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) Roman Provincial Bronzes of Gordian III from Miletus

Contents of this page

The Greek city of Miletus was incorporated into Rome’s Province of Asia in 133 BC, and during the later Imperial period Miletus served as a provincial mint under a number of emperors and empresses, issuing coins in the name of Caligula (AD 37–41) and his sister Drusilla, Claudius (41–54), Nero (54–68), Titus (79–81), Domitian (81–96), Trajan (98–117), Hadrian (117–138), Antoninus Pius (138–161), Marcus Aurelius (161–180) and his wife Faustina the Younger, Lucius Verus (161–169), Commodus (180–192) and his wife Crispina, Septimus Severus (193–211) and his wife Julia Domna, Caracalla (211–217) and his wife Plautilla, Geta (211), Alexander Severus (222–235), Pupenius (238), Balbinus (238), Gordian III (238–244), Valerian (253–260), and Gallenius (253–268) (Metcalf, 1980; Sear, 1982; SNG Copenhagen, 1982).

Note: I have very few specimens available to illustrate the extensive Roman provincial coinage of Miletus, and I do not yet have access to any of the advanced Roman provincial references such as Burnett et al. (1992–1999). Further study is required before more extended descriptions and commentary can be provided here.

Marcus Antonius Gordianus Pius Felix Augustus, known as Gordian III, was born at Rome in AD 225. The mid-third century was a time of disruption in the Roman Empire, and Gordian’s brief reign followed a chaotic interval of four years during which six different men held, or tried to hold, Imperial power: Maximinus Thrax, Gordian I, Gordian II, Pupenius, and Balbinus. Gordian III took the throne in 238 at the age of thirteen, and reigned until he was murdered by Philip the Arab, who succeeded him, in 244.

David Sear (1982: 349) provides this account of Gordian’s provincial (“Greek Imperial”) coinage:

The short reign of the teenage emperor Gordian III, grandson of Gordian I and nephew of Gordian II, has left a remarkably extensive numismatic legacy, both in the Roman and Local [provincial] series. His reign is the last of the great Greek Imperial coinages, rivalling in extent those of the Second Century emperors, whose reigns were generally three times as long. Even taking into account the increased minting activity in the Third Century, the coinage of this reign is extraordinarily large—it is bigger than that of Severus Alexander, whose reign was more than double the length of Gordian’s. This is partly to be explained by the activity of a large number of mints in Lycia, a province which produced hardly any Greek Imperial issues either before, or subsequent to, the reign of Gordian III. Why these cities, many of which had produced no coinage for over three centuries, should suddenly have had a brief burst of activity at this time, it is difficult to explain. One suggestion is that this short revival may perhaps be connected with sacrifices celebrated after the earthquake of A.D. 240. The Emperor’s presence in the East during the last two years of his reign, in connection with military operations against the newly-established Persian Empire, may also have contributed to the exceptionally large general output of coinage. Antioch resumed the striking of silver tetradrachms, for the first time in almost two decades, and Caesarea in Cappadocia made what was to be its final issue of silver denominations. The output of the Alexandria mint was maintained at a high level.

Sabinia Tranquillina, wife of Gordian III, whose Roman coinage is of the greatest rarity, was honoured by more than seventy mints in the Greek Imperial series—yet another numismatic enigma of this reign.

(2) Miletus · Bust of Gordian Right / Statue of Artemis · Bronze · AD 238–244

Sear describes a Gordian/Poseidon type from Miletus (1982: #3691), but does not list this Gordian/Artemis type. I do not have any other references available that might provide additional information.

(2a) AE 17 mm (2.5 g)

In the absence of additional information, I don’t know whether this type was issued in more than one denomination.

[Image: Darkly-toned provincial bronze coin of emperor Gordian III, from Miletus in Asia Minor]

RJO 114. Bronze 16 × 17 mm (2.42 g, ↑↓), AD 238–244. Obverse: draped bust of Gordian III right; inscription around margin. Reverse: statue of veiled Artemis facing, wearing polos, holding patera in right hand and bow in left; ΜΙΛΗϹΙΩΝ or ΜΙΛΙϹΙΩΝ around the margin.

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