19. May 2015

Report of the Conference: Thrace local coinage and regional Identity, Berlin 15th to 17th April 2015

The coin issues from the historical territory of Thrace are known for their great diversity. The conference planned to discuss the current state of numismatic research on Thrace and to examine the opportunities offered by a cooperative assemblage of coins in the digital age. The occasion of the conference was to introduce the project CNT – Corpus Nummorum Thracorum – to the specialists for the numismatics of Thrace and especially its new portal, which is collecting all Thracian coins worldwide and putting them into context.

After a welcome address by HERMANN PARZINGER, president of the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, the conference has been opened by a session on ‘Linked Data in Greek Numismatics’. First ULRIKE PETER, Berlin, presented the web portal CNT – Corpus Nummorum Thracorum and its manifold functions. The portal should exemplify the chances of a collaborative and interactive collection of coins supervised by a team of specialists for a region and be a useful tool for researchers of many specialists’ fields. Then BERNHARD WEISSER, Berlin, emphasized in his talk the importance of collecting data in scientific databases for reasons of the protection of cultural heritage. ANDREW MEADOWS, Oxford, and FRÉDÉRIQUE DUYRAT, Paris, took a look at the future of digital numismatic research. They underlined the meaning of using common standards and the work with Linked Open Data for the success of online projects in the field of Greek numismatics, which could in the future be brought together in an overarching portal and build a corpus of Greek coin types. In the evening a ceremonial lecture entitled ‘Die Thraker – Spurensuche nach einem verschollenen Volk’ has been given by JOHANNES NOLLÉ, Munich, who was looking for traces of the Thracians from antiquity to our days. In a splendid outline he took a glance at prominent Thracians in the history and culture of our continent and revised the image of the Thracians as people loving only gold and alcohol. The program of the conference started on Thursday morning with a section dedicated to ‘Theoretical Problems of Identity’. KERSTIN HOFMANN, Berlin, took a close look onto the history of the research on identity constructions in the humanities and focused on concepts of identity related to space, which could be most significant for coins. With this theoretical approach she created a broad basis for all questions of the forthcoming talks. ANGELA BERTHOLD, Berlin, tried to find solutions for the depiction of identity on Greek and Roman coins in Thrace via the illustration of or allusions to the place and space of the city the coins were minted in. SIMONE KILLEN, Berlin, defined the parasema of the Greek cities in Thrace as symbols of small size, which could appear on various categories of objects and have the function of guaranty, control and indicator of provenance or for self-representation. This was followed by a section on the ‘Early Coinage and Questions of Identity’. GABRIEL TALMAŢCI, Constanţa, reported on the relationships between local and Greek communities in the west-pontic area. He could show some interesting pieces like money in the form of dolphins and arrowheads. These arrowheads have round symbols (shield or wheel) on them. The same symbols can be seen on bronze coinages and these are interpreted as solar symbols. OĞUZ TEKIN, Istanbul, analyzed the parasema of the two Thracian cities Ainos and Lysimacheia on coins and weights. In Lysimacheia the lion has been used, a symbol with an old tradition as the former sign of the metropolis Milet and the precursor city Kardia. Ainos had more than one parasema but only the throne of Hermes is used on coins and weights. The third section of the day took a close look on the coinages of ‘Thasos and the Thracian Chersonesos’. OLIVIER PICARD, Paris, started with a talk on the relationship between the coins of the island of Thasos and the neighboring Thracian coinages and could detect a lot of similarities and adoptions concerning the motifs. As he pointed out the organization of minting differed from Thasos, where minting has been organized by the city, to the tribes where it was organized in a central way so that they needed name inscriptions. Afterwards the talk by SELENE PSOMA, Athens, who was not able to be in Berlin, on the coinage of Kardia was presented by Evangeline Markou. Psoma suggests a new chronology for the series of the city. ARIF YACI presented a poster on the coin finds of the survey on the Thracian Chersonesos in the Years 2011 and 2012. All finds are from the area of Kardia and Lysimacheia and illustrate in his opinion the chaotic situation on the Chersonesos during the Hellenistic times. KARSTEN DAHMEN’s, Berlin, talk on the coinage of Lysimacheia should have - as he pointed out - the character of an overview of the cities’ coinage and concern matters of arrangement and chronology. He was able to build three groups in the short period of the cities’ coinage from 309/08 to 250/40 BC. In the session entitled ‘Material Composition, Circulation and Hoards’ the first speaker was JANNIS HOURMOUZIADIS, Berlin, who gave a talk on the material composition of Thracian bronze coins. Coins of Maroneia, Thracian kings and some Roman provincials were analyzed by him with a non-destructive method called RFA (X-ray fluorescence analysis) and on their electrical conductivity. As a result he could confirm through the material composition that the coins of Teres were struck in Maroneia. Then JULIA TZEVTKOVA, Sofia, presented a GIS-based analysis of 45 hoards of bronze coins of Phillip II and Alexander II as an illustration of micro politic and economy of the region. As a consequence of her data she asked for a local coinage. The session was closed by a talk of MARIUS MIELCZAREK, Torún, who was looking at the north-eastern boarder of Thrace, in the lower Dniester region, for traces of Thracian coins, but there are not many of them. In literary evidence he was able to find an answer to this problem. The last session of the second day was dedicated to ‘Thracian traces in the Neighborhood’. SERGEI A. KOVALENKO, Moscow, spoke on the coinage of the ancient city of Tyra in the Western Black Sea Region and was looking for Thracian traces there. As an example he could find depictions of the Thracian horseman (also called god-horseman) on coins and reliefs which could be reflections