Review: Proceedings of the Fourth International Numismatic Congress in Croatia

Julijan Dobrinic, ed. INC 2004: Zbornik rađova 4. medunarodnog numizmatickog kongresa u Hrvatskoj, 20.-25. rujna 2004. Stari Grad (Pharos), otok Hvar i M/B Marko Polo, Hrvatska / Proceedings of the Fourth International Numismatic Congress in Croatia, September 20-25, 2004, Stari Grad (Pharos), the Island of Hvar and M/S Marko Polo, Croatia. Rijeka: Dobrinic & Dobrinic, 2005. Pb. 262 pp., b/w illus. throughout. ISBN 953-98665-4-5.

The present volume collects together eighteen papers and five abstracts of papers presented at the Fourth International Numismatic Congress in Croatia, which was held in September 2004 and took as its primary subject the money of the Balkans from antiquity to modern times. However, only two of the articles deal with the modern period. The bulk of the papers relate to ancient numismatics (including three archaeological reports) and medieval coinage (primarily Serbian).

In the first paper, “The Finds of Coins in the La Tène Settlement at Židovar, Preliminary Report,” Ljiljana Bakic discusses and illustrates three denarii of the Roman Republic (one an imitation) and a countermarked (AVG) as of Augustus found at the Iron Age site in Vojvodina, Serbia. She points out that this small number of first-century BC finds is in keeping with the sparse numismatic material from other La Tène sites along the Danube and suggests that settlement at Židovar may have ended in the early first century AD, although survival into the period of Trajan’s Dacian wars is not entirely ruled out.

“Semanticko i likovno citanje novcanica ili znaci li novcanica samo materijalnu vrijednost / Semantic and Artistic Close Reading of Banknotes, or, Do Banknotes Imply Just a Material Value,” by Mirjana Benjak, Vesna Požaj-Hadži, and Jerica Ziherl, is quite thought provoking. Here the authors compare the compositional features of the inflationary Yugoslav dinar banknotes of the late 1980s, the Croatian kuna notes of the early 1990s, and current Euro notes, coming to the stark conclusion that the nature of money is such that its iconography cannot help but be enslaved by political considerations, even when it is attempting to be apolitical. Because of these constraints, it is suggested that the designs of paper money should not be considered art in the true (post)modern sense. This discussion, while centered on modern paper money and hinging on (post)modern artistic theory, is also worth reading for ancient numismatists, for it admirably illustrates the strong pull toward the politicization of money, at a time when there is a movement among ancient numismatists to emphasize the economic over the political aspects of coinage. The tension between the political and economic aspects is perhaps greater than is often admitted.

Elena Bonelou reviews the finds from excavations at Leucas in order to draw a picture of coin circulation in the city and its hinterland in “The Numismatic Circulation from the Private and Public Buildings of the Capital and the Port of Leucas.” Here she suggests that the foreign coins found at these sites resulted from either military activity in the region or trade. Hence the many Peloponnesian and Macedonian coins of the fourth century are thought to have come with armies during the Corinthian War and the Macedonian wars of expansion into central Greece, while those of Acarnanian cities in the third century are attributed to the new political and trade connections established by the city when it became the capital of the Acarnanian League. The generally sparse showing of coins of the Roman period at these sites is connected to the city’s decline after much of the population emigrated to the new foundation of Nicopolis in 29 BC. Still, the dearth of Roman material is odd, because Leucas certainly continued to be inhabited until the third century AD.

We shift gears again with “The Patriarchal Coins of Medieval Serbia: An Anomaly,” by Martin Dimik. Here the author convincingly argues, from the form of a helmet depicted upon it, that a rare dinar issued in the name of an anonymous Orthodox Patriarch was most likely struck under the Serbian Prince (later Despot) Stefan Lazarevic (1389-1427) and is connected to a second group of equally rare patriarchal dinars with the reverse type of Christ enthroned, which second group may have been struck in the time of his father, Prince Stefan Lazar (1371-1389). Dimik furthermore suggests that because the coins only bear the title Patriarh on the obverse, any or all of the three patriarchs of the 1380s and 1390s could have been responsible for striking them as a sign of his secular authority as well as to advertise the autocephalous status of the Serbian Orthodox Church (beginning in 1375) and its collaboration with the Lazarevic dynasty. While these arguments make good sense, the additional suggestion that the religious type of Christ enthroned was only used by the patriarchs who issued coins whereas the secular type of the helmet was used for coins produced by Lazarevic is somewhat less compelling. The Christ type appears on other issues of Stefan Lazar and Stefan Lazarevic, the latter often paired with the helmet, and most interestingly, on several fourteenth-century issues of towns (Prizen and Skopje) and local rulers of Raška, who also favored epigraphical obverse types. The contemporary Raška dinars offer a very close parallel for the patriarchal dinars and indicate that the enthroned Christ type was popular for coins issued by Serbian secular authorities in the region. The corrupt legend that surrounds Christ on the patriarchal pieces is virtually identical to that found on dinars of the local rulers of Raška, Jakov and Smil, which appears to derive from an issue of Vuk Brankovic, the Prince of Kosovo (1371-1395), or perhaps his homonymous brother-in-law Vuk Lazarevic (See M. Jovanovic, Serbien [sic] Medieval Coins [Belgrade, 2002], nos. 37.3-5). Since Serbian coins did not normally include a border legend with enthroned Christ types, the ultimate source for the corrupt legend is probably the TIBI LAVS 3 GLORIA inscription introduced on the Venetian grossi of Doge Antonio Venier (1382-1400). A typological connection to Brankovic would tend to confirm Dimnik’s historical chronology of the two types. The Christ type was probably produced first, possibly in the lifetime of Vuk Brankovic (and Stefan Lazar?), and then the helmet type second, after the Prince of Kosovo was imprisoned by the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I and his lands were ceded to the Lazarevici in 1395. The worn letters NTE to the right of the helmet, which almost certainly belong to the full legend [CO]NTE [STEFAN], show that the patriarchal issue with this type must have been issued while Stefan Lazarevic was still only a prince (1389-1402).

