Category: Distibution of Celtic Coinage In Bulgaria

strtri in


Celtic Strymon/Trident Coinage:




3 map Fin.








The most enigmatic and artistically varied of Iron Age European coinage, the barbarian issues based on the Thasos prototype became a de facto common currency among the tribes of the central and eastern Balkans in the immediate pre-Roman period…


Full Article:




Tha 1 bl








UD: December 2016






‘’…not content with making incursions merely into the neighboring provinces of Thessaly and Dalmatia, (they) penetrated as far as the Adriatic; checked by the boundary which it formed, since nature apparently stayed their advance, they hurled their weapons against the very waters’’.

(Florus, Epitome of Roman History XXXVIIII, iii)



From a military perspective they were capable of mounting a successful and sustained resistance to Roman expansion in this region for over a century, in a number of cases defeating major Roman armies sent against them. Furthermore, as has been pointed out, the archaeological and numismatic evidence from this area indicates a well developed market economy/state organization, and despite the conflict conditions of the time, ‘’this Celtic state, in what is now south-western Bulgaria, was able to produce and maintain a controlled economic/monetary system’’ (Paunov 2012).






Stry 1








UD: March 2017






The recent publication of results from large-scale excavations in sub-Balkan Thrace marks an important step forward in Bulgarian archaeology, and has finally provided us with objective scientific data on the geo-political status quo and ethnic composition in this part of Europe in the late Iron Age. These extensive excavations, carried out at a number of sites in Central Bulgaria, especially in the Chirpan Heights area, has yielded material that has prompted local archaeologists to finally conclude that in the late Iron Age “this region was in fact inhabited by a Celtic (Celto-Thracian) population” (Tonkova et al 2011 = Трако-римски династичен център в районна Чирпанските възвишения Тонкова M. (ed.) София, 2011).
































Mac Congail


(Updated August 1, 2012)






Who’s Afraid of the Past ?




A number of factors should be borne in mind when dealing with the coin collections from Bulgarian museums. Since the early 1990’s attempts have been made by a number of Bulgarian and international experts to get access to information on the coin collections in the various museums around Bulgaria, and publish a comprehensive account of the information contained within. This fine work, which has resulted in catalogues of the collections from a handful of museums being published (the CCCHBulg series) has met with varying success. The philosophy of the authors of the CCCHBulg project is based ‘on the understanding that this type of information is not a personal or even a national property in perpetuity, but is above all – a universal patrimonium’.  (Paunov E. Prokopov I. Filipova S. (2011) Re-discovering coins: Publication of the Numismatic Collections in Bulgarian Museums – A New Project. In: Proceedings of the XIVth International Numismatic Congress, Glasgow 2009).




  From the perspective of Celtic culture in Bulgaria, the completion of such a project would bring long awaited clarity on this controversial issue, surely something which would be welcomed by all those involved in Bulgarian archaeology and culture? However, as has been recently pointed out by those involved in the project – Unfortunately specific information on the contents and details of each hoard preserved in the collections in Bulgaria’s museums remained closed for the foreign scientific community and Bulgarian numismatists as well. This is largely the case for the biggest collection in Bulgaria – in the National Archaeological Institute with Museum at the Academy of Sciences, Sofia. Under the care of the NAIM, access to information for some 600,000 coins is sealed. This huge amount of material includes valuable collections and complete hoards discovered and donated to the museum by the general public and adherent followers of immaculate reputation in the past when the spirit of academicism and fellowship reigned. It is a pity that even today the collection of the National Archaeological Institute with Museum at Sofia is still being managed by people whose ill-intentioned and perverted policy is reduced to shameless trading with the data about the coin hoards and collections’ (Paunov, Prokopov, Filipova op. cit).


 A further problem has been the wholesale theft of coins from Bulgarian museums over the decades, and in particular in the post 1989 period, possibly one of the main reasons why many museums are reluctant to open their collections to the prying eyes of outside experts. A well known example of this phenomenon is that of Veliko Tarnovo regional museum in northeastern Bulgaria where the entire numismatic collection was stolen in December 2006. According to preliminary information, the number of coins stolen is around 30,000 (Prokopov 2007:5), although, as indicated below, this statistic is certainly a gross underestimate, and the real number of recorded and documented coins discovered in Bulgaria, which have subsequently disappeared, is many times that number.




 How does this phenomenon relate to the finds of Celtic coins in Bulgaria ? Until recently virtually none of the thousands of Celtic coins found on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria had been properly published (see numismatics sections 1-11). This situation has changed slowly in recent years, thanks chiefly to the fine work of experts such as Paunov, Prokopov and Filipova, and a small fraction of the vast amount of Celtic numismatic material from Bulgaria has slowly come to light in official publications. However, these publications have raised a number of new and disturbing questions, not least the discrepancy between the finds of Celtic coinage officially recorded in Bulgaria, chiefly in the pre-communist period, and those which today are actually in the collections of these museums. Thus, for example, while the publication of the Celtic numismatic material from Lovech Museum outlined below provides us with invaluable information which confirms the archaeological and numismatic evidence of Celtic settlement in this area in the 3rd – 1st c. BC, the material which is not in the museum (see below) raises questions of a very different nature.








