A rare tuna from Lampedusa

I recently discovered a small bronze, depicting a detailed picture of a fish, in an Ebay lot which sparked my interest. Since the other pieces came from Sicily, I started looking there. I soon had an exciting guess, so I bought the lot (at a good price, luckily).

The moment I held the coin in my hand, my assumption was confirmed: it is actually an early bronze from Lampedusa, one of about three or four specimen known, and apparently the second in the trade (the first I found at CNG , which also helped with identification).


The Lopadousa coin compared to a 1 Eurocent

The front shows a bearded, wreathed head looking to the right – maybe Zeus or another male local deity. The back shows a sea fish, obviously a tuna, and the legend LOPADOUSSAION, „… of Lopadoussa“, in the meaning of „coin…“ or „money of the people of Lopadousa“. The ancient name Lopadoussa or Lopadousa for the small Italian island of Lampedusa is mentioned by Strabo without giving any further information. PSeudo-Skylax also reports only „two or three towers on the island“. It is difficult to imagine that this tiny island must have been an autonomous state – but the coins prove it. The fact that the people had their own coinage shows that Lopadousa had a developed, although of course only local, market economy. The tuna on the back shows that fishing (and fish export?) played an important role in the island’s economy. In addition, coin money, which bore the city name, was always prestige, especially in the competition between Poleis among themselves.

Although in ancient sources there was never a „city“ Lopadoussa on the island of the same name, the coins testify to a developed society. It has long been discussed whether Lopadousa was a Phoenician / Carthaginian settlement or a Greek colony. The Greek legend definitely points to a orientation towards, if not belonging to the Greek culture – considering that many Punic cities in Sicily used their own alphabet for the coin inscriptions.


The tuna of Lopadousa


There is little evidence of the ancient history of Lampedusa, the literary sources rarely go beyond a mere mention, archaeological finds are mainly prehistoric. At the time of minting, the island seems to have enjoyed a certain autonomy and prosperity. When that was can only be estimated. Because of the delicacy of the letters, the detailed representation of the tuna and the severe portrait on the front, I would carefully date the coin to the second half of the fourth century BC.



Why not Myonnesos?

Anhang 3MY is a common beginning of greek city names, especially in Asia Minor. Coins bearing the legend MY… are in many cases attributed to Myous in Ionia, mostly because of the meander pattern. Others, like early Poseidon/Dolphin bronzes, seem to belong to either Myndos (Sear, Aulock) or Mygissos (SNG Tübingen, Klein), an obscure, almost unknown town in Caria. Furthermore, an attribution to Myrina, Mylasa or even Mykale (if it was an independent Polis in early times) is possible as well, also highly unlikely for historical and stylistic reasons.

Anhang 4Now a new typ occured, depicting a female head (it seems to be female to me because of the hairdress and the necklace) on the obverse and bow, arrow and the legend MY on the reverse. Because of the completely different iconography I am tempted to atrribute this coins to a different, further mint. Unfortunately, there are allmost no usefull hints. The head on the obverse show more or less certain Artemis, the hair typically pushed up, wearing a necklace. The huntress is further charaterized by bow and arrow on the reverse. Otherwise, bow and arrow can also stand for Herakles or Apollon. In case of Apollon, bow and arrow can be interpretated as divine weapons against any kinds of parasits, like locusts and mice. SmintheusAs protector against mice, Apollon bore the epithet Σμινθεύς, Smintheus („Mice-destroyer“). Imperial bronzes from Alexandreia Troas show the statue of Apollon Smintheus who still was worshipped in roman times (see right).

The small town of Myonnessos in Ionia, situated on a promontory between Teos and Lebedos, was discribed as an independent Polis by Hekataios in the 6th century BC (cited Steph. Byz.). In the second century BC the Teians persuaded Rome to prevent the fortification of Myonnesos (Strabo XIV.643), which implies the independence of the town in this time. As Myonnesos means Mice-Island, it seems very well possible to me that this city, like Airai near Teos, minted a small series of bronze coins which depicts the attributes of the local Apollon cult – Apollon, the „Mice-destroyer“. This is a vague speculation of course, but perhaps, as long as there is no other evidence or hint, not the worst one…

Magnesia – of heroes and horses

UnbenanntRecently acquired, I believe this tiny coin to be one of the first emissions of the Ionian city of Magnesia. While the coin dealer presumed the fraction to have originated in Olynthos in Makedonia, the obverse has a strong connection to the later Magnesian coins, depicting an armed horseman attacking. Wheihing 1,22 grams, the fraction might be considers as a Phokaian standard Diobol.The obverse shows a well built man on the right, standing in a frontal position, leading a frontal standing horse on the left.

