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Coin Typology of

Augusta Traiana (Stara Zagora)*

Topography and History

Augusta Traiana, modern-day Stara Zagora, is a Thracian inland city located on the southern slope of the Sredna-Gora Mountains, a small mountain range upstream of the Balkan Mountains. 1  A fertile lowland plain that was crossed by two important rivers, the Hebros and the Tonzos, was located nearby these mountains. 2  Conveniently situated, Augusta Traiana benefited from its proximity to the two main water arteries that crossed the Balkan Peninsula. 3  The earliest vestiges of a settlement in the territory of the later city can be traced back to the Neolithic period. 4  A predecessor to the city of Augusta Traiana could have been the Thracian city of Beroia, founded by the Macedonian king, Philip II; 5  however, the identity of Beroia and the later Augusta Traiana remains controversial. 6 

Augusta Traiana was founded as a provincial Roman town during the course of Trajan's urbanization policy 7  and was given its name by Hadrian in honour of his predecessor. Other forms of the city name, such as ἡ Tραιανέων πόλις and ἡ βουλὴ καὶ ὁ δῆμος Τραιανέων, were also traditionally inscribed. 8  Augusta Traiana reached its apogee in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. In general, the Romanization in the city was relatively strong, as evidenced by epigraphic and numismatic finds from the late imperial period; 9  local Thracian influences appear to have been less significant than in other Thracian cities, 10  not least because of the tight regulation of the city administration. 11 

A historically-significant event that has been associated with Augusta Traiana is the battle of Traianus Decius against the Goths in AD 251, during which the emperor and his son were killed. 12  Despite looting by the Goths in late antiquity after the defeat of Valens near Hadrianopolis, Augusta Traiana remained an important city. In the Byzantine period, it withstood numerous barbarian invasions and was finally re-established under Empress Irene, who renamed the city as Eirenopolis. 13 

  1. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 3.
  2. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 3.
  3. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 3. On the location of Augusta Traiana within the road network, see: Itin. Ant. 231; Tab. Peut. VIII (sub voce Berone).
  4. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 4.
  5. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 4; Varbanov (vol. II) 2005, 118.
  6. For more on this research controversy, see: Gočeva 1998, 271; Schönert-Geiss 1991, 4.
  7. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 5.
  8. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 5.
  9. Gočeva 1998, 277.
  10. Gočeva 1998, 277.
  11. Gočeva 1998, 277.
  12. Varbanov (vol. II) 2005, 118; Oberhummer 1899, Sp. 306.
  13. Oberhummer 1899, Sp. 306.

State of Research

E. Schönert-Geiss intensively studied the coin emissions of Augusta Traiana and created a die catalogue in the series Griechisches Münzwerk for both its coinage and that of Traianopolis. This catalogue was given a very favourable review 1  and also forms the basis of our type catalogue.

Types that were published by the coin collectors K. Madžarov and A. Chadžikostov also appear in our catalogue, in addition to those from the corpus volume by Schönert-Geiss. Others were collected in contributions to the edited volume by U. Peter, Stephanos nomismatikos, published on the occasion of Schönert-Geiss’ 65th anniversary. 2  In addition, M. Minkova made an important contribution to completing Augusta Traiana’s coin types in two essays. 3  Finally, there are a few previously unpublished coin types from coin auctions.

  1. Meyer 1994. For criticism of the use of fictitious denomination levels (‘one unit’, ‘two units’, etc.), of certain individual attempts to date dies, of the fact that some coin images are not published because of their poor state of preservation, of the controversial assignment of some coins of Valerian to Augusta Traiana, and of the ‘double interpretation’ of coin images, ibid., 609–611.
  2. Madžarov 1998, 441–448; Chadžikostov 1998, 193–197; Minkova 2000, 703–705.
  3. Minkova 2000; Minkova 2007.

Coin Production und Metrology

Coinage in Augusta Traiana began under Marcus Aurelius und ended approximately one century later under Gallienus. 1  In the first half of the 3rd century AD, a longer gap in emissions can be seen.

