The Reka-Devnia Hoard (Marcianopolis, Bulgaria)


This hoard, discovered in 1929, consisted of more than 81,000 silver coins, weighing a total of approx. 350 kg (770 lbs !) covering the period of 1st to the 3rd century AD. The oldest coins were issues of Marc Antony and the most recent one was a coin of Herennius, the son of Trajan Decius (249-251 AD). The coins had probably been hidden in the cellar of a building during the invasion of the Goths.

In many cases, this impressive collection of silver coins serves as a reference to establish the rarity of coins. However, this is not always the case: actually in most hoards, the later coins are represented the least and so the number of coins found from the last empirical reigns are not necessarily representative of their relative rarity. In the Reka-Devnia hoard for example, there were only 280 coins of Gordian III (238-244 AD) and 3 coins of Trajan Decius (249-251 AD), though the coins of both these emperors are actually quite common. The same phenomenon was observed in the hoard of Francesti (Romania), buried around 235 AD, in which, from 1,365 denarii, only 7 of them were otherwise common ones of Septimius Severus (193-211 AD). The same can be said of many hoards

An analysis of the monetary types in the hoard shows two suprising facts : The first is a complete absence of coins showing the effigy of Pescennius Niger, and the second is an absence of any coins issued by Clodius Albinus as Augustus. Of course the latter coins are rare in the best of cases, but those of Pescennius Niger should have been relatively common at the time, given the impressive number of dies used to strike the coins and the number of known variations.


On the other hand, coins of Clodius Albinus as Augustus are far from common, but are no rarer than the denarii of Didius Julianus, eleven of which were found in the Reka-Devnia hoard. There were however 184 coins of Albinus as Caesar. In fact the two emperors concerned had something in common - they were both rivals of Septimius Severus (represented by 7,256 coins) and the fact that their principate was not recognised by the Senate in Rome. Their coins weren't even struck in Rome: the Pescennius denarii were issued in Antioch and Alexandria, whilst those of Clodius Albinus as Auguste were struck in Lyons *( 1 ) . Their coins were well circulated, more than possibly throughout the entire empire *( 2 ) , but it seems that they were separated from this hoard for some unknown, obscure reason... At some time it appears that Septimius Severus recalled coins struck by Pescennius Niger, but these rare coins are also present in the hoard. Was it for reasons of a particular devotion to Severus which caused the owners of the hoard to separate the coins of his rivals ? It is probably that only official coins were hoarded after being meticulously sorted and any coins issued by the questionable Augusti were removed.

Frédéric Weber

* Note 1 : There is at least one Vespasian coin in the hoard, which was not struck in Rome, but probably in Antioch...  several coins with Greek legends... and a number of coins of Septimius Severus struck in Emesa, Syria.

* Note 2 : I remember a find in Belgium which included a single coin of Pescennius Niger.


Thanks to Helvetica for the translation