Unbenannt2On the reverse we find the flying eagle, apparently the heraldic animal on early Magnesian coins (just compare the various eagle and eagle-head depictions on the Themistokles coins), as a symbol for Zeus. Beyond the eagles head might appear the rest of the coins legend, but the letter is far to worn to be identified. Only one similar Obol (0,88 grams) was sold at CNG, showing Leukippos pulling his horse right even stronger (www.cngcoins.com/Coin.aspx?CoinID=84501). The muscular chest and the strong calves are remarkable and clearly characterize the person as a (mythical) hero. Both nominals must be parts of an early series of Magnesian fraction, for stylistic reasons issued by the Polis even before Themistokles takeover (soon after 470 BC).


Picture courtesy of CNG

In my opinion, the man leading the horse – in association with the eagle as the Magnesian emblem – depicts Leukippos, the mythical founder of Magnesia. First of all, he bears a speaking name: Leukippos consists of the two components Λευκὴ (leuke, „white“), and Ἵππος (Hippos, „horse“), meaning „the one/man with the white horse“. According to a scholion to Apollonios of Rhodos, Leukippos was a Karian from Crete, a successor of Bellerophon. Drachms and further nominals from the time about 300 BC show Leukippos, riding right, attacking, wearing a helmet and cuirass, holding couched lance. This early impression of the Magnesia Hero show him rather peacefully, guiding or perhaps taming his horse, similar to early Euboian coins. Perhaps the taming of a wild, white horse was part of a lost Magnesian foundation legend…

No Ketos at Kindya

an obol (0,48 gr) attributed to Kindya? (from Tom Vossen)

Since Kagan&Kritt published „The coinage of Kindya“ (NumChron 1995), tetrobols and fractions depicting the head of the legendary sea monster (called Ketos) and an obscure geometric pattern on the reverse were assigned to Kindya or Kindye, a small Carian town in the gulf of Iasos. This attribution was based more or less on one single letter: on some frations there seems to appear a K right under Ketos head, which indeed could very well point to Kindya as a possible mint.


so far unpublished hemiobol, inscripted AL (from Failla Numismatics)

A reacently occured (Ebay, of course) Hemiobol showing the head of Ketos and a star on the reverse as well now bears a second, cleary readable letter: AOn the basis of the available evidence – the combination AK – it is concluded that it is unlikely that these coins have been minted at Kindya. On the other hand, there’s no suitable mint bearing the initials AK…


Fraction from Phokaia (or Kyzikos?), showing a bearded Ketos

While comparing the iconography of Ketos on other greek art with the so-called Kindya coins, I found and interesting depiction of the sea monster on a rare Phokaian fraction. On this coin, Ketos is depictured wearing a chin beard, not dissimilar in appearance to those goats have. On the basis of this observation I assume the score of the K to be more likely the beard of Ketos. This interpretation leads to a coin legend instead of AK


The Ketos-coins from Kindya – more probably the local currency at Halikarnassos

The inscription in combination with the depiction of a sea creature lead to the conclusion, that the fraction that were hitherto attributed to Kindya were minted at Halikarnassos. No coins bigger than obols were known from the classical period from Halikarnassos until today. A re-attribution of the Ketos-tetrobols and their fractions would would close that unusual gap.

Galepsos – a side trip to Thrace

Although this blog is about Asia Minor fractions, this hemiobol is worth a short visit to ancient neighbouring Northern Greece.

Aquired as a Trieros Hemiobol Galepsos(actually, TPIE-inscriped coins seems to belong to the Chalkidean League mint of Olynthos, the inscription simply means TPI(h)Emiobol), the
inscription differs from the commom TPIE, as I read ΓA. There were quite a couple of poleis beginning with GA.., like Gargara, Gambreion etc., but if you look more closely there’s only one GA-city which could have minted the introduced coin. The obverse shows a female head which, without any further symbols or details, cannot be further determined, perhaps a depiction of a local nymph. The inscription on the revers is framed by a subject of technical charakter. At first I thought of the inner side of a shield, on the second glance it reminded me of a wheel.