Augusta Traiana minted coins in a total of six denominations, whose designations in our type catalogue follow Schönert-Geiss. 2  The few pseudo-autonomous coins belong to the smallest denomination (Ø: 12.5–14 mm; weight: 1.5–2 g). 3  E. Schönert-Geiss assigns these coins to the denomination of ‘half-unit’, but also takes the term ‘quarter-unit’ into consideration. 4  The smaller denominations include those of one unit (Ø: 16–20 mm; weight: 1.5–6 g), one-and-a-half units (Ø: 16–21 mm; weight: 3–5 g), and three units (Ø: 23–26 mm; weight: 6–9 g). The denomination of four units minted under Gallienus (Ø: 23–25 mm; weight: 5–14 g) can be secured based on the sometimes-present character Δ. 5  The largest and most common denomination is that of five units (Ø: 28–31 mm; weight: 13.5–21 g). Both the size and weight of the various denominations decreased considerably towards the end of the 2nd century AD. 6  Medallions were not minted in Augusta Traiana.

  1. Minkova 2000, 703; Schönert-Geiss 1991, 7.
  2. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 17–21. We have taken note of E. Meyer's objections to the use of fictitious denomination levels but still consider them useful to record the denomination names of E. Schönert-Geiss. Meyer 1994, 610f.
  3. CN_Type2361.
  4. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 17.
  5. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 19.
  6. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 20.

The Coinage of the Late Classical and Hellenistics Periods

During the reign of Marcus Aurelius, Augusta Traiana minted a clear number of coin types. The portraits of Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus, or Faustina Minor are depicted on the obverse of these types. The name of the governor Quintus Tullius Maximus 1  appears on the reverse legend of the largest denomination. Primarily traditional motifs are used on one-unit coins; the river god, 2  various representations of serpents, 3  gods otherwise common on Thracian coins, 4  and the Three Graces were all popular image motifs. 5  Additionally, unusual reverse motifs were employed: one coin type features a sleeping hermaphrodite, 6  and two others show a dancing maenad. 7  Strikingly, numerous motifs are repeated on the small denominations of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. Coins with Faustina on the obverse depict almost exclusively female deities on their reverse. 8 

Augusta Traiana issued coins in different denominations under Commodus: two denominations with the value five unit with the name of the governor on the reverse feature the motifs of Artemis in a chariot drawn by deer 9  or the city gate. 10  On the only known four-unit coin, an athlete is depicted holding a ball in his right hand. 11  Artemis appears on a three-unit coin that was minted under Commodus. 12  Various designs are used on the smaller denominations that at least partly seem to be borrowed from the Artemis myth. The Three Graces, 13  the city gate, 14  and a serpent-entwined tripod 15  appear on the reverses of the few types that were minted for Crispina.

The coin types from the reign of Septimius Severus portray either the emperor, Julia Domna, or one of their two sons, Caracalla and Geta, on the obverse. On the reverse legends of the five-unit coins featuring Septimius Severus on the obverse, either the names of governors (Titus Statilius Barbarus 16  and Quintus Sicinnius Clarus Pontianus 17 ) or only the city name are given. On the only three-unit coin minted under Septimius Severus, a quadruple-coiled serpent is depicted on the reverse, 18  a commonly-employed motif in Augusta Traiana. The one-unit coins of this emperor feature representations of animals, 19  but common representations of gods are also widespread. A four-unit coin with the bust of Julia Domna is of particular interest, as the reverse image features the emperor in a quadriga, holding the globe in his left hand. 20  This is noteworthy because, at least in the imperial mint of Septimius Severus, triumphal representations are most often featured on the reverses of coins minted for his sons.

A large variety of types prevails on the coins whose obverses feature Caracalla or Geta. The same reverse motifs appear again and again, with variance being achieved by coupling different portrait busts and obverse legends. The governor Quintus Sicinnius Clarus Pontianus is named in the reverse legends of a few five-unit coins of Caracalla, thus dating them to the year AD 202; on the majority of five-unit coins, however, only the city name is given in the legend. 21  The reverse motifs are mostly derived from the common repertoire of images of gods, architecture, and rulers, as well as of familiar personifications. In the coinage of Caracalla, the appearance of Nike as part of the imperial representation seems to have played a central role. 22  Under Geta, the variety of coin types with depictions of Nemesis is significant. 23 

A number of coins falsely attributed to Elagabalus in earlier research should actually be assigned to Caracalla. A coin type that – as I. Varbanov suggested – belongs to Severus Alexander 24  actually comes from the time of Septimius Severus, as indicated by the governor name on its reverse legend. The assignment of a coin type from the reign of Valerian 25  to Augusta Traiana is also a matter of dispute 26  but is adopted in our typology based on the absence of convincing alternatives analogous to Schönert-Geiss. 27  The obverse of this coin type portrays the radiate and cuirassed bust of the emperor, while the reverse features the emperor with his right arm outstretched atop a horse and holding a trophy in his left hand.