of a local cult-statue. Then MARTA OLLER GUZMÁN, Barcelona, and JOHANNES NOLLÉ, Munich, were in search of the Thracians in Asia Minor and used as sources literary traditions, inscriptions and coins. A lot of ancient authors, among them Herodot and Thucydides, knew about Thracians in Bithynia. Lots of genealogical legends existed both to explain this migratory movement and to underline the divine ancestry. On Friday the program started with a session on ‘Thracian Dynasts’. In the first talk of the day JAROSŁAV BODZEK, Krakow, looked at the coinages of Macedonian rulers and Thracian leaders in pre-Hellenistic times and found there a construct of identity borrowed by Greek and the Persian satraps concerning e.g. the types of the horseman or portraits. MARTIN GYUZELEV, Burgas, then gave an overview of the numismatic collection of the Archeological Museum at Burgas, where for example the coin finds from Aquae Calidae and an almost unpublished series of coinages by Thracian rulers as for example Metocos, Cotys and Rhoimetalces I are kept. YANNIS STOYAS, Athens, gave a lot of fascinating attempts to explain some lately emerged coins with the inscription MEΛΣA. This legend on coins with a bucranium on the obverse and the inscription and the depiction of a fish on the reverse could be interpreted as the name of a city or a historical as well as a mythical person. In her talk CARMEN ARNOLD-BIUCCHI, Cambridge, MA, aimed to – as she pointed out – ask some questions on the lifetime Lysimachi. A new classification based on the collection of the American Numismatic Society could lead to a grouping not of mints but of workshops which would originate in Thrace. FRANÇOIS DE CALLATAŸ, Brussels, next presented a detail of his project on overstrikes of Greek coins, the overstrikes on Thracian coins in Late Hellenistic times. Overstrikes can be found on coins of Odessos, Byzantion, Maroneia, Thasos and of Aesillas, but de Callataÿ pointed out that it is always a small phenomenon in a very short period mostly at the end of the series. ‘Thracian Kingdom’ was the theme of the next session, in which CHARIKLEIA PAPAGEORGIADOU in a joint talk with MARIA-GABRIELLA PARISSAKI, both Athens, spoke on the theme of Friends and ‘Friends’ in the client kingdom of Thrace. As they stated Romans first tried to create a nexus of client tribes and then -from a moment onwards- some of these tribes united to form the client kingdom of Thrace. They examined the numismatic evidence versus the literary and epigraphic one, in order to define the extent of this kingdom. The whole afternoon was filled by the last session entitled ‘Roman Provincial Coinage in Thrace’. MARINA TASAKLAKI, Komotini, examined the so called pseudo-autonomous coins of the Thracian region and stated that they are only minted in small and medium denominations. She interpreted them as signs of imperial goodwill and tools for strengthening the local identity for example via depictions of cult or concerning the history of the cities. In his talk on the political propaganda on coins of the Thracian region IVO TOPALILOV, Shumen, dealt with foundation legends of the cities, the Ulpia-title and the close contacts between Thrace and Asia Minor, where especially in Bithynia he looked for an origin of them. HOLGER KOMNICK, Frankfurt/M., then took a close look on coin finds in the Thracian area from the time of Trajan to Gallienus. He emphasized the high demand for research in this field and that this could contribute to a better understanding of the inner structure of the whole region. MILENA RAYCHEVA, Sofia, chose the emperor worship as theme of her talk in which she took the coins as witnesses of the Roman Imperial cult. In her study she considered for example the temples on the coins of Perinth and Philippopolis, the city-gates of Anchialos and Plotinopolis as well as festive agons and imperial visits. BARTOSZ AWIANOWICZ, Torún, examined the legends on the coins of Septimius Severus and his family from the Thracian area. He could find parts of the inscriptions which are typically used in Thrace, for example AV and AVT for IMP. In a joint talk VALENTINA GRIGOROVA-GENCHEVA, Sofia, and LILY GROZDANOVA, Berlin, were looking for the health cult in Pautalia in different sources like epigraphy but of course mainly on coins, on which Asclepius, Hygieia and the serpent as well as their temples are depicted. They emphasized the importance of the health cult for the city of Pautalia for reasons of promotion. Then LILY GROZDANOVA in another joint talk with ULRIKE PETER, both Berlin, reported on parallels between the coinages of Pautalia and Philippopolis concerning the design and the workmanship. They are proposing as already Kraft had suggested a common workshop for the region in which the dies for Pautalia, Philippopolis, Plotinopolis, Hadrianopolis and perhaps almost all cities of the Thracian inland were produced and were asking for the implications this would have on statements of identity for these coins. In his talk, ALEXANDROS ANDREOU, Athens, showed coins of the two cities Pautalia and Philippopolis from the collection of the Numismatic Museum in Athens. In the main collection (former collection Zosimas) he could find 22 coins of Pautalia and 49 of Philippopolis. DILYANA BOTEVA, Sofia, directed the audience’s attention to the pictures of city gates and walls and the depictions of the city-goddess on the Thracian coins. In her opinion the walls and gates were only depicted when they were built at the time of the minting of the coins. Similarly, the city goddess with mural crown might have only appeared in the coinage of cities which were fortified. In the last talk of the conference MARIANA MINKOVA, Stara Zagora, showed coins of Augusta Traiana with Egyptian deities e.g. Isis and Harpocrates. In the final discussion of the conference it has been stated that the concept of identity is a difficult one that comprises often the risk of simplifications; especially in the region of Thrace it is elusive but also productive. The conference was a contribution to the question what Thrace or Thracian characteristics could be but a definite answer is not yet found. For answering this question in the future coin finds and especially the (online) publication of remote material and collections are important. A first step is the web portal Corpus Nummorum Thracorum (, in which the organizers of the conference hope to bring together a lot of contributors in the near future.

Author: Angela Berthold