A small hoard of seven gold coins of Byzantine Emperors Constantine IV and Justinian II was discovered hidden at Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis in Bulgaria’s Burgas back in 2012. Photo: Burgas Regional Museum of History
A small hoard of Byzantine gold coins, which was discovered back in 2012 during the excavations of the ancient spa resort Aquae Calidae (called Thermopolis in the Middle Ages) in Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Burgas, have now been showcased briefly at the newly built museum in the partly restored ancient city.
The archaeological preserve “Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis" located near today’s Burgas Mineral Baths resort was an ancient spa resort known as Aquae Calidae (meaning “hot waters" in Latin) in the Antiquity, and as Thermopolis in the Middle Ages.
It features structures and artifacts from all major civilizations that inhabited the territory of modern day Bulgaria – from Ancient Thrace and Greece to the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Bulgarian Empire, and Ottoman Empire.
It is proven that Aquae Calidae – known in the Middle Ages as Thermopolis or Therma – was visited by important ancient and medieval rulers such as Philip II of Macedon (r. 359-336 BC), Byzantine Emperors Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565 AD), and Constantine IV the Bearded (668-685 AD), Bulgarian Khan (or Kanas) Tervel (r. 700-718/721), and Ottoman Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520-1566 AD).
Some of the most valuable items discovered in Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis during the archaeological excavations – namely, seven Byzantine gold coins from the end of the 7th and the beginning of the 9th century – have been showcased for a two-day event entitled “Aquae Calidae’s Treasures from Antiquity to Virtual Reality".
The event includes a day of lectures on March 16 by archaeologists Dimcho Momchilov on the latest excavations of Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis (head of the digs there), and Miroslav Klasnakov on the coins of Aquae Calidae (deputy head of the digs), and by Prof. Sava Dimov from Burgas Free University on cryptocurrencies dubbed the coins of the future.
Then, only on March 17, 2018, the hoard of seven Byzantine gold coins will be on display at the Aquae Calidae Museum, before they are returned to the Treasury Hall of the Burgas Regional Museum of History, where they are usually kept.
Archaeologists Dimcho Momchilov (above) and Miroslav Klasnakov (below) during their lectures at the Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Museum. Photos: Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Archaeological Preserve Facebook Page
The exhibiting of the gold coins will be accompanied with 3D documentary projects, and every visitor is going to receive as a gift a coin which they themselves can mint by hand, a replica of an extremely rare 4th century BC silver tetradrachm from the Ancient Greek city-state Apollonia Pontica (today’s Sozopol) south of Burgas, the Burgas Museum has announced.
The small Byzantine gold coin hoard from Aquae Calidae was discovered on July 17, 2012, hidden in front of the western façade of the southeastern apodyterium (“undressing room", i.e. public bath entry) of the ancient spa resort.
All seven coins from the stash found at a depth of 4.5 meters underneath the modern-day surface were minted in Constantinople.
The seven Byzantine gold coins from Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis in Bulgaria’s Burgas were discovered in 2012 alongside two male rings, one gold and one silver. Photos: Burgas Municipality
One of the Byzantine gold coins was minted during the reign of Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Emperor Constantine IV Pogonatos (“the Bearded") (r. 668 – 685 AD).
Emperor Constantine IV is known, among other things, for losing in 680 the Battle of Ongal near the delta of the Danube River to the Ancient Bulgars of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680 – 1018) led by Khan Asparukh (r. 680 – 700).
The victory of the Bulgars (respectively, the Byzantines’ defeat) allowed the former to expand south of the Danube into the subsequent historical Bulgarian heartland in the northern part of modern-day Bulgaria.
The other six Byzantine gold coins from the small hoard of Aquae Calidae were minted by Constantine IV’s son, Byzantine Emperor Justinian II Rhinotmetus (“the Slit-nosed") (r. 685 – 695; 705 – 711).
Emperor Justinian II is also closely connected with Bulgaria’s history as in 705 he managed to regain the throne in Constantinople, from which he had been deposed, with the active support of Bulgaria’s Khan Tervel (r. 700 – 721).
As a result, the First Bulgarian Empire was ceded its first territory south of the Balkan Mountains (today’s Southeast Bulgaria), and Justinian II granted Tervel the title of “Caesar" (subsequently shortened in Bulgarian to “Tsar", the official title of the Bulgarian rulers meaning “Emperor" since the reign of Tsar Simeon I the Great (r. 893 – 927).
