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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Greek Coins ▸ Geographic - All Periods ▸ SyriaView Options:  |  |  |   

Ancient Coins of Syria

Parthian Empire, Mithradates II, c. 121 - 91 B.C.

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Mithradates II was the eighth and one of the greatest Parthian kings. He defeated all Seleukid attempts to reclaim territories and made Parthia a formidable, unified empire. He adopted the title Epiphanes, "god manifest" and introduced new designs on his extensive coinage. The ruins of Seleukeia on the Tigris, where this coin was struck, have been identified at Tell Umar, about 30 km south of Baghdad, and 60 north of Babylon. According to Pliny, the city had 600,000 inhabitants and c. 100 A.D. the city still held some Macedonian customs.
SH86429. Silver tetradrachm, Sellwood 24.4, BMC 3, Boston MFA 2216, Sunrise 284, Shore 67 var., EF, fantastic high relief bust, well centered on a tight flan, radiating flow lines, slightest die wear, slightest porosity, weight 15.696 g, maximum diameter 28.2 mm, die axis 0o, Seleukeia on the Tigris mint, c. 119 - 109 B.C.; obverse diademed bust of Mithradates to left, long beard, wearing torc and elaborate robes; reverse BAΣIΛEΩΣ MEΓAΛOY APΣ-AKOY EΠIΦANOYΣ / TY (square clockwise, ending in exergue)), Arsakes I seated right on omphalos, bow in right hand, palm branch right; ex Pars (2008), ex Antiqua Inc. (2000); $2250.00 (€1912.50)
 


Seleukid Kingdom, Seleukos III Keraunos, 226 - 223 B.C.

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Seleucus III Soter proved not to be the "Savior" that his official royal epithet advertised; nor did live up to his nickname Keraunos - "Thunder." He failed to reclaim western Asia Minor from his cousin, Attalus of Pergamum, and was assassinated after only a brief reign of only a few years.
GS86617. Silver drachm, Houghton-Lorber I 933, Newell WSM 1327, Weber 7867, Hoover Syrian 418 (R3), gVF, superb portrait, light toning, light bumps and marks, reverse double struck with a worn damaged die, weight 4.056 g, maximum diameter 18.9 mm, die axis 0o, Northern Syria or Northern Mesopotamia, uncertain mint, 226 - 223 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Seleukos III with long sideburns; reverse Apollo seated left on omphalos, examining arrow in right hand, resting left hand on grounded bow, BAΣIΛEΩΣ (downward on right) ΣEΛEYKOY (downward on left), AP monogram (control) left, monogram (control) right; very rare; $1080.00 (€918.00)
 


Seleukid Kingdom, Antiochus I Soter, 281 - 261 B.C.

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Antiochus faced a formidable task holding the empire together. Revolt broke out in Syria almost immediately after his father's death. He earned the title Soter (savior) for victory over hordes of Gauls that attacked Anatolia. Elsewhere, he had little success. He was forced to abandon Macedonia, Thrace, Bithynia, and Cappadocia and to execute his eldest son for rebellion.
GY85675. Silver tetradrachm, Houghton-Lorber I 379.6a, Newell ESM 166, HGC 9 128g, Choice VF, well centered and struck, high relief portrait, attractive toning, bumps and marks, closed edge crack, weight 16.667 g, maximum diameter 28.1 mm, die axis 0o, Seleucia on the Tigris (south of Baghdad, Iraq) mint, c. 263 - 261 B.C.; obverse diademed head right; reverse Apollo seated left on omphalos, examining arrow with right, resting left hand on grounded bow, monogram (primary control symbol) outer left, ∆/ΩP monogram (secondary control symbol) outer right, BAΣIΛEΩΣ (king) downward on right, ANT-IOXOY downward on left; $500.00 (€425.00)
 


