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) Late Fourth-Century Apollo / Lion Didrachms and Their Parallel Bronzes

Contents of this page

Note: This is a new page that is still under development. Some of the material on the page is incomplete.

The history of Milesian coinage during the late-fourth and third centuries 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 during this period, but a summary of what is known about the issues of these decades is presented here for reference.

The profile-Apollo/standing-lion type that was introduced with the fourth-century Rhodian silver continues in the third century, but under two new weight standards: a reduced-Rhodian standard used for an early didrachm issue (described below), and a Persic standard used for an extended issue of didrachms, drachms, and hemidrachms from about 260 BC onward. The early reduced-Rhodian didrachms were minted in parallel with a small group of profile-Apollo/standing-lion bronzes (also described below), while the later 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 may have been minted during a gap in the facing-Apollo series, but its exact placement is uncertain.

(2) Miletus · Laureate Head of Apollo Left / Lion Statant Regardant Left · Silver · About 310–300 BC

Included under this heading is the compact group of reduced-Rhodian-standard silver didrachms (about 6.5 g) that Deppert-Lippitz places in her Period III (1984: #436–496, pls. 14–16). The types on these coins face to the left, as in the Rhodian-standard silver tetradrachms, drachms, and hemidrachms of her Period I, but unlike the coins of Period I, the silver didrachms of her Period III always possess an exergue line on the reverse. Specimens naming magistrates ΜΝΗΣΙΘΕΟΣ, ΖΕΥΞΙΛΕΟΣ, ΑΝΤΙΠΑΤΡΟΣ, ΤΙΜΟΘΕΟΣ, ΦΑΙΔΙΜΟΣ, ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΔΗΣ, ΛΥΚΟΣ, ΠΡΩΤΑΡΧΟΣ, ΑΝΤΙΛΕΩΝ, ΑΝΑΞΙΚΡΕΩΝ, ΤΙΜΩΡΟΣ, ΚΛΕΙΤΟΜΑΧΟΣ, ΠΙΤΘΙΣ, ΜΝΗΣΕΑΣ, ΑΝΤΙΑΝΔΡΟΣ, ΒΑΚΧΙΟΣ, ΕΧΕΒΟΥΛΟΣ, ΑΘΗΝΑΙΟΣ, ΠΥΘΩΝ, ΑΡΙΣΤΟΚΡΑΤΗΣ (corrected from D-L’s ΑΡΙΣΤΟΚΑΤΗΣ), ΛΑΜΙΟΣ, ΜΟΙΡΙΑΣ, ΕΡΓΙΝΟΣ, ΑΠΟΛΛΟΔΟΤΟΣ, ΔΑΜΑΣΙΑΣ, ΜΝAΣΕΑΣ, ΗΡΑΓΟΡΑΣ, ΔΗΜΟΣΘΕΝΗΣ, and ΧΑΡΜΗΣ are recorded by Deppert-Lippitz, and Kinns (1986: 239–240) adds the names ΤΙΜΕΑΣ and ΦΙΛΙΔΑΣ. One example is included in this collection.

Deppert-Lippitz dated these coins to the years when Lysimachus had control of Miletus (about 294–281 BC), but in his commentary on these issues, Kinns suggests that they may have been minted somewhat earlier than Deppert-Lippitz believed, perhaps from 310–300 BC, an interval during which the emission of Alexander types at Miletus seems to have been interrupted:

The complex die linkage [of these reduced-Rhodian didrachms] certainly indicates a compact and short-lived issue, despite the thirty known magistrates’ names. Her chronology depends firstly on the bronze hoard IGCH 1289/90, secondly on the fact that ten of the magistrates can plausibly be identified in Milesian inscriptions of the 280s and 270s, and she makes a tentative association with the loan raised in 283/2 from the citizens of Cnidus, to pay off an indemnity to Lysimachus. As many as seven of the didrachm magistrates appear among the list of seventy-five guarantors for this loan. This is good evidence, but an alternative slightly earlier chronology can also be proposed. D-L herself refers in passing (p. 70, note 133) to didrachms on the same standard struck at Samos [Kinns’ footnote: “See J.P. Barron, The Silver Coins of Samos (1966), pp. 124–40.”], and the comparison should perhaps have been pressed. For the Samian didrachms exhibit a fabric and pattern of die use remarkably similar to that seen at Miletus, and one wonders if the two series are not connected. Using epigraphical and historical evidence, Barron suggested c. 310–300 as the date for the Samian coins, and the Milesian series could equally well belong to that decade, representing the years of Antigonus’s relatively liberal control of Miletus, between the much-vaunted ‘liberation’ from Asander in 313/12 and Ipsos in 301 (D-L, p. 61). Significant also is the fact that the ‘royal’ mint at Miletus was apparently closed between 318 and 300. Conversely, in the 280s payments to Lysimachus are much more likely to have been made in ‘royal’ silver, possibly Milesian Alexanders, than in local didrachms. Nor is such a conclusion inconsistent with the activity of seven of the didrachm names as guarantors in 283/2—these men (with over twenty colleagues, let it be remembered) could well have been involved with the coinage twenty or twenty-five years beforehand, for their inscriptional mention gives only a floruit. [Kinns, 1986: 252]

