A silver tetradrachms with the inscription “First Macedonia” on the back, shown in a video of Archaeologia Bulgarica, broke the spirits in Facebook. But the most interesting thing is not that the coin of 168 BC. can be called the first international currency – a fact we hoped to attract the attention of people interested in history, archeology and numismatics. It happened that we also caused extreme political clashes – an expression of the smoldering Balkan conflicts, and they were cuased by a tetradrachm, stroked by the Romans in order to postpone expected rebellions in the Balkans.
Those, who have heard about the Third Macedonian War know, that it is the decisive phase of the long battles with Rome and ends in June 168 BC with the defeat of Perseus at Pidna. The last ruler of the ancient Macedonians was captured, and his kingdom was divided by the victors in four meridas (districts). They were not independent, but the Romans wanted to keep the region peaceful with the illusion of preserved statehood, starting to stroke “Macedonian” coins. On them respectively is written “First Macedonia”, “Second Macedonia” and so on, up to four, as are the districts. And for some time the plan was working!
The cat and mouse game ended with Andrisk’s uprising, also called the Fourth Macedonian War (150 BC – 148 BC). Macedonia then finally lost its independence and was turned into a Roman province, but those tetradrachms did not immediately come out of circulation. They were a regular means of payment in the Eastern Mediterranean at least another twenty years. And the silver in them also made good insurance against adversity in hard days – so it is happening today to find them as buried treasures.
This is precisely the case with the coin “First Macedonia”, which Archaeologia Bulgarica showed in its video. It is part of a collective find of a total of 10 tetradrachms, discovered during construction works in Petrich, about 5 km from Heracleia Synica. Today everyone can see it in the showcases of the Petrich Historical Museum along with other interesting specimens, a representative sample of the circulation from the 4th century BC until the 4th century AD – including the tetradrachms of Philip II and the drachms of Alexander the Great.
Still, why the Roman coin with the inscription in Greek is so special, why is it the first international currency? Here’s what the answer of the director of the Museum Sotir Ivanov : ”After the first great conquest of the Romans in the Hellenistic world it was important for them to penetrate first financially, and only then to reinforce the political situation. And so it came to Roman coinage, which looks like Macedonian, but on a larger scale.”