‘Barbarian’ coinage in the Lovech Regional museum collection may be broken up into two distinct groups – Celto-Thracian imitations of the Thasos type (Section 1), and Celtic coinage of the  “Philip III Arrhidaeus’ type (Section 2). The general circulation, and chronological and artistic context of both these types of Celtic coins in Bulgaria (based on current data) are dealt with in separate articles (see numismatics section 1 and 2), the Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’ dated to the second half of the 2nd c. BC/ 1st c. BC, and the Philip III types dated more generally to the 3rd /1st c. BC.  





SECTION 1 – Thraco-Celtic Thasos ‘Imitations’ (2nd/1st c. BC)


(All Inventory numbers and illustrations after Gushterakliev R. and Prokopov I. CCCHBulg. Vol. 1. Part 1 – Numismatic Collection of the Historical Museum Lovech (Anc. Melta) Sofia 2007)




Single Finds:




Celtic Thasos Imitation from the Slatina Hoard (IGCH no.488)




Coins 356-370  = Celtic Thasos type hoard with identical die combination (after Gushterakliev, Prokopov op. cit.)








SECTION 2 – Celtic coinage of the ‘Philip III Arrhidaeus’ type




A massive amounts of this type of Celtic coinage has been registered across Bulgaria, and a large number of hoards consisting only of Celtic coins of the “Philip III” type have also been discovered over the last century. This includes examples like those from the villages of Pepelina and Ostritsa (Russe Region), from the town of Gorna Oryahovitsa, and from the village of Radanovo (Veliko Turnovo reg.), from the area of Veliko Turnovo city itself,  from the village of Pordim (Pleven region), from the village of Glavatsi (Vratza region), from the village of Vrachesh, in the region of Botevgrad, from the villages of Alexandrovo and Smochan, in Lovech region (Gushterakliev R. and Prokopov I. op cit.; see ‘Celtic Coins in Bulgarian Museums (2) – Razgrad; on Smochan see below), etc.




From the Lovech Museum Collection:








Celtic Philip III type Coins from the Smochan Hoard (Lovech region):




Particularly interesting is a large hoard of Celtic coins found at the village of Smochan in the Lovech region. All coins (57-101) are of the same type:


Obv. Head of Heracles in lion’s skin r. or bucel only.

Rev. Zeus enthroned. Pseudo (?) inscription









It should be noted that, according to the authors (Gushterakliev, Prokopov 2007), this study is a complete record of the coins from this period from the Lovech regional museum. Lovech is an area where archaeological and linguistic evidence provides extensive evidence of Celtic settlement in the pre-Roman period, for example La Têne swords, shields, daggers, chainmail etc. from villages such as Smochan, Dojrentsi, Karpachevo, Letnitza, Teteven, Bachovitza, and Lovech itself (see archaeological and linguistic sections). The numismatic evidence from the Lovech area provides indisputable proof of this.

 Particularly interesting is the large hoard of Celtic Philip III imitations found at the village of Smochan, where a variety of La Têne weaponry and other Celtic material from this period has also been recorded. This hoard was found at the Smochan hillfort ‘Kaleto’, only circa 400-500m east of Tumulus 3, which included La Tene D burials and Celtic iron weaponry.



  However, one should note the conspicuous absence of other recorded hoards of Celtic coins from the Lovech region in this cataolgue, such as that from Lometz – (Troyan district, Lovech region) (See numismatics article Part 1 – Map 1 # 7; 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), from the village of Alexandrovo, in the region of Lovech (Gerassimov, T. Kolektivni nachodki ot moneti prez 1939, IAI, XIII, 1939, 341; Gushterakliev, Prokopov 2007), or the village of Glojene (Teteven district, Lovech region) where a hoard of Celtic Philiip III type tetradrachms was also found and recorded in the early 1970’s (see Numismatics section 1 – Map 1 # 10 – Youroukova 1978 = Й. Юрукова. Монетните находки, открити в България през 1973 и 1974 г. In: Археология, XX, 1978-2:72; also Nedialkova 2010), etc. May we presume that these, and other recorded hoards of Celtic coins from this region, which do not appear in the ‘comprehensive’ catalogue of Lovech museum, have been overlooked in this case, and will soon also be made available for the purpose of academic research?







