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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Greek Coins| ▸ |Hellenistic Monarchies| ▸ |Ptolemaic Egypt||View Options:  |  |  |   

Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt

After Alexander the Great's death, Egypt was administered by Ptolemy, one of his friends and generals. In 305 B.C. Ptolemy crowned himself king, establishing one of the most important and flourishing Hellenistic monarchies. The culture was a complex mixture of Egyptian and Greek traditions, best represented by the famous city of Alexandria. As all other Hellenistic kingdoms, Egypt suffered a slow decline in parallel with the mighty rising of Rome, and it's end witnessed the great story of Queen Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, and Marc Antony.


Judah, Macedonian or Ptolemaic Rule, Satrap Hezekiah, c. 333 - 301 B.C.

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Josephus identifies Hezekiah as the High Priest of the Jews who offered friendship to Ptolemy I after his conquest of Palestine. Josephus mentions Hezekiah was sixty years old at the time of Ptolemy. Mildenberg identifies the head right on the obverse of this type as Ptolemy I.
SL89836. Silver half ma'ah, Hendin 1066; Meshorer TJC 25; Meshore AJC I 12; Mildenberg Yehud p. 189 & pl. 22, 23; HGC 10 452 (R1 - R2), NGC NGC XF, strike 2/5, surface 3/5 (4283488-002), weight 0.189 g, maximum diameter 7.2 mm, die axis 90o, Jerusalem(?) mint, c. 375 - 333 B.C.; obverse male head (Ptolemy I?) right; reverse forepart of winged and horned lynx left; Aramaic inscription lower right: YHZQYH (Hezekiah); NGC certified with photo certificate of authenticity, not in a plastic holder; rare; $800.00 (€704.00)
 


Ptolemaic Kingdom, Ptolemy II Philadelphos, 285 - 246 B.C.

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We might expect the K on the reverse right to indicate regnal year 20. BMC Ptolemies notes, however, the title ΣΩTHPOΣ (savior) did not appear on the coinage until Ptolemy II's regnal year 25. On some very similar specimens, it is not just a K but instead a KE ligature (), which has been interpreted to mean year 25. Svoronos describes this type (Sv 723) with a KE ligature but the plate coin actually looks like a plain K. It seems likely that a KE ligature was intended but for some specimens it was not correctly engraved or not fully struck.
SH82655. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Milan 142 (same rev. die); cf. Svoronos 723 (ligate KE); BMC Ptolemies p. 29, 55 (same); SNG Cop 509 (same), Weiser -, Noeske -, aVF, test marks, obverse a little off center, bumps and scratches, graffito on reverse before eagles neck, weight 13.808 g, maximum diameter 27.0 mm, die axis 0o, Sidon (Saida, Lebanon) mint, 261 - 260 BC; obverse diademed bust of Ptolemy I right, wearing aegis; reverse ΠTOΛEMAIOY ΣΩTHPOΣ (Ptolemy Savior), eagle standing on thunderbolt left, ΣI over ∆I inner left, K inner right; ex Bertolami Fine Arts e-auction 57 (Mar 2018), lot 46; ex Pavlos Pavlou Collection; rare; $340.00 (€299.20)
 


Ptolemaic Kingdom, Ptolemy X Alexander I, 109 - 110 B.C., as King in Cyprus

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This coin was struck at Kition when Ptolemy X ruled in Cyprus and Ptolemy IX and Cleopatra III ruled in Egypt. On the death of Ptolemy VIII, Cleopatra was given the option of which son to declare co-ruler. While she would have preferred Ptolemy X, she was pressured by politics to select Ptolemy IX. Her younger son ruled on Cyprus. Later she would depose Ptolemy IX in favor of her favorite, Ptolemy X.

The attribution to Ptolemy X as King in Cyprus is made mostly by process of elimination. The debased silver eliminates Ptolemy I to VI as possibilities. Ptolemy VIII coins have a very different style for Kition Year 5. Serifs are unique to just a few rare Ptolemaic coin types. Perhaps all are the work of a single engraver. Similar tetradrachms in the Paphos I Hoard shows that these must have been minted before the hoard was lost in ~97 B.C. Also, the heavy-set portrait resembles the marble head of Ptolemy X (Boston Museum of Fine Arts 59.51) and differs from the usual images of Ptolemy I.
GP88097. Silver tetradrachm, unpublished, cf. Svoronos 1767 - 1768, VF, porous rough surfaces, flan cracks, weight 12.913 g, maximum diameter 22.6 mm, die axis 0o, Kition mint, 110 B.C.; obverse diademed bust of Ptolemy I right, wearing aegis; reverse ΠTOΛEMAIOY BAΣIΛEΩΣ (King Ptolemy), eagle standing left on a thunderbolt, head left, wings closed, date LE (year 5) before, KI (Kition mintmark) behind, year and mintmark letters with serifs; no other specimen known; $310.00 (€272.80)
 


Hellenistic Greek, Bronze Relief Ring Fragment, Eastern Mediterranean, 3rd - 1st Century B.C.

