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Coin Typology of

Coins of the Thracian Chersonese

Topography and History

The so-called Thracian Chersonese, today Gelibolu/Gallipoli, is an elongated peninsula, which has always been a strategic point at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. The peninsula stretches along the coast of Asia Minor, with the Hellespont between the two. In antiquity, the Thracian Chersonesus was mainly populated on the eastern side, since shipping traffic between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea passed here; but there were also settlements on the Aegean side1. While the southern part of the Hellespontine coast is mainly characterized by narrow mountain valleys, agriculture and animal husbandry are possible in the northern part with its fertile plains2. In addition to the strategically favourable position, agriculture is the second reason for settling on the peninsula, which since the time of Miltiades was protected from invaders by a transverse wall.

The peninsula appears in literary accounts since Homer3. Thucydides reports that the Chersonese is occupied by the Thracians, who mainly have exchanges with the coast of Asia Minor4.

The earliest mention of the name of the Thracian Chersonese can be found in Hekataios5. Herodotos reports of the tribe of the Dolonkoi on the peninsula, which also brought Miltiades the Elder to the area as support against the Apsinthians6.

Greek settlements on the peninsula appear in the course of the Greek colonization, probably from the 7th century BC and on7. Since the mid-6th century, Athens attempts to gain dominance in this region. By Miltiades the Younger numerous settlements were founded or re-established. In the Peloponnesian War, the Thracian Chersonesus played a crucial role. It was also the starting point of Alexander the Great's Asian campaign.

Since the end of World War I, the peninsula has been a restricted military area, which made archaeological investigations more difficult8.

  1. On the Pre-Greek settlements see Tzvetkova 2000/2001, p. 23f. ↑

  2. The agricultural aspect is partly reflected in the Greek settlement names: Elaious, Krithote, Aigospotamoi. ↑

  3. In the ship catalogue of the Iliad (Il.2.835-839) Sestos is mentioned, and another passage speaks of the Thracians (Il.2.844-848) surrounded by the flowing Hellespont, chiefs are Akamas and Peiroos, son of Imbras. On Homer Tzvetkova 2000/2001, p. 25 f. ↑

  4. Thuc. 1.11.1. ↑

  5. Hekat. Fr. 163. ↑

  6. Hdt. 6.34. Tzvetkova 2000/2002 concludes that the Athenians who arrived with Miltiades called the Skaians who originally settled on the peninsula Dolonkoi. ↑

  7. Aeolian settlements: Sestos, Madytos, Alopekonnesos. Ionian colonists: Limnai, Kardia. Elaious is probably an Athenian foundation. See the texts on the individual mints here and Loukopoulou 2004, 900. ↑

  8. Exceptions are the excavations of the necropolis of Elaious, the “Tomb of Protesilaos” and in Madytos, as well as epigraphic and archaeological surveys in the area. ↑

State of Research

Except for several papers dealing with different aspects of the coinage, a comprehensive study on the coinage of the Thracian Chersonesus is still missing9. Various imponderables are associated with this coinage; it is unclear, for example, which coin types can be assigned to a federal coinage of the peninsula. In our typology, we take into account coins that are clearly identifiable by their legends, as well as coins traditionally attributed to this area in numismatic literature. Although, due to partial similarity of its motifs, Kardia has repeatedly been suggested as the mint of the series, the coins are listed in the Corpus Nummorum database under a fictitious mint "Thracian Chersonese" to distinguish them from the civic mint of Kardia.

  1. In addition to the coinage with the inscription XEP, the listing of a common payment in the Athenian tribute lists speaks for a community of the Chersonese or a kind of Chersonesian 'state', see Loukopoulou 2004, p. 901. ↑

Minting System and Typology

Various silver and bronze coins were attributed to the Thracian Chersonese, Kardia/Lysimacheia or Agora/Chersonesos being generally accepted as their mint. The ascription is based on the legends XEP or XEPPO and metrological, thematic and stylistic similarities to these. Recurring motifs in both metals are the head of Athena, the head or forepart of a lion and the grain of barley.