Celtic settlements/material from northwestern Bulgaria (3rd – 1st c. BC)

* Provisional (August 2012). Map includes only La Têne weaponry, other Celtic material from this area will be dealt with separately





During the 3rd – 1st c. BC period the only locally produced coins (i.e. those produced by the native population) circulating in this area of north-central Bulgaria were Celto-Thracian Thasos models and Celtic Philip III ‘imitations’, which logically indicates, in combination with the archaeological and linguistic evidence (see relevant sections), that the population of the Lovech region of Bulgaria in the immediate pre-Roman period consisted of a Thraco-Celtic population in which the Celtic element was dominant.





 Depiction of a Celtic warrior in chainmail from the Letnitza treasure, Lovech region, Bulgaria. (Detail; see ‘The Letnitza Treasure’ article)









Mac Congail


In the early 1980’s excavations carried out at the Hill of Zaravetz (Zarevetz/Tsarevetz)  (Veliko Tarnovo) turned up unexpected results. Under the medieval Bulgarian capital, in what archaeologists expected to be layers pertaining to the Thracian culture, artifacts and habitation layers relating to a completely different culture began to appear. The settlement layers from the late Iron Age yielded La Têne material (Kvinto 1985) which clearly indicated that the site had been inhabited by a Celtic population. Subsequent excavations at the site in recent years have uncovered further material which confirms the earlier findings. (see ‘New Material (2)’ article)

   In the context of the present study of most interest are a number of coins found in the Celtic habitation layers at the site. In total 5 coins were uncovered – one bronze of Alexander III (the Great) and 4 ‘barbarian’ issues – 2 bronze and 2 lead. The barbarian coins were ignored in academic circles until further publications of such coins followed over the next decades. (Lazarov 1992; Burvarov 1994; Topalov 1999; Mac Congail 2008) It has subsequently emerged that these low value barbarian emissions provide invaluable information about the culture which inhabited northeastern Bulgaria in the late Iron Age.

   The Celtic Zaravetz type coins are based on autonomous bronze emissions of the Greek colony of Odessos (Fig. 1) which had been previously dated generally to the  3rd – 1st c. BC. The fact that the Celtic ‘imitations’  (Fig. 2) have been found in an archaeological context which dates to the end of the 3rd – beginning of the 2nd c. BC logically dates the Greek prototype to the period prior to the end of the 3rd c. BC.



In terms of distribution the Zaravetz issues have been discovered in an area which includes most of present day northeastern Bulgaria, with a particularly high concentration in the Veliko Tarnovo area. (See map  n8) Besides the Zaravetz hillfort (map n8 #1), further examples have been recorded in Veliko Tarnovo itself (Lazarov 1992), the Hill(fort) at Rachovetz, 7 km. north of Veliko Tarnovo,( map n8#2; Burvarov 1994; Topalov, 1999, 160) and in the vicinity of the village of Samovodene, slightly to the west of Veliko Tarnovo (map n8 #3; Gerasimov 1934). Other finds have been recorded in northeastern Bulgaria at Byala (Russe region) (map n8 # 4; Mac Congail  2008: 46-48), Schumen (map n8 # 5; Lazarov 1992; Topalov, 1999, 260 – 270 and 310 – 313), Tutrakan (Silestra region) (map n8 #6 -Fig. 3), Razgrad (map n8 #7 – Fig. 4 ), Opaka (Targovischte region) (map n8 #8; Gerasimov 1979; Stoykov 2002-2003), as well as in large numbers from the western Varna region (map n8 #9; Lazarov 1992; Topalov 1999; Mac Congail 2008).



 The local Celtic coinage circulating in northeastern Bulgaria in the late Iron Age therefore ranged from Celtic silver tetradrachmas of the Philip II and Thasos types, drachmas of the Philip III type, while the lower value coinage consisted of the aforementioned Zaravetz bronze and lead issues. This broad spectrum of coinage of differing intrinsic and economic value indicates a highly developed and organized economic system among the ‘barbarian’ population of this area in the pre-Roman period.


  From a scientific perspective the lowest value coins – the Zaravetz lead issues are most significant. (Chemical analysis has shown a lead content of 98.25%; Lazarov 1992: 20-21) Coins minted in lead are unknown in Europe in this period, and were produced neither by the Celtic culture nor in the Greco-Roman world. The Zaravetz leads as part of the coinage system in northeastern Bulgaria in the late Iron Age would therefore appear to be a unique numismatic phenomenon. 


  As has been pointed out (Lazarov 1992), such coins would not, because of their low intrinsic value, have circulated beyond the borders of the authority which issued them. The distribution of these coins therefore logically enables us to roughly delineate the extent of the Zaravetz Culture in the III-I c. BC period. Based on the present data at our disposal (topographic, historical and archaeological as well as numismatic – see ‘The Zaravetz Culture’ article – forthcoming) the influence of this ‘state’, which was in fact probably more a confederation of tribal groups, covered an area which extended to the Jantra river in the west, the Danube in the north, and the Stara Planina (Balkan) mountains in the south. In the east the Greek Pontus cities remained autonomous, but intense trade links between the latter and the Celto-Thracian state in the interior is indicated by numismatic data. The fact that the Zaravetz issues themselves are modeled on an Odessos bronze prototype further confirms these close economic links.

