Sometimes the bronze may be more valuable than gold – just as is the case with the miniature coin, discovered during the excavations of Heracleia Sinica near the village of Rupite, Petrich municipality this summer. It fits on top of the finger and its nominal is a quadrans or a quarter of the Roman As. On one side is a Macedonian shield and on the other is the club of the mythical hero Heracles, for whose descendants the Macedonian kings were considered.
But why is this small bronze coin so precious?
“There is an inscription on it: “heracleoton epi Strimon” (the Heracleans near/ from Strimon, i.e. Struma River). It confirms the existence of a mint in the ancient city of Heraclea Sintica”, explains the director of the Historical Museum in Petrich Dr. Sotir Ivanov. “Coins like this one, were struck around 110-130 AD and are very rare. Two more are known from the territory of Bulgaria, found in 1986 near the village of Dolna Ribnitsa, Petrich municipality They are kept in the Historical Museum in Blagoevgrad. The world knows about another 16, possession of big auction houses and museums in London and Thessaloniki. Thanks to them it is known, that Heraclea Sintica struck its own coins, but so far we had no proof, coming from the city itself. Our coin is the only one of its kind, discovered during archaeological excavations in Heraclea Sintica. So far we guess, that the mint there functioned about 20 years, but if other types of its own coinage are to be found, the period might be extended”.
The work of archaeologist is like an arrangement of mosaics from small pieces of information. The newly discovered small bronze coin gives an interesting perspective to the puzzle from Heraclea Sintica, which the team of Assoc. Prof. Dr Lyudmil Vagalinski has carefully pieced since 2007.
“It is not surprising that so few coins of this type are known – comments Assoc. Prof. Dr Vagalinski – In my opinion, it is about a limited coinage of a representative character – the aim was to highlight the glorious past of the city. Do not forget, that all this happened within the Roman Empire. The people of Heraclea Sintica had been its subjects for nearly 250 years but during the period ca. 110-130 they obviously need to highlight their history and were allowed to do so. Why exactly then? It is known that administrative reform was carried out under Emperors Trajan and Hadrian. Cities’ territories were redistributed, and lands of Heracleia Sintica were cut and given to the recently founded and fast developing nearby Parthicopolis (today’s Sandanski). There are reports of discontents against the new boundary marks, but also of the rising rivalry between the two cities, that tried to attract the attention of the central administration to their problems and one after another sent delegations with requests. According to an inscription the Imperial Office kindly responds to Parthicopolis as a result of its delegation in Rome – it is published by the epigraphist Nicolay Sharankov in Archaeologia Bulgarica journal. Romans were pragmatic in their rule – they were not interested in emotions, but in the regular payment of taxes. It was not a problem for them to allow the Heracleans to struck a limited coinage that should emphasize their main advantage over Parthicopolis ̶ more ancient history”.