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 Bronze Apollo of Didyma Issues

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The temple of Apollo at Didyma, in the territory of Miletus, was the site of an ancient oracle that was second in fame only to the Delphic Oracle on the Greek mainland. The bronze coins described here feature on the obverse the archaic cult statue of Apollo Didymaios sculpted by Canachus (Kanachos) that was housed in the Didyma temple. They represent numbers 941–1029 in the monographic study of Milesian silver and bronze by Deppert-Lippitz (1984). John Potter’s seventeenth-century history of the oracle of Apollo Didymaios is available here as a sidebar.

Two classes of coins within this type are known: those with a magistrate’s name in the exergue (D-L #941–994), and those with the city ethnic ΜΙΛΗϹΙΩΝ (“of the Milesians,” appearing in full for the first time) in place of a magistrate’s name (D-L #995–1028). Deppert-Lippitz regarded these two classes as consecutive, placing them both in her Period VII (39–17 BC), the interval from the liberation of Miletus by Anthony to the stephanephorate of Augustus, with the magistrate issues first and the ΜΙΛΗϹΙΩΝ issues second. In his essay-review of Deppert-Lippitz’s monograph, Kinns (1986) suggested that the magistrate group may in fact have been a quite separate issue and may date from the early second century BC or before:

At first sight these statue bronzes with ΜΙ and magistrate’s name would appear to be the immediate predecessors of the same type with just the ethnic ΜΙΛΗϹΙΩΝ (D-L 995–1028), for which a first-century date is indicated by archaeological contexts (D-L, p. 119, note 230), yet this does not seem to be the case. Many of the statue bronzes with magistrate’s name are visibly overstruck on profile Apollo head/standing lion coins, but not, it would seem, on the common second-century type with wreathed reverse (D-L 766–924), rather on earlier coins with unwreathed reverse, but ΜΙ and monogram (? as D-L 708–13). Unless the undertypes are from an otherwise unknown series, we are apparently obliged to conclude that the statue type in its original form with magistrate’s name was issued before the Apollo/lion in wreath bronzes of D-L’s Period VI (c.176–86). This conclusion seems paradoxical, but it is also supported by stylistic considerations, when the middle denomination facing Apollo bronzes are taken into account.... This conclusion is not without difficulties, since it involves a gap of well over a century between the ‘magistrate’ statue bronzes and the ΜΙΛΗϹΙΩΝ issue, with Apollo/lion in wreath coins coming in between, but no plausible alternative presents itself. [Kinns, 1986: 254–255]

In a note to the above paper added in proof, Kinns further reported that a “parcel from the 1979 Lechaena hoard (NC 1985, p. 56, no. 10) which recently appeared on the London market proved to include one Milesian bronze, an example of the statue of Apollo/reclining lion issue with the name ΑΙΣΧΥΛΙΝΟΣ (as D-L 941–56). Since this hoard (or deposit) has a closing date of c. 170 BC and the coin is relatively unworn, here is apparent corroboration of the arguments hesitantly advanced above (pp. 253–5) to show that this type was issued c. 200 BC and not c. 39–17 BC as proposed by D-L” (Kinns, 1986: 260).

Kinns has since confirmed this dating through a detailed analysis of the range of magistrates’ names recorded on other silver and bronze types that were issued about 200 BC, and the available epigraphic evidence from the same period (Ashton and Kinns, 2003: 8–13). Thus while “the Apollo of Didyma issues” may be a convenient grouping for general use—as it is, for example, in Sear (1979: #4520–4521)—coins of this overall type were in fact struck during two distinct periods separated by at least a century.

(2) Miletus · Apollo Didymaios Right / Recumbent Lion Regardant · Bronze · About 200 BC

This is the “magistrate group” (Deppert-Lippitz, 1984: #941–994). They feature the Milesian ΜΙ monogram to Apollo’s right, as well as one of a number of magistrates’ names in the reverse exergue: ΑΙΣΧΥΛΙΝΟΣ, ΑΥΤΟΚΡΑΤΗΣ, ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΔΗΣ, ΕΥΔΗΜΟΣ, ΖΩΠΥΡΟΣ, ΜΕΝΕΣΤΡΑΤΟΣ, and ΣΩΣΤΡΑΤΟΣ. Several of the known specimens are visibly overstruck on profile-Apollo/lion bronzes of the late third century, a comparatively scarce and little-studied group (Deppert-Lippitz, 1984: #708–728). No examples of this first Apollo Didymaios series are included in this collection.

(3) Miletus · Apollo Didymaios Right / Recumbent Lion Regardant · Bronze · About 39–17 BC

This is the “ΜΙΛΗϹΙΩΝ group” (Deppert-Lippitz, 1984: #995–1028), featuring the city ethnic ΜΙΛΗϹΙΩΝ (“of the Milesians”) in place of a magistrate’s name in the reverse exergue. The ΜΙ monogram is also absent from the obverse. The two coins included in this collection both belong to this second group.

(3a) AE 18 mm (about 3.0–6.0 g)

This is the only denomination known for the type.

[Image: Bronze coin of ancient Miletus featuring the statue of Apollo of Didyma.]

RJO 45. Bronze 17 × 18 mm (5.11 g), about 39–17 BC. Obverse: statue of Apollo Didymaios standing right; trace of dotted border visible in upper left. Reverse: recumbent lion right with head reverted, [ΜΙ]ΛΗ[ϹΙΩΝ] in exergue. Compare Sear (1979: #4521), and Deppert-Lippitz (1984: #995–1028).

[Image: Bronze coin of ancient Miletus featuring the statue of Apollo of Didyma.]

RJO 48. Bronze 19 × 17 mm (3.87 g), about 39–17 BC. Obverse: statue of Apollo Didymaios standing right; trace of dotted border visible in upper right. Reverse: recumbent lion right with head reverted, ΜΙΛΗϹΙ[ΩΝ] in exergue. Compare Sear (1979: #4521), and Deppert-Lippitz (1984: #995–1028).

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