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Coin Typology of

Traianopolis *

Topography and History

Traianopolis is located on the mCouth of the River Hebros into the Aegean Sea. 1  There is a vast field of ruins along the road connecting Pherrai and Alexandroupolis, which was clearly identified by A. Dumont as Traianopolis. 2  The location of the city is considered secure based on the discovery of a mile marker from the Severan period. 3  Herodotus attested to a predecessor settlement of Traianopolis called Doriskos, 4  which was named as a gathering point for the Persian army during the Persian War of Darius the Great. Traianopolis was founded in the wake of Trajan's urbanization policy and became the only city on the southern coast of Thrace that was of any economic and cultural importance in the Roman Empire. 5  Literary sources about the city during the imperial period are very sparse. 6  However, in late antiquity and the Byzantine period, Traianopolis operated as a major episcopal see. 7 

  1. Oberhummer 1937, col.2082; Schönert-Geiss 1991, 141.
  2. Dumont/Homolle 1892, 224f.; Schönert-Geiss 1991, 141.
  3. Oberhummer 1937, Sp.2085; Schönert-Geiss 1991, 141.
  4. Herodt. 7.25.
  5. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 141; Varbanov 2007, 287.
  6. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 142; Ptol. geogr. III 11.13 as well as occasional mentions in itineraries are to be mentioned.
  7. Oberhummer 1937, Sp.2083; Schönert-Geiss 1991, 142.

State of Research

The corpus volume by E. Schönert-Geiss published in the Griechisches Münzwerk series is considered to be fundamental for the typological differentiation of the coinage of Augusta Traiana and Traianopolis. 1  Additionally, a few specimens from coin auctions that were not published by Schönert-Geiss have been included in our type catalogue. The often unclear distinction between the Thracian Traianopolis, the Phrygian Traianopolis, and the Cilician Traianopolis has proven a particular difficulty. A further difficulty is that some coins from Traianopolis were mistakenly attributed to the mint of Augusta Traiana during earlier periods of research.

  1. The relevant review by E. Meyer (Gnomon 66, 608–611) is overall positive with only little criticism. These few complaints by Meyer have been noted.

Coin Production und Metrology

Traianopolis emitted its first coins under Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. The city coinage reached its peak under Caracalla, was reduced significantly after his reign, and finally ended under Gordian III.

Traianopolis issued coins in five nominal levels. The naming of the denominations aligns itself with the corpus volume of Schönert-Geiss. 1  The smaller denominations comprise of one unit (Ø: 16–17 mm; weight: 2.5–3.5 g), one-and-a-half units (Ø: 18–21.5 mm; weight: 3.4–5.2 g), and two units (Ø: 20–23 mm; weight: 4.4–8.4 g). 2  Three-unit coins were emitted exclusively under Julia Domna (Ø: 23–24.5 mm; weight: 6.8–8.6 g). 3  The two largest denomination coins are those of four units (Ø: 24–26 mm; weight: 9.0–11.3 g) five units (Ø: 29–30 mm; weight: 15–16 g). 4  A significant decrease in the weight of five-unit coins can be noted between Lucius Verus and Caracalla. 5 

  1. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 147–150. For justified criticism of the use of ‘notional nominal levels’ that we cannot take into account in our type catalogue, see: Meyer 1994, 610f.
  2. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 147f.
  3. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 148.
  4. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 148f.
  5. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 149.

The Coinage of the Late Classical and Hellenistics Periods

According to the current state of knowledge, the coinage of Traianopolis first began under Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, in contrast to what I. Varbanov has suggested. 1  A single one-unit coin with a depiction of Marcus Aurelius on the obverse is known thus far; 2  just as sparse are the five-unit coins of Lucius Verus, on which the name of the governor Quintus Tullius Maximus 3  is named in the reverse legend. 4  The coinage of Faustina Minor, however, is amazingly extensive. It is particularly significant that almost exclusively female deities are depicted on the reverse of her coins. 5  The representation of the empress at the sacrifice is also extremely rare and is singular to the coinage of Traianopolis. 6 