IMG_3661The combination of a wheel and the GA initials points to the town of Gargara in the Troas (check asiaminorcoins.com). But on the one hand, the fine style of the ΓA hemiobol do not really fit into the Aeolian-styled Gargarian fractions, on the other hand the wheel on our coin shows a different design. A fabrication which rather reminds me of some dodekadrachms, strucked by various Macedonian tribes, like the Edones or Krestones. The three-spoke wheel depicted on those heavy coins seems to be typical for this region, which may indicate that the mint must be situated in close proximity to those martial tribes.

Galepsos, a small Parian colony of IMG_3662minor importance, situated on the southern shore of Mount Pangaion, seems to be a suitable candidate. Until now, only some few bronze coins of the fourth century are know, showing a protome of a goat (as in Paros) and the head of Dionysos. The female head on the hemiobol shows obvious parallels with the nymph head of the neighbouring Dikaia fractions or the late fifth century Thasos hemiobols. For the Galepsian history see Benjamin Isaac, The Greek Settlements in Greece until the Macedonian Conquest, p. 63: ‚About Galepsos we know almost nothing‘. As in nearby Argilos, Galepsos might have served as seaport for the hinterlands trading activities. This close connection may be reflected by a shared iconographic topic, supplemented by the initials of the Galepsians.

A Carian dwarf – fractions for Pixodauros?

Head of Apollon, wearing a laurel wreath, looking right

Today I’d like to introduce a tiny coin which seems to be the first known (to me, actually) silver fraction of Carian ruler Pixodauros. Bought as an „unknown hemiobol, probably from Cilicia“ it reminds of Cilician fractions
on the first look. The delicate portraits, especially the avers (?) could be interpreted as belonging to the early Cilician coinage, like the Datames Staters of Tarsos, depicting a nymph.

But there is one details which makes another origin more probable. The indicated drapery on the reverse‘ head neck is to be interpreted as a chlamys. This piece of clothing, some kind of cloak, is typical for the depiction of Apollon on staters and minor units of the Carian dynasts, the Hekatomnids. Until today, no fractions of Carian dynasts coins (from Hekatomos down to Pixodaros) smaller than the denomination of a Trihemiobol are known – except some early Hekatomnos Hemiobols.

But again, the resemblance of style and fabric is striking. The head of Apollon, shown slightly right, wearing a chlamys and laurel branch, became the badge of the hekatomnid coinage. For the first time, the head of Apollon looking right seems to appear during the reign of Pixodauros (340 – 335 B.C.). This innovation suggests that the side showing Apollon looking right must be the coins obverse.

..laureated head of Apollon again, facing slightly right.

..laureated head of Apollon again, facing slightly right.

As Pixodauros capital, Halikarnassos was also the mint of his coinage, both gold and silver issues. Unlike all other known Pixodauros coins this anepigraphic hemiobols doesn’t refer to its minting authority – rather unusual for dynastic coins. On the other hand: combining both popular motives (Apollo right, Apollo en face) must have been hint enough at the time to recognize Pixodauros as the Issuer.

The question remains open why Pixodauros should have minted uninscribed fractions – for local use at Halikarnassos? – from which only a single specimen is known until today…

Myrina finally…


No reindeer but a stag from Myrina finally made it into my collection

If you love your family, it is not always a good idea to invest on ebay items which end at strange times. In my case, I had to interrupt our chrismas dinner – I AM sorry, of course – to bid on a rare Myrina Trihemiobol, said to be the second known example. And: I made it and I am still somewhat proud of, what I call my own special chrismas gift!


Trihemiobol of Myrina, depicting the head of Artemis to the left, wearing an artfull hairdress

Unitl about 2008 no early fraction of Myrina occured. Head, the BMC, Sear etc. suspected the first coins of this city to be minted about 300 BC or later. There are only two different types of coins of early Myrina fraction which I know: Obols (two or a few more examples known, check http://www.asiaminorcoins.com ), depicting a female head  which is frontal on the obverse and a he-goats head on the reverse and the type subsequently presented. While the obols bear the inscription MYPI, the belonging of the Trihemiobol to Myrina is confirmed by the letters MYPINAON.


Reverse showing a grazing stag to the left, legend around

The attribution to Myrina in the Aeolis seems certain to me, although there existed another polis, bearing the same name: The ancient capital of the island of Lemnos was named after a leader of the mythological amazons, Myrine. Both Myrina and the second Lemnian City, Hephaistaia, became Athenian clerouchies in the early fifth century. For stylistic reasons, I assume that the coin was minted between ca. 420 BC and 400 BC. At this time, Lemnos was still under Ahtenian power – that is why Lemnian Myrina issued only small coins of bronze in the later fourth century, depicting the head of Athena on reverse and an owl on reverse – Athens sends its bests!

