Mac Congail

 

 

DISTRIBUTION OF CELTIC COINAGE IN BULGARIA (3rd – 1st c. BC)

 

PART 1 – Philip III/ Cavaros model

 

 

The most discussed political entity established in the wake of the Celtic migration into the Balkans in the 4th/ 3rd c. BC is the ‘Kingdom of Tyle’ in today’s eastern Bulgaria. Following the assault on Delphi a body of Celts who had belonged to Brennos’ central army returned to Thrace under a leader called Comantorios and subsequently “…crushed the Thracians and turned the town of Tyle into a capital of their kingdom” (Poly. iv, 45-46). Celtic military power during this period would appear to have been considerable. A campaign in Thrace by the Syrian king Antiochus II “to take back his cities in Thrace” (Polybius, Historia universalis, xviii 51, 3-6), in the 250’s of the 3rd c. BC, was unsuccessful. Antiochus was accompanied during this campaign by two Thracian nobles – Teres and Dromichaetes (Polaen. Strat., iv, 16), probably with the intent of regaining the territory recently lost to them in Thrace. Few details are known of this conflict between the Syrian and his Thracian allies and the Celtic tribes in eastern Bulgaria except for the fact that the former Thracian capital at Seuthopolis (Kazanlak) was destroyed during the ensuing events. However, recent archaeological evidence clearly shows Celtic settlement in this area both before and after the destruction of the city. (See ‘The Golden Empire of Orpheus’ article – Archaeology section). Whether it was destroyed by the Syrian forces or the Celts themselves remains unclear. Shortly afterwards Antiochus and his army withdrew from Thrace. Another Syrian king, Antiochus Hierax, who landed in Thrace in 228/227 BC was killed by the Celts soon after his arrival. (Pompeius Trogus, Prologi XXVII)

 The coins of the kings of the Celtic ‘Tyle’ state in E. Bulgaria from the 3rd c. BC are concentrated in the area of today’s Bulgaria stretching from the Stranja mountains in the south to the Dobruja region in the north. The best known and recorded of these were issued by the Celtic leader Cavaros, but emissions of three other Celtic ‘kings’ (Orsoalt, Kersebaul and Lilarki) are also recorded in eastern Bulgaria from this period.(1)
Heavy concentrations of Cavaros coins (3rd c. BC – fig. 1/2) have been found in the Dalgopol area (Arkovna Peak, the villages of Asparukhovo and Sladka Voda), Provadia area (Provadia, Blaskovo, Bozvelijsko, Venchan, Kiten, Nenovo, Petrov Dol, and Chajka), the Vetreno municipality, Varna region (the villages of Nevsha and Neofit Rilski) and on the southern slopes of the Eastern Balkan range in the Burgas region (the villages of Sadievo, Cherna Mogila, Malka Polyana, Mirolyubovo, Ruen, Prosnik, Goritsa, Emona and Yabalchevo). Other Cavaros issues in this area of eastern Bulgaria have been found at the villages of Kosovo, Devnya, Bilka, as well as from Appolonia (Sozopol), Odessos (Varna) and Messambria (Nessebar) on the Black Sea coast. (2) To this one may add the Aitos-Karnobat area which connects this area of Bulgaria with the Sliven-Cabyle (Jambol) – Nova Zagora –Stara Zagora region which has produced a number of similar finds.(3) Of particular interest are several bronze issues of Cavaros, discovered in the Southern Dobruja region (Bozhurets, Septemvrijtsi and Sveti Nikola near Kavarna) which, along with recent discoveries of La Têne material from north eastern Bulgaria (see archaeology section), indicate that during this period (3rd c. BC) the Celtic state reached the southern bank of the Danube river.(4)

 

Fig. 1

Cavaros bronze; SNG BM 195; SNG Cop 1175; Cabyle mint.

 

 

Claims by some Bulgarian historians that the Celtic state in e. Bugaria during this period was ‘insignificant’(5) should be seen in their proper political context. The fact is that during the 3rd c. BC the Celts controlled the economic relations of Thrace with the Greek world.(6) The Hellenistic city of Cabyle (Jambol) continued to flourish under Cavaros and at least one of the Pontic harbors south of Burgas Bay was certainly under direct Celtic control.(7) The monetary policy of Cavaros followed those of many other ‘Hellenistic’ rulers and Cavaros’ silver tetradrachms based on those of Philip III Arrhidaeus (fig. 2) were accepted as pan-Mediterranean currency.(8)
The Hellenistic nature of the Celtic state in today’s eastern Bulgaria was a unique experiment. From a numismatic perspective it produced coinage based closely on Hellenistic models bearing the names of the Celtic ‘kings’ inscribed in Greek. The Hellenistic nature of the coinage and their circulation together with coins of the Greek Black Sea colonies, particularly Messambria(9), clearly illustrates the Hellenophilic leanings of the Celtic king Cavaros, something also attested to in historical sources where he is referred to as ‘a friend of the Greeks’. Ironically, it was probably the Hellenophilic nature of Cavaros’ state which led to its collapse.(10)