Titus, 24 June 79 - 13 September 81 A.D., Antioch, Syria

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This coin was struck to pay Titus' legions and their expenses immediately after the Fall of Jerusalem at the end of the First Jewish Revolt. This disastrous revolt was triggered in 66 A.D. by a massacre of Jews and the desecration of the synagogue in Caesarea, where this coin was struck. On 14 April 70 A.D. Titus surrounded Jerusalem. He allowed pilgrims to enter to celebrate Passover but this was a trap to put pressure on supplies of food and water; he refused to allow them to leave. On 10 May he began his assault on the walls. The third wall fell on 25 May. The second wall fell on 30 May. On 20 July Titus stormed the Temple Mount. On 4 August 70 A.D. Titus destroyed the Temple. The Jewish fast of Tisha B'Av mourns the Fall of Jerusalem annually on this date.
RY87463. Silver tetradrachm, McAlee 379, RPC II 1969, Prieur 140 (17 spec.), Wruck 100, BMC Galatia -, F, nice portrait, centered on a tight flan, toned, bumps and marks, eagle's head unstruck (damaged or filled die), weight 14.088 g, maximum diameter 23.7 mm, die axis 0o, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, as caesar, 70 - 71 A.D.; obverse AYTOKP TITOΣ KAIΣ OUEΣΠ, laureate head right with aegis; reverse ETOYΣ Γ IEPOY (holy year 3[of Vespasian]), eagle standing left on palm frond, head left, wreath in beak, wings open, upright club to left; scarce; $200.00 (€170.00)
 


Northern Syria, 3rd Century A.D.

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This type has long been attributed to Pharaoh Nektanebo II. Butcher, however, notes it is quite common in the vicinity of Antioch and in Northern Syria and the obverse style is similar to third century Antiochene zodiacal type coins. He suggests they may have been struck under Hadrian.
RY77448. Bronze AE 16, Butcher p. 405, 11; Weiser p. 16, 1 (Nektanebo II, Memphis, Egypt), aVF, scratches and marks, weight 3.396 g, maximum diameter 16.0 mm, die axis 0o, uncertain (Antioch?) mint, 3rd century A.D.; obverse ram (Ares) leaping left, head turned back right; reverse balance scale (Libra); $160.00 (€136.00)
 


Kingdom of Chalkis, Coele Syria, Ptolemaios, 85 - 40 B.C.

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Ptolemaios son of Mennaios (also known as Ptolemy I), an Ituraean Arab dynast, established the Kingdom of Chalkis, c. 85 B.C., during the collapse of the Seleukid Empire. The kingdom, with its capitol at Chalcis sub Libano at the foot of Antilibanus, included Heliopolis, the valley of the Marsyas, and the mountainous region of Ituraea. In 64 B.C., he bribed Pompey the Great to forgo annexing his kingdom into the new Roman province of Syria and to allow him to continue ruling his territory as Tetrarch. Ptolemaios was succeeded by his son Lysanias, who was put to death by Marc Antony for supporting Mattathias Antigonus over Herod the Great. Antony gave the tiny kingdom of Chalkis to Cleopatra as a gift.
RP85946. Bronze AE 19, Herman 1, SNG Cop 413, Lindgren 1218, Cohen DCA 468, HGC 9 1439 (S), BMC Phoenicia p. 203, 18 corr. (Tripolis), VF, well centered and struck on a tight flan, attractive style, porous, weight 6.219 g, maximum diameter 18.2 mm, die axis 0o, Chalkis sub Libano mint, 73 - 72 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Zeus (or tetrarch) right; reverse the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux, standing facing, heads confronted, star above each head, each wearing a petasos and Roman military garb, spear in outer hand, inner hand on his hip, LMΣ (Seleukid era year 240) downward on right; $160.00 (€136.00)
 


Antioch, Seleucis and Pieria, Syria, 7/6 B.C., Legate P. Quinctilius Varus

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Publius Quinctilius Varus was a Roman general and politician under Augustus. From 7 or 6 B.C. until 4 B.C. he governed Syria as the where he was known for harsh rule and high taxes. Josephus mentions the swift action of Varus in 4 B.C., against a revolt in Judaea following the death of Herod the Great. Varus occupied Jerusalem and crucified 2000 rebels. Varus is most infamous for losing three Roman legions in an ambush by Germanic tribes led by Arminius in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, at which point he took his own life. Upon hearing the news, Augustus tore his clothes, refused to cut his hair for months and, for years afterward, was heard, upon occasion, to moan, "Quinctilius Varus, give me back my Legions!" (Quintili Vare, legiones redde!).
RP87432. Bronze trichalkon, McAlee 85; RPC I 4242; SNG Cop 90; BMC p. 158, 57; Butcher 48; Cohen DCA 402, aVF, well centered, a little rough, porous, obscure countermark (or flaw) on obverse, weight 6.267 g, maximum diameter 20.5 mm, die axis 0o, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, legate P. Quinctilius Varus, 7/6 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Zeus right, three pellets (mark of value) below neck; reverse ANTIOXEΩ EΠI OVAPOV, Tyche of Antioch seated right on rocks, turreted, wearing chiton and peplos, palm frond in her right hand, half-length figure of river-god Orontes swimming right below, his head turned facing, EK (Actian Era year 25) in the right field; $160.00 (€136.00)
 