On the obverses of four-unit coins minted during the reign of Gallienus, a radiate bust of the emperor is typical. The inscription on the obverse sometimes reads ΓΑΛΛΙΗΝΟC ΑVΓ and sometimes ΑVΤ ΓΑΛΛΙΗΝΟϹ. Of special note is the denomination information on some four-unit coins, indicated by a small Δ in the right or left field of the reverse. As far as the motifs featured on the reverse are concerned, representations of gods predominate. A preference for the cults of Demeter 28  and Dionysus 29  can be observed. Dionysus is not depicted with the kantharus, but rather with the patera in his right hand and the thyrsus in his left; the animal most commonly attributed to him, the panther, is missing entirely from these coin types.

  1. PIR T 386.
  2. CN_Type1680; CN_Type1682; CN_Type1722.
  3. CN_Type1681; CN_Type1683; CN_Type1684; CN_Type1723; CN_Type1725; CN_Type1727.
  4. Dionysus: CN_Type1685; CN_Type1719; CN_Type1720. Hygieia: CN_Type1687; CN_Type1726. Asclepius: CN_Type1688; CN_Type1717. Tyche: CN_Type1691; CN_Type1718. Zeus: CN_Type2366. Hermes: CN_Type1729.
  5. CN_Type1695; CN_Type1721.
  6. CN_Type1696.
  7. CN_Type1689; CN_Type1730.
  8. Artemis: CN_Type1697; CN_Type1698. Demeter: CN_Type1699; CN_Type1701. City goddess: CN_Type1700; CN_Type1705. Nemesis: CN_Type1702. Three Graces: CN_Type1703.
  9. CN_Type1740.
  10. CN_Type2423.
  11. CN_Type1731 For lack of other evidence, it remains to be seen whether the representation of an athlete is to be interpreted as an indication of sporting competitions in Augusta Traiana during the time of Commodus. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 51.
  12. CN_Type1732.
  13. CN_Type1744.
  14. CN_Type1745.
  15. CN_Type1746.
  16. PIR S 819. According to Schönert-Geiss, the coins with the name of the governor Titus Statilius Barbarus can be dated to AD 196–198. See: Schönert-Geiss 1991, 8.
  17. PIR S 699. Schönert-Geiss dates coins with the name of the governor Quintus Sicinnius Clarus Pontianus to AD 202. See: Schönert-Geiss 1991, 8.
  18. CN_Type1790.
  19. Eagle: CN_Type1801. Lion: CN_Type1783. Serpent: CN_Type1799; CN_Type1800.
  20. CN_Type1814.
  21. These five-unit coins were erroneously attributed to Elagabalus in earlier research. This incorrect classification is also noted by I. Varbanov (with appropriate reference): Varbanov 2005, 113f., Nr. 1372–1385. However, Schönert-Geiss could have falsified this assignment on the basis of die coupling. See in particular: Schönert-Geiss 1991, 10.
  22. Emperor crowned by Nike: CN_Type1826; CN_Type1828; CN_Type1871; CN_Type2023. Emperor holding Nike in his hand: CN_Type1869; CN_Type2012; CN_Type2028. Nike with wreath and palm branch: CN_Type1876. Zeus holding Nike: CN_Type2022.
  23. CN_Type2081; CN_Type2102; CN_Type2103; CN_Type2191; CN_Type2192; CN_Type2214.
  24. Varbanov 2005, 114, Nr. 114.
  25. CN_Type2282.
  26. Meyer 1994, 610.
  27. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 195, Nr.505.
  28. CN_Type2285; CN_Type2290.
  29. CN_Type2291; CN_Type2330.

