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Dacian, Dahae, Getae, and other coins from around the Black Sea and Asia


The Story of the Dacian Koson

Scythia. Geto-Dacian Dynasts - Koson  

The conventional view that these coins were struck by a Thracian dynast named Koson striking on behalf of Brutus was first proposed by Theodor Mommsen. Mommsen based his theory on Appian' s statement (B Civ. IV.10.75) that Brutus struck coins from the gold and silver provided to him by the wife of a Thracian dynast. The coins' similarity to known Roman types of the period, in particular the issue Brutus struck as a moneyer in 54 BC (Crawford 433/1), and Mommsen's (and others) misreading of the obverse monogram seemed to support this conclusion. Max Bahrfeldt ("Über die KOΣΩN-Münzen," Berliner Münzblätter 1912), however, cogently challenged this interpretation, arguing instead a connection to Coson-Cotiso(n), a Getic king with whom Octavian had apparently been arranging an alliance-by-marriage (Suetonius, Aug. 63.2; cf. Horace, Carm. II.18.8; Flor. II.28.18). Nonetheless, Mommsen's academic reputation and the appeal of associating these coins with Caesar's assassin favored the earlier interpretation. Thus, this attribution has largely been unchallenged (but see M. Crawford, CMRR, p. 238: "A remarkable issue of gold staters, imitated from the denarii of M. Brutus.... Showy and useless, it was probably produced in the area of modern Transylvania in the second half of the first century.").

Re-examining the evidence, Octavian Iliescu has argued in support of Bahrfeldt's interpretation based on the following reasons: first, hoards as well as individual specimens of these coins can be traced for the most part to Transylvania (northern Romania), rather than Thrace (southern Bulgaria); second, the average weight of known specimens conforms not to the aureus-standard of 8.10 gm established by Julius Caesar in 46 BC, and at which Brutus struck coins for his troops, but to that of the staters struck on behalf of Mithradates VI during the First Mithradatic War; third, the coin types do not directly copy the corresponding types of Brutus' denarius, but combine the type's reverse with the reverse of a denarius of Q. Pomponius Rufus struck three decades earlier. The discovery of many coins in a number of archaeological excavations that include different Roman types from various periods further undercuts the specific historical connection to the use of the Brutus-type. Moreover, the monogram that has been read to achieve L BR, BR, or, in the case of Barclay Head, OΛB, and thus associate the coinage with Brutus or Olbia, may also be read as a BA monogram for BAΣIΛEΩΣ. Such a BA monogram is known to have been used for the Thracian king Rhoemetalces I.

Rendered as Cotiso(n) in the literary sources, this name can be reconciled with Coson as a transcribal error on the part of the textual copyist, making Coson-Cotiso(n) one and the same: a local Geto-Dacian king for whom these staters, and perhaps associated silver coins, are the only known coinage. It is this king Cotiso(n) to whom Octavian had sought to arrange an alliance-by-marriage (Suetonius, op. cit.), with his daughter Julia marrying Koson's son, and himself, Koson's daughter. This negotiation angered Mark Antony, to whose son Julia had originally been promised, and exacerbated the rift between Octavian and himself. The local usage of Roman coin types in the region during the last century BC demonstates the economic ties between Dacia and Rome, but the struggle between Antony and Octavian revealed the region's strategic and diplomatic significance, by increasing the local king's power and prestige and affording him the opportunity to strike his own coins.

SCYTHIA, Geto-Dacians. Koson. Mid 1st century BC. AV Stater (8.48 gm). Roman consul accompanied by two lictors; BA monogram to left / Eagle standing left on sceptre, holding wreath. O. Iliescu, "Sur les monnaies d'or à la légende ΚΟΣΩΝ," QT 1990, 1; RPC I 1701; BMC Thrace p. 208, 2; BMCRR II p. 474, 48. 

About the coin

The coin is common, being considered a golden stater, commonly called Koson in Romania.

The obverse of the coin is very resemblant to the reverse of the silver denarius struck by M. Iunius Brutus in 54 BC (on its obverse being Libertas - divine abstraction of freedom). Consul L. I. Brutus is displayed on the reverse of the forementioned denarius, framed by two lictors and preceded by an aaccensus (magistrate attendant).

The reverse is very similar to that of the denarius of Pomponius Rufus (struck in 73 BC).

The two forementioned pieces can be seen on Wildwinds, the denarius of Brutus on Browsing Roman Republic Coins of the family Junia page, and the denarius of Q. Pomponius Rufus on Ref Pomponia 23 denarius page.

About the origin of Kosons

Monograph Monede şi bancnote româneşti (1977) presents two hypotheses on the mysterious Koson origin.

The first hypothesis (Mommsen) - most largely spread on the net - considers the Kosons as gold monetized by Marcus Iunius Brutus and destined for the payment of Dacian mercenaries hired in his army. The coin displays the name of the Dacian king Cotiso - Koson, that allowed his subjects to serve for money inside the Roman army. Brutus, convinced that Julius Caesar restrained liberty, led the conspiracy of March's ides (15th) in 44 BC. Once the second triumvirate was drawn up (Marcus Antonius, Lepidus and future emperor Octavianus), the persecution of republicans started as well as the persecution of Caesar's murderers. Aftermath of the Philippi battle (today Krenides, in Greece), the republican side was defeated and M. Iunius Brutus commited suicide. Brutus became for Romans a symbol of liberty and example of civil virtues. If this second hypothesis is right, then the Kosons were struck around 44 - 42 BC (between March's ides 44 and the Philippi battle in 42). This opinion appears at Nicolae Iorga (History of Romanians, Rome's Seal), citing Th. Mommsen and Vasile Pârvan.

It must be said that Odrisi Thracians (that have lived in the middle of the nowadays Bulgaria) had several kings named Kotys. Sadala II, Odrisian king, died in 44 BC leaving his country as heritage to the Roman Republic. A hypothesis was emitted that his treasury was used to strike the Koson gold coins.

The second hypothesis is more direct, assuming the coins were struck in Dacia, by king Cotiso himself, the name of which passed to the coins in one of its versions. At the '70s level of knowledge, monograph Monede şi bancnote româneşti alone mentioned the following places of Koson discoveries: Grădiştea Muncelului, Sarmizegetusa, Guşteriţa - Haţeg, Orăştie, Vîrtoape, all former in the county of Huneodara, Axente Sever and Nochrich in the county of Sibiu, the municipium of Craiova, Brezoi on the Olt Valley, Cozma in the county of Mureş, the municipium of Timişoara and Vizejdia in the county of Timiş, and Vîrşeţ in the Serbian part of Banat.

We join our opinion to the second hypothesis. An inferior technical level of these mint products (mostly discovered in Dacia) points to the native Dacian mintage, a mintage that in the vast majority of cases was satisfied to imitate coins of large circulation of other emitters (to a certain degree in a rather rudimentary manner, its products easily distinguishing themselves from the originals struck by Philip II, Alexander Macedon and Philip III Arrhidaeus). As seen in a confrontation with the originals, the Koson does not only imitate, it also simplifies its Roman patterns.

Moreover, Roman mintage was always characterised by diversity and originality, new events bringing up new designs best fitted to spread knowledge on a particular emitter and his achievements.

It is possible that king Koson be one of the conspirators against king Burebista that overthroned the later and shared his vast kingdom.

After 1990 the press gave vent to many legends about Kosons, stolen from Dacian fortresses, from Sarmizegetusa especially. The press wrote even about bronze and silver Kosons, in fact simple Roman coins.

gold stater from the Dacian king Koson - obversegold stater from the Dacian king Koson - reverse

The gold coin pictures above are present on Romanian coins through the kind permission of Mr. Clark Smith, numismatist and renowned specialist in world gold coins.

About the koson replica struck in 2005 by NBR

The National Bank of Romania issued in 2005 a replica of the koson, in a mintage of only 250 (two hundred and fifty) pieces, bearing as distinctive sign an R inside the wreath held by the angle in its claws. The replica has 20 millimeters in diameter, 8.5 grams and the title of 99.9% gold. Given the small mintage, the replica is far scarcer than the original. Some essays of this replica are shown below, in silver, gilt tombac and aluminum, all present on the site by courtesy of Mr Florin L..

The replica of koson gold coin belongs to the History of coin series. To the same series belong two other replicas, one of 20 lei 1868 gold coin and one of a gold coin-medal issued by Constantin Brâncoveanu in 1713.

silver essay of the koson replica struck in 2005 by National Bank of Romania
gilded tombac essay of the koson replica struck in 2005 by NBR
aluminum essay of the koson replica struck in 2005 by NBR
Dacian silver drachma

23 mm diameter, 8.645 grams, silver head of Zeus horse and





The coin was struck somewhen at the end of the second century - first century before Christ. It is a representive type, called Adîncata (its description complying the coins in the Adîncata hoard). Coins of this type were found especially in the western part of Muntenia and eastern part of Oltenia.

