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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Greek Coins ▸ Hellenistic Monarchies ▸ Ptolemaic EgyptView 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.


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

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In 226 B.C., Rhodes suffered an earthquake which damaged and destroyed much of the city. The Colossus of Rhodes snapped at the knees and fell. Polybius records aid promised by Ptolemy III: "300 talents of silver, a million artabas of wheat, timber for the construction of ten quinqueremes and ten triremes, consisting of 40,000 cubits of squared pine planking, 1,000 talents of bronze coinage, 3,000 talents of tow, 3,000 pieces of sail-cloth, 3,000 talents for the repair of the Colossus, 100 architects with 350 workmen, and fourteen talents every year for their wages, and in addition 12,000 artabas of wheat for competitions and sacrifices, and 20,000 for the supplying of ten triremes. Most of this he gave at once, as well as a third of the money promised." This unpublished coin shares the style of an issue struck by mints across Phoenicia, with some of the coins dated year 23. Morkholm has identified the king as Ptolemy III, and the date as 225 - 224 B.C. Prior to this issue, Ptolemy III had last struck silver tetradrachms in 243 B.C. The unusual need for new silver coinage after 17 years was almost certainly to finance his generous gifts to Rhodes.
SH82654. Silver tetradrachm, Unpublished, cf. Svoronos 701 (control monogram), VF, bumps, marks, and scratches, obverse die wear, tight flan, reverse slightly off center, graffiti (E+?) in reverse right field, weight 14.115 g, maximum diameter 27.0 mm, die axis 0o, Tyre mint, 225 - 224 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Ptolemy I right, wearing aegis; reverse ΠTOΛEMAIOY ΣΩTHPOΣ (Ptolemy Savior), eagle standing left on thunderbolt, head left, wings closed, Tyre monogram over club left, monogram (control symbol) right; very rare; $600.00 (€510.00)
 


Ptolemaic Kingdom, Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator, 51 - 30 B.C.

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Cleopatra VII originally shared power with her father Ptolemy XII and later with her brother-husbands Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV. Her relationship with Julius Caesar led to sole rule. After Caesar's assassination, she aligned with Mark Antony. Her reign marks the end of the Hellenistic Era and the beginning of the Roman Era. She was the last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.
GP87627. Bronze diobol, Svoronos 1871; Weiser 183; Noeske 380; SNG Cop 419; SNG Milan 428; BMC Ptolemies p. 123, 4; Hosking 166 (obol); Malter 284; SGCV II 7955, aF, porous, a few pits, weight 15.907 g, maximum diameter 27.6 mm, die axis 0o, Alexandria mint, 50 - 31 B.C.; obverse diademed bust of Cleopatra right, with characteristic melon coif hairstyle; reverse KΛEOΠATPAΣ BACIΛICCHC (Queen Cleopatra), eagle standing left on thunderbolt, head left, wings closed, cornucopia left, Π (80 drachms) right; $360.00 (€306.00)
 


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; $350.00 (€297.50)
 


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 (€289.00)
 


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

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The unusual blue encrustation on this particular coin and on some other bronze coins found in Egypt is "Egyptian Blue," Calcium Copper Silicate, a reaction of the copper with sand, lime, and natron. In crushed form, it was one of the earliest pigments.
GP88270. Bronze drachm, Lorber CPE B495; Svoronos 1125; Noeske 140 ff.; SNG Cop 199; Weiser 49; BMC Ptolemies p. 57, 106 ff.; Hosking -, VF, blue encrustation in recesses, small closed edge crack, central cavities, weight 69.854 g, maximum diameter 42.3 mm, die axis 0o, 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, ∆I between eagle's legs; ex Ora Eads Collection; ex CNG Sale 41 (19 Mar 1997), lot 1035 (part of), a massive 70g Ptolemaic bronze!; $300.00 (€255.00)
 


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); $290.00 (€246.50)
 


Ptolemaic Kingdom, Ptolemy II and Ptolemy Nios, c. 267 - 259 B.C.

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This is one of the first Ptolemaic coin types with the two eagles on a thunderbolt. Matt Kreuzer believes this symbolized two co-rulers in harmony. Ptolemy Nios was the nephew and step-son of Ptolemy II. Nios was co-regent with his father from c. 267 B.C. until 259 B.C. After he was removed as co-regent, he probably became ruler of Telmessos in Lycia.

Drachms of this period have a weight peak of c. 72 grams.
GP88268. Bronze drachm, Lorber CPE B217; Svoronos 437 (13 spec.); BMC Ptolemies p. 51, 50, pl. x, 6; Mionnet VI p. 30, 237; Weiser -; Noeske -, gF, holed, attractive brown-black tone, central cavities, weight 67.366 g, maximum diameter 40.2 mm, die axis 0o, Alexandria mint, c. 265 - 259 B.C.; obverse diademed and horned head of Zeus-Ammon right; reverse ΠTOΛEMAIOY BAΣIΛEΩΣ (King Ptolemy), two eagles standing left with closed wings on two thunderbolts, ∆ between the legs of the eagle on the left; ex Ora Eads Collection; ex CNG Sale 41 (19 Mar 1997), lot 1035 (part of), huge coin, over 67 grams!; scarce; $200.00 (€170.00)
 


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 (€170.00)
 


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 (€153.00)
 


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 (€153.00)
 




  



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REFERENCES

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Catalog current as of Friday, April 26, 2019.
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Ptolemaic Egypt