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The Coins of Roman Egypt

References

Babelon, J. Catalogue de la Collection de Luynes. Monnaies Grecques IV. Syrie, Égypte, Cyrénaïque, Maurétanie, Zeugitane, Numidie. (Paris, 1936).
Blum, G. "Numismatique D 'Antinoos" in JIAN 16. (Athens, 1914). pp. 33 - 70.
Burnett, A., M. Amandry, et al. Roman Provincial Coinage. (1992 - ).
Burnett, A. & P. Craddock. "The Minting of Egyptian Tetradrachms under Severus Alexander" in ANSMN 28 (1983), pp. 109 - 118.
Carlson, C. "Rarities I" in Journal of the Society for Ancient Numismatics (SAN) Vol. IV, No. 1 (1972 - 1973), pp. 3 - 4, 11
Carlson, C. "Judgment of Paris Drachmae Additions and Corrections" in Journal of the Society for Ancient Numismatics (SAN) Vol. VI, No. 3 (Spring 1975), pp. 40-42.
Carlson, C. "Pictorial Coin Types of Roman Egypt" in Journal of the Society for Ancient Numismatics (SAN) Vol. VI, No. 2 (1974 - 1975), pp. 24 - 25.
Carlson, C. "The Zodiac Series Revisited" in Journal of the Society for Ancient Numismatics (SAN) Vol. V, No. 3 (1973 - 1974), pp. 49 - 50.
Carlson, C. "Rarities 4 -- The Labors of Hercules Series" in Journal of the Society for Ancient Numismatics (SAN) Vol. IV, No. 4 (1972 - 1973), pp. 63 - 66.
Carlson, C. "Rarities 3 -- The Zodiac Series" in Journal of the Society for Ancient Numismatics (SAN) Vol. IV, No. 3 (1972 - 1973), pp. 46 - 48, 53.
Carlson, C. "Judgment of Paris on Drachmae of Roman Egypt" in Journal of the Society for Ancient Numismatics (SAN) Vol. V, No. 4 (1973 - 1974).
China, H. "Les Rares Monnaies 'Alexandrines' de l'empereur Macrin et de son fils Diaduménien" in Revue Belge de Numismatique et de Sigillographie 109 (1963), pp. 5 - 10.
Christiansen, E. Coins of Alexandria and the Nomes: a Supplement to the British Museum Catalogue. (London, 1991).
Christiansen, E. "Nero's Alexandrian Coins Revisited" in XAPAKTHP (Athens, 1996), pp. 92 - 96.
Christiansen, E. "The Alexandrian Coins before Zoëga" in FlorNum (Stockholm, 1992), pp. 111 - 118.
Christiansen, E. The Roman Coins of Alexandria. (Aarhus, 1988).
Curtis, J. The Tetradrachms of Roman Egypt. (Chicago, 1969).
Dattari, G. Numi Augg. Alexandrini. (Cairo, 1901).
Dauwe, R. "Counterfeiting in Roman Egypt" in Oudheidkundige medelingen uit het Rijksmuseum van Oudheden te Leiden 62 (1981), pp. 23 - 25 & pl. 8.
DeRouge, J. & F. Feuardent. "Monnaies des Nomes de L'Egypte" in Revue Numismatique XVI (1869-1870).
Emmett, K. Alexandrian Coins. (Lodi, WI, 2001).
Feuerdant, F. Collections Giovanni di Demetrio, Numismatique, Egypte Ancienne. (Paris, 1872).
Forschner, F. Collections Giovanni de Demetrio, Numismatique Egypte ancienne II Domination romaine. (Paris, 1872).
Geissen, A & W. Weiser. Katalog alexandrinischer Kaisermünzen, Köln. (Cologne, 1974-1983).
Grose, S. Catalogue of the McClean Collection of Greek Coins, Fitzwilliam Museum, Vol. III: Asia Minor, Farther Asia, Egypt, Africa. (Cambridge, 1929).
Haatvedt, R. & E. Peterson, edited by E. Husselman. Coins from Karanis: The University of Michigan Excavations 1924-1935. (Ann Arbor, MI, 1964).
Kampmann, U. & T. Ganschow. Die Münzen der römischen Münzstätte Alexandria. (Regenstauf, 2008).
Langlois, V. Numismatique de Nomes d'Egypte sous l'administration romaine. (Paris, 1852).
Macdonald, G. Catalogue of Greek Coins in the Hunterian Collection, vol. III. (Glascow, 1899). pp. 402-566.
