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

Ancient Coins of Phoenicia

Phoenicia, from the Greek Phoiníkē meaning either "land of palm trees" or "purple country," was located on the Mediterranean coastline of what is now Lebanon, Israel, Gaza, Syria, and southwest Turkey, though some colonies later reached the Western Mediterranean and even the Atlantic Ocean, the most famous being Carthage. The enterprising, sea-based Phoenicians spread across the Mediterranean from 1500 to 300 B.C. Their civilization was organized in city-states, similar to those of ancient Greece, perhaps the most notable of which were Tyre, Sidon, Arados, Berytus and Carthage. Each city-state was politically independent and it is uncertain to what extent the Phoenicians viewed themselves as a single nationality. In terms of archaeology, language, lifestyle, and religion there was little to set the Phoenicians apart as markedly different from other Semitic Canaanites. The Phoenician alphabet is an ancestor of all modern alphabets. By their maritime trade, the Phoenicians spread the use of the alphabet to Anatolia, North Africa, and Europe, where it was adopted by the Greeks, who in turn transmitted it to the Romans.


Tyre, Phoenicia, 111 - 110 B.C., Judas' 30 Pieces of Silver

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Judas' 30 Pieces of Silver
"Then one of the 12, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, 'What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you?' And they covenanted with him for 30 pieces of silver." Matthew 26:14-15. Shekels of Tyre were the only currency accepted at the Jerusalem Temple and are the most likely coinage with which Judas was paid for the betrayal of Christ.

The Temple Tax Coin
"..go to the sea and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou has opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them [the temple tax collectors] for me and thee." Since the tax was one half shekel per man the coin would have to be a shekel to pay the tax for both Jesus and Peter. Matthew 17:24-27
SL86641. Silver shekel, BMC Phoenicia p. 237, 85; Cohen DCA 919-18 (C); Baramki AUB -, NGC Ch AU*, strike 5/5, surface 5/5 (4280576-003), weight 14.20 g, maximum diameter 28.0 mm, die axis 0o, Tyre mint, 109 - 108 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Melqart right, lion's skin knotted around neck; reverse TYPOY IEPAΣ KAI AΣYΛOY (of Tyre the holy and inviolable), eagle left, right foot on ship's ram, palm frond behind, date HI (year 18) over club and palm frond left, ZB right, Phoenician letter beth between legs; $4000.00 (€3400.00)
 


Shekel of Tyre, KP Type, 34 - 35 A.D., Temple Tax for Two

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Full Shekel - Tax for Two. At the Great Temple in Jerusalem the annual tax levied was 1/2 shekel per male. The 1/2 shekel and shekel were the only coins accepted by the temple. Some experts believe that after the coinage of Tyre was debased under Roman control, Herod the Great began to strike "Tyre" shekels in Jerusalem. These coins were of cruder fabric and style, but maintained the silver purity required to pay the temple tax. The "Jerusalem" shekels have the letters KP or KAP to the right of the eagle and dates range from PH (18/17 B.C.) to PKE (69/70 A.D.). The Greek letters KP or KAP are probably an abbreviation for KAICAP, Greek for Caesar.
SL86642. Silver shekel, RPC I 4670 (2 spec.); Prieur 1431 (2 spec.); Cohen DCA 920-170 (C); BMC Phoenicia -; Baramki AUB -; Rouvier -, NGC AU, strike 4/5, surface 3/5 (4241491-015), weight 13.53 g, maximum diameter 24.0 mm, die axis 0o, Jerusalem or Tyre mint, 44 - 45 A.D.; obverse laureate head of Melqart right, lion's skin knotted around neck; reverse TYPOY IEPAΣ KAI AΣYΛOY (of Tyre the holy and inviolable), eagle left, right foot on ship's ram, palm frond under right wing, date PO (year 170) over club left, KP (καισαρ?) over monogram (control) right, Phoenician letter beth (control) between legs; $1440.00 (€1224.00)
 


Arados, Phoenicia, Unknown King "N", c. 348 - 338 B.C.

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Early coins of Arados have the Aramaic letters mem aleph (read from right to left) above the galley, abbreviating Melech Arad (meaning King of Arados), sometimes followed by the king's initial, and sometimes by the Phoenician regnal year date.
SH85437. Silver stater, BMC Phoenicia p. 10, 58; Betlyon 26, note 104, pl. 7, 4; Rouvier III p. 131, 5; HGC 10 33 (R1); Sunrise 114; SNG Cop -, VF, well centered on a tight flan, struck with high relief dies, test cut on obverse, weight 10.346 g, maximum diameter 19.4 mm, die axis 270o, Arados mint, c. 348 - 338 B.C.; obverse laureate head of bearded Ba'al Arwad right, with profile eye; reverse galley right, figure of Pataikos right on prow, row of shields on bulwark, Phoenician letters mem aleph nun (Melech Arad N - King of Arados N) from right to left above, three waves below; rare; $1350.00 (€1147.50)
 