These coins imitate the tetradrachmae of Philip II of Macedonia, that bore on one side the face of Zeus, wearing beard and wreath of laurel, and on the other a horseman and Greek legend FILIPPOU. Philip II reigned between 359 and 336 B.C., being the father of Alexander III the Great (Alexander Macedon).

Although only lacunarly matching the Macenonian original, still, the Dacian simplification shows a special creativity and a certain conception of the abstract spectacular in its nature.

Macedonian coins have been used on large scale in Illyria, Dacia, Thrace, as well as inside Asia Minor, being imitated not only by the Dacians, other peoples using the pattern as well. Due to the technical striking process, many of the Dacian drachmae have convexo-concave shape, the shape being called scyphused (after Greek skyphos, meaning cup).

The legend is entirely missing on the Dacian coin, the designed being reproduced by largely using straight lines and globules. Romanian historian Nicolae Iorga (History of Romanians, Ancestors before the Romans), wrote about the Dacian imitations of the Macedonian tetradrachmae: "...clumsy local technicians were giving scorched coins on which barely one can tell the countenance of Zeus and the horse...".

The coin is considered to be a didrachma because of its lowered mass. The original of Philip II is much heavier, being a tetradrachma.

The originals of the Dacian imitated Macedonian pieces can be seen on Wildwinds, tetradrachmae of Philip II being found at Ancient Coinage of Macedonia, Kings, Philip II.

The Dacian silver drachma pictures above are present on Romanian coins through the kind permission of Mr. Adrian Popovici.


Inoteşti - Răcoasa Dacian coin

Inoteşti - Răcoasa Dacian coin
25-27 mm diameter, 6 grams, billon
head of Zeus
horse and horseman


The coin was struck between 2nd and 1st century BC. It is a representive type, called Inoteşti - Răcoasa. Coins of this type were found especially in the south of Moldavia.

These coins imitate the tetradrachmae of Philip II of Macedonia, that bore on one side the face of Zeus, wearing beard and wreath of laurel, and on the other a horseman and Greek legend FILIPPOU. Philip II reigned between 359 and 336 B.C., being the father of Alexander III the Great (Alexander Macedon).

Although only lacunarly matching the Macedonian original, still, the Dacian simplification shows a special creativity and a certain conception of the abstract spectacular in its nature.

Macedonian coins have been used on large scale in Illyria, Dacia, Thrace, as well as inside Asia Minor, being imitated not only by the Dacians, other peoples using the pattern as well.

Romanian historian Nicolae Iorga (History of Romanians, Ancestors before the Romans), wrote about the Dacian imitations of the Macedonian tetradrachmae: "...clumsy local technicians were giving scorched coins on which barely one can tell the countenance of Zeus and the horse...".

The originals of the Dacian imitated Macedonian pieces can be seen on Wildwinds, tetradrachmae of Philip II being found at Ancient Coinage of Macedonia, Kings, Philip II.


The Dacian silver drachma pictures above are present on Romanian coins through the kind permission of Mr. Adrian Popovici.


Răduleşti - Hunedoara Dacian silver drachma


Dacian silver drachma
26-28 mm diameter, 8.25 grams, silver
head of Zeus
horse and horseman


The coin was struck somewhen between the 3rd and the 2nd century BC. It is a representive type, called Răduleşti - Hunedoara. Coins of this type were found especially in the southwesterly part of Transylvania.

These coins imitate the tetradrachmae of Philip II of Macedonia, that bore on one side the face of Zeus, wearing beard and wreath of laurel, and on the other a horseman and Greek legend FILIPPOU. Philip II reigned between 359 and 336 B.C., being the father of Alexander III the Great (Alexander Macedon).

Although only lacunarly matching the Macedonian original, still, the Dacian simplification shows a special creativity and a certain conception of the abstract spectacular in its nature.

Macedonian coins have been used on large scale in Illyria, Dacia, Thrace, as well as inside Asia Minor, being imitated not only by the Dacians, other peoples using the pattern as well. Due to the technical striking process, many of the Dacian drachmae have convexo-concave shape, the shape being called scyphused (after Greek skyphos, meaning cup).

The legend is entirely missing on the Dacian coin, the designed being reproduced by largely using straight lines and globules. Romanian historian Nicolae Iorga (History of Romanians, Ancestors before the Romans), wrote about the Dacian imitations of the Macedonian tetradrachmae: "...clumsy local technicians were giving scorched coins on which barely one can tell the countenance of Zeus and the horse...".

The coin is considered to be a didrachma because of its lowered mass. The original of Philip II is much heavier, being a tetradrachma.

The originals of the Dacian imitated Macedonian pieces can be seen on Wildwinds, tetradrachmae of Philip II being found at Ancient Coinage of Macedonia, Kings, Philip II.


The Dacian silver drachma pictures above are present on Romanian coins through the kind permission of Mr. Adrian Popovici.


Tezaur de monede geto-dacice descoperit la Carlomanesti

 Mihai Gramatopol, MONEDELE ŞI TOREUTICA GETO-DACILOR, argument final


The great number of silver coins struck by the Geto-Dacians between approximately the middle of the IV-th century B. C. and the end of the first B. C. are to be considered not only as imitations of thasian or macedonian prototypes coming from the south of Danube, but as three series of which the first and the most ancient has an autochthonous iconography with a full succesion of degradation till the end of this coinage, the second and the most large is formed really by several kinds of imitations of macedonian Philipp's the second tetradrachms and the third is an influence series of celto-dacian coins found in the west of Dacia, that is the contact area with Celtic neighbours.
This huge amount of such good silver coins in Dacia is all the more strange by the fact that silver was scanty here and the mines were in the north, in the hands of enemy Celtic tribe of Boi. This work demonstrates cooptation of Dacia in the economy of the hellenistic aegean world as a result of the intensive change of salt (necessary for processing skins in helmets, shields, breastplates and so on) against silver coming from Thrace and Macedonia. The irrecusable proof of such a change results from the interdiction of the salt import in Macedonia, expressly stipulated in its peace treaty with Rome after Pydna.
The later decrease of silver percentage in dacian coins is the effect of the advance of the roman legions in the Balkans area which finally became part of the Roman Empire and the autonomous coinage (now pure bronze covered with silver) of Dacia ceased. It would be a big error to fancy that the geto-dacian coins (struck in a larger number than those about 20 000 pieces hidden as treasures) are the proof of an intensive monetary economy, unusual for a barbarian people of the East, but quite natural in Gallia, for exemple. From a forth century B. C. decree of Olbia we know that this greek city played the role of collecting and distributing such good silver coins towards those cities which lacked it as they lacked corn coming also from olbian area. In front of them was Athens whose silver of Laurion became insufficient to sustain its large and prestigious currency which was the dollar of greek antiquity.
Another new standpoint which is exposed in this booklet is that putting for the first time together for study with coins the toreutic treasuries of the V-th – IV-th centuries B.C. and those of II-nd I-st centuries. They have in common a part of their iconography as well as the artists who worked them, being at the same time gold and silversmiths or coin engravers. Gold and silver were of course in the hands of dacian lords and craftmen came to their courts like the well known masters from Athens to the scythian kings of South Russia whose master works we can now admire in the Hermitage.
The succesion of toreutics and coins is in our opinion the following: after the period of north danubian treasuries of toreutics (V-th – IV-th centuries B.C.) a large series of a threefold coinage takes place as a result of silver coming here for the salt exported from the real mountains existing at the surface of the soil in the hill area of extra and intracarpathian Dacia. When this has diminished by the just mentioned measures imposed to Macedonia by Rome and when the hellenistic trade suffered hard pains from the same new worldpower (see the revolt of Mithridate VI Eupator against Rome, who upraised many greek cities begining with Athens and ending with Histria) from the very large silver coins issued by Thasos and Macedonia Prima will be made vases and body or garmet jewelry.
When Dacia at its turn was conquered by the Romans, the enormous salt reserves were at their disposal and apart the normal absorbtion of roman denarii only some silver pieces of toreutics were discovered in the new danubian province.
This new understanding and chronology of the huge geto-dacian coin material puts on real historical and economical basis a phaenomenon for which even if till now was to be invented a cause (the richness of silver in Dacia) it remained impossible to find a purpose (exportation of salt and the coinage of silver for selling it on the olbian market).

 photos at: 


 History of Romanian coins

The history of coins in the area that is now Romania spans over a 2500-year period; coins were first introduced in significant numbers to this area by the Greeks, through their colonies on the Black Sea shore.

