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Coin Typology of

The Coin Typology of the Rulers of the Odrysian Kingdom

Topography and History

The Thracian dynasts are mentioned only sporadically in the Greek literary tradition. This makes the historical source value of their coins all the higher.1 In the 5th century BC, several Thracian tribes united to form the Odrysian kingdom. According to our knowledge, the first two Odrysian rulers, Teres I and Sitalkes I, did not mint any coins; the first coins were not issued until the reign of Sparadokos.2 The dynastic coinage reached its high point under Cotys I, who became known for his very aggressive foreign policy and who had endeavoured to strengthen the lasting power of the Odrysian kingdom.3

  1. Peter 1997, 14–19. ↑

  2. Peter 1997, 62. ↑

  3. Peter 1997, 112–114; Peykov 2011, 56. ↑

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,4 in which new material from private Bulgarian collections has been included, should be mentioned here in particular. The type compilations by J. Jurukova5 and A. Peykov are also very comprehensive.6

  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 Sparadokos

The Odrysian ruler Sparadokos issued silver coins in three denominations during the second half of the 5th century BC. The reverse sides of his distaters, hemistaters, and hektes all show a flying eagle with a snake in its beak within a quadratum incusum. Based on the iconography present on the reverse, it can be assumed that Sparadokos minted his coins in the Chalcidian mint of Olynthos.7 The obverse of the few distater coins that have been preserved features a rider with a double spear,8 and a horse is depicted on the obverse of the hemistaters.9 Some of the hemistaters also have a mintmark on the front of the coin, which can most likely be interpreted as a knucklebone.10 Finally, a horse protome is featured on the obverse of the small nominal.11

The Coin Types of Seuthes I

Seuthes I minted silver coins in three denominations, as well as a few bronze coins, during the early 4th century BC. However, the authenticity of his coins is partly disputed.12 A iconographic repertoire similar to that of Sparadokos is used on this coinage. Either a rider,13 a horse,14 or a horse protome15 appear on the obverse. The reverse sides are kept relatively simple and merely reproduce a legend referring to the dynasty in differing variations within a quadratum incusum or dotted border. Deviating from this, a cotyla in an incised circle is recognizable on the reverse of the bronze coins.16

The Coin Types of Metokos

The coinage of the Odrysian ruler Metokos also dates back to the early 4th century BC and includes small silver coins in two denominations and some medium-sized bronze coins. The location of the mint in which the Metokos coins were minted is controversial, but the Thracian city of Pistiros can probably be assumed with caution.17 The male head on the obverse of the hektes is interpreted as a portrait of the ruler, while a double axe is depicted on the reverse of these coins. The shaft of the double axe also functions as a letter ‛T’ in the ruler's name, which is indicated as a reverse legend. On some reverse sides a grape is often used as a mintmark, the position of which is variable.18 The same iconography on the reverse can also be found on the few known hemihektes of Metokos, while a lion's head is depicted on the front of the coin.19 The obverse of his bronze coins show either the jumping horse already known from Sparadokos and Seuthes20 or a grape;21 on the reverse sides of the bronze coins, which are characterized by their unusual thickness,22 the double axe appears in a quadratum incusum.

The Coin Types of Saratokos

Saratokos also had both silver and bronze coins minted in the late 5th or early 4th century BC. It is controversial, however, whether his coins were minted in Thasos, as J. Jurukova has conjectured.23 Saratokos made use of a relatively complex repertoire of pictoral motifs, which seems to be based on Thasian coin motifs; the obverse shows either a portrait of the ruler,24 the head of Silenus,25 or Silenus kneeling with a kantharos in his right hand.26 The reverse motif of the silver coins is a monogram within a quadratum incusum,27 which cannot be further defined and which appears as a legend both with and without the ruler’s name and on various denominations. Further motifs of the silver coinage include a grape with a tendril,28 a vessel under a vine,29 and a volute krater.30 A grape is always depicted on the reverse of the bronze coins.31

