The so-called Saulaces’ coins, III type
Type: The so-called Saulaces’ coins, III type

Description, picture:
Silver (?), copper. Weight: sample of the British Museum – 1,75 gr., sample of the Berlin Museum – 1,83 gr.

The weights range from 1,75 to 1,83 gr. d≈12/13 mm.

Obv. Male head facing in radiant crown.

Rev. Winged thunderbolt with Greek inscription above and below – ΒΑΣΙ... ΣΑΥ...


Scholarly commentary:     To prove the existence of the Colchian kingdom in the 2nd c. B.C., very important is the correct attribution of the small size copper, billon, and silver coins. There are eight samples and all of them except for one are kept in foreign museums: Moscow State Historical Museum – 3; Berlin Museum – 3, British Museum – 1, Vani Museum – 1. These coins are divided into three types. The description of the III type is given above. The other two’s description is as follows:
    I type.
Obv. Male head to the right in the radiant crown.
Rev. Bull’s head to the right. Greek inscription above and below – ΒΑΣΙ... ΣΑΥΛ or ΣΑΥΜ... meaning “of king Saulaces”, or “Saumakos“. The king’s name is only partially inscribed with the last letter read either “Λ”, or “Μ”.
    II type.
Obverse: Male figure to the right in the radiant crown.
Reverse: Rose, Greek inscription above and below – ΒΑΣΙΛΕ... ΣΑΥΛ or ΣΑΥΜ... meaning “of king Saulaces”, or “Saumakos”.
    As we see, none of the coins has a full inscription of the king’s name. This fact generated discussions lasting for more than a century. Doubtful is the fourth letter of the king’s name on the reverse of the coin. Some scholars read it as “Λ”, and therefore, the inscription is deciphered as ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΣΑΥΛ(ΑΚΟΥ) – “of king Saulaces“, since the latter name appears among the names of the Colchian kings. Other scholars read the fourth letter as “Μ”. According to R. Weil, the upper part of the right leg of the “Μ” is clearly seen on the sample of the Berlin Museum. G. Dundua thinks, the letter “Μ” should be read on the reverse of the sample found in Vani. Thus, according to this group of scholars, the name on the coin should be read as ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΣΑΥΜ(ΑΚΟΥ) – “of king Saumakos”, since such a king is known in the history of the kingdom of Bosphorus. Apart from this, there is also a whole set of historical and numismatic questions to answer.
Those scholars, who relate these coins to the Colchian kingdom, provide as an argument Pliny’s (the 1st century Roman historian) information that Saulaces had once reigned over Colchis. But, according to various calculations, this Saulaces had reigned in Colchis 1200 years before the above-given coins were struck. On the II type of these coins a rose is depicted which allows us to date approximately the whole coin group. This type is taken from the Rhodean numismatics. The rose-depicted coin is the exact copy of those Rhodean coins struck in 166-88 B.C. This, in turn, allows us to date those discussed samples by 2nd-1st cc. B.C.
    Thus, historically such a parallel can not be drawn. The next argument provided to uphold these coins’ Colchian provenance, is that on the reverse of the I type coins a bull’s head is depicted. Hence – connection with the Colchian tetri. And, the last argument is that the so-called Saulaces’ coins were sold along with Colchian coins in Sokhumi, which might seem as an important argument in attributing to them a common place of finding.  Nevertheless, these arguments are not convincing. We have already talked about the first argument. As to the second one: bull’s depiction is quite widespread in the Greek world, and is placed on many countries and cities’ coins. That is why its connection with the Colchian world in not entirely justified. As to the fact of their selling together, this, of course, does not mean they were found in one place. The most justified way to argue for these coins’ Colchian origin is the fact that 5 samples out of 8 were found in West Georgia (near Sokhumi and in Vani).
    Another part of the scholars relate the above-given coins to the kingdom of Bosphorus. Their argument is as follows: as was mentioned above, rose type is taken from the Rhodean money, struck in 166-88 B.C. Thus, these coins should be dated by 2nd-1st cc. B.C. The only historical figure attested by the written sources is Saumakos. He is mentioned in the decree set up in Chersonesus in honor of Diophantos (general of Mithridates VI Eupator (120-63 B.C.)). Saumakos organized a coup d’état in the kingdom of Bosphorus in the last decade of the 2nd c. B.C. and reigned over it for a short period of time. Presumably, he struck these coins during this period. In 107 B.C. he was defeated and taken prisoner by the above-mentioned Diophantos. Considering the given facts, these coins can be attributed to the numismatics of the kingdom of Bosphorus. Although it is very difficult to find a counter-argument to this hypothesis, it should be said that unless the so-called Saulaces’ (Saumakos’) coin with a full inscription is found, the question will still be hotly debated.