Caracalla, 28 January 198 - 8 April 217 A.D., Antioch, Seleucis and Pieria, Syria

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"The two stars are probably the morning and evening stars, which are related to the Dioscuri, who, along with the great god and Allath, the great military goddess, were the chief deities of the Arabic cults. The twin gods were known as Aziz and Monim in Emesa, Abgal and Maan or Maanu and Shaaru in Palmyra, or Arsu (the cameleer god) and Azizu (the god riding a horse)." -- Michel Prier in The Syro-Phoenician Tetradrachms and Their Fractions from 57 BC to AD 253
RY87469. Billon tetradrachm, McAlee 673, Prier 212, Bellinger Syrian 12, SNG Cop -, BMC Galatia -, gVF, well centered and struck, nice portrait, toned, light corrosion/porosity, weight 11.741 g, maximum diameter 26.2 mm, die axis 180o, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, c. 208 - 212, probably 211 - 212 A.D.; obverse •AYT•KAI• - •ANTONEINOC•CE-B•, laureate bust right, bare shoulder from behind; reverse ∆HMAPX•EΞ•YΠATOC•TO•Γ (holder of Tribunitian power, consul for the 3rd time), eagle standing facing, head right, tail right, wings open, wreath in beak, six-pointed stars at sides; $160.00 (€136.00)
 


Seleukeia Pieria, Seleukis and Pieria, Syria, 99 - 98 B.C.

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Seleucia Pieria, also known in English as Seleucia by the Sea, was the capital of Seleucus I Nicator, in Syria Prima. The city was built, slightly to the north of the estuary of the river Orontes, between small rivers on the western slopes of the Coryphaeus, one of the southern summits of the Amanus Mountains. The Macedonians called the landscape Pieria, after a district in their homeland that was also between the sea and the Olympus mountains.
GS86565. Silver tetradrachm, Weber 7994 (same dies); BMC Galatia p. 271, 18 var. (Γ); SNG München 963 var. (Θ); Hunterian III p. 213, 18 var. (same); HGC 9 1382, gF, centered on a tight flan, toned, rough, heavy scratches, weight 13.647 g, maximum diameter 30 mm, die axis 0o, Seleukeia Pieria mint, 99 - 98 B.C.; obverse turreted and veiled head of Tyche right, wearing earring, bead and reel border; reverse ΣEΛEYKEIAΣ / THΣ IEPAΣ / KAI / AYTONOMOY, fulmen (thunderbolt), taenia (ribbon) and cushions on the pulvinar (symbolic empty throne) of Zeus, BI (year 12) between the legs, E/∆ monogram (control) lower inner right, all within a laurel wreath; from the David Cannon Collection, ex Beast Coins; rare; $150.00 (€127.50)
 


Seleukid Kingdom, Seleukos I Nikator, 312 - 281 B.C.

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Seleucia on the Tigris was founded by Seleucus I Nicator either when he visited Babylonia in the second half of 309 or sometime between 304 and 301 B.C. It was explictly designated as the capital of the empire. The city was opposite the ancient city of Opis at the confluence of the river Tigris and the Royal Canal, which connected the new city to the Euphrates. The ruins have been identified at Tell Umar, about 30 km south of Baghdad, and 60 north of Babylon. Excavations have shown that the city was built according to a gridiron plan. As it was a Seleucid city, there will have been the usual, straight main street, perhaps decorated with colonnades. The agora has not yet been identified. The theater may have been on the southern edge of the city.
GY86790. Silver drachm, Houghton-Lorber I 140(1) var. (Θ in ex.), 140(2) var. (monogram under throne); Hoover Syrian 29g (R1), F, bumps, scratches, scrape on obverse, tight flan, anchor weakly struck, weight 4.008 g, maximum diameter 16.4 mm, die axis 135o, 2nd workshop, Seleukeia on the Tigris mint, c. 296/5 - 281 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, clad in Nemean lion-skin headdress; reverse Zeus seated left on throne without back, nude to the waist, himation around hips and legs, eagle in extended right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand, anchor flukes up outer left, ΣEΛEYKOY downward on right, ∆ (primary control) under throne, tiny Θ (secondary control) inner left below arm and above knee; $150.00 (€127.50)
 




