probably was never a services. At the very least it prothe mechanisms for gathering such a labour pool vides a series of scenarios from a related cultural was the work-party feast. Relationships and responcontext which may help us to understand the arsibilities of this sort are implied by the fortification chaeological record. systems of hillforts like the Heuneburg. for he knew they this multivocality (my emphasis) of the food and gift were his friends (1946. Dietler's disequipment and possibly imported alcoholic bevercussion of the work-party feast offered by elites in ages from the Mediterranean to the West Hallstatt exchange for labour is a good example (1990).e. that is the dun. items which serve as a mode of communication (Kan 1989. by which time another wedding feast will The swineherd provided food for all the company be ready (Gantz 1976. translated from the German). illustrated by the three examples from the insular literature cited above. 165).

a weddingceremony took the form of a feast or symposium. alcohol was the vehicle by means of which divine sanction was transferred to the mortal individual being established in a position of power. for she it was who would not allow a king in Tara without his having herself as a wife' (Rees & Rees 1961. who was the arbiter of this transfer of power to a new earthly vessel. Binchy. When Niall asks her 'What art thou?'. In effect. who will grant each brother in turn use of the well only on condition that he kiss her. it was sovereignty in her role as earth goddess. An Etruscan situla from Sanzeno is decorated with scenes which combine fertility symbolism (men with oxen ploughing a field. As the Reeses so succinctly put it. whereupon the hag turns into a beautiful woman. and. indicating the significance of this association in Etruscan symbolism. Was the symbolic mating of two people (or of a male elite individual and a female goddess or goddess-substitute)." embodied in the epics by the king's wife.11). If alcohol was the medium or vehicle by which kingship was passed on to each new ruler. and acknowledges the possible connection with a 'sacred wedding' (Eibner 1981. lord. 262 & 268). The distribution of alcohol as a means of maintaining kingship or sovereignty was one aspect of Celtic * drinking practices. as in ancient Wales. women. 'lord.). There are numerous examples of this connection in the literature.15). Brian. I am Sovereignty'. depicted on the Sanzeno situla a concept shared by these two cultures. she was the wife of nine of the Kings of Ireland in succession. banfeis) with the local earth goddess (1946. Intriguing hints of this symbolic mating are found also in the archaeological record of the continental Iron Age. 'Sovereignty is a bride. Dillon. Fichra. hence the Irish name for the ceremony. A good example is the story of Niall of the Nine Hostages and his four stepbrothers. or with the fact that the representations themselves are found on vessels used to serve alcoholic beverages. guarded by a monstrous black hag.73-4). They come across a well. 114ff. Each of Medb's husbands became King of Ireland. 268). Alcohol also served the purpose of establishing an insular chieftain. lord-ship'. we may suppose that this part at least of the ceremony originated in imitation of the religious wedding ritual performed at the inauguration of kings (O'Rahilly 1946. Eibner interprets the scenes as associated in some way with fertility rites (Eibner 1981. Several Irish tales associate drinking.26 Another example can be found in the Irish epic the Tain. O'Rahilly shows that the ancient inauguration ritual of the kings of Tara and Connacht amounted to a symbolical mating (feis. she replies 'King of Tara. If so. Such situlae are occasionally found in Hallstatt contexts through trading links between Etruria and the Hallstatt centres (Bonfante 1981). 'liquor' andflaith. or king through its consumption by the new ruler at his inauguration ceremony or banais rigi. Aillil and Fergus. Could this be a figural representation of a banfeis in an Etruscan context? Representations which link erotic scenes with ploughing are also found on the Nesactium and Monte81 belluno situlae (Eibner 1981. The man and woman are being attended/ anointed by a figure holding a dipper in one hand and a situla in the other. literally 'wife-feast'. The fact that situlae are the drinking vessels most often depicted in these 'ritual' scenes25 makes the argument for a connection between drinking equipment and sovereignty in Early Iron Age west central Europe even more compelling. with the water she hands him. The brothers are given arms by a smith and sent hunting to prove themselves.24 Couches like those depicted in the Etruscan 'erotic' scenes also are found in high-status elite graves in the West Hallstatt area (Fischer 1990). and the etymological identity of Irish/7fl/7/j/lord. lord-ship' and Welsh gwlad. It is likely that in pagan times the acceptance by the bridegroom of a draught of liquor handed to him by the bride signified mutual consent to the marriage. 75). banais or banfeiss. a man and a woman embracing on a couch) with drinking equipment. 'Great indeed was the power of Medb over the men of Ireland. or did the Hallstatt elites merely appropriate the trappings of this ritual without its content? The connections between the West Hallstatt and Etruscan centres during the Early Iron Age suggest the possibility that an inauguration ritual similar to that described in the Irish literature may have existed in both cultures. They all refuse except Niall. . wells and sovereignty. she gives him superiority over his brothers (Rees & Rees 1961. 'country' underline the fundamental nature of this aspect of insular Celtic kingship (Wagner 1975. 269 & 288 footnote 48) but does not link these activities with the drinking equipment in the same scene.Alcohol and the Legitimation of Power in Celtic Europe Laith/flaith: alcohol and sovereignty In ancient Ireland. O'Rahilly and a host of other scholars have explored the connections between laith and flaith and the role of the queen or earth goddess in the inauguration ritual. The rhyme words laith.