Ancient coins

Histria minted coins
The golden denarius minted by Coson.

The earliest documented currency in the Romanian territory was an 8-gram silver drachma, issued by the Greek polis (πολις, city) Histria (in the region that is now the Dobrogea) in the year 480 BC. It was followed by other coins issued by other Greek poleis in Dobrogea. In the 4th century BC, the coins of Macedonian kings Philip II and Alexander the Great were used in Dacia, but also indigenous coins including the celebrated gold kosoni (named so after the Dacian King depicted on most of the coins, Koson or Coson). In the 3rd century BC or 2nd century BC, Dacian minting increased in intensity. In parallel with the local coins in Dacia, coins from Macedonia Prima, Thasos, Apollonia and Dyrrachium also circulated. Similarly, Roman coins such as Republican and Imperial dinarii also circulated in the Dacian territory, even before the Roman occupation, much as they continued to circulate even after the Aurelian retreat, later replaced by Byzantine money.

For macro photos of the cosons, and copies please see;

the best website for coins with photos and descriptions at;;



Cel mai mare tezaur dacic monetar de aur descoperit până acum pe teritoriul României a fost prezentat în premieră, ieri, la Alba Iulia. Tezaurul conţine 144 de monede de tip koson, din aur, care cântăresc peste un kilogram. Monedele care datează din anul 42 înainte de Hristos vor fi evaluate la Bucureşti. Specialiştii spun că acestea nu aveau valoare comercială şi erau acordate drept recompensă soldaţilor din legiunile romane. Majoritatea sunt făcute din aur din Munţii Apuseni şi au o greutate cuprinsă între 8,20 şi 8,80 de grame. În tezaur se găsesc  şi 44 de monede considerate originale şi care au fost bătute în Imperiul Roman.


 Dacian and Celtic Imitations of Republican Denarii

Text at:

Reprinted from May, 2004 issue of The Celator, Vol. 18, No.4. Other than the addition of one bibliography item, and the correction of a few typos, the version presented here is unchanged from what appeared in the magazine. (I've also added Class E, Group Iaa, Plated Imitations in Roman Style--Hybrids, to the catalogue, but not to the article.) I've presented it that way with some reluctance, because there have been some careful comments made which I eventually hope to address. In particular, a very astute collector and student of Republican coins both imitative and official, gently but firmly described the "Anomalous" category as "ludicrous". Certainly it bears a certain resemblance to Einstein's Cosmological Constant, a more or less arbitrary factor introduced into a theory to make it work. My only defense is that the "Anomalous-Light" notion seems to yield meaningful results. It's "Heavy" cousin, alas, may be on its way to the dustbin of history.

Perhaps no series of ancient coins is as consistently misunderstood, vaguely described, or incorrectly attributed, as are the so-called "Celtic" imitations of Roman Republican denarii. Even the placement of these coins in sale catalogues is erratic;  sometimes they are found  in the Celtic section, sometimes alongside official Republican coins, sometimes as a subsection at the end of a run of official coins. They're variously ascribed to Gaul, Pannonia, Dacia, or the "Danube River basin". This confusion is frustrating, considering how interesting and attractive many imitations are. The wild array of horses with extra or missing legs, flying charioteers, alien Roma heads, and gods on a stick, often clearly identified with legends like IOIOIV, is like nothing else in ancient numismatics. They've appealed to me in a general way for some time, but I only recently began to systematically acquire and examine them. It turns out that much of what I thought I knew about these imitations is wrong. They don't originate in Gaul, although there is a well-known series of smaller Gallic coins, the so-called quinarii, which often also derive from Roma head and chariot or other Republican types. These however are generally signed by the Gallic tribe that struck them, and are a different category of coin altogether. The majority of denarius-sized imitations of Republican coins aren't even Celtic.

In fact these coins were struck further east, in Hungary and the Balkans, more often by Geto-Dacians than by Celts. There is a considerable literature about them in the "source" countries, but much of it is difficult to obtain, and generally written in languages that are not well understood in Western Europe or the US. Numismatists, mostly in the Balkans, who have studied imitations, have often focused on the coins found in their home countries. I'm not aware of an attempt in any language to distinguish the various sorts of imitations. Certainly, there is no such classification in English.  I've tried to address this in the system that follows. A true catalogue of these coins will probably never be feasible, as each die combination would require its own listing, but hopefully the following arrangement can at least provide a framework for looking at the diverse coins presently lumped into the catchall category "imitations."

CLASS A   Geto-Dacian
Group Ia    Monetary Copies.  Transfer dies from Republican denarii
Group Ib    Monetary Copies.  New dies, faithful copies
Group II     Monetary Imitations.  New dies, derivative, crude and/or fanciful copies
Group III    Hybrids. 

CLASS B   Pannonian
Group I      Uninscribed Series
Group II     Eraviscan
Group III   Other Pannonian

CLASS C   Other Balkan
Group I      Serbian
Group II     Bulgarian
Group III    Other

CLASS D   Anomalous
Group Ia     Light; debased silver, thin flan, and/or unusual fabric
Group Ib     Heavy; unusually large flan

CLASS E   Ancient Forgeries
Group Ia    Plated imitations in Roman style
Group Ib    Plated imitations in near-Roman style
Group II     Plated imitations in non-Roman style


Class A, Geto-Dacian.  The Geto-Dacians were a Thracian people with a long tradition of coinage, initially comprising mostly imitations of Macedonian types.  As economic contact between the expanding Geto-Dacian world and the expanding Roman Republic intensified, these earlier Macedonian-style tetradrachms were almost entirely replaced by massive numbers of Republican-style denarii.  Some 25,000 denarii of Republican type have been found in Romania on present estimate, more than have survived anywhere outside Italy itself.  How many of these denarii were official coins imported from Rome, and how many were produced locally,  is very much an open question, as is their economic function. Michael Crawford has proposed, in "Republican denarii in Romania: the suppression of piracy and the slave trade", that these coins were utilized almost exclusively in said trade, but that notion has been universally rejected by Romanian numismatists, who consider them to be a true national coinage of the relatively developed Dacian proto-state.  Whatever the ratio of official coins to imitations, there's no doubt that imitations were produced in Dacia in substantial numbers. Most of the good-silver, denarius-sized imitations of Republican types encountered today in the numismatic market, although typically described as "Celtic", are unquestionably Geto-Dacian, based on find-spots and patterns of circulation. Any Republican denarius was a potential model for a Dacian die engraver, but certain types, such as the coins of C. Vibius Pansa, Q. Antonius Balbus, and C. Naevius Balbus were particularly popular.  Some imitations are serrate, generally but not always following the prototype in this; a few are partially serrate. In at least one case (see n.1, below), two coins are known from the same dies, one serrate, one not. The date the Dacian imitations were minted is uncertain, but the bulk of the Republican prototypes were struck within a narrow time band, roughly 90-70 BC, with a few at least as early as 148 BC. Plausibly allowing 15-30 years for the originals to reach Dacia gives an approximate date range of 75-40 BC for the imitations, if the few early pieces are disregarded as "strays" copied many years after they were minted. This corresponds closely with the reign of  the great Dacian king Burebista, c.70-44 BC. (The imitation of Roman denarii in Dacia continued well into Imperial times, probably at a reduced rate, but the Augustan and later imitations won't be considered here.) The location of the mint or mints is uncertain; the finds are weighted towards Transylvania, but not overwhelmingly so.

Groups Ia, Ib, Monetary Copies.  The term "monetary copies" was coined by Maria Chitescu in "Numismatic Aspects of the History of the Dacian State." She includes within this term both dies mechanically transferred from actual coins and newly engraved dies that  reproduce accurately, although not always perfectly,  their Republican prototypes, but it seems desirable to more clearly distinguish the two. Examples of both types of die were included in the remarkable hoard of dies found at Tilisca, Romania, in 1961. The British Museum catalogue, for example, notes that most of the Tilisca dies were faithful copies, and "in some cases dies appear to have been made from actual Roman coins." Crawford, in "Imitation of Roman Republican Denarii in Dacia," has identified an example of this phenomenon, a die match between a coin in the Maccarese hoard (Cr-382/1, illustrated on pl. LXV of "Roman Republican Coinage"), and one of the Tilisca dies. The Tilisca die would have produced a coin in shallower relief than the Maccarese specimen, from which Crawford concludes that the die was transferred  from a worn original. There are further complications in certain Romanian denarii hoards, including one Augustan-era hoard found in Breaza which consists in part of cast forgeries of Republican coins, accurate even to various bankers' marks on the originals. Crawford calls these coins "horrifying." Some other complex problems can't be addressed here, such as Chitescu's assertion that all the monetary copies can be detected by their slight but consistent reduction in diameter and weight relative to official Republican coins, and their relative lack of bankers' marks. The five examples of this group described below average 3.71 grams.

