- Topography and History
- State of Research
- Minting System and Typology
- The Coinage of the Roman Imperial Period
- Chronology of the Coinage
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Topography and History
The ancient port city of Perinthos (Greek Πέρινθος) was located on the Thracian coast of Propontis, between Bisanthe and Byzantium. The city was founded around 602 BC by Samian colonists.1 From the end of the 3rd century AD, Perinthos was renamed Herakleia after its mythical founder Heracles.2 The modern city is now called Marmara Ereğlisi and is a small fishing port on the Sea of Marmara in European Turkey and belongs to the province Tekirdağ.
The history of the city in classical times as well as during Hellenism is characterized by its constant struggle to maintain its independence. Although its geographical position made it one of the most important ports and trading cities on the Propontis coast, it seems that Perinthos hardly played a decisive role at that time and was always affected by the neighbouring city of Byzantium.
The importance of the city increased considerably during the Roman Empire. From AD 46 onwards, Perinthos was the capital of the province of Thrace and was elevated to the administrative seat of the Thracian governors. This new role gave Perinthos the scope to gain importance as an administrative centre. In this function, the city received special support and thus reached its economic peak, which was directly expressed in its imperial coinage.
State of Research
The coinage of Perinthos has thus far been extensively studied by E. Schönert-Geiss, who published a die catalogue in the Griechisches Münzwerk series in 1965. For the creation of our type catalogue, we have taken this corpus volume into consideration, as well as the coin types of the Roman Provincial Coinage series,3 the coin types of I. Varbanov,4 and other coin types that are found in the coin trade today.
Minting System and Typology
The coinage of Perinthos comprises autonomous, pseudo-autonomous, and imperial provincial emissions. The city began minting coins in around the middle of the 4th century BC, initially consisting of only a few silver issues and more extensive bronze issues. During the Roman Empire, as well as in the so-called pseudo-autonomous period, Perinthos minted exclusively in bronze. In total, more than 550 types can be distinguished for the city, to which subtypes were created on account of iconographic and other deviations. The value system of the coinage follows the classification of Schönert-Geiss.5
Schönert-Geiss 1965, 27–33. ↑
The Coinage of the Roman Imperial Period
The numismatic significance of the Perinthos mint was undoubtedly at its peak in the Roman Empire, as its minting activity increased significantly then. It began issuing coins under the reign of Claudius and continued––with interruptions––until the time of Emperor Gallienus (AD 253–268). After the death of Nero, Perinthos lost the right to mint coins and the city only regained the privilege again under Domitian. Since no coins have survived from the reign of Commodus, the right to mint coins seems to have expired for Perinthos with the death of Marcus Aurelius, and a renewal of the privilege by Commodus did not take place. Only under Septimius Severus did the city resume its minting after a twelve-year break. Until Severus Alexander, Perinthos had minted for almost 150 years without interruption.
During the imperial period, Perinthos minted only in bronze. The minting system comprises, including the medallions, seven nominal levels, which can be described due to their size and weight as ‛one-unit’, ‛two-unit’, ‛three-unit’, ‛four-unit’, ‛five-unit’, and ‛six-units coins, according to Schönert-Geiss.6
Under Claudius, Perinthos coined two denominations: three-unit (diameter: 22–25mm; weight: 9.16g) and five-unit (diameter: 30–32mm; weight: 18. 95g) coins, while under Trajan the two-unit coin was added as a third nominal (diameter: 20–22mm; weight: 5.67g). Somewhat later, the smallest nominal, the one-unit coin (diameter: 18–20mm; weight: 4.75g) appears under Sabina and Antoninus Pius. Since the Severan period and also under Gordian III, three more nominal levels were added (four-units––diameter: 27–29mm; weight: 10.7g, six-units––diameter: 32–35mm; weight: 20.35g, and medallions––diameter: 37–40mm; weight: 30.1g), whereby a reduction in weight is discernible from the already known nominal stages and the two-unit were minted exclusively for imperial women. The embossing system changes a little under Gallienus, as the five- (ca. 29.6g) and six-unit coins (ca. 24.5g) weigh more despite unchanged sizes.
