Menu
Coin Typology of

Plotinopolis *

Topography and History

Ancient Plotinopolis was located in western Thrace, south of Hadrianopolis, near the mouth of the Ergines River in the Hebros Mountains. 1  Remnants of an early settlement on the hill Hagia Petra can be traced to the Neolithic and on the hill Kales until the early Iron Age. 2  The town was re-founded under Trajan and named Plotinopolis in honour of his wife. 3  In late antiquity, Plotinopolis was one of the most important Thracian cities, as can be clearly demonstrated by spectacular excavation finds. 4  In the seventh century, the city was finally renamed Didymoteichon. 5 

  1. Oberhummer 1951, col.471
  2. Varbanov (Vol. III) 2007, 208.
  3. Oberhummer 1951, Sp.471; Varbanov (Vol. III) 2007, 208.
  4. Varbanov (Vol. III) 2007, 208.
  5. Soustal 1991, 240.

State of Research

The coinage of Plotinopolis has not yet been thoroughly investigated. Both the coin typology of I. Varbanov and the types covered by the Roman Provincial Coinage Project have significant gaps and are largely incomplete. The coins in the Münzkabinett Berlin and in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, as well as the plaster impressions of the BBAW originating mainly from the British Museum, were considered in our type catalogue. In addition, coin auctions were also used to search for additional coin types, which were then included in the database. New findings for the coinage of Plotinopolis can be hoped for in a catalogue that is being compiled by Marina Tasaklaki.

Minting System and Typology

The relatively straightforward coinage of Plotinopolis began to be minted under Antoninus Pius and ended under Caracalla. A short gap in minting can be observed during the reign of Commodus. The monetary system of Plotinopolis is not entirely clear, which means that some denominations cannot be exactly determined. However, it seems that Plotinopolis minted coins in five different denominations.

The Coinage of the Late Classical and Hellenistics Periods

During the rule of Antoninus Pius, Plotinopolis minted some double-unit and five-unit coins with the emperor’s portrait on the obverse, as well as four-unit coins for Marcus Aurelius as Caesar. The three-unit coins minted for Faustina Minor can likely also be dated to the reign of Antoninus Pius. Additionally, the so-called pseudo-autonomous coinage is likely to have been minted during his rule. The image repertoire used on the reverse of the few double-unit coins is limited to depictions of Asclepius and Hygieia. 1  Of the five-unit coins emitted under Antoninus Pius, classical depictions of gods are dominant; there are also two coin types where the emperor is depicted on horseback. 2  On the reverse legends of these five-unit coins, the names of the officiating governors A. Pompeius Vopiscus 3  or Gargilius Antiquus 4  are given.

Depictions of Hebros become more frequent on the reverse of coins minted for Marcus Aurelius; 5  in addition, there is one type each of Cybele on a lion 6  and the Three Graces. 7  Either various female deities or Apollo are portrayed on the reverse of coins minted for Faustina Minor. 8  A single coin for Lucius Verus is known from the time of his joint rule with Marcus Aurelius. Its reverse shows a classic emperor depiction with a Phrygian prisoner before the emperor, who is dressed in military garb. 9 

During the reign of Septimius Severus, Plotinopolis emitted only one known coin type for the emperor, which features a triumphal arch on the reverse. 10  The governor, Gaius Caecina Largus, is named in the reverse legend of this coin. 11  Two coin types minted for Julia Domna 12  can also be dated to the reign of Septimius Severus, as well as one for Geta as Caesar, whose reverse shows a serpent coiled around an altar. 13 

Under Caracalla, Plotinoplis minted coins in various denominations. The obverse of many five-unit coins features an emperor portrait to the left, in addition to a spear and shield with a depiction of the gorgoneion upon it; on a four-unit coin, a youthful portrait of Caracalla stands out. 14  The obverse of the six-unit coins features a typical portrait of the emperor to the right, bearded and laureate; more revealing, however, are the reverse compositions of the six-unit coins on which the riding emperor 15  or Hades and Persephone in a quadriga 16  can be discerned. A further coin is particularly interesting: Its reverse depicts the opposing busts of Plotinopolis and the relatively-unknown polis Dominopolis; the reverse legend reads ΠΛΩΤЄΙΝΟΠΟΛЄΙΤΩΝ ΠΛΩΤЄΙΝΟΠΟΛΙC ΔΟΜΗΝΟΠΟΛΙC ΑΔΕΛΦΑΙ. However, the authenticity of this coin is questionable for stylistic reasons and requires further investigation.

The Coinage of the Roman Imperial Period

In terms of the choice in subject matter, the preference for female deities is quite significant. Demeter especially enjoyed great popularity in Plotinopolis and was presented with different attributes. 1  On one coin type minted under Antoninus Pius, she is portrayed in a biga pulled by two serpents. 2  The depiction of a cista mystica as an independent pictorial motif on some small nominals also belongs within the context of the Demeter cult. 3 

In addition to Demeter, the wine god Dionysus seems to have played a certain role in Plotinopolis, as his portrait is depicted on the obverse of the two so-called pseudo-autonomous coin types; 4  the reverse of one of these two coin types shows a kantharos, which also refers to the context of the Dionysus cult. 5  One coin type minted under Antoninus Pius shows the wine god integrated into a complex scene: he rides on a panther to the right and holds a thyrsus in his left hand; Pan and Silenus can be recognized before the panther. 6  Additionally, Apollo is found in different variations on the coins issued in Plotinopolis. 7  On one coin type a griffin at the foot of Apollo is shown, which would otherwise be expected as an attribute animal of the goddess Nemesis. 8 

A local reference is reflected in the numerous representations of the river god Hebros. 9  Of particular interest is a depiction of Hebros on an emission for Marcus Aurelius from the Imhoof-Blumer collection. The god is depicted standing on the left with his upper body tilted forward, and he places his right foot on a source vessel lying on the ground. 10 

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.

Bibliography

  • Imhoof-Blumer 1884 = F. Imhoof-Blumer, Griechische Münzen aus dem Museum in Klagenfurt und anderen Sammlungen, in: NumZ 16,1884, 227ff.
  • Oberhummer 1951 = E. Oberhummer, Plotinopolis, in: RE XXI,1, 1951, 471.
  • Soustal 1991 = P. Soustal, Didymoteichon. Tabula Imperii Byzantini 6: Thrakien, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (Wien 1991) 240-244.
  • Varbanov (vol. III) 2007 = I. Varbanov, Greek Imperial Coins. And their Values, vol. 3: Thrace. From Perinthus to Trajanopolis (Bourgas 2007).

Map