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Despre activitatea monetăriilor vest-pontice dobrogene în perioada preromană (secolele V-I a.chr.). Un stadiu al problemei / About the activity of the western Dobrujan mints during the pre-Roman period (5th-1st century B.C.). A phase of the subject

  • Numismatică antică şi bizantină (Ancient and Byzantine Numismatics)  Articolele semnate de autor
Limba de redactare română
Excerpt From a certain historical perspective, the coin has represented the fundament of social evolution, either as an element that ensured the cohesion of the civic body, or as a means of payment for one’s needs, for the progress of the economy and commerce developed by its issuer. It has depended, through all its functions (means of payment, measure of value etc.), on the existing context, favourable or not to its emission and circulation, as it was the expression of a necessity and, last but not least, of a play of interests. The Greek world created and employed an extremely complex instrument, both from an economic and social point of view and also from a symbolic one. The coin’s role evolved and amplified, passing through the archaic, classic, and Hellenistic eras, and each historic stage made its iconographic, epigraphic or weight mark.
The Greek colonization initiated on Dobruja’s coast of the Euxine Sea, most probably the result of the maritime aristocracy’s interest, has brought about the gradual attraction of local communities in the economic system of the Greek world. One of the fundamental elements for its progress was the coin. It had been created to serve, among other things, as a means of exchange for the commercial transactions in a favourable social and economic framework. The selection of a favourable territorial position, the establishing of a peaceful contact, subsequently developed from a commercial and social standpoint, initially occasional and then turned into a lasting one, represents the necessary steps for the creation of colonies, chiefly colonies of Miletus. In what concerns the economic and commercial relations, one can trace successive stages, starting from the expansion of the merchandise (produced in other centres), then the expansion of the authority and of the prestige in the context of producing the respective merchandise under their own administration (the coin played a very important part from this point of view, as a symbol and less as a monetary unit, at least in the archaic period), and only then the political territorial expansion. In this sense, the designation of some clear economic responsibilities, in a well-organized framework, adapted to all the possibilities offered by the current or only occasional realities (in this case, unsystematized), have become necessary milestones in the economic-commercial evolution of the Greek colonies. And these realities, also illustrated by the existing relations with the chora, have predominated for a long time.
The founding of the three Greek colonies of Histria, Callatis and Tomis, during the 7th – 6th centuries B.C., at chronologically close intervals, has allowed for a gradual installation of an advanced civilization, which has found partners and collaborators in the autochthonous world near the seaside and inside the territory entitled Scythia Minor during the second half of the 3rd century B.C. In the course of time, the political, military, economic and commercial relations were prejudiced because of the various shifts in the balance of power. The complex relations between the native communities and the Greek poleis from Dobruja, has represented a preferred subject for the scholars preoccupied with the analysis of the Carpathian-Danubian-Pontic space in the ancient era.
During the initial period of contact, the production of the arrowhead-coins by the Greeks from Histria and from other centres stemming from Miletus was necessary for the easy flow of commerce – if we accept their purpose as means of exchange – , the simplification of actual commerce and the attraction of the locals in an economic process that has influenced them, from many points of view. The local population gradually became a significant component even among the colonies from the western and north-western regions of the Pontus. This way, a privileged auxiliary instrument of commerce was created, with a defined and standardized shape, which probably had a “legal” value, one guaranteed by the local authority, with a close weight standard, but which did not possess all the characteristics and functions of the Greek coin. At this stage of the research, we do not know if all the colonies of Miletus have cast arrowhead- coins, but if such a situation had existed, it would have appeared as early as the middle of the 6th century B.C., and it would have been accepted in the Greek – autochthonous communities and probably solely autochthonous communities starting with the second half of the same century.