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This bronze ring fragment is very similar to the referenced ring fragment in the British Museum (click here to see it online).
AS84167. cf. BM Collection 1917.0501.1267 (very similar ring fragment), bezel complete, 22.1 x 16.1, obverse high relief portrait of a woman facing left, draped and wearing her hair in a bun at the back (perhaps a Ptolemaic queen, either Berenike II or Arsinoe II); $260.00 (€228.80)
 


Ptolemaic Kingdom, Ptolemy IV Philopator, c. 221 - 204 B.C.

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Ptolemy IV's surname Philopator means father lover, ironic since according to some authorities he poisoned his father. Ptolemy IV is a major protagonist of the apocryphal 3 Maccabees, which describes events following the Battle of Raphia, in both Jerusalem and Alexandria. He was a cruel and evil monarch.
GP88269. Bronze drachm, Lorber CPE B502; BMC Ptolemies p. 74, 70; Noeske 147; Hosking 36; Weiser 61; SNG Cop 205; SNG Milan 216; Svoronos 992, aVF, mottled patina, some light corrosion, minor encrustations, central cavities, weight 69.112 g, maximum diameter 43.9 mm, Alexandria mint, c. 221 - 204 B.C.; obverse horned head of Zeus Ammon right, wearing taenia; reverse ΠTOΛEMAIOY BAΣIΛEΩΣ (King Ptolemy), eagle standing left on thunderbolt, wings closed, filleted cornucopia left, ΣE between eagle's legs; ex Ora Eads Collection; ex CNG Sale 41 (19 Mar 1997), lot 1035 (part of), a massive 69 gram Ptolemaic bronze!; $200.00 (€176.00)
 


Ptolemaic Kingdom, Ptolemy III Euergetes, 246 - 222 B.C.

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Ptolemy III Euergetes was the third ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt. He promoted the translation of Jewish scriptures into Greek as the Septuagint. Due to a falling out at the Seleucid court, his eldest sister Berenice Phernophorus was murdered along with her infant son. In response, he invaded Syria, occupied Antioch, and even reached Babylon. This war, the Third Syrian War, is cryptically alluded to in Daniel XI 7-9. The Ptolemaic kingdom reached the height of its power during his reign.
GP85912. Bronze trihemiobol, Lorber CPE B447; Svoronos 1005; SNG Cop 644; Weiser 107; BMC Ptolemies p. 52, 57; SNG Milan 199; Weber 854; McClean 9789; Noeske -; Hosking -, VF, dark patina, well centered, some red earthen deposits, porosity/light corrosion, central cavities, weight 17.135 g, maximum diameter 28.5 mm, die axis 0o, Cyprus, Paphos mint, series 5; obverse diademed head of Zeus-Ammon right; reverse ΠTOΛEMAIOY BAΣIΛEΩΣ (King Ptolemy), cult statue of Aphrodite standing facing on base, wearing polos, chiton and peplos, right arm across breast, left arm downward away from side; $180.00 (€158.40)
 


Ptolemaic Kingdom, Ptolemy II Philadelphos, 285 - 246 B.C.

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Most finds of this type are from Bulgaria, suggesting a mint in Thrace. This type is found both with and without central depressions, indicating it was struck both before and after the coinage reform of 265 B.C., after which central depressions (dimples) became a feature of Ptolemaic coinage. This example is pre-reform.
GP86417. Bronze AE 17, Svoronos 351, SNG Cop 100, Lorber CPE B310 var. (post reform), SNG Milan -, Weiser -, Noeske -, BMC Ptolemies -, Malter -, aVF, obv. die break from nose to edge, rev. well centered on a tight flan, bumps, marks, corrosion, without central cavities, weight 5.472 g, maximum diameter 17.4 mm, die axis 270o, uncertain (Thracian?) mint, pre-reform, 285 - 265 B.C.; obverse veiled and diademed bust of Arsinoe II right; reverse ΠTOΛEMAIOY BAΣIΛEΩΣ (King Ptolemy), eagle standing left on fulmen (thunderbolt), head left, wings open, ∆I over (AX monogram) left; see CNG e-auction 92 (23 Jun 2004), lot 64, for another specimen with the same obverse die break; rare; $180.00 (€158.40)
 


Macedonian Kingdom, Ptolemy I, as Satrap, 323 - 305 B.C.