The Coin Types of Bergaios

It remains controversial whether some bronze coins dating to the early 4th century BC with the legend ΒΕΡΓ, ΒΕΡΓΑΙ, or ΒΕΡΓΑΙΟΥ can be attributed to the Thracian ruler Bergaios or the Macedonian city of Berge.32 The obverse of the hemistaters corresponds to the type of a Thasian imitation and depicts Silenus carrying off a nymph in his arms.33 A dolphin or a kantharos is depicted on the obverse of the small nominal, while the reverse shows the legend divided into a quadratum incusum split into four parts.34 Additionally, a few bronze coins belong to Bergaios or Berge, on whose reverse a fish is represented.35

The Coin Types of Hebryzelmis

The Odrysian ruler Hebryzelmis minted in the first quarter of the 4th century in the Kypsela mint.36 His bronze coins can be assigned to three nominal levels. Various portraits are depicted on the obverse of the coins, some of which can be interpreted as ruler portraits and others of which are likely to be identified as Cybele, Artemis, or Apollo.37 A cotyla was a particularly popular reverse motif. On some coin types, a grain is present under the cotyla.38 The name of the ruler is mentioned to various degrees in the reverse legends.

The Coin Types of Cotys I

The coinage of Cotys I, who reigned from 384–359 BC and apparently minted his coins in Kypsela,39 is relatively extensive with regard to the number of existing specimens, though the number of coin types remains negligible. A portrait of the ruler at various ages is depicted on the obverse of the silver coins. A cotyla is depicted on these coins as a reverse motif, and the ruler’s name is indicated in varying lengths in the reverse legend.40 The bronze coins can be assigned to three different nominal levels. On the obverse, a woman’s head,41 a horseman,42 or a horse protome43 are depicted in addition to the portrait of the ruler.44 The cotyla appears again on the reverse of the bronze coins, where it is sometimes surrounded by an incised circle or quadratum incusum45 or is on some types supplemented by a grain underneath it.46

The Coin Types of Kersobleptes

Deviating from the coins of Cotys, a woman’s head is shown on the obverse of the bronze coins of his successor, Kersobleptes, who reigned in the middle of the 4th century BC and also minted in Kypsela.47 The cotyla with a grain beneath it also appears on the reverse of his coins; the letters K, E, and P around the vessel reference the name of the dynast.48 Contrastingly, the reverse of another coin type of Kersobleptes does not feature a cotyla, but rather a three-handled cup, under which there is also a grain.49

The Coin Types of Amadokos II

The double axe, already known from the Metokos coinage, is also found on the bronze coins of the Odrysian ruler Amadokos II,50 whose reign dates to the middle of the 4th century BC. A jumping horse or a horse protome is depicted on the obverse of the bronze coins of the smaller denomination, and the aforementioned double axe appears on the reverse.51 The coins attributed to the larger denomination show either a grape or grapevine on one side and the double axe on the other. Some coins also bear different official names. Additionally, different mintmarks appear in the form of roses or the caduceus. The iconographic repertoire of Amadokos II suggests a close relationship to Maroneia, although it remains unclear whether this ruler’s coins were actually minted there.52

The Coin Types of Teres III

The double axe and vine can also be found on the coins of the Thracian dynast Teres III,53 the successor of Amadokos II who ruled from 350 to 341 BC. Different official names and mintmarks can also be found on these coins. Another coin type of this ruler with the same iconography on obverse shows a grape instead of a vine on the reverse.54

The Coin Types of Ketriporis

The bronze coins of the ruler Ketriporis, who lived in the middle of the 4th century BC and minted in two different denominations, suggest a close connection to the cult of Dionysus.55 The wine god can be discerned wearing an ivy wreath on the obverse, while a kantharos is represented on the reverse; in addition, a thyrsus is present on the reverse of all coin types, while some bear an additional crescent moon as a mintmark. Another coin type of Ketriporis shows an oval shield on the reverse in place of the kantharos.56 The committment to Dionysus in this coinage can be viewed under certain circumstances as a connection to Orphism by assuming a relationship of patronage between the Thracian ruler and this Orphic deity.57

The Coin Types of Philemon/Philetas

The bronze coins of the otherwise unknown dynast Philemon or Philetas date to the second half of the 4th century BC and feature a ruler portrait on the obverse and a cotyla on the reverse. Additionall, the legend ΦΙΛΗ58 or, alternatively, a monogram referring to this ruler can be found on the reverse of these coins.59

