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My ugliest major acquisition ever


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Recently, I had the good fortune to win this coin at auction. It was labeled as "Kings of Thrace. Uncertain king. 400-300 BCE", but I knew what it was. Unfortunately, someone else did too - but I still managed to obtain it.


Kings of Thrace. Seuthes I or II
Bizye, Thrace
405-387 BCE
Æ 12 mm, 1,13 g
Obv: Horse prancing right; crescent above.
Rev: ΣΕ/Β/Ι around cotyle; all within square incuse.
Peter ---; Topalov (2005) p.13 No 10; Youroukova ---


This coin is covered in Topalov's Urban Bronze Coins of Small Denomination from Odrysian Kings 5th-4th centuries B.C. (now that's a specific title!). In it, Topalov provides two interesting theories in general that make sense IMHO:

  1. There were two separate Odrysian lineages after Teres I. The descendants of Sparadokos depicted a two-handed cup, also called a cotyle on their coins, while those descended from Saratokos used a double axe, also called a labrys.
  2. The strange little bronze coins with a few letters and a cotyle were minted in the name of cities, not necessarily rulers.

In the first case, Topalov included a nice chart to illustrate.



Here's an example from Amatokos II to illustrate.


Amatokos II
King of Thrace 359-351 BCE
AE 14.55g
Topalov 2003, 105 (S. 244) Kratzer auf Rv.
Ex Ex Münzen & Medaillen GmbH


And here's a poorly photographed example of Hebryzelmis, on the other side.


Kings of Thrace. Hebryzelmis
389-383 BCE
Æ Tetrachalkon 18 mm, 5,74 g
Obv: Turreted head of Kybele to right. PH Monogram in rectangular incuse on neck
Rev. EB / PY Two-handled cup; below, grain ear right. Gorgoneion countermark in circular incuse on bowl.
Topalov 86


So, getting back to my recent acquisition, this was a challenge for Topalov and, admittedly, his attribution isn't solid, but IMHO makes a lot of sense. Below are two examples that Topalov narrowed to Adiras and Bisanthe.



Kings of Thrace. Odrysian
Bisanthe, Thrace
405-340 BCE
Æ 9 mm, 1,15 g
obj: head of Apollo or Dionysos
rev: conical vessel with two handles ΒΙ(off flan)/Σ/Α/Ν
Topalov 2015 p. 7, 2.1 var



Kings of Thrace. Odrysian
Adiras, Thrace
405-340 BCE
Æ 10 mm, 1,68 g
obv: front part of a female head l
rev: ΑΔ horizontally on top. Conical vessel with two handles under initials
Topalov 2005 p13 9.1

Interestingly, many dealers now attribute the Adiras coin as Adiras - with the primary debate being the spelling. The Bisanthe coin is rarer and is believed to be the first issue from there. It later issued very different coins around the time of Lysimachos.


Thrace. Bisanthe
circa 300-200 BCE
Æ 10 mm, 1,28 g
Veiled head of Demeter to right, wreathed with grain /
BI within grain wreath; ΣAN below
Schönert-Geiss 38-41; HGC 3.2, 1367


In the case of my coin, there is no city that works for ΣΕ/Β/Ι, but based on the placement of the letters, Topalov believes that both a ruler and a city are referenced.

The ruler that makes most sense would be Seuthes, while Topalov assigns Vizye/Bizya as the likely city. He does this based on the prancing horse, which was a regal symbol. Also, since there are other types more obvious for Bisanthe - the other major possiblity - it would be less likely for there to be yet another type - especially with a regal symbol. The find spot Topalov mentions is also much closer to Bizye than to Bisanthe. Topalov also mentions that obverse's similarity to the bronzes of nearby Maroneia.


THRACE. Maroneia
Circa 398-346 BCE
Æ 16mm, 3.92 gm, 6h
Obv: Horse prancing right; below, monogram.
Rev: ΜΑΡ - ΩΝΙ - ΤΩΝ. Legend around grape arbor within linear square border; below, monogram.
Evelpidis 962-3; SNG Copenhagen 632; Schönert-Geiss, Maroneia 721-923; BMC__

Bizye was an important city for the Odrysians, and would later serve as the capital for the Asti tribe in the 1st century BCE. The city was noted in ancient times as a place where no swallows go (obligatory photo I took of swallows).



A long, long time ago, in a city far-far away (unless you lived in Attica), there was a king of Athens with two daughters - Philomela and Prokne. One day, a guy named Tereus stopped by from Thrace and married Prokne. All went well for a period of time, but Tereus couldn't help thinking of his wife's sister. So, he hopped on a ship and headed back down to Athens.

This time, he asked for Philomela's hand and stated that Prokne had died. Evidently this wasn't the smartest king of Athens, because he agreed to hand his other daughter over, but with some guards to ensure what Tereus said was true. When Tereus dumped the guards overboard on the way back to Thrace, Philomela escaped and went to the top of a mountain because she'd watched too many horror movies where the victims go somewhere that ensures they're captured.

Tereus cut her tongue out and had his way with her, then decided against marrying Philomela and handed her off to King Lynkeios. Philomela, for her part, was justified in being pissed, so she wove the whole story into a carpet and had it sent to Prokne, through a mutual friend.

When Prokne received word of what Tereus did to her sister, they plotted to bring him down. Meanwhile, a soothsayer let loose that something bad was in store for Tereus' son at the hands of a relative, so Tereus figured that must be his brother and put him to death. Prokne then killed his son (I guess the maternal instinct wasn't strong in her) and then cooked and fed him to Tereus.