Perinthos minted several coin types from the reigns of Claudius to Gallienus. The coins bear the image of the emperor or that of a member of the imperial family on the obverse and, analogous to the Roman city coinage, lists their names and titles in Greek. The name of the city usually appears on the reverse, and the name of the governor is added to the city ethnic from AD 107 onwards. Other than the emperor, the governor is the most important person to appear on the city’s coins.7
An exception is some types of Nero in Latin. These include rare editions of sestertii, dupondii, and aes based on the Roman denominations with legends in Latin.8 Particularly noteworthy is the representation of a triumphal arch with a statue of the emperor on a quadriga and bearing the legend SC, which refers to the Roman Senate. Since some of these coins bear similar Perinthian Galba-countermarks, it has been assumed that Perinthos was the possible minting site for this series. In some cases, even the same die would have been used. Considering that countermarks were usually applied to their own coins by a mint, it seems reasonable to assign the Neronian coins to Perinthos. If this attribution to the Perinthian mint is correct, then it is a unique phenomenon in its minting history.
Typical coin designs on the reverse side include depictions from the Greco-Roman pantheon, attributes/objects, personifications, depictions of animals, or Egyptian deities. Besides these, depictions of the emperor are popular iconographic types and usually refer to historical events. Thus, on types minted under Claudius we find types where the city (portrayed as the city goddess) receives its rights from the emperor.9 Under Antoninus Pius, we first observe the image of the emperor on horseback wearing a war uniform, as well as representations of the emperor in uniform standing aboard a ship.10 On some coins of Antoninus Pius, Septimius Severus, and Severus Alexander, we can see the arrival of the emperor into the port of Perinthos, and on others we see depictions of their stays in the city. Interestingly, the representation of ships––especially warships with hoisted sails and oars––become a popular coin type under the later emperors of the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, which speaks for the importance of the city as a port and naval base.11 Among the most important imperial coin types are those that are closely related to the depiction of Nike and that refer to the emperor’s victory. The emperor is sometimes depicted between two standards12 and other times being crowned by Nike.13
Under the Severans, the city achieved a particularly prominent position. After a successful fight against Pescennius Niger, Perinthos was awarded its first Neocoria title for its support by Septimius Severus in AD 196. Thus, the city received permission to build a temple in honour of the emperor. This Neocoria temple (from Neokoros = guardian of the temple dedicated to the provincial cult) initially appears in two types: as an independent image or worn by the city goddess. The temple as an independent type first appears on coins of Septimius Severus in the smaller denomination for Geta and under Severus Alexander in a perspectival view.14 The second type depicts the city goddess, Tyche, with a cornucopia in her left hand and the temple in her right.15
After being awarded the Neocoria, the city began to celebrate great agones. Later in his reign, probably in the fall of AD 209, Severus made his young son, Geta, Augustus; his older son, Caracalla, had been Augustus since AD 197. It was at this time that Perinthos begins to show two temples on its coins instead of the previous single temple. The city goddess, who previously held only one temple in her hands, now holds two.16 Furthermore, the legend announces a new festival––the Philadelpheia or Feast of Brotherly Love––which derives its name from the alleged concord between Caracalla and Geta.17
After Geta’s death, the festival name Philadelpheia disappears from the coins. From the time of Septimius Severus, the names of various festivals had appeared on coin emissions from Perinthos. Instead of the governor’s name, new titles and often the games that were held in the city appear on the reverse. From the numismatic material alone, we learn that the Severeia, the Philadelpheia, the Aktia, and the Pythia were celebrated in Perinthos as great agones.
Elagabalus awarded the city its second Neocoria honour. From this point on, the city now called itself ΔΙC ΝΕΩΚΟΡΟC. The coin types themselves remain unchanged. The two temples are represented identically, with prize crowns symbolizing their feasts hovering above them; one is called Aktia, and the other Pythia.18 Under Gordian III, we find the temples once more as an independent coin type, and we see the last two temples under Gallienus.19
Of interest are the types that fall under the domain of the Heracles cult, which occupied a large space during the imperial period. Under the Severans and up until Gallienus, the depiction of Heracles was widespread, especially on medallions, which were preferred as commemorative coins.20 The numerous types of the hero on Perinthian coins confirm that the cult of Heracles as the mythical founder of the city remained popular for a long time.
The cult of Egyptian deities also enjoyed great prestige in Perinthos. The influence of the Egyptian religion is reflected especially during the imperial period, since Serapis and Isis were worshipped not only for having health-granting powers, but also for granting victory. Under Caracalla, Severus Alexander, and Gordian III in particular, we see numerous coin images depicting Egyptian deities, and their frequency shows the importance of the city as a place of worship of the Egyptian religion.21
Finally, Perinthos was in league with Ephesus, Kyzikos, Nicomedia, and Smryna during the reign of Gordian III and thus minted Homonoia coins.22
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.
