The siliques hoard discovered in Poiana Mică

4th century A.D.

    The siliques hoard Discovered in Poiana Mică

    Dating: 4th century A.D. Material: silver. Discovery place: Poiana Mică, Brașov County.

    The hoard containing siliques and siliques imitations was discovered in May 2013 by engineer Ovidiu Popescu in the Brașov – Poiana Mică area.

    This is the first siliquae hoard ever discovered in Romania, which includes imitations considered to be of Goth origin. In numismatic literature such imitations were known only in collections, their origin being unsure.

    Siliqua (siliqua in Latin) is a modern term, which refers to the silver currency of the late Roman financial system, name conventionally used to designate the 2-3 g silver coin.

    Silique initially referred to the seeds of a tree from the  Mediterranean region, the carob tree (ceratonia siliqua), which were used as unit of measurement for weight; in the Roman system, a silique represented 1/6 of scrupulumi (approximately 0.19 g.), and 5 siliques weighed about 1g.

    Initially, the 4th century silver coin was the equivalent of 0.19 g. of gold (a gold silique), measuring, depending on the chronological interval, between 1/24 and 1/40 of a solidus (golden coin, weighting 1/72 of a Roman libra).

    The inventory of the hoard: 76 late Roman silver coins, siliques and siliques imitations. The hoard found in Poiana Mică is the second richest among all already discovered in Romania.

    The coins’ state of preservation is extremely good, proving that they were not used, but were hidden soon after their issuing.

    DATING: The issuing of the coins  is chronologically spread between 351/355 A.D., respectively 367/375 A.D. (according to the official issuing).

    Discoveries of silique hoards are rare. Seven similar monetary hoards are known in Romania, all of them originating in the vicinity of the Danube (the river being the Roman limes in the 4th century A.D.): the great hoard discovered in the former County of Romanați in the 19th century (of which only 5% still exists), the hoards of Gura Ialomiței, Viespești, Redea, Drănic, Osica de Sus. Neither of them remained intact and for none of them is known the exact location of the discovery.

    The hoard of Poiana Mică should be considered as comprising coins which represented the stipendium or donativum, offered to a Roman soldier or a Barbarian mercenary enrolled in Roman Army.

    Being a mercenary was a common profession for Goths and other warrior people living north of the Danube in the 4th century.

    The hypothesis explaining the presence of the hoard in the Brașov area might be that the mercenary who received it as payment lost it or that it was captured in war.

    THE EMPERORS who issued the siliques of this hoard are Constantine II, Julian II, Jovian II, Valens, Valentinian I, Gratian and an unknown barbarian issuer, most probably a Goth.


    The mints where these silver coins comprising the hoard were produced are Siscia, Sirmium, Constantinople, Nicomedia and Antioch. Besides these, a barbarian mint must have existed, most probably Gothic, where silver imitations of Roman siliques were issued.

    Starting with the Tetrarchy, mints of the late Roman period were entrusted with making payments in certain dioceses. The production of coins made of precious metals, such as gold and silver, was allowed only in the most important mints and was very strictly controlled, given that the issuing of coins was an imperial monopoly. When the payment for troops sent in military campaign required additional quantities of money, the issuing of coins was extended to several officinae (subsidiaries of mints where the issuing of coins was autonomously organized and specific to a certain type of metal). 

    THE WORTH OF THE HOARD ITEMS raises to a sum which at around 378 AD represented the value of one year's wage of a Roman soldier or a Barbarian mercenary enrolled in the Roman army.

    The estimation is based on the values reached by donativum and stipendia (Bastien, 1988, p. 21), as resulted from 4th century historical sources:

    Historian Zosimos mentions 130 silver coins (siliques) worth of donativum awarded in Circesium, Asia Minor, at the beginning of the Roman military campaign led by emperor Julian against the Persians (Caesar 355-361, Augustus 361-363) (Zosimos, 3, 13).

    Historian Ammianus Marcellinus, supported by Zosimos, mentions that after the conquest of Perisapora, the same Emperor Julian promised to award each Roman soldier with 100 silver coins (siliques) worth donativa (Zosimos, 3, 18; Ammianus Marcellinus, 24, 3).

    Stipendium – represented the remuneration, the regular salary awarded to Roman soldiers or to mercenaries enrolled in the Roman Army. It was estimated to 5-6 golden coins (solidi), annually, respectively one silver libra (roughly 80-100 siliques)

    Donatium – represented the coins or precious metal (in shape of ingots, adornment items, pots) distributed to soldiers or officers, on the occasion of special events – the anniversary of the Emperor's accession to power, the birthdays of the members of the Imperial family, the start of certain military campaigns, military triumphs etc., which sometimes meant the doubling one year's remuneration (Bastien, 1988, p. 7-11).



    The coin is two-sided – obverse (on which, in the Roman Empire was always depicted the portrait of the Emperor to whom the coin is dedicated) and reverse (including legends and various official iconographical subjects). 


    At the middle of the of 4th century, the majority of coins' obverse legends were standardized, such as:

    D[ominus] N[oster] [the name of the Emperor] P[ius] F[elix] AVG[vestus].

    The portraits of the Emperors are also relatively standardized, but not identical. The bust of the Emperor is commonly oriented to the right (with rare exceptions in the case of silver issuing), military equipped: armor (visible only on the right shoulder of the Imperial bust) and paludamentum; tiara, usually consisting of small pearls or rosettes ending with a large central gem of various shapes.


    On the reverse of the siliques, the most frequently used is the vota-type legend.

    Within a wreath there appeared the legend VOT(IS)…MVULT(IS), to which were added numbers representing the years passed since the Emperor came to power (V- quiquennalia, X - decennalia, XX - vicennalia, XXX - tricennalia)

    For the romans, vota included sacrifices, gifts, presents and wishes for the prosperity of the Emperors and the longevity of the Empire. Initially they were organized once in 5 years, representing an occasion to reward the Army and Administration. Donativa are especially associated to monetary issuings of vota type.

    Vota-type legends appeared frequently on coins especially during the 4th century, until the reign of Theodosius. After Christianity was fully accepted, this celebration related to the imperial cult was given up (RIC VIII, p. 50-54; RIC IX, p. XXXVII și XXXVIII).

    Under the wreath, in the exergue was typed the stamp of the mint where the coin was minted, succeeded by that of the officinae:

    ● The name of the mint – SIS(cia), SIRM(ium), CON(stantinopolis), NIC(omedia), ANT(iochia) – in the case of the coins belonging to the hoard.

    ● Number of the mint (engraved with a combination of Greek or/and Latin numerals): A; B; Γ; Δ; Ε; Ζ; Η; Θ; Ι; IA; IB; I, II, III, IIII, V.

    ● Various mint certification stamps for each issuing (in the case of the illustrated item, the branch, the symbol XP with the letters in ligature - Jesus Christ's monogram and a wreath).


    Bastien, 1988: P. Bastien, Monnaie et donativa au Bas-Empire, Wetteren, 1988.

    Depeyrot, 1987: G. Depeyrot, Le Bas-Empire romain, économie et numismatique, ed. Errance, Paris, 1987. 

    Depeyrot, 1991: G. Depeyrot, Crises et inflation entre Antiquité et Moyen Âge, Paris, 1991.

    RIC VIII: J. P. C. Kent, The Roman Imperial Coinage, vol VIII: The family of Constantine I, AD 337-364, London, 1981.

    RIC IX: J.W.E. Pearce, The Roman Imperial Coinage, vol IX: Valentinian I – Theodosius I, London, 1951.