Mint: Unknown.
Nominal: Silver (?). 1,75 gr. Copper. 1,83 gr.
Date: Late 2nd c. B.C.
Collection: British Museum – 1 sample, Berlin Museum – 1 sample.
G. Dundua.
Saulaces or Saumakos? “Ochkhari” – Selected Articles. Ethnological, Historical and Philological Researches Dedicated to Julieta Rukhadze. Tb. 2002 (in Georg.); Money in Georgia (Georg. and Engl. Parallel texts) (T. Dundua, N. Javakhishvili and A. Eristavi as co-authors). Tb. 2003. (2nd Edition); Georgian Numismatics. I. Tb. 2006 (T. Dundua as co-author) (in Georg.); Georgian Numismatic Dictionary. Tb. 2009 (Ir. Jalaghania as co-author) (in Georg.).

T. Dundua. Colchis, Iberia and the Kingdom of Pontus According to Numismatic Material. Tb. 1993 (in Georg.).

K. Golenko. New Coin Type of the King Saulaces. Bulletin (“Moambe”) of Georgian Academy of Sciences. v. XXV. № 1. 1960 (in Georg.).

D. Kapanadze. Georgian Numismatics. Tb. 1969 (in Georg.).

В. Ф. Гайдукевич. Еще о восстании Савмака. Вестник Древней Истории (ВДИ). №1. 1962; К дискуссии о восстании Савмака. Сб. Античная история и культура Средиземноморья и Причерноморья. Л. 1968.
К. В. Голенко. О монетах, приписываемых Савмаку. Вестник Древней Истории (ВДИ). №4. 1951; Еще о монетах, приписываемых Савмаку. Вестник Древней Истории (ВДИ). №3. 1963.

Г. Ф. Дундуа. Нумизматика античной Грузии. Тб. 1987.

С. А. Жебелев. Последний Перисад и скифское восстание на Босфоре. Вестник Древней Истории (ВДИ). №3. 1938.

Э. Л. Казакович. К полемике о восстании Савмака. Вестник Древней Истории (ВДИ). №1. 1963.
Д. Г. Капанадзе. Несколько добавочных замечаний по поводу статьи К. В. Голенко «О монетах, приписываемых Савмаку». Вестник Древней Истории (ВДИ). № 4. 1951; Грузинская нумизматика. М. 1955.

В. В. Струве. Восстание Савмака. Вестник Древней Истории (ВДИ). № 3. 1950.

A. v. Gutschmidt. Saulaces, König von Kolchis. Zeitschrift für Numismatik. III. 1876.

A. v. Sallet. Zur griechischen Numismatik, I. Saul... oder Saum..., ein kolchischer oder scythischer König. Zeitschrift für Numismatik. III. 1876; Die Erwerbungen des Königlichen Münzkabinets. Zeitschrift für Numismatik. XVI. 1888.

R. Weil. König Saumakos. Zeitschrift für Numismatik. VIII. 1881.
Imported coins found in Georgia:

The 3rd-1st cc. B.C. foreign coins from West Georgia

    There are two regions in money circulation of Colchis in the 3rd-1st cc. B.C.: the coastal region and the hinterland. In the first case, as an example, coins from Dioscurias and the neighbouring territories are taken, whereas in the second one, mainly, coins from Vani.

Dioscurias and the neighbouring territories:

1.    During archaeological excavations in Eshera, the 3rd c. B.C. Sinopean hemidrachms were found: a) Obv. Head of Nymph Sinope; Rev. Eagle – 1 sample (identical coins were found in Pichvnari (3 samples), and Dapnari (1 sample)); b) Obv. Head of Nymph Sinope; Rev. Prow.
2.    In 1939 late 3rd c.-early 2nd c. B.C. Amisus’ siglos was found on the territory of the Sokhumi fortress.
3.    On the same territory was found one Roman republican denarius struck in 171-151 B.C.
4.    On the same territory was found one silver piece of Panticapaeum dated by the first half of the 2nd c. B.C. (Obv. Satyr; Rev. Cornucopia placed between two caps of the Dioscuri).
5.    In 1949 in Sokhumi, nearby the seaboard, the so-called “new style” Athenian tetradrachm (its emission began in Athens at the end of the 3rd c. B.C. (Obv. Athena’s head in helmet to the right, which is the copy of the work of the 5th c. B.C. Greek sculptor Phidias; Rev. Owl sitting on an amphora, date and name of the city, magistrates etc.)) was found dated by 130-129 B.C.
6.    Roman republican denarius struck in 99-94 B.C. in the name of Marcus Sergius Silus was found in Sokhumi.
7.    In 1942 tetrachalkon of Panticapaeum struck in 100-75 B.C. was found by chance on the territory of the Sokhumi fortress (Obv. Apollo; Rev. Scepter on a tripod).
8.    During archaeological excavations in Eshera, tetrachalkon and dichalkon of the times of Mithridates VI Eupator (dated by 111-105 B.C. or 105-90 B.C.) were discovered. One of them is struck in Amisus (Ares – sword).
9.    Another 7 copper coins (dated by 105-90 B.C. (Gorgon-Nike)) of the Pontic cities are found in the same territory. Although the coins are badly preserved, one of them is definitely struck in Amisus, and another, probably, in Amastris.
10.    In 1886 in Sokhumi during archaeological excavations copper coin struck in Amisus in 105-90 B.C. was found.
11.    Tetrachalkon was  found in Eshera in 1971 dated by the reign of Mithridates VI Eupator and struck in the city of Pharnacia (Tyche – Zeus).
12.    In 1972 in Eshera dichalkon was found of the same date struck in Neocaesarea (Obv. Dionysus’ head; Rev. Thyrsos).
13.    Tetrachalkon struck in Amisus in 80-70 B.C. was found in Eshera (Zeus – Eagle).
14.    In 1936 in the outskirts of Sokhumi, Mithridates VI Eupator’s two tetradrachms were found dated by 74 B.C.
15.    In the seaboard of Sokhumi Roman republican denarius was found dated by 87 B.C.
16.    On the territory of the Sokhumi fortress Roman republican denarius was found dated by 83 B.C.
17.    In Eshera Roman republican denarius was found struck in Sicily and dated by 49 B.C.
18.    In the outskirts of Sokhumi Roman republican denarius was found struck in 48 B.C.