For each of the rulers of the five kingdoms. but the vat and the vessels and the staves remained with Conn (Dillon 1946. Similarly in Celtic burial rites. weapons and accoutrements necessary to the Otherworld where they would partake. and the drink itself (Rees & Rees 1961. literally 'drinking the feast' (1946. Unlike oenachs. The official name of the Assembly Hall of Tara was Tech Midchuarta. xxvi). who has brought Conn and his fellows to his mansion. the intoxicating one'. A vessel of gold stood beside her. Wagner records one such instance from the Tochmarc Emire [The Wooing of Einer]. Documentary references to the feasting equipment itself are also of interest in interpreting the archaeological evidence on the Continent. We are in effect given a list of kingdoms over which the hero of the poem has achieved dominion (1963. early November. for her name means 'alcohol. inauguration feasts seem to have been largely a matter of drinking (comol). wearing a gold crown. which appear to have combined eating and drinking in no particular order. the enor- mous iron vessel out of which Conchobar and his fellow Ulstermen used to drink' (1975.357). 14). Possession of the equipment necessary for feasting (and in the case of the Hochdorf chief82 . . or 'Good God'. in this context. Dillon.14). the consumption of ale or beer is a prescription.22). 76). He also presents the notion of ale or beer as the medium of this divinity in the following passage relating the five 'lucky things' (buada) of the king of Leinster: 'To drink by the light of candles of pure wax/in Dinn Rig for the famous king —/Safe is the lord of the hills by means of that —/the ale of Cualu. . 500 litres of mead to smooth the way to sovereignty on the Other Side) may have been the equivalent of a social status passport. 'The House of Mead Circling' (1986. not as their reward but as their right. the poet is referring to the figurative ale of sovereignty which is drunk at the 'wedding-feast' marking the inauguration of the tribal king. the 'iarn-gnalae . the Celtic New Year. The close relationship between kingship. When she went to serve the ale. who discusses the taboos of the kings of Ireland. the 'Dis Pater'. which are rarely mentioned in the insular literature: The Celtic chieftains were interred with all their personal insignia and trappings. offers to predict the number of Conn's offspring that will be kings of Ireland. Although cauldrons in the later literature tend to be mentioned in association with eating (in discussions of the king's or hero's portion. interprets the inauguration ceremony as an induction of the new chieftain into the realm of the Otherworld: 'The king was a personification of his people and was in some measure divine' (1951. The Phantom. equipped as warriors. for 'these semi-divine persons. 124). Cesarn (the/i/i) wrote them down in ogam on four staves of yew. there are several descriptions of large drinking vessels. for example). When he had named every Prince from the time of Conn onwards. of the Otherworld feast and continue an existence in no way markedly different from the one they had known in life (Ross 1967. This passage has interesting implications when considered in the light of the vessels from the Hochdorf burial and other Iron Age chieftains' graves. in Baile in Scail. 'divine ancestor god' and 'universal tribal god' of the Celts (Ross 1986. Along the same lines. 1) and the consumption and distribution of alcoholic beverages were at once a protection and a justification of that semi-divine status. games at Carman' (Dillon 1951.13). upon whom the welfare of the people depended. Medb in herself performs all three functions. For in every case. and before her was a golden cup' (Dillon 1946. had to be protected by magical devices' (Dillon 1951. Drinking vessels and the beverages served in them function as insignia and marks of elite status in the literature. with their chariots. and conjures up the spirits of future rulers who file past the girl one by one. 1). Ross cites a similar phrase used to describe the oenach of Tara: The term 'Drinking the Feast of Tara' was used to express the total feast of Tara which took place during the sinister season of Samain. tain. and the Phantom answered her. O'Rahilly emphasizes the wording of the phrase ic ol na fleide.Bettina Arnold the server of a powerful drink. It is as significant as the rest of the allegory that the drinking equipment from which the ale of sovereignty is offered to Conn's successors by the personification of Ireland remains with him as a symbol of his right to rule.72). Possession and 'consumption' of Medb/mead are therefore required for the accession of each new King of Tara. Then the Phantom and his house disappeared. Binchy sees the Scela Cano Meic Gartnain as far more than a mere catalogue of the ales drunk all over Ireland as well as among the Saxons and Picts. 13). In front of her was a silver vat with corners of gold. 'They saw a girl seated in a chair of crystal. she asked to whom the cup of red ale (dergflaith) should be given. divinity and metal drinking vessels is exemplified by the cauldron-bearing Dagda. Ireland is frequently depicted as a goddess in Irish thought and literature.

