Coin of the Month

February 2024: Numismatic Society of Philippopolis

The Coin of this Month is presented by Ulrike Peter

As the featured coin for February 2024, we are pleased to present a coin from the Numismatic Society of Philippopolis ( Plovdiv, the second-largest city in Bulgaria, held the title of European Capital of Culture in 2019, and the Numismatic Society has been in existence since 1964. In its earlier years, the society formed a small coin collection exclusively comprising coins minted in ancient Philippopolis, present-day Plovdiv. We were able to make plaster casts of these coins at the time and now proudly display them on our portal.

The coin, minted under Caracalla, features the radiate bust of the bearded emperor wearing a cuirass and paludamentum on the obverse. On the reverse, a prize table adorned with a laurel wreath is flanked by two palm branches. An amphora bearing palm branches is positioned beneath the table, and five apples are depicted to the right.

This coin design is typical of games. The legend ΚΟΙΝΟΝ ΘΡΑΚΩΝ ΑΛΕΖΑΝ(ΔΡΙΑ) ΕΝ ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΠΟΛΙ, ΠVΘΙΑ, indicates that these are Pythian and Alexandrian games held in Philippopolis by the Thracian Koinon in honour, and possibly in the presence, of the emperor, who was an admirer of Alexander.

Apples were typical prizes for victors of Pythian games, with athletes from various cities in the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor participating in these competitions. While the exact composition of the Koinon is not recorded in sources, inscriptions confirm some cities as members, including Philippopolis, Augusta Traiana, Pautalia, Serdica, and Nikopolis ad Nestum.

Numerous studies have been conducted on coins from the Thracian Koinon, with the recent one by U. Peter titled ‘Coins with the legend Κοινὸν Θρᾳκῶν‘ in Maria-Gabriella Parissaki (ed.), Thrakika Zetemata II. Aspects of the Roman Province of Thrace, Athens 2013 (Μελετήματα 69), 99-164 along with further literature.

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