Coin Typology of

Philippopolis *

Topography and History

Located at the foot of the Rhodopes, the city of Philippopolis (modern Plovdiv) was founded by Philip II. Although it gained some importance during the reign of Philip V, 1  the city on the River Hebros did not put its first coins into circulation until the Roman Empire under Domitian. Although it was the seat of the Thracian Koinon, Philippopolis was always overshadowed by the city of Perinth, where the Roman governor resided. 2  Under Septimius Severus, Philippopolis was given the title of Metropolis. 3  Under Caracalla, festivals were introduced which were named Alexandria Pythia in honour of the emperor. Finally, under Elagabalus, the city was granted its first Neocoria, 4  which was accompanied by cultic honours for Elagabalus as a cult partner of Apollo Kendrisos and the introduction of the Kendreiseia Pythia. 5  After Elagabalus' reign, the city’s local bronze coinage ended. 6  However, the Kendreiseia Pythia lived on and were held until the middle of the 3rd century AD. 7 

  1. For more on the development of the city, see Topalilov 2012 and 2019.
  2. Burrell 2004, 243; Haensch 1997, 329–331.
  3. Topalilov 2019, 20.
  4. Burrell 2004, 243f.
  5. Leschhorn 1998, 413.
  6. See also Burrell 2004, 244f.
  7. Leschhorn 1998, 412f.; Burrell 2004, 244.

State of Research

A comprehensive review of the coinage of Philippopolis has only been available since the type catalogue of I. Varbanov was published in 2019, 1  replacing the earlier compilation of N. Mušmov. 2  Even before that, mainly K. Kolev as well as U. Peter had dealt with individual aspects of the minting of Philippopolis’ coinage in relevant articles. 3  B. Burrell has done important pioneering work on the Neocoria awarded under Elagabalus and its presumed withdrawal under Severus Alexander, especially taking the numismatic findings into account. 4  Also relevant for our type catalogue are the coin types published within the framework of the Roman Provincial Coinage project; plaster casts from museum collections and private collections in Plovdiv, Sofia, and Stara Zagora; as well as coins published in trade. Thus, some more coin types not previously published by I. Varbanov could be recorded.

  1. Varbanov 2019.
  2. Mušmov 1924.
  3. Among others: Kolev 1969, 1975, 1976, 1977 and Peter 2005, 2013, 2015, 2018.
  4. Burrell 2004.

Minting System and Typology

The local bronze coinage of Philippopolis began under Domitian and ended under Elagabalus. The city minted continuously without any significant interruptions; only under Macrinus were no coins issued. Philippopolis minted coins in a total of six nominal levels, as well as medallions in two denominations. The smallest denomination, the one-unit coin, includes in particular some coins without an emperor's portrait on the obverse, which have an average diameter of 14.9 mm and an average weight of 2.09 g. 1 

  1. For these coins, see also Peter 2015. Diameter and weight information here and in the following: Varbanov 2019, p. 178–190.

The Coinage of the Late Classical and Hellenistics Periods

The coins minted for Domitian and Trajan can be assigned to four nominal levels, although a potential fifth denomination cannot be completely ruled out. The coins from the reigns of these emperors 1   2  considered to be worth one-unit by I. Varbanov—as well as one specimen minted for Domitian 3  that is designated as a five-unit coin—are, in our understanding, more likely to be designated as two-units rather than one, or six-units rather than five, respectively. Of particular interest are the Latin obverse legends of the coins minted for Domitian, which, according to the consulate census, can be dated to the year AD 88/89. Even under Trajan, the city still issued bilingual coins. 4  Under Hadrian, Philippopolis minted coins in four denominations, which we define as two-unit (16.8 mm; 3.04 g), three-unit (20.5 mm; 5.75 g), four-unit (26.3 mm; 12.69 g) and six-unit coins (34.5 mm; 23.55 g). 5 

