Subiect: The author presents a parcel of 15 Wallachian medieval coins, part of a larger hoard found in Dobrudja, at Constantza, during the winter of 1938. 13 of them are kept in collection of the Coin Room and Historical Treasure of the National History Museum in Bucharest, and two other were preserved, until the mid-1990’s, in the former collection of Octavian Iliescu.
According to Octavian Iliescu’s statements, the hoard was found on Constantza’s eastern see side, in the area of Mircea the Elder Street, after a land slide triggered by a strong winter storm. It consisted of 100 silver Wallachian coins (ducats), struck by the Prince Mircea the Elder (1386-1418). Soon after the uncovering of the hoard, most of it’s the coins were dispersed in the antiquities trade and entered several private collections. Only 13 pieces were acquired by the Coin Room of the Library of the Romanian Academy, from where they were transferred to the collection of the National History Museum, during the second half of the 1970’s.
The Constantza/1938 hoard was several times mentioned in the Romanian numismatic literature, but so far, it was never properly edited. The present publication offers data not only about the technical characteristics of each individual pieces, but also data regarding the composition of the monetary alloys used to produce them. They were obtained through XRF analyses performed by a team of physicists from the National Institute for Atomic Physics and Nuclear Engineering of Bucharest-Măgurele, led by Dr. Bogdan Constantinescu.
All the coins of the so far preserved from Constantza/1938 hoard consisted only of reformed ducats (the most common denomination struck by the Wallachian mints) of the prince Mircea the Elder (1386-1418).
14 specimens of them are ducats belonging to the first reformed issue. These coins bear on the obverse the representation of Jesus Christ Pantocrator, holding the Gospels and blessing. Above and below the inscription IC -XC are represented combinations of five or six ray stars, which had not only a decorative meaning, but, quite likely, they were used as secret mint-marks too. On the revers the coins is depicted the representation of the ruler, standing, wearing a crown, tunic fasten with a knight belt and mantel, holding a sword and an orb.
According to the recent researches, the first reformation of the Wallachian coinage during the reign of Mircea the Elder was implemented after 1402, quite likely, around 1405/6. On this occasion, a new type of ducats and bani was put in circulation, depicting on the obverse the bust of Christ and on the reverse, the ruler's portrait, holding a sword and the orb. The reformed currency was struck of good quality silver and it was, at least, twice heavier that the old debased, pre-reformed issues.
The first reformed coinage of Mircea the Elder was struck in two main mints – one located at Târgovişte (or/and Argeş) the capitals of the principality, and the second, at Severin, in the western marchland, near the Hungarian, Ottoman and Serbian borders. In the preserved parcel of the Constantza/1938 hoard are represented only the issues struck at Târgovişte (or/and Argeş). On the ducats struck at Târgovişte (or/and Argeş) mints the prince is rendered wearing a mantel foddered with ermine, meanwhile, on the issues minted at Severin, he is wearing only a tunic.
The 15th coin of Mircea the Elder from the Constantza/1938 hoard belong to the 4th reformed coinage, struck at Severin. On the obverse of these ducats is represented the prince standing, wearing crown, tunic fastened with a knight belt and holding a spear (pointing upward) and orb. On the reverse the coins are bearing the representation of the coat-of-arms of the Wallachian principality and the blundered name of a co-ruler of Mircea the Elder. So far, the spelling of his name was not completely established, and for this reason one could use only the conventional form of „Petrusian”.
According to the chronological data provided by the Treviso hoard the 4th reformed coinage was introduced around 1413 and it was the last major monetary reform underwent during Mircea the Elder's reign.
By its make-up, consisting only of reformed issues of the Wallachian prince Mircea the Elder, the Constantza/1938 hoard has a quasi-unique position among the coin finds in Dobrudja at the beginning of 15th century. Actually, it's only parallel, so far known in this region is another parcel of reformed coins of Mircea the Elder found in the area of Cocoş Monastery (comm. of Niculiţel, Tulcea County). Such a peculiar make-up rises a lot of questions not only about the political, economic and commercial channels leading to the diffusion of the Wallachian coinage in the region located between the lower Danube and the Black Sea shores during the first decades of the 15th century, but also regarding the general trends of the monetary circulation in this area in a very troubled historical context, during the first decades of the 15th century.
