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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Greek Coins ▸ Geographic - All Periods ▸ SyriaView Options:  |  |  |   

Ancient Coins of Syria

Parthian Empire, Mithradates II, c. 121 - 91 B.C.

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Mithradates II was the eighth and one of the greatest Parthian kings. He defeated all Seleukid attempts to reclaim territories and made Parthia a formidable, unified empire. He adopted the title Epiphanes, "god manifest" and introduced new designs on his extensive coinage. The ruins of Seleukeia on the Tigris, where this coin was struck, have been identified at Tell Umar, about 30 km south of Baghdad, and 60 north of Babylon. According to Pliny, the city had 600,000 inhabitants and c. 100 A.D. the city still held some Macedonian customs.
SH86429. Silver tetradrachm, Sellwood 24.4, BMC 3, Boston MFA 2216, Sunrise 284, Shore 67 var., EF, fantastic high relief bust, well centered on a tight flan, radiating flow lines, slightest die wear, slightest porosity, weight 15.696 g, maximum diameter 28.2 mm, die axis 0o, Seleukeia on the Tigris mint, c. 119 - 109 B.C.; obverse diademed bust of Mithradates to left, long beard, wearing torc and elaborate robes; reverse BAΣIΛEΩΣ MEΓAΛOY APΣ-AKOY EΠIΦANOYΣ / TY (square clockwise, ending in exergue)), Arsakes I seated right on omphalos, bow in right hand, palm branch right; ex Pars (2008), ex Antiqua Inc. (2000); $2250.00 (€1912.50)
 


Otho, 15 January 69 - 17 April 69 A.D., Antioch, Seleucis and Pieria, Syria

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Gaius Licinius Mucianus (named on this coin) was governor of Syria. When he failed to put down the Jewish revolt, Vespasian was sent to replace him. After the death of Galba, Mucianus and Vespasian both swore allegiance to Otho. Mucianus persuaded Vespasian to take up arms against Vitellius, who had seized the throne. They agreed Vespasian would settle affairs in the East, while Mucianus made would attack Vitellius. On his way to Rome, Mucianus defeated a Dacian invasion of Moesia. Mucianus reached Rome the day after Vitellius' death. Mucianus never wavered in his allegiance to Vespasian and was appointed consul for the third time in 72. As no mention is made of Mucianus during the reigns of Titus or Domitian, he probably died during the reign of Vespasian.
RP85562. Bronze AE 28, McAlee 319 (ex. rare, same dies), cf. RPC 4316 (not specifying obverse legend direction), aVF, nice portrait, dark patina with buff earthen highlighting, spots of light corrosion, obverse legend mostly weak or off flan, weight 11.757 g, maximum diameter 27.9 mm, die axis 0o, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, 15 Jan 69 - 17 Apr 69 A.D.; obverse [IMP M OT]-HO - [CAE AVG] (counterclockwise from upper left), head laureate right, dot in field behind; reverse EΠI / MOYKIA/NOY AN/TIOXEΩ/N ET ZIP (legate Mucianus, of Antioch, year 117) in five lines within a linear circle in a laurel wreath; this variant with a counterclockwise obverse legend is extremely rare; ex Gemini auction XIII (6 Apr 2017), lot 158, ex Jyrki Muona Collection; $1620.00 (€1377.00)
 


Seleukid Kingdom, Seleukos III Keraunos, 226 - 223 B.C.

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Seleucus III Soter proved not to be the "Savior" that his official royal epithet advertised; nor did live up to his nickname Keraunos - "Thunder." He failed to reclaim western Asia Minor from his cousin, Attalus of Pergamum, and was assassinated after only a brief reign of only a few years.
GS86617. Silver drachm, Houghton-Lorber I 933, Newell WSM 1327, Weber 7867, Hoover Syrian 418 (R3), gVF, superb portrait, light toning, light bumps and marks, reverse double struck with a worn damaged die, weight 4.056 g, maximum diameter 18.9 mm, die axis 0o, Northern Syria or Northern Mesopotamia, uncertain mint, 226 - 223 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Seleukos III with long sideburns; reverse Apollo seated left on omphalos, examining arrow in right hand, resting left hand on grounded bow, BAΣIΛEΩΣ (downward on right) ΣEΛEYKOY (downward on left), AP monogram (control) left, monogram (control) right; very rare; $1080.00 (€918.00)
 


Seleukid Kingdom, Antiochus I Soter, 281 - 261 B.C.