Bearing several names of ingot-coins, “currency, but not coins”, pre-monetary signs, monetary sign-objects, coin-objects, pre-coins, arrowhead-coins and coins of peculiar shape, the pieces at issue have appeared as a response to the immediate necessities of the local market, also demanded by the development of the rural and urban local productions. The development of the commercial relations in areas of influence and direct control, required the appearance of a standardized and determined form, both from an economic and artistic standpoint. The most important function, however, is the economic one, as such coins have already been labeled as means of payment, both in the Greek-native environment and in the chiefly Greek one, inside the cities or in the economic and political sphere of influence. Their circulation and acceptance in transactions is due to their shape and not necessarily to weight, which is variable and can be also understood in direct connection with the moment of its use and the context of the manifest colonial incipient realities of the western coast of the Euxine Sea. Their usual finding spots, either stray finds or hoards, substantiates these hypotheses.
Finally, we should make some additional remarks concerning these monetary signs. It seems that most of the pieces of this type from the first group have a shape that has no connection to the willow leaf or with the laurel leaf. Rather, after personal observation, these might illustrate, in terms of shape (including nervures, etc.), an olive leaf. Also, the monetary signs adapted from battle arrowheads, from the second group, could be the work of natives interested in procuring the exchange signs sought on the local market. In this respect, we have also taken into account the fact that these monetary signs, from the second typological group, have been discovered in contexts (including archaeological ones) in which “classical” battle arrowheads appear. They appear starting from a few items and going to tenths or even hundreds, mixed with the ones considered to be monetary signs.
During the autonomous period, the Greek coin has represented a complex universe created by the Greek economic, political, artistic and religious genius. In the typical 5th century B.C. Greek world the coin’s emission acquires an almost generalized nature, as it was an expression of a city’s decision to issue (in other words, a sovereignty), by the engraving of the local emblems, and to possess an instrument in sufficient circulatory quantity, with a defined value, imposed by an internal exchange rate, in accordance with the interests of the authority. The first emissions appear in Histria from the 5th century B.C., in Callatis from the 4th century B.C. and in Tomis from the middle of the 3rd century B.C.
We notice for Histria’s coinage the use, during the archaic age, of what is known as quadratum incusum, as we can see on the first local silver emissions. We think that their value was initially chiefly symbolic and conventional. Also, as is the case with the rest of the Greek world, the archaic coin had economic, social and, last but not least, symbolic attributes. On their obverse, the two heads of one or two divinities are represented. This representation remains a “unique phenomenon” which must be appreciated with the importance of its rarity. The fact that Histria’s coinage has remained faithful to the respective representation for quite a few centuries proves a clear conservative iconographic and stylistic tendency that can be explained from several points of view, including the economic one. The emblem of the city, the eagle on the dolphin, present chiefly on silver coins, but also bronze ones, visibly stands out like the pieces of other Greek centres, in a constant and even quasi-predominant way, for all the types issued during the autonomous period. Also, the frontal representation of a human or mythical figure is extremely old in Greek monetary art. The characteristics of the first style and weight group are archaic severity, pearled or curly hair; of the second one – archaic semi-severity, sinuous-curly hair, disheveled, a figure with very individualized details, expressive; the ones of the third group (purity of the lines, sobriety of the depiction and elegance of the detail); the ones of the fourth group (it imitates, mostly, the aforementioned style, but, in general, the coins lose their quality and artistic expressiveness). These make up a representative set for the artistic capacities of the local coinage, with certain influences from the archaic, classical and Hellenistic Greek world.
Nevertheless, from an iconographic point of view, the artistic style of depicting the common details from the obverse and the reverse is very similar with the one that appears on emissions of the types Istros, Helios, Dionysus and Apollon (of small dimensions) which have insignia on the reverse. Also, the weight of the analyzed item is much lower than the drachms issued in Histria, even for the last pieces of the fourth group, of only two grams, approaching the weight of the pieces enumerated above (bronze). In the second group, several variants are present. A first variant is made up of pieces that display the insignia A on the reverse, but the depiction details of the obverse and of the reverse are very poor. Also, the legend is rendered incorrectly. On the obverse, the two faces are extremely schematized; moreover, one of the characters displays four eyes and two noses. A second variant, which is much better known among finds, displays a crude pill, oval in general, and we must emphasize again a schematism pushed to the extreme on the obverse and the reverse, while under the dolphin there are different symbols.
