- Topography and History
- State of Research
- Minting System and Typology
- The Coinage of the Classical Period
- The Coinage of the Late Classical and Hellenistics Periods
- The Coinage of the Roman Imperial Period
- Special Features of the Coinage
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Topography and History
Maroneia was located on the Thracian-Aegean coast at the foothills of the Rhodopes, near Mount Ismaros.1 The city was founded by settlers from the island of Chios in the 7th century BC.2 The modern-day Greek village of Maronia is located south-east of Komotini, where there are large archaeological sites that include the remains of a city wall, a theatre, a sanctuary, and mosaic floors from a house dating to the 3rd century BC. Ancient Maroneia can possibly be equated with the Homeric Istaros,3 which was praised for its wine in the Odyssey. Maron, the mythical founder of the city, was a priest of Apollo and the son of Euanthes, king of the Cicones; he is the one who gave Odysseus the wine that he used in order to inebriate Polyphemus and be able to blind him.4 The favourable location for wine cultivation is also reflected in the coinage of Maroneia, on which grapes or vines are prominently featured. Through new excavations and the associated coin finds, S. Psoma, C. Karadima, and D. Terzopoulou have posited in their 2008 publication that the ancient site of Maroneia was initially located on the present-day peninsula of Molyvoti in the Archaic and Classical periods and was relocated to the vicinity of Orthagoreia or replaced it in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.5 Tribute payments in the Delian League are attested for Maroneia between 454 and 415 BC. The city also seems to have been a member of the Second Athenian League. At the same time, there were also close ties with the Odrysian rulers.
State of Research
A. B. West dealt in detail with the coinage of Maroneia in his publication of 1929.6 In a first individual study in 1965, J.M.F. May examined the coinage of Maroneia from the beginning of minting until an assumed interruption in the year 449/448 BC. For this period, he established a sequence of minting7 that was adopted in 1987 by E. Schönert-Geiss in her comprehensive die study of the minting of Maroneia. She handled the coinage of Maroneia from its beginning to the late Roman imperial period.8 Since this publication, numerous new Maroneian emissions have come to light, for example in hoard finds, and have been published on various occasions.9 Upon evaluating new excavations in the region of Maroneia and on the peninsula of Molyvoti, S. Psoma, C. Karadima, and D. Terzopoulou published another book on the coinage of Thracian Maroneia in 2008. The excavations brought to light mainly bronze coinage, and the authors revised the chronology as well as the denominations and coin standards on the basis of the excavated coins.10
Minting System and Typology
Maroneia minted coins relatively continuously over a very long period of time from the end of the 6th century BC to the Roman imperial period. At the beginning, silver coins were minted in different denominations and probably also according to changing weight standards. From the beginning of the 4th century BC, bronzes with motifs similar to those found on the silver coinage were produced. A singular gold series was also minted at the beginning of the 4th century BC.
The motifs featured in the coinage depict the form of grapes and vines in reference to the famous wine of the city, which was probably a main commodity. The later depictions of Dionysus can also be interpreted in the same way. The interpretation of the horse motif is more difficult; this could be a reference to horse breeding, to the position of Maron as charioteer of Dionysus, 11 or to a cult of Poseidon. Throughout a large part of the minting period, the Maroneian coins are characterized by possessing many official names, mintmarks, and monograms.