  Extensive trade links between the Zaravetz Celts of northeastern Bulgaria and the ‘Scordisci’ in the northwest of the country is confirmed by the circulation of Celtic Thasos, Philip II and Philip III issues throughout northern Bulgaria during this period. (see relevant sections) A similarly close economic relationship appears to have developed between the Celto-Thracian Zaravetz culture and the Bastarnae (Peucini) in the area of Scythia Minor (corresponding roughly to today’s Dobruja region in northeastern Bulgarian and southeastern Romania). (See ‘Bastarnae’ article – forthcoming) Discoveries of Celtic coins in Bastarnae territory, particularly in the Kavarna-Balchik-Silestra area, as well as archaeological data, indicates intensive trade and cultural contacts between the Bastarnae and the Zaravetz Celts, while the minting of Hellenistic type coins by the Bastarnae on which the royal title ‘Basileus’ is used (Fig 5/6), indicates that the latter, as was the case with the Greek cities on the coast, remained economically and politically independent – these relationships being  mutually beneficial from an economic perspective.







 * Does not include Celtic Paeonia ‘imitations’, coins of the ‘Tyle’ state or Bastarnae coins










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




Mac Congail


 From an economic, political, and artistic perspective, the Celtic coins based on Thasos tetradrachmas are the most significant coinage produced by the local population on the Balkans in the II – I c. BC. In the aftermath of the defeat of Macedonia, the monetary vaccum on the Balkan peninsula was filled by various ‘barbarian’ models based on Hellenistic models (See also Zaravetz, Philip II, Philip III and Strymon/Trident sections). In terms of volume and distribution the most significant of these ‘barbarian’ models was the Celtic imitations (Fig. 2-7) based on the Thasos tetradrachma (Fig. 1). Examples of these Celtic ‘imitations’ have been found in Hungary, Serbia, Greece, the Republic of Macedonia, Romania, and in particularly high numbers on the territory of today’s Republic of Bulgaria.

Fig 1.           Thasos original Tetradrachma (Before 148 BC)



Fig. 2     Celtic Thasos ‘Imitation’ (End 2nd / beginning of 1st c. BC (Göbl Class IV)


Fig. 3     Celtic Thasos ‘Imitation’ (1st c. BC (Göbl Class V)



 Most remarkable about these coins is their diversity, ranging from ‘imitations’ close to the originals, to images so abstract that the original Hellenistic iconography is barely distinguishable. It is particularly interesting to note that from a chronological perspective this process of abstractionism increases in pace in line with the deteriorating political situation in the Balkan peninsula during the ‘Scordisci wars’ against Rome during the 2nd/1st c. BC. This suggests that this process is not, as many experts have suggested, the result of ‘illiteracy’, but a deliberate rejection by the Celts of classical art models.(1) Such processes are also to be observed on the other Celtic coins from the Balkans during this period.(2)


  From the perspective of distribution, Celtic ‘Thasos’ tetradrachmas have been found at the following sites in Bulgaria over the last century:

  1. BELITZA –  (Belitza district, Blagoevgrad district) (Map 2 # 1) (3)
  2. BENKOVSKI – (Stara Zagora district, Stara Zagora region) (Map 2 # 2) (4)
  3. BERKOVSKI – (Popova district, Targovischte region) (Map 2 # 3) (5)
  4. BLAGOEVGRAD – (Blagoevgrad district ) (Map 2 # 4) (6)
  5. BOJURITSA – (Dolna Mitropolia district, Pleven region) (Map 2 # 5) (7)
  6. BOLYARINO – (Rakovski district, Plovdiv region) (Map 2 # 6) (8)
  7. BRATYA DASKALOVI (Bratya Daskalovi district, Stara Zagora region) (Map 2 # 7) (9)
  8. BRESTOVETZ – (Pleven district, Pleven region) (Map 2 #8) (10)
  9. BURGAS – (Burgas region) (Map 2 # 9) (11)