Under Antoninus Pius, coins were circulated in four nominal levels, but these can now be designated as one-unit (13.9 mm; 2.29 g), two-units (18.6 mm; 4.01 g), four-units (25.2 mm; 9.49 g), and five-units (30.6 mm; 19.76 g). In the legends on the reverse side of almost all five-unit coins and of two two-unit coins, 6  the governor's name is given as M. Antonius Zeno, 7  M. Pontus Sabinus, 8  C. Gallonus Fronto, 9  or A. L. Pompeius Vopiscus; 10  all other coins are inscribed with the city ethnic. Furthermore, some small medallions were also minted at this time. 11 

A three-tier nominal system had been established under Marcus Aurelius: Philippopolis coined five-unit coins (31.1 mm; 19.6 g) with governor names in the reverse legend, 12  four-unit coins (25.1 mm; 9.62 g), and two-unit coins (18.8 mm; 4.18 g). For Marcus Aurelius, coins with portraits of youths and adults exist side by side, without a clear differentiation based on denomination being possible. Only two- (19.4 mm; 3.96 g) and five-unit (31.4 mm; 19.65 g) coins were minted for Lucius Verus, and only two- (19.1 mm; 4.02 g) and four-unit (25.2 mm; 9.84 g) coins were minted for the wife of the emperor, Faustina II.

The three-tiered nominal system continued unchanged under Commodus. Thus, in turn, two-(18.8 mm; 4.14 g), four- (24.1 mm; 8.53 g), and five-unit (30.0 mm; 16.69 g) coins can be distinguished. The city ethnic appears on the reverse of the two- and four-unit coins, and the governor's name of T. Suellius Marcianus, 13  Q. Caecilius Secundus Servilianus, 14  or Caecilius Maternus 15  appears on the five-unit coins. Another denomination, which I. Varbanov calls a three-unit coin, also seems to belong to the group of two-unit coins. 16  The nominal structure of the coins minted for Crispina is identical.

This same nominal system continued under Septimius Severus. The city coined two- (18.5 mm; 4.01 g), four- (23.8 mm; 7.60 g), and five-unit (29.2 mm; 15.55 g) coins. The Metropolis title is given in the legends of the majority of the five-unit coins, whereas the reverse of the smaller denominations are only marked with the city ethnic. A few four- and five-unit coins were minted for the wife of the emperor, Julia Domna. 17  is, by analogy with the coins minted for Septimius Severus, a five-unit coin rather than a six-unit coin, despite its relatively large diameter (34 mm) and heavier weight (24.20 g). Different from Varbanov 2019, 189f.}

The coins minted for Caracalla can be divided into the same three denominations: 18  two (18.5 mm; 4.05 g), 19  four (23.9 mm; 8.42 g) and five (29.9 mm; 16.23 g) units. The obverse sides of the two-unit coins exclusively bear portraits of youths, while both youth and adult portraits appear on the four-unit coins, and adult portraits of the emperor appear without exception on the five-unit coins. The reverse legends of the small nominals each indicate the city ethnic in the usual manner. In addition to these two legends, the four-unit coins also have the captions ΚΟΙΝΟΝ ΘΡΑΚΩΝ ΠΥΘΙΑ 20  and ΑΛΕΖΑΝΔΡΙΑ ΕΝ ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΠΟΛΙ. 21  The five-unit coins have either the city ethnic, a combination of the ethnic and Metropolis title, or the legend text ΚΟΙΝΟΝ ΘΡΑΚΩΝ ΑΛΕΖΑΝΔΡΙΑ ΕΝ ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΠΟΛΙ ΠΥΘΙΑ, whereby the position of the word ΠΥΘΙΑ is just as variable as the possible abbreviations of the individual legend components. 22  Furthermore, some medallions were circulated in two nominal levels. The small medallions have the commonality of showing different prize representations, while for the larger nominal level different picture compositions are possible. The reverse legend of the medallions is, as with some five-unit coins, ΚΟΙΝΟΝ ΘΡΑΚΩΝ ΑΛΕΖΑΝΔΡΙΑ ΕΝ ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΠΟΛΙ ΠΥΘΙΑ. For Caracalla's brother, Geta, the city minted two- (18.1 mm; 3.81 g) and five-unit (28.9 mm; 15.73 g) coins.