In more recent writings, Kinns has continued to express a preference for a date in the vicinity of 310–300 BC for these issues (Ashton and Kinns, 2003: 18, n. 81), and his chronology has been adopted here.

(2a) AR Reduced-Rhodian Didrachms (6.5 g) · About 310–300 BC

These issues are known only in the didrachm denomination; no tetradrachms, drachms, or hemidrachms have been recorded. Interestingly, however, the apparently parallel series of didrachms from Samos, described by Barron (1966: 125–140, pls. 23–25) and noted above by Kinns (1986: 252), does appear to have been accompanied by a small number of drachms (3.2–3.6 g), hemidrachms (1.3–1.7 g), and trihemiobols (0.6–0.7 g). Perhaps Milesian issues in these smaller denominations are waiting to be discovered.

[Image: Silver Apollo/lion didrachm from ancient Asia Minor.]

RJO 89. Silver didrachm (6.33 g), about 310–300 BC. Obverse: laureate head of Apollo left. Reverse: lion statant regardant left on exergue line, looking back at eight-pointed sun; ΜΙ monogram to left; [Β]ΑΣΙΛΕΙΔΗ[Σ] in exergue. This specimen was struck from obverse die V5 and reverse die R9 of Deppert-Lippitz (1984: 161, pl. 14), a previously unrecorded combination which links the strikings from V5 to those from V6.

(3) Miletus · Laureate Head of Apollo Right / Lion Statant Regardant Right · Bronze · About 310–300 BC

The contemporary 18 mm bronzes: Kinns has argued (1986: 251–252) that a subset of Deppert-Lippitz’s Period II, Series IV bronzes—in particular, those featuring magistrates ΔΑΜΑΣΙΑΣ, ΘΕΑΝΔΡΟΣ, ΤΙΜΟΘΕΟΣ, and ΦΙΛΙΣΚΟΣ, and possessing an exergue line under the reverse lion—are contemporary with the reduced-Rhodian silver didrachms just described. These bronze coins “must be exactly contemporary with the reduced [Rhodian] weight didrachms of D-L’s Period III [above, rather than with the full-weight Rhodian tetradrachms, drachms, and hemidrachms of Period I], for no fewer than 10 of the 14 recorded [bronze] magistrates also appear among the 30 names of that [reduced-Rhodian] silver series; stylistic details, notably Apollo’s elaborate hair-styling and broad laurel wreath, the exergue line, and the occasional use of a sixteen-rayed star all confirm this relationship (D-L, p. 59), and a remarkable case of parallel die sharing in the two metals can now be reported. In the [late group of Series IV] bronze a single obverse links coins of ΛΥΚΟΣ (D-L 379), ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΔΗΣ (D-L 380), and ΠΡΩΤΑΡΧΟΣ (Kinns; cf. D-L 381), and the same trio are also linked in [the reduced-Rhodian didrachms in] silver (D-L 446–8, all from V6)” (Kinns, 1986: 251). One probable example of this contemporary bronze group (RJO 11) is described for convenience alongside the other fourth-century bronze issues Deppert-Lippitz assigns to her Period II.

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

RJO 11. Bronze 15 × 16 mm (4.17 g), about 310–300 BC. Obverse: laureate head of Apollo right. Reverse: lion standing right on exergue line, looking back at sun (worn or off the flan). This specimen is in poor condition, but if it belongs among these issues it must be in the late Series IV group by virtue of its exergue line.

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

RJO 91. [Description pending.]

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