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Coin Typology of

The Coin Typology of the Thracian Rulers in the Hellenistic Period

Topography and History

Even after the Macedonian conquest of Thrace in 341 BC and the establishment of a ‛Thracian strategy’ under a Macedonian administration, local dynasts continued to play an important role in the region.1 Seuthes III, who was regarded as the ‛symbolic figure of resistance against Macedonian foreign rule’2 also had his portrait minted on coins. In the 3rd century, however, most rulers followed the Hellenistic model, which is also unmistakably reflected in their coinage.

  1. Peter 1997, 159f. ↑

  2. Peter 1997, 172. ↑

State of Research

The coins minted by the local Thracian rulers are considered to have been relatively well researched, thanks to the detailed treatment of the coinage of the Thracian dynasties in U. Peter’s 1997 dissertation. In our type catalogue we strive to take into account the coin types that have become more increasingly well-known since then. The extensive catalogue of St. Topalov,3 in which new material from private Bulgarian collections has been included, should be mentioned here in particular. The type compilations by J. Jurukova4 and A. Peykov5 are also very comprehensive.

  1. Topalov 2004. ↑

  2. Jurukova 1976; Jurukova 1992. ↑

  3. Peykov 2011. ↑

Minting System and Typology

The Thracian dynasts minted in both bronze and silver; some rulers minted coins in both metals alongside each other. Among the earlier rulers, small silver nominals predominate, which are called hektes and hemihektes according to the new stater system. However, the nominal structure of the respective bronze coinage is difficult to grasp; one, two, or three denominations can be disginguished for most rulers. Furthermore, the monetary standards cannot be defined more precisely with regard to this rudimentary evidence.

The Coin Types of Seuthes III

From about 330 to 295 BC, Seuthes III ruled over a local kingdom with its capital in Seuthopolis,6 where he minted his coins. The type classification of his coins can be traced back to the typology of K. Dimitrov.7 The iconography of Seuthes III’s bronze coinage is relatively complex. The coins attributed to the larger denomination show a male portrait on the obverse, which has partly been interpreted as a portrait of the ruler and partly as a representation of Zeus; the reverse features a rider on a galloping horse, whose identity is specified more precisely as ΣΕΥΘΟΥ.8 Various mintmarks also appear in different positions. On the obverse of the smaller coins, representations of an eagle9 or an eight-pointed star10 appear instead of a portrait; a horizontal lightning bolt,11 a spearhead,12 or a wreath of corn with the ruler’s name inside it13 are depicted on the reverse. Interestingly, the ruler’s name is merely given as ΣΕΥΘΟΥ without the corresponding Basileus title in the reverse legend, which can probably be interpreted as Seuthes III recognizing the reign of Lysimachus.14

The Coin Types of Spartokos

The reign of Spartokos partially overlaps with the reign of Seuthes III 15 Only after the death of Seuthes III did Spartokos issue a small series of bronze coins. The obverses feature a depiction of a Janus-shaped lion’s head and a bearded man; the reverse sides show Artemis standing left with a wreath in her right hand. The reverse sides of this series of coins are each inscribed with the legend ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΣΠΑΡΤΟΚΟΥ. 16

The Coin Types of Skostokos

In the second third of the 3rd century BC, Skostokos minted tetradrachms depicting the head of Alexander the Great with ram’s horns and taenia on the obverse and an enthroned Athena Nikephoros on the reverse; the reverse legend of each of these types is ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΛΥΣΙΜΑΧΟΥ ΣΚΟΣΤΟΚΟΥ.17 In addition, Skostokos issued bronze coins with a head on the obverse of the coin, some of which can probably be interpreted as a portrait of a ruler, others as the head of Apollo, and the representation of a horseman on the reverse of the coin. 18 Other reverse sides from the bronze series show the cult statue of Artemis Phosphoros.19 The coinage of Skostokos was dealt with comprehensively in a die study presented by W. Fischer-Bossert.20