  



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REFERENCES

American Numismatic Society Collections Database - http://numismatics.org/search/search.
Bellinger, A. The Excavations at Dura-Europos, Final Report, Vol. 6: The Coins. (New Haven, 1949).
Bellinger, A. The Syrian Tetradrachms of Caracalla and Macrinus. ANSNS 3. (New York, 1940).
Burnett, A., M. Amandry, et al. Roman Provincial Coinage. (1992 - ).
Butcher, K. Coinage in Roman Syria: Northern Syria, 64 BC-AD 253. (London, 2004).
Cohen, E. Dated Coins of Antiquity: A comprehensive catalogue of the coins and how their numbers came about. (Lancaster, PA, 2011).
de Callataÿ, F. "Le production des tétradrachmes civiques de la Cilicie jusqu? à la Palestine" in Les Monnayages Syriens.
Gardner, P. Catalogue of Greek Coins in the British Museum, The Seleucid Kings of Syria. (Forni reprint, 1963).
Houghton, A., C. Lorber, & O. Hoover. Seleucid Coins: A Comprehensive Catalog. (Lancaster, 2002-2008).
Houghton, A. Coins of the Seleucid Empire from the Collection of Arthur Houghton. ACNAC 4. (New York, 1983).
Hoover, O. Handbook of Syrian Coins, Royal and Civic Issues, Fourth to First Centuries BC. HGC 9. (Lancaster, PA, 2009).
Lindgren, H. & F. Kovacs. Ancient Bronze Coins of Asia Minor and the Levant. (1985).
Lindgren, H. Lindgren III: Ancient Greek Bronze Coins from the Lindgren Collection. (1993).
McAlee, R. The Coins of Roman Antioch. (Lancaster, 2007).
McAlee, R. "Severan Tetradrachms of Laodicea" in ANSMN 29 (1984).
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Newell, E. Late Seleucid Mints in Ake-Ptolemais and Damascus. ANSNNM 84 (New York, 1939).
Newell, E. The Coinage of the Western Seleucid Mints, From Seleucus I to Antiochus III. (New York, 1941).
Newell, E. The Seleucid Mint of Antioch. (Chicago, 1978).
Price, M. The Coinage of in the Name of Alexander the Great and Philip Arrhidaeus. (London, 1991).
Prieur, M. & K. Prieur. The Syro-Phoenician Tetradrachms and their fractions from 57 BC to AD 258. (Lancaster, PA, 2000).
Roman Provincial Coinage Online - http://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/
Sear, D. Greek Coins and Their Values, Vol. 2, Asia and Africa. (London, 1979).
Sear, D. Greek Imperial Coins and Their Values. (London, 1982).
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Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Deutschland, München Staatlische Münzsammlung, Part 28: Syrien: Nicht-königliche Prägungen. (Berlin, 2001).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Great Britain, Volume IV, Fitzwilliam Museum, Leake and General Collections, Part 8: Syria-Nabataea. (London, 1971).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Great Britain XII, The Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow, Part 2: Roman Provincial Coins: Cyprus-Egypt. (Oxford, 2008).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Israel I, The Arnold Spaer Collection of Seleucid Coins. (London, 1998).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Switzerland I, Levante-Cilicia. (1986 & suppl.).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Schweiz II, Katalog der Sammlung Jean-Pierre Righetti im Bernischen Historischen Museum. (Bern, 1993).
Van Heesch, J. "The last civic coinages and the religious policy of Maximinus Daza (AD 312)" in NC 1993.
Waage, D. Antioch-on-the-Orontes, Vol. 4, Part 2: Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Crusaders' Coins. (Princeton, 1952).
Wroth, W. A Catalog of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Syria. (London, 1899).
Wruck, W. Die Syrische Provinzialprägung von Augustus bis Traian. (Stuttgart, 1931).

Catalog current as of Saturday, November 17, 2018.
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Syria