In two notes, “Stockertovi klišeji kotorskih novaca / Stockert’s Seals for Cattaro’s Coins” and “Do sada nepoznati detalji o jednome Stockertovu radu / Einige bisher unpublizierte Detailen über einem Artikel von dr. K. Stockert,” Julijan Dobrinic continues the homage to Karl Stockert and his work on the medieval coinages of the Dalmatian and Albanian coast that was begun in Novci dalmatinskih sjevernoalbanskih gradova u srednjem vijeku (Rijeka, 2003) ( in ANS Magazine 4, no. 1 [Spring 2005]: 71-73). The first publishes a collection of the original woodcut stamps used to make the illustrations for Stockert’s 1916 article, “Die Prägungen der Gemeinde von Cattaro unter Venezianischem Protektorat” (Numismatische Zeitschrift 49: 1-76), while the second publishes the plate originals from Stockert’s Le monete del Comune di Spalato (Split, 1922) along with an original German manuscript on the medieval coinage of Split. Both of these papers will no doubt be of special interest to Balkan numismatic bibliophiles.

A third offering by Dobrinic, this time written in conjunction with Ljiljana Bakic and entitled “Matapani i njihove imitacije / Matapans and Their Imitations,” gives an excellent overview of the influence of the Venetian grosso on the typology of silver coins produced by various Balkan and Italian states. However, the coverage for Bulgaria may be a little too complete, for included alongside the obvious imitations produced under the tsars George Terter and Michael Šišman are the ubiquitous silver groshen of the Bulgarian tsars Ivan Alexander and Ivan Šišman (nos. 5.3-5.4). A close review of the types shows that the immediate model for these coins was actually the Byzantine basilikon denomination of the Palaeologan emperors Andronicus II and Michael IX rather than the Venetian grosso. While there can be little question that the types of the early basilikon, a denomination introduced to compete with the grosso, were influenced by those of the Venetian coin, it seems peculiar to include the Bulgarian issues of Ivan Alexander and Ivan Šišman in a catalogue of grosso imitations if the Byzantine intermediary is excluded.

Anne Destrooper-Georgiades provides an excellent review of the underlying methodology and the various means used by archaeologists to conserve and interpret coin finds in “Dealing with Coins to Extract All Possible Information.” This paper will be of special interest to those unfamiliar with the treatment of excavated coins and would serve as a useful text on the reading list for an introductory course on classical archaeology. The illustrations of find coins fused together by corrosion products and the preserved fragment of the textile that enclosed them are worthy of special mention.

“Medalja kao nakit,” by Mirjana Kos-Nialis, looks at the reuse of eighteenth-century medals as settings for jewelry in the environs of Rijeka, while in “Rukopis krivotvoritelja antickog novca / Handwriting of Ancient Coins [sic] Forgers,” Damir Kovac provides a brief overview of ancient coin forgeries from contemporary circulating counterfeits to modern fakes produced to deceive collectors. This discussion offers little new information to anyone already in possession of Wayne Sayles’ Classical Deception (Iola, 2001) ( in ANS Magazine 2, no. 3 [Winter 2003]: 62-65), but the article is useful for its publication of the author’s personal collection of modern forgeries. Not surprisingly, most are productions of Slavey or the Bulgarian school, but a number of Cavino, Becker, and Christodoulou pieces are also illustrated. Perhaps most interesting are the illustrations of the modern dies of the forger “D.C.,” used for producing tremisses of the empress Eudocia and aes of Vetranio.

Edith Lemburg-Ruppelt momentarily draws our attention away from the Balkans to look at the transmission of Bactrian heroic iconography from the Bactrian coinage of Eucratides I and Archebius to Macedonian and Roman cameos of the second and first centuries BC/AD in “Zur Ikonographie eines Münzportraits des Eukratides I. von Baktrien.” However, we soon return to the region with Branko Matic’s paper “Emisija suvremenog gotovinskog novca i nacionalna ekonomija / Modern Cash Money Issue and National Economy,” which discusses the political and economic importance of national paper money and coin production in modern Croatia.