The Coinage of the Roman Imperial Period

In general, there are some motifs in Augusta Traiana that are largely singular for Thrace and eloquently testify to the heightened awareness of art demonstrated by the die cutters in the city. 1  Singular or extremely rare image compositions include the dancing maenad, 2  Europa on a bull, 3  a deer glancing backwards, 4  which may be interpreted as a depiction of Actaeon; 5  a reclining hermaphrodite; 6  and a tree with Artemisian elements. 7 

Furthermore, the variety of imperial representations in Augusta Traiana is also remarkable. A coin type under Geta shows the emperor in battle. 8  On a large number of coins, the emperor is either presented as the victor after a battle in various variants, or his prowess is more generally accentuated. 9  There are also types in which the emperor is portrayed on horseback during the hunt. 10  The depiction of the emperor in sacrificial scenes is also popular. 11  Some types feature the emperor and another member of the imperial family facing each other and extending their right hands, 12  a classical portrayal of the dextrarum iunctio. Also noteworthy is a coin type of Geta, in which the emperor and the city goddess clasping right hands. 13  One some coins minted under Valerian, the emperor, if the assignment of this coin to Augusta Traiana is indeed correct, 14  is shown with a raised right arm and holding the trophy. 15 

Special attention should also be paid to depictions of the city gate of Augusta Traiana. A river god 16  is sometimes depicted in front of a hill on which a fortification is located. 17  It is obvious that the city attached great importance to the construction of its walls. 18  Furthermore, the various architectural forms of temple representations are significant; in addition to tetrastyle podium temples, 19  distyle temples and their respective temple arches are also represented. 20  Some types show a round tetrastyle temple on a very high pedestal with a cult statue of Artemis. 21 

Artemis enjoyed great popularity in Augusta Traiana, which speaks to the affinity of the city’s inhabitants for hunting. This is not surprising, especially since a local Thracian deity named Bendis, who was also linked with the hunt, is associated with depictions of Artemis in particular. In addition to the temple representations with the cult statue of Artemis, the goddess is often represented in the typical manner, in motion and wearing a short, fluttering chiton. She holds a bow in one hand and draws an arrow from the quiver on her back with the other. 22  A coin minted under Commodus depicts Artemis in a chariot drawn by stags. 23  Another type represents a stag glancing backwards, which may possibly be interpreted as Actaeon and can thus also be placed within the mythos of Artemis. 24  On one coin type from the reign of Septimius Severus, Artemis and Apollo are shown facing each other. 25  Also noteworthy is a coin type from the reign of Commodus that was not published by Schönert-Geiss. A tree with attributes of Artemis (a bow, quiver, and hunting dog) can be seen on its reverse. 26  Furthermore, two coin types depict Artemis with a torch, a well-known attribute of the goddess in Thrace. 27  Even the coin types with a crescent and a varying number of stars on their reverse could be an allusion to Artemis in her role as a moon goddess. 28 

Additionally, eastern religious elements are reflected in the motifs present in the coinage of Augusta Traiana. 29  In particular, the cult of Cybele enjoyed great popularity. The Egyptian deities are also occasionally present on the city coinage, 30  but they appear to have been of minor importance when compared to other Thracian cities. 31  It is therefore quite significant that no representations of Isis have been attributed to any coins of Augusta Traiana.

Some further peculiarities are the legends of the Augusta Traiana coin types. On the reverse legends, unlike in most other Greek cities, the city name is cited as opposed to the ethonym. 32  This is sometimes abbreviated in different variations on the four-unit coins minted under Gallienus. Ligatures occasionally occur in the legends, where the ligations of N and H and of H and C in the city name are most common. The name of the city is often strikingly misspelled, as are some parts of the obverse legends, 33  which can be ascribed to clerical errors on the one hand and hearing errors on the other. 34 