 

Fig. 2


Cavaros Silver Tetradrachma minted in Cabyle (Jambol) (225-215 BC)(11)

 

 

 

According to Bulgarian historians, the collapse of the ‘Tyle’ state at the end of the 3rd c. BC marked the end of all Celtic presence on the territory of today’s Bulgaria. This version of history completely contradicts the numismatic facts which clearly show that between the end of the 3rd c. BC and the imposition of Roman rule the only coinage produced by the native population in Bulgaria were actually Celtic coins based on Macedonian and Greek models.

From the 2nd c. BC a radical change is to be observed in Celtic coinage in Bulgaria. Attempts to ‘imitate’ Hellenistic models are largely abandoned, as is the use of the Greek alphabet. Instead we see the evolution of highly stylized/abstract issues which results in a unique abstract-iconic art style by the 1st c. BC. (fig. 3-5) In Bulgaria this process is to be observed not only on the Philip III / Cavaros coinage, but also on Celtic Philip II and Thasos ‘imitations’, as well as the Zaravetz lead and bronze issues from north-eastern Bulgaria and the Scordisci Strymon/Trident coins from western Bulgaria. (See sections 2-10)

The abstract Celtic coins from the II-I c. BC (fig. 3-5), evolved from the Philip III / Cavaros model, are found not only on the territory of the ‘Tyle’ state of the III c. BC, but also in today’s northern Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Hungary. Particularly high concentrations have been found in the Mutenia area of Romania and the Lovech and Russe areas of n. Bulgaria, indicating that these areas were the main centers of production of this type of Celtic coin.


In Bulgaria the first coins of this type were discovered in 1910 at Pirgovo (Russe district)(12) Why this hoard has still not been properly published, 101 years after its discovery, is a question for the relevant Bulgarian authorities. The same question may be posed about another massive hoard of Celtic coins, again containing Philip III ‘imitations’, discovered during the communist period in the same village (Map 1 # 1-2) (13) as well as other hoards of such Celtic coins found in the Russe region at Belyanovo (Zenovo district – Map 1 # 3)(14), Ostritza and Pepelina  (Both Dve Mogili district – Map 1 # 4, 30).(15)

Further hoards of Philip III model Celtic coins have been recorded from other parts of Bulgaria over the last century, none of which have not been made available for academic publication. These include examples from:

Glavatzi – (Krivodol district, Vratza region) (Map 1 # 6)(16)

Lometz – (Troyan district, Lovech region)(Map 1 # 7)(17)

Choba – (Brezovo district, Plovdiv region) (Map 1 #8)(18)

Chavdar – (Chavdar district, Sofia region)(Map 1 #9)(19)

Glojene – (Teteven district, Lovech region) (Map 1 # 10)(20)

Kamenovo – (Kubrat district, Razgrad region) (Map 1 # 11)(21)

Pordim – Pordim district, Pleven region (Map 1 #12)(22)

A further hoard discovered ‘Between Lovech and Vratza’ (Map 1 # 13)(23)

 

Fig. 3


Celtic Drachma (Philip III model) – II c. BC

 

 

In recent years further examples of the same coins have been recorded from Alexandrovo (Burgas reg. / map 1 # 14)(24), Altimir (Vratza reg. / map 1 #15)(25), Beloslav (Varna reg. / map 1 #16)(26), Burgas (map 1 #17)(27), Dolna Zlatnitza (Targovischte reg. / map 1 # 19)(28), Gorna Oryachovitza (Veliko Tarnovo reg. / map 1 #18)(29), Stara Zagora (map 1 #20)(30), Schumen (map 1 #21)(31), Lovech (map 1 #22)(32), Montana (map 1 # 23)(33), Radanovo (Veliko Tarnovo reg. / map 1 #24)(34), Razgrad (map 1 # 25)(35), Russe (map 1 #26)(36), Veliko Tarnovo (map 1 #27)(37), Samovodene (Veliko Tarnovo region / map 1 # 29)(38), Slana Bara (Vidin region / map 1 #31)(39), and Plovdiv ( Map 1 # 28).(40)

Particularly interesting is the recent publication of such coins from the Chirpan (Stara Zagora) area of Central Bulgaria (fig. 4-5/ Map 1 #29)(41) which illustrates that a ‘Celtic enclave’ existed in this area also into the Roman period.(42) The coins discovered during archaeological excavations at the Bratya Daskalovi site have been dated to circa 50 BC and were found together with other Celtic (Thasos model – see ‘Thasos’ section; on other coins from the Bratya Daskalovi site see Numismatics section 9 – ‘Plunder Coins’) issues, clearly indicating that the local coinage been produced and circulating in this region of Bulgaria at the time of the Roman conquest was Celtic ‘imitations’ of Macedonian and Greek models.

