Tag Archive: Thracian coins



“Who can I recite my work to here, but yellow-haired Coralli, and the other tribes of the barbarous Danube?” 
(Ovid, Ex Ponto. Book EIV.II To Cornelius Severus: A Fellow Poet)
The Hill of Zaravets (Tsaravets) overlooks the town of Veliko Tarnovo in today‟s northeastern Bulgaria. Situated on the strategically important Jantra river which links it to the Danube, Zaravetz is best known…














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













Kotys 3


One of the greatest contradictions in ancient numismatics is the case of “barbarous” tetradrachms of the Thasos type produced in Thrace in the late 1st c. BC – previously attributed variously to the Roman puppet kings Cotys IV, VI and, most recently, to  Cotys III (von Sallet 1876:242-24, Добруски 1897:629, Youroukova 1976:43-45; Юрукова 1992:177-178, de Callataÿ 2012:307–322; Paunov 2013, with relevant lit.).

 In fact, the numismatic/archaeological context and execution of these coins, which bear the legend – ΚΟΤΥΟC XAPAKTHP, meaning the ‘die, stamp’ of Cotys (see Paunov, op cit.), raises a number of fundamental questions about their attribution to the Roman puppet kings in Thrace…




























strtri in


Celtic Strymon/Trident Coinage:





3 map Fin.






Tha 1 int. c








Tha 1 bl








bur stamp






 The communist regimes on the Balkans may have fallen over two decades ago, but their legacy continues to echo in historical research in the region. One of the most glaring examples of this is the ‘Great Dacia’ theory which was part and parcel of Communist-era nationalism.

  In the 1960’s Romania and Bulgaria experienced important political and cultural changes, which were the direct result of the political decision to move away from the Soviet protectorate to an aggressive form of nationalism. This new nationalist trend was in fact a collage of much older elements based on a traditionally nationalist concept that had never died out. Stalinism, which had become so estranged from national issues, contributed greatly to the indigenisation of Marxism and the blurring of any distinctions between communism and nationalism (Mircea Anghelinu (1997) Failed Revolution: Marxism and the Romanian Prehistoric Archaeology between 1945 and 1989. In: Archaeologia Bulgarica XI 2007 1 1-36 Sofia).

 The anti-intellectual orientation of the ruling elite was especially prominent after 1980 and resulted in a tight control of academic promotions, with damaging effects for the access that younger generations had to university and research positions. Such an academic atmosphere reinforced the position and authority of the cultural mandarins, while research personnel gradually grew older, with little chance of being replaced. A new wave of ideological “disciplining” began in historiography, which emphasized the idea of national unity and continuity, and the Thracian-Dacian roots of the Romanian state (Boia L. 1997, Istorie şi mit în conştiinţa romaneascâ Bucureşti. P. 74-82).


In the case of archaeology the cultural heritage law of 1974 forced a drastic ‘reevaluation’ of the old archaeological material. Much more significant for the new ideological doctrine was the creation in 1979 of the Institute of Thracology (apparently modeled on the Bulgarian Institute of Thracology), and then the sudden interest in things Dacian/Thracian displayed especially by sycophants employed by the these institutes, and the Institute for the History of the Romanian Communist Party (Boia op cit; Mircea Anghelinu op cit.).

Thus, in Romania, starting with the 1970s, the Ceauşescu regime used ancient history, seen from a nationalistic and questionable interpretation (Protochronism) as a way to legitimize its own rule. For example, Burebista, a leader of the Thracian Getae tribe who carried out a genocidal attack on his neighbors during the 1st c. BC (see ‘The Scordisci Wars’ article), was portrayed as the “unifier” of the Dacian tribes and, in 1980, the Romanian government declared the celebration of the 2050th anniversary of the founding of the “unified and centralized” Dacian state of Burebista, drawing comparisons with Ceauşescu’s Romania, and claiming an uninterrupted existence of the Romanian state from Burebista to Ceauşescu (Boia L. History and Myth in Romanian Consciousness, Budapest: Central European University Press, 2001).





bur stamp

Romanian postage stamp from1980, labeled “2050 years from the creation of the first centralized and independent Dacian state under the leadership of Burebista”









In Romania the fact that this manipulation took place has been accepted to a certain extent, unlike the case in neighboring Bulgaria where the Institute of Thracology (now the ‘Alexander Fol Institute of Thracology’) continues to function and dictate the official version of ancient history in line with the old nationalist/communist doctrine. However, to varying degrees, the shadow of this manipulation still hangs over academic research in both countries.

