Will we learn anything about the Sintoi from the newly discovered coin?
Silver obolus of Messambria Pontica (today’s town of Nessebar on the western Black Sea coast) was found in a trench of more than 5 m depth within the boundaries of the Forum of the ancient city of Heraclea Sintica near the village of Rupite, Petrich municipality, SW corner of Bulgaria. The coin is very interesting not only because it has gone a long way, but also because it is the earliest one found on this site.
It is well preserved and the image of a Corinthian helmet on the front site is visible – such obolus circulated actively in the period of BC 450 – 350. “The coin was struck before Philip II and the founding of Heraclea Sintica in the second half of the 4th century BC. – comments Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lyudmil Vagalinski. – We found it among massive stones above a groundwater and there is a burnt layer of on the top of them. So far we are not sure how to interpret the find, but one of the possibilities is that it testifies about activities of the Thracian tribe of Sintoi and eventually the existence of their settlement in this place before the Macedonians came.”
These Thracians are mentioned very rarely in the written sources. Sintoi marks the Athenian general and historian Thucydides (BC 460-395) probably as an independent tribe, remaining aside from the campaign of Odrysian king Sitalces against Perdiccas II of Macedon in BC 429. Is this a sufficiently secure statement?
“With regard to Thucydides I personally do not accept his designation as a brilliant historian and a prime source, as much as his “History of the Peloponnesian War” is also written as an attempt of personal rehabilitation. However, with regard to Sintoi, his information is very prominent, as Thucydides creates his own text, living in his family estate just in the valley of Struma, but in the lower stream of the river – specialist in Old History and Thracology from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski “, Prof. DSc. Dilyana Boteva comments. – I think the fact, that he did not report the existence of a state of the Sintoi can be accepted as a sure argument that in the period between the end of the 30s and the last decade of the 5th c. Sintoi were not a serious factor in the development of Southwest Thrace. ”
And what happened to them when Philip II attacked? Most information about Sintoi is collected in the book of Prof. Dr. Peter Delev from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski “. In his “History of Tribes in Southwest Thrace in the 1st millennium BC” (2014) the fact is also commented that the lands of the Sintoi certainly joined Macedonian kingdom, but science does not have a detailed narrative how this happened. Still, an interesting antique text is preserved – Stratagem of Polyaenus (2nd C author). He tells when Philip II invaded with his army in the sloping and wooded land of the “orbelians” (from Orbelos, probably the present Belasitsa mountains) and released hunting dogs, to hunt the hidden in forests and underbrush “barbarians”. It may mean, although they were not a strong and organized opponent, the Sintoi fought so fiercely against the Macedonians that they were persecuted and slaughtered in their mountain shelters. “Their fate was certainly different from that of their southern neighbors ̶ the Bisaltae: while the latter were integrated into the Macedonian kingdom as allies and clearly remained as an ethnic and political community until the end of its existence, the Sintoi permanently descend from the historical scene in the middle of the 4th century BC”, writes Prof. Dr. Peter Delev.
The memory of the disobedient tribe is still preserved over the centuries – as part of the name of the most important city, founded in the second half of the 4th century BC on middle Struma valley: Heraclea Sintica.