but also symbols of authority can be seen in the frequent references to horns in poetry as a symbol of kingship (my emphasis). of distributing their tasks in a way opposite to our custom. This disdain of different customs extended to 'barbarian' commensality as well. particularly clearly on the Cross of Scripture at Clonmacnoise (Doherty 1981. He quotes the Yellow Book of Lecan: 'Medb took the kingship of Connaught and adopted [my emphasis] Aillil into lordship and it is in Inis Clothrann that she consumed the laws of Connaught' (Wagner 1975. While this may have been the case at certain times and in certain regions. and there were 100 vats of every kind of ale in it. The horn is of ^ ivory with a brass mouthpiece and terminal. seem to suggest that women were not only participating in such feasting in the Celtic world. Medb and Aillil in the Tain). support Pauli's hypothesis. said Cuchulaind. has implications for the interpretation of high-status elite burials such as the Vix grave (Arnold 1991. Arianrhod. In the epics (for example.14). Some scholars argue that prehistoric Celtic society was matrilineal (Pauli 1972. and Bran.115-33). however. said Emer. 'the drinking horns of Chualand which are a symbol of sovereignty over the province' (Binchy 1963. Cooper and Morris describe a case from Classical Greece in which 'a witness testifying to the appearance of a woman at a symposion helps eliminate her claim to citizenship' (1990. This whimsical design concept is common in Celtic metal work. said Emer. and its stand is formed by a brass band supported on two brass legs ending in webbed duck's feet. generalizations are obviously not possible.27 Drinking horns as status objects in exchange and trade were important in early medieval Ireland: That some of the gift objects are not merely luxuries. is one which is common to many other barbarian peoples' (Tierney 1960. 'because he is a king forever'.9) O'Rahilly in his turn refers us to the Tochmarc Emire 'where there is mention of the banais rigi made by Lug on his succeeding to the kingship after the death of Nuada' (1946. was still the basis of the Kavanagh family's claim to direct descent from the royal house of Leinster as late as the fifteenth century AD (Irische Kunst aus dfei Jahrtansenden 1983.269). Bran. 'Let it be made. then'. said Cuchulaind. they may in some cases have been able to host them in their own right. 'It is time to prepare his banquet of sovereignty for him now'. Similarly. The Kavanagh Charter Horn. Penarddun. 462). Drinking horns as symbols of sovereignty are a particularly good example of the continuity and conservatism through time and space of Celtic drinking practices and associated equipment. 1996).Alcohol and the Legitimation of Power in Celtic Europe Binchy also makes a point of the ciiirm chualand. The banquet was prepared. and Gwern. This sort of arrangement. and Lieu — suggest a system of matrilinear descent' (1976.185). 'Methinks'. 80). The fact that the Etruscans and Romans allowed their wives and daughters to participate in such gatherings was considered a manifestation of their 'lack of culture and immorality' (Murray 1990. Gantz discusses this issue in reference to the cycle of Welsh tales known as the Mabinogi: "The stress on sisters' sons in the northern branches of the Mabinogi — Beli.28 Strabo may be hinting at such a system also when he reports 'Their practice in regard to male and female. Don. He also discusses the ceremony in which Petta (or Gyptis) is espoused in the legend of the founding of Massalia. and in symbolic form in a chieftain's inauguration ceremony as documented in the Laws. This has implications for the interpretation of the nine drinking horns of the Hochdorf burial as well as those found in other Iron Age chieftains' graves.74).225). Math. they seem to have followed the Etruscan rather than the Greek practice of mixed gender feasts (Arnold ) Wagner comments on 'the female aspect of lordship' in which 'in Celtic tradition the inauguration of the king is symbolized by the offering of intoxicating liquor by the queen to her chosen king' (1975. it is through marriage that sovereignty is transmitted. The elite early La Tene female burials from the Rhineland. Dillon describes such a fled baindsi in Fled Duin Na Nged: 'The King (Domnall . 'Not sad. Feasting in the 83 Greek world was essentially an all-male activity. although clearly symbolic rather than historical in this context. Branwen. by her proffering a bowl of liquor to the man of her choice at the wedding feast (O'Rahilly 1946. In each case the arbiter of kingship is female.12). and Gwydyon.6). (Hennesy 1889. exhibited in Ireland and Germany as an outstanding piece of Celtic metal work. This suggests several possible interpretations. though it were so'. which contain elaborate sets of drinking vessels as well as gold ornament and other markers of extraordinarily high status. for example. 'Conor is now arch-king of Ulad'. The Mesca Ulad provides us with the following account of such an inauguration banquet: At this time a conversation occurred between Cuchulaind and Emer.15). Interesting hints in the literature and in the archaeological record do. 11). viz. They are also depicted on the high crosses. Gwydyon. Although the West Hallstatt elites made use of both Greek and Etruscan imports in the distribution and consumption of alcoholic beverages.

games and other figural scenes depicted on them are not found outside the area mentioned. from the East Alpine objects described by Kossack. often contain objects of wood. such as. the cauldrons and metalwork objects found at Carlingwark. 42-3. The kings of the provinces were bidden to that feast. were "dedicated" by a ceremony of this kind.. 99. 92). rectangular enclosures of varying size. and second. As I have attempted to show in the foregoing discussion. though the details may have varied from tribe to tribe' (1958. The early buckets and cauldrons (the Marlborough vat and the Aylesford bucket. with earthwork ramparts surrounding one or more deep shafts or wells sunk into the earth. The vessels decorated with figural ornament in the West Hallstatt area seem to have served a different purpose. The role of wells. first. among others). translated from the German). many of the Con- It is common knowledge that in ancient times the transcendental element played a role especially at the banquet. both manufactured c. who mentions the segais 'out of which the Irish poets (filid) drink their science' (1975. feasting.3). . The same is true in Britain: The archaeological evidence: conclusions What inferences can be drawn about prehistoric drinking behaviour from the connections between the consumption of alcohol. Schiek 1977. Since the various sheet metal objects functioned as grave goods. The archaeological correlates. son of Aed) went home and prepared a feast for his inauguration. belt plates and mirrors of this Hallstatt zone do not represent 'profane' activities. Murray 1996. While the article is useful as a compendium or inventory of bronze vessels from the British Isles. Bronze buckets and iron cauldrons are found in many of the wealthy graves of the Early and Late Iron Age together with assorted drinking paraphernalia (Spindler 1983. Hawkes & Smith's treatise (1957) on Bronze and Iron Age cauldrons and buckets. Kossack's study of drinking equipment focuses only on what he perceives to be the ritual aspects of drinking behaviour illustrated in the situla art of the North Italian and East Alpine areas. and seldom in burials as grave goods. springs and all other sources of ground water (including lakes and rivers) as entrances into the Otherworld is discussed in detail by Wagner. and Blackburn Mill in Scotland and the pony cap and horns found at Torrs in Kirkcudbright (Ross 1967. Planck 1985. some over 40 metres deep (Cunliffe 1979. it does not deal with the issue of their use or the nature of their role in Celtic society. for example. are good examples) were manufactured on the Continent (Hawkes & Smith 1957. he explains that 'what is meant here is probably not the sea but the bottom of the fresh water under the earth from which creation and fertility derive . and kingship in historic Celtic cultural contexts? Binchy provides a starting point when he states "There seems no reason to doubt that all kings in Ireland. but recent more systematic excavations have uncovered earlier wooden structures beneath the La Tene earthworks (Schwarz 1975. for example. are the enigmatic Viereckschanzen. and are suggestive of offerings made in water.. both in Britain and on the continent.Bettina Arnold under certain circumstances be paramount. I would remark. Kossack concludes that the scenes depicted on the situlae. the fact that they may have been used. or as votive deposits in rivers. Liquid and solid food may also have been offered at these places. with their petty chiefs and lords and soldiers and artists ordinary and extraordinary' (Dillon 1946. great and small. 