Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.07.84

Chrysoulla Veligianni-Terzi, Oi Ellênídes póleis kai to basíleio tôn Odrusôn apó Abdêrôn póleôs méxri Ístrou potamoú.   Thessaloniki:  Ekdotikós Oíkos Adelfón Kuriakidé A. E., 2004.  Pp. 397; maps, 2.  ISBN 960-343-783-2.  

Reviewed by Peter Delev, St Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia (
Word count: 2244 words

The title of this book -- "The Greek Cities and the Odrysian Kingdom from the City of Abdera to the Istros River" -- is somewhat misleading, for the actual contents are rather more limited and specific. The Odrysian kingdom in Thrace existed as a distinct political entity until 46 AD when the emperor Claudius replaced it with the Roman province of Thracia. The book however deals only with the period of the "great" Odrysian kingdom of the fifth and fourth centuries until its annexation by Philip II in 341/340 BC. The author, Chrysoulla Veligianni-Terzi (hereafter V.-T.), professor of ancient history at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki,1 is concerned mainly with the Greek cities on the Aegean and Propontic Thracian coasts from Abdera to Byzantium, and not so much with those on the West coast of the Black Sea between the Bosphorus and the Danube (which are for the most part ignored). The book is furthermore focused only on the political aspects of the relations between the Greek cities and the Odrysian kingdom within these chronological and geographical limits, with inevitable additional attention on the activity of external political powers like Athens, Sparta, and the Macedonian kingdom in the area. V.-T. has however from the very beginning explicitly set out her aims and limitations (pp. 9-19) and has produced, on the whole, an interesting and valuable book on a topic which had not been dealt with on such a scale before.2

The book contains an introductory chapter, three chronologically defined long chapters and a short conclusion, followed by the usual apparatus. The lengthy introduction (some 50 pages) includes, besides the definition of the subject, sections on the history of investigations, on the available sources, on some points of method and (rather awkwardly here) on the foundation myths or stories of some of the Greek cities in Thrace (Abdera, Maroneia, Aenus, Perinthus, Byzantium, and Mesembria).

The second chapter (pp. 59-142) is devoted to the period of the Delian League (478-404 BC) and includes two separate parts, one on the Greek cities and the other on the Odrysian kingdom. The section on the cities is more extended (pp. 59-115) and contains sections dealing (1) with the incorporation of the cities into the Athenian League and the subsequent brief desertions of some among them; (2) with the foundations of Alcibiades on the Propontic coast in the last few years of the Peloponnesian war; and (3) with the Thracian and Hellespontian phoroi in the Athenian tribute lists. The order of (2) and (3) would better have been reversed. The shorter second section (pp. 116-141) includes paragraphs on the Odrysian kings Teres and Sitalces, on the extent of the Odrysian kingdom under Sitalces, and on the state revenues in the reign of his successor Seuthes.

Chapter III (pp. 143-200) covers the shorter period of Spartan hegemony in the first two decades after the end of the Peloponnesian war and is similarly divided in two parts. The first of these is dedicated to the cities and splits into two sections, one on the presence of the Spartans in the area between 404 BC and the battle at Cnidus in 394 BC, and the other on the activity of Thrasybulus and the brief resumption of Athenian influence in the years before the conclusion of the peace of Antalcidas. The second section is again devoted to the Odrysian kingdom, discussing the parallel reigns of Amadocus I and Seuthes II, the extent of the dominion of the latter, and the subsequent and supposedly brief reign of Hebryzelmis.

Chapter IV (pp. 201-324) is by far the longest and comprises two consecutive periods of very different nature: the period of the Second Athenian League, coinciding roughly with the reign of Cotys I in Thrace, when the Odrysian kingdom lived through an age of relative might and prosperity, and that of Philip II of Macedon and of the successors of Cotys in Thrace, when the Odrysian kingdom was split into three opposing parts and fell victim to internal strife, Athenian intrigue, and Macedonian aggression. It would have been easy to divide this chapter into two shorter ones covering these two distinctive periods had not the author chosen here a different approach to the simple and straightforward arrangement of Chapters II and III, with juxtaposition of parts devoted to the cities and to the Odrysian kingdom. V.-T. however has divided this chapter into three parts, one on the activity of the Athenians in the area and their relations with the Odrysian kingdom, the second on the relations between the Odrysians and Philip II of Macedon, and the third on the extent of Odrysian territory. The result is ambiguous, for if on the one hand it has permitted a more topical approach to the range of subjects under discussion, it has on the other hand led to the omission of systematic subdivisions of the Odrysian kings of this period.