Finally, this nominal structure was also maintained under Elagabalus. The nominal values of the coins minted for this emperor differ not only in diameter and weight, but also in their reverse legends: the two- (18.6 mm; 4.01 g) and four-unit (23.8 mm; 8.01 g) coins are inscribed with ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΠΟΛΕΙΤΩΝ ΝΕΩΚΟΡΩΝ. The legends on the five-unit coins (29.1 mm; 15.52 g) combine the Metropolis title, the Neocoria title, and the city ethnic to read ΜΗΤΡΟΠΟΛΕΩC ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΠΟΛΕΩC ΝΕΩΚΟΡΟV. In addition, some medallions in two nominal sizes had been circulated for Elagabalus, 23  the legend of which is either identical to the above-mentioned reverse legend of the five-unit coins or refers to the newly introduced festival, reading: ΚΕΝΔΡΕΙCΕΙΑ ΠVΘΙΑ ΕΝ ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΠΟΛΙ ΝΕΩΚΟΡΩ.

  1. Domitian: CN_Type7541.
  2. Trajan: CN_Type7542.
  3. CN_Type7548.
  4. Woytek 2011, 424–427.
  5. The diameters and weights of the coins minted for Hadrian are given, as determined by Varbanov. The diameters and weights of the coins minted for Aelius deviate only minimally from this.
  6. CN_Type8012.
  7. PIR2 A 883.
  8. PIR2 P 882.
  9. PIR2 G 50.
  10. PIR2 P 660.
  11. CN_Type7957; CN_Type7958. Different denomination in Varbanov (2019, 183), who classifies these as three-unit coins.
  12. Q. Tullius Maximus: PIR2 T 386.
  13. PIR2 S 690.
  14. PIR2 C 82.
  15. PIR2 C 58.
  16. See Varbanov 2019, 183f.
  17. [CN_Type10960
  18. The coins of Caracalla and Geta classified by Varbanov (2019, 180f.) as one-unit coins seem instead to be two-unit coins.
  19. Varbanov (2019, 180f.) still mentions a few one-unit coins, but in our opinion they should be counted among the two-unit coins.
  20. CN_Type10811.
  21. CN_Type10810.
  22. For this legend form, see also Peter 2013.
  23. The ‘small medallion’ is addressed by Varbanov (2019, 189f.) as ‘six-unit coins’.

The Coinage of the Roman Imperial Period

For Philippopolis, the city's location on the River Hebros seems to have played a central role, which is reflected in the numerous river god depictions on its coinage. On the reverse of several coins, the river god Hebros and the city goddess are depicted together. 1  A coin type minted for Antoninus Pius shows the city goddess together with two river gods 2  and, according to U. Peter, is to be interpreted to the effect that one river god symbolizes Hebros while the other represents one of the small tributaries of the Hebros. 3  On other coins depicting river gods, the nautical significance of the Hebros is evident 4  in the depiction of a prora in the background. 5 

Agonistic image motifs in the form of either a prize table 6  or crown 7  are found on the coins minted for Caracalla and Elagabalus. In some cases, but not always, ΠΥΘΙΑ is written on the prize crown. The Alexandria Pythia and the Kendreiseia Pythia are also referred to by numerous depictions of athletes on the coins minted for these two emperors, with particular attention being paid to the representation of a group of athletes, 8  the representation of two wrestlers, 9  and the depiction of a boxer. 10 

Apollo Kendrisos also plays a central role in the local bronze coinage of the city of Philippopolis. 11  His statue can be seen on a column in the background of some reverse motifs depicting the emperor attending a sacrifice. 12  On the coins minted for Elagabalus and for his wife Julia Cornelia Paula, the Neocoria temple is depicted often: it is featured in either frontal, with or without a cult statue between the columns, 13  or in three-quarter view. 14  One medallion shows an emperor sacrificing in front of the Neocoria temple, 15  while another shows the dextrarum iunctio of the emperor and his cult partner behind an agonistic table with a prize crown on it and the temple in the background. 16  The local significance of this god can be seen not only in the large number of different depictions of Apollo and the tripod, but also in the prominent position of the god on coins without an emperor's portrait. 17 

In addition to Apollo Kendrisos, Heracles played a significant role for the local identity of the city, which is also reflected in its coinage. On the reverse of some coins, for example, numerous tasks from his famous twelve deeds are depicted. 18  Other coins show various compositions of a statue of the hero on a hill. 19 

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.


