THE TUROKOVSKI TREASURE – Another Celtic Plunder Hoard from Western Bulgaria



Discovered by accident on a rocky ridge on the southern slopes of the Ruy mountain near the village of Turokovski (Tran area, Pernik region), in western Bulgaria, the Turokovski Hoard represents the latest in a large number of ancient Plunder hoards discovered on the territory of today’s Bulgaria, relating to raids by the Celtic Scordisci federation and allied Free Thracian tribes on Roman territory during the late 2nd and 1st century BC.



The Turokovski area where the hoard was discovered


The Turokovski treasure consisted of a large hoard ofMacedonian” tetradrachms produced by the Romans after the region fell under Roman rule, specifically First Region /Meris/ (ΜΑΚΕΔΟΝΩΝ / ΠΡΟΤΗΣ) coinage, depicting a Macedonian shield ornamented with stars in double crescents & grouped dots between; draped bust of Artemis right, / MAKEΔONΩN ΠΡΩTHΣ above & below horizontal club, all in oak wreath, thunderbolt outside wreath to left.  


                           Tetradrachms from the Turokovski Hoard

After: Пayнов E., Прокопов  И. (2006) Едно разпиляно монетно съкровище от Трънско – опит за реконструк-ция и датиране. In: Известия на Регионален исторически музей Перник ІІ(5-и регионални археологически четения, Перник’ февруари 2006)


When discovered, the hoard was split into two parts, totaling 199 coins, placed in two similar gray pottery jugs, and deposited close to each other; the vessels contained respectively 89 and 110 tetradrachms. Unfortunately, as with so many such ancient hoards in Bulgaria, the majority of the coins were stolen and dispersed shortly after discovery*. 71 examples were subsequently rescued and recorded, allowing the Turokovtsi hoard to be dated to ca. 120/119 BC.

The aforementioned dating of the hoard, and its discovery in an area of Thrace which at this time was controlled by the Celtic Scordisci and the Free Thracian Tribes (notably the Dantheleti and Maedi), has also enabled experts to conclude that this, as with many other such hoards of Roman coinage discovered in Thrace dating to this period, reached the region as a result of barbarian raids on Roman Macedonia (Prokopov, Paunov, op. cit.).

Celtic presence in the Pernik region during this period, which should be attributed to the Serdi branch of the Scordisci, has been confirmed by the identification of Celtic settlements such as Magaris, Magimias and Loukonanta (the Valley of Lugh), all in the Tran district where Turokovtsi is situated, as well as extensive archaeological data (Duridanov 1997:135; Mac Congail 2008:39; Falilevev 2009:281).



Celtic zoomorphic Ram figurine/attachment from a cult fire-pot – Breznik, (Pernik region) (2/1 c. BC)

Roman First Macedonian Region and Aesillas issues from the numismatic collection of the Kyustendil Regional Museum, Western Bulgaria 

(After Filipova S., Ilya Prokopov I., Paunov E. The Numismatic Collection of the Regional Historical Museum at Kyustendil (Ancient Ulpia Pautalia) Part 1: Greek, Thracian, Macedonian, Roman Republican and Roman Provincial Coins. (CCCHBulg) Volume II. Sofia 2009)


In the area of Bulgaria in question further such Plunder Hoards, notably those issued by the Roman quaestor Aesillas, include examples found in the villages of Zhabokrut and Krumovo (Kyustendil region, Western Bulgaria), and near the village of Chepino, Pernik region (IGCH 646). Tetradrachm hoards of the First Macedonian Region have been found in the village of Skrino, Kyustendil region, in the village of Kralev Dol, Pernik region (IGCH 894), in the village of Studena, Pernik region as well as that from the village of Turokovtsi outlined above.



Analysis of the coinage from the Turokovtsi hoard indicates that the tetradrachms had been minted only a short time before being looted by the Celts, and transferred to Thrace where they were subsequently buried. This would logically relate the treasure to raids on Roman territory by the Scordisci who by 119 BC had advanced all the way to the Aegean coast where the governor Pompeius was killed during an attack on Argos, before the Celts were finally repelled by a Roman force commanded by Quaestor Marcus Annius, who also succeeded in repulsing an further attack soon afterwards by the Scordisci, in alliance with the Thracian Maedi tribe (SIG 700 Sherk 1 48 R.K. Sherk Rome and the Greek East to the Death of Agustus (1993); CAH 9’32 = Cambridge Ancient History 2nd Edition 1984 -1989).



