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Aradus minted coinage in the name of Alexander during his lifetime and shortly after. When Aradus gained autonomy in 259 B.C., the city again minted coinage in the name of Alexander. After the Ptolemaic victory over the Seleukid Kingdom at Raphia in 217 B.C. Aradus fell under the control of Egypt. In 214, Aradus ceased to issue Alexander coinage and struck regal Ptolemaic issues. In 202 B.C., as Ptolemaic power waned, Aradus returned to issuing coinage of Alexander. The last Alexander coinage of Aradus was struck in 166/165 B.C.
GS89324. Silver obol, unpublished in references but several known from auctions, CNG e-auction 201, lot 34 (same dies), VF, toned, earthen encrustation, porosity, weight 0.649 g, maximum diameter 9.0 mm, die axis 13.5o, Phoenicia, Aradus mint, c. 323 - 315 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, wearing Nemean Lion skin, scalp over head, forepaws tied at neck; reverse Zeus Aëtophoros enthroned left, nude to the waist, himation around hips and legs, right leg forward (archaic lifetime style) eagle in extended right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand, AΛEΞAN∆POY downward behind, A/P monogram (control) left; $180.00 (€158.40)
 


Ptolemaic Kingdom, Ptolemy I Soter, 305 - 282 B.C.

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In 305 B.C., Demetrius Poliorcetes besieged Salamis and defeated Ptolemy's navy off the coast. Demetrius offered lenient terms and Ptolemy's brother, Menelaus, surrendered the city. After this victory, Demetrius declared himself a King. Ptolemy also declared himself a King. This coin has the usual Ptolemaic hemiobol types, with the title BAΣIΛEΩΣ (king) visible. It is overstruck over a bronze of Demetrios Poliorketes with helmeted head of Demetrios Poliorketes right obverse (under the reverse of our coin) and prow reverse (under our obverse). Ptolemy struck this coin at Salamis after he re-took Cyprus in 294 B.C. Both Ptolemy I and Demetrios died in 283 B.C. Demetrios died in captivity, imprisoned by Seleukos.
GP87139. Bronze hemiobol, SNG Cop 43 (X, also overstruck, perhaps with same undertype); Svoronos 163; BMC Ptolemies 8, 69; under-type: Newell 20; SRCV II 6775, VF, nice green patina, strong undertype effects, weight 4.094 g, maximum diameter 17.3 mm, die axis 0o, Cyprus, Salamis mint, c. 294 B.C.; obverse deified head of Alexander the Great right with horn of Ammon, hair long; reverse ΠTOΛEMAIOY BAΣIΛEΩΣ (King Ptolemy), eagle standing left, head left, wings open, X or (AX monogram) over helmet in left field; extremely rare; $160.00 (€140.80)
 


Ptolemaic Kingdom, Ptolemy I Soter, 305 - 282 B.C.

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In Coins of the Ptolemaic Empire, Catherine Lorber writes that this, and similar types, "match the module and types of Alexandrian bronze hemiobols, but the style is local and somewhat crude; Alexander's features often resemble those of Ptolemy, probably unintentionally."
GP88275. Bronze hemiobol, Lorber CPE B134, Svoronos 630 (8 spec.), Cox Curium 73, BMC Ptolemies -, SNG Cop -, SNG Milan -, Noeske -, Weiser -, Hosking -, Malter -, VF, black patina, small earthen deposits, flan adjustment marks (scrapes), weight 4.364 g, maximum diameter 16.5 mm, die axis 0o, Phoenicia, Tyre mint, c. 294 - 282 B.C.; obverse diademed head of deified Alexander right, ram's horn at temple, long wavy hair; reverse ΠTOΛEMAIOY BAΣIΛEΩΣ (King Ptolemy), Eagle standing left on thunderbolt, wings open, head left, club over (ΠA monogram) left; ex Ora Eads Collection; ex CNG Sale 41 (19 Mar 1997), lot 1035 (part of); very rare; $160.00 (€140.80)
 




  



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REFERENCES|

Brett, A. "Dated coins of Ptolemy V, 204 - 180 B.C." in ANSMN 2 (1947), pp. 1 - 11.
Brooks, E. "The overstruck coinage of Ptolemy I" in ANSMN 6 (1954), pp. 69 - 84.
Burnett, A., M. Amandry, et al. Roman Provincial Coinage. (1992 - ).
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Jenkins, G. "An early Ptolemaic hard from Phacous" in ANSMN 9 (1960), pp. 17 - 37.
Kreuzer, M. The Coinage System of Cleopatra VII, Marc Antony and Augustus in Cyprus. (Springfield, MA, 2004).
Lorber, C. Coins of the Ptolemaic Empire. (New York, 2018).
Malter, J. The Coinage of Ancient Egypt, Auction II, February 23 and 24, 1978. (Encino, CA, 1978).
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Michaelidou, L, ed. Museum of the History of Cypriot Coinage, Coin Catalogue. (Nicosia, 1996).
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Nicolaou, I. Paphos II. The Coins from the House of Dionysos. Department of Antiquities Cyprus. (Nicosia, 1990).
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Catalog current as of Saturday, September 21, 2019.
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Ptolemaic Egypt