Group II, Monetary Imitations.  The term "monetary imitations" was also coined by Chitescu. It refers to coins which markedly diverge from their Republican prototypes. The designs are more or less fanciful, stylized or "barbarous," often with mismatched obverse and reverse types; the legends are also more or less garbled, or completely absent. Usually the prototypes can still be determined with reasonable certainty, but in extreme cases can only be guessed at. The eleven coins of this group described below average 3.74 grams.

Group III, Hybrids.  "Hybrid" may be a surprising description in a series in which a mismatch of obverse and reverse types is typical, but at least one coin exists which is a true hybrid, struck from dies not intended to be used together. This coin combines an obverse of Group Ia, mechanically transferred from an "official" coin of L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi, with a reverse of group II. It seems likely that the obverse die was an earlier one reused later. See n. 17, below, for further discussion of this piece.

Class B, Pannonian.  The bulk of imitative Republican denarii are sometimes considered Pannonian. Michaela Kostial's catalogue of the Lanz Collection describes most of the imitations in the collection as  "ungarische Gruppe", generally with a parenthetical interrogative. This seems to be an echo of Robert Forrer's 1908 work, "Keltische Numismatik." Only Class B coins however can be assigned with confidence to Hungary.

Group I, Uninscribed Series. This is a compact, closely die-linked body of coins, described in the BM catalogue as the "uninscribed series" (BM 252-260.) "Uninscribed" seems an inapt term, as most of these coins do in fact bear legends; presumably it is used here in the sense of "unsigned," to distinguish them from the later, signed Eraviscan coins. The uninscribed series is relatively well known, being also included in De la Tour's Atlas. The BM catalogue treats these coins as very typical of the imitations in general, but in fact, while they are common enough in  public collections like that of the BM, which contains a number of examples apparently from a single hoard, or of the Biblioteque Nationale, they are quite scarce in the marketplace. The Budapest National Museum contains some 150 examples of these coins, reinforcing their attribution to Hungary. The 13 coins of this group in the BM average 3.77 grams, with an unusually wide variation, from 2.79 to 4.59 grams.

Group II, Eraviscan.  The Eravisci were a Celtic tribe living in the area of modern Budapest. From roughly 50 BC until perhaps 20 BC, they struck a well-known, thoroughly catalogued series of coins derived from Republican originals. These coins form a tightly die-linked, readily identifiable group, although occasionally other imitations have been described as "Eraviscan." Rob Freeman has published a preliminary die study of the Eraviscan coins in "Essays Hirsch," and extensive runs of them are found in the BM catalogue, Gunther Dembski's catalogue of the Vienna Celtic cabinet, and elsewhere.  Many of these coins bear the legend RAVIS or other variations on the tribal name; others, die-linked with the RAVIS pieces, bear legends such as DOMISA which are apparently names of tribal chieftains. They are consistently lightweight relative to their prototypes, the specimens in Freeman's hoard averaging around 3.25 grams. These coins are the only imitative denarii with an unquestioned claim to the appellation "Celtic." The "uninscribed series" coins may well prove also to be Eraviscan, or at any rate Celtic, an earlier manifestation of the same coinage tradition, but that's no more than a reasonable surmise on present evidence.

Group III, Other Pannonian.  There are hints of other Pannonian imitations beyond the two series described above, but no coins have been firmly identified as such.

Class C, Other Balkan.  Likewise, there are hints of imitative coinages beyond those of Dacia and Pannonia. These peripheral coinages, if they exist, may well be associated with the expansion of the Dacian state under Burebista around 50 BC, as the notion of coinage, or the need for it, spread in tandem with the advancing Dacian armies.

Group I, Serbian.  A hoard in the Belgrade National Museum, consisting solely of imitations (fifteen coins), was published by Petar Popoviac in 1974. Popoviac presumes it was a local find. These coins are light, averaging 3.21 grams, with a wide variation from 2.25 to 3.69 grams. Suggestively, most of them form a die-linked sequence (a specimen from one pair of dies is also in the Budapest Museum.) It seems quite likely that these coins were not only found  in Serbia, but that they hadn't traveled very far from the place they were struck. If there were coins struck in Serbia from dies not represented in the Belgrade hoard, I see no way at present to distinguish them from Dacian imitations.

Group II, Bulgarian.  Imitations have also been found in some quantity in Bulgaria,  mostly of Dacian style and fabric. If there was an independent tradition of imitations in Bulgaria, the coins have yet to be clearly identified.

Group III, Other Balkan.  The BM catalogue illustrates, but regrettably omits in the text, certain coins of distinctive style, crisp strike, and broad flan, BM 285-289, pl. XII. Richard Abdy of the BM has kindly provided weights for these pieces, which range widely from 2.67 to 4.47 grams, averaging 3.74 grams, but the BM has no information as to provenance. These coins, examples of some of which have also appeared in trade, may form an independent group, of unknown origin.

Class D, Anomalous.  Certain imitations seem distinct from any of the preceding classes. They are either very heavy or very light. Although of good silver, they visually stand out from the rest, and are difficult to plausibly place into any of the main sequences. Chitescu obliquely confirms this distinction, opting to simply disregard weights of  less than 3.0 grams or more than 4.5 grams as artifacts of wear or faulty recording. This can't be the entire explanation, as I have in my collection coins, accurately weighed, past either extreme. I've labeled these "anomalous" as a stopgap description, until new evidence or new insights allow them to be more properly placed. Perhaps some of these may prove to be among the elusive Class C coins.  (Note that Class D is not defined entirely by weight. A few pieces, slightly to either side of the arbitrary range 3.00-4.50 grams, but otherwise of typical Dacian fabric and style, have been placed, with some hesitation, in Class A.)

Group 1a, Light. The single coin described below is a very thin serrated piece, possibly of debased silver, although clearly not plated. It weighs only 2.62 grams.

Group 1b, Heavy.  The single coin described below is of distinctive style, struck in high relief on a large, thick flan. It weighs 4.82g.

Class E, Ancient Forgeries.  Plated denarii are sometimes described as "Celtic imitations." There's no real justification for this, but neither is the matter of fourrées as simple as I initially believed. I've had to completely rethink the subject, as some inconvenient facts popped up to muddy a perfectly good theory.

Group Ia, Roman Style.  These are straightforward ancient forgeries, of purely official style. (The notion, still sometimes encountered, that some plated coins are official products of the Rome mint, is obsolete and can be disregarded. I think it is possible that some plated Imperatorial denarii, struck in silver-strapped traveling mints, are "official" within the context of those mints.) They are often hybrids, but the obverse and reverse generally date to within a few years of each other. Whether they are struck from new dies transferred from actual coins, or are the "after hours" products of mintworkers using official dies, or both, is a matter of some controversy, but in either case, they are generally assumed to have been produced by Romans. The situation is in fact somewhat more complex. Chitescu describes a small hoard found in Bozieni, Romania, in 1965, in a Geto-Dacian settlement. Much of this hoard consists of plated Republican or legionary denarii, some of them broken, of impeccable Roman style. The hoard is relatively late, ending in a single coin of Vespasian, also plated. She describes it as a forger's stock, and assumes it was produced locally. This must be the case, as two fragments of coins of M. Volteius in the hoard were struck from identical dies. At least one other small hoard consists solely of plated coins. But the largest and most typical of the Romanian hoards of Republican denarii contain very few plated specimens, or none, while fourrées are frequently encountered among Dacian imitations of Imperial denarii. The imitation of Republican types in Dacia continued sporadically long after the production of the prototypes, and most or all of the plated "Republican" coins produced there may well be the products of Imperial times, as enterprising Dacians acquired an unfortunate sort of sophistication. Despite occasional ambiguity, the bulk of Republican plated coins encountered today are no doubt the products of  forgers working within the Empire.

Group Ib, Near-Roman Style. There is an interesting series of plated coins, which mimic "official" style closely, without however quite duplicating it. The differences are difficult to quantify, but are clear enough to anyone familiar with the originals. The obverse and reverse of these coins are generally correctly matched; the legends are never badly blundered, but are sometimes abbreviated or imprecise. The coins of this group are often described as "Celtic" or "barbarous," but I believe they are simply ancient forgeries, struck from new dies produced by inexpert engravers. There is no evidence to suggest that they were struck by non-Romans, or outside the borders of the Empire, but the caveats pertaining to Group Ia apply here also.