50 BC. ceramic and other materials which may represent votive offerings. does not discuss drinking behaviour itself or its possible social functions or significance. it can at the very least be claimed that the images of combat and funeral feasting were produced in honour of the deceased (1964. as imports. that the belt plates and mirrors with feasting. These enclosures are generally dated to the Late La Tene period. Eckford. that the few metal vessels of indigenous manufacture with figural ornamentation in the West Hallstatt province are most often found in hoards. bogs. indeed. and should be considered separately from the standard drinking equipment found in West Hallstatt burials. its role in this context could 84 .31).59-60). It is strange therefore that no attempt has been made to formulate a social and functional interpretation of this group of objects. Furthermore. many of the integral aspects of insular drinking and feasting behaviour can be identified in continental Celtic cultures at least as early as the Late Hallstatt period. These shafts. That poets should seek the substance of their science in the same place is not unnatural' (Wagner 1975. quite possibly purely ritual. 214-15). 2).147). in indigenous drinking ritual suggests strong cross-Channel connections at least with regard to the consumption of alcoholic beverages.135). . Krause & Wieland 1993. but rather have a concomitant spiritual significance which is paramount: Other objects of a cult nature or significance have been recovered from wells.

and were in fact initially constructed to act as the site of a new clan chieftain's inauguration. Bradley has discussed the mutually exclusive nature of symbolic behaviours in prehistoric Europe (votive deposits vs. there may well be a thematic connection between sources of water as wells of inspiration and fertility and earthly vessels of liquor serving the same purpose. The consumption of food and drink at such inauguration rituals and subsequent community festivals can also be assumed. in this case that of a wheeled vehicle. Scottish chiefdoms before 1745 seem also to have been significantly dependent on the circulation of alcoholic beverages and other commodities within a complex system of fluidly structured clans whose fortunes and preeminence were fickle and subject to challenge (Dodgshon 1995). but also shared a special drinking ritual across significant geographic distances (1964. If. and subsequently served as meeting places for gatherings like the Irish oenach.129. The wagon or chariot as a status symbol has already been discussed. The link between drinking equipment in Iron Age burials and the relative position of the individual in society is also important. translated from the German).Alcohol and the Legitimation of Power in Celtic Europe tinental enclosures are located near Late Hallstatt tumulus cemeteries. was a fluid and shifting affair. it was probably derived from Near Eastern prototypes. Four-wheeled wagons in the Hallstatt period. two-wheeled chariots in the later La Tene period and beyond. 1985). But where this is the case. While no metal drinking vessels have been found in these shafts. and that such warriors belonged to a group which was not only united by a common conception of 'knightly' existence. for example. first by the Romans. as the site of clan chieftain inaugurations. a herd of boars fed on rich acorn mast. The boar is invoked as a symbol of bravery and courage five times in descriptions of battle prowess in the Gododdin (Jackson 1969. 1995).100. however. it was the fittings of a noble wagon' (Thurneysen 1929. elaborate disposal of the dead in mounds. In four out of the five instances it is specifically described as a wild boar. The mutual exclusivity of burial mounds and Viereckschanzen and the frequent proximity of Viereckschanzen to tumulus groups of the Hallstatt period support the idea that the Viereckschanzen also 85 represent lineage monuments. boars' tusks. especially given the changes brought about on the Continent in the course of the Late Iron Age.102. such a grave good set imbues a grave with extraordinary importance.103. then their frequent close proximity is less problematic. virility and nobility is well documented in the archaeological record of the Hallstatt period. with clans within tuaths rising to prominence and themselves being replaced by other clans over the decades.133 & 143). who have tended to interpret them as territorial markers. The fact that Viereckschanzen frequently appear within a few kilometres of one another has also puzzled researchers. Some of these power shifts occurred within a single generation (Byrne 1971. for example) (1984. they were intended to act as monumental Vessels' (complete with well shafts linking the participants to the Otherworld) for "the inauguration ritual of a new chieftain. One of Kossack's basic assumptions is that the inclusion of drinking equipment in an otherwise average wealthy grave is an indication of the special status of the individual thus interred: Of course not every male grave of the early Hallstatt period outfitted with a sword.66. In these cases one must assume that a form of social distinction is being represented. although at present the archaeological evidence for such activity is relatively scanty. some of the territories thus marked would have been very small indeed. either real or carved of other substances. seeming to indicate some continuity with earlier periods. Certain symbols of power and authority remained constant through both space and time in the Celtic world. translated from the German). are a good example of how the form of a status object might change while maintaining its essential significance. A passage from Morands Fiirstenspiegel lists three of these symbols of power and authority in its description of the noblemen slain by the peasant uprising: 'Noble was yonder brood of boars. Irish Celtic society. Patterson 1994. If Viereckschanzen were associated with inauguration rituals. are frequently found in burials as grave goods (Pauli 1975). horse trappings and a four-wheeled wagon included such a drinking vessel assemblage. and later by the in-migration of Germanic peoples. It was a herd of steers of good breeding. then landscapes which today preserve evidence of several such enclosures could be interpreted as socio-politically contested space (Murray 1996). It is likely that the qualities attributed to the . We should perhaps consider insular models again here. The fact that Viereckschanzen appear at a time when the archaeological evidence for lineage monuments in the form of large burial mounds is no longer found suggests that these two categories of monument may have played similar symbolic roles within Celtic social systems. The significance of the wild boar (Eber) as a symbol of power. If this interpretation is correct.

