CAnalyses on Tomis autonomous coins and the politics of Mithridates VI

Emanuel Petac1,
Bogdan Constantinescu2,
1Library of the Romanian Academy
2National Institute of Nuclear Physics and Engineering "Horia Hulubei" - Bucharest-Măgurele, România

There are many reasons which sustained our interest concerning compositional analyses of Tomis autonomous coins. The amount of gold staters in the Western Black Sea Greek cities exactly during the period of Mithridates VI suggests not only the political influence and interest of Pontic king in the region, but quite possible the situation indicates the origin of the gold. Unfortunately, we didn't find in the public or private collections from Romania a single gold coin from the Pontic kingdom, to compare with the staters from Istros, Tomis and Kallatis. By the other hand, the analyses made at British Museum and State Hermitage Museum on coins from Pontus, Paphlagonia, Bithynia, Phrygia, Mysia, Galatia, Cappadocia of the time of Mithridates VI proved that in Amisus and Dia the tetrachalkoi with "Dyonisos/cista" and "head of Amazon/Nike" types were struck of brass or aurichalcum. The same situation appears in Pergamum, Apamea, Acmoneia, Dionysopolis, Eumenia and Philomelium from Mysia and Phrygia. As Smekalova suggests (T.N. Smekalova, Coinage alloys of the Northern Black Sea littoral states, at publications / papers-presented-orally / oral-files / Sme_coinage_alloys.htm, under Bosporus), this technical innovation probably appears at the court of Mithridates VI in the context of his campaign of 89 B.C. Investigating the politics of Mithridates toward the cities from West Pontc regions, we decided to analyse coins from Tomis trying to establish a relation with the metal sources or technologies of the Pontic kingdom. So, we noticed that some of the first and second series coins from Tomis contain a significant percentage of lead (Regling, 2436=24,80 % and 44,10%; Regling, 2439=28,40%; Regling, 2461=29,10%; Regling, 2469=25 %), specific sign of a crisis which is already proved in the Bosporan kingdom, which bronze coins contains in the IIIrd century B.C. 15-20% lead and also at Olbia, where the bronze coins contain up to 40 % lead. The crisis seems to be much difficult at Tomis and it seems also to be a general monetary crisis of the Northern and Western Black Sea region, caused by the decrease of the grain trade. It is hard to say that the source of the metal is the same. Quite interesting is that few coins from the first tomitan series, considered from the IIIrd century B.C. - Regling, 2426 and 2428 (Hermes/Kerykeion type, with monograms ∆H and AπOΛ) - contain a significant percentage of Zinc (more than 6 %, as we saw in Chersonesus in 89-88 B.C.). This low level Zinc concentration suggests that metal scrap from earlier periods was used for the striking of these coins. By the other hand, the analyses of the mentioned types from the Coins Room from the Library of the Romanian Academy proved that there were strike in bronze (Regling 2426, inv. PV 7899; Regling 2428, inv. PV 7900), "gunmetal" (Regling 2428, inv. PV 7901) and brass (Regling 2426, inv. PV 7904), that means at the beginning of the Ist century B.C., belonging to the IIIrd series and not to the Ist series from Tomis. The situation is the same as that observed for Amisus, Chabakta and Dia at the beginning of the Ist century B.C. (T. N. Smekalova, op.cit., under Bosporus). Unexpectedly, the analyses on coins of the IIIrd series from Tomis (Regling 2407, inv. PV 10925; Regling 2491, inv. PV 10642; Regling 2492, inv. PV 10643) reveal tin in their metal, no zinc and a lot of lead, so nothing in commun with the brass of the "first series" Hermes / kerykeion type or with the Pontic bronze. The structure seems to be very alike Olbian coins from the end of the IIIrd century B.C. to the Mithridates VI time (T. N. Smekalova, op.cit., under Olbia). Observing also that many other coins contains few percents of lead, a specific sign of the bronze from the Pontic kingdom and also that the main features of the alloy follows the characteristics of the coins from the Pontic-Bosporan region, we suggest that traditionally an important part of the bronze used to strike coins in Tomis came from the Pontic kingdom and the Northern Black Sea area, as for the Bosporan kingdom (T. N. Smekalova, op.cit., under Bosporus), including of course the time of Mithridates VI.