The Communities of the Eastern Fringes
THE classical sources and the archaeological evidence taken together leave little doubt that by the end of the fourth century BC Celtic communities were well established in the lands of the Middle Danube and some groups seem to have moved eastwards from the Tiza into Transylvania. As a generalization we can regard the Carpathian mountain range, which swings in a broad arc south then west to join the mountains of the Balkans, as the effective limit of expansion by the mid-fourth century. The Iron Gates--the gorge through which the Danube flows from its middle reaches to the lower part of its valley, where it now defines much of the border between Serbia and Romania--were still, at this stage, closed to Celtic expansion.
The cultural development of eastern and south-eastern Europe beyond this mountain barrier was complex. The most potent force was, of course, that of the Greek city states, which, standing together in the period 513-479 BC, had managed to halt the western advance of the Persian armies under first Darius and later Xerxes. This episode, which saw a massive Persian presence in the Lower Danube Valley for much of the forty years of threat, had a significant effect on the development of Thracian society. The Persian Grand Army moved with its treasure and its finery and an entourage of craftsmen who could serve the needs of the élite. Inevitably the Thracians were to learn much from the example: eastern values and the accompanying symbolism were adopted and adapted by the local craftsmen to serve their own masters, and there emerged a highly distinctive regional style of aristocratic metalwork in silver and silvergilt, blending ideas derived from the east, from the nomadic cultures of the steppe, and from the Greek cities which fringed the western shores of the Black Sea. Thracian art, in its fourth-second century manifestation, was the eastern