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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 Silver and Bronze Apollo / Lion Series

The history of Milesian coinage during the third century BC is complex, and many chronological details, especially of the late third-century bronze, have yet to be worked out. Few specimens from this collection are available to illustrate the types produced in the third century, but a summary of what is known about the issues of the period is presented here for reference.

During the first half of the third century the principal coinage of Miletus consisted of Attic-standard diadochian and civic Alexander issues featuring the familiar Heracles/Zeus types. A compact group of Apollo/lion didrachms struck to a reduced Rhodian standard, which Deppert-Lippitz (1984) placed in the early third century, more likely belongs to the final decade of the fourth century, fitting into a gap in the production of Milesian Alexanders (Kinns, 1986; Ashton and Kinns, 2003).

Toward the middle of the third century the Alexanders were discontinued and the Apollo/lion type was revived again, this time for an extended issue of didrachms, drachms, and hemidrachms struck on the Persic standard from about 260 BC onward (described below). This Persic-standard silver was minted in parallel with bronzes of a new type, featuring a three-quarter facing head of Apollo on the obverse. A comparatively rare bronze issue that restored the profile-Apollo obverse—one example is shown below—may have been minted during a gap in the facing-Apollo series, but its exact placement is uncertain.

The rare facing-Apollo silver hemidrachms: There is a small group of Milesian facing-Apollo coins known in silver rather than bronze: four naming ΑΠΟΛΛΟΔΩΡΟΣ and two naming ΜΕΝΑΝΔΡΟΣ (Deppert-Lippitz, 1984: #633–634; Kinns, 1986: 254–255; Ashton and Kinns, 2003: 11–12, pl. 1L). Kinns believes these date to about 205–200 BC and are contemporary with the final group of middle-denomination facing-Apollo bronzes and with the “magistrate” group of Apollo Didymaios bronzes. No examples of this rare type are included in this collection. See the account of the subsequent series of second-century silver for further details.

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

Included under this heading are the silver issues of Deppert-Lippitz’s Period IV (1984: #497–537), similar in appearance to the reduced-Rhodian didrachms minted several decades before, but now struck on the Persic standard as didrachms (10.5 g), drachms (5.3 g), and hemidrachms (2.6 g). The Persic standard of about 5.2–5.6 g, “derived from the bimetallic coinage of Kroisos, was adhered to by many of the mints in Asia Minor under Achaemenid domination, including those of Cyprus” (Sear, 1979: xxxi). In all these coins the obverse Apollo and the reverse lion both face left, a Milesian ΜΙ monogram appears to the left of the lion, and a reverse exergue line is present. No examples of these Persic-standard issues are included in this collection.

Deppert-Lippitz dated these coins to about 259–246 BC, “the time of Seleucid suzerainty between the expulsion of the tyrant Timarchus and the outbreak of the third Syrian war” (Kinns, 1986: 235), and presented the didrachms first, followed by the drachms and hemidrachms. Kinns has substantially revised Deppert-Lippitz’s classification, and his chronological arrangement (Ashton and Kinns, 2003: 8–19, pls. 1–3) is followed here. It is based on the recognition of an initial Τ-group of drachms and hemidrachms, followed by a smaller Δ-Ε-Α-group of drachms and hemidrachms, followed in turn by the didrachms. Kinns dates the Τ-group and Δ-Ε-Α-group to about 260–250 BC, and the didrachms to about 250–200 BC.

The early Τ-group, Kinns writes, “stands out as a large inaugural issue on the new ‘Persic’ weight standard, in succession to the preceding series of ‘reduced-Rhodian’ didrachms (D-L 436–96).” And while it is not yet possible to work out the internal chronology of the Τ-group, “it is obvious that we are dealing with boards of magistrates striking simultaneously” (Ashton and Kinns, 2003: 18). Within the didrachm series the pattern of die usage is clearer: several of the magistrates early in the series have parallel drachm issues, indicating an initial period of overlap when the two denominations were produced together; there is then a long interval during which only didrachms are minted; and then the final didrachms of ΑΥΤΟΚΡΑΤΗΣ and ΕΠΙΚΟΥΡΟΣ are closely associated with the subsequent series of second-century silver drachms and hemidrachms which replaced these third-century Persic didrachms about 200 BC.

