Who were the Boii

Boii (Latin plural, singular Boius; Greek Βόϊοι) is the Roman name of an ancient Celtic tribe, attested at various times in Transalpine Gaul (modern France) and Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy), as well as in Pannonia (today Western Hungary), Bohemia, Moravia and western Slovakia. (Wikipedia)

They are identified with the La Tène cultural period and are reported on many maps to have established several homelands in central Europe.


There is no commonly accepted etymology for the name Boii. It might be explained as a Celtic term for either "warriors" (from Indo-European *bhoi-) or "cattle owners" (from Indo-European *gʷowjeh³s). Contemporary derived words include Boiorix (king of the Boii, one of the chieftains of the Cimbri) and Boiodurum (gate/fort of the Boii, modern Passau) in Germany.
Their memory also survives in the modern regional names of Bohemia (Germanic form found in a Roman source Boio-haemum = home of the Boii), and 'Bayern', Bavaria, which is derived from the Germanic Baiovarii tribe (Germ. *baio-warioz: the first component is most plausibly explained as a Germanic version of Boii (the Indo-European *o sound translating to an *a in Early Germaic); the second part is a common formational morpheme of Germanic tribal names, meaning 'dwellers', as in Anglo-Saxon -ware)[2[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boii#cite_note-1|]]]; this combination "Boii-dwellers" may have meant "those who dwell where the Boii formerly dwelt".

Homelands and Dispersal

The Boii appear to be a central factor in many of the main movements and conflicts of the Migration Period. Their main homeland may well have been in what is now Bavaria and Bohemia in modern Southern Germany/Czech Republic. It should be noted that in this area is the first navigable stretch of the upper Danube. Elements of this tribe are found participating in many of the migrations. There are reports of Boii concentrations in Cisalpine Gaul below the Po, a settlement in central Gaul recorded by Julius Cesar and settlements in Romania at the mouth of the Danube in addition to the main area in Bavaria/Bohemia. and Celtic artefacts and cemeteries have been discovered further east in what is now Poland and Slovakia. A Celtic coin (Biatec) from Bratislava's mint is displayed on today's Slovak 5 crown coin.
The Celts also expanded down the Danube river and its tributaries. One of the most influential tribes, the Scordisci, had established their capital at Singidunum in 3rd century BC, which is present-day Belgrade, Serbia. The concentration of hill-forts and cemeteries shows a density of population in the Tisza valley of modern-day Vojvodina, Serbia, Hungary and into Ukraine. Expansion into Romania was however blocked by the Dacians.

Further south, Celts settled in Thrace (Bulgaria), which they ruled for over a century, and Anatolia, where they settled as the Galatians (see also: Gallic Invasion of Greece). Despite their geographical isolation from the rest of the Celtic world, the Galatians maintained their Celtic language for at least seven hundred years. St Jerome, who visited Ancyra (modern-day Ankara) in 373 AD, likened their language to that of the Treveri of northern Gaul.

A Boiian Confederacy?

It is certainly tempting to think that a tribe with elements a widely dispersed as the Boii and with such well established trading connections would be capable of establishing firm links with other related tribes. Indeed confederations of close tribal groups are well attested. Julius Cesar is able to identify the Belgae as a confederation during the Gallic Wars. The Belgae and their connections abroad - including England. The moveable feast that is tribal labelling and naming - changes and tracking them.

Linking factors
Look for the common religion - the rare bull worship cult and associated naming conventions (taur). Also look for boii or variants. The Galatian Tolistobogoii is a derivative form -
The Tolistobogii or Tolistobogi or Tolistoboii were one of the three ancient Celtic tribes of Galatia in central Asia Minor, together with the Trocmi and Tectosages according to Livyxxxviii. 16.