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Antiochus faced a formidable task holding the empire together. Revolt broke out in Syria almost immediately after his father's death. He earned the title Soter (savior) for victory over hordes of Gauls that attacked Anatolia. Elsewhere, he had little success. He was forced to abandon Macedonia, Thrace, Bithynia, and Cappadocia and to execute his eldest son for rebellion.
GY85675. Silver tetradrachm, Houghton-Lorber I 379.6a, Newell ESM 166, HGC 9 128g, Choice VF, well centered and struck, high relief portrait, attractive toning, bumps and marks, closed edge crack, weight 16.667 g, maximum diameter 28.1 mm, die axis 0o, Seleucia on the Tigris (south of Baghdad, Iraq) mint, c. 263 - 261 B.C.; obverse diademed head right; reverse Apollo seated left on omphalos, examining arrow with right, resting left hand on grounded bow, monogram (primary control symbol) outer left, ∆/ΩP monogram (secondary control symbol) outer right, BAΣIΛEΩΣ (king) downward on right, ANT-IOXOY downward on left; $500.00 (€425.00)
 


Leucas-Claudia (Balanea), Seleucis and Pieria, Syria, c. 45 - 150 A.D.

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This type is so rare that RPC is uncertain of the complete legends and questions if the standing god has his foot on a prow.

Baniyas (ancient Balaneais, Balanaea or Balanea, also called Leucas or Leucas-Claudia) is in northwestern Syria, 55 km south of Latakia (ancient Laodicea) and 35 km north of Tartous (ancient Tortosa). It was founded as a colony of Aradus. In Phoenician and Hellenistic times, it was an important seaport. On a nearby hill stands the Crusader castle of Margat (Qalaat el-Marqab), a huge Knights Hospitaller fortress built with black basalt stone.
RY86403. Brass AE 17, RPC I 4465A (2 specimens); de Saulcy 21, 3, VF, some flatness of high points, porosity, slightly off center on a tight flan; the best of the three specimens known to Forum, weight 4.142 g, maximum diameter 17.3 mm, die axis 45o, Leucas-Claudia (Baniyas, Syria) mint, c. 45 - 150 A.D.; obverse TWN KAI KΛAY∆IAIWN, male god standing facing, wearing tiara, long scepter vertical in right hand, left foot on small prow; reverse ΛYKA∆IWN, upper part of river god Chrysoroas swimming right; extremely rare; $380.00 (€323.00)
 


Philip I the Arab, February 244 - End of September 249 A.D., Antioch, Seleucis and Pieria, Syria

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MON VRB stands for MONETA VRBIS. According to H. R. Baldus this initial issue of coins was minted in Rome. Indeed the portrait style is unmistakably that of the mint of Rome, and even if the coins were actually minted in Antioch, the dies were surely engraved by the Rome mint.
SH60149. Billon tetradrachm, McAlee 899, Prieur 304, BMC Galatia 507, EF, very sharp, handsome portrait and eagle, double strike evident in obverse legend, minor flan crack, small encrustations,, weight 13.825 g, maximum diameter 27.6 mm, die axis 0o, Rome or Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, 244 or 246 A.D.; obverse AYTOK K M IOYΛ ΦIΛIΠΠOY CEB, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from behind; reverse ∆HMAPX EΞOYCIAC (holder of Tribunitian power), eagle standing facing on ground line, wings open, head and tail left, wreath in beak, S - C (senatus consulto) below wings, MON VRB in exergue; FORVM paid $225 for this coin!; $200.00 (€170.00)
 


Northern Syria, 3rd Century A.D.