10. BYALA ZLATINA – (Byala Zlatina district, Vratza region) (Map 2 # 10) (12)

11. CHUREK – (Elin Pelin district, Sofia region Map 2 # 11) (13)

12. DOBROLEVO – (Borovan district, Vratza region) (Map 2 # 12) (14)

13. DOBRICH – (Dobrich region) (Map 2 #13) (15)

14. DOLNO BOTEVO – (Stambolov district, Haskovo region) (Map 2 # 14) (16)

15. GABROVO – (Gabrovo region) (Map 2 # 15) (17)

16. GORNI DABNIK – (Gorni Dabnik district, Pleven region) (Map 2 #16) (18)

17. GORNO POLE – (Madjarovo district, Haskovo region) (Map 2 # 17) (19)

18. GORTALOVО – (Pleven district, Pleven region) (Map 2 # 18) (20)

19. GOTSE DELCHEV – (Gotse Delchev district, Blagoevgrad region (Map 2 # 19) (21)

20. GRADESHNITZA – (Krivodol district, Vratza region) (Map 2 # 20) (22)

21. HASKOVO – (Haskovo district, Haskovo region) (Map 2 # 21) (23)

22. HOTNIZA – (Veliko Tarnovo district, Veliko Tarnovo region) (Map 2 # 22) (24)

23. JAKORUDA – (Jakoruda district, Blagoevgrad region) (Map 2 #23) (25)

24. KOLYO MARINOVO – (Bratya Daskalovi district, Stara Zagora region) (Map 2 # 24) (26)

25. KUKLEN – (Kuklen district, Plovdiv region) (Map 2 # 25) (27)

26. KUSTENDIL – (Kustendil district, Kustendil region) (Map 2 # 26) (28)

27. LASKOVETZ – (Laskovetz district, Veliko Tarnovo region) (Map 2 # 27) (29)

28. LEVKA – (Svilengrad district, Haskovo region) (Map 2 # 28) (30)

29. LIPNIK – (Razgrad district, Razgrad region) (Map 2 # 29) (31)

30. LIPNITZA – (Moesia district, Vratza region) (Map 2 #30) (32)

31. MADAN – (Madan district, Smolyan region) (Map 2 # 31) (33)

32. MEDOVO – (Bratya Daskalovi district, Stara Zagora region) (Map 2 # 32) (34)

33. MEZEK – (Svilengrad district, Haskovo region) – (Map 2 # 33) (35)

34. MINDYA – (Veliko Tarnovo district, Veliko Tarnovo region) (Map 2 # 34) (36)

35. NEDAN – (Pavlikeni district, Veliko Tarnovo region) (Map 2 # 35) (37)

36. NAIDENOVO – (Bratya Daskalovi district, Stara Zagora region) (Map 2 # 36) (38)

37. NOVA ZAGORA – (Nova Zagora district, Sliven region) (Map 2 # 37) (39)

38. Former village of GIPSOVO, now a district of STARA ZAGORA (Map 2 # 38) (40)

39. Former Gagalia. Now NIKOLOVO – (Rousse district, Rousse region) (Map 2 #39) (41)

40. OPAKA – (Opaka district, Turgovischte region) (Map 2 # 40) (42)

41. ORYAHOVITSA – (Stara Zagora district, Stara Zagora region) (Map 2 # 41) (43)

42. OSIKOVO – (Popovo district, Turgovischte region) (Map 2 # 42) (44)

43. PALAUZOVO – (Straldja district, Jambol region) (Map 2 # 43) (45)

44. PAVELSKO – (Chepelare district, Smolyan region) (Map 2 # 44) (46)

45. PLEVEN – (Pleven district, Pleven region) (Map 2 # 45) (47)

46. PLOVDIV– (Plovdiv region) (Map 2 # 46) (48)

47. POLSKI TRUMBESH – (Polski Trumbesh district, Veliko Tarnovo region) (Map 2 # 47) (49)

48. POPINA – (Sitovo district, Silestra region) (Map 2 # 48) (50)

49. RAZLOG – (Razlog district, Blagoevgrad region) (Map 2 # 49) (51)

50. RUSSE – (Russe region) (Map 2 # 50) (52)

51. SCHUMEN – (Schumen region) (Map 2 # 51) (53)

52. SLIVEN– (Slivenregion) (Map 2 # 52) (54)

53. STARO SELO – (Troyan district, Lovech region) (Map 2# 53) (55)

54. STROYNO – (Elkovo district, Jambol region) (Map 2 # 54) (56)

55. SUBRANO – (Nova Zagora district, Sliven region) (Map 2 # 55) (57)

56. SUVOROVO – (Suvorovo district, Varna region) (Map 2 # 56) (58)

57. TOPOLOVO – (Asenovgrad district, Plovdiv region) (Map 2 #57) (59)

58. VARBITZA – (Varbitza district, Shumen region) (Map 2 #58) (60)

59. VARNA – (Varna region) (Map 2 # 59) (61)

60. VRATZA – (Vratza region) (Map 2 # 60) (62)

61.  ZETOVO – (Chirpan district, Stara Zagora region) (Map 2 # 61) (63)



                              Fig. 4


                              Fig. 5


                              Fig. 6


                                Fig. 7


Fig. 4 – 7    Celtic tetradrachmas (Thasos model) circa 50 BC

Bratya Daskalovi, Stara Zagora region (After Prokopov et al 2011)