Likley partners

We can be sure of a link between Boii and Volcae because these two are the instigators of the Grande Expédition. There appears to be at least one tribe alongside in the same confederation, need to find out who - possibly residual in the third tribe of Galatians. These groups are also the founders of the group which became the Scordisci. There is a second joint migratory movement example in Aquitaine. This area of south western Gaul was originally non-Celtic and was subject to a significant movement to allow the Celtic peoples to move into Iberia to form the Celt-Iberian tribes of the 3rd Century. There is a branch of the Boii on the Gallic side and a branch of the Volcae on the Iberian side of the Pyrenees, these are not related to other tribes in the area and are clearly a result of a later movement. There are links between the trade routes and rivers the Boiian tribes are based around and along and tracing these trade routs is the key to finding the links between the groups in the confederation.
Cisalpine Gaul adds another dimention - there the Boii are allied with the Insubres and Senones who are both from central Gaul and are allies of the Aedui who the Boii attached to the Helvetic invasion of Cesar's time were settled with and in the source are refered to as "brothers" or some such - need to find this reference in De Bello Gallico. This means there is another large allied grouping in Central Gaul - allied to the main tribe who dominated Gaul in our period i.e. the Aedui. Conversely we know that the Cenomani in Cisalpine Gaul were enemies of the Boii and allied with Rome against them often. The Cenomani were also from Gaul and it is tempting to look for their presence amongst the known enemies of the Aedui. The Insubrian settlement is said by Livy to have been established by Bellovesus around 600 BCE with six tribes: the Bituriges, Arverner, Senonen, Aedui, Ambarri, Karnutes and Aulerci .
Original homelands Moravia. Not abandoned until around 60 BC the when Celtic Boii people withdrew from the region and were succeeded in turn by the Germanic Quadi. The Boiian neighbours north and east were Volcae and their neighbours were Contini. To the West were the Helvetti?.
The Volcae
The Volcae were highly influential in Moravia, and together with the Boii and the Cotini and other Danubian tribes, they controlled a highly active network of trade routes connected to the Mediterranean and the German lands. The prowess of these tribes and their proximity led to the their name being borrowed into Germanic as *walha, a generic term for "Celt" and eventually "Roman" as the two cultures merged in time. (See also Walha.). There are Volcae subtribes in the Great Expédition, The Tectosages reported by Caesar as still being around the Hercynian forest were in fact living in the old homes of their race, whence a portion of them set out on their great expedition against Greece, and eventually settled in Galatia, in Asia Minor, where one of the tribes was called Tectosages. Strabo says the Tectosagii came originally from the region near modern Toulouse, in France, certainly there was a large settlement of Volcae and allied tribes in south west Gaul around Touosa. In the 3rd century BC there came a Celtic Gallic tribe called the Volcae Tectosages from southern Germany, the first Indo-European people to appear in the region. They settled in Tolosa and interbred with the local people. Their Celtic language became predominant. By 200 BC Tolosa is attested to be the capital of the Volcae Tectosages (coins found), which C. Julius Caesar later called Tolosates in his famous account of Gallic wars (De Bello Gallico, 1.10), singular Tolosas. Archeologists say Tolosa was one of the most important cities in Gaul, and certainly it was famed in pre-Roman times for being the wealthiest one. There were many gold and silver mines nearby, and the offerings to the holy shrines and temples in Tolosa had accumulated a tremendous wealth in the city.
There is a link here to the legend of the sack of Delphi as the riches of Tolosa were supposed to have come from there.
The Romans started their conquest of southern Gaul (later known as the Provincia) in 125 BC. Moving westward, they founded in 118 BC the colony of Narbo Martius (Narbonne), the Mediterranean city nearest to inland Toulouse, and so they came into contact with the Tolosates, famous for their wealth and the key position of their capital for trade between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Tolosa chose to ally with the daunting Romans, who established a military fort in the plain north of the city, a key position near the border of independent Aquitania, but otherwise left the inhabitants of Tolosa free to rule themselves in semi-independence.
In 109 BC a Germanic tribe, the Cimbri, descending the Rhone Valley, invaded the Provincia and defeated the Romans, whose power was shaken all along the recently conquered Mediterranean coast. The Tolosates rebelled against Rome and murdered the Roman garrison. Soon, however, Rome recovered and defeated the invaders. In 106 BC, General Q. Servilius Caepio was sent to reconquer and punish Tolosa. With the help of some Tolosates who remained faithful to Rome, he captured the city and plundered the immense wealth of the temples and shrines. His attempt to steal this treasure is covered here.
Volcae Migration Patterns

