Кому принадлежи емисията нискономинален бронз с типовете кон в галоп надясно/кипселе – на жителите на Бизанте или на „владетеля на приморските области“ Севт II

To whom belongs the emission of small denomination bronze of the types of galloping horse to right/ kypsele – to the inhabitants of Bizante or to the “the ruler of the coastal regions” Seuthes II?

  • Boryana Russeva National Institute of Archaeology with Museum Bulgarian Academy of Sciences


In 2004, the collector eng. Stavri Topalov revisited once again the subject of the small denomination bronze coinage of Odrysai and Greeks from the northern seashore of Propontis, united by the common reverse type – vessel with two handles (kypsele/kotyle) and the common cult of the principal Thracian deity – the anonymous Goddess Mother as to her the greatest temple along the lower flow of Hebros was devoted according to Titus Livy (XXXVIII, 40-41). In this regard Topalov publishes an extremely interesting coin which reverse type is the known kypsele, but the obverse is covered with the figure of a galloping horse to right (fig. 1). On the obverse of the bronze coin with a horse//kypsele, released by Topalov, one can clearly see a part of a circle with a dot – a solar symbol engraved over the horse’s figure – the same as the engraved one on some silver coins of Dikaia in Thrace (fig. 2). On the other hand, on the reverse of the coin one can clearly read the letters B (beta) and I (iota) engraved on both sides of the kypsele. Their graphics are exactly the same as the letters on the bronze of the town of Bisanthe on the northern Propontis seashore struck with the types of head of the Great Goddess Mother//kypsele (fig. 3) as well as on the later bronze of the same polis, according to the online catalogues dating from the 3rd–2nd c. BC (fig. 4-5-6). The next partially struck off letters on the reverse – above the two-handle vessel are not clear – perhaps Σ (sigma) and E (epsilon). The coin is a private possession. According to its publisher’s words, it was found not far away from Svilengrad, at the foot of the Sakar Mountain. Topalov, however, offers a rather ambivalent comment. In the pursuit of maximum completeness, he interprets the emission as a royal one of Seuthes I, as a town coinage of some of the towns in the Southeastern Thrace and even as a mixed royal – town coinage of Seuthes I and a polis under his power whose ethnic begins with the letters BI but is not Bisanthe.
In case the unique bronze of the types of horse//kypsele was not struck in the mint yard of Bisanthe because of the striking resemblance to the legends on its coins, it should not necessarily be attributed to the coinage of Seuthes I (424-405), as Stavri Topalov did. Because to him, the first Seuthes, belong the extremely scarce in amount silver didrachms and drachms issued once according to the Attic weight standard and signed with the eloquent legends of ΣΕΥΘΑ ΑΡΓΥΡΙΟΝ and ΣΕΥΘΑ ΚΟΜΜΑ (THE SILVER OF SEUTHES and THE SIGN/STAMP OF SEUTHES). With their declarations, the inscriptions played a rather political role of a blazon of the king – publisher than a coin legend intended for commodity - money relations. Seuthes, for whom Thucydides exclaims to be the most influential in the Odrysian Kingdom after Sitalkes (Thuc. II.101.5), from the position of his vast wealth and power declares to his contemporaries that the ruler of Thrace, who struck some of his wealth in the form of coins, is he himself – the brother’s son of the Odrysian king Sitalkes and heir to the paradynast Sparadokos. Continuing his father’s tradition of minting silver, Seuthes, whose treasury was annually replenished with 400 talents in gold and silver (a colossal amount of time equivalent to 400 thousand drachmas or 100 thousand tetradrachms and comparable to the revenue of the First Athenian Maritime Union (Delian Symmachia) before the Peloponnesian War, hardly needed to produce coins for the economic and fiscal needs of his own country - the most significant and prosperous of “all the kingdoms that existed in Europe between the Gulf of Ionia and the Euxinus Pontus” (Thuc. II.97.5). Nevertheless, he probably needed a symbol, a sign, a seal for his power for to mint once his silver issues signed with the legends of ΣΕΥΘΑ ΑΡΓΥΡΙΟΝ and ΣΕΥΘΑ ΚΟΜΜΑ (perhaps in connection with a particular political, military or diplomatic occasion, sunk in time-lapse).