As an historical note, Kinns observes that two Persic-standard didrachm specimens are known which have labyrinth countermarks certainly applied at Knossos, and “we can here deduce a significant movement of Milesian silver to Crete at some date to be established; Milesian involvement with Cretan mercenaries in the late third century is well-attested” (Kinns, 1986: 256; see also Kraay, 1976: 49).

[Image: RJO 49, a facing-Apollo bronze coin.]

RJO 49

The contemporary facing-Apollo bronzes: The Persic-standard silver drachms, hemidrachms, and didrachms described on this page were contemporary with the large and small denomination facing-Apollo bronze issues of the third century, which include an early Τ-group that is parallel to the Τ-group drachms and hemidrachms, as well as a later group that is probably parallel to the didrachms. The final middle denomination of facing-Apollo bronzes was not contemporary with the large and small denominations, but was instead minted alongside the “magistrate” group of Apollo Didymaios bronzes about 200 BC.

(2a) Kinns’ Τ-group · AR Drachms (5.3 g) and Hemidrachms (2.6 g) · About 260–250 BC

The initial Τ-group of Persic-standard drachms and hemidrachms includes specimens that name ΘΕΟΔΩΡΟΣ, ΦΙΛΙΣΚΟΣ, ΑΙΣΧΥΛΟΣ, ΛΕΟΝΤΙΣΚΟΣ, ΒΙΩΝ, ΠΗΞΙΔΗΜΟΣ, ΠΡΟΤΑΓΟΡΑΣ, ΑΛΚΩΝ, ΘΕΟΚΡΙΝΗΣ, ΚΤΗΣΙΑΣ, ΔΙΟΓΕΝΗΣ, ΘΑΡΣΑΓΟΡΑΣ, ΣΙΜΟΣ, and ΝΙΚΗΡΑΤΟΣ, as detailed above. All features a Τ control mark to the left of the reverse lion, beneath the customary ΜΙ monogram. No examples are included in this collection.

(2b) Kinns’ Δ-Ε-Α-group · AR Drachms (5.3 g) and Hemidrachms (2.6 g) · About 260–250 BC

The Δ-Ε-Α-group of Persic-standard drachms and hemidrachms includes specimens that name ΑΝΔΡΟΤ[Ε], ΒΑΒΩΝ, ΚΤΗΣΙΑΣ, ΛΕΟΝΤΙΣΚΟΣ, ΜΑΙΑΝΔΡΙΟΣ, ΔΙΟΓΕΝΗΣ, ΝΙΚΗΡΑΤΟΣ, ΦΙΛΙΣΚΟΣ, and ΘΕΟΔΩΡΟΣ, as detailed above. No examples are included in this collection.

(2c) AR Didrachms (10.5 g) · About 250–200 BC

The Persic-standard didrachms include specimens that name ΜΑΙΑΝΔΡΙΟΣ, ΝΙΚΟΛΑΣ, ΕΥΣΘΕΝΗΣ, ΚΛΕΟΔΩΡΟΣ, ΙΠΠΑΓΟΡΑΣ, ΔΩΡΟΘΕΟΣ, ΘΡΑΣΥΒΟΥΛΟΣ, ΛΥΚΟΣ, ΔΙΟΝΥΣΙΟΣ, ΣΑΜΙΟΣ, ΠΟΣΕΙΔΙΠΠΟ[Σ], ΕΠΙΚΡΑΤΗΣ, ΗΡΑΓΟΡΑΣ, ΔΙΟΜΑΝΔΡΟΣ, ΝΕΩΝ, ΑΛΕΞΙΠΠΟΣ, ΑΥΤΟΚΡΑΤΗΣ, and ΕΠΙΚΟΥΡΟΣ, as detailed above. No examples are included in this collection.