The first of the three parts of Chapter IV covers the participation of the cities along the southern Thracian coast in the Second Athenian League, the recovery of the Thracian Chersonese by the Athenians, and the much discussed Athenian inscription IG II(2) 126, which contains a part of the text of a treaty between Athens and the Odrysian kings Cersebleptes, Berisades and Amadocus (V.-T. identifies it with the treaty concluded by Athenodorus in 358 BC).

In the second part, V.-T. discusses the controversies over the dates of the murder of Cotys and of the accession of Philip, their assumed meeting at Onocarsis (rejected by V.-T.) and the identification of the anonymous Thracian king who supported the pretender Pausanias, according to Diodorus (16.2.6 and 16.3.4). V.-T. examines the defeat of Cetriporis the son of Berisades by Philip in 356 BC and Philip's march to Maroneia in 353 BC (?) with the army of Pammenes sent by Thebes to aid the revolt of Artabazus in Asia. The following paragraphs deal with the first war of Philip against Cersebleptes in 352/1 BC (?), including some minor operations in Thrace such as the annexation of the kingdom of the sons of Berisades and the campaign of Antipater in 347 BC, and with the Thracian war in 346 BC coincident with the conclusion of the peace of Philocrates. V.-T. concludes with the Thracian war of 342-340 BC, which resulted in the annexation of the Odrysian kingdom by Philip and the ensuing events, including the expedition against the Scythian king Atheas in 339 BC.

The brief third part of this chapter is devoted to territorial problems and discusses the dominions of Cotys, of Berisades and his successors, of Amadocus II and Teres III, of Cersebleptes, as well as the emporion inscription from Pistiros.3 This section contains also a review of the coinage of the respective Odrysian kings, examined in relation to the territorial problems, which remain for the most part insoluble. V.-T. seems to accept (p. 311) that after the division of the Odrysian kingdom in 360 the upper Hebros valley belonged to the realm of Cersebleptes, which is possible but not at all certain; coins of both Cersebleptes and Amadocus II have been found at Vetren (Pistiros), and the specific privileges given to Maroneia in the Pistiros inscription would be more understandable if it dates to Amadocus II's reign.

A conclusion entitled "a scheme of the relations of the kings of the Odrysians with the Greek poleis" (pp. 325-340) summarizes the main ideas and hypotheses of the author (see below). This is followed by lists of abbreviations and bibliography (pp. 343-366), indexes of literary and epigraphic sources and of personal and place names (pp. 367-376) and an extensive English summary (pp. 377-397), which reviews section by section the contents of the book. Although quite long, the bibliographic list displays important omissions, most notably in the relevant publications by Bulgarian, Romanian, and Russian authors. This is understandable on linguistic grounds for publications in the respective national languages,4 but is unfortunately valid also for many important and pertinent works published in the more common European languages.5 The two maps at the end show Thrace with the main Greek cities and a more detailed view of the Thracian Chersonese and the Propontis. The first map contains some minor inexactitudes (the island cities are not marked with dots, Byzantium and Philippopolis are inexplicably set out with larger dots than the other cities, and the dot for Dionysopolis is very much out of place).

The main theses sustained by V.-T. throughout her book can be summed up in several points: the Greek cities did not pay any regular tribute or tax to the Odrysian kings; the coins of these kings were not minted in the Greek cities and did not represent a form of tax payment; and the Odrysian kings with minor exceptions were never able to enforce their political control over the Greek cities. Despite all the efforts of the author, I remain unconvinced by her arguments. Here are some brief reflections.

