The Arta 1983 Hoard

The well known Arta hoard ("Arta 1923") dating from the early 1260's is important as one of the few known hoards of copper coins from the Palaeologan period. It is listed (with perhaps one or two errors*) in Bendall and Donald's "The Billon Trachea of Michael VIII Palaeologos 1258-1282".

In Arkhaeologikon Deltion 36 1981 (1989) Touratsoglou published an important new hoard from Arta ("Arta 1983"). This hoard had a very similar composition to the original Arta find, but included a few extra types of Michael VIII from Constantinople, so that it presumably dates from around the same time as the earlier hoard, or slightly later. (The extra Michael VIII types are S.2260, 2277 (perhaps) and 2239/83 - for the full details of the new hoard see the Appendix below).

The new hoard also included a number of rare unlisted types from the mid 13th century, some of which may be issues of Arta, and since most readers won't have access to the original report I have described these types in detail below.

More recently the first three of these new types have been considered by Katerina Hristovska in Folia Archaeologica Balkanica III, 2015 - see K. Hristovska "On a Rare Billon Trachy of Theodore II Ducas-Lascaris".

*  The Class VIII type given to Manuel Comnenus-Ducas in Bendall and Donald is probably an issue of Arta, as Mattingly originally suggested, although the two rulers depicted are uncertain (cf. "The Coins of Michael II of Epirus"). Class XVIII, given to John III Ducas-Vatatzes in Bendall and Donald, appears to be an issue of Theodore Comnenus-Ducas or Theodore II Ducas-Lascaris and is dealt with in the next section. Also, according to Touratsoglou in the article considered here, the 1923 hoard included an example of the trachy Sear 2130 (Hendy Pl. 43,1-2) of John III Vatatzes which was not noted in earlier reports of the find - however this seems to be an additional coin, and it is not clear where it came from, so its existence needs to be confirmed.

The New Types.

The new types are all bronze trachies, of relatively large module (weights are not given). The first three of the new types below seem to form a group characterised by a distinctive, fairly bold style (note particularly the large jewels on the robes, which occur on only a few other coins of the mid 13th century). Overall, these types do not seem to have any great affinity with other groups of coins of the period, such as the well known issues of the Greek empires of Magnesia and Thessalonica, or for that matter, the much scarcer coins of Arta, although we might see similarities to several individual issues from the 1250's and later, such as S.2106 of John III, S.2142 of Theodore II, S.2277 of Michael VIII, and perhaps also S.2279 and 2282 of the same ruler*. All this makes the attribution of these new types a matter of some conjecture, both as regards ruler and mint.

Note that the numbering used here for the types below is my own; the obverse legends are conventional.

*Cf. also the first coinage of Constantine Tikh Asen, which parallels S.2277 but with crosses instead of A's on the obverse, and a plain globus on the reverse (and the loros sashes over the shoulders reversed), and also the similar coin No. 1113 in Metcalf's Peter and Paul hoard, attributed there to John III Vatatzes (if this is indeed distinct from the Bulgarian type - for other apparent examples of this last type cf. Dochev at Turnovo Pl. 6,9 and CNG 57-1524).

1. Arkh. Delt. 1981, Pl. 88, 1-4*.

    Obv:   St Demetrius h/l, holding sword over r. shoulder and large ovoid shield with a star in the centre in l. hand.

      In field to l. & r, ".O/Δ/H-M/TpIOC" or sim.

    Rev:     Ruler (w. short beard) stdg in loros and sagion w. large jewels (& single collar piece), hldg lab. sc. and gl. cr; four dots in a diamond pattern abv. l, manus dei above r.

      According to Touratsoglou the reverse legend reads: 


      and this reading is confirmed by the example in DOC IV (see below) and various other examples**.

So who issued this type and where?

The two obvious candidates are Theodore Comnenus-Ducas, ruler of Arta and then Thessalonica, and Theodore II Ducas-Lascaris of Nicaea and later Thessalonica.

To start with we note that there were 5 copies of this type in the Arta 1983 hoard, and one in Arta 1923 (as Class XVIII), so that Theodore C-D at Arta needs to be considered as the possible issuer.

But there are problems with this idea.

To begin with, as Katerina Hristovska has pointed out, Theodore Comnenus-Ducas apparently did not rule as despot in Arta, so the title despot in the legend would seem to rule him out, in that period at least.

On the other hand, he did rule Thessalonica as despot and then emperor for at least part of the period 1224-1230.

But we note that the four examples of this type illustrated from Arta 1983 show surprisingly little wear for coins that are supposed to have been more than 30 years old at the time of the burial of the hoard. (Although the example of this type in Arta 1923 seems to have been heavily worn, or perhaps damaged).