  In the II – I c. BC the Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’ were in circulation virtually over the entire territory of today’s Bulgaria (Map 2).  Most noteworthy is the concentration of these coins in the region of central Bulgaria called the ‘Valley of the Thracian Kings’ – especially in the area east of Plovdiv stretching to Nova Zagora. In the Chirpan/ Bratya Daskalovi district (Stara Zagora Region) recent excavations have uncovered such Celtic Thasos model tetradrachmas together with other Celtic coins (Philip III model – see Section 1 and Map 3). This data, in combination with other previous such finds from this area of Bulgaria  (Benkovski, Kolyo Marinovo, Medovo, Naidenovo, Bolyarino, Nova Zagora, Stara Zagora, Zetovo) strongly suggests that this was an important center for Celtic coin production in the 2nd / 1st c. BC.

 Also interesting is the number of finds along the Maritza (Hebros) river valley in the Plovdiv and Haskovo regions of Bulgaria, which suggests continuing trade contacts between the Celtic and Thracian tribes of the interior with the Aegean during the 1st c. BC. While other Celtic coinage from this period is localized in certain areas of Bulgaria, (for example the Philip III type in northern and central Bulgaria – map 3) the Thasos model is found in all areas of the country, frequently together with other Celtic, Hellenistic or Roman coins. This indicates that the Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’ represented a de facto ‘pan-barbarian’ currency among the native Thracian and Celtic population of Bulgaria in the pre-Roman period.



Map 2 – Distribution of Celtic Thasos Model Tetradrachmas in Bulgaria (II – I c. BC)



Map 3 – Distribution of  Celtic Thasos and Philip III models in Bulgaria (III – I c. BC)











  1. In light of their geographic distribution, artistic style, and archaeological context, the claim (particularly during the communist period) that the imitations of Thasos tetradrachmae found in Bulgaria were ‘Thracian’ is today dismissed even by Bulgarian experts, as absurd – See Prokopov et al 2011 (Prokopov et al 2011 = Иля Прокопов, Евгени Паунов, Светослава Филипова. Монети и монетни находки от проучването на Каракочовата могила и на Читашката могила 1 в с. Братя Даскалови, Старозагорска област. / Coins and Coin Hoards form the excavation of two burial mounds near the village of Bratya Daskalovi, Stara Zagora Region. P. 44 -53. See also Numismatic section 1; On the artistic evolution of the abstract Celtic Thasos issues, and the political context in the region, see Mac Congail 2010
  2. Mac Congail op cit; See also the Philip II, Philip III, Zaravetz and Strymon/Trident sections, and the Numismatic Art section
  3. Prokopov 1997 (Prokopov 1997 = ProkopovI., Imitations of Bronze Coins in Thracia during the 1st c. B.C. In: Proceedings of the XII Internationaler Numizmatischer Kongress, Berlin 1997, 369-377); Prokopov 1998 (Prokopov 1998 = Прокопов И., Варварски подражания на македонски бронзови монети. – ИИМКН, V/2, 1998, c. 357 – 360); Filipova, Prokopov 2008 (Filipova, Prokopov 2008 = Филипова Св., Прокопов И., Монети от Светилището при Бабяк. In: Тонкова, М. и Ал. Гоцев (eds.) Тракийското Светилището При Бабяк И Неговата Археологическата Среда) Sofia 2008.
  4. IGCH 916; Prokopov 2006. P. 217. Hoarde # 15 (Prokopov 2006 = Prokopov I., Die Silberprägung der Insel Thasos und die Tetradrachmen des ‘thasischen typs’ vom 2 – 1 Jahrhundert v. chr. Berlin, 2006).
  5. Stoykov 2002-2003: 82, # 9 (Stoykov 2002-2003 = Стойков В. Кратък Исторически Анализ На Колективните Монетни Находки От Поповска и Опаченска Общини. Нумизматика и Сфрагистика, IX, 78-83 (2002 – 2003)
  6. Discovered in 2000. The trove, in the hands of ‘private collectors’, consisted of circa 100 coins and has been dated to 70 – 60 B.C. – Prokopov 2006: P. 218. Hoard # 22
  7. Discovered in the 1950’s. (IGCH 494); Prokopov 2006: 219, hoard # 27; Dated to the beginning of the 1st c. BC. – 90 – 80 BC –  Prokopov 2003: 142 (Prokopov 2003 = Прокопов И., Няколко Бележки Върху Тасоските Тетрадрахми От Колекцията На Народния Музей В Белград. In: Известия на Катедра Българска история и археология и Катедра Обща история – ЮЗУ ‘Неофит Рилски’ – Благоевград, 1/2003. P. 139-153)
  8. Two hoards of Celtic silver coins were found in the area in 1962/1963. The first (IGCH 975) contained 15 Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’ (Göbl, Ostkeltischer Typenatlas, class I-1,III-1,III/A-3, IV-2, V-5, V/B-1, VI-1). The coins are kept in the Plovdiv Archaeological museum under the inv. # 2273-2295 and 2313-2319. The trove has been dated between 90 and 48 B.C. The second hoard also contained a Celtic Thasos ‘imitation’ – Prokopov 2006; 218-219, hoard # 25/26.
  9. Prokopov et al 2011. P. 44-53.
  10. 500 metres n-w. of the village a massive hoard of silver coins was uncovered by locals. It consisted of circa 1,600 coins of which only 116 are stored in the historical museum in Pleven (inv. No. 3399 – 1-116). Of these 110 are Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’ – Prokopov 2006:220, Hoard #33; The earliest coins from the hoard date to the period between 120-111 BC, and are of a type which are most common in n.w. Romania and e. Hungary – Prokopov 2003:140; Kostial 1997:163-166. The latest of the Celtic coins from Brestovetz date to between 90 and 70 BC. – Prokopov 2003:140-143. (Kostial 1997 = Kostial M.  Kelten im Osten. Gold und Silber Münzen der Kelten in Mitten und Osteuropa, Sammlung Lanz, Katalog der Staatlichen Münzsammlung München, München 1997)
  11. Dated 120 / 111 BC – Prokopov 2003:140
  12. 35 Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’.  – Prokopov 2006: 224
  13. In the vicinity of Churek a massive hoard of Celtic tetradrachmas was found at the beginning of the 20th century.  The size of the hoard (over 7 k.) and the fact that the hoard also included a small number of original Thasos issues would appear to suggest production somewhere in the area  –  Head, B. 1967:266, 251; Мuschmov, Н.1912: 5651 and 3940. (Head 1967 = Head, B. V.  Historia Numorum. Chicago, 1967; Мушмов, Н. 1912. (Muschmov 1912 = Мушмов H. Антични монети на Балканския полуостров. София 1912)

