Coin Typology of


Topography and History

Hadrianopolis is situated, according to the author of the Historia Augusta, apud tria flumina:1 The city, located in south-western Thrace, lies in a lowland2 at the mouth of the Tonzos River at the Hebros and is in the immediate vicinity of the mouth of the Artakes.3 It is located within a loop of the Tonzos, which flows around it on its northern, western, and southern sides.4 Before the city was founded by Hadrian, traces of a predecessor settlement were attested. Literary sources occasionally mention the name Orestia for this settlement, which, according to myth, was considered to be a foundation of Orestes.5

The Thracian Hadrianopolis was probably re-founded under Hadrian in connection with the emperor’s voyage to the east6 and was subsequently named after him.7 The city’s local bronze coinage also began during his reign. Hadrianopolis issued––with a short interruption in minting during the reigns of Elagabalus, Severus Alexander, and Maximinus Thrax––a large number of coins and is considered the second largest mint in Thrace after Philippopolis. The minting activity of the city reached its peak during the rule of Gordian III, who probably repaired the fortifications of the settlement based on the relevant depictions of the city gate on some coins.8 After his death, it appears that the municipal minting activity came to a standstill. In late antiquity, Hadrianopolis was the capital of the province of Haemimontus9 and gained historical fame in AD 378 on account of the famous Battle of Hadrianopolis.

  1. Hist. Aug. Heliog. 7.7. ↑

  2. Oberhummer 1912, Sp.2174. ↑

  3. Nollé 2009, 107. ↑

  4. Nollé 2009, 106. ↑

  5. Hist. Aug. Heliog. 7.7–7.8; Zonar 17.23. See also: Oberhummer 1912, Sp.2174f. ↑

  6. Varbanov (Vol. II) 2005, 255. ↑

  7. Nollé 2009, 110; Varbanov (Vol. II) 2005, 255. ↑

  8. CN_Type6637; CN_Type6672. See: Nollé 2009, 116. ↑

  9. Oberhummer 1912, Sp.2175. ↑

State of Research

A corpus volume on the minting of coins by Hadrianopolis was published in Bulgarian by J. Jurukova and is an authoritative source for our type catalogue. Some coin types that were not included in this volume have become known through hoard finds.10 In addition to Jurukova’s corpus volume, D. Draganov published further coin types from a private collection in the commemorative publication Stephanos Numismatikos, which are also included in our type catalogue. Furthermore, coin types published as a part of the Roman Provincial Coinage project, the coins from Hadrianopolis listed in the Sylloge volumes of Italy and Copenhagen, as well as some coins from the commercial trade that are not otherwise published were included in our database. The distinction of coins between the Thracian and the Phrygian Hadrianopolis is not always simple, however.

  1. Oberhummer 1912, Sp.2175. ↑

Minting System and Typology

The minting activity of Hadrianopolis covers the period from Hadrian to Gordian III. A short interruption in minting can be observed during the reigns of Elagabalus, Severus Alexander, and Maximinus Thrax. Hadrianopolis emitted coins in six different denominations, and a few medallions have survived. The pseudo-autonomous coins were all minted in smaller nominal levels (one- and two-unit coins). Governor names can only be found on the reverse legends of some larger denominations (four- and six-unit coins).

Chronology of the Coinage

Under Hadrian and his successor, Antoninus Pius, Hadrianopolis minted a manageable number of coin types, each in three denominations: four-, three-, and two- or one-unit coins, respectively. In the reverse legends of some four-unit coins minted under Antoninus Pius, the governors A. Pompeius Vopiscus11 and Gaius Iulius Commodus Orfitianus12 are named. In terms of iconography, classical depictions of gods predominate. Coins for Marcus Aurelius were issued both under Antoninus Pius––during the velvet reign of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus––and also during his own autocratic rule. The type repertoire of coins minted for Lucius Verus is relatively small, but one with his portrait on the obverse is particularly noteworthy; a dextrarum iunctio of the two emperors is depicted on the reverse, whereby the rulers stand opposite each other and grasp each other’s right hands. The reverse legend proclaims ΟΜΟΝΟΙΑ ΑVΤΟΚΡΑΤΟΡΟΝ.13 Another coin type with a similar reverse legend exists within the context of the concordia principum, but it is difficult to discern due to the poor state of the coin’s preservation. The portrait of Marcus Aurelius is on the obverse, and the reverse features his brother and co-regent, Lucius Verus.14 Furthermore, Marcus Aurelius minted coins for his wife, Faustina the Younger, and his son and predestined successor, Commodus. Almost exclusively female deities are depicted on the reverse side of Faustina’s coins.