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. Minkova 2000, 704.
  2. CN_Type1689; CN_Type1730; CN_Type2375.
  3. CN_Type2354 This altogether very rarely-used image motif is used several times in Byzantium: CN_Type7881; CN_Type7896; CN_Type7897; CN_Type8204; CN_Type8206; CN_Type8426; CN_Type8436; CN_Type8430.
  4. CN_Type1742.
  5. Chadžikostov 1998, 194, no. 3; Minkova 2000, 703.
  6. CN_Type1696.
  7. CN_Type1743.
  8. CN_Type2224.
  9. CN_Type1714; CN_Type1758; CN_Type1769; CN_Type1814; CN_Type1826; CN_Type1828; CN_Type1869; CN_Type1871; CN_Type1872; CN_Type2012; CN_Type2023; CN_Type2028; CN_Type2097; CN_Type2136; CN_Type2137; CN_Type2227; CN_Type2233; CN_Type2371.
  10. CN_Type1757; CN_Type1809; CN_Type1827; CN_Type1879; CN_Type2260.
  11. CN_Type1901; CN_Type2193.
  12. CN_Type1877; CN_Type1923.
  13. CN_Type2261.
  14. For this purpose Meyer 1994, 610.
  15. CN_Type2282.
  16. The identity of the river god is debated. See: Schönert-Geiss 1991, 44.
  17. CN_Type1675; CN_Type1753; CN_Type1910; CN_Type1940; CN_Type2212.
  18. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 44.
  19. CN_Type1785; CN_Type1806; CN_Type1813; CN_Type1856; CN_Type1925; CN_Type1927; CN_Type1931; CN_Type1935; CN_Type1970; CN_Type2021; CN_Type2105; CN_Type2269.
  20. CN_Type1850; CN_Type1855; CN_Type1933.
  21. CN_Type1784; CN_Type1835; CN_Type1854; CN_Type1928; CN_Type2408.
  22. CN_Type1697; CN_Type1698; CN_Type1732; CN_Type1802; CN_Type1818; CN_Type1884; CN_Type2065; CN_Type2069; CN_Type2208; CN_Type2271; CN_Type2429.
  23. CN_Type1740.
  24. CN_Type1742.
  25. CN_Type1747.
  26. CN_Type1743 The coin comes from the collection of K. Madžarov. See: Madžarov 1998, 442, Nr.1. Also published in Minkova 2000, 704.
  27. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 47.
  28. CN_Type1728; CN_Type1795; CN_Type2080; CN_Type2092. See also Schönert-Geiss 1991, 47.
  29. Cybele enthroned: CN_Type1669; CN_Type1707; CN_Type1751; CN_Type1780; CN_Type1843; CN_Type2230. Cybele on a lion: CN_Type2368.
  30. Serapis: CN_Type1785; CN_Type1822; CN_Type1856; CN_Type1970; CN_Type2020; CN_Type2361. Harpocrates: CN_Type2059; CN_Type2070; CN_Type2361.
  31. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 50.
  32. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 22.
  33. e.g. CN_Type1669; CN_Type1702; CN_Type1723; CN_Type2396.
  34. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 22.

Bibliography

  • Chadžikostov 1998 = A. Chadžikostov, Neue Münztypen von Augusta Traiana, in: U. Peter (Hrsg.), Stephanos nomismatikos. Edith Schönert-Geiss zum 65. Geburtstag, Griechisches Münzwerk (Berlin 1998) 193–197.
  • Gočeva 1998 = Z. Gočeva, Organisation des Religionslebens in Augusta Traiana, in: U. Peter (Hrsg.), Stephanos nomismatikos. Edith Schönert-Geiss zum 65. Geburtstag, Griechisches Münzwerk (Berlin 1998) 271–278.
  • Madžarov 1998 = K. Madžarov, Unpublizierte Münztypen der Prägestätte Augusta Traiana, in: U. Peter (Hrsg.), Stephanos nomismatikos. Edith Schönert-Geiss zum 65. Geburtstag, Griechisches Münzwerk (Berlin 1998) 441–448.
  • Meyer 1994 = E. Meyer, Rezension zu E. Schönert-Geiss, Die Münzprägung von Augusta Traiana und Traianopolis, in: Gnomon 66, 1994, 608–611.
  • Minkova 2000 = M. Minkova, Supplementum at the coinage of Augusta Traiana, in: B. Kluge/B.Weisser (Hrsgg.), XII Internationaler Numismatischer Kongress Berlin 1997. Akten – Proceedings – Actes I (Berlin 2000), 703–705.
  • Oberhummer 1899 = E. Oberhummer, Beroia, in: RE III 1, 1899, 306–307.
  • Schönert-Geiss 1991 = E. Schönert-Geiss, Die Münzprägung von Augusta Traiana und Traianopolis, Griechisches Münzwerk 31 (Berlin 1991).
  • Varbanov (vol. II) 2005 = I. Varbanov, Greek Imperial Coins. And their Values, vol. 2: Thrace. From Abdera to Pautalia (Bourgas 2005).

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