Do the purported movements of the Volcae shed any light on those of the Boii? Certainly there are similarities in movements south and west in the face of the Germanic movements. This map shows some insight:

Northern Balkans - the Boii controlled most of northern Pannonia during the second century BCE, and are also mentioned to have occupied the territory of modern Slovakia. We learn of other tribes inhabiting Pannonia, belonging to the Boiian confederation. There were the Taurisci in the upper Sava valley, west of Sisak, as well as the Anarti, Osi and Cotini in the Carpathian basin. In the lower Sava valley, the Scordisci wielded much power over their neighbours for over a century.
Tylis (Greek: Τύλις) or Tyle was a capital of a short-lived Balkan state mentioned by Polybius[1[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tylis#cite_note-0|]]] that was founded by Celts led by Comontorios in the 3rd century BC, after their invasion of Thrace and Greece in 279 BC.[2[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tylis#cite_note-Theodossiev-1|]]] It was located by the Haemus Mountains in what is now eastern Bulgaria. The bands of Celts that did not settle in Thrace, crossed into Asia Minor to become known as the Galatians. The city of Tylis was eventually destroyed by the Thracians in 212 BC.[2[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tylis#cite_note-Theodossiev-1|]]] The modern Bulgarian village of Tulovo 42.583 N, 25.550 E
in Stara Zagora Province now occupies the site.[3[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tylis#cite_note-2|]]]

In Germany but later - There is recorded a coallition of tribes called Marcomanii (possibly: The men of Marcus, or from the german Men of the march {as in border}) , who are encountered by Drusus during his conquest of Germania. Marcus was the name of a Roman legate, Marcus Fabius Romanus, who either deserted or was exilled from Drusus' legions during his German campaign in ca. 13 BC and is thought to have banded together a ragtag group of Germanic tribes into a cohesive fighting force. Drusus attacked the Marcomanni in 9 BC, forcing them into what is now Bohemia. What happened to the Boii in this region? We know they had successfully resisted the Cimbri advance the century before:
Some time before 100 BCE many of the Cimbri, as well as the Teutones and Ambrones migrated south-east. After several unsuccessful battles with the Boii and other Celtic tribes, they appeared ca 113 BC in Noricum, where they invaded the lands of one of Rome's allies, the Taurisci. On the request of the Roman consul Gnaeus Papirius Carbo, sent to defend the Taurisci, they retreated, only to find themselves deceived and attacked at the Battle of Noreia, where they defeated the Romans. Only a storm, which separated the combatants, saved the Roman forces from complete annihilation.
Central Europe:
In Central Europe, the original European centre of Celt activity from at least 1000 BCE, Celtic tribes included the Boii, who ranged across the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Germany and Austria; the Lugii in Poland; the Vindelici in Germany; the Cotini and Osiin Slovakia; the Eravisci in Hungary; and (from c.335 BCE onwards) the Scordisci, Latobici and Varciani in Slovenia and Croatia.

Links to the Baltic: Geographically above the Marcomanii and suppsosedly allied were the Lugii in Poland - on the Amber Road. These are also a Celto-Germanic tribe.

In Cisapine and Transalpine Gaul - The Senones, The Insubres, The Taurini? The Aedui?

Gorgobina - A Celtic oppidum (fortified city) on the territory of the Aedui tribe. After the defeat of the Helvetii in 58 BC at nearby Bibracte, the Helvetians' Boii allies settled there (Caes. Bell. Gall, I., 28). If this really was an act of clemency on Julius Caesar's part may be disputed. With the Aedui being allies of Rome, Vercingetorix besieged Gorgobina in the course of his campaign:

Hac re cognita Vercingetorix rursus in Bituriges exercitum reducit atque inde profectus Gorgobinam, Boiorum oppidum, quos ibi Helvetico proelio victos Caesar collocaverat Haeduisque attribuerat, oppugnare instituit.