The Coin Types of Seuthes III

From about 330 to 295 BC, Seuthes III ruled over a local kingdom with its capital in Seuthopolis,60 where he minted his coins. The type classification of his coins can be traced back to the typology of K. Dimitrov.61 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.62 Various mintmarks also appear in different positions. On the obverse of the smaller coins, representations of an eagle63 or an eight-pointed star64 appear instead of a portrait; a horizontal lightning bolt,65 a spearhead,66 or a wreath of corn with the ruler’s name inside it67 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.68

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. Peter 1997, 66f. ↑

  2. CN_Type4533. ↑

  3. CN_Type4534; CN_Type6934. ↑

  4. CN_Type6934. ↑

  5. CN_Type4803; CN_Type4804; CN_Type4805; CN_Type4806. ↑

  6. Jurukova 1976, 13f. ↑

  7. CN_Type4808; CN_Type4811. ↑

  8. CN_Type4850. ↑

  9. CN_Type4809; CN_Type4814. ↑

  10. CN_Type4814. ↑

  11. Peter 1997, 94f. ↑

  12. CN_Type4854; CN_Type4856. ↑

  13. CN_Type4861. ↑

  14. CN_Type4852; CN_Type4862. ↑

  15. CN_Type4863. ↑

  16. Peter 1997, 94. ↑

  17. Jurukova 1992, S.43. ↑

  18. CN_Type4530; CN_Type4531; CN_Type4867; CN_Type4931; CN_Type4932; CN_Type4934. ↑

  19. CN_Type4935. ↑

  20. CN_Type4869. ↑

  21. CN_Type4530; CN_Type4934; CN_Type4935. ↑

  22. CN_Type4531. ↑

  23. CN_Type4867. ↑

  24. CN_Type4869. ↑

  25. CN_Type4931; CN_Type4932. ↑

  26. Peter 1997, 104 (with note 521). ↑

  27. CN_Type4936; CN_Type4937. ↑

  28. CN_Type4941; CN_Type4942. ↑

  29. CN_Type4939. ↑

  30. Peter 1997, 108; Jurukova 1976, 16. ↑

  31. CN_Type4971; CN_Type4974; CN_Type4977; CN_Type4978. ↑

  32. CN_Type4974; CN_Type4977; CN_Type4978. ↑

  33. Peter 1997, 115f. ↑

  34. CN_Type4981; CN_Type4982; CN_Type4983; CN_Type4984. ↑

  35. CN_Type5041. ↑

  36. CN_Type5033. ↑

  37. CN_Type5043; CN_Type5044. ↑

  38. CN_Type5037; CN_Type5039. ↑

  39. CN_Type5033; CN_Type5043; CN_Type5044. ↑

  40. CN_Type5037; CN_Type5039. ↑

  41. Peter 1997, 128f. ↑

  42. CN_Type5045; CN_Type5047. ↑

  43. CN_Type5048. ↑

  44. See Peter 1997, 135; Jurukova 1976, 18. ↑

  45. CN_Type5072; CN_Type5074; CN_Type5075. ↑

  46. Peter 1997, 137. ↑

  47. CN_Type5098; CN_Type5099; CN_Type5109; CN_Type5110; CN_Type5111; CN_Type5112; CN_Type5114. ↑

  48. CN_Type5115. ↑

  49. CN_Type5116; CN_Type5119; CN_Type5123; CN_Type5314. ↑

  50. CN_Type5124. ↑

  51. Peter 1997,146. ↑

  52. CN_Type5134. ↑

  53. CN_Type5133. ↑

  54. IGBulg III, 1731. See Peter 1997, 178. ↑

  55. Dimitrov 1984. ↑

  56. CN_Type5135; CN_Type5139; CN_Type5141; CN_Type5144. ↑

  57. CN_Type5148. ↑

  58. CN_Type5151. ↑

  59. CN_Type5145; CN_Type5151; CN_Type5153; CN_Type5154. ↑

  60. CN_Type5157. ↑

  61. CN_Type5148. ↑

  62. Peter 1997, 200. ↑

Bibliography

  • Jurukova 1976 = J. Jurukova, Coins of the Ancient Thraciens, 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