Group II, Non-Roman Style.  Plated coins exist, in some quantity, of an unmistakably non-Roman style. These can be as fanciful and bizarre as the most outlandish good silver imitations. To my mind, these coins are completely mysterious. As far as I know, they have never been systematically examined. It is impossible to believe that they were produced by Romans. If one accepts the assumption that all plated coins were intended to deceive the recipient, for the profit of the producer, these "barbarous" plated pieces can only have been the product of non-Roman counterfeiters. Die links between these coins and good silver imitations would explain a lot, but I'm unaware of any such links, and I doubt if any exist. To my eye, these coins, though certainly "barbarous," are very different in fabric and style from any of the known good silver imitations.

All coins are in the author's collection, and all photography is by Aaron Berk. The photos are arranged according to the preceding classification. Not all categories are represented by illustrations. Although I've suggested a possible prototype or prototypes for each coin, some of these are speculative.

Class A Group Ib, Geto-Dacian Monetary Copies.
1. Types of Q. Antonius Balbus, after 82 BC; cf. Lanz 106, 10 (same dies, serrate), cf. Cr-364/1d; 4.33g. Faithful copy, but not serrate. Reverse horses have six legs in front, eight in back. I know of no parallel to this case of serrate and plain edge coins struck from the same dies.  The obverse die of the present coin shows evidence of reengraving or repair. Perhaps an old pair of dies was found and reused, with no serrate prototype at hand?
2. Types of C. Mamilius Limetanus, after 82 BC; cf. Cr-362/1; 3.29g. Obverse double struck; V under Mercury's chin, no letter behind; otherwise, slightly stylized but faithful copy; poorly engraved but accurate reverse legend.
3. Types of C. Naevius Balbus, after 79 BC; cf. Cr-382/1b; 3.80g, serrate. Head of Venus left, otherwise very faithful copy.
4. Same types; 3.68g, serrate. Head of Venus right, faithful copy, somewhat stylized.
5. Types of P. Satriena, after 77 BC; cf. Cr-388/1b; 3.45g. Close copy, Mars' hair and helmet slightly stylized, reverse legend P. PATRI. Obverse not a match for known control XVI die.

Class A Group II, Geto-Dacian Monetary Imitations.
6. Types of L. Antestius Gragulus, after 136 BC; cf. Cr-238/1; 3.63g. Types correct but quite stylized, legend badly garbled and apparently meaningless. 
7. Types of P. Laeca?, after 104 BC?; cf. Cr-301/1; 3.54g. Barbarous Roma head, X both behind and before; remarkably barbarous and opaque reverse scene, with no legend other than X and large retrograde C. The identification of the prototype as Cr-301 is barely more than a guess.
8. Obverse type of Publius Calpurnius or  L. Minucius, reverse type of C. Vibius Pansa, after 90 BC; cf. Cr-247/1 or Cr-248/1, obverse; cf. Cr-342, reverse; 3.75g. Barbarous Roma head, seemingly mounted on a stick, with hair like three snakes; reverse slightly stylized but faithful copy, with accurate legends.
9. Types of C. Vibius Pansa, after 90 BC; cf. Cr-342/4; 3.51g. Stylized head of Apollo, remnants of inappropriate SC behind; reverse sketchy and double struck, with meaningless legends.
10. Types of L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi, after 90 BC; cf. Cr-340/1; 3.64g. Very barbarous head of Apollo, barbarous horseman, garbled and apparently meaningless legends. Possibly debased silver.
11. Obverse type of C. Vibius Pansa?, reverse type of C. Norbanus, after 83 BC; Chitescu 112 (same dies), cf. Chitescu 204 (same obverse die), cf. Cr-342, obverse, cf. Cr-357/1, reverse; 3.45g, Barbarous head of Apollo, meaningless legend before; sketchy but accurate reverse.
12. Obverse type of Pub. Crepusius, reverse type of various moneyers, after 82 BC; cf. Cr-361/1, obverse, cf. Cr-282, reverse; 4.62g, serrate. Somewhat stylized head of Apollo; somewhat stylized warrior in biga, remnants of legend below.
13. Obverse type of C. Annius with L. Fabius Hispaniensis, reverse type of  Q. Titius, after 81 BC; cf. Cr-366/1c, obverse, cf. Cr-341, reverse; 3.70g. Stylized bust of Anna Perenna, scales under chin misinterpreted as XXI; long, apparently meaningless legend behind; slightly stylized Pegasus on reverse. The reverse shows clear signs of being overstruck, possibly on an earlier imitation. This coin is placed in this group with little confidence. Its style and fabric do not seem Dacian. It was found in a Balkan hoard of Flavian date. The preservation of this coin is more consistent with denarii of Augustus and Tiberius in that hoard than it is with Republican pieces in the same hoard, most of which were quite worn. The date suggested here for this coin may well be 100 years too early.
14. Types of C. Naevius Balbus, after 79 BC; cf. Cr-382/1; 3.51g, serrate. Both sides very sketchy; remnants of SC behind Venus' head, no other legend.
15. Obverse  type of C. Naevius Balbus, reverse type of P. Furius Crasipes, after 79 BC; cf. Cr-382/1, obverse, cf. Cr-356/1, reverse; 3.62g. Stylized head of Venus, remnants of SC behind; stylized chair, blundered but recognizable legend below.
16. Types of L. Rutilius Flaccus, after 77 BC; cf. Cr-387/1; 4.18g. Stylized Roma head; stylized Victory in "biga"  with added third horse (not truly a "triga"); rear legs of horses' total five; remnants of correct legend below.

Class A Group III,  Geto-Dacian Hybrids.
17. Obverse type of L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi, reverse type of  L. Papius, after 79 BC; cf. Cr-340/1, obverse, cf. Cr-384/1, reverse; 3.53g, serrate. Obverse mechanically transferred from known control XXXVI die (cf. Banti 44/21 for an example); while "exact", it illustrates the softness expected from a casting process.  Reverse depicts a stylized Pegasus, possibly double-struck, apparently a misunderstood griffin copied from an original of L. Papius; legend is blundered, but recognizable as that of L. Papius (not however as that of Q. Titius.) I know of no parallel to this combination of obverse and reverse dies manufactured via different processes, probably at different times.

Class B Group I, Pannonian, Uninscribed Series.
18. Types of C. Coelius Caldus, after 104 BC; BM-258 (same dies), DLT-1072, cf. Cr-318/1; 4.07g. Very stylized Roma head; stylized horses with "flying" driver, meaningless legend below.

Class B Group II, Pannonian, Eraviscan.
19. Types of C. Postumius, after 74 BC; Freeman 17/P (same dies), Chitescu 173 (same dies), cf. Cr-394/1; 2.87g. Both sides somewhat stylized, remnants of correct legend on reverse. Unusual surface with droplets and depressions implying casting, but a "wrapped" edge seam more consistent with a plated piece.  The author knows two other examples of these dies, averaging 3.31g and with normal surfaces. Another piece, also of the same dies, but weighing 3.56g, is illustrated in Chitescu, pl. X, 173. It has a similar surface to the present coin. The first two are apparently Eraviscan imitations; the latter two are possibly contemporary forgeries of that Eraviscan prototype, but even the prototype differs from other Eraviscan coins in many ways.

Class D Group Ia, Anomalous. Light.
20. Types of C. Poblicius, after 80 BC; cf. Cr-380/1; 2.62g, serrate. Barbarous bust of Roma left, blundered legend before, traces behind; very barbarous Hercules and lion, blundered legend behind.

Class D Group Ib, Anomalous, Heavy.
21. Types of Gar, Ogvl, Ver, after 86 BC; cf. Cr-350A; 4.82g. Somewhat stylized head of Apollo; somewhat stylized quadriga, front legs of horses total four, rear legs seven; meaningless legend below.

Class E Group 1b,  Plated Forgeries, Near-Roman Style.
22. Types of C. Piso L. Frugi, after 67 BC; cf. Cr-480/1b, cf. Hersh 339; 2.83g. Apollo head in near-official style, degraded symbol behind;  horseman in slightly sketchy style, degraded symbol above, slightly degraded legend below.

Class E Group II, Plated Forgeries, Non-Roman Style.
23. Types of M. Tullius, after 120 BC; cf. Cr-280/1; 3.54g. Somewhat sketchy, stylized head of Roma, blundered legend behind; sketchy, stylized quadriga left, retrograde but otherwise correct legend below.
24. Obverse type of  L. Cassius Caecianus, reverse type of  Q. Antonius Balbus, after 82 BC; cf. Cr-321/1, obverse, cf. Cr-364/1, reverse; 1.53g. Barbarous bust of Ceres, blundered legend behind; accurate reverse of slightly sketchy style, with correct legend. The resemblance of the obverse of this coin to the Hungarian "uninscribed" pieces is probably  coincidental.