In “Character of the Numismatic Evidence from the Necropolis of Augusta Trajana (2-4 c.),” Mariana Minkova introduces the coins found during the Bulgarian rescue excavations of Augusta Traiana between 1976 and 2004. Not surprisingly, the vast majority are late Roman imperial issues, but a number of second- and third-century provincial bronzes of the city and other nearby Dacian cities are also present. Unfortunately, the finds are only described in minimalist terms by ruler, mint, and denomination. It would have been much more helpful, especially for the provincial issues, if the types had been described as well.

Saša Paškvan argues that the youthful heads found on the obverse of the bronze coinages of Hellenistic Pharos and Issa should be interpreted as depictions of Dionysus in “Elementi dionizijeva kulta na novcu grckih polisa Isse (Visa) i Pharosa (Hvar), te slicni primjeri iz antickog svijeta / Elements of Dionysus Cult on Greek Polis Issa (Vis) and Pharos (Hvar) Coinage with Similar Examples from the Ancient World.” However, while it is true that the reverse types of these coins (kantharos and bunch of grapes) are obvious Dionysiac attributes, the head on issues of Pharos has short hair and appears to wear a laurel wreath rather than the ivy normally worn by Dionysus. This is probably Apollo, possibly modeled after the image of the god on the Macedonian gold staters of Philip II. The head on the bronzes of Issa is normally bare, thereby making it unlikely that Dionysus was intended. On some specimens, the hairstyle is suggestive of numismatic portraits of the Illyrian king Ballaios (c. 167-135 BC).

“A New Interpretation of the ‘Aleuas’ Issue,” by Kostas Prentzas, resurrects the view first put forth by A. Dieudonné (“Une monnaie des Aleuades à Larissa,” Revue Numismatique [1906]: 10-11) that the fourth-century Larissa drachms marked ΑΛΕ Υ and Ε ΛΛΑ were struck by the Aleuadae of Larissa as a means of promoting their claim to the tageia of Thessaly against the competing claims of Alexander of Pharae. However, the argument of 1906 is somewhat modified by the interesting suggestion that the eagle on thunderbolt reverse was intentionally adopted for this issue in order to advertise the longstanding close relations between the Aleuadae and the Argead kings of Macedonia.

Vesna Radic provides an overview of the history of the Novo Brdo silver mine and the coins that were produced from its ore under the Serbian despots of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, in “Kovnica Novo Brdo u vrijeme srpske despotovine.” Here special attention is given to the development of a heavier standard for the Serbian dinar and new typology for the issues of Stefan Lazarevic and Djurdje Brankovic.

A particularly important paper is Yannis Stoyas’ “Roman Victoriati in Perspective from the Other Side of the Adriatic.” Here the author reassesses the literary claim that the Roman victoriatus denomination was adopted from Illyria (i.e., the drachms of Apollonia and Dyrrachium), instead associating its introduction with the fall of Capua and rebellious Campania to the Romans in 211 BC on the grounds that the Jupiter/Victory iconography was appropriated from the civic coinages of the rebels and that the metrology was appropriate for use in southern Italy. The rare victoriati and quinarii of Corcyra bearing the monogram Γ-Α are identified as later issues based on metrology and convincingly associated with the consul P. Sulpicius Galba, whose fleet was based in Corcyra in 199 BC, during the opening salvoes of the Second Macedonian War.

The final article, “The Coinage of Corcyra Melaina,” is provided by Paolo Visonà, who analyzes the typology and fabric of four third-century BC bronze coins from Corcyra Melaina (Korcula) with the types of Apollo (?) / barley ear and an inscription naming the Corcyreans. By comparing the Corcyrean bronzes with the style and fabric of bronzes from Issa, he comes to the interesting conclusion that the former are so similar to the latter that there must have been a close connection between the two series, leading him to believe that the Corcyrean issues were probably struck by colonists from Issa.

While the diversity of subjects touched upon in the present volume is notable, the impact of the material is somewhat lessened by the quality of presentation. For example, little thought seems to have been put into organizing the papers in some logical fashion, either chronologically or by theme. Two papers on archaeological finds from sites in Serbia and Croatia frame an article on semiotic approaches to modern banknotes, while another discussing the profits of modern coin and paper-money production is placed between articles discussing the depiction of Eucratides I of Bactria and coin finds from a Dacian colonia, respectively. Likewise, the English translations that accompany the Croatian language papers are somewhat less than perfect and occasionally border on the incomprehensible. We hope that when the time comes to publish the proceedings of the fifth International Numismatic Congress in Croatia, the material will be similarly wide ranging in focus but that some greater attention will be paid to presentation. Nevertheless, despite these criticisms, the Proceedings of INCC 2004 contain a wide variety of papers that will certainly be of interest to those specializing in the coinage of the ancient or medieval Balkans.

—Oliver D. Hoover