Metcalf, W. "New and Noteworthy from Roman Alexandria: Pescennius Niger - Diadumenianus." in Essays Thompson (Wetteren, 1979), pp. 173 - 182, pls. 19 - 20.
Milne, J. A Catalogue of the Alexandrian Coins in the Ashmolean Museum. (Oxford, 1933, reprints with supplement).
Milne, J. "Alexandrian tetradrachms of Tiberius" in NC 10 (1910), pp. 333 - 339 & pl. X.
Milne, J. "Pictorial Coin Types at the Roman Mint of Alexandria" in Journal of Egyptian Archeology 36 (1950), pp. 83 - 85.
Milne, J. "Some Alexandrian Coins" in Journal of Egyptian Archeology 4/1 (1917), pp. 177 - 186.
Milne, J. "The Alexandrian Coinage of Galba" in NC 9 (1909), pp. 274 - 284.
Milne, J. "The Leaden Token-coinage of Egypt under the Romans" in NC 8 (1908), pp. 287 - 310 & pl. XXII.
Milne, J. "The Organization of the Alexandrian Mint in the Reign of Diocletian" in Journal of Egyptian Archeology 3 (1910), pp. 207 - 217.
Milne, J. "The Shops of the Roman Mint of Alexandria" in The Journal of Roman Studies 8 (London, 1918), pp. 154-178.
Mionnet, T. Description de medailles antiques, grecques et romaines, Vol. VI: Africa. (Paris, 1813).
Mionnet, T. Description de medailles antiques, grecques et romaines, Sup. 9. Africa. (Paris, 1837)
Pool, R. A Catalog of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Alexandria. (London, 1892).
Rostovtsew, M. & M. Prou. Catalogue des plombs de l'antiquité, du moyen âge et des temps modernes conservés au département des médailles de la Bibliothèque nationale. (Paris, 1900).
RPC Online - http://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/coins/
Savio, A. ed. Catalogo completo della collezione Dattari Numi Augg. Alexandrini. (Trieste, 2007).
Sear, D. Greek Imperial Coins and Their Values. (London, 1982).
Sear, D. Roman Coins and Their Values. (London, 1978 - ).
Skowronek, S. Imperial Alexandrian Coins. (Cracow, 1998).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Denmark, Aarhus University, Part 1: SNG Aarhus. Collections of Herman Ernst Freund and William Larsen. (Copenhagen, 1986).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Denmark, The Royal Collection of Coins and Medals, Danish National Museum, Vol. 8: Egypt, North Africa, Spain - Gaul. (New Jersey, 1994).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Deutschland, Sammlung der Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig, Part 2: Römische Provinzialprägungen. (München, 2008).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, France, Cabinet des Médailles, Bibliothéque Nationale, Vol. 4: Alexandria I, Augustus - Trajan. (Zurich, 1998).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Great Britain XII, The Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow, Part 2: Roman Provincial Coins: Cyprus-Egypt. (Oxford, 2008).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Italy, Milano XIII, Civiche Raccolte Numismatiche, Aegyptus (Egypt), Part 2: Octavianus Augustus - Lucius Verus. (Milan, 1991).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Italy, Milano XIII, Civiche Raccolte Numismatiche, Aegyptus (Egypt), Part 3. Commodus - Galerius Caesar. (Milan, 1992).
Thomas, J. "The Date of the Revolt of L. Domitius Domitianus" in Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 22 (1976), pp. 253 - 279.
von Sallet, A. Die Daten der Alexanderinischer Kaisermünzen. (Berlin, 1870).
Vogt, J. Die Alexandrinischen Münzen. (Stuttgart, 1924).

