rjohara.net

Search:  

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 Silver Milesian-Style Lion / Bird Fractions

Many of the smaller stater fractions from the Archaic and Classical periods are so tiny that their types can be difficult to determine if the coin is worn, although the weights of these tiny fractions continue to be extremely precise. (Doug Smith has written an excellent page reviewing the many types of Greek fractional silver.) One well-known fractional series that is commonly attributed to Miletus features a roaring lion head on the obverse, and on the reverse a standing bird, variously identified as a quail or a bustard. One or two pellets often appear in the corners above and below the bird. It has been suggested that the pellets indicate the coin’s denomination, but no consistent pattern in the number of pellets can be detected.

In describing two specimens of this type that were included in the Jonathan Rosen collection (#407 and #408), Waggoner (1983: 28) writes, “For a discussion of the reverse type on 407–8, see SNG Berry 1046, now given to Miletus, 525–500 BC by Bärbel Pfeiler, ‘Die Silberprägung von Milet im 6. Jahrhundert v. Chr.,’ SNR 45 (1966), pp. 5–25, especially p. 13, no. 17.” The commentary in Berry (1962: #1046) reads:

The rendering of the lion’s head and foreleg on Nos. 1045–1046 is very similar, indicating a common origin for the issues despite the difference in reverse type. [1045 shows a bird standing right with two pellets; 1046 shows a bird standing left with no pellets.] The bird of No. 1046 seems definitely to be a quail but there is less certainty about that of No. 1045. In a Münzen und Medaillen list (No. 196, January 1960, 18) the type is described as a dove and the coinage is attributed to Miletus. It seems to me that the representation may be a peacock with Samos as a possible mint, but Alfred Bellinger feels that it is almost certainly a bustard.

Note: Koray Konuk has recently proposed in SNG Kayhan that these issues are not Milesian but may instead belong to Mylasa, the principal city of ancient Caria, about 35 miles southeast of Miletus (Konuk, 2002: #940–948). The details of his argument will be published shortly. He dates them to about 420–390 BC.

(2) Miletus · Lion Protome / Bird Statant (with or without pellets) · Silver · About 525–500 BC

These coins seem to have been issued in two denominations—forty-eighth staters and ninety-sixth staters—but all of the published sources I have examined refer only to forty-eighth staters. Many combinations of obverse and reverse exist with respect to the direction the lion and bird are facing, and with respect to the number of reverse pellets, but I have not been able to detect any pattern in this variation.

(2a) AR Lydo-Milesian 1/48 Stater (0.29 g) · Right-facing Group

As in the early Milesian twelfth staters, the obverse type of these coins is, strictly speaking, a lion protome with foreleg visible and head reverted, rather than a simple lion head. Several of the specimens below, such as RJO 34 and RJO 46, show this clearly. For convenience, however, I have grouped the specimens in this collection into those with the head facing right and those with the head facing left, since that is the most obvious feature of the coin in most cases.

[Image: Silver 1/48th stater of Miletus or Mylasa, one of the smallest ancient coins.]

RJO 8. Silver 1/48 stater (0.28 g), 525–500 BC. Obverse: lion’s head right. Reverse: bird standing right with two pellets.

[Image: Silver 1/48th stater of Miletus or Mylasa, one of the smallest ancient coins.]

RJO 33. Silver 1/48 stater (0.31 g), 525–500 BC. Obverse: lion’s head right. Reverse: bird standing left with two pellets.

[Image: Silver 1/48th stater of Miletus or Mylasa, one of the smallest ancient coins.]

RJO 34. Silver 1/48 stater (0.25 g), 525–500 BC. Obverse: lion’s head right. Reverse: bird standing right with two pellets.

[Image: Silver 1/48th stater of Miletus or Mylasa, one of the smallest ancient coins.]

RJO 46. Silver 1/48 stater (0.28 g), 525–500 BC. Obverse: lion’s head right. Reverse: bird standing right with two pellets.