1.    Three copper coins of the 2nd-1st cc. B.C. (?)
2.    The so-called “new style” Athenian coins: a) drachm struck in 146/5 B.C.; b) tetradrachm dated by 125/4 B.C.
3.    Small-size silver coin, struck in Rhodes in 166-88 B.C. with the depiction of Helios and a rose. This is the only case of finding a Rhodean coin in Georgia.
4.    Drachms of the Cappadocian kings: a) Ariarathes VI (130-116 B.C.) – 1 sample; b) Ariarathes VII (116-101 B.C.) – 1 sample; c) Ariarathes IX (101-87 B.C.) – 2 samples; d) Ariobarzanes I (96-63 B.C.) – 3 samples.
5.    Roman republican denarii – 2 samples (one struck either in 119-110 B.C. or in 90-80 B.C., the other – 64 B.C.); quinarius (half denarius) – 1 sample, dated by 102 B.C.
6.    Copper coins of the Pontic cities struck in Mithridates VI Eupator’s reign:
a)    Dated by 111-105 B.C. Type: Ares – Sword; 1 sample;
b)    111-105 B.C. or 105-90 B.C. – 14 samples, type – identical. Amisus’ mint – 5 samples, undecipherable – 9 samples;
c)    105-90 B.C. – 1 sample. Type: Athena – Perseus, Amisus’ mint;
d)    105-90 B.C. Type: Gorgon – Nike, Amisus – 7 samples, Amastris – 3 samples, unidentified mint – 14 samples. Altogether 24 samples;
e)    90-80 B.C. – 1 sample. Type: Dionysus – cista (sacrificial chest); Amisus;
f)    80-70 B.C. – 5 samples. Type: Zeus – Eagle, Amisus – 2 samples, unidentified mint – 3 samples;
g)    Badly preserved copper coins, but, undoubtedly struck in the Pontic cities during the reign of Mithridates VI – 9 samples.
Thus, there are 55 samples, out of which: 47 samples – tetrachalkon; 6 samples – dichalkon; 1 – obol (nominal of copper coins).
7.    Mithridates VI Eupator’s tetradrachm dated by 74-3 B.C. Obv. Mithridates Eupator’s head with hair loose to the right (his face resembling Alexander the Great’s); Rev. Grazing deer to the left. Above the deer the emblem of the Mithridatic dynasty – crescent and a star. Inscription – BΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΜΙΘΡΑΔΑΤΟΥ ΕΥΠΑΤΟΡΟΣ – “of king Mithridates Eupator”, date and monogrammes.
8.    Another tetradrachm of Mithridates VI Eupator was found during Vani archaeological excavations. The only difference is the depiction of a winged Pegasus on the reverse.
9.    Parthian drachms: Sinatruces (77-70 B.C.) – 1 sample; Orodes II (57-38/7 B.C.) – 1 sample.
10.    Cistophorus (large-size silver coin. It owes its name to a figure on its reverse: cista) struck in Pergamon in 50-49 B.C.

Other parts of the hinterland:

11.    In 1914 in Zugdidi District, tetradrachm of the Armenian king Tigranes II (95-55 B.C.) was found by chance.
12.    In the vicinity of Chiatura a tetradrachm (struck in Antioch in 83-69 B.C.) of  Tigranes II was found.
13.    In 1930 in the Ghumuri village of the Gali District three silver coins were found by chance. According to A. Zograff, one of them, denarius of Titus Carizius, was struck in 45 B.C.
14.    In 1897 in the Sazodelavo village, Senaki District, the 1st c. B.C. hoard of 23 Roman denarii was found by chance.