Allen, D., Catalogue of Celtic Coins in the British Museum I, London, 1987.
Chitescu, M., "Copii si imitatii de denari romani republicani in Dacia", Memoria Antiquitatis III, 1971.  
Chitescu, M., Numismatic Aspects of the History of the Dacian State, Oxford, 1981.
Chitescu, M., "The Poroschia Hoard (District of Teleorman) and Some Problems Relative to the Geto-Dacian Coins of Roman Republican Type", Studii si Cercetari de Numismatica VII, 1980 (translation and notes by H. Bartlett Wells.)
Crawford, M., Coinage & Money under the Roman Republic, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1985.
Crawford, M., "Imitation of Roman Republican denarii in Dacia", Studii si Cercetari de Numismatica VII, 1980.
Crawford, M., "Republican denarii in Romania: the suppression of piracy and the slave trade", Journal of Roman Studies LXVII, 1977.
Crawford, M., Roman Republican Coinage, Cambridge, 1974
Crisan, I. H., Burebista and his Time, Bucharest, 1978.
De la Tour, H., Atlas de Monnaies Gauloises, Paris, 1898 (Reprinted).
Dembski, G., Munzen der Kelten, Vienna, 1998.
Depeyrot, G. & Moisil, D., Les tresors de deniers anterieurs a Trajan en Roumanie, Wetteren, 2003.
Forrer, R., Keltische Numismatik, Strasbourg, 1908 (Reprinted).
Freeman, R., "A Group of Eraviscan Denarii", Coins of Macedonia and Rome: Essays in Honor of Charles Hersh, London, 1998.
Kostial, M., Kelten im Osten, Sammlung Lanz, Munich, 1997.
Lockyear, K., "Coins, Copies and Kernels - a Note on the Potential of Kernel Density Estimates", CAA 97, Birmingham, 1997.
Lockyear, K., "Dmax based cluster analysis and the supply of coinage to Iron Age Dacia", Analecta Praehistorica Leidensia 28, Leiden, 1996.
Lockyear, K., "The supply of Roman Republican denarii to Romania", Studii si Cercetari de Numismatica  XI, 1995.
Mihailescu-Birliba, V, La Monnaie Romaine Chez Les Daces Orientaux, Bucharest, 1980.
Paunov, E. & Prokopov, I., An Inventory of Roman Republican Coin Hoards and Coins from Bulgaria, Milan, 2002.
Popoviac, P., "Hoard of Imitations of Roman Republican Denarii from the Belgrade National Museum", Numizmatikai Kozlony, 1974.
Preda, C., Monedele geto-dacilor, Bucharest, 1973.
Wells, H., "Roman Republican Denarii in Dacia - A Review",  SAN Journal XI, 3, 1980.
Winkler, J., "Tezaurul de Monede Romane Republicane de la Satu-Nou (Reg. Oradea)",  Studii si Cercetari de Numismatica I, 1957.
Home             Illustrations



Philip the Arab - Philippus Arabs

PROVINCIA DACIA sesterce - Philip the Arab - Philippus Arabs - reverse 

PROVINCIA DACIA sesterce - Philip the Arab - Philippus Arabs - obverse
29 mm diameter, 15.6 grams, AE
Reverse: allegorical personification of Dacia, wearing pileus (Phrygian cap), holding a curved sword in the right hand (a typical Dacian weapon) and a military standard with letters DF standing for Dacia Felix in the left hand, at left an eagle with a crown in its beak - symbol of Legio V Macedonica - and at right a lion - symbol of al Legio XIII Gemina, inscription PROVIN[CIA] DACIA, in exergue AN·I
Obverse: laureate bust of Philip the Arab to the right, inscription IMPMIVLPHILIPPVSAVG, meaning


The coin corresponds to the description at number 1 in the Moushmov catalog.

About the coins of province Dacia

The issue of local coins began in Dacia in 246/247. At that time emperor Philip the Arab granted the right to strike coins in Dacia. The last provincial coins were struck in 255/257, with AN XI in exergue.

The coins PROVINCIA DACIA were also found in Pannonia and Moesia Superior, Roman provinces neighbouring Dacia. Most probably these coins were struck at Sarmisegetusa, but there are opinions that the coins were struck at Apulum or even at Viminacium. (The provincial coins struck at Viminacium in Moesia Superior have very similar design with the Dacian ones.) Many Provincia Dacia coins are heavily worn, a sign that they circulated for a long time.

It is commonly accepted that in Dacia were struck sesterces, dupondii and asses. Asses and dupondii were struck only in the first three years of the mint existence and they are scarce.

About the dating of the coin and about the local era

The inscription AN V in exergue shows that the coin was struck in 246-247.

The system of numbering the years from an important event was very spread in the Roman provinces. A local era was used also in Dacia. The Dacian local era seems to have begun in July-September 246 (these months are certain, because emperor Aemilianus, who ruled the Roman Empire for three months in 253, appeared on Provincia Dacia coins, with years 7 and 8 (AN VII and AN VIII).

Most probably the beginning of the new era is connected with the invasion of Dacia by the Carpian tribes. The attack of the Free Dacians began in 245 and was repelled in the next year, after the coming of emperor Philippus Arabs to the Danube. Philippus granted some privileges to the province of Dacia, and the grateful citizens counted the years from the beginning of the new era of liberty.

About the Dacian armies (exercitus Daciae)

The Roman Dacia was defended by a lot of soldiers, both legions and auxiliary troops (alae - cavalry units, cohorts - infantry units, numeri - ethnic militia). The Roman armies in Dacia counted about 50.000 troops.

Legio XIII Gemina remained in Dacia for the entire period of the Roman rule, having its castrum at Apulum, nowadays Alba Iulia. Before the conquest of Dacia this legion had the camp in Pannonia Superior. After the Roman retreat from Dacia the Thirteen moved to Ratiaria, in Dacia Ripensis. The surname of a legion was used in the imperial period to differentiate the units, because there were more than one with the same number. The name Gemina means twin, because there were more than one legion bearing the same name, but having different numbers.

Legio V Macedonica came in Dacia Porolissensis, at Potaissa (nowadays Turda, in the county of Cluj), in year 168. After the Roman retreat from Dacia the Fifth moved to Oescus. The name of the legion refers to the region where the unit was set up - the Fifth was enlisted close in time to the battle of Philippi, in Macedonia.

The presence of the eagle and the lion on local coins, symbols of the Dacian legions, is a homage to the Roman armies garrisoned in the province. The propagandistic message is clear enough: the liberty in the province (Dacia wears the Phrygian cap or pileus, sign of freedom) was obtained after the victories of the Roman armies stationed in Dacia.

About Philip the Arab

The real name of Philip the Arab was Marcus Iulius Philippus. The surname "the Arab" refer to the emperor ethnical origin. His wife was Marcia Otacilia Severa.

In 244 Philip the Arab became emperor of Rome, after the death of Gordian III.

In 248 AD Philip patronaged the feasts of the millennium of Rome's founding. Historia Augusta (Gordian, XXXIII) shows that at the celebrations organized in April 248 a lot of wild and tamed beasts, as elephants, tigers, lions, leopards, hyenas, giraffes, hippopotami, and even a rhinoceros were employed. Several of these animals are represented on the coins issued for the millennium celebration.

In the spring of 249 AD the Danubian legions proclaimed Traianus Decius as emperor. The rebellion succeeded and in the battle of Verona in Italy Philip the Arab lost his life.







 Rubbing it in: Those poor Dacians

Text  and photos at:


The Roman Propaganda machine was in high gear after both of the Dacian Wars conducted by Trajan. The personification of Dacia, a soldier, or just a representative Dacian appears in various poses of abject defeat or mourning on the coins of Trajan above and below. From being speared to being bound, to being stepped on (by Peace nonetheless), to kneeling before Rome, the Dacians are depicted as a thoroughly subjugated people. After all, it was almost a hundred years since the empire had ceased expansion, so maybe the Romans went a little overboard in their celebrations.


