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King Touto - Modern Myth or Cantii Legend?


John Conduitt

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Celtic coin collectors often have to choose between condition and rarity. So few are found in hoards that even common coins in good condition are expensive. On the other hand, the way they’ve been categorised means there are a great many rarities, and those are not always so pricy. The position of an annulet can make a coin common or excessively rare, when really they're all the same issue. This coin, however, is rare because it’s the only issue for an otherwise unknown ruler, Touto of the Cantii. You don’t get to pick and choose these.

According to Chris Rudd, Touto came briefly to power towards the end of the decline of his Kentish tribe. The Cantii had fallen from the heights of the reign of Dubnovellaunos and lost their independence. Cantium became a proxy battleground for the militarily strong Catuvellauni and the Rome-backed Atrebates. But Touto and the similarly unknown Anarevito were allowed to rule, since the Cantii got on the good side of Emperor Augustus. While some Celtic rulers fiercely resisted the Romans, others co-operated. They benefitted from Roman imports such as jewellery and wine, and often included Roman imagery on their coins, such as Victory here. They also benefitted from Roman protection.

Touto ‘Walking Victory’ Unit, 10-15

image.png.bb3f93a6e85aa5f8ed5cae7aab669a77.png
Cantiaci Tribe, Kent. Silve, 14mm, 1.26g. Diademed head left with beard of pellets; TOVTO in front. Winged Victory walking right, holding sword at waist; E-P across field (ABC 432; VA 442; S 116). Found Faversham, Kent, in 2019 (CCI 23.0005).

Given the letters E-P on the reverse, Touto possibly ruled under Eppillus. This was probably the same Eppillus who ruled the Atrebates, and moved to Kent when Verica became king back in Hampshire. Note the doubt – King Eppillus of Kent may have been a different person, while Touto may actually have been Eppillus himself, and the name Touto a title along the lines of 'king of the tribe' (Touto meaning ‘tribe’ or ‘people’). Van Arsdell considers it a coin of Eppillus, with IOVIR as the obverse legend. But from the best examples it looks to me more like TOVTA. Spink lists it as a 'joint type of Eppilus and Verica', although the only other coin described as such has the inscriptions VIR CO and EPPI COMF, which is much less ambiguous.

It seems to me another possibility is that Touto is simply a copy of an issue from across the Channel (although I don’t think anyone else believes this). In 50-30BC there was a ruler Toutobocio-Atepilos of the Carnutes in Gaul, who issued coins with a left-facing head and TOVTOBO in front. The reverse isn’t Victory, but many coins copied from the Romans or Continental Celts (such as copied by Cunobelinus) featured designs taken from different coins on each side.

There are few of these known - perhaps 15. Chris Rudd knew of 8 when publishing ABC, which happens to be how many there are on Iron Age Coins of Britain. This isn’t in the best condition, but isn’t the worst. But despite this being his only issue, mine is not even the rarest Touto. Like two-thirds of these, Victory is holding a sword, while in the rarer version he has some sort of a cudgel over his shoulder. In just one he’s also holding a laurel wreath. Rarity, as with condition, is like a fractal. The closer you look, the more it grows.

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1 hour ago, John Conduitt said:

Celtic coin collectors often have to choose between condition and rarity. So few are found in hoards that even common coins in good condition are expensive. On the other hand, the way they’ve been categorised means there are a great many rarities, and those are not always so pricy. The position of an annulet can make a coin common or excessively rare, when really they're all the same issue. This coin, however, is rare because it’s the only issue for an otherwise unknown ruler, Touto of the Cantii. You don’t get to pick and choose these.

According to Chris Rudd, Touto came briefly to power towards the end of the decline of his Kentish tribe. The Cantii had fallen from the heights of the reign of Dubnovellaunos and lost their independence. Cantium became a proxy battleground for the militarily strong Catuvellauni and the Rome-backed Atrebates. But Touto and the similarly unknown Anarevito were allowed to rule, since the Cantii got on the good side of Emperor Augustus. While some Celtic rulers fiercely resisted the Romans, others co-operated. They benefitted from Roman imports such as jewellery and wine, and often included Roman imagery on their coins, such as Victory here. They also benefitted from Roman protection.

Touto ‘Walking Victory’ Unit, 10-15

image.png.bb3f93a6e85aa5f8ed5cae7aab669a77.png
Cantiaci Tribe, Kent. Silve, 14mm, 1.26g. Diademed head left with beard of pellets; TOVTO in front. Winged Victory walking right, holding sword at waist; E-P across field (ABC 432; VA 442; S 116). Found Faversham, Kent, in 2019 (CCI 23.0005).

Given the letters E-P on the reverse, Touto possibly ruled under Eppillus. This was probably the same Eppillus who ruled the Atrebates, and moved to Kent when Verica became king back in Hampshire. Note the doubt – King Eppillus of Kent may have been a different person, while Touto may actually have been Eppillus himself, and the name Touto a title along the lines of 'king of the tribe' (Touto meaning ‘tribe’ or ‘people’). Van Arsdell considers it a coin of Eppillus, with IOVIR as the obverse legend. But from the best examples it looks to me more like TOVTA. Spink lists it as a 'joint type of Eppilus and Verica', although the only other coin described as such has the inscriptions VIR CO and EPPI COMF, which is much less ambiguous.

It seems to me another possibility is that Touto is simply a copy of an issue from across the Channel (although I don’t think anyone else believes this). In 50-30BC there was a ruler Toutobocio-Atepilos of the Carnutes in Gaul, who issued coins with a left-facing head and TOVTOBO in front. The reverse isn’t Victory, but many coins copied from the Romans or Continental Celts (such as copied by Cunobelinus) featured designs taken from different coins on each side.

There are few of these known - perhaps 15. Chris Rudd knew of 8 when publishing ABC, which happens to be how many there are on Iron Age Coins of Britain. This isn’t in the best condition, but isn’t the worst. But despite this being his only issue, mine is not even the rarest Touto. Like two-thirds of these, Victory is holding a sword, while in the rarer version he has some sort of a cudgel over his shoulder. In just one he’s also holding a laurel wreath. Rarity, as with condition, is like a fractal. The closer you look, the more it grows.

John, fascinating coin & great score 🤩. Celtic coins depicting actual rulers are rare & historically important. Your coins seems very light for a 14 mm diameter, maybe the corrosion would account for the light weight 🤔?

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9 minutes ago, Al Kowsky said:

John, fascinating coin & great score 🤩. Celtic coins depicting actual rulers are rare & historically important. Your coins seems very light for a 14 mm diameter, maybe the corrosion would account for the light weight 🤔?

Thank you. Yes, whether it's the actual ruler is always debatable. No-one has any idea, although there are a few where the portrait has definitely been Celticised.

1.26g is actually a little heavy for this issue. They range from 1.07-1.3g giving and average of 1.20g. Only 2 of 7 are heavier and one of those might be due to rounding. That's also pretty much par for the course for Celtic silver - almost all my c14mm silver coins are in that range. My only other sliver coins that measure 14mm are Saxon or Golden Horde, and they are a similar weight or lighter.

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