The Coin Types of Adaios

Processing the bronze coinage of the Thracian dynast Adaios, which dates to the middle of the 3rd century BC, is quite difficult. Not only is the image repertoire relatively extensive, but there is also a multitude of monograms. The coins which can be assigned to the larger nominal level feature either the head of Athena, Heracles, or Apollo on the obverse and, respectively, an owl, an upright club, or a tripod on the reverse.21 The motifs of the Heracles head and club are also used on the smaller denomination.22 A different coin type which can be assigned to the smaller nominal level features a boar’s head on the obverse and a spearhead on the reverse.23

The Coin Types of Orsoaltios

The coinage of Orsoaltios, whose lifetime can be dated roughly to the 3rd century BC,24 comprises typical imitations of the tetradrachms of Alexander the Great, with the head of Heracles on the obverse and Zeus Aëtophoros accompanied by the legend ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΟΡΣΟΑΛΤΙΟΥ on the reverse.

The Coin Types of Kersibaulos

Just like Orsoaltios, the Thracian dynast Kersibaulos, who also (presumably) reigned in the 3rd century BC,25 also coined imitations of tetradrachms;26 at the feet of Zeus Aëtophoros, however, an oval shield can also be seen. The reverse legend reads ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΚΕΡΣΙΒΑΥΛΟΥ.

The Coin Types of Cotys III

The bronze coins issued under Cotys III in the 2nd century BC are straightforward. On the obverse of each coin type is a bust of Artemis; the reverse shows a horse with a raised front hoof.27 In the reverse legend, the ruler's name is indicated sometimes with the βασιλεύς title and sometimes without it.

The Coin Types of Mostis

The coinage of Mostis, dating to the late 2nd or early 1st century BC and which included tetradrachms made of both silver and bronze, is also relatively diverse. His tetradrachms show the portrait of the ruler on the obverse and an Athena Nikephoros on the reverse.28 The reverse legends contain the ruler's name with the βασιλεύς title, a year, and occasionally a governor's name. The bronze coins prove to be quite complex with regard to their iconography: on the obverse, various portraits of gods and humans are depicted, while the reverse shows an eagle on a lightning bolt,29 a horse,30 a quiver with a bow and arrows,31 a suit of armour,32 or a caduceus.33

The Coin Types of Rhaiskouporis and Cotys IV

The coins of the Thracian rulers Rhaiskouporis and his son Cotys IV, minted in the middle of the 1st century BC, depict the head of a young man on the obverse, which is probably to be interpreted as Cotys IV, and a tropaeum on the reverse.34 The obverse and reverse legends name the two dynasts, each with a βασιλεύς titles.

The Coin Types of Sadales II

On the obverse of the only known type of coin of Sadales II, whose reign dates to the middle of the 1st century BC, the portrait of the ruler is depicted; on the reverse an, eagle is depicted on a lightning bolt. The reverse legend names the dynast and reads ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΣΑΔΑΛΟΥ.{[CN_Type5214].

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.

Bibliography

  • Dimitrov 1984 = D. Dimitrov: Sevtopolis, 2. Antični i srednovekovni moneti (Sofia 1984).
  • Fischer-Bossert 2015 = W. Fischer-Bossert, Die Lysimacheier des Skostokos, RBN 151, 2005, pp. 49–74.
  • Jurukova 1976 = J. Jurukova, Coins of the Ancient Thracians, BAR Supp. Series 4 (Oxford 1976).
  • Jurukova 1992 = J. Jurukova, Monetite na trakijskite plemena i vladeteli (Sofia 1992).
  • Peter 1997 = U. Peter, Die Münzen der thrakischen Dynasten (5.-3. Jahrhundert v. Chr.). Hintergründe ihrer Prägung, Griechisches Münzwerk (Berlin 1997).
  • Peykov 2011 = A. Peykov, Catalogue of the Coins from Thrace. Part I: Tribal and Rulers' Coinages of Thracians, Paeonians, Celts and Scythians 5th c. B.C. - 1st c. A.D (Centrex 2011).
  • Topalov 2004 = St. Topalov, New Contributions to the Study of the Coinage and History of the Early Odrysian Kingdom in the Lands of Ancient Thrace (Sofia 2004).

Map with Mints of typology