See also:






Just one example of the legacy of this phenomenon is the continued attribution by numismatic experts, slavishly following the publications of communist era ‘scientists’  (in this case especially Chiţescu, M. 1971. ‘Copii şi imitaţii de denari romani republicani în Dacia. In:  Memoria Antiquitatis 3: 209–258; also Chiţescu, M. 1981. Numismatic Aspects of the Dacian State. British Archaeological Reports, Oxford. International Series 112.; Preda, C. 1973. Monedele Geto-Dacilor. Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste România, Bucureşti. In Bulgaria the work of the communist Thracologist Youroukova Y. – especially ‘Coins of the Ancient Thracians’ (1976), of all imitations of the denarii of the Roman Republic in southeastern Europe to ‘Dacians’, a phenomenon which, as illustrated below, is, from a historical and geographical perspective, quite absurd.









In fact, recent research on imitations of the denarii of the Roman Republic found in Moesia and Thrace, within the borders of modern Bulgaria, throws serious doubt on the ‘Dacian’ origin of this type of coinage (Paunov E., Davis P. Imitations of Republican Denarii from Moesia and Thrace. In: HPAKΛEOVΣ ΣΩTHPOΣ ΘAΣIΩN. Studia in honorem Iliae Prokopov sexagenario ab amicis et discipulis dedicata. Veliko Tarnovo 2012, 389-413).




1.       Northeastern Bulgaria


An analysis of the territorial distribution/diffusion of imitations of denarii found south of the Danube in Thrace (in modern Bulgaria) indicates 3 distinct concentrations (map 1).



(After Paunov/Davis 2012)




The first concentration comes from the the north-eastern part of Moesia, in the zone of the modern Bulgarian districts of Russe–Razgrad–Shumen–Silistra–Dobrich. In this area three hoards containing such imitations have been discovered: the Maluk Porovetz, Garvan and ‘South Dobrudja’ hoards. Unfortunately, as is the case with so much numismatic material in Bulgaria, the material from only one of these hoards is extant – the Maluk Porovatz hoard (Dimitrov K.( 2007) The Getic Territory of Sboryanovo, Northeast Bulgaria, in the Late Hellenistic Age (2nd century BC–1st century AD). – Thracia 17, Sofia, 2007, p. 369–390). All the coins from the other two – the Garvan and South Dobrudja hoards, have been stolen/sold, and are no longer available for scientific research (Paunov/Davis op cit).


(on the systematic theft of ancient coinage in Bulgaria see: https://www.academia.edu/4136789/Celtic_Coinage_from_Bulgaria_-_The_Material_Evidence )




 We are therefore left with the Malak Porovetz hoard found in the Razgrad region of northeastern Bulgaria in 1995. The hoard consisted of 44 denarii of the Roman Republic, 11 imitations of the same, and a single late drachm of Apollonia in Illyria dated to ca. 50–25 BC. What is interesting about this hoard of ‘Dacian’ coins is that has distinct parallels with another hoard now in the Belgrade National Museum. Like Maluk Porovets, this hoard was discov­ered far from Dacia, coming from the ‘Vojvodina Region’ (= formerly South­ern Hungary) in modern Serbia. The hoard arrived in Belgrade sometime between the two World Wars, and consists solely of ‘barbarian’ imitations, 15 in all. This find is, according to the latest research (loc cit) precisely parallel to the Roman Republican imitations issued by the Celtic Eravisci tribe in Pannonia in the late 1st century BC. The style of the Vojvodina coins also closely resembles that of the Celtic Eraviscan issues (loc cit).




The Maluk Porovets / 1995 hoard (after Paunov/Davis 2012)


2.       Northwestern Bulgaria


The bulk of Roman Republican imitations have been found in the west of Bulgaria, in the modern districts of Vratsa and Pleven along the Danube and a strip extending 20–40 km south of the Danube. They originate from denarii hoards deposited between 77 and 43/2 BC, and come from an area which numismatic, archaeological and linguistic evidence clearly shows was inhabited by a Thraco-Celtic population during the period in question (see Archaeology, Numismatics and Linguistics sections on this site), and where there is absolutely no scientific record of ‘Dacian’ settlement.





3.      South-Central Bulgaria


 The third zone appears in central Bulgaria, south of the Balkan chain/Haemus. It is concentrated in the modern district of Plovdiv, Yambol and Sliven, roughly between Philippopolis and Kabyle. Recent numismatic finds from this area has clearly confirmed that this part of modern Bulgaria was also inhabited by a Thraco-Celtic population in the immediate pre-Roman period and, once again, there is absolutely no historical or archaeological evidence of a ‘Dacian’ presence in this region.