The 500 litre bronze cauldron would have been the focus of every gathering convened by this individual. and may have been more directly influenced by contact with the Etruscans (1988. Bulls or oxen are similarly important design motifs (Wells 1981.e. an emphasis on the consumption of large quanti- .5 litres. cuts of beef are rarely found in burials. This is well illustrated in the Tain by the defection of the bull Finnbennach to King Aillil's herd. When women do appear in Greek drinking and feasting scenes. 94) indicate that these gatherings were frequent and probably fairly boisterous affairs. of iron with gold and bronze bands. depicts women as active participants in the drinking and feasting activity.e. in part also because of their economic significance. He bases his arguments mainly on depictions of women and drinking practices in Greek and Etruscan art. stags. hawks and dragons (Jackson 1969. The model chieftain is supposed to be lavish not only in his distribution of liquor. This suggests that although the Celts imported Greek drinking paraphernalia and wine. The Greek symposium has occasionally been cited as the inspiration for Celtic import of Mediterranean wines from 600 BC. 41).1 litres each.132. Bulls are referred to seven times in the Gododdin (Jackson 1969. far from being a sign of dissolution — as maliciously stated by many Greek writers.137). "drinking cuirm'" (1975. however. astonished and scandalized at a custom quite foreign to the Greeks of Classical times — is a mark of social equality (1975. Wagner describes Aillil as follows: 'It is the king of whom we are told that he spends a third of the day oc ol chorma. for example. bears. wolves. The drinking equipment of the Hochdorf burial. Mediterranean writers make a point of their peculiarity. 129. Pallottino notes that in Etruria woman's place in society was remarkably high. 111. in fact. It is also significant that no food remains were found in the burial. Etruscan art. considering its significant representation in contemporary settlement contexts. Such objects were probably worn during life also. 329). Queen Medb. cunning. apparently equal to men in rank and status. no remains of food are known from the other Fiirstengrtiber with drinking equipment (1985. they appear in the passive role of servers. but Etruscan influence seems better supported by the archaeological evidence. swiftness and endurance — were somehow thought to be transferable through the tusks (and possibly other perishable body parts such as the tail or the hide) to the individual in the burial. 330). although faunal analysis from settlements shows cattle were clearly the most important source of meat in Early Iron Age diet (von den Driesch & Boessneck 1989. 55) i.Bettina Arnold wild boar — ferocity. for his personal drinking horn. five times that of the eight companion horns which hung on the south wall and 'only' held 1. 'refusing to be led by a woman' (Kinsella 1985. Celtic drinking behaviour and equipment can be linked to the Etruscans and the Greek colonies of the Mediterranean coast during the Hallstatt period. and only some of the equipment required for the Greek symposium seems to have been used in Celtic drinking (Dietler 1990. rather than mixed with water in the Greek fashion. and to the Roman world during the La Tene period.107. Pasquier discusses the role of women in drinking behaviour in those cultures with whom the Celts of west central Europe had contact. Pasquier regards this as evidence of a close affinity between Celtic and Etruscan drinking practices. eagles. 330-31). the patches and repairs in evidence on all of the serving equipment including the cauldron (Biel 1985. The Hochdorf chieftain is certainly represented as a great drinker in his burial chamber. for example. 12). i. oxen. for the amuletic qualities mentioned. their drinking practices varied significantly from those of their Greek contemporaries.137).79 The archaeological record itself provides us with some useful evidence in this discussion. singles out the Celtic practice of drinking wine neat. Diodorus. hung over his head on the wall of the chamber and had a capacity of 5. Unlike boar/pig. The apparent avoidance of beef in Early Iron Age mortuary contexts in the West Hallstatt area might repay closer examination. and certainly quite different from that of Greek women.30 It seems that the concept of 'drinking the feast'. serpents.136. and notes that a burial like that at Vix would have been impossible in a contemporary Greek context (1988. on the other hand.381-3). other animals which appear in descriptions of heroes are lions. but in his consumption of it as well. 140). and notes the absence of women as active participants in Greek feasting scenes (Pasquier 1988. The fact that women took part with 86 men in banquets. According to Biel.145 & 154). In the Irish epics the bull symbolized leadership and sexual preeminence. Bulls and wild boars are the most frequently invoked animals in the poem. The Greek symposium seems to have had very little or no influence on indigenous Celtic drinking practices. only the mead residue in the cauldron represented the Otherworld feast. invites comparison in several regards with the role of alcohol consumption we have shown in Celtic society. 94).

