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Seuthes III


Today's coin is from an obscure King, from Odrysia a part of Thrace. Comparing the portrait on the coin with the bronze head of Seuthes III - there is little question about the resemblance of these two portraits. The reverse reads ΣΕΥΘΟΥ (Seuthes in the genitive - belonging to Seuthes).

Greek Coins, Kings of Thrace (Odrysian), Seuthes III (circa 330/25-295 BC), AE (5.05g, 22mm), mint: Seuthopolis

Obv: Bearded portrait of Seuthes right

Rev: ΣΕΥΘΟΥ, Seuthes as horseman galloping right, beneath: laurel wreath

Ref: SNG Copenhagen 1072; HGC 3.2, 1713; CN Type 53551


Seuthes III saw opportunity in the death of Alexander to reestablish an independent Odryssian kingdom.

"With Alexanders protracted absence in Asia, Macedon’s record in Thrace ceases to be a cause for pride.  One strategos, Memnon, saw Thrace as a source of troops with which to assert himself against Antipater.  His successor, Zopyrion, launched and ambitious and possibly ill-advised campaign against the city of Olbia; it ended in his death and annihilation of his army at Scythian hands c. 325 BC.  The first strategos’ ambition and the second’s incompetence created unsettled conditions in Thrace which were fully exploited by the man who would prove to be Lysimachus’ chief opponent in the early years, the Odryssian Dynast Seuthes III."
-Helene S. Lund, (1992)

The precise extent of Seuthes kingdom is uncertain, but Arrian’s description of Lysimachus’ Thracian satrapy together with coin hoard evidence and other finds suggest that his influence was restricted to the middle and upper reaches of the Tonsus, extending west perhaps as far as the Stryama River and east to the Sasliyka.  By the end of the 4th century BC at least, an independent dynast ruled  at Cabyle, c. 100 kilometers to the east.
-Helene S. Lund, (1992)

Margarita Tacheva (20060 describes this coins as "Type 7" for Seuthes and suggests that the coin is linked with the restoration of the royal power of Seuthes III in 322 BC.

"Type 7 has on its obverse Seuthes' portrait with or without diadem, i.e. a royal portrait, and on the reverse - galloping horseman identified as the ruler himself; thus bearing closest resemblance to the coin issues of Kotys I. The minting of this utterly Thracian type obviously sought to pronounce the restoration of Odrysian royal power and in the same time independence from Lysimachos gained by the king Seuthes in the war of 323-322 BC"

Writing about events after the death of Alexander the Great, Arrian describes Seuthes victory:

Lysimachus also, recklessly fighting against Seuthes the Thracian with an inferior force, was defeated, although his troops greatly distinguished themselves.
-Flavianus Arrianus, 1.10

The battle between Lysimachos and Seuthes (323/322 BC) is documented by Diodorus Siculus.

"Lysimachus, when he entered the Thracian region and found that the king of that country, Seuthes, had taken the field with twenty thousand infantry and eight thousand cavalry, was not frightened by the size of the army.​ And although he had in all no more than four thousand foot soldiers and only two thousand horsemen, he joined battle with the barbarians. In truth he was superior to them in the quality of his troops though inferior in numbers, and the battle was a stubborn one. After losing most of his own men but killing many times that number, he returned to his camp with but a doubtful claim to victory. Therefore for the moment the forces of both sides withdrew from the locality and busied themselves with greater preparations for the final conflict."
-Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History 2.14.2-5

What happened next is undocumented, but archeological evidence combined with coins confirm that Seuthes reached some level of truce or agreement with Lysimachos that allowed him to rule for the next 10 years in Seuthopolis. Diodorus Siculus later mentions Seuthes III with Seuthes switching from ally to Lysimachos to supporter of Antogonos in a revolt in 313 BC.

"When, however, he reached the pass over the Haemus, he found Seuthes, the Thracian king, who had gone over to Antigonus, guarding the crossing with many soldiers. Engaging him in a battle that lasted a considerable time, Lysimachus lost not a few of his own men; but he destroyed a vast number of the enemy and overpowered the barbarians."
-Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History, 19.73.8

However little changed for Seuthes, or Seuthopolis, and he seems to have once again made some agreement with Lysimachos and continued to rule until the end of the 4th century BC.


An inscription found in Seuthopolis references Berenike as the wife of Seuthes III and Seuthes as either ill or already dead.

To good fortune. Oath of Berenike and her sons for Epimenes. Since Seuthes while healthy entrusted Epimenes and his possessions to Spartokos and Spartokos gave assurances to him on these matters, be it decided by Berenike and her sons Ebryzelmis and Teres and Satolos and Sadalas and those 8 [...] that Epimenes be given to Spartokos, himself and his possessions for the entirety of his life, and that Epimenes provide service to Spartokos or whatever he, Spartokos, commands, to the extent that he, Epimenes, is able...."
-IGBulg 3.2 1731, The "Seuthopolis Inscription“



Spartokos was a rival Thracian ruler during the reign of Seuthes, but does not appear to have reached the level of importance of Seuthes.


Emil Nankov (2012) examined artifacts from Seuthopolis to argue that there was a level of literacy among the population of Seuthopolis that extended beyond wealthy members of the military hierachy. He also characterizes the city as multi-ethnic; comprised of Thracians, Greeks and perhaps Macedonians for whom Greek would have been a practical language for communicating between ethnic groups.


References


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