This suggests that the type should be dated closer to 1260 than 1230, and that therefore the ruler is more likely Theodore II Ducas of Nicea. As well, the type shows the bold style of Nicea rather than the fine style of Thessalonica. (Note also that the distinctive diamond of dots on the reverse here is also found on the obverse of some examples of the scarce large-jewelled type S.2279 of Michael VIII - cf. Coin 42.2 in Bendall's PCPC).

There are however, problems with this attribution as well - for example the beard on some of the better examples appears to be short rather than forked, which would seem to militate against Theodore II.

Another question is where was this type issued? Stylistically it reflects Nicaea, but all known examples of this type derive from Greece (in the Macedonia - Epirus region). Now these examples could well have been carried into Greece by the armies of Theodore II and Michael VIII, which eventually reduced Thessalonica and Arta into submission in 1259, but if these types were struck in Magnesia we would surely have expected that some would have turned up in Asia Minor.

But so far they haven't, which suggests that this type derives from a mint in western Greece.

Exactly where this mint was is uncertain, but a likely candidate is Ohrid, given that several examples of the next two new types were found in that area.

*  This coin is listed in DOC IV as Pl. 34, 51, attributed to John III at Magnesia, and in Sear as S.2105. For another example of the type (now in the Athens Archeological Museum) see P. Protonotarios, Num. Circ. 1974, p. 52-5, No. 8.

Yet another example of this type has recently (July '09) turned up during excavations in Durres, Albania, strengthening the case for Arta or at least some western mint.

** For a more up to date list of known examples (as of 2015) see K. Hristovska, "On a Rare Billon Trachy of Theodore II Ducas-Lascaris".

2. Arkh. Delt. 1981, Pl. 88, 5.

    Obv:   B. Virg. orans, "MP-ΘV" above.

    Rev:   Ruler (w. forked? beard) stdg in lor. (w. large jewels) hldg sc. cr. and gl. cr.

      Abv. l, a barred "(I)W".

      According to Touratsoglou the reverse legend can be expanded to read "IW/Δ/E/C-Π/O/T" by comparison with a similar coin from another early Palaeologan hoard from Ioannina in northern Epirus.

The ruler here is clearly named John, and Touratsoglou gives this type to John III Vatatzes at Magnesia. This presents several problems however. To begin with, the ruler on the Arta example seems not to have the forked beard of a Nicean ruler, although perhaps this appears on other examples. Also, this type was found, as noted above, at Ioannina in northern Epirus, and it has also been reported in the region of Khardista in southern Thessaly. Hristovska reports three more examples found at or near Ohrid.

These find spots suggests that this is an issue of Thessalonica, or perhaps of a mint in northwest Macedonia (Ohrid?), rather than Magnesia, and we note that there was only one other Magnesian type (of Theodore I) reported in the Ioannina hoard. (This new type is apparently also described in Bertele's unpublished dossier of rare types collected mainly in the western Balkans).

Hristovska gives this type to John IV Lascaris, who followed Theodore II briefly as emperor in Magnesia in 1258/9.

One thing that we can say about this type is that it is probably a fairly late type, given that it doesn't seem to appear in hoards dating from before 1261.

3. Arkh. Delt. 1981, Pl. 88, 6 & 8.

    Obv:   B. Virg. orans, "MP-ΘV" above.

    Rev:   Ruler (w. forked beard) stdg in chlamys (w. large jewels) hldg sc. cr? and gl. cr. 

      In field abv. l, "B", blw r. "Λ" or "W'?

This type is generally similar to the previous one, but differs in some details. There was one example of this type in Arta 1983, and another was apparently found near Veroia in western Macedonia, while Hristovska reports three more from Ohrid. Lot 373 in the "Despot" Sale (LHS Numismatics Sale 97, 2006)  shows another example of the type (wt 2.82 g, listed as Andronicus II). Unfortunately the provenance of this last example is unknown, but we note that, like the other examples, it is unclipped, consistent with an origin in western Greece. (This coin is viewable on Coin Archives - search under "Despot and 373" - and also on acsearch.info).

Touratsoglou assigns this type to Theodore II Lascaris at Magnesia, but only on stylistic grounds, and John III is an equally likely ruler. Hristovska reads the obscure reverse legend as an abbreviated "Palaeologos" and gives the type to Michael VIII.

As with the first new type, while stylistically these last two types seem to belong to Magnesia, the known find spots are in Greece, suggesting Ohrid or some other western mint as a more likely source.

4. Arkh. Delt. 1981, Pl. 88, 7.

    Obv:   Virg. stdg, orans, small star(?) abv. l. & r, inscription "missing".