The production of alcoholic beverages may also have had implications for the construction of gender in European Iron Age societies. which must have represented a small fortune in the Early Iron Age world of the Hochdorf chieftain.Alcohol and the Legitimation of Power in Celtic Europe ties of alcoholic beverages with food a necessary but subordinate accompaniment. and it is therefore no surprise to find 87 the vessels used to serve it in ritual contexts in lakes. rather than feasting more generally. This suggests that the mead was not ready to drink at the time of the mortuary ceremony but was intended to settle and ferment after burial. The emphasis on 'a year and a day' as the time required to prepare a feast in the Celtic literature (Patterson pers. strengthens the link between alcohol consumption. It is unfortunate that we know so little about the actual production of alcoholic beverages during the European Iron Age. in which material objects carried metamessages about eschatology. In the Gododdin. perhaps even fear. It is also possible that some form of feast in the world of the living was timed by the survivors to coincide with the arrival and/or inaugural feast of the deceased in the Otherworld. One year after death was considered the ideal time for a Tlingit potlatch (Kan 1989. the participants negotiated their social and power relations as well as expressed their feelings and attitudes towards each other. trade. because it has been pointed out by O hEochaidh that 'they used to call poteen and the instruments connected with poteen-making by <hidden> terms' (1975. and key cultural values and structural principles. Alcohol temporarily transports the drinker beyond normal restraints. 349). which probably explains the Celtic practice of drinking before battle. for example. The absence of recoverable food remains in the Hochdorf grave (though implements for processing large cuts of meat were included). some of which were actually produced on the spot after the chieftain's death (Biel 1985). According to the results of the pollen analysis. for example. for it would be interesting to discover if a respect. Inspiring when imbibed in moderation. The mood-altering nature of alcoholic beverages themselves also must be considered. wells and springs as well as burials. This makes it probable that the mead in the cauldron was intended as one more in the array of status markers in the burial. 23). If beermaking was traditionally a female occupation (and there is documentary evidence to suggest this) the production of alcoholic beverages should be viewed as a female parallel to the male transformative magic of the smith. Perhaps this was the length of time required for the preparation of an 'inaugural' feast in the Otherworld. warfare. applied in Early Iron Age times as well.181) and the son of Nwython is described as 'a mead-fed hero with a large heart' (Powell 1888. of an essential element: in the one instance fire and iron ore. The multiple signification of drinking and feasting equipment and its socio-political function in Tlingit society may provide a parallel here: The exchange of potlatch food and gifts was a rich and complex system of communication. The cauldron contained large quantities of beeswax (88 g) and pollen in high concentrations. 182).209) Celtic drinking and feasting customs may have served similar ends. Medel 'drank transparent wine/Designing to excel in fight' (Powell 1888. Using the artifacts circulating in the potlatch system.31 This discussion has identified three primary functions of the drinking cult. power. existing in a mutually supportive network: 1) alcohol in its ideo-political manifestation as the vehicle of kingship in the inauguration ceremony of the chief or king. Wagner briefly discusses the magical nature of alcohol. comm. in the other water and grain. Both processes involve a change in the nature. and rank as well as success in subsistence activities. alcohol as such must have been imbued with special qualities. specifically whiskey: 'As a matter of fact uisce beatha could be a taboo word. and "sovereignty in this sixth-century BC context. (Kan 1989. at least in contexts such as the Otherworld feast. grapes or honey. rivers.121-2). since it would take the deceased that long to find his or her way to the Otherworld village.) may shed some light on the significance of the unfermented mead buried with the Hochdorf chieftain. 3) alcohol in its ideological manifestation as an emblem of sovereignty in the complex of status markers meant to accompany a chieftain into the Otherworld. both in prehistoric and early . together with the presence of a quantity of mead. was associated with the production of alcohol similar to that often ethnographically documented for the profession of iron working. 2) alcohol in its socio-political manifestation as the means of maintaining the chiefly prerogatives through feasting and the distribution of liquor among the warrior elites and clients as an incentive and reward for service. so it follows that it was not meant to be drunk by the dead man in the Otherworld until that period of time had passed. or 'magical' transformation. destructive when over-indulged in. the quantity of mead in the cauldron would have required a year to ferment sufficiently to be consumed (Korber-Grohne 1985.

in addition to the usual trappings of a wealthy Iron Age individual. The hypotheses presented here suggest interesting avenues for further research. 92-3). Brazil. the symbolic associations of food and water have been extended to the vessels which are used for them. 4. This was particularly true in Celtic society. where communal feasting served to rank individuals in relation to one another while confirming and strengthening existing relationships of dependence and dominance. serving as a social lubricant while simultaneously communicating messages of membership and exclusion. Notes 9. Drinking equipment is not found in every wealthy Iron Age burial. I would like to thank one of the anonymous reviewers for bringing this point to my attention. together with the Fiirstengrtiber (Biel 1985. is an gage in social drinking differentiate between alcoholic exception.32 This discussion has presented evidence for a connection between Celtic drinking and feasting equipment and sovereignty or political control over others. 97). to a comparatively rare resource. . brew several different types of 2. 5. It follows that this artefact complex must have particular significance beyond the obvious display of wealth.25). which certainly contributes to their archaeological over-representation. including an especially large metal storage vessel. Drinking vessels made of perishable materials such as wood or horn would be less likely to survive. honey is unlikely to have been sufficiently plentiful [during the European Bronze AgeJ to sustain an alcoholic tradition on its own . 8. such as pottery. The serving vessels are made of pottery or metal. but it is conjecture based on abundant ethnographic evidence. Mead was an expensive. a second field of reference being derived from the material from which the vessels are made (1982. The shifting of medium from a common resource.14-16) cites examples of low castes being punished for appropriating object assemblages considered the exclusive property of upper castes. 