Coin of the Month

August 2022: Maroneia, wine and horses: The two prides of one city

The Coin of this Month is presented by Ioanna Maina

It has been a while since we last featured a specimen from Maroneia as our Coin of the Month and the horse-and-vine coinage of the city seems appropriate for August, it being both the last month of summer and the first month of grape harvest. And the grapes of Maroneia (and the wine made out of them especially) are woven into the city’s history ever since its very founding by Chios in the 7th century BC. During the time of Homer, its wine was already known to be the best in Thrace and it even was the one given to Odysseus by Maron, the king-priest of Apollo, and eventually used to make the cyclops Polyphemos drunk. As such, seeing vines and grapes on the coinage of the city should not be at all surprising.

This specific specimen is dated from the last decade of the 5th to the first quarter of the 4th century BC and is one of the silver tetradrachms of the Aeginetic standard, which is believe to have been adopted by the city as a sign of its political stance against Athens during that time. The last years of the Peloponesian War are generally believed to be be a time of limited coin production, probably due to the presence of Athens on one hand and the Odrysian kingdom on the other, and the pressure both applied in the area in a time filled with turbulence.

The galloping horse on the obverse side is a staple of the coinage of Maroneia from its very begining and until the end of the Hellenistic Period and believed to be linked to both religious and economical elements of the city. The allusion to the cult of Poseidon seems to be considered the most obvious explanation for scholars, but the horse depiction is also believed to be a nod to horse breeding, another activity the city must had been known for, its probability further underlined by the fact that wild horses were still present in the area untill the 1940s. The vine and the grapes on the reverse side can be interpreted in a similar manner. On one hand, we have the evident showcasing of a plant that was important for the economy and legacy of the city and on the other hand a reference to the cult of Dionysus, who even became the patron deity of the city later on. Still, this very detailed depiction could also be connected with the acquisition of Styme and Mount Ismaros, which were rich in wine production and were until then occupied by Thasos.

View Coin