THE COINAGE OF ROMAN ALEXANDRIA

(From the Numismatic Fine Arts Fall 1991 Mail Bid Sale)

When Octavian took possession of Egypt in 30 B.C., he found an established currency system with traditions going back nearly three hundred years. The principal denomination was a silver tetradrachm of some 13-14 grams, bearing the regnal date of the current Ptolemy. Until the middle of the first century B.C. this coin had been struck from fine silver; however during the last twenty years of Ptolemaic rule it was debased to a silver content of only 25%. The tetradrachm was supplemented by a fractional currency in bronze, which had formerly included some coins of very large module. An extreme monotony of types prevailed, with a royal portrait the dominant obverse type and reverses usually occupied by eagles. The most remarkable feature of the Ptolemaic currency system was its deliberate isolation from the rest of the Mediterranean economy: foreign currency was not permitted to enter Egypt, and local currency was not permitted to leave. This closed system provided several advantages. Currency exchange at the borders yielded profits from both entering and departing travelers. Efficient recovery of specie from circulation, through currency exchange and through the poll tax, often enabled government to meet its expenses with older coinage, rather than through new issues of currency as was the common practice in antiquity.

These tight controls made it possible to regulate the monetary supply with an eye to ensuring price stability, a benefit not enjoyed by populations outside Egypt.

The coinage of Roman Alexandria is in many respects a continuation of the Ptolemaic system, coordinated with the coinage of Rome. The degree and nature of this coordination were only dimly perceived by the numismatic giants who published the standard works on the Alexandrian series in the earlier part of the twentieth century. The closed nature of the Egyptian currency system prohibited such obvious sorts of correlation as heavy minting to contribute to the imperial war chest. Yet current researchers are discovering that Egypt often bore the brunt of imperial profligacy.

Initially Augustus adopted the copper denominations of Cleopatra VII, in fact restriking her flans. Later he introduced smaller copper denominations in an attempt to reform the relation of bronze to silver. In A.D. 20 Tiberius revived the production of tetradrachms, which had lapsed for half a century. Like their Ptolemaic antecedents, his tetradrachms bore regnal dates, based on the Alexandrian calendar, whose year commenced in 29 August (or 30 August following leap years).

The dating of Alexandrian coins' which persisted to the end of the series' has proved a great boon to modern scholars investigating the chronologies of some of the more obscure imperial figures. Tiberius established another important principle in fixing the silver content of his tetradrachms as equivalent to that of the Roman denarius. The resulting alloy is usually described as billon.

Nero's debasement of the Roman denarius after the great fire of A.D. 64 was mirrored in the Alexandrian coinage: His last four years witnessed an intense outpouring of tetradrachms, actually a recoining of the existing currency supply (including some high-quality Ptolemaic tetradrachms still in circulation) to the new denarius standard, viz. 2.19 grams of silver per tetradrachm. In this process a considerable quantity of silver was recovered and exported to Rome, where it enlarged the flood of denarii minted to finance the emperor's building program.

The next reform of the Roman coinage was that of Domitian in late A.D. 82. Precious metal coinage was restored to its pre-Neronian weight and fineness, apparently a fruit of the emperor's attachment to traditional values. No such restoration has been documented for his Egyptian coinage. Indeed, the upgrading of Domitian's Roman coinage may somehow be connected with extremely low production of Alexandrian billon during his reign. Domitian did, however, set in place a full range of five aes denominations, each corresponding to a denomination of the Roman coinage.

Each of these Alexandrian bronze denominations had been minted by one or more emperors before him, but Domitian was the first to produce the full range. This systematization of the Alexandrian currency would seem to reflect the emperor's compulsive personality and his interest in monetary matters. His system was adequate to serve for approximately a century, with various adjustments in focus and balance.

The reign of Trajan inaugurated a new phase for the Alexandrian coinage, a phase in which bronze played an enhanced role. This was especially true for the large drachm denomination, the equivalent of the Roman sestertius, which also flourished under the Antonine emperors. The minting of tetradrachms was modest throughout Trajan's reign, reflecting financial straits that led the emperor, in A.D. 107, to reduce the Roman denarius to the standard of Vespasian and initiate a massive recoining of the existing currency. It was in this same year that Alexandria inaugurated its tremendous series of bronze drachms with their richly pictorial types. Their dazzling variety tends to mask the fact that levels of production were actually quite low. We may, in fact, be dealing with frequent special issues supplementing the limited substantive issues of billon. The occasions for these special issues cannot be recognized from their types. At Rome A.D. 107 witnessed no less than six special issues, focusing on the celebration of Trajan's decennalia and his triumph for the Second Dacian War. Thereafter, however, the production of special issues fluctuated at Rome, with some years having none, whereas at Alexandria the number of drachm reverses remained consistently high. Christiansen has suggested that the emphasis on bronze coinage was made possible by improved exploitation of Egypt's copper mines under Trajan. At any rate it is now clear from hoard evidence that the bronze currency, like the billon, was used primarily by city dwellers and was not minted to provide a medium of exchange for the countryside, as Milne hypothesized.

The patterns established by Trajan continued under Hadrian, but with more abundant production and a proliferation of tetradrachm reverses rivalling the repertory of the drachms. This again seems consistent with the emperor's policies for Rome, for Hadrian's coinage presents the most varied and interesting typology of the entire Roman imperial series.