3. The next step would be to examine the regional and temporal distributions of burials of this description to determine 1) whether the hypothesis is supported by the archaeological evidence available. and the discussion of archaeoproduced for ritual purposes. Most societies that en1. The question of which first came to be proscribed by sumptuary regulations in the Early Iron Age. . may have helped to preserve the contrast between elites and non-elites through their differential access to wealth and power (Miller 1982. Lady with a Mead Cup.8). Residue analyses of bronze vessel contents have confirmed this (Kimmig 1988). elite drink' (1995. In India. and 2) if so. Enright's recent study. and the wine trade was undoubtedly a mainstay of the ancient Mediterranean economy in Greek and Roman times' (1995. Sherratt also makes this point: 'Much of the traffic of prehistoric times must have involved organic substances (even though these are less prominent in the archaeological record than durable items like stone axes or bronze ornaments). The Matis of western logical evidence is the weakest part of the book (1996). for example. This is conjecture.95). what this might tell us about territorial boundaries and the size and organization of population groups in the Early Iron Age. including a provision prohibiting the use of metal as compared to ceramic vessels. Kossack's religious interpretation of Hallstatt iconography has been contested by Alexandrine Eibner (1981). as the material record and the literature attest. but he focuses primarily on the Late Iron beverages consumed on an everyday basis and those Age and later periods. The sharing of food and drink has deep social and often religious significance in many cultures. whose discussion of the symbolism on situlae is more convincing than the comparison with the Tammuz festival proposed by Kossack. See Sherratt on this subject: 'Although valuable as a sugar supplement. Miller adds that not surprisingly. such as sweet and maintaining status in this society. Srinivas (1966. and it is not surprising that the balance between the chieftain and his warrior elites maintained through drinking ritual should temporarily vanish from the archaeological record. By the late Hallstatt period at least it is likely that both the vessels and the consumables served in them were governed by such regulations. 7.Bettina Arnold historic times. The arguments developed here show that this term should be applied only to those burials which contain a full range of drinking and feasting equipment. Up to now the term 'chieftain's grave' or Filrstengrab has been indiscriminately applied to any Iron Age grave in Western Europe with an above average accumulation of 'luxury' grave goods. the food and drink served in the vessels found in elite graves or the vessels themselves. There is good evidence that this time saw a breakdown of the existing social order. That it did not disappear permanently is evidenced by the importance of that same institution in the maintenance of insular Celtic kingship in the later literature. Achaemenid Persians considered it a disgrace to be made to drink from an earthenware cup rather than one of precious metal (my thanks go to one of the anonymous reviewers for this observation). such as metal. will probably never be answered. Note the key role played by feasting in establishing beer from a variety of starchy crops. 88 . By the end of the early La Tene period these sets of drinking vessels disappear. 6.

Change can be documented in gender roles.125). This is important. and the association between imported wine. Wooden drinking vessels. The scene. Transformations of Celtic culture in the British Isles under the influence of Christianity certainly occurred. Even if the krater had been fully functional. 15.149). the logistics of serving a beverage from its depths would have proved complicated. 16. The importance assigned to drinking in late Hallstatt society is documented by the prevalence of drinking equipment in the burial record. Blaen used to dispense the drinking horn in his luxurious palace . and the pitfalls of projecting modern values into the past. the brand of beer the Matis endow with the most significance is corn beer. 11. he led us up to the bright fire and to the reclining [seat covered with] white fleece' (1969. 35).148. 19.365).1112). Jackson translates the relevant verse as follows: 'The men went to Catraeth. may be powerful symbols of access to esoteric knowledge and communication with other worlds. wine and mead from golden vessels was their drink for a year. The gold applique's on some of the objects in the Hochdorf grave were cited as an example. . References to couches used in feasting are interesting in view of the metal kline from the Hochdorf burial and the furniture intaglios from numerous other highstatus elite burials of Early Iron Age date. 'Food is not simply a system of alimentation . As Sherratt has pointed out. is the great hall . and corn and corn beer provide an opportunity for festivities and initiation rites such as the tattooing ritual (Erikson 1990). . 17. . Corn is a seasonal crop. Although I am assuming here that the 'demon banquet' described was primarily secular and recreational in nature. which contained mead when placed in the burial. where each of the four varnas was assigned its 'proper' beverage (Goody 1982. are also mentioned in the Celtic literature. The large bronze basin also found in this burial may have been the vessel actually used to dispense alcoholic beverages. This seems to have been particularly true for alcoholic beverages and other psychoactive substances. and that it was probably used primarily as a showpiece (Fischer 1982. '[reclining] on his cushions. 117-21). 13. the two battle-hounds of Aeron and Cynon the stubborn — and I. comm. Of those that hastened forth after the choice drink none escaped but three. The place of honour here was "at the end of the couch"'. according to the honorable custom. and the centre of life in the kingly household. An example of such sumptuary classification of alcoholic beverages is documented in India during the Vedic period.159-65). Dietler has argued very persuasively for the pan-regional importance of social drinking during this period. especially cups.35 & 153). and to some extent this overlaps with drinking and feasting practices (Arnold 1991. This certainly seems to describe the West Hallstatt area during the sixth century BC.384-6). or skeuomorphism. three men and three score and three hundred wearing gold torques. tained the bones of a skunk and several other small mammals (Bouloumie" 1988. they were famous. unlike the Hochdorf cauldron. It has been pointed out that the relatively thin sheet bronze walls of the Vix krater could not have sustained the pressure exerted by its contents when full. and its syntax can be illuminated by the kinds of structural analysis that have been applied to mythology and visual art' (1995. Dietler 1990. for the sake of my brilliant poetry' (1969. particularly with reference to the year-long feast of Mynyddog before Catraeth. including some loss of physical control. .Alcohol and the Legitimation of Power in Celtic Europe 10. different types of alcoholic beverages are associated with particular social classes rather than with different types of social activities. Such qualities may be attractive for individuals in small communities or in societies where political power is in the process of formation' (1995.). 1996. A metal couch (imdae) is even mentioned in the Tain bo Flidaise (Mallory 1986. Renfrew refers to this in his discussion of 'value' in prehistoric society as represented in the material record. The following passage from the Gododdin describes . In some societies. While everyday beers made from staples are very important. 16). the obvious polarity established between it and the 'godly banquet' hints at a darker past. The scene was one of some richness. In fact. the Vix krater con- 89 14. 34). 46). for example. . with my blood streaming down. Renfrew considers 'dissembling' one of the few dependable indicators of 'value' in prehistoric contexts (1986. This is an example of 'dissembling'.115. 378). but also a system of nonverbal communication. The Gorchan of Tudfwlch refers to 'the bitter alder cup as well as the spiral drinking-horns' (Jackson 1969. as Sherratt has indicated: 'Substances causing marked behavioural alteration. but may have been used in drinking and feasting during the life of the individual. The description is accurate even with respect to the cushions and the furs found lining the Hochdorf couch (Biel 1985. ceramic versions of metal drinking and feasting vessels are another. Korber-Grohne 1985. the practice of attempting to reproduce an object typically made of some valuable resource in a material which is less valuable and more readily available. 18. Originally the 'demon banquet' may well have involved sacrifice to pre-Christian deities (Patterson pers. wine drinking vessels and the Early Iron Age elite seems to indicate that sumptuary restrictions based on social rank and /or status were in operation (Dietler 1990. Jackson describes a typical feasting hall in the Gododdin as follows: 'Good living in the way of feasting and drinking was constantly referred to. for it implies that such couches were not manufactured exclusively for funerary purposes. but varied in degree depending on the history of the region and the aspect of social practice affected. . through feats of combat. manioc roots or peach palms. 12.

