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Dubnovellaunos - the Hybrid King

John Conduitt

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Dubnovellaunos ('world ruler') is a Celtic king formed from snippets of historical evidence like a mythical hybrid beast. He might be eight people, he might be one, or someone in between.

The first Dubnovellaunos was mentioned on coins from the Cantii tribe in Kent, ruling east of the River Medway (the area containing Canterbury). Indeed, he was the first Cantiaci monarch to put his name on coins perhaps as early as 40BC. He lasted at least until the reign of Vosenos, who appeared around 10BC, and maybe even ruled alongside him. It was a reign to rival those of the longest-lived Roman emperors.

Dubnovellaunos Eagle, 25BC-5
Cantii tribe, Kent. Bronze, 14mm, 1.75g. Boar right, reversed S under head; DVBNO in two lines in panel below. Spread-winged eagle standing three-quarters right (ABC 345; VA 180-01; BMC 2509-10; S 183). Found in Hertfordshire. The reversed S in front of the boar is similar to one found on later Iceni coins from 10-40 e.g. ABC 1630 and ABC 1642. The boar, which may have been taken from an engraved gemstone, seems to have inspired a coin of Cunobelin's and was a popular image on Roman coinage.

The coin above was found in Hertfordshire, which is traditionally the territory of the Catuvellauni, who also ruled the Trinovantian lands. This might be because Dubnovellaunus of the Cantii is the same person as Dubnovellaunus of the Trinovantes in Essex (which is adjacent to Kent). This Dubnovellaunus took over from his father, Addedomarus, to rule around 10-5BC (although Van Arsdell dates him to 30-25BC). Dubnovellaunus of Essex was eventually replaced by Cunobelin, the Catuvellauni king who was subject of a Shakespeare play.

Dubnovellaunos Hairy Bronze Unit, 5BC-10
Trinovantes tribe, Essex. Bronze, 15mm, 1.93g. Head left, curved wreath from pellet in ring above eye, hair represented by curves above; pellet-in-ring motif behind head. Horse left, pellet in ring above, branch below, inscription behind, pellet-in-ring below, pellet below tail, DVBNO above (ABC2407; VA 1669 - 01, this coin).

A king named Dumnobellaunus is briefly mentioned as a supplicant in the Res Gestae Divi Augusti (a monumental inscription of Augustus's life and accomplishments) around 7 along with Tincomarus, who ruled the Atrebates from 25BC-10. This could well be our Cantii Dubnovellaunus, or our Trinovantes Dubnovellaunus, or someone else entirely.

A Dumnovellaunos appears on coins of the Corieltauvi from around 45, perhaps as a subordinate king to Volisios. This seems too late to be any of the previous Dubnovellaunii if the dating of those is correct, but it might be the same person if not.

Volisios Dumnovellaunos Bronze Core Stater, 43-47

Corieltauvi tribe, Leicestershire. Bronze, 20mm, 4.08g. Vertical Corieltauvian Apollo-wreath; three horizontal lines across wreath; VO LI between top lines; SI OS between bottom lines; ring of pellets and three-armed spiral in ring in opposite quarters. Lunate horse with large open head left, trefoil of pellets below neck, pellet below tail; DVM above, NOVE below with VE conjoined, LLAVNOS in front with LL formed by horse's front legs (VA 988.21; cf. S 419; cf. BMC 3343; cf. ABC 1995). Initially gold, after the Gallic War many staters were debased and plated.

Chris Rudd instead has this king as Dumnovellaunos, ‘commander of the underworld'. He is possibly the same person as the Corieltauvi kings Volisios Dumnocoveros and Volisios Cartivel, also only known from coin inscriptions. They may all be the same person or may all be different. Then there's someone called Dumnocoveros Tigirseno, who could conceivably also be the same person. Or not. There's also the enigmatic Dubn, ideas to whose identity include Togodumnus (son of Cunobelin), Dubnocoveros or Dubnovellaunos of the Corieltauvi, or Essex's Dubnovellaunos for whom a commemorative coin was struck (to explain why it appeared so much later than the others).

Volisios Dumnocoveros Stater, 35-40

Corieltavi tribe, Leicestershire. Base gold, 20mm, 5.06g. Stylised horse left with large head, three pellets below horse's neck; DVM NOCO VER OS around horse. Wreath pattern fills field, three horizontal lines across wreath; VO LI between top lines, SI OS between bottom lines (S 416; ABC 1980; VA 978-01 ‘Corieltauvian P’).

Dubnovellaunos, then, may have been one king ruling three kingdoms for as long as eighty years. He may have been eight kings covering the same. More likely, he was some number of kings between one and eight, combining the Dubnov-Dumnov-Dumnoc-Dubn-Dumnobellaunos personages in ways that hasn't yet been proven or even imagined.

Edited by John Conduitt
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