The Roman provincial coins of Bithynian mints found in Europe

Roman Provincial coins minted locally likely facilitated low-value transactions between neighbouring cities. These bronze coins, used as small change, rarely circulated far from the mint; their distribution was mostly within a maximum radius of 100 to 200 kilometres. However, the circulation of civic coins from Nicaea and Nicomedia contradicts this pattern. At least 2000 coins from Nicaea and 110 coins from Nicomedia have been attested in the Balkan provinces (last count in 2018). These coins were found in excavations, hoards and sites. 60 out of 110 Nicomedian coins have so far been counted in a hoard context, while 30 out of the c. 2000 Nicaean coins were found in hoards in the Balkans. However, thanks to excavations in the Balkans, the numismatic material is increasing every day, so the number of Bithynian coins found in the Balkans provinces continues to increase. It is important that national representatives collect and study the coins of Nicaea and Nicomedia found in Europe, preferably within an archaeological context and considering provenance. This will help to avoid overlap in numismatic studies. After each national representative collects and presents the coins, the total number of coins from Nicaea and Nicomedia found in the Roman provinces in Europe can be calculated and evaluated as a whole. We hope to establish a communication with each national representative at ECFN Meeting in Sofia and create in the long run a network for the study of the Roman provincial coins of Asia Minor found in Europe.

Our panel aims to address a set of questions concerning coin circulation. Were these coins that circulated in the Balkans accepted in the markets, as some of them were attested in hoards? If not all the coins belonged to traders or travellers, what was the reason for a soldier or a settler in the Balkans to keep a civic coin from Asia Minor in his personal depot? How can we explain the appearance of Nicaean coins in the Balkans? Were they part of the circulation pool due to the higher degree of economic activity and troop movement during the eastern campaigns? On the other hand, the existence of a large number of coins from Nicaea and Nicomedia from the reigns of Caracalla to Gordian III in the Danube and Balkan provinces must have been triggered by the lack of small bronze coins from the mint of Rome, which was probably the main reason for the opening of a mint for provincial coins in Viminacium, followed by Sarmizegetusa, as is suggested by several authors. The next question is thus whether the use of small change from Nicaea and Nicomedia was ordered and controlled by the Roman authorities, or whether these coins were taken there unofficially by people in order to fulfil a need for a small change in the Balkans. In our panel, we want to focus on these questions and try to understand the reasons and the operation of this unusual circulation phenomenon observed in Europe.

Organizers of the panel:

Hale Güney – Mirjana Vojvoda