This was not the case with the coinage – silver and bronze – of Seuthes II. The name of the Odrysian Seuthes (II) is associated with the Greek mercenary army, led by the Athenian Xenophon, which in the winter of 400 BC returned from Asia Minor to Hellas. Stepping on Thracian soil, the Greeks were hired by Seuthes to help him regain his hereditary power in southeastern Thrace. In “Anabasis”, Xenophon records the personal story of Seuthes. According to the latter, he was raised as an orphan by the Odrysian dynast Medocos (Metokos), the ruler of the Inner (Upper) Kingdom. When he ripened into manhood, Seuthes sought help from the king to recover the lands from which he was ousted. He received a military detachment from Medocos, but also hired Xenophon’s Greek Hoplites. To Xenophon’s writings in his two books, “Anabasis” and “Hellenica” (Xen. Anab. VII, 2.17-38; VII, 3. 17-38; VII, 4-8; Xen. Hell. III, 2. 2-3, 5, 8-11; IV, 8.26), we owe almost everything we know today about this ruler of the Odrysai. Seuthes II was a paradynast (co-ruler) of the Odrysian “king of the interior of the country” – Medocos (Xen. Anab. VII, 2.32; VII, 3). The possessions of Seuthes were in close proximity to the seashores of Propontis and Hellespont (today’s the Sea of Marmara and the Dardanelles) and for that reason Xenophon describes him as the “ruler of the coastal areas” (Xen. Hell. IV, 8.26). They covered the territories along the line of Salmydessos – the Thracian Chersonesos (today’s the Gallipoli Peninsula) and to the south – towards the Sea of Marmara reaching the vicinities of Perinthos. An active participant in military-political clashes in the zone of the Straits during the Corinthian War (395-387), Seuthes skillfully maneuvered between the warring camps of the Athenians and the Lacedaemonians, managing to derive maximum territorial and material benefits, not without the help of mercenary units. His enviable international authority gave his name to that of Sparta and its allies, Persia, and Athens and its allies, when signing the Royal Peace (387) in the town of Susa, the capital city of Susiana. This was also the last mention of the Odrysian Seuthes in the ancient chronicles, whose reign today dates back to the period of ca. 405-387 BC.
“So ... when he learned of the discord between Amadocus, the Tsar of the Odrysai, and Seuthes, the ruler of the coastal areas, [Thrasybulus the Syrian – author’s note] succeeded in reconciling them and making friends and allies of the Athenians. He believed that if a friendship was established between the Thracians and Athens, the cities adjacent to Thrace would look even more favorably on the Athenians”, Xenophon informs us in his “Hellenica” (Xen. Hell. IV, 8, 26). This reconciliation of the two Odrysian rulers through the mediation of Athens occured in the years of Thrasybulus’ maritime victories (389/8) and on the eve of the Antalkid Peace (387) – when, according to the Turkish researcher Oya Yağiz, a confederation of cities along the Thracian coast of the Marmara Sea was probably established, materialized in the coinage of bronze with common denominations and coin types. It does not seem impossible the bronze coin with galloping horse//kypsele and the letters of Σ-E – B-I on the reverse published by Topalov and found close to our border with Turkey – not far away from the area of Kypsela and its neighbouring cities viz. in the orbit of the paradynast Seuthes – “the ruler of the coastal areas” - to bind to this Odrysian dynast, at the time of whom and with whose heavy bronze coins (fig. 7) the common bronze type with kypsele was introduced - an allusion to the common cult of Odrysai and Greeks to the Great Goddess Mother. In the same context, we have to look at the Vetren coin with a round shield//kypsele (fig. 8), found on the territory giving also the silver tetartemorion of Seuthes II with head of horse to left//wheel with four spokes and the name of the ruler (fig. 9), as well as at least 11 pieces of the heavy Seuthes’ bronze of the types of horse protome//kypsele alongside an impressive number of Odrysian royal silver and bronze coins bearing the names of Metocos and Amatocos I, Kotys I, Amatocos (II) and Teres (II). As of May 2013, they totaled 143 pieces – 10 silver and 133 more bronze issues, whose number is steadily increasing every year during the archaeological excavations of the Thracian settlement, called the “еmporion Pistiros”.

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