The bronze coins with a wheel, cast and less frequently struck, were issued in significant quantities, and we can identify, from the point of view of the circulation at very large geographical distances, but also chronological ones, as they were found “in re-utilization” even in contexts from the 5th – 6th centuries. The period of the 4th – 3rd centuries seems to be characterized, from the perspective of the activity of the local coinage, as one of regular striking, manifested also through a significant abundance of the monetary types in silver and bronze, accompanied by an economic and commercial expansion, chiefly in the native environment within Dobruja and north of the Danube. Towards the end of the mints' activity, one can notice a marked decline of the style of rendering, tendencies of “barbarizing”, sometimes perhaps even negligence in the iconographic depiction, as well as an ample reduction of the numbers of items for each monetary type separately.
Many aspects of the monetary symbolist art in Histria are connected with the cult of Apollon, either Iatros, or the Dolphin. The monetary artists in Histria, with the exception of a few elements present also in the Greek world have demonstrated their originality in their manner of rendering some mythological elements, as they were loaded with a deep, authentic symbolism. Each monetary series emphasized the personality in the craft of the engravers, acquiring official and sacred features, a fact seen also at Olbia. Also, we have identified slight stylistic modifications almost in every monetary type made of bronze, confirming the fact that there were several stages of creation, quasi-multiple obverse and reverse dies and, implicitly, a continuous interest of issuing them as a divisionary coin, depending on the local and extra-local economic-commercial and financial realities.
Aside from the already mentioned deity, we can also enumerate Istros, Demeter, Dionysus, Helios, Apollon on the omphalos, Athena, Apollon (god head on the obverse, right faced, laurel branches wreath; on the reverse the eagle with dolphin (emblem of the city), in some cases with laurel branches, in other cases with wheat ear in vertical position; a later variant has on the obverse a thyrsus behind the head), Istros (the Danube river personification on the obverse of the coin – a face with a beard and horns – the river deity, and on the reverse of the coin an aquila on the dolphin), Demeter (the goddess head covered by a veil, oriented to the right, on the obverse, an aquila on the dolphin), Dionysos (on the obverse, the god's head with a crown of ivy, oriented to the right, and on the reverse either a bunch of grapes or two bunches of grapes linked on a stalk, either only an ivy crown inside a caduceus can also be noticed. Helios, on the obverse, the deity head seen from the front with a crown of radiary rays-the god Sun, identified in time with Apollon, and on the reverse of the coin the aquila on the dolphin, Hermes (on the ovverse appears the god head covered by petasos and on the reverse of the coin the aquila on the dolphin, either kerykeion, either only a crown, Apollon on the omphalos (on the observe of the coin the god staying on the omphalos, holding an arrow in the right hand and resting his left hand a bow, or in a single case on a lyra), Athens (on the obverse there is the goddess face bearing a helmet, on the reverse appears the aquila on the dolphin), etc.