Shekel of Tyre, KP Type, 38 - 39 A.D., Temple Tax for Two

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Full Shekel - Tax for Two. At the Great Temple in Jerusalem the annual tax levied was 1/2 shekel per male. The 1/2 shekel and shekel were the only coins accepted by the temple. Some experts believe that after the coinage of Tyre was debased under Roman control, Herod the Great began to strike "Tyre" shekels in Jerusalem. These coins were of cruder fabric and style, but maintained the silver purity required to pay the temple tax. The "Jerusalem" shekels have the letters KP or KAP to the right of the eagle and dates range from PH (18/17 B.C.) to PKE (69/70 A.D.). The Greek letters KP or KAP are probably an abbreviation for KAICAP, Greek for Caesar.
SL86644. Silver shekel, Baramki AUB 88; Cohen DCA 920-164 (S); RPC I 4668 (2 spec.); Prieur 1428 (4 spec.); Rouvier 2111; BMC Phoenicia -, NGC XF, strike 3/5, surface 3/5 (4241491-013), weight 13.84 g, maximum diameter 23.6 mm, die axis 0o, Jerusalem or Tyre mint, 38 - 39 A.D.; obverse laureate head of Melqart right, lion's skin knotted around neck; reverse TYPOY IEPAΣ KAI AΣYΛOY (of Tyre the holy and inviolable), eagle left, right foot on ship's ram, palm frond under wing, date PΞD (year 164) over club left, KP (καισαρ?) over monogram right, Phoenician letter beth (control) between legs; scarce; $1080.00 (€918.00)
 


Tyre, Phoenicia, 80 - 79 B.C., The Temple Tax Coin

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Half Shekel - the currency of the Jerusalem Temple.

At the Great Temple in Jerusalem the annual tax levied on Jews was 1/2 shekel per male. The 1/2 shekel and shekel were not always used in everyday commerce, but were the only coins accepted by the temple. Many taxpayers required a currency exchange, so money changers set up in the Temple court. Jesus found this business and their shouting (advertising rates) offensive, so he threw over their tables.
SH86530. Silver half shekel, HGC 10 358; Cohen DCA 921 (S); BMC Phoenicia p. 251, 226 var. (different monogram right); cf. Rouvier 2131 (this year and monogram, shekel), aVF, centered, toned, scrapes, edge chips and lamination defects, corrosion, rough, weight 5.430 g, maximum diameter 20.5 mm, die axis 0o, Phoenicia, Tyre mint, 80 - 79 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Melqart right, lion's skin knotted around neck; reverse TYPOY IEPAΣ KAI AΣYΛOY (of Tyre the holy and inviolable), eagle standing left, right foot on ship's ram, palm frond behind, ZM (year 47) over club left, ΦIΛ monogram right, Aramaic letter bet between legs; from the David Cannon Collection, ex Beast Coins; $950.00 (€807.50)
 


Arados, Phoenicia, 200 - 190 B.C., Civic Issue in the Types and Name of Alexander the Great

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In 259 B.C., Arados increased her autonomy and dominated a federation of nearby cities including Gabala, Karne, Marathos and Simyra. Thus began the era of Aradus, to which the subsequent coins of the city are dated. Arados was not completely independent, however, the Seleukids retained overlordship.

Arados struck Alexandrine tetradrachms with a palm tree left and Phoenician dates from 243 to 205 B.C. and then with Greek dates from 202 to 167 B.C. They were not struck every year.
GS85703. Silver tetradrachm, Price 3390 ff., Mektepini 614 ff.; Duyrat 1270 ff., Cohen Dated 771, gVF, attractive style, reverse double struck, earthen encrustations, weight 17.039 g, maximum diameter 31.0 mm, die axis 0o, Arados mint, c. 200 - 190 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, wearing Nemean lion-scalp headdress; reverse AΛEΞAN∆POY BAΣIΛEΩΣ, Zeus seated left, nude to waist, himation around hips and legs, right leg drawn back, eagle in extended right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand, palm tree with two bunches of dates in left field under arm, AP monogram under throne, uncertain Greek additive date (60 - 69?) below; $600.00 (€510.00)
 


Persian Empire, Sidon, Phoenicia, Abdashtart I, c. 365 - 352 B.C.

