3 Gold Coins from Byzantine Empire after 1071 Battle of Manzikert Found in Bulgaria’s Lom in Almus, Lomgrad Ruins

3 Gold Coins from Byzantine Empire after 1071 Battle of Manzikert Found in Bulgaria’s Lom in Almus, Lomgrad Ruins

Three gold coins (solidi) of Byzantine Empiror Michael VII Ducas from the 1070s have been found in Bulgaria’s Lom in ancient Almus / Lomgrad. Photo: archaeologist Valeri Stoichkov via BNR

Archaeologists have found a small hoard of gold coins from the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire) minted after the emblematic Battle of Manzikert in 1071 under Emperor Michael VII Ducas during excavations of the Ancient Roman and medieval Byzantine city of Almus / medieval Bulgarian city of Lomgrad, today the town of Lom on the Danube River.

During the 2020 archaeological excavations of ancient Almus, medieval Lomgrad, in Bulgaria’s Lom, the researchers have come across a total of three gold coins of Byzantine Emperor Michael VII Ducas (Doukas) (r. 1071 – 1078 AD), a period of the High Middle Ages in the Byzantine Empire.

Michael VII Ducas had been a Co-Emperor of the Byzantine Empire since earlier in his life but he became the senior Emperor in 1071, after the Battle of Manzikert in Asia Minor, in which the Byzantine forces were routed by forces of the Seljuk Turks.

In the devastating defeat, the acting senior Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes, who was a general and not a member of the Ducas dynasty, was captured, the first and only time an Emperor of Byzantium (the Eastern Roman Empire) was taken captive by Muslim enemies of the Empire.

Byzantium’s loss of the Battle of Manzikert at the hands of the Seljuk Turks ushered into the Empire into a period of crisis.

Emperor Michael VII Ducas himself was nicknamed Parapinakes, meaning “minus a quarter" in Greek, a reference to the devaluation of Byzantine coins during his rule. He was deposed by a mutiny in 1078, and forced to become a monk, serving subsequently as a bishop of the city of Ephesus.

During the reign of Byzantine Emperor Michael VII Ducas, all of the former territories of the medieval Bulgarian Empire south of the Danube River were part of Byzantium.

In 1018 AD, the First Bulgarian Empire was ultimately defeated and conquered by the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire (more precisely, its core territories south of the Danube river) ushering into a period of Byzantine domination which lasted until 1185 when the Uprising of Petar and Asen led to Bulgaria’s revival and the establishment of the Second Bulgarian Empire.

The three newly discovered Byzantine gold coins have been found in the ruins of Almus, an Ancient Roman and later Byzantine city, which was known as Lomgrad in the medieval Bulgarian, the predecessor of today’s town of Lom on the Danube River in Northwest Bulgaria.

Michael VII Ducas whose gold coins have been found in Bulgaria’s Lom became Emperor of Byzantium after the devastating Battle of Manzikert in Asia Minor. Photo: archaeologist Valeri Stoichkov via BNR

Michael VII Ducas whose gold coins have been found in Bulgaria’s Lom became Emperor of Byzantium after the devastating Battle of Manzikert in Asia Minor. Photo: archaeologist Valeri Stoichkov via BNR

At the time of the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 and the rule of Byzantine Emperor Michael VII Ducas, Almus / Lomgrad was part of the Byzantine theme (i.e. administrative district) of Boulgaria (“Bulgaria"), which encompassed the western territories of the former First Bulgarian Empire, mostly in today’s Serbia, North Macedonia, and Western Bulgaria.

The eastern, or, rather, southeastern parts, of the former First Bulgarian Empire at the time were in the Byzantine themes (districts) of Paradounavon / Paristrion (today’s Eastern Bulgaria) and Makedonia (Macedonia) (today’s European Turkey).

The archaeologists, who have found the three Byzantine gold coins in Bulgaria’s Lom dating back to the time after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, believe the small coin hoard may have been hidden during one of the frequent “barbarian invasions" of the Byzantine Empire at the time by Torkils or Cumans from the north.

In the 11th century, Torkils or Torks (known in Bulgarian as “uzi"), a Turkic tribe of Oghuz origin, and Cumans (the latter becoming major allies of the Second Bulgarian Empire in the 13th – 14th century) invaded Byzantium, or, rather, the former Bulgarian territories, by crossing the Danube River from the north.

That was a High Middle Ages repeat of the barbarian invasions from the north and northeast which plagued the Roman Empire and the early Eastern Roman Empire in the Late Antiquity and early Middle Ages.

“We have discovered the [Byzantine gold] coins in such a setting that is, unfortunately, hard to trace. It is heavily influenced by materials from the Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages," lead archaeologist Valeri Stoichkov, a long-time researcher of Almus / Lomgrad in Bulgaria’s Lom, has told BNR.

“The [find of the Byzantine gold coins] is most probably a hidden small treasure (i.e. hoard). The coins were probably in a cloth bag, which is also indicated by their specific coloring," he elaborates.

“The coins were probably hidden due to insecurity and danger from invasions, which marked almost the entire rule of this emperor [Michael VII Ducas]," the archaeologist adds.