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This type has long been attributed to Pharaoh Nektanebo II. Butcher, however, notes it is quite common in the vicinity of Antioch and in Northern Syria and the obverse style is similar to third century Antiochene zodiacal type coins. He suggests they may have been struck under Hadrian.
RY77448. Bronze AE 16, Butcher p. 405, 11; Weiser p. 16, 1 (Nektanebo II, Memphis, Egypt), aVF, scratches and marks, weight 3.396 g, maximum diameter 16.0 mm, die axis 0o, uncertain (Antioch?) mint, 3rd century A.D.; obverse ram (Ares) leaping left, head turned back right; reverse balance scale (Libra); $180.00 (€153.00)
 


Seleukid Kingdom, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, 175 - 164 B.C.

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From the extraordinary "Egyptianizing" coinage of Antiochus IV, celebrating his triumphs over the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt by using a reverse type strongly associated with the Lagid dynasty, an eagle perched on a thunderbolt.

In 168 B.C., Antiochus IV ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. The Temple in Jerusalem was seized and dedicated to Zeus. The Jews revolted and after three years of fighting, Judah Maccabee defeated the Seleukid army. Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, commemorates the rededication of the Temple in 165 B.C. According to the Talmud, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, enough time to prepare and consecrate fresh oil.
GY87392. Bronze AE 26, Houghton-Lorber II 1414; Newell SMA 60; Houghton CSE 121; SNG Spaer 981; SNG Cop 192; Svoronos 1417 (Antiochus III, occupied Egypt); HGC 9 644 (S-R1), VF, attractive style, surfaces, and black patina, obverse off center but full head on flan, light marks, light earthen deposits, central depressions, weight 16.884 g, maximum diameter 26.3 mm, die axis 0o, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, autumn 169 - autumn 168 B.C.; obverse head of Isis right, wearing wreath of grain and tainia with Isis crown, beveled edge; reverse eagle standing right on thunderbolt, head right, wings closed, BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ANTIOXOY in two lines downward on right, ΘEOY / EΠIΦANOYΣ in two lines downward on left; scarce; $165.00 (€140.25)
 


Kingdom of Chalkis, Coele Syria, Ptolemaios, 85 - 40 B.C.

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Ptolemaios son of Mennaios (also known as Ptolemy I), an Ituraean Arab dynast, established the Kingdom of Chalkis, c. 85 B.C., during the collapse of the Seleukid Empire. The kingdom, with its capitol at Chalcis sub Libano at the foot of Antilibanus, included Heliopolis, the valley of the Marsyas, and the mountainous region of Ituraea. In 64 B.C., he bribed Pompey the Great to forgo annexing his kingdom into the new Roman province of Syria and to allow him to continue ruling his territory as Tetrarch. Ptolemaios was succeeded by his son Lysanias, who was put to death by Marc Antony for supporting Mattathias Antigonus over Herod the Great. Antony gave the tiny kingdom of Chalkis to Cleopatra as a gift.
RP85946. Bronze AE 19, Herman 1, SNG Cop 413, Lindgren 1218, Cohen DCA 468, HGC 9 1439 (S), BMC Phoenicia p. 203, 18 corr. (Tripolis), VF, well centered and struck on a tight flan, attractive style, porous, weight 6.219 g, maximum diameter 18.2 mm, die axis 0o, Chalkis sub Libano mint, 73 - 72 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Zeus (or tetrarch) right; reverse the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux, standing facing, heads confronted, star above each head, each wearing a petasos and Roman military garb, spear in outer hand, inner hand on his hip, LMΣ (Seleukid era year 240) downward on right; $160.00 (€136.00)
 


Seleukeia Pieria, Seleukis and Pieria, Syria, 99 - 98 B.C.