Celtic (Philip III type) drachms, and a Roman Republican issue, recently found together in a hoard at Bratya Daskalovi (Stara Zagora region, south-central Bulgaria). The hoard has been dated to the late 1st c. BC.

( After Prokopov, Paunov, Filipova 2011; see: https://www.academia.edu/4107842/The_Celts_in_Central_Thrace )









The case of the ‘Dacian’ coins outlined above is, of course, only one example of the phenomenon which continues to haunt historical science on the Balkans. Since the collapse of the communist regimes in Bulgaria and Romania no review has been undertaken of the extent and legacy of the systematic manipulation of historical science which occurred during this period. Indeed, academic works produced during the ‘socialist’ era continue to be the standard works on ancient history in this region, which has led to the absurd situation whereby today a new generation of archaeologists and numismatic experts, unwilling or unable to challenge the past, continue to base their research on the manipulated works of communist era ‘scientists’.



It is said that the victors write history; in the case of the Balkans it would appear that the opposite is true. Until they face the recent past, academics in Romania and Bulgaria have little chance of discovering the truth about ancient history.












Mac Congail


















The Thracian Puppet Kings

UD – Dec. 2015



a - Aquae Calidae is dated to 26-37 AD, a decade before the Odrysian Kingdom was fully conquered by the Roman Empire








One of the forgotten political dynasties of Roman history is the so-called Sapaioi dynasty, installed by Rome as ‘Kings of Thrace’ in an attempt to legitimize her rule in the region. Following the Roman conquest, which culminated in the campaigns of 29/28 BC  by  M. Crassus against the Bastarnae and the Scordisci tribes (Dio Cass. 51. 26-27), a Thracian puppet government, drawn from members of the Odrysae tribe, who had collaborated with Rome (loc cit), was installed to preside over the Romanization of Thrace. This Thraco-Macedonian tribe had ruled large parts of Thrace until the arrival of the Celts in the 4th/3rd c. BC, and after the Roman conquest of Thrace at the end of the 1st c. BC, members of this dynasty were chosen by Rome to rule Thrace (under Roman patronage) until direct imperial rule was finally established in 46 AD.



 From the very beginning it was clear that these Odrysae ‘kings’ had no popular support, and were despised by the population of Thrace as traitors. The first of these, of whom we have extensive numismatic exidence, is Rhoemetalces (Ῥοιμητάλκης) I,  who came to the throne in 12 BC. Rhoemetalces was a loyal ally of the Roman emperor Augustus, and had initially been the guardian of King Rhescuporis I (his nephew).







 In 13 BC the local population, led by a priest-chieftain, Vologaeses of the Bessi tribe, had rebelled against this new Roman backed dynasty. The young Rhescuporis was executed by the rebels, and the new king Rhoemetalces I’s reign began rather shamefully when his Thracian army deserted to the rebels, forcing him to flee Thrace – ‘He (Vologaeses) conquered and killed Rhascyporis, the son of Cotys, and afterwards, thanks to his reputation for supernatural power, he stripped Rhoemetalces, the victim’s uncle, of his forces without a battle and compelled him to take flight. In pursuit of him he invaded the Chersonese, where he wrought great havoc’ (Tacitus 2, 64).  

 Rhoemetalces I was finally restored to his throne when a Roman army led by the governer of Pamphylia, Lucius Piso, arrived and brutally put down the rebellion (loc cit).









Rhoemetalces I ruled Thrace until his death in 12 AD. Augustus then divided his realm into two separate kingdoms, one half for his son Cotys to rule, and the other half for Rhoemetalces’ remaining brother Rhescuporis II. Tacitus states that Cotys received the cultivated parts, most of the towns and cities of Thrace, while Rhescuporis received the wild and savage portion:

‘That entire country had been in the possession of Rhoemetalces, after whose death Augustus assigned half to the king’s brother Rhescuporis, half to his son Cotys. In this division the cultivated lands, the towns, and what bordered on Greek territories, fell to Cotys; the wild and barbarous portion, with enemies on its frontier, to Rhescuporis ’ (Tacitus, Annals 2:64).





 Rhescuporis was apparently unsatisfied with his part of this deal, and set out to annex Cotys’ territory. Inviting his nephew to a banquet to falsely ratify a treaty between them, he arrested and imprisoned Cotys, seizing his part of the kingdom. Cotys died while incarcerated in 18 AD, allegedly by suicide. His wife, Tryphaena, and their children subsequently fled Thrace to Cyzicus to escape Rhescuporis.