On the coinage of Callatis we find the images of Heracles – it is one of the most common presences in the Greek world – (on the silver issues, his young face oriented to the right, covered on the upper part by the Nemea lion skin, according to an „image” famous in the mythology , on the reverse of the coin there is a series of accompanying symbols, known as attributes of these deities, like a bag with arrows and the club, to which we add a wheat ear symbolizing one of the most important occupations, meaning cereal cultivation and the development of an intense trade with these goods in a great demand in the whole Hellenistic world. In the case of the bronze issues, the mentioned deity appears on the observe of the coin seen from the profile with or without a beard, but this time with a crown of laurels and sometimes holding a club on his shoulder, while on the reverse there are either implements such as the bag with a bow and the club, and again the wheat ear), then Apollon (on the obverse of the Callatian coins his head, seen from the profile to the right was covered by a laurel crown, the reverse of the coin presenting a tripod, one of the classical attributes of the deity, in this case placed between two laurel branches, with a wheat ear in the right field); Dionysus appears on two different series according to the obverse type; (on one of them there is a panther jumping to the right, with a thyrsos in the left field, while on the second type there is an ivy crown, accompanied by a thyrsos in the left field); Demeter (is represented on the observe of the Callatian coins wearing a veil, profile oriented to the right, accompanied by a ear crown, and on the reverse there is a wheat ear smaller or larger in diameter, in a circular pattern, or sometimes only ears vertically set to the right or only an ear oriented to the right); Hermes (on the observe of the coins there is represented the head of the deity, very young, this young face would include the second category of representations in the Greek world-oriented to the right, covered by a petasos, and on the observe either the caduceus of Hermes, or a kerykeion and a club), Artemis (head of the deity on the obverse, and on the reverse, sometimes a quiver with arrows, or some other times only the bag oriented to the right), Athens (on the observe the head of the deity to the right, wearing a Corinthian helmet, and the reverse displays either a club or a wheat ear and a shield, or a laurel crown, accompanied sometimes by a kerykeion) etc.
For the coinage of Tomis, we mention Apollon (on the obverse there is the head of Apollon wearing a crown of laurels included in a perle circle-with long hair to the back of the head and curled hair and on the reverse the image of a tripod, the small pieces, similar as monetary type, seem to have on the observe, upon the tripod one globula; very rare among finds is another series of Apollon type – larger pieces – representing on the obverse the head of Apollon to the right, with long hair to the back of the head and curled hair and on the reverse an aquila, sitting to the right with stretched wings, inside of an oak crown), the Great God (the head of the Great God – on the observe, in profile, oriented to the right, with pearl circle, bearing a beard (including mustache), long hair, and on the reverse of the coin an aquila, sitting, oriented to the right, rarely to the left, with screeched wings, represented inside of an oak crown linked in the lower part with a bow), Zeus (very rich number of series, on the observe with the head of the Zeus, in profile, oriented to the right, with bearing a beard, and on the reverse with two protom horses and two stars (with six or eigth rays), sometime with ear, sometime bell between two stars with eigth rays), the Dioscuri (joint heads on the observe, with frigian caps, and on the reverse of the coin appearing two horses oriented to the right), Demeter (the head covered by a veil, oriented to the right, on the reverse, ear and two stars with six or eigth rays), Hermes (on the observe, the head of the deity, very young, covered or not by petasos to the right, and on the reverse either the caduceus of Hermes, or a kerykeion between two caps), and Athena (on the observe the head of the deity to the right, wearing a Corinthian helmet , and the reverse shows an owl sitting right, with screeched wings), etc.
Every deity that appears on coins is accompanied by the majority of their attributes. We must draw the attention on a number of outstanding representations from the point of view of artistic quality, with various anatomic details of the face. This would only be a simple clue to the rich religious life manifested in Histria, but also in the other two colonies in Dobruja, as we shall see.
The great quality of the images from the period of the 4th – 3rd centuries is not surprising, given what Hellenism represented in many other artistic fields. During the classical period, we witness the generalization of the appearance of the head of a divinity on the obverse and on the reverse the accompanying attributes. Every deity that appears on coins is accompanied by the majority of their attributes. Usually, all the types existing for every issuing centre is defined by a local deity. At the same time, we must not neglect the possibility that many representations of the monetary iconography were inspired from the art of the local temples, from the sculpting of statues etc., although the artistic inspiration could very well be due to the universal Greek art, characteristic to every Hellenic community and to all of them, at the same time. We could maybe infer, in this respect, an influence of some workshops from southern Italy, at least theoretically, the same way that an artistic influence of Athens can be identified in the iconography of the same workshops from the south of the Italic peninsula.