During the reign of Commodus, coins were issued in four different denominations in addition to a medallion depicting the healing deities Asclepius and Hygieia.15 Different governor names are mentioned in the reverse legends of the four-unit coins.16 The two-unit coins are easily distinguishable from the three- and one- unit coins by the difference in the obverse portrait, which features the emperor with the radiate crown instead of the laurel wreath. In addition to the typical depictions of gods and other personifications, the large number of depictions of the emperor on horseback is significant.17 The depiction of Pegasus on the reverse of a one-unit coin is surpising and possibly indicates a mythical visit by the hero Bellerophon to the predecessor settlement of Hadrianopolis.18 During the reign of Commodus, a few coins were minted for his wife Crispina, and one type in particular demonstrates the city’s desire to be in the emperor’s good graces by staging a dextrarum iunctio of Crispina and the city goddess on the reverse.

Under Septimius Severus, the city minted in two denominations and additionally issued coins for his wife Iulia Domna as well as for his sons. With regard to the iconography, the large number of temple representations represents a novelty;19 previously, only two other temple representations had been documented in Hadrianopolis in addition to the representation of Hadrian in a distyle temple.20 Furthermore, the depiction of a nymphaeum21 is found for the first time under Septimius Severus, which probably refers to an important construction project in the city during his reign.22 The coins for Julia Domna present a rare depiction of Artemis with a long axe and an arrow in her hands,23 probably a result of local influences.

The coinages for Caracalla and Geta are very extensive and include a wide variety of motifs, ranging from classical depictions of gods to common personifications and depictions of emperors, as well as temple images and depictions of animals. The nominal structure is also relatively complex: on the coins issued for Geta, three denominations can be distinguished, while in the coinage for Caracalla there are four. As a novelty during the reign of Caracalla, the reproduction of the portrait of the emperor as a bust turned to the left with a shield and spear is added to some types; on the shield of some types a gorgoneion, and one instance of a Nike are represented.24

Hadrianopolis reached the peak of its urban minting under Gordian III, which is not necessarily reflected in the richness of types, but is unmistakably reflected in the minting volume of the city. In addition to the medallion with a Heracles representation in a double circle and another medallion with a representation of the emperor on horseback,25 the city minted in five denominations. The five- and two-unit coins can be easily distinguished by looking at the portrait of the emperor with the radiate crown; in the smallest nominal, the portrait of the emperor appears partly as a bust, partly as a head. What is striking is that, apart from the various separations and the appearance or absence of a ligature, the imperial titulature is largely constant; it is the same for all coins issued under Gordian: ΑVΤ Κ Μ ΑΝΤ ΓΟΡΔΙΑΝΟC ΑVΓ.26 The iconographic repertoire is as extensive as during the reign of Caracalla and includes numerous different motifs that cannot be listed here in detail.

Special Features of the Coinage

Some image motifs, which are to be seen in connection with the founding myth, deserve special attention. According to J. Nollé, a group of three figures represented on two coin types from the reign of Gordian III can be interpreted as Orestes, Iphigenia, and Pylades––and thus as a reminiscence of the founding myth of the predecessor settlement Orestia.27 A coin minted for Marcus Aurelius depicts the three river gods Arteksos, Hebros, and Tonzos,28 at whose confluence Orestes washed himself according to the myth and thus fell into a rage and subsequently founded the settlement.29 Whether three other coin types also show Orestes next to the river god Tonzos,30 or whether the figure depicted next to the river god should rather be interpreted as Apollo, is not quite clear and should remain unanswered.

Just like the founding myth, the refounding of the city under the aegis of Emperor Hadrian was also met with approval in the minting of coins. The founding tradition of the city is reflected in the fact that the obverse legend of two coin types refers to the emperor as ΚΤΙCΤΗC ΑΔΡΙΑΝΟC.31 Another coin depicts Hadrian in a distyle temple,32 a scenario that is probably to be understood as a founding act in the broadest sense.33 The multitude of eagle representations is to be understood in the sense of a mythically-coloured ruler institution in the city Hadrian founded, helped by an eagle sent from Zeus. In Hadrianopolis’ numismatic pictorial repertoire, eagle representations appear isolated (with or without a wreath),34 as an attribute animal of Zeus,35 in connection with Ganymede,36 and together with a snake.37 Eagle depictions on an altar38 as well as with a piece of sacrificial meat in its talons,39 have a close connection to the founding myth; according to tradition, the eagle supposedly stole a piece of sacrificial meat from an altar and carried it to the place intended for the new foundation.40 A coin minted under Geta shows an oversized eagle next to the sacrificing emperor, who is probably to be interpreted as divus Hadrianus.41

Depictions of Heracles are also noteworthy. In addition to very classical depictions of the hero,42 there are also numerous scenic motifs. Some coin reverses feature Heracles fighting the Nemean lion,43 while others show the hunt for the Ceryneian Hind;44 His restraint of the Cretan Bull45 and the defeat of the Hydra46 are also popular in the iconographic repertoire. Other coin types show Heracles with the apples of the Hesperides.47 No less popular were the overpowering of Cerberus48 and the killing of Diomedes, combined with the robbery of his horses.49 The delivery of the Erymanthian Boar to Eurystheus is also present in the coinage.50 The reproduction of the famous dodecathlon on coins from Hadrianopolis is intended to illustrate, to quote J. Nollé, ‛the power of the hero [...] or his role as a monster killer and thus the creation of the basis for a secure human life and urban civilization’.51 Of particular interest is a medallion minted under Gordian which shows Heracles in the Farnese style, and next to him a hind with the Telesphos child; this motif is surrounded by a double circle depicting the labours of Heracles.52