Cotys had four children by Tryphaena – Rhoemetalces II who later ruled Thrace with his mother Tryphaena  (see below); another son, Cotys IX, who became Roman Client King of Lesser Armenia from 38 AD to circa 47 AD;  two daughters –Gepaepyris, who married the Roman Client King, Tiberius Julius Aspurgus of the Bosporan Kingdom, and Pythodoris II (or Pythodorida II).  In 38 AD, after the death of Rhoemetalces II, Tryphaena abdicated the throne at the request of Roman Emperor Caligula. Pythodoris II married her cousin Rhoemetalces III, and they ruled Thrace as Roman Client Rulers from 38 AD until 46 AD (see below).






Little is known on the life of Gepaepyris. She married the Roman Client King of the Bosporan Kingdom, Tiberius Julius Aspurgus, who was of Greek and Iranian ancestry. The Bosporan Kingdom was the longest known surviving Roman Client Kingdom. Aspurgus was the son of Bosporan Queen Dynamis from her first marriage to General and Bosporan King Asander. Gepaepyris bore Aspurgus two sons  – Tiberius Julius Mithridates –  named in honor of Mithridates VI of Pontus, and Tiberius Julius Cotys I – who was named in honor of his late maternal grandfather Cotys VIII. When Aspurgus died in 38 AD, Gepaepyris ruled with their first son Mithridates in the Bosporan Kingdom until 45 AD. Later, her other son (confusingly called Cotys I) succeeded her and Mithridates.





After the murder of Cotys by his uncle, the Roman Emperor Tiberius opened an investigation into Cotys’ death, putting Rhescuporis on trial in the Roman Senate. He invited Cotys’ widow Tryphaena to testify at the trial, during which she accused the defendant of murdering her husband. Rhescuporis was found guilty, and Tiberius sent him to Alexandria. However, en route, Rhescuporis ‘tried to escape’ and was killed by the Romans:

 “Rhescuporis was removed to Alexandria, and there attempting or falsely charged with attempting escape, was put to death” (Tac. Ann. Book 2:67).


 His son, who would later rule Thrace as Rhoemetalces III (see below), was spared by Tiberius and allowed to return to Thrace. In the meantime Tiberius returned the whole Thracian Kingdom to Tryphaena and appointed Rhoemetalces II, her eldest child with Cotys, as co-ruler.




Rhoemetalces II proved to be as unpopular as his predecessors had been. Shortly after he took power, he was besieged in his capital at Philipopolis (Plovdiv) by the local population, intent on executing him as a traitor, and had to be rescued by a Roman legion who arrived at the last minute and massacred the ‘rebels’. As mentioned, the Thracian king is referred to by the Romans as ‘a loyal friend and ally’, and took part in the Roman campaign of 26 AD led by Sabinus against the Celtic Artacoi tribe in the Haemus (Balkan) mountains. Rhoemetalces proved himself an inept military leader, and after leading a campaign of murder and destruction against the local population, his Thracian forces were massacred during a surprise attack by the barbarians.


On the Artacoi see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/07/01/artacoi-battle-for-the-balkans-26-ad/










Upon Rhoemetalces II’s death in 38 AD, Rhoemetalces III (the son of Rhescuporis II, who had been murdered by the Romans), ruled in association with his cousin-wife Pythodoris II. However, the last ‘Thracian king’ shared the fate of many of his predecessors, and was himself murdered in 46 AD. It is unclear whether he died at the hands of insurgents, or on the orders of his wife. After his death, another major uprising by the local population was brutally put down by the Romans, and Thrace subsequently became a province of the empire.





a - Aquae Calidae is dated to 26-37 AD, a decade before the Odrysian Kingdom was fully conquered by the Roman Empire

Inscription mentioning the last 3 Roman client/puppet kings of Thrace – discovered on June 9, 2015 at  Aquae Calidae (Thermopolis Archaeological Reserve/Burgas), Bulgaria. The inscription dates to between 26 AD and 37 AD, and the (provisional) translation reads:

“Apollonius, (son) of E(p)taikenthos, military governor of Anchialos, (dedicates) this altar to Demeter, for the well-being/salvation of his masters: King Rhoemetalces; and Pythodoris, the daughter of Cotys, the son of King Rhoemetalces; and their children”.








On the Odrysae see also:













Mac Congail