The nominal designations are based on the corpus volume by E.Schönert-Geiss. Schönert-Geiss 1965, 28–32. ↑
Types with depictions of ships on the reverse under Septimius Severus CN_Type2473, CN_Type2475, CN_Type2477, CN_Type2487, CN_Type2548; Caracalla CN_Type2587, CN_Type2588, CN_Type2589; Elagabal CN_Type2860, CN_Type2862, CN_Type2866, CN_Type2870, CN_Type2931; Severus Alexander CN_Type3067; Gordian III. CN_Type3204, CN_Type3205 and Gallienus CN_Type3389, CN_Type3394. ↑
Numerous depictions of Nike under Septimius Severus: CN_Type2474; CN_Type2494; CN_Type2495; under Caracalla: CN_Type2584; CN_Type2616; under Geta: CM_Type3844; medallions under Elagabal: CN_Type3005; CN_Type3006 and under Severus Alexander CN_Type3069 etc. ↑
CN_Type2526; CN_Type2611; CN_Type2627. The medallions always mention the Philadelpheia games in the legend, which were held by Septimius Severus in 198 in honour of his two sons. All show the typical portrait of the late period with the beard divided into long curls. ↑
The deeds of Heracles are mainly represented on the medallions, under Septimius Severus: CN_Type2534; CN_Type2535; CN_Type2536; CN_Type2537; CN_Type2538; under Caracalla: CN_Type2623; CN_Type2624; CN_Type2642; CN_Type2640; unter Geta: CN_Type2821; CN_Type2825; CN_Type2827; CN_Type2833; under Elagabal: CN_Type2995; CN_Type2996; CN_Type2999; CN_Type3017; CN_Type3018; CN_Type3022; under Gordian III: CN_Type3293; CN_Type3294; CN_Type4170; CN_Type3296; CN_Type3297; CN_Type3298; under Gallienus: CN_Type3378; CN_Type3380; CN_Type3384; CN_Type3390. ↑
Chronology of the Coinage
Perinthos minted in both silver and bronze during its autonomous period. Silver coinage had begun to be minted in the late second half of the 4th century BC,23 when the city minted double sigloi (didrachms weighing about 10.5g), hemisigloi (hemidrachms weighing about 2.5g), and obols (weighing 1.14g), all according to the Persian standard.24 In addition to changing image motifs on the obverse, a consistent image appears on the reverse, namely the foreparts of two jumping horses whose bodies are connected to each other in the middle. Various monograms and magistrate names as well as the city ethnic (given in full or abbreviated form) on the reverse complete the coins’ designs.
The bronze coins of the 4th and 3rd centuries BC followed the same iconographic programme of the aforementioned reverse type,25 and the motif appears as a mintmark on later bronze issues.26 Thus, the initial coin image of the two horses served as an emblem for the city’s mint. The bronze coinage from the 2nd to 1st centuries BC is characterized by alternating types, with images of the Greco-Roman pantheon predominating. Many bronze coins were issued with gods’ heads on the obverse and their attributes on the reverse.27
Schönert-Geiss distinguishes two groups for the nominal system of bronze coins in the period after 280 BC. These groups have been further divided into ten series based on their chronology as well as their weight and diameter (Perinth Series 1–10).28 Since the difference in weight between the two groups is relatively small (about 1g), the question of whether they have the same nominal values remains open.29
One of the special imprints from the city features representations of Egyptian deities, whose influence is reflected in this bronze series. Their earliest appearance is on the autonomous coins minted in Perinthos under Ptolemy IV Philopator (221–204 BC), which Schönert-Geiss correctly associated with the occupation of a large part of the Thracian coastal regions by the Ptolemies. The busts of Serapis and Isis appear behind one another on the obverse, and the images of the god Anubis or the bull Apis are depicted on the reverse.30 These Egyptian types indicate that there were close trade relations between Thrace and Egypt. .
During the Roman Empire, there was a large number of bronze coins which often show the founder of the city, city goddesses, or other gods or demigods in place of a portrait of the emperor on the obverse. These are therefore called pseudo-autonomous coins and represent a separate complex of Roman provincial coinage. This pseudo-autonomous coinage probably first began in Perinthos under Claudius.31 The bulk of this coinage belongs to the middle part of the 1st to the end of the 2nd century AD, a time when the provincial minting of the city was relatively low. Schönert-Geiss divided the coins into six independent nominal values,32 which correspond in both size and weight to the small nominal values of the provincial coinage.33
The pseudo-autonomous series are characterized by a close thematic connection between obverse and reverse (e.g. Apollo/lyre, Demeter head/pot with grain or poppy, Dionysus head/Demeter, the heads of Isis and Serapis/Harpocrates, Anubis etc.). It appears as though the representation of Serapis and Isis appears again from the 2nd century AD, and that Anubis and Apis can also be found once more. Harpocrates formed a triad of gods with Isis and Serapis and was depicted in various Thracian cities, including Perinthos.34 On the pseudo-autonomous coinage, the city ethnic appears on the reverse, as does the title of Neocoria from AD 196 onwards.