[Image: Silver 1/48th stater of Miletus or Mylasa, one of the smallest ancient coins.]

RJO 68. Silver 1/48 stater (0.25 g), 525–500 BC. Obverse: lion’s head right. Reverse: bird standing right with two pellets.

(2b) AR Lydo-Milesian 1/48 Stater (0.29 g) · Left-facing Group

As noted above, the specimens in this group would be most properly described as showing “a lion protome right with head reverted to face left.”

[Image: Silver 1/48th stater of Miletus or Mylasa, one of the smallest ancient coins.]

RJO 12. Silver 1/48 stater (0.25 g), 525–500 BC. Obverse: lion’s head left. Reverse: bird standing right with no pellets (possible indication of one pellet over bird’s back, but if so it is mostly off the flan).

[Image: Silver 1/48th stater of Miletus or Mylasa, one of the smallest ancient coins.]

RJO 18. Silver 1/48 stater (0.23 g), 525–500 BC. Obverse: lion’s head left. Reverse: bird standing left with no pellets.

[Image: Silver 1/48th stater of Miletus or Mylasa, one of the smallest ancient coins.]

RJO 29. Silver 1/48 stater (0.24 g), 525–500 BC. Obverse: lion’s head left. Reverse: bird standing right with two pellets.

[Image: Silver 1/48th stater of Miletus or Mylasa, one of the smallest ancient coins.]

RJO 31. Silver 1/48 stater (0.26 g), 525–500 BC. Obverse: lion’s head left. Reverse: bird standing right with two pellets. This specimen is a fine example of intergranular or reticulate corrosion, which may be an indicator of a high degree of purity in the original silver.

(2c) AR Lydo-Milesian 1/48 Stater (0.29 g) · Direction Uncertain

In these specimens the direction the obverse lion is facing cannot be determined.

[Image: Silver 1/48th stater of Miletus or Mylasa, one of the smallest ancient coins.]

RJO 7. Silver 1/48 stater (0.29 g), 525–500 BC. Obverse: probably lion’s head, but too worn to be certain. Reverse: bird standing right with one pellet over its back; the strike is off-center so it isn’t possible to tell if there was a second pellet under the bird.

(2d) AR Lydo-Milesian 1/96 Stater (0.15 g) · Right-facing Group

As noted above, I can find no published descriptions of this type in a ninety-sixth-stater denomination, but they appear to be not uncommon. It may be that casual weighing has led people to assume that all specimens are forty-eighths. As with the larger denomination, the specimens in this “right-facing group” would be most properly described as showing “a lion protome left with head reverted to face right.”

[Image: Silver 1/96th stater of Miletus or Mylasa, one of the smallest coins of the ancient world.]

RJO 77. Silver 1/96 stater (0.16 g), 525–500 BC. Obverse: lion’s head right. Reverse: bird standing right with two pellets.

(2e) AR Lydo-Milesian 1/96 Stater (0.15 g) · Left-facing Group

As noted above under the larger denomination, the specimens in this group would be most properly described as showing “a lion protome right with head reverted to face left.”

[Image: Silver 1/96th stater of Miletus or Mylasa, one of the smallest coins of the ancient world.]

RJO 15. Silver 1/96 stater (0.17 g), 525–500 BC. Obverse: lion’s head left. Reverse: bird standing left with no pellets.

[Image: Silver 1/96th stater of Miletus or Mylasa, one of the smallest coins of the ancient world.]

RJO 26. Silver 1/96 stater (0.14 g), 525–500 BC. Obverse: lion’s head left. Reverse: bird standing left with no pellets.

[Image: Silver 1/96th stater of Miletus or Mylasa, one of the smallest coins of the ancient world.]

RJO 32. Silver 1/96 stater (0.14 g), 525–500 BC. Obverse: lion’s head left. Reverse: bird standing left with two pellets.


© RJO 1995–2016