    Rev:   Ruler (w. rounded beard) stdg l. in diam. pattern loros in fine style, and Mil. St. stdg r. hldg large sword between; ruler holds aka. in r. hand, St holds spear over shldr in l. hand, w. hand down.

      No clear legend.

The fine style of this type is in marked contrast with the bold style of the previous three types, and on account of this, and the fact that the obverse is similar to that on the rare type S.2166, Touratsoglou assigns this type to Theodore Comnenus-Ducas. This seems quite reasonable, although once again we have the problem of a rare type apparently surviving a long time, so that a later ruler is not out of the question. It is also noticable that the distinctive reverse of this type was copied by (or less probably, copies) the reverse of the Series III issue S.2210 of John Comnenus-Ducas.

Touratsoglou's allocation of the type to Arta, rather than Thessalonica, is also not unreasonable, given the provenance and scarcity of the type, although it can hardly be taken as certain since we only seem to have this one recorded example to go on.

The source of the unlisted types.

Given their find spots, Touratsoglou's assignment of some of the new types to Magnesia seems unlikely. Furthermore, there are difficulties assigning them to Thessalonica - given their rarity, and the fact these types are seemingly not found, clipped or unclipped, in Bulgaria, it seems more likely that they are issues of a mint or mints in the western Balkans, situated perhaps at Ohrid or Veroia, or in some cases, Arta.


AppendixThe Arta 1983 Hoard.

The hoard included 140 "copper" coins, made up as detailed below. (The number of each type is given in brackets, and I use Touratsoglou's assignments and type references here - the latter follow Hendy 1969). Note incidentally the almost total lack of small module types, showing that John III purged these types from the coinage soon after he reoccupied Thessalonica:

    "Bulgarian" imitatives.

      Type A (1); Type B (1).

    Latin Imitatives.

      LM Type A of Const. (1); SM Type A of Const. (1). 

    Theodore Comnenus Ducas (Arta?):

      Coin 4 above (1).

    Theodore Comnenus-Ducas (Thessalonica):

      Type A (1); Type C (1); Type D (1); Type E (1);
      Type G (2); Coin 1 above (5).

    Manuel Comnenus-Ducas (Thessalonica):

      Type B (2); Type G (1). 

    John Comnenus-Ducas (Thessalonica):

      LM Type B (1).

    John III Vatatzes (Magnesia?):

      Coin 2 above (1).

    John III Vatatzes (Thessalonica):

      Type B (4); Type C (12); Type E (8); Type F (2);
      Type H (6); Type I (4); Sear 2110 (of Magnesia*) (1). 

    Theodore II Ducas-Lascaris (Magnesia?).

      Coin 3 above (1).

    Theodore II Ducas-Lascaris (Thessalonica).

      S.2147 (18); S.2144 (of Magnesia*) (1).

    Ivan II Asen (Thessalonica?).

      Hendy Pl. 46, 10-11 (4);

    Michael VIII (Constantinople).

      S.2259 (3); S.2260 (2); S.2277** (1); S.2239/83 (19).

    Michael VIII (Thessalonica).

      S.2295 (17); S.2296 (2); S.2297 (13); S.2309 (2).

    Unidentifiable (2).

*  S.2110 and the very similar (but different) S.2144 are assigned to Magnesia in DOC IV and Sear. Given that three examples of S.2144 were found at Pergamum, it would seem very likely that these types are indeed issues of Magnesia. Note also that in DOC IV Hendy takes S.2144 to be an issue of John III, like S.2110, but this reallocation does not appear to be correct.

** The scarce type S.2277 seems out of place here - is this coin perhaps the basically similar (and commoner) trachy Your. 37-40 of Constantine Tikh Asen? (the illustration is not conclusive). Or, considering its stylistic similarity to the unlisted types, could S.2277 itself be an issue of Michael VIII in Thrace or Macedonia, perhaps even before 1261? However we note that this type was found at Pergamum, so it's possible that it is in fact an early issue of Michael at Magnesia - altogether an odd and rather confusing type (for more details see "The Magnesian trachea of Michael VIII").

Ross Glanfield

November 2007.

Latest revisions:

    28 Feb. '08: Full listing of hoard added.
    15 Mar. '08: The "S.2277" is possibly a coin of Const. Tikh Asen.
      1 May '08:   Link between Unlisted Type 4 and S.2210 noted. 
      2 June '08:  Example of New Type 3 in Despot Sale noted. 
     17 July '09:  Example of New Type 1 at Durres noted.
      3  Oct. '21: Hristovska's 2015 article on New Types 1-3 noted. 
      4  Oct. '21: Discussion of New Types 1-3 revised.
    27 Sep. '23:  Hristovska name corrected. 


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