14. In a grave from the early 1st c. BC 6 silver coins were found – 2 Thasos tetradrachmas and 4 Celtic ‘imitations’ – Thompson M., Morkholm O., Kraay C., Noe S. An inventory of Greek coin hoards., International Numismatic Commission. American Numismatic Society, 1973, P. 86, Hoard #  621.

15. Dated  90 – 80 BC. – Prokopov 2003:141

16. Of 30 coins found, 10 were viewed by communist ‘experts’ who recognized the ‘barbarian’ issues. All of the coins were subsequently stolen except for 1 which somehow ‘made its way’ to the Historical Museum in Haskovo – Inv. № Н-1073 – Yourokova 1978.  (Yurokova 1978 = Юрукова, Й. 1978: Й. Юрукова. Монетните находки, открити в България през 1973 и 1974 г. In: Археология, XX, 1978-2:72)

17. Dated 120 / 70 BC – Prokopov 2003: 140-146

18. In 1956 a hoard of silver coins were found south of the village. The original size of the hoard is unknown as most of it was subsequently stolen. 6 Celtic Thasos‘imitations’ from the hoard are stored at the regional museum in Pleven- Prokopov 2006: 231, #107

19. IGCH 910; Prokopov 2006:231, hoard #108

20. IGCH 495;  Dated 90 / 70 BC – Prokopov 2006:232, Hoard #109

21. Dated 90 / 70 BC – Prokopov 2003: 141-143

22. Coin hoard (IGCH 571) containing 400 Thasos tetradrachmas – 19 original Hellenistic and 391 Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’ – Prokopov 2006: 232; Hoard # 122; Coins date to the period 120 / 70 BC – Prokopov 2003:140 – 144

23. Dated to 90-/ 80 BC – Prokopov 2003:141; 2006:233, hoard # 121

24. IGCH 525; 64 Celtic tetradrachmas – Celtic Thasos model. Dated 120 / 70 BC – Prokopov 2003: 140-143; 2006: 235, hoard #129

25. Filipova 2008. P. 169-170

26. In 1958 in the vicinity of the village a hoard of coins was found which included 31 Roman Republican denari and 9 Celtic Thasos imitations – Gerasimov 1962 (Gerasimov 1962 = Т. Герасимов T. Монетни съкровища, намерени в България през 1958 и 1959 г. In: ИАИ, 25, 1962:225-237)

27. Kazarova 1961:56. (Кацарова, Г. 1961 = Г. Кацарова. Колективна находка от тасоски тетрадрахми при с. Куклен. In: Археология, 1961,4:53)