*On the systematic theft of Ancient Coins from Bulgaria see:

On Celtic “Plunder Hoards” from Thrace see:














BIRTH OF THE ICON – The Development of Celtic Abstract/Iconic Art in Thrace

UD: September 2016




intro illust.


“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world”.
(Oscar Wilde)





The process of metamorphosis in Celtic art in Thrace during the 3rd – 1st c. BC may best be observed in ‘barbarian imitations’ of the Macedonian Alexander type tetradrachms, which most clearly allow us to follow the chronological framework in which this occurred. On the original Macedonian prototype(s) (fig. 1/2) the images are idealized but constructively/anatomically precise, which reflects the glorification of physical beauty and strength in its idealized form – an approach typical of classical art…


Full Article:



fig. 7 1 c. bc













Celtic Strymon/Trident Coinage

strtri in


Celtic Strymon/Trident Coinage:




3 map Fin.







Updated November 2013




Th. intr.




Ancient coins, and particularly hoards of such coins, are probably the most valuable indication of the geo-political situation in a region during a given historical period. A perfect example of this are a large number of hoards from Bulgaria dating to the 2nd / 1st c. BC, which contain a mixture of Celtic coins and Roman / Hellenistic issues. Particularly interesting are such hoards dating to the period of the Scordisci Wars (second half of 2nd c. BC / 1st c. BC) found at various sites across Bulgaria, which reflect the historically recorded events of the period.


 An interesting example of this are the exceptionally large amounts of coins of the Roman Quaestor Aesillas found in hoards together with Celtic issues. Such hoards from Bulgaria include those from Chirpan, Nova Zagora, Haskovo, Levka (Haskovo region), Stroyno (Jambol region), Belitsa (Blagoevgrad reg.), etc. Aesillas was Roman quaestor in Macedonia from circa 90 – 75 BC, the period of the most frequent and devastating raids on the Roman province by the local Celtic and Thracian tribes (see Balkancelts ‘The Scordisci Wars’ article). Other such hoards of mixed Celtic and Roman issues dating from the same period (the first third of the 1st c. BC) include those from Topolovo (Plovdiv reg.), Kolyo Marinovo and Bratya Daskalovi (both in the Chirpan area of Stara Zagora region), Dolno Botevo (Haskovo region), and the Boljarino hoard also from the Plovdiv region (Prokopov 1995). It appears that the presence of such a high number of Roman issues from this period, found together with Celtic coins in Thrace, is a result of the aforementioned attacks on Roman territory in the southern Balkans and Greece, particularly those during the first third of the 1st c. BC (on this phenomenon see also Mystery of the Illyrian Cows).



Aes mac

Roman First Macedonian Region and Aesillas issues from the numismatic collection of the Kyustendil Regional Museum, Western Bulgaria 


Hoards including coins of the Roman quaestor Aesillas have been found in the villages of Zhabokrut and  Krumovo (Kyustendil region, Western Bulgaria), and near the village of Chepino, Pernik region (IGCH 646). Tetradrachm hoards of the First Macedonian Region have been found in the village of Skrino, Kyustendil region, in the village of Kralev Dol, Pernik region (IGCH 894), in the village of Studena, Pernik region and from the village of Turokovtsi, Trun area, Pernik region.

(After Filipova S., Ilya Prokopov I., Paunov E. The Numismatic Collection of the Regional Historical Museum at Kyustendil (Ancient Ulpia Pautalia) Part 1: Greek, Thracian, Macedonian, Roman Republican and Roman Provincial Coins. ( CCCHBulg ) Volume II. Sofia 2009)





Aes C. Th

Original Aesillas AR Tetradrachm (90 – 75 BC) and Celtic Thasos Tetradrachms discovered during the recent excavations at Bratya Daskalovi, Chirpan region, Bulgaria.

(after 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)



Bd 2

Philip III (or Alexander III) original (?), Celtic ‘Philip III type” drachmas, and a Roman Republican Dinar (C. Naevius Balbus, minted in Rome in 79 BC), found together in a hoard at Bratya Daskalovi, Chirpan region

(after Prokopov et al 2011; see








The area of modern southwestern Bulgaria in particular has recently provided us with especially valuable information pertaining to the period of the Scordisci Wars (2nd half of 2nd / 1st c. BC). Hoards of silver coins dating to this period from the area of the western Rhodope mountains and the Upper Mesta river valley typically contain a mixture of Celtic and Roman/Hellenistic issues, i.e. – tetradrachms of the Celtic ‘Thasos type’ together with tetradrachms of the Athens ‘New Style’, First Macedonian Region, and the aforementioned Roman Quaestor Aesilla, as well as large numbers of Roman Republican dinars. Examples of such hoards have been recorded from the Belitza, Blagoevgrad, Gotsche Delchev, Kustendil, and Razlog areas (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, 168-169).