During the reign of Septimius Severus and Julia Domna, Traianopolis issued coins in different denominations for the first time, but the volume of the individual denominations is easily understandable. 7  Classical depictions of gods predominate on the reverses of their coins; both male and female deities are represented on coins of Septimius Severus, while exclusively female deities appear on coins of Julia Domna. 8  The indication of the name of the governor Titus Statilius Barbarus 9  on the five-unit coins of Septimius Severus and the three-unit coins of Iulia Domna serves as a useful aid in dating these specimens. 10 

By far, the most extensive coinage of Traianopolis was minted during the reign of Caracalla. The city had already minted one-and-a-half unit coins of Caracalla as Caesar under Septimius Severus. 11  During that same period, one-unit coins of Geta as Caesar were also emitted. 12  In particular, the coins dated to after AD 198 show great type diversity with varied reverse motifs that mostly come from the otherwise usual repertoire of motifs. The diversity of emperor portrayals on the five unit coins minted for Caracalla is particularly significant. 13  The two-unit coins are characterized by the fact that the two obverse stamps used each show different radiate portraits of Caracalla, whereas on all other nominals he is always depicted as laureate. In the case of the one-unit coins, two different legends are used as a type variation. For example, the same motifs on the reverse are often combined with the obverse legend ΑΝΤΩΝΕΙΝΟϹ ΠΙΟC ΑVΓΟ(V), or sometimes also with the obverse legend ΑVΤ Κ Μ ΑVΡ Ϲ(Ε) ΑΝΤΩΝΕΙΝΟϹ. In some cases, however, only the portrait figure on the obverse is typologically decisive, regardless of the obverse legend. 14 

After the reign of Caracalla, Traianopolis minted to the best of our current knowledge only one two-unit coin for Diadumenian that featured a classic depiction of Artemis on the reverse 15  and a four-unit coin for Gordian III, whose reverse depicts Hermes with a purse and caduceus. 16  Coin types for Elagabalus and other coins minted for Gordian III are not considered authentic according to the current state of research. 17 

  1. Varbanov 2007, 287f, no. 2704–2707; for Nr. 2704–2706 I. Varbanov states that there is no proof of the authenticity of these coins. However, he considers no. 2707 to be authentic.
  2. CN_Type2594.
  3. PIR² T 386.
  4. CN_Type2645; CN_Type2646.
  5. Hera: CN_Type2600; CN_Type2625. Tyche: CN_Type2603; CN_Type2619; CN_Type2621; CN_Type2639; CN_Type2644. Demeter: CN_Type2617. Homonoia: CN_Type2638. Nemesis: CN_Type2647.
  6. CN_Type2606.
  7. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 144f.
  8. Coins of Septimius Severus: Apollon: CN_Type2651. Hygieia: CN_Type2652. Zeus: CN_Type2654. Tyche: CN_Type2655. Kybele: CN_Type2656. Münzen der Iulia Domna: Hera: CN_Type2662; CN_Type2671. Nemesis: CN_Type2663. Tyche: CN_Type2665; CN_Type2670. Hygieia: CN_Type2668. Homonoia: CN_Type2672.
  9. PIR S 819.
  10. These coins can be dated to the period of AD 196–198. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 144f.
  11. CN_Type2679; CN_Type2680; CN_Type2681; CN_Type2682.
  12. CN_Type2824. Two other coin types for Geta mentioned by I. Varbanov are obviously not authentic. The same applies to a type supposedly stamped for Plautilla. Varbanov 2007, 301, Nr. 2874–2876.
  13. CN_Type2683; CN_Type2700; CN_Type2701; CN_Type2702.
  14. CN_Type2762 and CN_Type2768; CN_Type2807 and CN_Type2809.
  15. CN_Type2829.
  16. CN_Type2832.
  17. Varbanov 2007, 302, no. 2879-2883. The supposed coins of the Elagabalus indicate that these coins are obviously not authentic; however, this information is missing in the case of the alleged further coins of Gordian.

