Distribution of Celtic Coins in Bulgaria (III – I c. BC) – Part 4

Philip II type


Celtic coins of the Philip II model are found on the territory of today’s Bulgaria almost exclusively north of the Balkan mountains.(1) Finds recorded on the Black Sea coast at Varna, Burgas and Troyanovo (Burgas region)(2) are further indication of trade contacts between the Celtic tribes of the Thracian interior with the Greek colonies on the Black Sea coast, just as the find from Haskovo(3) in southern Bulgaria is further evidence of trade along the valley of the Maritza river with the Aegean coast. (See also Thasos article and Map 4 # 7)


  In the northwestern part of today’s Bulgaria the most common types of Celtic Philip II imitations are the Banat type (Fig. 1), and the Dachreiter type (Fig. 2/3) on which the spoked wheel – symbol of the Celtic Thunder God, Taranis, is depicted. This symbol is a common one on Celtic coins and other artifacts from the Balkans during this period.


Fig. 1  Celtic Banat type with branch (Göbl 44a)


Fig. 2/3 Celtic (Scordisci) Dachreiter type (Göbl 188/2-3)


 In northwestern Bulgaria finds of such coins have been recorded at Slana Bara (Viden region – Map 4 # 23) (4), Montana (Map 4 # 14), Vratza (Map 4 # 31), Oryahova (Vratza region, Map 4 # 16), Gigen (Pleven region – Map 4 # 5), Lovech (Map 4 # 11)(5), and Kruschovitza (Vratza region, Map 4 # 32)(6).


  The hoard from Slana Bara deserves special mention. It included 164 + coins, 60 of them Macedonian issues –  Philip II (7), Alexander III (51) and Philip III (2). The vast majority of the coins are Celtic issues and include some of the Huşi Vorvrieşti type associated with the Bastarnae. It is thought that these were passed from the Bastarnae to the Scordisci during the formers presence in the area either in 179 – 175 B.C. or in 168 BC. The hoard provides important archaeological confirmation of the historically recorded contacts between the Scordisci and the Celto-Germanic Bastarnae tribes. The presence of the Bastarnae in this and other areas of Bulgaria is also attested to by topographical and archaeological evidence. (7)


  The high concentration of Philip II model Celtic coinage in northeastern Bulgaria is particularly interesting from a geo-political perspective. In this region the Saddle-Head and Oltenia type(s) (Fig. 4/5) are most common. In northeastern Bulgaria this type of Celtic coinage has been found in particularly large concentrations in the Targovischte, Veliko Tarnovo, and Russe areas where substantial numbers of Celtic Philip III, Thasos, and Zaravetz coins have also been registered. (see relevant sections)


Fig. 4 – The Saddle-Head type (2nd c. BC), the artistic predecessor of the extensive Oltenia type (2nd – 1st c. BC) – fig. 5



  Finds from the Veliko Tarnovo and Targovischte areas include hoards found at Gorsko Novo-Selo (Veliko Tarnovo region; Map 4 # 6) (8), Kruscheto (Veliko Tarnovo region; Map 4 # 9) (9), Lublen (Turgovischte region; Map 4 # 12) (10), Palamarza (Targovischte region; Map 4 # 17) (11), Veliko Tarnovo (Map 4 # 30) (12), and Samovodene (Veliko Tarnovo region; Map 4 # 22) (13).

  In Bulgaria other examples have been recorded at sites such as the Celtic hillfort at Arkovna (Dalgopol, Varna region – Map 4 # 4) (14), Sliven (Map 4 # 25), Schumen (Map 4 # 24) (15), as well as from Dobrich (Map 4 # 3) and Kavarna (Dobruja region) on the Black Sea coast (Map 4 #8) (16).

  Most impressive is the heavy concentration of Philip II model Celtic coins in the Russe area on the Danube. The finds from Russe (Map 4 # 21)(17), the Sredna Kupa district (Map 4 # 27)(18), and the nearby villages of Belyanovo (Map 4 # 1) (19), Mechka (Map 4 # 18) (20), Pirgovo (Map 4 # 13) (21), Slivo Pole (Map 4 # 26) (22), and Nikolovo (Map 4 # 15) (23) come from an area along the Danube where the Celtic settlements of Mediolana (modern-day Pirgovo), Tegris (modern-day Marten) and Transmarisca (modern-day Tutrakan) were situated (24). Numismatic data thus confirms the linguistic and archaeological evidence which indicates that the Russe area was one of the key political and economic centers of the Celtic ‘Zaravetz Culture’ in northeastern Bulgaria in the 3rd – 1st c. BC.