The Wallachian coinage started to spread toward the territories of Dobrudja since the early 1370, first, as a consequence of the involvement the newly established principality in the great international trade thriving in the area of the mouths of the Danube and along the western shores of the Black Sea. During the first part of the reign of Mircea the Elder (1386-1397) the diffusion of the Wallachian coinage toward Dobrudja has reached its climax, largely, driven by the political and military involvement of the principality in the region. Large parts of the province, if not the entire region was annexed to Wallachia and Mircea the Elder styled himself as: "Lord of Dârstar" (i.e. of the town of Silistra), "Despot of the Lands of Dobrotitzas", and “Master of both shores of the Danube, until the Country of the Tartars". A large number of hoards consisting of huge quantities of pre-reformed issues of Mircea the Elder, as well as single finds were found all across Dobrudja. However, one could remark quite important concentrations of such finds in some peculiar areas, such as: Isaccea (Tulcea County), near the most important Danubian ford in the northern part of the region, in the area of Enisala (Tulcea County), once on the Black Sea coast, in the area of Silistra (Bulgaria), another major Danubian ford and Kaliakra (Bulgaria), a strategic port on the Black Sea, in southern Dobrudja. Due the difficulties in dating the pre-reformed coinage of Mircea the Elder the historical interpretation of these large number of coin finds is not easy. However, there is a certain evidence that some of the hoards uncovered in the area of Silistra were concealed during the fights against the Ottomans in 1393 or soon after, and other hoards were hidden during the civil war between Mircea the Elder and Vlad I (1394-1396).
Anyway, the concealing, all across Dobrudja, of a large number of hoards consisting in pre-reformed issues of Mircea the Elder, during the last decade of the 14th century witness that the region underwent a very troubled political and military situation, due to the continuous fights between the Wallachian and the Ottoman troops, the passage of large groups of Tartars from the Golden Horde, flying in face of Tamerlane and the Genoese, trying to take territorial advantages for their own. Quite likely, the situation did not improved too much neither after 1402, when the Ottoman power collapsed for almost a decade after the disaster afflicted by Tamerlane, in spite of the long term involvement of Mircea the Elder in the civil war confronting the sons of Bayezid I. In spite of the reestablishment of the Wallachian political and military control over the region, after the battle of Ankara, the territories of Dobrudja suffered a long term devastation and were left largely deserted after these series of military confrontations during the end of the 14th and early 15th century. The sharp decline of the economic and demographic situation in Dobrudja, especially in the northern part of the region, at the turn of 15th century is clearly put in evidence by the very limited level of the spread fresh currency in the region and the shrinking of the monetary economy. Except the area of Kaliakra, very few early Ottoman coins (from Murad I, Bayezid I, Emir Süleyman, Musa Çelebi or Mehmed I) are so far mentioned in Dobrudja, both in hoards, as well as in single finds. Also, there are no single finds of Mircea the Elder reformed coins, as well as Hungarian or Golden Horde issues. Quite likely, the largest part of the everyday currency used in Dobrudja during the first decade of the 15th century was provided by the copper anonymous issues of Silistra type, struck in large quantities by the local authorities, under the aegis of the Wallachian administration.
As proven by the presence of the ducats belonging to the 4th reformed coinage of Mircea the Elder in the Constantza/1938 and Cocoş Monastery hoards, the influx of the Wallachian coinage toward Dobrudja was retaken, on a very modest scale, only during the second half of the 1410.
In spite of its modest appearance, the hoard found in 1938 at Constantza is one of the most important medieval documents regarding the human occupation in the area of the Roman-Byzantine city of Tomis. It witness the existence of a settlement at the beginning of 15th century in the area near the ancient northern and eastern city walls, next to a small bay (today Tomis tourist harbour), quite likely called Costanza on the Italian nautical maps.