Subsequently, Khan Tervel has become known in European history as the Savior of Europe for stopping the invaders from the Arab Caliphate in the Battle of Constantinople of 718.
The small Byzantine gold coin hoard from Aquae Calidae includes the three most valuable coins from the time: a solidus, a semissis (1/2 solidus), and a tremissis (1/3 solidus).
“The [Aquae Calidae] treasure was hidden in the 8th century, and has a direct connection with the political relations and military clashes between the Bulgarian state and the Byzantine Empire," the Burgas Regional Museum of History explains.
Learn more about the Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Archaeological Preserve in the Background Infonotes below!
Other archaeological artifacts from Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis have also been displayed alongside the Byzantine coins. Photo: Burgas Regional Museum of History
The official poster for the two-day events at the Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Archaeological Preserve in Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Burgas. Photo: Burgas Regional Museum of History
The originally Ancient Thracian city of Aquae Calidae(meaning “hot waters" in Latin) is an archaeological site located in Bulgaria’s Black Sea port city of Burgas, in today’s Burgas quarters of Vetren and Banevo.
It is proven that Aquae Calidae – known in the Middle Ages as Thermopolis or Therma – was visited by important ancient and medieval rulers such as Philip II of Macedon (r. 359-336 BC), Byzantine Emperors Justinian I (r. 527-565 AD) the Great and Constantine IV the Bearded (668-685 AD), Bulgarian Khan (or Kanas) Tervel (r. 700-718/721), and Ottoman Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520-1566 AD).
Archaeological excavations have found that the Aquae Calidae mineral baths were used as early as the Neolithic Age, with three prehistoric settlements being located there in the 6th-5th millennium BC.
The Ancient Thracians settled near the mineral waters in the middle of the 1st millennium BC, turning the major spring into the revered ancient “Sanctuary of the Three Nymphs" by the middle of the 1st century AD when the Roman Empire was wrapping up the conquest of Ancient Thrace. The earliest written testimony about the ancient spa resort Aquae Calidae dates back to the 4th century BC when Philip II of Macedon went there.
The name “Aquae Calidae" comes from the name of a Roman road station near the mineral springs which was erected along the major Roman road Via Pontica running along the Western coast of the Black Sea. The Sanctuary of the Three Nymphs was revered in Roman times.
The Roman baths at Aquae Calidae were rebuilt and expanded in the early years of the Byzantine Empire – the 4th-5th century, with fortress walls constructed during the reign of Emperor Justinian I the Great.
In the Middle Ages, Aquae Calidae became known as Therma or Thermopolis (“warm city" in Greek). In 708 AD, Khan (or Kanas) Tervel, ruler of the First Bulgarian Empire, defeated the army of Byzantine Emperor Justianian II (r. 685-695 and 705-711 AD) in the first Battle of Anchialos close to Thermopolis, conquering the ancient and medieval “spa resort" for Bulgaria. Another interesting episode from the history of Thermopolis has to do with the so called Latin Empire established when the knights from the Fourth Crusade conquered Constantinople.
After Tsar Kaloyan (r. 1197-1207 AD) of the Second Bulgarian Empire defeated the crusaders in the Battle of Adrianople in 1205 and captured Latin Emperor Baldwin of Flanders (also Baldwin I of Constantinople), the next year the Latin Emperor’s brother, Henry of Flanders, marched against Bulgaria conquering Thermopolis, looting the city and burning it to the ground.
The city of Thermopolis never recovered even though the mineral baths themselves were rebuilt later and used by Ottoman Turkish Sultan Suleiman I the Magnificent in 1562. In modern-day Bulgaria, in the 20th century the town near the mineral baths was known as Banevo until the 1980s when it was renamed to Burgas Mineral Baths; it became part of the city of Burgas in 2009.
Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis was first excavated in 1910 by renowned but controversial Bulgarian archaeologist Bogdan Filov (known as Bulgaria’s pro-German Prime Minister during World War II). The contemporary excavations were started in 2008 by Tsonya Drazheva and Dimcho Momchilov. In 2011, the ancient and medieval city was formally declared “The Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Archaeological Preserve".