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Ancient Coins Found in Roman Ruins

The 120 silver coins were discovered near a coal mine in a cornfield in Kostolac, thought to be the site that was once the headquarters of the VII Claudia Legion, a Roman military force.

Some 120 ancient silver coins which appear to have been spilled in a room are now being excavated in Serbia.

According to lead archaeologist Miomir Korac, the coins “must have been lost during an emergency.”

The coins were discovered near a coal mine in a cornfield in Kostolac. The site is understood to have been the headquarters or principium of the VII Claudia Legion, a Roman military force stationed in what at that time was the Roman provincial capital of Viminacium, Moesia Superior.

During Roman imperial times a legion was typically comprised of 5,200 infantry and 120 axilia or auxiliary troops.

Archaeologists believe they have only uncovered about four percent of the Moesia Superior site. The ruins are about three feet under the surface and consist of what appears to be 40 rooms, a treasury, a shrine, parade grounds, and a fountain. The walls of the rooms were at one time heated. The dig site is estimated to be 3,500 square meters or 37,673.69 square feet.

The archaeological study of these ruins is nothing new. The studies have been ongoing since 1882. During that time the excavations have yielded a Roman ship (the Roman Danube fleet was located at Viminacium), golden tiles, jade sculptures, mosaics, frescos, 14,000 tombs, and the remains of three mammoths. The mammoths are likely from an earlier time.

Lead archaeologist Nemanja Mrdjic said, “A very small number of principiums are explored completely [and] ... so we can say [preservation of] this one is unique as it is undisturbed. The distribution of coins from a corner to the door… suggests they [the coins] spilled while someone was fleeing.”

Mrdjic speculated an invasion or a natural disaster may have been taking place when the coins were spilled. Since the specifics about the coins had not been identified at the time this article was being written it isn’t possible to identify the crisis, however it is known the Emperor Gallienus (AD 253-268) issued bronze AE26 (26 millimeter bronze) coins with a reverse depicting the bull emblem of the seventh legion accompanied by the legend LEG VII CL. The exergue legend VI P VI F indicates this was Gallienus’ sixth campaign. The PF stands for Pia et Fidelis or Loyal and True. These coins were issued to pay the seventh legion. Gallienus crushed almost simultaneous rebellions by Ingenuus, the governor of Pannonia Inferior and Regalianus, governor of Pannonia Superior.

The seventh legion remained loyal to the emperor at a time when several other locally situated Roman legions joined the unsuccessful rebellions. Legion seven once more remained loyal against a rebellion by the usurper Macrianus and his sons. By this time the VII Claudia Legion had a walled camp and principium that were separate from the rest of Viminacium, which had its own fortifications. The third century was one of the darkest periods of later Roman history.

Miomir Korac is the lead archaeologist of the excavations both at the site of the legion headquarters and at Viminacium. Korac explained, “A very small number of principiums are explored completely [and] ... so we can say [preservation of] this one is unique as it is undisturbed.”

The VII Claudia Legion existed since at least 58 BC when it was ordered to Cisalpine Gaul by Julius Caesar during the Gallic Wars. Among the legion’s other achievements was participating in the invasion of Britain 10 years later and delivering the head of the last king of Dacia to the Emperor Trajan in AD 106.

Viminacium became the capital of the new province of Moesia Superior Margensis under Diocletian in AD 293-294. The emperors Theodosius and Gratian met in the city in 382 during the Gothic Wars. Viminacium was destroyed by Attila the Hun in 441, then rebuilt by the Emperor Justinian I during the early period of the Byzantine Empire. The Avars once more destroyed the city in 582.