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Ancient Greek Coins of Miletus

The ancient Greek city of Miletus in Asia Minor, on what is now the west coast of Turkey, was the intellectual and commercial center of the Greek world in the century before Athens rose to prominence. It has been called the birthplace of the modern world. These pages discuss the early history of coinage and present a detailed outline of Milesian coin types from the Greek and Roman periods.

PAGES: Illustrated table of contentsIllustrated numerical catalogueHistory and weight standardsChronological tableThe electrum lion coins of the kings of Lydia (1)The enigmatic “geometric” electrum series (1)The sixth-century electrum lion coins of Miletus (2)The electrum and silver lion/scorpion issues (3)The silver eye-swirl/quincunx fractions (12)The dotted lion-mask series (7)The archaic twelfth-stater series (21)The silver Milesian-style lion/bird fractions (14)The lion-head/lion-scalp series (2)Milesian imitatives of Hecatomnus, Mausolus, and Hidrieus (2)The fourth-century bronze lion/sun series (3)The Rhodian silver and bronze Apollo/lion series (7)Early silver and bronze of Alexander the Great (5)The reduced-Rhodian didrachms and their parallel bronzes (3)The later Diadochian and civic Alexander types (2)The third-century Persic silver and bronze Apollo/lion series (2)The bronze facing-Apollo coinage (6)The second-century silver Apollo/lion issues (5)The wreathed bronze Apollo/lion series (8)The bronze Apollo of Didyma series (2)Provincial bronzes of Nero (2)Provincial bronzes of Domitian (1)Provincial bronzes of Faustina the Younger (1)Provincial bronzes of Gordian III (1)The Ottoman silver akçes of fifteenth-century Balad (1)References and literature citedAncient coin resources online.

(1) The Third-Century Bronze Facing-Apollo Coinage

These are the bronze issues of Deppert-Lippitz’s Period IV (1984: #538–632), and they feature for the first time a three-quarter facing head of Apollo to left on the obverse, combined with the familiar Milesian lion statant regardant to right on the reverse. These coins have been subject to considerable revision since Deppert-Lippitz first attempted to characterize them. I begin with her account, and then present the more recent interpretations of Kinns (1986) and Ashton and Kinns (2003).

Deppert-Lippitz described three denominations for this type, all of them contemporary (about 259–246 BC), with the following magistrates’ names attested for each denomination:

The first significant revision to this classification came with Kinns’ recognition that the coins of the middle denomination were probably issued about 200 BC, later than the majority of coins belonging to the large and small denominations:

[The magistrate names for the middle denomination] are ΑΙΣΧΥΛΙΝΟΣ, ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΔΗΣ, ΖΩΠΥΡΟΣ, and ΣΩΣΤΡΑΤΟΣ, and the reverses uniformly show the city monogram, sometimes accompanied by another. Contemporaneity with the ‘core’ large bronzes [the large denomination above] must be ruled out, despite the shared (common) name ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΔΗΣ, and a superficial stylistic similarity. Rather, these coins were issued alongside the [first series of] statue of Apollo/reclining lion bronzes (D-L 941–94) which are given by D-L to Period VII (c. 39–17), supposedly some 200 years later! [This first series of statue bronzes is now dated to about 200 BC] The connections between the two groups are irrefutable. Not only do the four facing Apollo names [of the middle denomination] duly recur among the seven magistrates in the [first] statue series, but the two types were found together, in comparable condition, in the Calymna hoard (IGCH 1351). [Kinns’ footnote 56: “For additional coins in Oxford, from the same hoard, see CH 4 (1978), 63. Also, D-L 590 and 972.”] As further proof we may note identities of subsidiary monograms. All this has been overlooked by D-L, who has followed the incomplete report in IGCH (where the presence of the facing head type is not mentioned), yet in her catalogue the provenance ‘Myres 1922’ is given for nos. 586 and 598 (facing head) as well as for 941–2, 959–60, 963–4, 969–70, and 979–80 (statue); inspection of the BM inventory and the coins themselves (which have a distinctive patination) leaves no doubt that all come from the same find. [Kinns, 1986: 253–254]

Further supporting the proposed association between the middle-denomination facing-Apollo issues and the first group of statue bronzes, the name ΜΕΝΕΣΤΡΑΤΟΣ, “formerly restricted to the statue type (D-L 979–88), has now also surfaced on the facing head type (Kinns coll.)” (Ashton and Kinns, 2003: 12).