 Particularly noteworthy is the fact that many of the Celtic ‘Thasos type’ silver tetradrachms from Thrace are struck over Hellenistic/Roman issues, especially Athens New Style tetradrachms, as well as those of the Roman Quaestor Aesillas.



St. T 1

Celtic ‘Thasos type’ Tetradrachma minted over Athens ‘New Style’ original. Second decade of the 1st c. BC. (Popina hoard (#439). Silestra region, northeastern Bulgaria)

(After De Callatay, Prokopov 1994 (De Callatay F., Prokopov I. An Overstrike of a Hellenistic Tetradrachm in the Popina Hoard (ICGH 930). In: Numismatika Hronika. Hellenistic Numismatic Society. # 13. Athens 1994. P. 37-44)




St. T 2

Celtic ‘Thasos type’ tetradrachma minted over that of the Roman Quaestor Aesillas (early 1st c. BC)

On Herakles’ left knee the Q (short for Quaestor – similar to English P) can be seen. There are also faint traces of Alexander’s hair locks at the metal disturbance in Dionysos’ cheek from the Roman original.




A similar phenomenon is to be observed with ‘some thousands’ of bronze Celtic coins from the same period, also from the Rhodope/Upper Mesta area, most of which are minted over the coinage of Macedonian rulers and cities. Example of these ‘Strymon/Trident’ coins come from hoards discovered around the towns of Gotsche Delchev, Bansko, Eleschnitza, Razlog, Belitza, Jakoruka, and Ognyanovo (see Mac Congail 2013

Most fascinating about these coins is that in most cases they were not produced from blanks, but overstruck on Macedonian bronze issues (late royal or autonomous/Roman). The overstrikes are clearly visible and it is not hard to identify the host coin. Apparently, no attention was paid to the size, weight, denomination of the original host, or an attempt to adjust the dies of overstrikes. Host civic coins of Thessalonica, Amphipolis, and Pella, or Macedonian ‘autonomous’ issues, most dated to the period ca. 187 – ca. 50 BC, were used for the majority of these imitations (Paunov E. (2012) From Koine To Romanitas: The Numismatic Evidence For Roman Expansion And Settlement In Bulgaria In Antiquity (Moesia and Thrace, ca. 146 BC –AD 98/117) Phd. Thesis. Schoolof History, Archaeology and Religion. Cardiff University. November, 2012).


 Besides thousands of stray finds and smaller hoards, 7 larger hoards of such coins have been recorded in the Western Rhodope mountains and Struma Valley of today’s south-western Bulgaria.



Major hoards of Celtic Strymon/Trident type coinage recorded in south-western Bulgaria

(after Paunov 2012)



A particularly interesting example is that of the Bogolin 1989 hoard, which gives us a valuable insight into the phenomenon which was the Celtic economy in this area during the period in question. The Bogolin hoard initially consisted of circa 400  bronze coins, of which  100+ have subsequently been stolen. At the moment, 285 coins from this hoard are reportedly kept in the Blagoevgrad museum (Prokopov 1991, 1997; Paunov 2012; Paunov, Filipova, Prokopov 2013. See Mac Congail 2013




Celtic AE Strymon/Trident from the Bogolin hoard (Blagoevgrad Museum)

(after Paunov et al 2013 (in print)




In the case of the Bogolin hoard, according to analysis all 285 coins are overstruck on Macedonian coins (either Macedonian royal coinage of that of the Roman Macedonian province), i.e. all these Celtic issues were struck on coins plundered during the ‘barbarian’ raids, once more emphasizing the extent of the attacks on Roman territory during this period.




The historical context in which these coins were produced – during a bitter struggle between the ‘barbarians’ and the Roman empire, should be borne in mind. From a psychological perspective the fact that the Celtic population in Thrace took the trouble to mint over the Roman/Hellenistic coins is a clear political statement – a rejection of the images portrayed on the originals, and by extension the ‘classical’ culture which produced them.