Nonnos Dionysiaka 14,196. ↑
The Coinage of the Classical Period
S. Psoma would like to place a late-6th century BC electron piece with a ram's head left on the obverse at the beginning of the Maroneian coinage, which was found during the excavations.12 E. Schönert-Geiss lets Maroneia's coinage begin with a silver series consisting of four denominations featuring a horse protome or a horse's head on the obverse and an incusum on the reverse. These denominations are only known from one or two specimens. However, since all of the specimens from this series bear no legend, their attribution to Maroneia based solely on the horse motif in analogue to the motifs of the later coinage can also be doubted, especially since horse protomes are a common motif in early coinage.13 Subsequently, numerous coins of various sizes and weights were and continue to be tentatively assigned to Maroneia on the basis of the image combination horse/incusum. Even in the grouping by E. Schönert-Geiss the diversity of the incusa is striking, which are, for example, partly cross-shaped and partly diagonally separated, and whose fillings turn out very differently. Nevertheless, the horse heads resemble each other in the design of the long, narrow nasal bridge with a relatively deeply incised seam of the mouth. Furthermore, coins from the British Museum and American Numismatic Society databases were included in the CN typology for this first phase, some of which show types and denominations not included in E. Schönert-Geiss.14 The weight standard used is the same as in the contemporaneous coinage of Abdera and Dikaia, referred to in the literature as Thasian, reduced Aegaean, or Thraco-Macedonian, and based on a stater of slightly less than 10 gr. The first minting phase is dated to 520-505 BC by E. Schönert-Geiss, which is confirmed by S. Psoma.15 U. Wartenberg points out that, on account of the hoards, all early Thracian coinages have to be dated somewhat later - only to the beginning of the 5th century BC. 16
As was the case during the first minting phase, the horse was the primary image motif on the city’S coinage. It is unclear whether this is a reference to horse breeding, the mere depiction of a prestigious object, or the sacred animal of Poseidon. In addition, the second important motif group within the Maroneian coinage is that referencing Dionysus—whether it be grapes, vines, the head of Dionysus or the god as a full figure; on the one hand, this probably refers to his cult and to the cultivation of wine in the city on the other, which had been attested in myths. The following minting phases of the 5th and 4th centuries BC can probably all be attributed to a reduced Chian standard, and they are characterized by the minting of different denominations. In addition to the horse motif on the obverse, there were now figural representations on the reverse as well as the mention of the city name. These coinages of the 5th and 4th centuries show a steady reduction of the weights in the Chian standard until the change to the Attic standard in the mid-4th century BC. There was probably an alignment to the powerful neighbouring city of Abdera and its coinage until its destruction in 376 BC. The largest denomination, which was not minted in every phase, is a distater, which corresponds to a tetradrachm; the smallest denomination is a quarter obol. While the horse comprises the obverse image in the large nominals of this minting phase, the smaller nominals of the 2nd half of the 5th century BC feature a gorgoneion and a ram's head, which also appears as a reverse image in the larger denomination. The reverses feature grapevine, grapes, or the cantharus, and now also had alternate epithets and official names, often with the addition ΕΠΙ.
Psoma et al. 2008, 11 PM 27. 123. 187. The assignment to Maroneia is uncertain, as the motif is also found on early silver drachms. ↑
Even if their origin often remains unclear. On the same basis, electrum hektai with a horse's head on the obverse are also assigned to the mint of Maroneia https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=3718209; https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=3718208. ↑
Other coins assigned to Maroneia were included in the database, but were not typed due to lack of comparisons, e.g. CN_Type32689. This first group of Maroneian coinage in the Thasian/reduced Aegean standard needs a thorough reworking. For this, a collection of all anepigraphic pieces with horse protomes/horse heads and a compilation of the existing weights as well as a comparison of the incusa would be mandatory. Further specimens include: https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=1181572 and https://research.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1120024&partId=1&searchText=Maronea&page=1. ↑
Schönert-Geiss 1987, 119; Psoma 2008, 159. ↑
Wartenberg 1992. ↑
The Coinage of the Late Classical and Hellenistics Periods
The coins minted in the Athenian standard and emitted by Maroneia from around the mid-4th century BC, now also depicted Dionysus as the primary motif on the tetradrachms for the first time, while further denominations—the distaters and drachms—retained the horse/wine motifs. The portrait of Dionysus on the obverse is combined with common reverse motifs, such as the grape or grapevine. Finally, his portrait head with an ivy wreath appears on the obverse while a full-figure image of the nude god appears on the reverse, where he is holding a grapevine. The range of the weight and diameter of these Hellenistic tetradrachms is quite large (c. 16 g and 28–37 mm). There is a notable similarity to a tetradrachm series from Thasos where the motifs, date, and area of circulation are concerned. However, there are numerous monograms in Maroneia, and the Thasian tetradrachms show a lower average weight. Edith Schönert-Geiss suggested to see the monograms and their combinations as year marks of the mint and accordingly reconstructed a sequence of the series between 189–45 BC. This long minting period must certainly be shortened and its beginning set later. A generally accepted start of minting is 146 BC, at the beginning of the establishment of the province of Macedonia. Based on the analysis of overstruck coins of this series, François de Callataÿ has the series begin in 125 or as late as 100 BC and observes the main output around 85 BC.