The choice of a certain monetary standard, in accordance with a system adopted by each city represented a necessity and the initiative of its modification in the course of time depended on the realities of the area or of the period and the necessity of quantity and quality control for the coins that were under surveillance. In what concerns our area as well as others from the Greek world it can be noticed that various weight systems can be used either simultaneously, or in a chronological succession. The study of the succession and identification of the weight systems in the course of time is a difficult process, more so as the weight of the surviving specimens is affected by a multitude of factors (including the “al marco” system, which was present in the west of the Euxine Sea), which can direct us fairly easily towards wrong appraisals. In this respect, a larger or smaller difference in weight from one coin to another does not necessarily require the minute search of a correspondence in another monetary system. We must also stress the fact that, for the silver coins from Histria from the autonomous period, the weight margin for large denominations oscillates, during 300-350 years of emissions, up to 5 g! Also, a direct ratio was identified between the artistic style of depiction and the weight of the coin in general.
The metrological research concerning the Greek cities from the left side of the Euxine Sea is still far from being completed, given the succession of the monetary systems present in the three colonies, clearly different, along with the strong differences manifested within each monetary system, and they are not absolute phenomena. To this we could add other very complex problems on which we do not want to dwell any longer. However, the current information is far from being satisfying, even if we only take into account the deterioration created through circulation, the various deteriorations expressed in accidental losses, either mechanic (including the process of countermarking), or pertaining to the weather conditions and, why not, to moneyers' negligence. It was noticed by analyzing different Greek monetary series that there can be pieces belonging to the same monetary type with dispersed weights, and the differences are significant. The extremes would signify fractions or multiples for a value that is characteristic to the market to which it was meant and for which it was utilized. Caution is required when offering certain values to the bronze pieces issued by the west-Pontic cities from Dobruja, as it happens rather frequently in the case of numerous other bronze coins of the various cities of the Greek world. Either submultiples or inferior units of the monetary system, they have been made so as to ease internal transactions and only rarely and then just accidentally (for the 5th century B.C.) the external ones.
The chronology that was established for the emissions of the west-Pontic cities cannot be concluded now, because it is not easy to ascertain, since there are several points of view, and the chronological reference points are limited to data provided by finds, especially the ones coming from hoards. Nevertheless, the record of the data and their systematizing can offer pertinent clues which, naturally, cannot transform into definitive certitude. However, we must outline the chronological intervals that we have taken into account, including the ones from our point of view. For starters, we notice the fact that the evolution of the process of colonization in the Greek Occident allowed for the issuing of coins starting with the first half of the 6th century B.C. and the acquiring of exceptional features in the course and towards the end of this century.
All three cities have known, within their monetary workshops, the use of countermarks. While Histria has a more reduced contribution in this respect, Callatis and Tomis possess a wide variety of countermarks. In the case of the earliest colony and also the main monetary workshop, Histria, countermarking was used on the bronze coins but much less than we would have expected. The ones that exist have been applied mostly on coins of large flan, of the types Apollon, Demeter and Apollon on omphalos, but also on the small ones, of the type Istros. To these, we add the presence of the countermarks “from Histria”, on emissions from other issuing centres. Callatis, in its turn, has got countermarks applied on autonomous bronze issues, considered to be some of the most beautiful of the entire Greek coinage, through its remarkable artistic quality on its own monetary types, Demeter, Dionysus, Heracles and Apollon, but also on issues from other centres. Tomis fits into the category of the most prolific Greek cities from the Pontic basin, in what concerns the countermarking process. Tomis’ issuing of a representative number of coins of large dimensions allowed for their countermarked utilization, frequently during the 2nd – 1st centuries B.C. In terms of monetary types subject to the process of countermarking, we can mention the types Apollon, the Great God, the Dioscuri, Demeter and Zeus. The heads of numerous divinities from the Greek pantheon are represented in an overwhelming proportion, in profile to the right, adapted to the circular shape of the coin, and the detail is handled, especially in its first part, with great care (the same deities also appear on coins issued by the three west-Pontic colonies from Dobruja during the autonomous period and not only), and to them we can add a lyre, or the emblem of the city of Histria.