Download Pdf. version of this article:











Numismatics (6) – Regional Coinage – Strymon/Trident

Mac Congail


  Two major groups of regional coinage are to be identified among the Bulgarian Celts in the 3rd – 1st c. BC – the Strymon/Trident coinage, and the Zaravetz lead and bronze issues. Unlike the silver Thasos, Philip II and Philip III models, which circulated over a wide geographical area (see relevant sections), the Strymon/Trident and Zaravetz coinage circulated within limited geographical areas – the former mostly in the region of today’s southwestern Bulgaria, and the latter among the Celtic tribes of northeastern Bulgaria and southeastern Romania.

  As with all Celtic coins from the territory of today’s Bulgaria, the Strymon/Trident bronze issues are almost unknown in scientific publications, and information on them comes exclusively from collectors, ‘treasure hunters’, or secondary sources. The coins themselves are based on a rare Macedonian issue of Philip V or Perseus, dated 187 – 168 BC. (Fig. 1)


                          Macedonian original of Philip V or Perseus (187 – 168 BC)

(BMC 12.43)


The Celtic models (Fig. 2-3), like the Macedonian originals, feature the head of the river-god Strymon on the obverse, and a trident on the reverse. From an artistic perspective these coins show few of the trends evident on the other Celtic coins from this period. They are what they appear to be – rough, functional coins, loosely based on Macedonian originals, intended for everyday use as low denomination currency units by the Celtic tribes of this area.

They have been found mostly in the area of today’s Bulgaria stretching from Serdica (Sofia) in the north, to the Bulgarian-Greek border in the south. A particularly high concentration is to be noted in the latter area (s-w Bulgaria) where ‘many thousands’ of these coins have been discovered. (1)

                    Fig. 2 /3 – Celtic Strymon/Trident issues (2nd -1st c. BC)

SNG cop. 1299



This is particularly true of the area of the western Rhodope mountains and especially in the upper Struma and Mesta river valleys. In this area hoards of these coins have been discovered around the towns of Kyustendil (map 6n #1), Blagoevgrad (map 6n #2), Gotsche Delchev (map 6n #3), and Razlog (map 6n #4)(2). Further examples have been recorded from the areas around the villages of Kochan (Fig. 4) (map 6n #5)(3), Bansko (map 6n #6), Eleschnitza (map 6n #7), Belitza (map 6n #8), Babyak (map 6n #9), and Jakoruda (map 6n #10)(4). Numerous finds have been recorded from the Serdica area (map 6n #11) (5),  while the largest hoard of coins of this type has been discovered at Ognyanovo in the Pazardjik region (map 6n #12)(6).

Fig. 4 – Celtic Strymon/Trident coins recently discovered by ‘treasure hunters’ at the village of Kochan (Blagoevgrad region) in the western Rhodope mountains (7)


The Circulation of Celtic Thasos model tetradrachmas in this area during the same period (II-I c. BC) has already been noted (see Thasos model – numismatic section). However, while the silver Thasos models circulated throughout the area of today’s Bulgaria, the Strymon/Trident type appears to have been produced by, and circulated only among, the Celtic tribes who dominated southwestern Bulgaria in the pre-Roman period. The archaeological and numismatic evidence also links this Celtic population with the cult complexes in this area such as that at Babyak (see also the ‘Cult firepots’, ‘Evil Eye and Little Glass Men’, and ‘Killing the Objects’ articles)


So who exactly were the Celtic tribes who produced the coins in question, and how do they fit into the historical context of the region?


Confirmation of Celtic settlement in this area, as well as the recent identification of Rupite (Pernik region) as the site of ancient Heracleae Sintica, clarifies the geographical context of the historical events mentioned in classical sources. In 117 BC the Celts launched a major attack on Roman Macedonia along the valley of the river Struma (the same route which had been taken in the previous century by Brennos’ central army during the invasion of Greece), penetrating all the way to Thessalonika where Pompey, the Roman governor, was killed. It appears certain that this attack and those which followed were carried out by the Celtic tribes who lived in today’s southwestern Bulgaria, i.e. those who produced the Strymon/Trident coinage outlined above. This is logical not only from a geographic and logistical perspective, but also supported by the fact that in subsequent attacks the Celts were accompanied by other ‘barbarian tribes’, notably the Thracian Maedi and Bessi, both of whom also lived in the Rhodope mountains area of Bulgaria. The attacks on Roman Macedonia were also certainly facilitated by the fact that, according to Livy (XLV, 30), a Celtic population was already settled during this period in Macedonia itself – around the towns of Beroea, Pela, and Edessa.

