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Phoenicia, Arados. Uncertain king. Circa 420-350 BC.
AR Shekel

18.5 mm, 10.45 g

Obverse: Laureate head of Ba'al-Arwad? right, with frontal eye

Reverse: Galley right above waves with row of shields along the bulwark; M A (in Aramaic) above;

E&E-A Group III.1.1; HGC 10, 28.

Settled in the 2nd millennium BC by the Phoenicians, Arados (Greek name) was located three kilometers off the Syrian shore between Lattaquie and Tripolis. Under Phoenician control, it became an independent kingdom called Arvad or Jazirat (the latter term meaning "island"). The island was a barren rock covered with fortifications and houses several stories in height. Just 800m long by 500m wide, it was surrounded by a massive wall with an artificial harbor constructed on the east toward the mainland.

Like most of the Phoenician cities on this coast, it developed into a trading city. Arados had a powerful navy, and its ships are mentioned in the monuments of Egypt and Assyria. In ancient times, it was in turn subject to the Egyptians, Assyrians, and then Persians (539 BC). But local dynasts were maintained until Straton, son of Gerostratos, king of Arados, submitted to Alexander the Great in 333 B.C.

The earliest coins of Arados (430-410 BC) depict a marine deity, human to the waist, bearded with plaited hair, with the lower body of a fish. Scholars aren't sure exactly who this deity is. Some believe the merman is Dagôn, associated with being the god of grain in the middle Euphrates and old Babylonia. Another option is Yamm (Yam), an ancient god from the semitic word meaning sea. He was worshipped by the semitic religions including Phoenicia and the Canaanites. Today, Elavi and Elayi's (2005) identification of the deity as Ba’al Arwad - a local manifestation of the ubiquitous Semitic god of weather and fertility - seems to be the most commonly accepted interpretation. In later Aradian coinage (like the example above) a Hellenized depiction of the deity’s head replaces the half-man, half-fish figure.

Most Aradian coins bear the same two Phoenician letters mem (M) and aleph (A or ´). In addition, during the first half of the fourth century (until 333 BC), the inscription M A was followed by a letter, some eight or nine in total. The most logical option is that this third letter represents different Aradian kings. This, plus parallels with contemporary Salaminian coinage, suggests that M A stands for “King” of Arwad rather than “Kingdom” (the more common interpretation). Because the coin above lacks a third letter designating a specific king, it’s most likely an earlier example. On the other hand, the more Hellenized portrait argues for a later date.
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Album name:Nathan P / Ancient Greece and Asia Minor
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Date added:Sep 24, 2019
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