The Coinage of the Roman Imperial Period

Some reverse motifs clearly demonstrate local references. For example, the portrayal of three female figures, sometimes interpreted as nymphs and sometimes as the Three Graces, can be considered as testimony to a local cult. 1  The three female figures, sometimes depicted wearing long garments 2  and other times nude, 3  embrace each other’s shoulders and hold different attributes in their hands. 4  On a five-unit coin minted under Septimius Severus, they are portrayed together with the river god, Hebros, who is reclining in front of them. 5  A common local myth is adapted by the coinage with the depiction of the Thracian singer, Orpheus, on a three-unit coin minted under Julia Domna. 6  Depictions of Orpheus are quite common in Thracian mints, as Hadrianopolis and Philippopolis also occasionally chose this figure as a reverse motif. 7 

The portrayal of a crescent moon with either one 8  or four 9  stars can be interpreted as a testimony of a local moon cult, which was probably related to the Artemis cult. 10  It is not surprising that the cult of Dionysus, originally from Thrace, also enjoyed great popularity in Traianopolis and found its way into the numismatic repertoire. 11  Furthermore, the image of the celtic god of healing, Telesphorus, on a one-unit coin minted under Caracalla can attest to the use of further local references in the coinage. 12  The other healing deities, Asclepius and Hygieia, were also very popular based on the numismatic findings in Traianopolis. 13  In addition to traditional Asclepius and Hygieia representations, a staff of Asclepius is displayed on some small denominations. 14 

The widespread worship of Egyptian and oriental deities in Thrace also found its way into the mints of Traianopolis: representations of Serapis 15  and Harpocrates 16  enjoyed great popularity during the reign of Caracalla; Isis, however, is missing in the repertoire of types found in the city. In addition, representations of the Asian fertility goddess, Cybele, are present in the coinage of Traianopolis. 17  Demeter portrayals refer to the context of the mystery cults: on a five-unit coin minted under Caracalla, a cista mystica is depicted at her feet, 18  which points to the context of the Eleusinian mysteries. 19  Two further one-unit coins feature a cista mystica as an independent coin image. 20 

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. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 155.
  2. CN_Type2594; CN_Type2653; CN_Type2685.
  3. CN_Type2713.
  4. CN_Type2594: Spindles. CN_Type2653; CN_Type2685: Vessels – possibly water jugs. CN_Type2713: no attribute – one of the female figures lets water trickle from her hand. E. Schönert-Geiss believes this attribute should lead to the interpretation that the figures are water deities. See: Schönert-Geiss 1991, 155.
  5. CN_Type2653.
  6. CN_Type2664.
  7. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 157.
  8. CN_Type2673; CN_Type2761; CN_Type2762; CN_Type2768.
  9. CN_Type2822.
  10. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 155.
  11. Depictions of Dionysus: CN_Type2737; CN_Type2823. Grape: CN_Type2658; CN_Type2676; CN_Type2737; CN_Type2738; CN_Type2802; CN_Type2823.
  12. CN_Type2817.
  13. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 155f.
  14. CN_Type2675; CN_Type2772; CN_Type2774.
  15. CN_Type2695; CN_Type2705; CN_Type2787.
  16. CN_Type2733.
  17. CN_Type2656; CN_Type2684.
  18. CN_Type2698.
  19. Schönert-Geiss 1991, 156.
  20. CN_Type2799; CN_Type2800.

Bibliography

  • Dumont/Homolle 1876 = A. Dumont/Th. Homolle, Mélanges d’archéologie et d’épigraphie (Paris 1892) 188-287.
  • Meyer 1994 = E. Meyer, Rezension zu E. Schönert-Geiss, Die Münzprägung von Augusta Traiana und Traianopolis, in: Gnomon 66, 1994, 608-611.
  • Oberhummer 1937 = E. Oberhummer, Traianopolis, in: RE VI,2, 1937, 2082-2085.
  • Schönert-Geiss 1991 = E. Schönert-Geiss, Die Münzprägung von Augusta Traiana und Traianopolis, Griechisches Münzwerk 31 (Berlin 1991).
  • Varbanov (vol. III) 2007 = I. Varbanov, Greek Imperial Coins. And their Values, vol. 3: Thrace. From Perinthus to Trajanopolis (Bourgas 2007).

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