Silver Coinage

In numismatic literature, two clearly distinguishable series in silver are assigned to the Thracian Chersonese and interpreted as a kind of joint coinage for payments or foreign trade10.

The elder series of staters/tetradrachms (16.2-16.9 g.) shows a lion looking back on the obverse and a head of Athena wearing a Corinthian helmet on the reverse11. In their recent study of this series, K. Sheedy and G. Davis argue for their production in Kardia around 478-466 BC on the heavy Persian standard12. P. van Alfen considers coins with the forepart of a lion with reverted head on the obverse and quadratum incusum on the reverse smaller denominations of this series (1/6, 1/12 and 1/48 of a stater)13. 1/6, 1/12, 1/24 and 1/48 staters with lion's head and incuse can also be dated to this period and belong to the coinage of the Chersonese14.

A chronologically much later - dated to the second half of the 4th c. BC15 - and considerably larger coinage represented by hemidrachms16 shows the forepart of a lion with reverted head on the obverse and an incuse square on the reverse. The two opposite depressions of the quadratum incusum usually contain letters, symbols, or monograms17. The diameter of the coins ranges from 12 to 15 mm, about 80% having a diameter of 13-14 mm. Their weight varies between 1.77 g and 2.79 g, the majority of the specimens weighing between 2.2 and 2.4 g, which is a bit too low for their assumed Persian standard18. The series of these coins is very large and typologically distinguishable by the different letters, monograms and symbols19, as well as by their combinations20, on the reverse. The dies used in the production were often larger than the blanks, which often had an effect that the images of both sides were not fully reproduced. There are countless specimens on which the symbols are indistinct or lie outside of the flan, which suggests their rapid production21.

Iulia Tzvetkova mentions 34 hoards of these hemidrachms known from the numismatic literature22. Recently, P. van Alfen published a larger hoard of these hemidrachms, which is said to come from the Thracian area23. In hoards, especially in present-day Bulgaria and the European part of Turkey, these coins are often found together with the hemidrachms of Parion24.

Bronze Coinage

In the second half of the 4th century BC, bronze coins with the obverse motifs of a lion's head to the right25 or left26, a three-quarter view of a female head27 and a head of Athena28 and a grain of barley on the reverse were produced. Their assignment to the Thracian Chersonese is secured by the reverse inscriptions XEPPO or XE. These bronzes usually belong to a denomination class with a diameter of 10-12 mm and an average weight of 1.4 g29.

Our catalogue of types represents the state of research as of January 2023 and does not take into account any coin types that became known later. Further information, especially on new types, is always welcome.

  1. For further coinage that can possibly be attributed to the Chersonesus, see van Alfen 2021 ↑

  2. CN_Type6452; CN_Type6453. ↑

  3. Sheedy - Davis 2019 with a corpus of known specimens, who revise the previous views relating this series to Miltiades. See van Alfen 2021, p. 153-154. ↑

  4. van Alfen 2021, 152-154, 161: Euboean standard with a stater of 17.2 gr. CN_Type6465; CN_Type6466. Here van Alfen discusses other possible attributions of anepigraphic coin series to the Thracian Chersonese. ↑

  5. CN_Type6455. van Alfen 2021. ↑

  6. dated by Tzevtkova 2019, 49, to 360-309 BC ↑

  7. Occasionally also referred to as half sigloi or quarter staters. ↑

  8. One problem with the order of this series is that the monograms, symbols and letters are often described very differently. It is not always clear which element is meant, and it is often the case that different descriptions refer to one and the same symbol. For example, the designation torch, bucranium or kerykeion stand some times for the same symbol (other alternative designations: sickle/cicada/two parallel lines etc.). A detailed discussion of these hemidrachms can be found in Tzvetkova 2019 with a list of all controls known to her. See also Murphy 2004; Goldsborough 2013. ↑