28. Dated 120 / 111 BC – Prokopov 2003:140

29. Dated 90 / 80 BC – Prokopov, 2003: 143

30. Prokopov 2006: 239, hoard # 154; Dated 90 / 70  B.C. Prokopov 2003: 141 – 143

31. Dated 90 / 80 BC – Prokopov, 2003:141

32. IGCH 499; Hoard contained 20 Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’ – Prokopov 2006: 239, Hoard # 156; Dated 120 – 80  BC – Prokopov 2003: 140 – 141

33. Discovered in 1936. Hoard included 10 Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’ –  Gerasimov 1937 (Gerasimov 1937 = Герасимов, Т. 1937: Т. Герасимов. Колективни находки на монети през 1934, 1935 и 1936 г. В: ИБАИ, XI, 1, 1937)

34. Two small hoards of silver coins have been found in the vicinity of the village, each containing 5 Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’ – Prokopov 2006: 243, hoard # 179/180).

35. Prokopov 2006. P. 243. Hoard  # 184.

36. IGCH 664;  Dated 65 / 61 BC – Prokopov 2006. P. 244. Hoard  # 186.

37. Dated 90 / 80 BC – Prokopov 2003:141

38. Prokopov 2006: 244/245, hoard #192

39. Four hoards of silver coins including Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’ were found in the vicinity of the village during the 20th century – Prokopov 2006: 246, hoard(s) # 200-203. The third hoard (#202) is particularly interesting as one of the coins is minted over a tetradrachm of Aesillas, the Roman quaestor inMacedonia c. 90-75 B.C. This hoard has been dated to 40-30 B.C.

40. Gerasimov 1952 (Gerasimov 1952 = Герасимов, Т. 1952: Т.Герасимов. Колективни находки на монети през последните години. In:  ИАИ, 1952)

41. IGCH 968;  Prokopov 2006: 239, Hoard # 158

42. Stoykov 2002-2003: 82, # 8

43. Prokopov 2006: 248, hoard #211

44. Dated 120 / 70 BC – Prokopov, 2003, 140-143

45. Gerasimov 1962 (Gerasimov 1962 = Герасимов, Т. Монетни съкровища, намерени в България през 1958 и 1959 г. В: ИАИ, 25, 1962:225-237.

46. In 1975 a hoard of coins was found in the vicinity of the village. Included were a number of ‘heavily barbarised’ Celtic Thasos coins. The hoard has been dated to 46/41 BC – Prokopov 2006. P. 249. Hoard  # 221.

47. Prokopov 2003:141

48. Dated 120 / 111 BC – Porkopov 2003:140-141

49. Filov 1916/1918 (Filov 1916/1918 = Филов. Б. 1916/1918: Б. Филов. Новооткрити старини. В: ИБАД, VI, 1916/1918:165-170)

50. Dated 120 / 70 BC  – Prokopov 2003:140 – 143

51. Filipova, Prokopov 2008:169-170; Prokopov 2006:254, hoard # 252. 18 Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’

52. Celtic ‘imitations’ of  PhilipIII Arridaeus have been found in a hoard together with a number of Thasos original tetradrachmae in the Rousse area. (Rousse Museum Inv. No.   CCXI) – Prokopov 2006. P. 255. Hoard  # 260. Two other hoards of silver coins found in the area contained Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’ – Prokopov  2006. P. 255; Hoard(s)  # 160/162.

53. Two hoards of silver coins containing Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’  have been found in the area – Prokopov  2006. P. 234, Hoard # 123/124.

54. Prokopov 2003:140

55. 36 Celtic tetradrachmae –Thasos model – Gerasimov 1946 (Gerasimov 1946 = Герасимов, Т. 1946: Т. Герасимов. Колективни находки на монети през последните години– В: ИБАИ, XV, 1946:239)

56. Hoard of silver coins including 11 original Thasos tetradrachmae and 74 Celtic ‘imitations’ – Prokopov 2006: 260, hoard # 291; Dated 90 / 70 BC. (Prokopov 2003: 141- 143)

57. In 1936 a massive hoard of silver tetradrachmas –  Thasos originals and Celtic imitations, was found in the vicinity of the village. At the time it consisted of circa 600 coins (IGCH 965). Today only 36 are to be found in the Nova Zagora museum – Prokopov 2006. P. 255, Hoard  # 263. A second hoard of silver coins found in the area included 7 Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’ – Prokopov 2006. P. 254. Hoard  # 264.

58. 30 Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’ dated 90 / 70 BC – Prokopov 2003 141-143; 2006: 260, Hoard # 295

59. 40 Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’ – Prokopov  2006: 262. Hoard # 308

60. Prokopov 2006:263, Hoard #316

61. Prokopov, 2003:140 – 144

62. Dated 120 / 70 BC – Prokopov, 2003. P. 140-144

63. In 1943 an ‘undefined number’ of Celtic tetradrachmas (Thasos model) were found in the vicinity of the village – Gerasimov 1946.

Copyright 2011

Mac Congail





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





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
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