With respect to the large facing-Apollo denomination, which he suggests is a tetrachalkon, Kinns has added an additional refinement to Deppert-Lippitz’s classification by recognizing two groups within the denomination: an earlier Τ-group that usually has two stars/suns on the reverse along with a ‘Τ’ control mark, and a later group that usually has one star/sun, that lacks the ‘Τ’ control mark, and that often features the Milesian ΜΙ monogram. The revised list of magistrates attested for each of these groups is as follows (Ashton and Kinns, 2003: 19–20):

Kinns dates the Τ-group to the vicinity of 260–250 BC, contemporary with the silver Persic-standard drachms and hemidrachms of Miletus (D-L #509–537) with which they share many magistrates and control marks, and he dates the later group to about 250–200 BC, as probably contemporary with the silver Persic-standard Milesian didrachms (D-L #497–508) with which they likewise share magistrates and control marks (Ashton and Kinns, 2003: 8–20).

Finally, with respect to the smallest of the three facing-Apollo denominations, Kinns recognizes a Τ-group and a later group that are parallel to the two groups recognized in the large denomination, although the size and comparative scarcity of small-denomination specimens make the picture less clear:

The small denomination (c. 1 g, 10–11 mm, probably the chalkous), as D-L 600–32, is less susceptible to detailed analysis, in the absence of control letters or monograms, but stylistically early varieties clearly belong with the ‘Τ’ group of drachms, hemidrachms and tetrachalka, and include the names Aischylos (D-L 600), Damnas (D-L 602–5), Pexidemo(s) (D-L –; Milan-Brera 2731, unpublished) and Protago(ras) (D-L 615 and 616 = 610 ‘ΗΡΩΤΑΣ’). Late varieties, meanwhile, of inferior execution and with fully facing head, include the names Epikrat(es) (D-L 607) and Samios (D-L 617–19), which may be parallel with the didrachms of the same magistrates. [Ashton and Kinns, 2003: 20]

(1a) The rare facing-Apollo silver hemidrachms. There is a small group of Milesian facing-Apollo coins known in silver, two naming ΑΠΟΛΛΟΔΩΡΟΣ (Deppert-Lippitz, 1984: #633–634, 2.66 g and 3.14 g) and one naming ΜΕΝΑΝΔΡΟΣ (Kinns, 1986: 254–255, 2.59 g). Kinns believes these date to about 200 BC and are contemporary with the final group of middle-denomination facing-Apollo bronzes (above) and with the “magistrate” group of Apollo Didymaios bronzes. No examples of this rare type are included in this collection.

(2) Miletus · Facing Head of Apollo / Lion Statant Regardant · Bronze · About 260–200 BC

The headings used below summarize current understanding of the varieties and the chronology of the facing Apollo type as a whole.

(2a) Kinns’ Τ-Group · AE Tetrachalka: 15–18 mm (about 3.5–4.0 g) · About 260–250 BC

Large-denomination Τ-group specimens are recorded that name ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, ΑΛΚΩΝ, ΑΝΤΙΠΑΤΡΟΣ, ΑΡΙΣΤΟΚΡΑΤΗΣ, ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΔΗΣ, ΒΑΤΤΟΣ, ΔΑΜΑΣ, ΔΙΟΓΕΝΗΣ, ΕΥΑΝΔΡΙΔΗΣ, ΘΕΟΔΩΡΟΣ, ΝΙΚΗΡΑΤΟΣ, ΠΗΞΙΔΗΜΟΣ, ΠΡΑΞΙΑΝΑΞ, ΠΡΩΤΑΓΟΡΑΣ, and ΦΙΛΙΣΚΟΣ, but no examples are included in this collection. A representative coin from this group is described by Sear (1979: #4517).

(2b) Kinns’ Τ-Group · AE Chalka: 10 mm (1.2 g) · About 260–250 BC

Small-denomination Τ-group specimens are recorded that name ΑΙΣΧΥΛΟΣ, ΔΑΜΑΣ, ΠΗΞΙΔΗΜΟ[Σ], ΠΡΩΤΑΓΟ[ΡΑΣ], and perhaps other magistrates. A representative coin from this group is also described by Sear (1979: #4518). One possible specimen is included in this collection.

[Image: Small bronze Apollo/lion coin of ancient Miletus.]