1. Thucydides mentions (2.97.3) that the Odrysian king Seuthes received an annual income of 400 talents in gold and silver as tribute (phoros) from the barbarian country and from the Greek cities (τῶν Ἑλληνίδων πόλεων), plus an equal amount of gold and silver and other goods as presents; Diodorus Siculus (12.50, probably drawing on Thucydides) writing of the reign of Sitalces rounds up the total to 1000 talents. V.-T. argues that Seuthes could have collected tax only from cities which he had conquered and suggests what Thucydides had in mind were several minor Greek establishments on the northwestern shore of the Propontis which had temporarily fallen under Odrysian domination. The sums mentioned are very great (greatly exceeding the usual annual income of Athens from the total allied phoros), while the insignificant amount of tax that could be levied on these small coastal places would not have deserved mention. Later texts, like IG II(2) 126, which mentions a "πάτριος φόρος" due to the Odrysian kings from the cities, or Demosthenes 23.110, referring to 200 (or 300) talents of income (πρόσοδος) "from the emporia" compared to only 30 talents of income that could be drawn from a direct subjugation of the whole Thracian Chersonese, contribute to the understanding that the Odrysian kings were all along drawing enormous revenues from the Greek cities. In a recent paper, Louisa Loukopoulou of the Institute of Greek and Roman Antiquity in Athens, has taken in my opinion a much more prudent and realistic view on the issue, concluding that the income from the trading initiatives of the Greek cities on the Thracian littorals was split between themselves, the Odrysian kings and Athens, all parties being equally interested in keeping the business active.6 The exact way in which the Odrysian kings collected their part remain unknown, and could have been through either direct or indirect taxation or both. Demosthenes (23.177) mentions in the reign of Cersebleptes customs duties (?) (τέλη καὶ δεκάται) and customs officers (δεκατολόγοι), and the Pistiros inscription attests the royal practice of imposing customs dues on the roads.7

2. The coinage of the Odrysian kings of the fifth and fourth centuries is represented mainly by bronze and small silver issues and by its very character does not seem suitable for the payment of large sums of tax by the cities but rather for the evolving internal market. However the Greek lettering of the coin legends, the quality of the dies and the analogies with the devices of some of the coastal Greek cities have promoted the idea that some or all Odrysian coins were minted in these cities. The argument of V.-T. that such issues would be possible only in the case of direct dependency seems to me unfounded; they could well have been commissioned in the existing mints of politically independent cities and would attest only the existence of good relations and mutual trust. Of course, the coin production could also have been organized somewhere on Odrysian territory (the "treasury" of Cotys on Hieron Oros comes to mind), presumably with the active participation of skilled engravers hired from the Greek cities; however the question cannot be resolved on the existing evidence.

3. It is true that the historical data at our disposal do not attest the subjugation of the coastal Greek cities by the Odrysian kings except for single and untypical cases. V.-T., however, seems to begin her arguments from the basic assumption that this was what they wanted all the way (but were unable to achieve); in this her attitude resembles that of Alexander Fol against whom she is otherwise arguing most of the time.8 I do not think that the Odrysian kings ever seriously intended to conquer the littoral and subjugate the Greek cities; as L. Loukopoulou has put it very precisely, for them this would have meant killing the hen which laid the golden eggs.9

Many minor points are also open to debate and discussion, but the scope of this review does not permit me to go into further detail. I would like however to state that in the end despite some questionable ideas and conclusions, the book as a whole presents a good example of modern scholarship, combining a free and competent use of literary, numismatic, and epigraphic evidence.10 I may find the views of V.-T. somewhat prejudiced and one-sided, but her book has the merit of clearly and competently setting forth its case. I feel certain that it will foster further debate on the subject, and that is more than many scholarly publications ever achieve.