31. Thanks are due to an anonymous reviewer for suggesting this possible interpretation. Kimmig deals with this issue as well: 'These examples show that a basic set of objects was associated with especially elite individuals.).. in Fischer (ed. especially with respect to drinking horns. 24. 20. 22-38. 25. beginning well before documented contact with the Mediterranean (Sherratt 1995). 1941.286 footnote 2). .113-38. which could be varied from one case to the next. 1958.) Dublin: The Stationary Office. short-lived they were.153-68. 247). 1996. This has in fact been suggested by some researchers (Fischer 1982. (Medieval and Modern Irish Series XI.-J. Das Furstengrab von Eberdingen-Hochdorf/ Kreis Ludwigsburg. Der Hohenasperg und seine Graber. Scela Cano Meic Gartnain. K.105). B. Arnold. Dietler's discussion of the evidence for 'aboriginal' drinking practises in Early Iron Age Europe agrees with Pasquier's conclusions regarding the indigenous genesis of this activity (1990. (ed. in Fischer (ed. 30. Dublin: Hodges. Biel.. Vorgeschichtliche Siedlungsreste in Eberdingen-Hochdorf. Binchy. he says. (ed. Kreis Ludwigsburg. D. translated from the German). was the basic Irish late Iron Age corporate kin unit (Gibson 1990.299). Etruria and the Heuneburg. D.). Figural representations of the sort found on the situlae described above are also found on other vessels and objects. 1982a. Many Iron Age researchers would dispute this. Athens. Frey. 1995. p.).A. 1963. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1982b. and in the participants in the 90 feasting activity. Journal of European Archaeology 3. 22. Wl 53201 USA References Arafat. The derbfine.129). Morgan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. he struck others. Der Keltenfiirst von Hochdorf: Methoden und Ergebnisse der Landesarchaologie. & C. 1936. famous in [battlej-straits. 28. 23. This seems to be true of dlite Iron Age burials in France as well (Bouloumie 1988. There are also clear differences in the way some of the vessels were used. ]. Studies in Early Irish Law.97-9. 1994.A. 27. in Classical Greece: Ancient Histories and Modern Archaeologies.. ]. Athenaeus quotes Poseidonius on the same subject as follows: 'And in former times. I would like to thank James L. 366-74. I would like to thank Nerys Patterson for drawing my attention to this very significant passage. & D. there was no insult he would put up with. their lives were payment for their feast of mead' (Jackson 1969. Morris. The association between drinking and copulation as part of an inaugural feast suggests a parallel transfer of fluids rather than just a statistical coincidence. Steady in guarding the ford.180-81).2. and if another man claimed it they stood up and fought in single combat to the death' (Athenaeus IV 40. Biel.72). Figgis & Co. D. 108-34. where the legal rights of women seem to have differed from those in the North (Rees & Rees 1961. 1991. (ed. which are seldom absent in well-documented elite graves' (1983. 21.. the male descendants of a common greatgrandfather. which are occasionally found on belt plates and mirrors also (Eibner 1981. Stuttgart: Konrad Theiss Verlag. ed. 38-43.). D. as Pasquier points out. See for example the four bronze human legs and feet which serve as supports for the bronze canteen from Durrnberg Grave 44/2 (Pauli 1980. believes that the Celtic peoples of Early Iron Age west-central Europe imported both Mediterranean drinking vessels and their 'Speisegewohnheiten' and incorporated them in their burial ritual (1989. Binchy.374-5). B. Eriu 18. 1985. but less frequently. Willows. 32. status and power in Iron Age Europe. Gibson (eds. lids and 'double conical vases' are sometimes decorated with such scenes. B. thanks go to an anonymous reviewer for this observation. 26. 1989.. ]. when the hindquarters were served up the bravest hero took the thigh piece.B.).309). Binchy. Celtic State. Celtic Chiefdom. drunk over the clarified mead. Arnold. eds. Crith Gablach. they were bounding forwards together. Calgary: University of Calgary. Biel. Archaologische Ausgrabungen in Baden-Wiirttemberg 1989. primarily because there is good evidence of continuity in drinking and feasting practices and equipment from at least the Urnfield period through the period in question.227-8). he was glad when he bore off the honoured portion in the palace' (Jackson 1969. Note that evidence for matrilineal succession in the Laws is restricted to the south of Wales.377). the retinue of Mynyddog. 170. 'Honorary males' or women of substance? Gender. in which however certain vessel types were more or less stringently required. Dublin: The Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.). The reciprocity of the relationship is expressed particularly directly in the following passage from the Gododdin: 'The men hastened forth. I. The deposed princess of Vix: the need for an engendered European prehistory. 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