 Map # 4

                               DISTRIBUTION OF CELTIC COINS IN BULGARIA

                                 (Philip III/II and Thasos models) 3rd – 1st c. BC









1. See Map 4; On the artistic context of these coins see Numismatic section 3

2. Map 4 # 29, 2, 28; Topalov 1999: 122-123; LMC; Gerasimov 1946

3. Banat type,  Topalov 2001: 106

4. Thompson M., Kraay C., Mørkholm O., An Inventory of Greek Coin Hoards. Volume 1. American Numismatic Society (1973) P. 69 Hoard # 454; Dubravka Ujes. Coins of the Macedonian Kingdom in the Interior of Balkans. Their Inflow and Use in the Territory of the Scordisci. In: Histoire & mesure Numéro XVII – 3/4 (2002)

5. LMC

6. Gerasimov 1963

7. See Linguistic and Archaeology sections; On the Bastarnae see also Mac Congail 2008 – attached pdf.

8. A hoard of Celtic silver tetradrachmae (Philip II model) was found in the village in 1936 – Gerasimov 1937: 315

9. Of the type published by Pink –  Tab. VIII, 156 and XVI-301-315; Nedayalkova 2010

10. A hoard of 25 silver Celtic tetradrachmae – Philip II model, was discovered in Lublen in the 19th century. Dated to the 2nd c. BC (Mushmov 1915; Stoykov 2002-2003: 82, # 11)

11. 2nd c. BC – Stoykov 2002-2003: 82, # 10

12.   LMC

13. A surprisingly large amount of Celtic numismatic material has been found in the vicinity of the village. This includes Eastern Celtic coins – Philip II model (GOTA 10, 13-14/18/20-21), Philip IIImodel (OTA – 574/575/576/577) and Celtic coins based on Alexander III models (LMC; Haritinov 1987) as well as a large find of coins of bronze and lead coins of the Celtic ‘Zaravetz type’ (Герасимов, Т. Колективни находки на монети през 1933 и 1934 г. В: ИБАИ VIII, 1934:469) which date from the end of the 3rd / 2nd c. BC (For discussion on the ‘Zaravetz’ coins and their distribution in n.e. Bulgaria see relevant section)

14. LMC

15. Лазаров Л. Тетрадрахма скордисков из крепости на вершине Арковна. – НПМ 4, 53-121; Lazarov 2010

16. GOBL 38/3 variations – dated to the 3rd c. BC. (Topalov, 2001, p. 106 and cat. # 38), LMC; In 1910 a large number of Celtic tetradrachmas were uncovered in the village of Kavarna. 42 of them reached the National Museum in Sofia. (Филов, Б. 1911)

17. A large quantity of Celtic AR ‘Saddle-Head’ type have been found in the area of Rousse and its environs.(Toplalov, 2001, 110-112; and cat. # 41-43). These coins are dated c. 125 – 75 BC.; see also note 21

18. 53 Celtic imitations of Philip II drachmae and 3 Philip III drachmae were found in the Sredna Kupa area in 1953 (Юрукова, Й. 1966)

19. Pink, K. 1974: Tab. XII, 247-250; Gerasimov 1963 (Pink 1974 =  K. Pink, Die Münzprägung des Ostkelten. 1974)

20.  Мушмов H. Колективни находки на монети; В: ИБАД, 1930-31, VI, София 1932:314.

21. At the beginning of the 20th century a hoard of silver coins was found in the village which included 87 imitations of the tetradrachmae of Philip II (Dessewffy,G. 1910: XVII:429-439) and 11 tetradrachmae of Philip III (Герасимов, Т. 1938:455). In 1978 in the same village fragments of a ceramic vessel were found which had contained a massive hoard of Celtic coins, 418 of which reached the Regional Museum in Russe. The hoard contained 401 Celtic imitations based on Philip II tetradrachmae and 14 based on Philip III tetradrachmae. In terms of content the latter find is similar to a find from Russe (Inv. # CCXI)  (Юрукова, Й. 1978)

22. Nedayalkova 2010

23. Type Pink 1974: XVI, 301-305 (Герасимов, Т. 1952) Another hoard of silver coins from the locality, found in 1950 (IGCH 968), contained 7 Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’. Prokopov 2006: 239, Hoard # 158). (Gerasimov 1952 = Герасимов, Т. 1952: Т. Герасимов. Колективни находки на монети през последните години. В: ИАИ, 1952.)

24. See ‘Celtic Settlements on the Danube’ and ‘The Zaravetz Culture’ articles