1.   Her previous work includes publications on Greek institutions ("Damiurgen: Zur Entwicklung einer Magistratur." Diss. Heidelberg, 1977) and different points of epigraphy, including usage (Wertbegriffe in den attischen Ehrendekreten der klassischen Zeit, Stuttgart 1997). A preceding article ("Abdera, Maroneia, Ainos und der Odrysenstaat," Τεκμήρια 1, 1995, 136-170) already discussed many of the problems developed at greater length in the present book.
2.   Z. Archibald for example only briefly discussed the these problems (The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked, Oxford 1998, 145-148).
3.  See V. Velkov and L. Domaradzka, "Kotys I (383/2-359) et l'emporion de Pistiros en Thrace," Bulletin de Correspondence Hellénique 118 (1994)1-15; V. Chankowski, and L. Domaradzka "Réédition de l'inscription de Pistiros et problems d'interprétation," Bulletin de Correspondence Hellénique 123 (1999) 247-58.
4.   A sample of the numerous relevant publications, follows. In Bulgarian: Y. Todorov, Trakiiskite tsare [The Thracian Kings] , Sofia 1933 [= Godishnik na Sofiiskiia Universitet, Istoriko-filologicheski Fakultet 29.7, 1-80]; Kh. Danov, Zapadniiat briag na Cherno More v drevnostta [The Western Black Sea Coast in Antiquity], Sofia 1947; A. Fol, Politicheska istoriia na Trakite [A Political History of the Thracians], Sofia 1972; A. Fol, Trakiia i Balkanite prez ranno-elenisticheskata epokha [Thrace and the Balkans in the Early Hellenistic Age], Sofia 1975; Y. Yurukova, Monetite na trakiiskite plemena i vladeteli [The Coins of Thracian Tribes and Rulers], Sofia 1992. In Romanian: D. M. Pippidi, D. Berciu Din istoria Dobrogei, 1: Geti si greci la Dunarea de Jos din cele mai vechi timpuri pana la cucerirea romana [Getae and Greeks on the Lower Danube from the Earliest Times to the Roman Conquest], Bucharest, 1965. An extensive bibliography of Romanian publications on the history of the Black Sea can be found in O. Cristea, Bibliografia istorica romaneasca a Marii Negre, Bucharest 1996, esp. pp. 14-77. In Russian: T. D. Zlatkovskaia, Vozniknovenie gosudarstva u frakiitsev [The Rise of Statehood by the Thracians] , Moscow 1971.
5.   For example: V. Strazzulla, "Di Kotys I e Kersebleptes, re di Tracia," Klio 3, 1903, 325-330; A. Solari, Sui dinasti degli Odrisi (V-IV sec. a.C.), Pisa 1912; C. Danov, "Pontos Euxeinos," RE Suppl. 9, 1962, 685-1176; Danov, "Zur Geschichte der griechischen Kolonisation an der ägäischen Küste Altthrakiens," in Lebendige Altertumswissenschaft: Festgabe zur Vollendung des 70. Lebensjahres von Hermann Vetters, Wien 1985, 5-55; Y. Youroukova, Coins of the Ancient Thracians, Oxford 1976 [= BAR Suppl. 4]; D. M. Pippidi, I Greci nel basso Danubio dall'età arcaica alla conquista romana, Milan 1971 [= Biblioteca storica dell'Antichità 8]; Pippidi, Scythica Minora: Recherches sur les colonies grecques du littoral roumain de la Mer Noire, Bucharest and Amsterdam 1975; Pippidi, Les cités grecques de la Dobroudja dans l'histoire de l'antiquité, Bucharest, 1977; V. Velkov, "Über die Rolle der griechischen Kolonien an den Küsten Thrakiens im 6.-4. Jh. v.u.Z.," in Hellenische Poleis: Krise, Wandlung, Wirkung,, vol. 2, Berlin 1974, 977-992; M. Tacheva, "Le mode d'établissement de la coéxistence paisible entre le barbaricum balkanique et les colonies helléniques," Ancient Macedonia 6/2, 1999, 1127-1134.
6.   L. Loukopoulou, "The 'prosodos' of the Thracian Kings," in Thrace and the Aegean: Proceedings of the Eighth International Congress of Thracology, vol. 1, Sofia 2002, 345-353.
7.   Loukopoulou, "The 'prosodos' of the Thracian Kings," 347; Loukopoulou, "Sur le statut et l'importance de l'emporion de Pistiros," BCH 123, 1999, 359-371.
8.   Mostly indirectly, for his opinions are often cited second-hand.
9.   L. Loukopoulou, "The 'prosodos' of the Thracian Kings," 349.
10.   But not archaeological. I believe, however, despite the noteworthy attempt of Z. Archibald (see note 2), that the time has not yet come when the amassed archaeological evidence will permit us to solve some of the many open problems of Odrysian history.

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