(Translation by the author: 'With this in mind, Vercingetorix led his army back to the territory of the Bituriges and advanced from there to Gorgobina, the oppidum of the Boii - whom, defeated in the battle of the Helvetians, Caesar had installed there and assigned to the Aedui -, and laid siege to it.')
In the last great battle of the Gallic War, the Gorgobina Boii sent two thousand warriors to support Vercingetorix (Caes. Bell. Gall., VII, 75).
The exact location of Gorgobina is still unclear. It might be modern Saint-Parize-le-Châtel or La Guerche (Nièvre).


Biatecs.jpgBiatec was the name of a person, presumably a king, who appeared on the Celtic coins minted by the Boii in Bratislava (modern capital of Slovakia) in the 2nd and 1st century BCE. The word Biatec (or Biatex) is also used as the name of those coins. In the literature, they are also sometimes referred to as "hexadrachms of the Bratislava type". Biatecs, in fact hexadrachms and tetradrachms made of high quality silver and gold, bear inscriptions in capital Latin letters. Among 14 different inscriptions (NONNOS, SONNON, DEVIL (DEUIL), BVSV (BUSU), FARIARIX, BVSSVMARVS (BUSSUMARUS), TITTO, IANTVMARVS (IANTUMARUS), COISA, AINORIX, COBROVOMARVS (COBROUOMARUS), EVOIVRIX and MACCIVS (MACCIUS) ), BIATEC appears most frequently. The inscriptions represent the oldest known use of writing in Slovakia and the neighboring territories. The coins have a diameter of 25 to 28 millimeters and a weight of 16.5-17 grams, corresponding in weight and size to Macedonian tetradrachmes . The obverse usually shows various depictions of a head or a pair of heads. The reverse usually shows a horseman, but various mythological and real animals also occur. The MACCIVS type was the last one struck around Bratislava circa 60 to 58 BCE, just before the Dacians occupied Northern Pannonia.

The coins on the right are some of the non-BIATEC inscription coins from Bratislava. The table below gives a brief guide to each coin.




Male Head
Male Head
Horseman with sword held above head, scabbard at waist.
Femal Head
Harpy, two palm branches below
Two Male Heads
Lion jumping right
Male Head
A horse jumping ahead
Female Head
Female centaur
Female Head with ivy vine
Jumping lion or possibly griffon given stylised detail to neck
A coiled dragon
Wolf eating human, two legs sticking from wolf's mouth

Other examples of the Biatec coins.
This was used by the National Bank of Slovakia for a design on their currency.
http://www.kernunnos.com/sales/biatec.html - other Biatec coin.

Boiian coinage is also well known from Cisalpine Gaul.


Religion as a tie-in

There is supposed to be a common theme in the Boiian culture of Bull worship or sacrifice - this is depicted on the Gundestrup Cauldron. The Gundestrup cauldron is the largest known example of European Iron Age silver work. Bergquist and Taylor propose manufacture by a Thracian craftsman, possibly commissioned by the Celtic Scordisci and fallen into the hands of the Cimbri who were originally from Jutland and who invaded the Middle lower Danube in 120 BCE.


A window on the culture. Strabo describes the Galatians

Not much is known about the Galatians social structure due to the small amount of archeological done on them. What we do know comes mostly from the ancient geographer Strabo. According to Strabo the Galatians had a central shrine called Drunemeton (which means “Oak Sanctuary”) where if there was any druids this might have been where they made offerings. From what Strabo tells us each of the three tribes of the Galatians had four clans within it and each clan had a clan elder, which Strabo calls “Tetrarchs”. Strabo also says that each clan had a judge, a general, and two deputy generals. Also once a year three hundred Galatians converge on Drunemeton to discuss policy. The Galatians did no work in the lands they controlled but formed a military ruling class. All of the Galatians lived in large fortresses, with each tribe inhabiting one fortress. The Tectosages lived in Ancyra in the center, the Tolistobogii lived in Pessinus in the west, and the Trocmi lived in Tavium in the east. The natives of Galatia lived in the towns and farms and they were required to pay tribute in the form of whatever they produced. Failing to do so would bring swift retribution in the form of military action by the Galatians. This was also the way the Galatians handled the various cities they attacked. http://wildfiregames.com/0ad/page.php?p=1560