The alignment to the weight standard of Thasos and Abdera suggests a local use of the Maroneian coins, which were probably intended mainly for exchange in the Thracian locale and contact zone as well as for the payment of tributes.17 In comparison to the coin production of the neighbouring city of Abdera, the Classical and Hellenistic silver coinage of Maroneia turns out to be small in quantity and had only a limited area of circulation. Coins from Maroneia were found mainly on the Thracian coast and in the Thracian hinterland; these finds concern some coins of the 5th and 4th centuries BC, but especially the tetradrachms from the last phase of silver coinage.18
The Coinage of the Roman Imperial Period
The less extensive coinage of Maroneia from the Roman imperial period begins with coins of Nero, followed by Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Commodus, Septimius Severus, Julia Domna, Caracalla, Trebobianus Gallus, and Volusianus.19 Furthermore, a small series of pseudo-autonomous coins are known from the imperial period: Dionysus is featured on the obverse, and his associated motifs appear on the reverse.20 The already established motif of the nude full-figured Dionysus with two spears and the grape appears excessively often on the reverse sides of the imperial coinage, indicating the further importance of this god for the city. This is underlined by the depiction of a Dionysus temple on coins of Caracalla and Macrinus.21
Our type catalogue represents the state of research as of January 2021 and does not take into account any coin types that became known later. Further information, especially on new types, is always welcome.
Special Features of the Coinage
The urban bronze coinage probably began in the first half of the 4th century BC with a series featuring Apollo's head on the obverse and grapes on the reverse. As mentioned above, the bronze coinage shows a similar repertoire of types to the urban silver coinage: Horse, Grape, Grapevine, later Dionysus as a portrait head or full figure, and similar types in both metals also appear to date similarly.
A distinctive feature of the bronze coinage is that the legend is split between the obverse and reverse in one mint group.22 There is another unusual emission that shows the same motif of grapes on both the obverse and reverse. 23 Just as with the Hellenistic silver series, the bronze coinage turns out to be very extensive; here, too, the issues are characterized by the use of numerous monograms.
Based on the coins excavated at Molyvoti and Maroneia, Psoma et al. construct a phase of Maroneia in which the city is briefly renamed Agathokleia, ca. 290–280 BC. 24 These coins are recorded in the CN database under a separate mint, Agathopolis/Agathokleia. 25
Especially where the bronze issues of Maroneia are concerned, numerous coins remain untyped in the CN database because they could not be clearly assigned to any type due to their state of preservation. This can occur when monograms or mintmarks are no longer recognizable, for example.26
- Callataÿ 2008 = F. de Callataÿ, Les Tétradrachmes hellénistiques au nom des Thasiens et la circulation Monétaire en Thrace aux IIe et Ier s. av. J.-C., Revue Belge de Numismatique et de Sigillographie 154, 31–54.
- Isaac 1986 = B. Isaac, The Greek Settlements in Thrace Until the Macedonian Conquest, Leiden, 111–123.
- Lorber 1990 = C. C. Lorber - W. Schwabacher - W. E. McGovern, Amphipolis: the civic coinage in silver and gold, Los Angeles, Appendix 3.
- May 1965 = J. M. F. May, The coinage of Maroneia c. 520-449/8 B. C., The Numismatic Chronicle 5, 27–56.
- Psoma 2008 = S. Psoma; Ch. Karadima; D. Terzopoulou, The coins from Maroneia and the classical city at Molyvoti : a contribution to the history of Aegean Thrace, Athen (with thorough bibliography).
- Psoma 2015 = S. Psoma, Did the so called Thraco-Macedonien standard exist?, in: U. Wartenberg - M. Amandry (Eds.), KAIPOΣ: contributions to numismatics in honor of Basil Demetriadi, New York, 167-190.
- Schönert-Geiss 1987 = E. Schönert-Geiss, Griechisches Münzwerk : die Münzprägung von Maroneia, (Berlin 1987).
- Varbanov 2005 = I. Varbanov, Greek Imperial Coins and their values II, Burgas.
- Wartenberg 1992 = U. Wartenberg, Rezension zu: E. Schönert-Geiss, Die Münzprägung von Maroneia, The Numismatic Chronicle 152, 195–198.
- West 1929 = A.B. West, Fifth and fourth century gold coins from the Thracian coast, New York (Numismatic Notes and Monographs 40).