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Cyrus the Great conquered Phoenicia in 539 BC. The Persians divided Phoenicia into four vassal kingdoms: Sidon, Tyre, Arwad, and Byblos. It is likely that much of the Phoenician population migrated to Carthage and other colonies following the Persian conquest. In 350 or 345 B.C. a rebellion in Sidon led by Tennes was crushed by Artaxerxes III.
GB87137. Bronze AE 17, Betlyon 29; SNG Cop 203; BMC Phoenicia p. 147, 46 - 51; Lindgren II 2320; HGC 10 248 (S), VF, tight flan, light corrosion and encrustations, weight 6.040 g, maximum diameter 17.3 mm, die axis 0o, Sidon (Saida, Lebanon) mint, c. 365 - 352 B.C.; obverse pentekonter (fifty-oared war galley) left, two zigzag rows of waves below, linear border, no date; reverse Persian king and driver in slow biga left; scarce; $150.00 (€127.50)
 


Ptolemaic Kingdom, Ptolemy V Epiphanes, 204 - 180 B.C.

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In "Le Tresor de Gezeir (lac Mariout, Alexandrie)" in Revue Numismatique 2006, T. Faucher and M. Shahin attribute this type to Ptolemy IX. Their attribution is based in part on the ΣΩ monogram referring to the epithet of Ptolemy IX Soter II. This same monogram is, however, found on silver and gold coins from early in the reign of Ptolemy V, where it may refer to the chief minister Sosibius. Sosibius appears to have had complete control of the administration under Ptolemy IV. Under the young Ptolemy V Epiphanes, Sosibius assumed the guardianship but in conjunction with his rival insidious Agathokles. In time, Agathokles supplanted Sosibius and had him put to death.
GP85476. Bronze obol, Svoronos 1191 (Ptolemy IV, Cyprus, 219 B.C.), Weiser 114 (Ptolemy V, Tyre), SNG Cop 534 (Ptolemy V), Noeske 187 (same), Cohen DCA 35 (same), VF, tight flan, some areas of weak strike, central dimples, weight 9.267 g, maximum diameter 21.1 mm, die axis 0o, uncertain Phoenician mint, 203 - 202 B.C.; obverse horned head of Herakles right, wearing lion skin, K behind; reverse ΠTOΛEMAIOY BAΣIΛEOΣ, eagle standing left on thunderbolt, wings closed, head left, Ω over Σ left, LΓ (regnal year 3) right; rare; $135.00 (€114.75)
 


Marathos, Phoenicia, 173 - 172 B.C.

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Marathos, the most northern coastal town in Phoenicia, was apparently under Ptolemaic hegemony when this coin was struck. The bust of Hermes is usually attributed to be also that of Ptolemy VI. Destroyed by its neighbor and rival Aradus, c. 145 B.C., Marathos was later rebuilt as a colony of Aradus.
GP73972. Bronze AE 21, Svoronos 1082 - 1085 (various controls); Duyrat Ateliers 252 - 261 (same); Cohen Dated 832; cf. HGC 10 194 (S); SNG Cop -; BMC Phoenicia -, F, black patina, rough, corrosion, weight 6.489 g, maximum diameter 21.1 mm, die axis 0o, Marathos (near Tartus, Syria) mint, 173 - 172 B.C.; obverse laureate and draped bust of Ptolemy VI as Hermes, kerykeion over shoulder; reverse Marathos standing left, apluster in right, Phoenician date IIIIIIINNNN (year 87) on left, Phoenician MRT (Marathos) right, Phoenician control letters low across field; $90.00 (€76.50)
 


Valerian I, October 253 - c. June 260 A.D., Tyre, Phoenicia

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Astarte, called "Ashtroth" in Scripture, was the favorite goddess of the Sidonians, Tyrians, Philistines, and Syro-Phoenicians generally. She was associated with the Greek Aphrodite and Roman Venus Genetrix, being believed by the ancients to be the goddess of generation, as well as of beauty. Astarte was chiefly worshiped and appears on the coins of Berytus, Bostra, Sidon, and Tyre. Her image is of a young woman, wearing a tall headdress; and clothed in a tunic, high in the neck- sometimes, not reaching lower than the knees, or sometimes with a longer dress, but with one knee exposed, and one foot planted on a galley's prow.
RP77850. Bronze AE 29, Baramki AUB 283; BMC Phoenicia p. 287, 453 corr. (rev. leg.); SNG Hunterian 3431 var. (palm and murex reversed, etc.); Lingren-Kovacs 2396; SNG Cop -, F, green patina with lighter highlighting fields, reverse slightly off center, weight 14.794 g, maximum diameter 28.9 mm, die axis 0o, Tyre mint, Oct 253 - c. Jun 260 A.D.; obverse IMP C P LIC VALERIANVS AVG, radiate and cuirassed bust right, from the front; reverse COL - TY-RO - MET, hexastyle temple, Tyche-Astarte standing facing within under central arch, wearing tall headdress and short tunic, right hand on trophy standing to her left, transverse long scepter in left hand, left foot on galley, being crowned by Nike on short column to her right; tree, altar, and murex shell from left to right in exergue; rare; $90.00 (€76.50)
 




  



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REFERENCES

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Catalog current as of Thursday, April 19, 2018.
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Phoenicia