  • Burrell 2004 = Burrell, B., Neokoroi. Greek cities and Roman emperors, (Cincinnati classical studies. New series (vol. IX.), Brill/Leiden 2004.
  • Haensch 1997 = Haensch, R., Capita provinciarum: Statthaltersitze und Provinzialverwaltung in der römischen Kaiserzeit, Mainz 1997 (Kölner Forschungen 7).
  • Kolev 1969 = Колев, К., Джендемтепе, изобразено върху антична монета от Филипопол. – Музей и паметници на култура 9/1, 1969, 7–10.
  • Kolev 1975 = Колев, К. Джамбазтепе, изобразено върху антична монета от Филипопол [Representation of Djambaztepe on a coin from Philippopol]. – Известия на музеите от Южна България I, 1975, 115–124.
  • Kolev 1976 = Колев, К. Хълмът Бунарджика, изобразен върху антична монета от Филипопол. – Нумизматика 11/1–2, 1976, 28–35.
  • Kolev 1977 = Колев, К.. Таксимтепе, изобразено върху антични монети от Филипопол [Representation of Taximtepe on coins from Philippopolis]. – Известия на музеите от Южна България III, 1977, 103–122.
  • Leschhorn 1998 = Leschhorn, W., Griechische Agone in Makedonien und Thrakien. Ihre Verbreitung und politisch- religiöse Bedeutung in der römischen Kaiserzeit, in: Stephanos Nomismatikos. Edith Schönert-Geiss zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. Peter, U., Berlin 1998, 399-415.
  • Mušmov 1924 = Мушмов, Н. A., Античните монети на Пловдивъ. In: Annuaire de la Bibliothèque Nationale à Plovdiv, 1924, 181–287.
  • Peter 2005 = Peter, U., Die Bedeutung des Hebros in der Münzprägung von Philippopolis, XIII Congreso Internacional de Numismática Madrid 2003, Actas I, edd. Alfaro, C. et al., Madrid 2005, 927-936.
  • Peter 2013 = Peter, U., Münzen mit der Legende KOINON ΘPAKΩN, in: Thrakia Zetemata II. Aspects of the Roman Province of Thrace, ed. Parissaki, M.-G., (Μελετήματα 69), Athen 2013, 99–164.
  • Peter 2015 = Peter, U., Die Münzen ohne kaiserliches Porträt von Philippopolis Thraciae, in: Proceedings XV International Numismatic Congress, September 25-27, ed. Caltabiano, M., Taormina 2015, 930-935.
  • Peter 2018 = Peter, U., Identitätskonstruktionen in der Münzprägung von Philippopolis (Thracia), in: Proceedings of the First International Roman and Late Antique Thrace Conference “Cities, Territories and Identities” (Plovdiv, 3rd – 7th October 2016) = Bulletin of the National Archaeological Institute XLIV, 2018, 177–186.
  • Topalilov 2012 = Топалилов, И., Римският Филипопол. Том 1. Топографиа, градоустройство и архитектура [Das römische Philippopolis. Bd. 1.Topographie, Städtebau und Architektur], 2012.
  • Topalilov 2019 = Topalilov, I., Roman Philippopolis, in: Varbanov, I., The Coinage of Philippopolis, vol. I.-II., Bourgas 2019, 16-28.
  • Varbanov 2019 = Varbanov, I., The Coinage of Philippopolis, vol. I.-II., Bourgas 2019.
  • Woytek 2011 = Woytek, B., Die bilingualen Münzen Traians. Eine Fallstudie zu numismatischen Erscheinungsformen des Bilingualismus im römischen Reich. – Chiron 41, 2011, 417–459.