                                    Southwestern Rhodope Mountains




Despite the escalating attacks on the Roman province of Macedonia, the empire continued its expansion towards the central Balkans. A Roman fortress was established on the upper Struma river at Heracleae Sintica (Rupite, Pernik region), and two cohorts of Roman soldiers were stationed there under a commander called Lucullus (Front. Strat. 3,10,7). This fortress was on the border of, or even possibly within, the territory of the Celtic tribes in Thrace, and appears to have been intended as a staging post for further Roman expansion northwards. In 114 BC a Roman army, led by the consul Gaius Porcius Cato, marched into Thrace (Liv. Per. 63’a; Flor. 1.39, 1-4; Dio Cass fr. 88’1; Eutrop. 4.24.1; Amm. Marc. 27.4.4). The purpose of this attack appears to have been twofold – to eradicate the barbarian threat to Roman Macedonia, and to expand the empires power into the territory of today’s Bulgaria. The events which followed were to prove catastrophic for the Romans.

 This heavily afforested and mountainous area of the western Rhodope mountains is ill suited for the conventional military tactics of an imperial army, but perfect terrain for the surprise attacks and ambush tactics used by the Thracian Celts in this period. It would appear that the Roman consul completely underestimated the situation both in terms of the terrain, and the military potential of his enemy. The invading Roman army was wiped out, and the Celts counterattacked.

After the destruction of Cato’s army the closest Roman target was the garrison at Heracleae Sintica. The ensuing events are described in detail by the Roman historian Frotinius (40 – 103 AD) in his work Strategemata (3,19,7):

Scordisci equites, cum Heracleae diversarum partium praesidio praepositus esset Lucullus, pecora abigere simulantes provocaverunt eruptionem; fugam deinde mentiti sequentem Lucullum in insidias deduxerunt et octingentos cum eo milites occiderunt.

The attack on Heracleae was marked, not by the headlong barbarian charge often associated with the Celts, but by a much more subtle and successful tactic. A small group of Celtic horsemen were first dispatched and, pretending to drive off the livestock, provoked Lucullus into a fatal error. No sooner had the Roman force emerged from their defenses to hunt down the ‘barbarians’, than the main body of the Celtic cavalry attacked. What followed was less a battle than a massacre, in the aftermath of which the Roman commander and 800 of his soldiers lay dead.

   The events of 114 BC – the destruction of Cato’s army and the subsequent massacre of the Roman garrison at Heracleae, taught Rome a costly lesson. Further attacks by the Romans on the Thracian Celts, such as that in 109 BC by the consul Minucius Rufus, were launched along the valley of the Maritza river, or other routes more suitable for a Roman army. (11) Roman expansion on the Balkans continued unabated over the next century. (See ‘The Scordisci Wars’ article) However, no further attacks were ever directed at the Celtic tribes of the western Rhodope mountains. It is interesting to note that even during the Roman period the road system built by the empire in this region of Bulgaria shows unexplained diversions in order to avoid certain areas, (12) indicating that some parts of this inhospitable region never fell under Roman control. 



Map n6

(Does not include Celtic coins from the 3rd c. BC Tyle state, Zaravetz issues from northeastern Bulgaria, or Celtic imitations of Paeonian coins (4th – 3rd c. BC)









  1. Filipova, Prokopov 2008 = Филипова Св., Прокопов И., Монети от Светилището при Бабяк. In: Тракийското Светилището При Бабяк И Неговата Археологическата Среда. Sofia, 2008
  2. Filipova, Prokopov op cit; Тонкова М., Гоцев А., Резултатът от археологическите проучвания на тракийското светилище при с. Бабек. – Археологически открития и разкопки през 1994, Смолян 1995, 54 – 56; Prokopov I., Imitations of Bronze Coins in Thracia during the 1st c. B.C., in Proceedings of the XII Internationaler Numizmatischer Kongress, Berlin 1997, 369-377; Прокопов И., Варварски подражания на македонски бронзови монети. – ИИМКН, V/2, 1998, c. 357 – 360
  3. See Fig. 4
  4. Filipova, Prokopov op cit
  5. LMC
  6. FIlipova, Prokopov op cit
  8. Filipova, Prokopov op cit
  9. Kazarov 1919: 76; Mac Congail 2008: 20-21
  10. Loc cit
  11. 11. Mac Congail op cit, with relevant lit. (attached Pdf.); ‘Scordisci’ appears to have been a generic term used by the Romans for the Thracian Celts. For more on this see ‘The Scordisci Wars’ article.
  12. Filipova, Prokopov op cit.







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