When Tereus learned what had happened, he pursued both sisters who ran both because they knew what he'd do to them and because he smelled like puke. Luckily for them, the gods changed them into swallows and they escaped. Therefore, no swallows would visit Bizye. I haven't had the chance to visit the place to see if it's still the case.

The main question I've had about the coin is who exactly minted it? Seuthes could refer to either Seuthes I or Seuthes II. Seuthes III, who tangled with Lysimachos, came much later.


Seuthes III
AE 19 mm, 6.04 g


For Topalov, there was no real debate. He doesn't believe Seuthes II was much of a player and so assigns the coin to Seuthes I. However, some of his coins that he's assigned to Seuthes I have since been attributed to Seuthes II, such as this one. I haven't been able to find a copy of Peykov to verify, but per Leu's description for this coin:

Clearly their style and fabric are very similar to the thick bronzes of Metokos (HGC 3, 1689-1691) and Kotys I (HGC 3, 1698), which does point to a contemporary production, and thereby an attribution to Seuthes II, who was a rival of Metokos.

For reference, here is a coin of mine from Metokos.


Kings of Odrysian Thrace, Metokos
Circa 407-386 BCE
AR Diobol 1.07g, 11mm, 4h
Bare head to right
MHTOKO, labrys; all within shallow circular incuse.
Peykov B0180; Topalov I 3; HGC 3.2, 1685 (trihemiobol). 


The other question with assigning my coin to Seuthes II is "did he control Bizye?". I couldn't find any conclusive evidence. Seuthes II, of course, is a major player in Xenophon's Anabasis. The 10,000 joined with Seuthes with the promise of rich pay in order to help him retake part of Thrace. They were successful in the endeavour, though Seuthes didn't pay the full amount. However, they never reached up to Bizye. At the end, Seuthes reasoned that he could conquer the rest of the territory without them.

So, that would put a damper on the Seuthes II idea, but Seuthes I ruled from roughly 425-405 BCE while Seuthes II was active from 405-387 BCE. It is not known whether Seuthes II was a son of Seuthes I, though it's thought more likely that Seuthes I was his uncle. The end of the 5th century seems a bit early for a bronze coin like this and even Topalov mentions it as likely a 4th century coin.

My understanding is that Seuthes I had a firm control over his territory, while Xenophon clearly displays that Seuthes II did not. Perhaps that could be the reason Bizye didn't mint coins only in Seuthes' name, but also included their city? 

Based on the evidence, I personally believe the coin was minted at the beginning of the 4th century, and that this coin therefore refers to Seuthes II. In truth, though, either Seuthes I or Seuthes II would be a major pickup.

In terms of the coin's rarity, Topalov mentions one known example at the time. A second was sold by Münz Zentrum Rheinland and mine is AFAICT the third. I'm sure tomorrow a hoard of a thousand will enter the market.

It's a rare coin that I can check off on multiple collections, but here I gained a city - Bizye - which minted common coinage during Roman times but this is the only BCE example, and a major player in Xenophon's Anabasis (or possibly his father/uncle). Therefore, I'm thrilled to add it to my collection.

Feel free to show your coins of Thrace or the ugly acquisitions you love!

Edited by kirispupis
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Great write up on an area that is not often looked at!

Most of my coins from Thrace are either Lysimachus or provincial... but here are a couple that are square in the middle of your time area of expertise:


THRACE. Chersonesos
Ae (Circa 386-309 BC). Kardia or Agora. Obv: Head of lion left. Rev: XEP / PO. Grain ear; uncertain symbols (piloi) around. SNG Copenhagen 844-5 var. (no symbol on rev.); HGC 3.2, 1439. Condition: Weight: 2.14 g. Diameter: 13 mm. very fine Ex: Savoca

And a coin everyone has at least one of:


THRACE, Chersonesos.
 Circa 386-338 BC. AR Hemidrachm (11mm, 2.26 g). Forepart of lion right, head reverted / Quadripartite incuse square with alternating raised and sunken quarters; pellet over AΓ monogram and cicada in opposite sunken quarters. McClean 4096 (described as fly); SNG Copenhagen –; SNG Berry 503. 

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3 hours ago, Ryro said:

Great write up on an area that is not often looked at!

Most of my coins from Thrace are either Lysimachus or provincial... but here are a couple that are square in the middle of your time area of expertise:Berry 503. 

That's a nice Chersonesos with grain! I have the second type, of course, but I haven't photographed it.

I've been picking up Odrysian coins for some time now. I usually wait for the rarer types, so there's many more common ones I don't have, since I'll only pick those up for a nice price.

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Excellent write up on something I don't know anything about. Thanks for that

The obligatory Augustus and Rhoemetalkes Bronze from Thracia :


Augustus and Rhoemetalkes, Bronze - Semi autonomous coinage of Thracia, ca. 11 BCE-12 CE
ΚΑΙΣΑΡΟΣ ΣΕΒΑΣΤΟΥ, Head of Augustus right
ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΡΟΙΜΗΤΑΛΚΟΥ, Jugate heads of Rhoemetalkes and his wife Pythodoris right
9.82 gr
Ref : RPC vol I #1711, Sear #5396


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This  obverse is possibly  my worst.

It probably goes without saying  just from  looking at the coin  but this is a Paphos Cyprus coin of Onasioikos, circa 450-440 BC. A silver stater of some  beauty, it showcases a syllabic inscription along with a bull standing to left AND a solar disc above and - as any casual  observer can tell - an  ankh to the left.



(It actually has a lovely reverse...)

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