Coin Typology of

Nikopolis ad Mestum *

Topography and History

The city of Nikopolis ad Mestum is situated in the upper Mesta River valley in a mountain basin at the foot of the western Rhodope Mountains. 1  The designation of "ad Mestum" serves to distinguish it from the city of the same name with the addition "ad Istrum", which had been assigned to the province of Moesia Inferior since the reign of Septimius Severus. Archaeological findings suggest that the surrounding area of Nikopolis ad Mestum was inhabited in pre-Roman times. 2  However, the foundation and urbanization of the city did not take place until the Trajanic period, as the urban nickname Ulpia suggests. 3  The local coinage of Nikopolis did not begin with the foundation of the city; rather, it only began in the Severan period and lasted only a few years. The connection to the ancient road network was quite propitious, which favoured the flourishing of the city in Severan times. 4  In late antiquity, the quarrying of marble and the local production of ceramics gained some importance. 5 

  1. Komnick 2003, 1; Petrova 2012, 304–307
  2. Komnick 2003, 3.
  3. Komnick 2003, 3
  4. Komnick 2003, 2; Petrova 2012, 298–304
  5. Komnick 2003, 4–5; Ivanov 2013, 330–334

State of Research

The coinage of Nikopolis ad Mestum was extensively worked out by H. Komnick in a corpus volume published in the series Griechisches Münzwerk. This volume is also the basis for the type catalogue of our database. In particular, coins from the Berlin Coin Cabinet and from the Bibliothèque nationale de France, as well as the plaster casts of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, were included.

Minting System and Typology

According to H. Komnick, the local bronze coinage can be limited to the narrow period between AD 209 and 212. 1  Nikopolis ad Mestum minted in two nominal levels; all coins issued for Julia Domna are designated as three-unit coins, while all coins minted for Caracalla and Geta are, in contrast to Komnick, referred to in our database not as four- but rather five-unit coins.

  1. Komnick 2003, 9f.

Coin Production und Metrology

Only Artemis  1  and Nemesis  2  are featured on the Julia Domna issues. The iconographic range of the coins minted for Caracalla is more extensive. On the reverse of the coins are primarily different deities and personifications, which are taken from the repertoire of figures also common in other Thracian mints. Only one Helios depiction is out of the ordinary; this image, featuring the sun god with a whip in his raised right hand, is not attested in this form in any other Thracian mint. 3  The depictions of the gods are joined by the image of a fourfold twisted snake with a radiate crown  4  and two different eagle depictions on an altar. 5  A representation of the emperor is also of note, showing Caracalla in his war regalia, holding a statuette of Victoria standing on a globe in his right hand and a sceptre in his left  6  Largely the same image motifs are used on the coins minted for Geta; the only novelty is a representation of Artemis Phosphoros striding left.  7 

  1. CN-Type 11822.
  2. CN-Type11823.
  3. CN-Type11837. See Komnick 2003, 48
  4. CN-Type11851.
  5. CN-Type11829;CN-Type11845. For general information about the eagle representations, see also Komnick 2003, 42.
  6. CN-Type11847.
  7. CN-Type11865. For more on this image motif, see Komnick 2003, 43.

The Coinage of the Roman Imperial Period

In Nikopolis ad Mestum, representations of Ares appearing in different variations were especially popular: 1  In addition to his head posture, the depictions of this god also differ in whether he is holding a shield in his hand or standing on the ground. It remains to be seen whether the frequency of these representations is based on the local tradition, according to which Ares was one of the most frequently worshipped gods in Thrace.  2 

Besides Ares, Artemis also seems to have played a special role in Nikopolis ad Mestum. She appears in two different forms. Most common is the depiction of Artemis as the goddess of the hunt. On the coins of Julia Domna she is rendered static and standing right, holding the bow in her left hand and pulling an arrow from the quiver on her back with her right hand. 3  On the emissions of Caracalla and Geta, she is shown hurrying left and holding bow and arrow in both hands; beside her, a dog is recognizable as her distinctive attribute. 4  As far as we know, this method of representation is unique to the Thracian mints. 5  Another representation of Artemis on the coins minted for Geta is particularly noteworthy: here, she is depicted striding left and holding a torch in her hands; this manifestation of Artemis Phosphoros is exclusively documented in Nikopolis ad Mestum 6 .

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. CN-Type11824; CN-Type11849; CN-Type 11853; CN-Type11858.
  2. See Komnick 2003, 42
  3. CN-Type11822.
  4. CN-Type11854; CN-Type11864.
  5. Komnick 2003, 48
  6. Komnick 2003, 43


  • Komnick 2003 = H. Komnick, Die Münzprägung von Nicopolis ad Mestum, Griechisches Münzwerk (Berlin 2003).
  • Petrova 2012 = S. Petrova, Nicopolis ad Nestum/Mestum, in: R. Ivanov, Roman Cities in Bulgaria, Corpus of Ancient and Medieval Settlements in Modern Bulgaria 1 (Sofia 2012) 289–361.