The later Tetradrachms are inscripted MYPINAION, with an I between A and O, which means „of the Myrinaians“ within the meaning „coin of the Myrinaians“. The genitive plural form implies that Myrina must have had a democratic government in times when the Tetradrachms were struck (second and first century BC according to Head) – legends say that those coins were issued by the peoples decision.

Our present inscription, MYRINAON, therefore only means „of Myrina“ and is little more than the localisation of the issuing mint. But, reading between the lines, this legend excludes a peoples decision, which enables us to come to some interesting conclusion about the political situation in Myrina at that time.


The virgin huntress looking left…

George Bean (Aegean Turkey, p.105-109) says that Myrina is a ‚city without history‘. Although little is know about the early history of this polis, there are still some interesting facts handed down concerning the fate of this town. As most of the Aeolian poleis Myrina paid a phoros of one talent to the Athenian-Delian League. More interesting for understanding the story of the coin is the fact that the Persian king gave Myrina to the Greek commander Gongylos in 475 BC. As a defector, Gongylos helped some Persian noblemen to escape from Byzantion and, when Byzantion was captured by Pausanias in 476, Gongylos had to flee to Persia himself. Persian King, Xerxes rewarded Gongylos for his services – similar to Themistokles, who got Magnesia and some smaller towns – with the dominion over Gambrion and Palaigambrion in Mysia and Gryneion and its close neighbour: Myrina.

With the interruption of the period when Myrina joined the Delian League the city seems to have belonged to Gongylos and his son and successor Gongylos the Younger. According to Xenophon, in 399 Gongylos son Gongylos the Younger ruled over Myrina and Gryneion, another son Gorgion was tyrant of Gambrion and Palaigambrion. While Gorgion strucked coins at Gambrion, bearing his name (Head, p. 528), no coins of the other Gongylids, Gongylos the Elder and Gongylos the Younger are known(yet). At least no coins bearing his name, as the earliest fraction of Pergamon are assumed to be issued by Gongylos II.

Pidasa revisited

Yesterday, I chanced on a coin which may reveal the recently given thoughts to the coinage of Pidasa in a different light. To be honest, it appears to me that the Polis of Pidasa hasn’t struck coins before ca. 300 BC at all.

London Ancient Coins sold the following coin in February 2012 (unfortunately, I wasn’t bidding):

Uncertain Asia Minor fraction, maybe of Pitane?

The similarity to the previously described bronze coin is evident. Both coins have to me minting at the same place – otherwise, as the temporal proximity is given, two different towns would have struck coins with an identical obverse and a reverse referring to two different names, both starting with ΠΙ! Providing, that both coins were produced by the same mints we’ve to reason that either the bronze coin, that I attributed to Pidasa near Milet belongs to Pitane or – even more suprising – Pidasa struck silver fractions as well as bronze coins.

There is no iconographic evidence to give preference to one of both polis. The female head, with the hair bound with a fillet and wearing a sakkos, a hairnet, is a common topic in western Asia Minor in the late fith century and the early fourth century B.C. The portraiture can refer to almost any kind of Goddess,nymph, a local deity – almost every female mythological person except those who were depicted wearing a special headdress or helmet. Athena is pictured on coins as wearing a (mostly konrinthian) helmet, iconagrapic images of Hera are showing the wife of Zeus veiled, Amazons usually are readily identifiable bearing a winged cap… The elaborate hairdress of the here depicted woman wearing a sakkos is generally a lead for a depiction of a nymph, sometimes also for Demeter or Artemis. After all, the sakkos indicates rather a fashion style than an attribute to a special Goddess. Although there seems to be some stylistic affinity to the silver coinage of Antandros in the Troas, showing Artemis Astyrene, the Artemis of Astyra, with a very similar hairdress.

Pidasa – the town which dissolved itself

Reverse of the Pidasa AE

Little is known about the small Polis of Pidasa near the ionian-carian border. As there is a karian town called Pedasa, at the Bodrum Peninsula, it is not quite sure whether all the early history, like the destruction by the Persians and the tributes paid to the Athenians, relates to Pedasa or Pidasa. But it gets even worse – it is possible that most of the Pedaseans were resettled by the Persians after the destruction of their old city to a place they named Pidasa. On top of everything, in archaic and classical times it wasn’t unusual that city ethics were spelled in different ways, so that both Pidasa and Pedasa might refer to the same city…

Obverse of the Pidasa AE

Anyway, there is an uncanny likeness between the reverse of the Pidasa AE and the back sides of the silver fractions from Latmos. This neighboring Polis, later renamed into Herkleia ad Latmos, struck Tetartemoria with the Initials of the city name, formed into a monogram. Konuk suggests to pull this phenomenon – the use of a nonpictorial, just letter-bearing back side – together with the coinage of Themistokles, who also put a single monogram on the reverse of his coins. Be that as it may,  the parallel between the Pidasian coin and the Latmian coinage is obvious.

