Archiv für den Monat September 2012

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

Magnesia on the Maeander, Tetartemorion – the tiny one

The first coin I’d like to introduce is a Tetartemorion, minted in Magnesia on the Maeander, my favourite mint!  According to its style I assume the coin to minted at about 400 b.C.

The obverse of the Tetartemorion

The obverse of the Tetartemorion

The male, youthful head on the obverse is usually interpreted as head of Apollon. Unfortunately its not clearly visible on the worn piece whether the God is wearing a laurel wreath. The avers shows a raging bull, runnig to the right, lowering his head. While the M is outside of the coin, the legend is red (M) A on the obvers, continuing G N H on the reverse, meaning MAGNEton in ancient greek. The term Magneton refers to second person genitiv, which means „of the Magnetians“ and declares the coin to be part of the official currency of the state of Magnesia on the Maeander.

The revers of the Tetartemorion

The buttin bull on the revers is a bit more challenging to interpret. Homer describes the river Skamandros, which rans through the territory of Troja, as a roaring, angry bull, rolling through the meadows of Ilion. For assuring the fertility of the Troian fields, the river was ennobled to a demigod, with an own cultus and own priest. Everywhere across the ancient greek world river gods were depicted as buttin bulls, sometimes with a bearded human face. Beeing symbolized as an attacking bull the personification of a river god also tells us about the fear of drought and crop failure: the small, dry summertime streamlets of Asia Minor have very few in commom with the watering, rolling rivers that the people longed for. After thunderstorms and snowmelt, during the winter month, the creeks are in fact transformed into torrentials rivers, whose power and speed for the ancient Greeks seemed to be only comparable with one of the most powerful animals of their time – the bull.

The Tetartemorion from Magnesia vis-à-vis Twenty Pence

The Tetartemorion from Magnesia vis-à-vis Twenty Pence

Same at Magnesia: the butting bull is the iconographic depiction of the personification of the Maeandros River. By displaying the rivergod on their coins, the Magnesians showed everybody the considerable local value of this deity and, by doing this, worshiped him. Introducing two major gods. a local river and the first letters of the City on hardly 0,24 inch – a remarkable message for such a small medium.

Collecting, starting and naming…

Visiting Termessos maior in August 2012

Hey everyone, my name is Jochen Randig from Cologne, Germany.
One of my hobbies is collecting ancient greek fractions, mainly hemiobols, tetartemoria and all the other, unnamed tiny silver coins (and of course, some small bronzes as well).
That’s for the naming of my blog so far. I decided to write about ancient fractions online both to share some of my own coins and also to get in touch with other collectors across the world to discuss, talk shop and share.
For starting my blog I’d like to present to you my rarest, my smallest and my favorite coin.