 

 

Fig. 4

Fig. 5

Fig. 4/5 – Celtic silver drachmas from Bratya Daskalovi, Chirpan (circa 50 BC)
(After Prokopov et al 2011)

 

 

It should be borne in mind that only one type of Celtic coinage is under discussion in this section – the Philip III/ Cavaros model. Other Celtic issues produced in Bulgaria during this period such as the Philip II and Thasos models, Zaravetz coins (n.e. Bulgaria) and the Strymon/Trident coins produced by the Scordisci/ Serdi in w. Bulgaria, will be discussed separately. What is most interesting about all this ‘barbarian’ coinage is not its wide geographical dispersion throughout the region, nor the unique art style presented on the coins. What is most significant is the fact that all the native coinage produced in Bulgaria from the end of the 3rd c. BC to the end of the 1st c. BC was produced by a local Celtic population who, according to Bulgarian historians, did not exist.

 

 

 

 

 Map 1

 

 

 

Map 2 (see also numismatics section 10 – ‘Shield Coins’)

 

 

* On other Celtic coinage from Bulgaria see numismatics sections 2-13

 

 

 

References

1. Mac Congail 2010 = Мак Конгал Б. и Крусева-Мак Конгал Б., Хората, които превърнаха в слънце. Варварските изкуство и религия на Балканите. (The Men Who Became The Sun: Barbarian Art and Religion on the Balkans). Plovdiv.
2. Lazarov 2010
3. Dimitrov 2010: 57; Lazarov 2003 = Лазаров Л. Тетрадрахма скордисков из крепости на вершине Арковна. In: Нумизматични проучвания и материали. Veliko Tarnovo. P. 40-52.; Mac Congail 2008:70 (attached Pdf.) with relevant references.
4. Lazarov 2010
5. Fol 1975: 192-194; Tacheva 1987: 32-33; see The Golden Empire of Orpheus – Archaeology section
6. Gerov 1967:33 = Геров Б. Проучвания върху западнотракийските земи през римско време II. – Годишник на Софийския университет. Факултет по западни филологии 61,1. р. 3-102; Domaradski 1984; Dimitrov 2010:51
7. Gerassimov (1958) The Alexandrine tetradrachms of Cabyle in Thrace. In: Centennial volume of the American Numismatic Society. New York. P. 273-277; Dimitrov 2010
8. Lazarov 2010; Dimitrov 2010. Some authors suggest that the Cavaros coins are based on those of Alexander III which differ little in terms of iconography from those of Philip III. This is a moot point.
9. Karaitov 1996: 11; 2000: 72-73 = Kарайтов И. (1996) Месамбрия и келтският цар Кавар. In: More 4, 9-10, 10-14; Kарайтов И. (2000) Месамбрия и владитетелите на крайбрежна Тракия (според нумизматични данни) – INMB 3, 66-81
10. Polybius, Universalis, iv 46.4; see Mac Congail 2008: 71-77
11. Price M., The Coinage in the Name of Alexander the Great and Philip Arrhidaeus. Vol. 1, Zurich-London. 1991. P. 175; Mac Congail 2008: 70
12. Dessewffy, G. (1910). Barbár pénzei, XVII:429-439; Gerassimov 1938 = Герасимов, Т. Колективни находки на монети през 1937 и 1938 г.: In: ИБАД 1938:455
13. Youroukova 1978 = Юрукова Й. (1978) Монетните находки, открити в България през 1975 и 1976 г. In: Археология, XX, 1978-4:58; Nedialkova 2010 = Недялкова T. Варваризирани подражания на антични монети в Тракия IV-I в.пр.н.е. (магистърска теза), Софийски университет „Св. Климент Охридски” Исторически факултет, Катедра Археология, София, 2010
14. A vessel containing 300 Celtic tetradrachmae – Philip III model – and 3 Celtic tetradrachmae of the Philip II model. (Pink, K. 1974: Tab. XII, 247-250 = Pink K., Die Münzprägung des Ostkelten. 1974; Gerasimov 1963 = Герасимов, Т. Съкровища от монети, намерени в България през 1960 и 1961. In: ИАИ 1963-26:257-270.
