SILVER COIN-MINTING IN APPOLONIA DURING THE 5th – 4th CENTURY BC

By Ivan Karayotov

Apollonia starts minting its own coins in the first half of the 5th century BC. Even then its mint already emits hemiobols (Fig. 1) with an upright anchor on their heads and swastika on the tails. Pretty soon the polis resorts to minting of drachmas as well.

Fig. 1 Fig. 2

Especially interesting are the early drachmas. They belong to the type known as “upright anchor – swastika in engraved square”. On some rare examples dolphins are engraved between wings of swastika (Fig. 2). On another one, there are primitive images of river crayfish on the coin’s tail (Fig. 3). In Martin Price’s oppinion, these emissions are minted in accordance with the Rhodes weighing system. The drachma from The British Museum weighs 3.74 g. (SNG, 9, 1, 148). Mr. Price dates it to the “late 5-th century BC”, but I consider it to be from the beginning of this same century, because of the lack of letter designations. The presence of dolphins on early Apollonian drachmas naturally can be related to the cult of the God – eponym of the city. During the third quarter of 5th century Apollonia begins to mint drachmas with anchors on the heads and Medusa Gorgon on the tails (Fig. 4). The main Apollonian symbol – the anchor, continues to mark these new silver emissions, but along with it the apotropaic Medusa Gorgon appears. Most likely, this sudden complication is due to political shuffles, and most of all to the increasing Athenian influence over Apollonia.


Fig. 3 Fig. 4

The upright anchor appears as head/face type from the very beginning of the Apollonian silver coin-minting and even among the bronze coin-arrows, which belong to the first half of the 5th century BC (Fig. 6). Towards the end of the 5th century BC Messambria and Apllonia begin to emit diobols in large numbers. In the 4th century BC diobols become the most common nominal in both Western Pontic colonies.


Fig. 6

The largest of all is the treasure from Vratarite village, Dobrich region (1985). It consists only of diobols from Messambria and Apollonia. The total amount is 132 diobols, shred equally – 66 from each colony.

In the 4th century BC Apollonia mints tetradrachms which belong to “Apollo’s head crown of laurels to the left, or to the right – upright anchor with “A” and crayfish on both sides”. The Apollonian diobols and tetradrachms mark the zenith of Messambrian coin-minting. During the next centuries it mints only bronze coins and the size of its emissions becomes smaller and smaller.

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