The fact that Heracles may also play an important role in the founding myth of Hadrianopolis53 becomes evident in the so-called pseudo-autonomous coins, the obverse of which often depicts the bust of hero,54 which is sometimes contextualized with the programmatic transcription ΤΟΝ ΚΤΙCΤΗΝ.55 The reverse iconography of these pseudo-autonomous coins also alludes to the Heracles myth: in addition to the erect club as a distinctive attribute of Heracles;56 the club held up by two cupids;57 and a composition consisting of a club, quiver, and bow,58 classical depictions of Heracles standing with a club and lion pelt59 and the fight against the Hydra60 are depicted; the reverse of another coin type shows Heracles mounted on the back of a lion.61

Our type catalogue represents the state of research from August 2019 and does not take into consideration any coin types that have become known later. Further information, especially about new types, is always welcome.

  1. CN_Type6543; CN_Type6547. See also: Nollé 2009, 131. ↑

  2. CN_Type5586. ↑

  3. Nollé 2009, 125. ↑

  4. CN_Type5564; CN_Type5568; CN_Type6484. ↑

  5. CN_Type5518; CN_Type5519. See also: Jurukova 1987, 8; Nollé 2009, 110. ↑

  6. CN_Type5515. ↑

  7. Nollé 2009, 113. ↑

  8. CN_Type5979; CN_Type6188; CN_Type6239; CN_Type6306; CN_Type6457; CN_Type6822. ↑

  9. CN_Type6447; CN_Type6567; CN_Type6597; CN_Type6642; CN_Type6868. ↑

  10. CN_Type5765; CN_Type5862; CN_Type6211; CN_Type6227. ↑

  11. CN_Type5765; CN_Type5862; CN_Type6211; CN_Type6227. ↑

  12. CN_Type5765; CN_Type5862; CN_Type6211; CN_Type6227. ↑

  13. CN_Type5737. ↑

  14. Nollé 2009, 117. ↑

  15. Nollé 2009, 117. ↑

  16. With a club in his right hand and a lion skin in his left: CN_Type5572; CN_Type5589; CN_Type5753; CN_Type5784; CN_Type5794; CN_Type6197; CN_Type6232; CN_Type6463; CN_Type6836; CN_Type6838; CN_Type6839. Farnese style, supported on a club covered with the lion pelt: CN_Type5848; CN_Type6094; CN_Type6773; CN_Type6835. Heracles riding on a lion: CN_Type6540; CN_Type6831. ↑

  17. CN_Type5707; CN_Type5865; CN_Type6482. ↑

  18. CN_Type5918; CN_Type6120; CN_Type6123. ↑

  19. CN_Type5641; CN_Type6719. ↑

  20. CN_Type6467; CN_Type6471; CN_Type6717; CN_Type6834. ↑

  21. CN_Type6148; CN_Type6706. ↑

  22. CN_Type6464; CN_Type6715. ↑

  23. CN_Type5699; CN_Type5754. ↑

  24. CN_Type6338; CN_Type6499. ↑

  25. Nollé 2009, 142. ↑

  26. CN_Type6528. See: Jurukova 1987, 57; Nollé 2009, 142f. ↑

  27. On this––but relatively ambivalent––see: Nollé 2009, 143. ↑

  28. CN_Type6827; CN_Type6831; CN_Type6832; CN_Type6833; CN_Type6834; CN_Type6835; CN_Type6836; CN_Type6838; CN_Type6839; CN_Type6879. ↑

  29. See in particular: Jurukova 1987, 51f. ↑

  30. CN_Type6827; CN_Type6879. ↑

  31. CN_Type6833. ↑

  32. CN_Type6832. ↑

  33. CN_Type6835; CN_Type6836; CN_Type6838; CN_Type6839. ↑

  34. CN_Type6834. ↑

  35. CN_Type6831. ↑


  • Draganov 1998 = D. Draganov, New Coin Types of Hadrianopolis, in: U. Peter (Hrsg.), Stephanos nomismatikos. Edith Schönert-Geiss zum 65. Geburtstag, Griechisches Münzwerk (Berlin 1998) 221–226.
  • Jurukova 1987 = J. Jurukova, Monetosečeneto na gradovete v Dolna Mizija i Trakija II - III v.: Chadrianopol (Sofia 1987).
  • Nollé 2009 = J. Nollé, Zu den Gründungstraditionen des thrakischen Hadrianopolis (Edirne), Chiron 39, 2009, 61–102.
  • Oberhummer 1912 = E. Oberhummer, Hadrianopolis, in: RE VII,2, 1912, 2174–2175.
  • Varbanov (Vol. II) 2005 = I. Varbanov, Greek Imperial Coins. And Their Values, Vol. 2: Thrace. From Abdera to Pautalia (Bourgas 2005).

Map with Mints of typology