Archaeologists Stumble Upon Gold Coin of Eastern Roman Emperor Arcadius in Bulgaria’s Dragoynovo

Assoc. Prof. Ivan Dzhambov (center) showing to reporters the excavations of the Late Antiquity Fortress near Bulgaria's Dragoynovo. Photo: Radio Plovdiv

Assoc. Prof. Ivan Dzhambov (center) showing to reporters the excavations of the Late Antiquity Fortress near Bulgaria’s Dragoynovo. Photo: Radio Plovdiv

A gold coin minted by Eastern Roman Emperor Arcadius (r. 395-408 AD) has been found by archaeologists from Plovdiv University “Paisiy Hilendarski" during the excavation of the Late Antiquity and medieval fortress known as Hisar near the town of Dragoynovo, Parvomay Municipality, in Southern Bulgaria.

The coin has been found built into a wall in one of the building near the eastern wall of the fortress, which dates back to the Late Antiquity (4th-6th century AD).

The gold coin in question was minted after the division of the Roman Empire into a Western Roman Empire with its capital in Rome, and an Eastern Roman Empire, also known today as Byzantium, with its capital in Constantinople, in 395 AD after the death of Emperor Theodosius I (r. 379-395 AD). Emperor Arcadius was the elder son of Theodosius and the brother of Emperor Honorius who ruled the Western Roman Empire from 393 until 423 AD.

“The coin was minted in Constantinople as indicated by the letters written on its base," says archaeologist Assoc. Prof. Ivan Dzhambov, who is in charge of the 8tharchaeological expedition excavating the Hisar Fortress near Dragoynovo, as cited by Radio Focus Plovdiv.

He adds that one side of the coin features an image of goddess Victoria Augusta sitting on a throne and holding in one hand the insignias of imperial power.

Dzhambov notes, however, that the newly found gold coin of Byzantine Emperor Arcadius is yet to be examined in detail by numismatists. In his words, the coin is probably made of 22-carat gold.

“During our excavations we have also found coins from the 4th-6th century AD which are well preserved," says the archaeologists adding that for the first time near Dragoynovo the researchers have also found coins of Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus II Phocas (r. 963-969 AD) and Byzantine Emperor Alexius III Angelus (Alexios III Angelos, r. 1195-1203 AD) who had relations with the Bulgarian Tsars Asen I (r. 1190-1196) and Petar IV (r. 1186-1197) of the Second Bulgarian Empire.

In addition to the gold coin of Emperor Arcadius, the archaeologists excavating the Late Antiquity fortress known as Hisar (“hisar" is a Turkish word which is used in Bulgarian for naming ancient and medieval fortresses, especially if their real name is unknown) and a medieval monastery complex near Dragoynovo have discovered ten more coins (silver and copper) in total as well as ceramics, church vessels, and tools.

Dzhambov says that for the first time, the 2015 summer excavations at Dragoynovo have been focused on a deeper excavation of the fortress walls and the fortifications. The archaeologists have also found structures from a medieval fortification leading them to hypothesize that it was in fact the medieval monastery complex that was fortified.

The ruins of the medieval monastery themselves include several churches, a chapel, and a newly revealed orthogonal building.

“This is part of the history that we wish to present to the wider public so that it knows that we are not excavating just some fortress or monastery complex but part of the Bulgarian and Byzantine history," Dzhambov says.

He adds that the Mayor of Parvamay Municipality has committed to providing security for the Late Antiquity fortress Hisar and the medieval monastery ruins near Dragoynovo in order to ward off the looting treasure hunters.

Dzhambov himself has pled with the treasure hunters not to go after the sites excavated by the archaeologists and their university students because otherwise they will destroy valuable historical materials.

The area near the town of Dragoynovo is also interesting from an archaeological and historical viewpoint with the Thracian fortress on the nearby Mount Dragoyna, which has been excavated for the first time in 2015.