A metal detector enthusiast stumbled upon a remarkable find – a rare gold coin that has shed light on a little-known ruler from pre-Roman Britain.
This ancient gold coin, minted by a rather obscure figure in Iron Age Britain who once claimed to be as “mighty” as a god, was unearthed in Hampshire County in March 2023.
It subsequently went under the hammer at an auction held by Spink auction house on September 28, fetching a price of £20,400 (equivalent to $24,720).
The coin boasts a Latin alphabetic inscription bearing the name “Esunertos,” which can be translated as “mighty as the god Esos” (also spelled as Esus). Notably, the name “Esunertos” finds its origins in Gaulish, a language commonly spoken in the region during that era.
The coin’s authenticity and historical significance were confirmed by John Sills, an archaeologist from the University of Oxford’s Institute of Archaeology.
Dating back to 50 B.C. and 30 B.C., this coin was produced after Julius Caesar’s two unsuccessful invasions of Britain, conducted from 55 B.C. to 54 B.C. Notably, these invasions failed to establish lasting Roman control over the island.
It wasn’t until Emperor Claudius launched another Roman invasion in A.D. 43 that the Roman Empire finally managed to secure long-term control over a portion of Britain.
Esunertos, the enigmatic ruler behind the coin, remains a historical mystery. This coin is only one of three known to bear his name, and all three were discovered in the same region. It’s conceivable that Esunertos may have had control over part of what is now western Hampshire, as suggested by Sills.
During the tumultuous period following Caesar’s invasions, Britain’s political landscape was in flux, with Rome exerting its influence.
Ian Leins, a curator of collections and interiors at English Heritage, a charity responsible for managing the U.K.’s historic monuments, noted that the Britons faced new opportunities and threats in this changing political scenario.
The emergence of new political leaders was likely, with their fortunes rising and falling in the blink of an eye. Minting coins was a means for these leaders to expand their influence. Esunertos may have been one such leader, but it’s impossible to ascertain whether he held the title of “king.”
According to Leins, Esunertos’ power would have been rooted in contacts, ancestry, land ownership, and resource control, leaving the rest to historical speculation.
Questions about his popularity, charisma, and the basis of his authority remain unanswered, destined to remain shrouded in the mists of history.