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Seleucia Pieria, also known in English as Seleucia by the Sea, was the capital of Seleucus I Nicator, in Syria Prima. The city was built, slightly to the north of the estuary of the river Orontes, between small rivers on the western slopes of the Coryphaeus, one of the southern summits of the Amanus Mountains. The Macedonians called the landscape Pieria, after a district in their homeland that was also between the sea and the Olympus mountains.
GS86565. Silver tetradrachm, Weber 7994 (same dies); BMC Galatia p. 271, 18 var. (Γ); SNG München 963 var. (Θ); Hunterian III p. 213, 18 var. (same); HGC 9 1382, gF, centered on a tight flan, toned, rough, heavy scratches, weight 13.647 g, maximum diameter 30 mm, die axis 0o, Seleukeia Pieria mint, 99 - 98 B.C.; obverse turreted and veiled head of Tyche right, wearing earring, bead and reel border; reverse ΣEΛEYKEIAΣ / THΣ IEPAΣ / KAI / AYTONOMOY, fulmen (thunderbolt), taenia (ribbon) and cushions on the pulvinar (symbolic empty throne) of Zeus, BI (year 12) between the legs, E/∆ monogram (control) lower inner right, all within a laurel wreath; from the David Cannon Collection, ex Beast Coins; rare; $150.00 (€127.50)
 




  



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REFERENCES

American Numismatic Society Collections Database - http://numismatics.org/search/search.
Bellinger, A. The Excavations at Dura-Europos, Final Report, Vol. 6: The Coins. (New Haven, 1949).
Bellinger, A. The Syrian Tetradrachms of Caracalla and Macrinus. ANSNS 3. (New York, 1940).
Burnett, A., M. Amandry, et al. Roman Provincial Coinage. (1992 - ).
Butcher, K. Coinage in Roman Syria: Northern Syria, 64 BC-AD 253. (London, 2004).
Cohen, E. Dated Coins of Antiquity: A comprehensive catalogue of the coins and how their numbers came about. (Lancaster, PA, 2011).
de Callataÿ, F. "Le production des tétradrachmes civiques de la Cilicie jusqu? à la Palestine" in Les Monnayages Syriens.
Gardner, P. Catalogue of Greek Coins in the British Museum, The Seleucid Kings of Syria. (Forni reprint, 1963).
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Houghton, A. Coins of the Seleucid Empire from the Collection of Arthur Houghton. ACNAC 4. (New York, 1983).
Hoover, O. Handbook of Syrian Coins, Royal and Civic Issues, Fourth to First Centuries BC. HGC 9. (Lancaster, PA, 2009).
Lindgren, H. & F. Kovacs. Ancient Bronze Coins of Asia Minor and the Levant. (1985).
Lindgren, H. Lindgren III: Ancient Greek Bronze Coins from the Lindgren Collection. (1993).
McAlee, R. The Coins of Roman Antioch. (Lancaster, 2007).
McAlee, R. "Severan Tetradrachms of Laodicea" in ANSMN 29 (1984).
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Newell, E. Late Seleucid Mints in Ake-Ptolemais and Damascus. ANSNNM 84 (New York, 1939).
Newell, E. The Coinage of the Western Seleucid Mints, From Seleucus I to Antiochus III. (New York, 1941).
Newell, E. The Seleucid Mint of Antioch. (Chicago, 1978).
Price, M. The Coinage of in the Name of Alexander the Great and Philip Arrhidaeus. (London, 1991).
Prieur, M. & K. Prieur. The Syro-Phoenician Tetradrachms and their fractions from 57 BC to AD 258. (Lancaster, PA, 2000).
Roman Provincial Coinage Online - http://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/
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Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Great Britain, Volume IV, Fitzwilliam Museum, Leake and General Collections, Part 8: Syria-Nabataea. (London, 1971).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Great Britain XII, The Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow, Part 2: Roman Provincial Coins: Cyprus-Egypt. (Oxford, 2008).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Israel I, The Arnold Spaer Collection of Seleucid Coins. (London, 1998).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Switzerland I, Levante-Cilicia. (1986 & suppl.).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Schweiz II, Katalog der Sammlung Jean-Pierre Righetti im Bernischen Historischen Museum. (Bern, 1993).
Van Heesch, J. "The last civic coinages and the religious policy of Maximinus Daza (AD 312)" in NC 1993.
Waage, D. Antioch-on-the-Orontes, Vol. 4, Part 2: Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Crusaders' Coins. (Princeton, 1952).
Wroth, W. A Catalog of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Syria. (London, 1899).
Wruck, W. Die Syrische Provinzialprägung von Augustus bis Traian. (Stuttgart, 1931).

Catalog current as of Sunday, October 21, 2018.
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Syria