These divinities are Apollon, Helios, Demeter, Hermes, Athena, Artemis, etc. For each and every workshop, the most common countermarks are the following: at Histria, the ones with Helios, Hermes and Demeter; at Callatis, the ones with Hermes, Artemis, Demeter and Athena; at Tomis, the ones with Hermes, Athena, Apollon, Demeter and the four-spiked wheel. As a general rule we can notice the tendency of countermarking the pieces of large flan, the destruction of the reverse in some cases – a fact which is due, as a rule, to the technical procedure, etc. It is possible to identify two periods of countermarking, for which the exact chronological limits are difficult to trace. We notice a first category of countermarks with a large diameter, almost as large as the entire flan and a second one, with countermarks of average and small size, sometimes overlapping.
In general, the types of countermarks of the three workshops are limited, as their applying. We must also point out the possibility of countermarking some pieces (outside the local coinage), only to be accepted on the internal market. Nonetheless, the use of this procedure, probably during the 2nd - 1st centuries B.C., reveals the fact that the cities were no longer capable to procure, locally or from imports, the metal resources needed for the striking of additional coins, necessary in the economic and commercial process. In this respect, it is difficult to say if we are talking of a general crisis in the Greek world or only of a local/ regional one. Countermarks appear singularly, sometimes in groups of two, three or even four, offering the possibility of formulating some hypotheses regarding the repetition of this procedure several times in a row, in our case, on the same coins, or on the same side. Also, it has been suggested for a long time, at the hypothetical level, that some successive financial reforms might have existed in the case of this workshop. However, the same countermark on the same type of coin has not been placed on the same spot, and this varied rather often. Also, the same type of countermark can have variable dimensions. The differences in diameter of the same type of countermark could also suggest different dating.
We are certain of the fact that a type of countermark can be imprinted several times, from a chronological point of view, within the same city. It is likely that such differences are not significant, but they can stretch on a decade even. We also do not believe in the correlation between a certain monetary magistrate present on a coin and a certain countermark. The eventual situations can be unquestionably considered exceptions and anomalies in the general process of countermarking on the coinage of the three colonies under discussion. Perhaps we should talk, in general, even of a monotony of the types, depending on the characteristic and the origin of each city, although there are details of rendering, especially iconographic ones, which have variations and significant differentiations, probably also owing to slight occasional modifications. The portraits on the countermarks have been made by engravers or skilled artists who, alas, will remain forever unknown. At the same time, we must state that the iconographic and, implicitly, the die differences, sometimes just pertaining to detail, present from one countermark of the same type to another, makes us think of the partitioning of the issuer’s origin. Naturally, where a certain monetary type is issued by one city only, the countermarks with the face of the same deity surely belong, first and foremost, to the respective monetary centre. It is also true that certain countermarks, as a type, belong to several centres, since they appear on coins of a different issuer. In other words, we would attribute some countermarks on the basis of monetary tradition, but we believe it is still too little in order to obtain certainties, lacking further evidence. From our point of view, this problem continues to be subject to investigation, depending also on the enriching of the current body of evidence. We must also identify on the coins issued by the three west-Pontic colonies from Dobruja the presence of some countermarks which belonged to other centres.
Towards the end of the 1st millennium B.C., the three west-Pontic cities, in a special political context typical for the period, have issued posthumous coins of the pseudo-Alexander and pseudo-Lysimachus type, made of silver and gold, until the 1st century B.C. Some of the reasons for their issuing have been the aid given to the military efforts of Mithridates VI Eupator, and also the payment made by the Greek colonies to some political chieftains who belonged to the indigenous population, usually north of the Danube.
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