RJO 23. Bronze 8 × 9 mm (0.77 g, ↑↑), about 259–246 BC. Obverse: head of Apollo three-quarters left. Reverse: lion standing right on exergue line, looking back at sun (off the flan); inscription in exergue [Δ]ΗΜΟ[ΣΘΕΝΗΣ]. Compare Deppert-Lippitz (1984: #606 = BMC #108) who records only one specimen in this denomination with this magistrate. Kinns does not comment on that specimen, and it is not clear whether it belongs to his Τ-group or his later group.

[Image: Small bronze Apollo/lion coin of ancient Miletus.]

RJO 107. Bronze 10 × 9 mm (0.94 g, ↑↑), about 259–246 BC. Obverse: head of Apollo three-quarters left. Reverse: lion standing right on weak exergue line, looking back at eight-pointed sun; inscription in exergue not quite legible, but might be made out with additional comparative material.

(2c) Kinns’ Later Group · AE Tetrachalka: 15–18 mm (about 3.5–4.0 g) · About 250–200 BC

Large-denomination specimens from Kinns’ later group that name [Α]ΝΤΗΝ[ΩΡ], ΑΡΤΕΜΩΝ, ΔΙΟΝΥΣΙΚΛΗΣ, ΛΙΧΑΣ, ΣΑΜΙΟΣ, and ΤΙΜΟΠΟΛΙ are known. Two examples are included in this collection.

[Image: Bronze Apollo/lion coin of ancient Miletus.]

RJO 49. Bronze 19 × 16 mm (3.81 g, ↑↑), about 250–200 BC. Obverse: head of Apollo three-quarters left. Reverse: lion standing right (exergue line worn or absent), looking back at six-pointed sun; ΜΙ monogram over illegible monogram to right. The illegible monogram does not appear to be consistent with either the triangular monogram nor the ΝΚ monogram recorded from the known large-denomination later-group specimens (Ashton and Kinns, 2003: 20), and a distinctly six-pointed sun/star is not immediately apparent in any published illustrations.

[Image: Bronze Apollo/lion coin of ancient Miletus.]

RJO 50. Bronze 17 × 15 mm (3.64 g, ↑↑), about 250–200 BC. Obverse: head of Apollo three-quarters left. Reverse: lion standing right on exergue line, looking back at sun (worn or off the flan); inscription in exergue [Α]ΝΤΗΝ[ΩΡ]; worn monogram to right that is consistent with the triangular monogram illustrated by Kinns (1986: 241) from the single known [Α]ΝΤΗΝ[ΩΡ] specimen; apparent fragment of ΜΙ monogram to right above, a feature not described on the known [Α]ΝΤΗΝ[ΩΡ] specimen. The magistrate [Α]ΝΤΗΝ[ΩΡ] was not recorded by Deppert-Lippitz (1984).

(2d) Kinns’ Later Group · AE Chalka: 10 mm (1.2 g) · About 250–200 BC

Small-denomination later-group specimens “of inferior execution and with fully facing head” are recorded that name ΕΠΙΚΡΑΤ[ΗΣ], ΣΑΜΙΟΣ, and perhaps other magistrates (Ashton and Kinns, 2003: 20). One probable example is included in this collection.

[Image: Bronze Apollo/lion coin of ancient Miletus.]

RJO 86. Bronze 9 × 10 mm (0.85 g, ↑↗), about 250–200 BC. Obverse: head of Apollo fully facing. Reverse: lion standing right looking back at six-pointed sun; expected inscription in exergue is off the flan.

(2e) Kinns’ Final Group · AE Dichalka?: 13–15 mm (about 2.2 g) · About 200 BC

This is the middle of the three denominations and chronologically the last, being contemporary with the “magistrate” group of Apollo Didymaios bronzes (Kinns, 1986: 253–254; Ashton and Kinns, 2003: 12). Specimens that name ΑΙΣΧΥΛΙΝΟΣ, ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΔΗΣ, ΖΩΠΥΡΟΣ, ΜΕΝΕΣΤΡΑΤΟΣ, and ΣΩΣΤΡΑΤΟΣ are known, and one example is included in this collection.

[Image: Bronze Apollo/lion coin of ancient Miletus.]

RJO 106. Bronze 13 × 13 mm (2.41 g, ↑↑), about 200 BC. Obverse: head of Apollo three-quarters left. Reverse: lion standing right looking back at eight-pointed sun; ΜΙ monogram over illegible monogram to right; expected inscription in exergue is off the flan.


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