  9. Hence, in the CN typology they are referred to as hemidrachms of the reduced Persian standard. ↑

  10. Animals: cicada, bee, fish, dolphin, ram's head, shell, rooster, fly, lizard; plants: ivy leaf, barley grain, ear of corn, flower, poppy, grape, vine leaf, olive leaf; Items: wreath, star, torch, swastika, mace, kerykeion, bucranium, plow, sickle, pentagram, patera, amphora, lekythos with strigil, trowel, bow. ↑

  11. These reverse combinations seem to follow a certain system. For example, two letters, monograms or symbols are never combined. ↑

  12. In the database, these specimens were not assigned to types, appearing as loose specimens. ↑

  13. Tzvetkova 2019, 35-38 with list and maps. ↑

  14. van Alfen 2018: IGCH 738. ↑

  15. The only find from outside Thrace is a hoard from Sidon, Phoenicia (Tzvetkova 2019, 38). ↑

  16. CN_Type6490. ↑

  17. CN_Type6491.CN_Type6492.CN_Type6514. ↑

  18. CN_Type6506.CN_Type6504. ↑

  19. CN_Type6483.CN_Type6481.CN_Type_6480.CN_Type6488. ↑

  20. Only CN_Type6492 is heavier and CN_Type6485 is lighter than average, which in the case of the former can be due to the merging of different coins with indistinct symbols into one type. ↑


  • van Alfen 2018 = P. van Alfen, The Thrace (?), c. 1955 Hoard (IGCH 738), in: Nathan T. Elkins - J. DeRose Evans, Concordia Disciplinarum, Essays on Ancient Coinage, History, and Archaeology in Honor of William E. Metcalf. Numismatic Studies 38 (New York 2018) p. 29-49.
  • van Alfen 2021 = P. van Alfen, Ambiguities in Monetary Authority: the Archaic Coinage of the Thracian Chersonese, in: U. Peter - V. Stolba, Thrace - Local Coinage and Regional Identity. Berlin Studies of the Ancient World 77, p. 141-179.
  • Draganov 1993 = D. Draganov, An unknown hybrid hemidrachm of Parium and Thracian Chersonesus, in: Proceedings of the XIth International Numismatic Congress, Brussels 1991, Vol. I, (1993) p. 169-172.
  • Goldsborough 2013 = R. Goldsborough, Cherronesos Lion (webpage about hemidrachms focusing on the aspect of forgery). []
  • Hoover 2017 = O. D. Hoover, Handbook of coins of Macedon and its neighbors. Part II: Thrace, Skythia, and Taurike: sixth to first centuries BC, 2017, p. 91-95.
  • Loukopoulou 2004 = L. Loukopoulou, Thracian Chersones, in: M. H. Hansen - Th. H. Nielsen (Hrsg.), An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis, p. 900-911.
  • Murphy 2004 = B. P. Murphy, The Coinage of Thracian Cherronesos (webpage with illustrated list of hemidrachm specimens). []
  • Sheedy - Davis 2009 = K. A. Sheedy - G. Davis, Miltiades II and his alleged mint in the Chersonesos, Historia 68, p. 11-25. Tzvetkova 2000/2001 = I. Tzvetkova, Die Thrakische Chersones und die thrako-griechischen Kontakte in der Zeit vor den Philaiden, in: Boreas. Münstersche Beiträge zur Archäologie Band 23/24, Münster, p. 23-34.
  • Tzvetkova 2019 = I. Tzvetkova, The hemidrachms of the Thracian Chersonese: a classification approach, in: M. Minkova - J. Tzvetkova - I. Prokopov (ed.), Numismatic collection of the Regional museum of Stara Zagora (ancient Augusta Traiana) : Thracian, Macedonian, Greek and Roman republican coins from 6th to 1st Century BC, COIN COLLECTIONS AND COIN HOARDS FROM BULGARIA (CCCHBulg) Vol. VIII, Sofia/Stara Zagora, p. 33-55.

Map with Mints of typology