The first Roman incursion into Dacia occurred in AD 101. Trajan used Dacian raids into Roman territory as the pretext for invasion, but he had been planning the attacks since AD 99 (How many times has this tactic been repeated in history? Some things do not change.) This was a radical change from the Roman practice of appeasement which had been ongoing since the time of Augustus. Domitian actually set up payments to the Dacian ruler Decebalus to purchase his non-aggression. In spite of this agreement Decebalus sanctioned raids into Roman territory and in one raid the governor of Moesia was slain. Trajan struck hard and deep into the Dacian territory (modern day Romania and Hungary) in Blitzkreig fashion. Dacia was a mountainous region bordered by the Danube (the personification of the river is depicted on the last coin below), and Trajan needed the best engineers to navigate this topography. One of the best, Apollodorus of Damascus constructed a road through the Iron Gates which included a long bridge across the Danube (The Sestertius on the Far right may represent this as Danube evidently turns against Dacia and knees him in the groin - now that is really rubbing it in!) with 60 stone piers (traces of the bridge can still be seen). The Dacians also accomplished great feats of engineering. It is said that the great Dacian treasury was kept under a river. The water had been diverted for construction and then allowed to flow again.
The march of the Roman army would have awed an onlooker. Marching 6 abreat it would take 6 hours for the column to pass. And, while the army covered about 15 miles a day straight to its target, nothing was done impetuously or without planning. The Romans had learned from defeats at the hands of the Germans and Dacians that their foes were formidable and nothing could be left to chance.Of note in the second to last coin in the group above is the curved sword laying in the foreground. This is the infamous Dacian Falx which was respected and feared by the Roman Soldiery. In a strong hand it was quite capable of severing a limb with one blow. To counter this weapon, the Roman legionaires were issued special greaves and additional padding for their helmets.


Much can be learned about the Dacian Wars by studying the beautiful reliefs on Trajan's Column which was erected in 106 as a memorial and a history of the first Dacian war. Rome must have built a coalition prior to the invasion as Moors and even their traditional enemies, the Parthians, are depicted fighting with the Romans.
The Dacians were not the barbarians we typically think of. They had a settled and prosperous civilizations with many cities and fortresses built on a model copied from the Greeks. Their country was rich in minerals including iron, gold and silver (which might have contributed to the invasion and help explain the allies the Romans were able to recruit). Some believe the Dacians originated in north west Asia Minor and migrated north. to a broad and fertile plain with many natural defenses including the Carpathian Mts. and the Danube. Others believe they were part of the indo-european migration that occurred around 1,800 BC originating from the steppes north of the Black Sea. By the time of Herodotus around 500 BC, they were considered Thracian (Getae) and Herodotus lists them as the most populous people of the world next to the Indians.


The first invasion was a bloody affair but the Romans moved relentlessly towards the Thracian capital of Sarmizegetusa. A massive battle was fought at the close of the first year's campaign. It was a costly victory for the Romans. On the column, Trajan is depicted offering his clothes to be used as bandages. Over the winter, Trajan reinforced his legions. He also sent the future emperor, Hadrian, back to Rome carrying Trajan's chronicles of the campaign of which only one sentence remains. The second year seems to have been even bloodier than the first, but Rome's superior forces approached the capital. At this point Decebalus, the king of Dacia, accepted surrender terms offered by the Romans. The Dacians were required to disarm the Dacian fortresses along the Danube, give up certain territories, and Roman garrisons were stationed in Dacia. This was not a fortuitous assignment for a legionaire. in 105 Trajan's declared that Decebalus was iin violation of the disarmament clause of the treaty and an ultimatum was sent. In response the Roman garrisons were destroyed and thus, Trajan Began the second invasion of Dacia. In a response similar to Scipio's Invasion of Africa to take the war to Carthage during the time of Hannibal, Decebalus attemped an invasion of the Roman province of Moesia., This attack was repelled and the Dacians gradually retreated to Sarmizegetusa. Once again the capital was beseiged. This time the Romans were able to locate and destroy the ceramic pipe system that fed water to the city. Decebalus and some of his troops attempted to break out and reach the mountains, but Roman calvary caught up with them and slew most of the remaining forces with many commiting suicide. Decabalus also probably committed suicide. However, the Romans did offer a different version of the death of Decebalus which may be depicted on the first coin on this page. According to CNG catalogers, the rider on the reverse may not be Trajan. Recent discoveries may indicate that the Roman Explorator or scout Ti. Claudius Maximus actually slew Decebelus and then brought his head and right hand back to Trajan - not nearly as "romantic" as the original version. The reverse scene on this coin may represent that event.
Dacia then became a Roman province. The Romanian language of today is the closest of all languages to the original latin. Sarmizegetusa's name was changed to Ulpia Trajana and it served as the provinical capital until abandoned by the emperor Aurelian in AD 276.

Much of the information on this page was gathered from Julian Bennett's biography of Trajan: Optimus Princeps, 2001, Indiana University Press.
For a view of Decebalus and the Dacian wars from the Romanian viewpoint, click here.

 The Coinage of the Sakas

Chicago Coin Club
Volume 46 No. 8August 2000

by Robert Weinstein
(Presented at the June 14 meeting.)

Text and photos at:

The term Saka is used to denote the Scythic peoples dwelling on the steppe from the Caspian Sea east to the borders of China.These people were nomads and were famous in antiquity for their horsemanship and fearlessness in battle. The Sakas of Central Asia and the Scythians of the Black Sea region are descended from an earlier culture which dwelt in the Altai. The Sakas and Scythians spoke Iranian languages which were related to those of the Persians, Medes, Bactrians, and Sogdians.

The Scythians first enter history in the 8th century B.C.E. . Their home was the area North of the Black Sea.From there they would traverse the passes of the Caucasus Mountains to raid the rich kingdoms of Mesopotamia and Anatolia. They are mentioned several times in the bible.The records of the Assyrian and Persian Kingdoms mention them frequently.According to Herodotus the Persians used the word Saka for all Scythian nomads.This is because that is what they called themselves and the name translates directly into the Persian language which was related to the language of the Sakas.The Black Sea Scythians called themselves Saka in the 7th century B.C.E. but, by the time Herodotus wrote his history they seem not to use this name for themselves. The name Scythian is the Latinised version of Skythian which is what they were called by the Greeks. One of their kings, a man named Partatua, asked for the Assyrian King Asarhaddon's daughter in marriage. This dynastic alliance benifitted the crumbling Assyrian Empire on several occasions most notably when the Scythian King Madys, the son of Partatua, came to the aid of the the Assyrian capital of Nineveh which was besieged by the Medes. Madys may have been the nephew of the Assyrian King Assurbanipal. Herodotus tells us that after the destruction of the Medes at Nineveh the Scythians controlled the near east for 28 years. Their capital was at Sakic. Their raids reached as far as Egypt. Their power was finally broken by a resurgence of Median power. According to Herodotus this was accomplished by inviting their leaders to a feast and making them so drunk that they passed out. The Median King Cyaraxes then had them all murdered. After the loss of their leaders the Scythians abandoned Asia and retreated across the Caucasus mountains back to the Crimean Penninsula where they remained.

The Scythian Kings struck an extensive series of coins. All are scarce. Most of the kings named on the coins are unknown to history. King Ateas is an exception. He is well documented in the historical record. Unfortunatly his coins are very rare. Ateas took to the field of battle against Philip II of Macedon at the age of 90. Ateas lost the battle and was killed but Philip learned what the Persians had learned on an earlier occasion, the Scythians were not easily conquered. Philip was eventually forced to withdraw.

Coin of the Scythian King Kanites AE23 O: Head of Zeus R. CM male head R. wearing Bashlyk R: Eagle ? KANI

Coin of the Scythian King Akrosandros AE23 O: Jugate heads of Demeter and Persephone R. CM head of Great God of Odessos? R. R: 2 grain ears BASIL.....AKROS

The Dahae

The Dahae were a confederation of Saka tribes who dwelt between the Caspian Sea and the Oxus river. The Dahae are listed in the great army of the Persian King Xerxes. They later appear as allies of Alexander the Great. The Dahae issued coinage from about 330 B.C.E. to 1 B.C.E. . Most of this coinage is scarce with only the later issues appearing on the market with any frequency. The first coins are anepigraphic copies of Macedonian types. Later copies of Seleucid coinage appear bearing the names of kings and the title of King of the Sakas or King of the Dahae in Aramaic script.These were struck between 250-130 B.C.E. . The final coins of the Dahae were struck from 130 B.C.E. until about 1 B.C.E. . These coins bear Greek legends with the tribal name Kodoy (KwDoU), which is considered to be the same as the earlier Aramaic Gavasa, on the obverse. The reverse bears the legend Atara Saka (ARDHQROU SAKAROU). This type was struck for more than 100 yrs. with the Greek legends becoming corrupt in the successive issues. The style shows considerable degradation as well. Pictured below are three coins of the Atara Saka type showing the degradation of the design.