At the time, Torkils (Torks) and Cumans would often invade the northern border of the Byzantine Empire, oftentimes storming its fortresses along the Danube River.

A map showing the Byzantine themes (administrative districts) in 1025. The First Bulgarian Empire was conquered by Byzantium in 1018. Lom/Lomgrad/Almus is located on the Danube close to the city of Vidin. Map: Wikipedia

A map showing the Byzantine themes (administrative districts) in 1045. The First Bulgarian Empire was conquered by Byzantium in 1018. Lom/Lomgrad/Almus is located on the Danube close to the city of Vidin. Map: Wikipedia

The location of Almus / Lomgrad, today Lom, on the Danube River in Northwest Bulgaria. Map: Google Maps

The three newly discovered Byzantine solidi, or gold coins, are estimated to have been worth a total of 900 Byzantine bronze coins at the time (folles).

The newly found hoard of Byzantine gold coins is not the first treasure of coins to have been discovered in Bulgaria’s Lom in the ruins of the Roman and Byzantine city of Almus, medieval Bulgarian city of Lomgrad.

Back in the 1960s, archaeologists found there a hoard of more than 5,000 Byzantine bronze coins, scyphates, or cup-shaped coins from the 11th – 12th century. Subsequently, another small hoard of three Byzantine silver coins from the 14th century was also discovered there.

The most notable find from the 2020 archaeological city in Almus / Lomgrad in Bulgaria’s Lom has been the 1st century AD tombstone of a military veteran in the Roman Empire who served the unbelievable 44 years, and had a “sad" life story.

Lead archaeologist Valeri Stoichkov informs that in an archaeological layer also from the 1st century AD his team has unexpectedly found a well-preserved horse skeleton.

He has described the newly discovered hoard of Byzatine gold times from the time after the emblematic Battle of Manzikert in 1071 as further evidence of the rule that Almus / Lomgrad played in the Middle Ages along the Lower Danube.

Learn more about the Ancient Roman and Early Byzantine city of Almus, subsequently the medieval Bulgarian fortress of Lom, in the Background Infonotes below!

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Background Infonotes:

The ruins of the Ancient Thracian, Roman, Early Byzantine, medieval Bulgarian and Ottoman city of Almus (Artanes) known as Lomgrad in the medieval Bulgarian Empire are located in the Kaletata Quarter of today’s Bulgarian Danube town of Lom.

The Roman fort and road station of Almus was built at the location of an Ancient Thracian settlement around 29 AD, while the fortress itself was built at the beginning of the 2nd century AD, when it was part of the district of the nearby Roman city and colony Colonia Ulpia Traiana Ratiaria (today’s Archar) in the province of Moesia Superior.

Almus is believed to have been the ancient name of the Lom River. The Roman city of Almus is located on the Via Istrum, the Roman road going along the Danube, whose construction started during the reign of Emperor Tiberius (r. 19-37 AD).

Almus was also the starting point of a Roman road leading from the Danube to Serdica (today’s Sofia). It is believed that in Roman times the Danube port of Almus served both military and commercial vessels.

In the middle of the 5th century AD, Almus was captured and ransacked in the barbarian invasions of the Huns. It was later an important city in Early Byzantium, the medieval Bulgarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. During the Ottoman period the settlement was protected with a rectangular rampart.

Almus was mentioned in the 4th century AD Tabula Peutingeriana (the Peutinger Map showing cursus publicus, the road network in the Roman Empire, covering Europe, North Africa and parts of Asia), and was mentioned in the so called Antonine Itinerary (Itinerarium Antonini Augusti, “The Itinerary of Emperor Antoninus"), an Ancient Roman register of road stations.

Almus was marked on some Western European maps from the 16th-17th century. The name of Almus has been found in Latin inscriptions on epigraphic monuments explored by 19th and early 20th century archaeologists such as Bogdan Filov, Gavril Katsarov, Vaclav Dobruski, Felix Kanitz, and Konstantin Josef Jirecek.

The archaeological excavations of Almus have explored a 70-meter section from its western fortress wall, which is 2.2 meters wide, and was 200 meters long. The total area of the Almus Fortress is about 41 decares (app. 10 acres), and is shaped like a pentagon with round fortress towers at its angles.

The discovered archaeological artifacts are stored in the Lom Museum of History. The Almus Fortress has not been restored even though it harbors great potential as a cultural tourism site. The fortress walls are made from river stones, and the city had two water pipelines – one made of clay, and another one made of lead.

It is believed that Almus did not develop crafts because of its proximity to Colonia Ulpia Ratiaria. The necropolis of Almus contains masonry graves, and sarcophagi.

Almus was discovered for modern-day archaeology in 1864 by Austro-Hungarian geographer and archaeologist Felix Kanitz. At the end of the 19th century it was explored by Dimitar Marinov and Czech-Bulgarian historian Konstantin Josef Jirecek. In 1925, an archaeological society called Almus was founded in the town of Lom.

Almus was granted the status of a “monument of culture of national importance" by the Bulgarian government in 1971. It was excavated in 1986-1990 by a team of the Lom Museum of History and the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

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