The complexities of Bastarnia (B)-- From Mithradates to Farzoi

From: george knysh
Message: 67631
Date: 2011-05-27

Problem n. 2: Deldo's trek (adds.)
Among the activities of Marcus Crassus in 28 BCE (after the peace understanding with the second group of Bastarnae in Dentheletia, who had invaded to avenge the destruction of Deldo's people) was a series of "mopping up" operations in Moesia. Here is what Dio says (51,26, 5-6):
Crassus "marched upon Genucla, the most strongly defended fortress of the kingdom of Zyraxes, because he heard that the standards which the Bastarnae had taken from Gaius Antonius near the city of the Istrians were there. His assault was made both by land and from the Ister (the city is built upon the river), and in a short time, though with much toil, despite the absence of Zyraxes, he took the place.  The king, it seems, as soon as he heard of the Romans' approach, had set off with money to the Scythians to seek an alliance, and had not returned in time.
These were his achievements among the Getae"
point a: Genucla is the modern Isaccea. It is right next door to Peuce island. Dio's comments imply that at that time Peuce was not occupied by the Bastarnae ("Scythians"), and that Zyraxes had to travel somewhere further to seek their assistance. Too late, it seems.
point b: the "standards of Antonius" were those captured by Bastarnae in their victory of 61 BCE. The question: how did they come to be deposited in a Getan fortress? One of the possibilities is that this may have occurred in the time of Burebista, though other scenarios are also adequate, and  the circumstances will remain obscure. Clearly there was no formal alliance between Zyraxes and the Bastarnae in 28 BCE. But we may assume that there may have been some form of understanding in the reign of Burebista, and that both groups participated in the raids on Thrace (to Macedonia and Illyria) which Strabo describes briefly in 7,3,11 and which would have occurred at the latest by ca. 50-44 BCE.
Now for the important issue. I confess that what follows is mere surmise. It seems to fit the meager evidence we have ( so might other explanations). Here goes.
(1) Who were Deldo's people? Actually it's perhaps better to ask the following first:
(2) Where were they headed?
An area where they did not anticipate direct conflict with the Romans (Deldo was evidently surprised by Crassus' reaction and was unwilling to take him on). Since Dentheletia was a good route (they didn't expect Sitas to complain about their transit as strongly as he did), I would suggest that the destination might have been some area in Dardania (roughly: today's Kosovo). Not because of the events of 175 BCE (when Clondicus was there), but probably because they or some of them might have raided it in the time of Burebista and thought it good settlement territory. The second group (28 BC) might have been allowed to proceed by Crassus. It might have been an unencumbered warrior band (like Clondicus in 168 BCE), tougher to deal with than the Deldo motley. If they did make it to Dardania (about which nothing whatever is known for that time, which makes speculation convenient /(:=)/), they may well have settled in, found local wives, and then blended in, sharing the fate of the land in their new identity. In any case there is not a word in Dio about the specifics of a defeat, destruction, or return homeward.
Now as to (1) above. We know that in 28 BCE Peuce was empty of Bastarnae (or at least there were not enough for Zyraxes to appeal to). BTW one of the solutions of the "standard of Antonius" puzzle is that it might have been left in Genucla by the trekking Bastarnae. In a previous post I had raised the issue of the Late Poeneshti culture north of Moldavia, and mentioned that it seems to have survived in its new locale there until the beginning of the 1rst c. CE. I should add an important specification. The density of settlement of  Late Poeneshti is greatest at the beginning of its presence in Bukovyna/Galicia. By the end of the 1rst c. BCE it is extremely low until petering out completely in the period 1-20 CE. The possibility that it is this particular population which made Deldo's trek and the immediately following post-Deldo "avenging" raid is thus very much in play. Not that other Bastarnae couldn't have participated. Especially those of the northern groups 1 and 2. Developing mobility after 50 BCE is also visible in these groups (though directed elsewhere in terms of surviving material data) : not. however, as dramatic and comprehensive as in the case of Poeneshti-Lukashevka. But enough would remain behind anyway for the term "Peucini" to be applicable to groups they sunsequently fused with in the north. (to be continued).