On the pseudo-autonomous coins of Perinthos, mythical and historical elements of the city’s foundation are blended. The representation of Heracles in particularly interesting. It seems that this hero had a special significance in the city because the Perinthians regarded him as the founder of their city. Heracles is first explicitly mentioned as the founder on the coinage, as his head appears with the legend ΗΡΑΚΛΗϹ ΚΤΙϹΤΗϹ or ΤΟΝ ΚΤΙϹΤΗN on the obverse.35 The addition of ‛Ionon’ (ΙΩΝΩΝ ΤΟΝ ΚΤΙϹΤΗ und ΙΩΝΩΝ)36 refers to the Ionian origin of the city. This origin is later emphasized in the coinage of Severus Alexander and less so by the time of Gordian III with the addition of ΙΩΝΩΝ to the reverse legend.37
The coin type with the Hera of Samos is particularly of note. The reverse motif alludes to the foundation of Perinthos, which was a colony of the island of Samos, with the depiction of a statue of Hera. Here, the goddess stands on a prora, which is a symbol for her passage from Samos to Perinthos.38 The same coin type reappears on the coins of Nero and Octavia, but without the prora.39
Also noteworthy is the depiction of the hero of Perinthos with the legend ΠEPINΘOC on the obverse. He appears on the reverse of both the coins of Marcus Aurelius40 and those of pseudo-autonomous issue.41
The dating is based on stylistic criteria. See Schönert-Geiss 1965, 13. ↑
CN_Type906; CN_Type2045; CN_Type910; CN_Type2041; CN_Type2042; CN_Type2043; CN_Type2044; CN_Type938; CN_Type2045; CN_Type2047; CN_Type2048; CN_Type2049; CN_Type2050; CN_Type2051; CN_Type2052; CN_Type956. The same motif also appears as an mintmark on the Alexander coins of Lysimachos. ↑
Schönert-Geiss 1965, 27. Series 1–10. ↑
Group 1: smaller nominal with a diameter of 18–19 mm and a weight of ca. 5–6 g, larger nominal 20–21 mm, 7–8 g; Group 2 2: smaller nominal with a diameter of 18–19 mm and a weight of ca. 4 g, larger nominal 20–21mm, 6–6.5 g. ↑
Schönert-Geiss has dated a series of pseudo-autonomous coins to the time of Claudius and Nero. However, the chronology is not certain. ↑
Pseudo-autonomous groups 1–6. ↑
Schönert-Geiss 1965, 32–33. ↑
- Burell 2004 = B. Burell, Neokoroi, Greek Cities and Roman Emperors (Cincinnati 2004), S. 236–242.
- Hoover 2017 = O.D.Hoover, Handbook of Coins of Macedon and Its Neighbors. Part II: Thrace, Skythia, and Taurike, Sixth to First Centuries BC, The Handbook of Greek Coinage Series, Volume 3 (Leiden/Lancaster 2017).
- Leschhorn 1998 = W. Leschhorn, Griechische Agone im Makedonien und Thrakien in: U. Peter (Hrg.), Stephanos nomismatikos, Edith Schönert-Geiss zum 65. Geburtstag (Berlin 1998), 408–415.
- Raycheva 2015 = M. Raycheva, The Imperial Cult in Perinthos in Archeologia Bulgarica XIX, 2, 2015, 23–34.
- RPC I 1992 = A. Burnett u.a., Roman Provincial Coinage. Vol. 1: From the Death of Caesar to the Death of Vitellius: 44 BC–AD 69 (London 1992).
- RPC II 1999 = A. Burnett u.a., Roman Provincial Coinage. Vol. 2: From Vespasian to Domitian (AD 69–96) (London 1999).
- RPC III 2015 = M. Amandry u.a., Roman Provincial Coinage. Vol. 3: Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian (AD 96–138) (London/Paris 2015).
- RPC IV = V. Heuchert, Roman Provincial Coinage IV online (temporary), [https://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/].
- Schönert-Geiss 1965 = E. Schönert-Geiss, Die Münzprägung von Perinthos (Berlin 1965).
- Schönert-Geiss 1999 = E. Schönert-Geiss, Bibliographie zur antiken Numismatik Thrakiens und Mösiens (Berlin 1999).
- Varbanov (Vol. III), 2007 = I. Varbanov, Greek Imperial Coins. And Their Values, Vol. 3: Thrace (from Perinthus to Trajanopolis) (Bourgas 2007).