15. In the vicinity of the village a vessel was found containing 50 Celtic tetradrachmae – Philip III model (2nd – 1st c. BC) – Gerrasimov 1962 = Т. Герасимов. Съкровища от монети, открити в България през 1962 – В: ИБАИ, XXVII). In Rousse itself a hoard of 53 Celtic imitations of Philip II drachmae and 3 Philip III drachmae was found in the Sredna Kupa area (MAP # 5) in 1953 (Nedialkova 2010); At Pepelina 12 Celtic issues of this type were found – Preda C. Istoria monedei in Dacia preromana. Colectia Biblioteca Bancii Nationale 25. p. 219. Bucharest 1998.
16. GOTA (Göbl, R. 1973: Ostkeltischer Typenatlas. Braunschweig. 1973) type 574/575/576/577 It would seem that this was a very large hoard containing 244 coins – Gerrasimov 1937 = Герасимов T. Колективни находки на монети през 1934, 1935 и 1936 г. В: ИБАИ, XI, 1, 1937:320
17. In the vicinity of Lometz a large hoard of silver Celtic drachmae was uncovered at the beginning of the 20th century. The trove included over 100 Celtic silver drachmae (Alexander/Philip III type – GOTA – 574 (and variation) /575/576 and 577) as well as a gold ring with a gem. (Мушмов 1926, p. 324 = Noe, no. 622; Pink 1974, 87) Prokopov et al 2011: P. 49. n. 33 = Prokopov I., Paunov E., Filipova S. Coins and Coin Hoards from the excavation of two burial mounds near the village of Bratya Daskalovi, Stara Zagora Region. In: Тонкова М. (ed.) Thraco-Roman dynastic centre in the Chirpan heights area. Sofia 2011) (Map 1 #7)
18. 63 Celtic tetradrachmae – Philip III model (2nd – 1st c. BC) – (Gerassimov Т. 1962 = Герасимов T. Монетни съкровища, намерени в България през 1958 и 1959 г. In: ИАИ, 25, 1962:225-237.
19. GOTA – 574/575/576/577(LMC); Gerassimov 1934 = Т. Герасимов. Колективни находки на монети през 1933 и 1934 г. – In: ИБАИ, VIII, 1934:473
20. In the vicinity of the village a hoard of Celtic tetradrachmae has been found – Philip III model (2nd – 1st c. B.C.) – Youroukova 1978 = Й. Юрукова. Монетните находки, открити в България през 1973 и 1974 г. In: Археология, XX, 1978-2:72; Nedialkova 2010.
21. GOTA – 574/575/576/577 (LMC) – Gerasimov 1963 = Герасимов, Т. 1963б: Съкровища от монети, намерени в България през 1960 и 1961. In: ИАИ 1963-26:257-270.
22. Gerasimov 1962 = Т. Герасимов. Съкровища от монети, открити в България през 1962 – In: ИБАИ, XXVII.
23. According to Prokopov et al (2011) this find will be published ‘shortly’ in CCCHBulg.IV . Prokopov et al. 2011: 49 n. 33.
24. LMC. GOTA – 574/575/576/577 (LMC = Wendling E., Le Borgne de La Villandre J., L’Euroatlas des Monnaies Celtes, Chapitre II C – http://www.celtic-coin agora.com)
25. GOTA – 574/575/576/577 – LCM
26. Loc cit
27. Loc cit
28. Loc cit
29. Loc cit
30. Discovered in 1973. 16 examples apparently of the later highly abstract issues (I c. BC) – Youroukova 1978 = Й. Юрукова. Монетните находки, открити в България през 1973 и 1974 г. In : Археология, XX, 1978-2:72
31. Topalov 2001:121-122 = Topalov S. Contributions to the Study of the Coinage and History In the Lands of Eastern Thrace from the end of the 4th c. BC to the end of the 3rd c. BC. Sofia 2001
32. GOTA – 574/575/576/577. A massive find of these coins from nearby Lometz indicates that these were probably produced in the Lovech area. (LMC)
33. Loc cit
34. Loc cit
35  GOTA – 574/575/576/577 (LMC); Topalov op cit.
36. LMC
37. Topalov op. cit.

38. Preda 1998: 219

39. Thompson M. et al. An Inventory of Greek Coin Hoards. Vol. 1. Americam Numismatic Society (1973) p. 69. Hoard # 454
40. LMC
41. Prokopov I., Paunov E., Filipova S. Coins and Coin Hoards form the excavation of two burial mounds near the village of Bratya Daskalovi, Stara Zagora Region. In: Тонкова М. (ed.) Thraco-Roman dynastic centre in the Chirpan heights area. Sofia 2011.
P. 44-53; Map 1 # 29)
42. loc cit