Small bronze from Pitane, depicting Zeus Ammon

Small bronze from Pitane, depicting Zeus Ammon

This analogy allows the attribution of this bronze fraction to Pidasa – fortunately enough, as there are many other candidates Polis starting with PI, such like Pisye and Pisilis in Karia, Pinara in Lykia or Pitane in the Aeolis. R. Ashton suggested an attribution of the PI-bronzes to Pitana, because he was told that on of this little pieces was said to be found in the Aeolis area. On the basis of the resemblance between Pidasas and Latmos money and the completely different iconographic program on the coins of Pitane this assumption can now be rejected.

Map of Pidasa and its enviroment

Lets return to Pidasa near Milet. The city was situated just on the isthmus of the Milesian peninsula, neighboring Milet as well as Latmos. In ca. 315 B.C. the macedonian satrap in Caria, Asandros, tried to remove the inhabitants of Pidasa to Latmos, for any reasons we don’t know yet this venture failed. 150 years later the Pidaseans asked Milet for sympolity – which ment for Pidasa being absorbed by its far more powerful neighbor. The abandoning of Pidasa hasn’t been explained sufficiently yet. May this break be caused by a shrinking population or due to the quality of life and the comforts of the nearby metropolis of Milet? Be that as it may, due to its size, its style and finally the analogies to the Latmian coins, the present bronze should be coined round about 400 B.C. The obverse show a female head, perhaps a nymph, while the letters PI are depicted on the reverse of the bronze. According to Flensted-Jensen, Further Studies in Ancient Greek Polis, p. 67, population of the civic center of the Polis of Pidasa might reach approximately 2000 inhabitants.

Iasos – of prawns and boars…

Actually my rarest coin is a Tetartemorion, which took me quite a couple of rainy weekends of research to get identified.

Iasos, obverse of the Tetartemorion

The obverse of the tiny coin bears a head of an animal, which is described in the literature as the head of a boar. To be honest, for a boar I am missing the tusks. The similiarity with boars on coins of the same time, even from the same region, like Euromos (see below) is limited. Any suggestions what kind of animal the stamp cutter had in mind? Might this be a wolf? Howbeit the snout looks piggish anyway....



The revers of the Tetartemorion

Although parts of the coin are covered by a dark film of horn silver, the sea dweller on the revers is determined easily as a prawn or shrimp. As Iasos was famous for its seafood, especially for its big prawns in ancient times it is not suprising that the city authorities decided to put this merchandise on the coins. Noteworthy enough, as there is only one other Polis in Asia Minor bearing the prawn on its coinage, the town of Priapos in Mysia.

This fraction can be ascribed to Iasos with confidence as there are to very similiar coin, Tetartemoria too, bearing the ehnic ΙΑΣ for Iasos (published by K. Konuk, see below). As usual for late fifth century B.C. coins of northern Caria, the Tetartemoria were struck in the reduced milesian weight standard. According to Konuk, this coin is the fifth know Tetartemorion from Iasos, even the third known without inscription – even though I’d rather hold an inscripted one…

swinish hemiobols from Euromos and Kyzikos

Referring to the just mentioned boar, here is a picture of a hemiobol from Iasos neighbouring city of Euromos. Bearing the head of Zeus on the front side, the revers shows a protome (the foreparte of an animal) of a boar, the stiff-bristled crest is clearly visible. The boar is joined by another pig, pictured on a ca. 450 B.C. hemiobol form Kyzikos in Mysia. If the iconographic programme on this Tetartemorions obvers referrs to the civic issues of Euromos – and there is some evidence for this assumption – this would characterize both cities as tied together somehow. If the boar on the Euromos coins is related with Zeus, who is depicted on the obverse, this animal could be an attribute of this God. The local surname of Zeus at Euromos was Lepsynos, a pre-greek name which cannot be translated satisfyingly yet.

For further informartion about the coinage of Iasos see http://cnrs.academia.edu/KorayKonuk/Papers/363799/The_Payment_of_the_Ekklesiastikon_at_Iasos_in_Light_of_New_Evidence