(3) Miletus · Laureate Head of Apollo / Lion Statant Regardant · Bronze · About 225–200 BC

Included under this heading is the bronze coinage Deppert-Lippitz assigns to her Period V (1984: #708–728), a comparatively rare and little-studied group. She records only 21 specimens, naming magistrates ΠΟΛΥΞΕΝΟΣ, ΜΙΚΩΝ, ΚΑΥΝΙΟΣ, ΖΩΠΥΡΙΩΝ, ΠΑΥΣΑΝΙΑΣ, ΗΡΩΙΔΗΣ, ΦΑΙΝΙΑΣ, ΗΓΗΤΩΡ, ΜΕΝΕΚ[ΡΑΤΗΣ], and ΦΙΛΩΤΑΣ. Kinns adds a specimen naming ΘΡΑΣΥΒΟΥΛΟΣ, “who could be the same as the didrachm magistrate” above (Ashton and Kinns, 2003: 13). These are the first bronze coins of Miletus on which the principal ΜΙ city monogram appears in conjunction with subsidiary monograms or control marks.

The exact placement of this small issue within the complex history of third-century and early second-century Milesian bronze is difficult. It seems certain that the bronzes that followed this group were the “magistrate group” of Apollo of Didyma coins, minted about 200 BC. Kinns (1986: 254) has observed that a number of those early Apollo Didymaios issues were overstruck on specimens of this series (see for example, D-L #959–960), a fact that may account for the type’s comparative scarcity: in addition to being issued for only a few years, many of them may have been recalled for overstriking.

It seems likely that this issue appeared in parallel with some portion of the Persic-standard silver didrachm series above, perhaps alongside the facing-Apollo bronzes in general, or perhaps during an interval between the earlier large and small facing-Apollo bronzes on the one hand, and the later middle-denomination facing-Apollo issue on the other. Kinns summarizes the probable chronology of these several types as follows:

[T]he earlier stages of the [Persic-standard] didrachm series [about 250 BC] were accompanied by a continuation of [Τ-group] bronzes in the types facing Apollo/standing lion looking back at two stars (as D-L 538–82), which had been introduced somewhat earlier in tandem with the ‘Τ’ group of drachms and hemidrachms [about 260 BC]. About the middle of the didrachm series, the profile Apollo head was restored to the bronze [this series], only to be replaced (with widespread use of overstriking) by the new [‘magistrate’ group of] Apollo statue/reclining lion types. But this series in turn was short-lived, and the main 2nd century series (as D-L 766–924) saw a return to the profile Apollo obverse (now with a border of dots) and standing lion reverse (now within laurel wreath). These changes appear somewhat confused with the benefit of hindsight, but it must not of course be forgotten that they occurred over a period of perhaps two generations, and the exact order of the individual issues within these successive groups is probably beyond possibility of recovery. [Ashton and Kinns, 2003: 13]

(3a) AE 12–18 mm (1.4–5.0 g)

Deppert-Lippitz describes only one denomination for this series, but the range of sizes she records suggests that there might be at least two distinct denominations present. Kinns says “two denominations (c. 18 mm, 4 g, and c. 14 mm, 2 g) can be distinguished” (1986: 235).

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

RJO 17. Bronze 12 × 17 mm (2.85 g, ↑↑), about 225–200 BC. Obverse: laureate head of Apollo right. Reverse: lion standing right, looking back at eight-pointed sun; monograms ΜΙ and ΚΑ to right of lion; inscription in exergue […]ΝΙΑ[…], perhaps representing ΦΑΙΝΙΑΣ or ΠΑΥΣΑΝΙΑΣ. The ΚΑ monogram does not correspond to any shown by Deppert-Lippitz for this period, although it does appear in the subsequent Apollo Didymaios ‘magistrate’ bronzes, suggesting a possible interval of administrative overlap between the two series. This is an unusually well-preserved specimen of this group, but unfortunately the lower margin is weakly struck and the magistrate’s name is not clearly legible.


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