Early type with proper Greek legends

Middle phase with slightly degraded style and corrupt legends

Late type with more degraded style

The Parthians

In the 3rd century B.C.E. the Parni, a tribe of the Dahae confederation, occupied the old Achaemenid satrapy of Parthia. This territory passed to the Seleucid Empire after the death of Alexander the Great. The Parni King Arsakes declared himself independent in 248 B.C.E. and thus was born one of the greatest empires of the ancient world. Arsakes established his capital at Nisa and struck coinage in his name at this city. Arsakes II was forced to submit to Seleucid authority in 209 B.C.E. after the eastern campaign of Antiochus III. After the disasterous military defeat by the Romans, the Seleucid power weakened and the Parthians were independent again. Under Mithradites II the Parthians conquered most of the Seleucid empire. Parthia remained a major world power until 228 C.E. . Most of our current knowledge of the Parthians comes from Greek and Roman historians. There is underway a project to translate Parthian royal documents written in Akkadian, the traditional language of state in the ancient middle east. This should give us more insight into this great empire about which little of the inner workings are known. For nearly 500 yrs. a handful of nomads held together a very large empire with a diverse population. They rarely interacted with their subjects. The nobility was in a state of near constant civil war. There were often 2 or more persons claiming to be king. Eventually they were overthrown by a Persian dynasty in 228 C.E.

All of the early coinage bears the name of Arsakes. The portraits at this time are quite good so that is an aid identifying the coins. The titles on the early coins also differ from king to king. The die engravers were Greeks and the coinage bears Greek legends. Later as the Greek population dwindled and die cutting was taken over by Parthians, the style becomes more abstract and the legends, having been copied from old coins by men who could not read Greek, become corrupt. The late Parthian coinage bears the name of the king in Aramaic script in the Parthian language. Many Parthian coins are dated. Tetradrachms often have both the year and month of manufacture. Below are some Parthian coins.

Phraates III 70-57 B.C.E. AE17
Finer Early Style

Vardanes I 40-45 B.C.E.
AE Dichalkon

Artabanos II 10-38 C.E.
AR Tetradrachm

Vologases III 105-147 C.E.
AR Drachm

Vologases IV 147-191 C.E.
AR Drachm

Osroes II 190 C.E.
AE Chalcon

The Sakas in India

Sometime around 130 B.C.E. another nomadic people known as the Yueh Chi were driven out of Kansu in China by a Turkish tribe called the Wu Sun. This movement set in motion the various steppe nomads displacing them into other lands. The Sacaraucae confederation was pushed West of the Jaxartes river into Sogdiana and Bactria. According to Chinese annals part of the Sacaraucae went South into Khotan. It is probable that Khotan had already long been occupied by Sakas. Much of our information about the Saka kingdoms in India comes from their coins. The chronology and genealogy have long been in debate and this continues today. The work of R.C. Senior and others is challenging the old ideas of who were Greek Kings and who were Sakas. The Senior collection of Indo-Scythian coinage numbered more than 3000 pieces. Many of the coins are unique. This collection now resides in the Ashmolean Museum. A catalog of the collection is in production. Among the enlightening coins in this collection is a coin of the king Artemidoros which proclaims him as the son of the Saka Maues. Artemidoros has traditionally been listed as a Greek king.

The Sakas established several kingdoms in India. One of the first was the kingdom founded by Vonones in what is today parts of Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan. Vonones associated his brother, Spalahores, as Viceroy and struck coins bearing both of their names. Spalagadames followed his father Spalahores as Viceroy on the latters death. Later Vonones associated his other brother Spalarises as heir apparent. Spalarises ascended the throne on Vonones death.

Vonones with Spalagadames
90-65 B.C.E.
O: King on horseback with spear Greek legend naming Vonones as king BASILEWS BASILEWN MEGALOU ONWNOU
R: Zeus holding thunderbolt and scepter Kharosthi legend naming Spalagadames as Viceroy

Spalarises as king
65-40 B.C.E.
O: King R. carring ankus Greek legend naming Spalarises as king BASILEWS MEGALOU PALIRISOU
R: Zeus enthroned Kharosthi legend naming Spalarises as king

Shortly after the founding of Vonones' kingdom, another Saka, named Maues, founded a kingdom to the south of Vonones. Maues successor, Azes the Great, absorbed the neighboring kingdom ruled by Spalarises. There was a brief joint coinage bearing the names of both Azes and Spalarises and then Azes became sole ruler. Azes ascended the throne in 58 B.C.E. and ruled for many years. His successor was Azilises. There is a series of joint Azes/Azilises coinage which preceeds the coinage in Azilises name alone. Traditionally the successor to Azilises has been considered to be another king named Azes but, this view has lately been challenged by R.C. Senior who believes that all of the coinage in the name of Azes was struck by one king by that name. The silver coinage in the name of Azes occurs in two main types. The first attributed to Azes I depicts the king on horseback with spear. The second attributed to Azes II depicts the king on horseback holding a whip.

Azes on horseback with spear
AR Drachm

Azes on horseback with whip
AR Tetradrachm

AE hexachalkon of Azes
O: Elephant R., Greek legend R: Bull R., Kharosthi legend

AR Tetradrachm of Azilises
O: king on horseback with spear R: City goddess L., Kharosthi legend 













Most of the coins of those who came after Azilises are all quite scarce and rarely offered for sale. The exception are the coins previously classified as posthumous coinage in the name of Azes. These coins usually have corrupt Greek legends and poor style. The later ones are very debased billon. The Kharosthi legends remain readable and name Azes as king. In ONS newsletter #156 R.C. Senior proposes that these coins were stuck by the early Apracharajas and demonstrates how the series leads to the coinage bearing the names of the later Apracharajas. The first Apracharaja, Vijayamitra, probably ruled from 20 B.C.E. to 19/20 C.E. . This very long reign of Vijayamitra accounts for the large number of coins of this type which have been found.

First series of coinage of Vijayamitra
O: King on horseback with whip Corrupt Greek legend (AZZOU) Heart at 2 o'clock in legend indicating B officina
R: Pallas R. with spear, Kharosthi legend naming Azes

The Sacaraucae and Indo-Parthians

The Sacaraucae in eastern Iran came under the influence of the Parthians around 80 B.C.E. when Sinatruces, a member of the Parthian royal family, sought asylum among them. With the help of the Sakas Sinatruces obtained the Parthian throne and the Sacaraucae became Parthian vassals. Their earliest coinage imitates contemporary Parthian coinage. These coins do not bear a rulers name. The first ruler to put his name on his coinage was Tanlis. He issued coins bearing both his name and the name Lady Raggodeme. It was long believed that his successor was named Otannes but, coins formerly attributed to this king are now known to also be the work of Tanles. The Otannes coins were countermarked Parthian drachms. The countermark bore a name which had long been misread. What had been read as an O turned out to be a decorative ball on a cap worn by the person pictured. Tanles had several successor but, none put there names on their coinage. All of the coins issued by the kings who followed Tanles are copies of Parthian drachms with the curious feature of having a countermark engraved on the die.

Sacaraucae drachm of King "A" 40 B.C.E.

The last of the Sacaraucan coins bear the Tamgha which is referred to as the Gondopharan symbol. These coins show that the Indo-Parthian kingdom of Gondophares evolved from the earlier Sacaraucan kingdom. Gondophares the Great eventually conquered all of lands once held by the Indo-Greeks and all of the rival Saka kingdoms in India. He had long been considered to be the king mentioned in the Acts of the Apostle Thomas. A revised chronology of the Sakas in India makes his reign far too early for him to be the King of the Indians that Thomas preached to. A later king, Gondophares-Sases, is a more likely candidate for the person. The Indo-Parthian kingdom lasted into the 3rd century C.E. . At that time the kingdom split into Sakastan and Turan. These two kingdoms later became vassals of the Sassanid Persians who overthrew the Parthians.

Gondophares AE Drachm
O: Bust R. R: Pallas R., Kharosthi legend Kings name spelled Gudapharasa

Gondophares AE Drachm
O: Bust R. Corrupt Greek legend R: Pallas R., Kharosthi legend Kings name spelled Gadavirasa

Gondopares Billon Tetradrachm
O: King on horseback, Gondopharan symbol before, Greek legends
R: Zeus standing R., control marks before and behind, Kharosthi legends

Sases AE Drachm
O: King on horseback, Gondopharan symbol before, Greek legends
R: Zeus standing R., control marks before and behind, Kharosthi legends

Pakores AE tetradrachm
O: Bust of king L., Greek legend R: Nike R., Kharosthi legend

Sanabares II AE Drachm
O: Bust L. R: Seated archer, Greek legend