Under Marcus Aurelius output at Alexandria began to decline, and in A.D. 176/7 the tetradrachm suffered its first debasement since Nero, its weight reduced to c. 11.90 grams and its silver content to only 0.92 grams. The new, inferior alloy is termed potin. As in the time of Nero, the debasement of the tetradrachm parallels a debasement of the denarius at Rome, but there was no immediate recoining in Egypt. That process was left for Commodus, who again debased the denarius at Rome but at Alexandria merely increased the minting of tetradrachms so as to recover the excess silver from the existing stock of coins. Bronze, meanwhile, fell into neglect and indeed ceased to for a regular pa t of the currency system after this reign.

The surplus silver accumulated at Alexandria through Commodus' recoining probably provided the bullion for the rare Alexandrian denarii minted by Pescennius Niger and Septimius Severus, which were intended for circulation outside Egypt as they prosecuted their civil war. The production of tetradrachms, on the other hand, was very feeble under Severus, leading to the great rarity-of Alexandrian coins from his reign. Numismatists have recorded a number of obverse dies that were used over more than one regnal year, as well as reverse dies used for several different members of the imperial family, in evidence of the exceedingly low level of mint activity. This parsimony was one aspect of Severus' war finances, which also involved heightened production from other eastern mints and yet another debasement of the denarius in A.D. 194/5. Coin production at Alexandria continued exiguous under Severus' son and successor Caracalla.

The Alexandria mint revived under Elagabalus, but for the remainder of the third century its only regular product would be tetradrachms. The module and silver content of the tetradrachm were repeatedly reduced until it became indistinguishable from a copper coin. For its part, the original bronze coinage clearly emerged as commemorative in character: Isolated issues of drachms were struck for the decennalia of Severus Alexander; for the celebrations of Rome's millennium in years 5 and 6 of Philip I; in year 12 of Gallienus; and in the brief joint reign of Aurelian and Vabalathus. The distinctive Alexandrian series came to an end in A.D. 296/7 in the course of Diocletian's currency reforms. Thereafter Alexandria functioned as one of the regular imperial mints, producing the standard late Roman denominations.

The reverse types of the Alexandrian coinage fall into two broad categories—imperial propaganda, expressed through the visual language familiar to us from the regular Roman coinage, and local types. The imperial propaganda rarely provides the sort of commentary on current events that makes the Roman coinage so topical and fascinating. The earliest imperial propaganda at Alexandria, as at Rome, stressed the dynastic legitimacy of the Julio-Claudian emperors, soon expanding to flatter wives who were not similarly honored in the capital. Dynastic themes never lost their appeal and reappeared whenever an emperor had sons or a designated successor whom he wished to advertise. However the commonest approach to imperial propaganda entailed the use of personifications of the imperial virtues, given Greek names but usually employing the same iconography as at Rome. In the first two centuries of the principate these personifications often reflected the type selection at the capital, though their impact was diluted by the far greater scope given to types of local interest. But from the reign of Maximinus I onward the selection of personifications appears to have ossified, with the same small repertory repeated almost automatically, and parallels with the Rome coinage are more likely the be the result of chance than of policy. In the 280s true parallels began to appear again, and under the reign of Diocletian and his colleagues the typology moved toward a reintegration with the propaganda themes of the coinage empire-wide. The culmination of this development was the abolition of the Romano-Egyptian coinage as an unique currency. After A.D. 297 the Alexandria mint operated as one of many provincial mints producing an essentially uniform imperial coinage.

It is the characteristic Alexandrian types, with their exotic flavor, that lend real charm to the Romano-Egyptian coinage. Counted among such types are Greco-Egyptian deities and cult symbols, centering on the myth cycle of Sarapis; depictions of the Nile, his consort Euthenia, and their cult symbols or related paraphernalia (such as the Nilometer which measured the annual innundation); the personification of Alexandria; representations of local architecture, especially the great lighthouse of Alexandria; a few ancient Egyptian deities; and native animals. These multifarious types were not employed to appeal alternately to the Greek or Egyptian elements of the population, as Milne so quaintly theorized. Rather they are an expression of local piety and patriotism, much like like their counterparts on Greek imperial coinage elsewhere.

During the Antonine period the fascinating repertory of Alexandrian types was enriched by several special bronze series of great interest to collectors. One drachm series, issued principally in the reign of Antoninus Pius, depicts the Labors of Heracles. The great Zodiac series was minted in the eighth year of Antoninus Pius (A.D. 145/6), probably to commemorate the commencement of the Sothaic Cycle in A.D. 139. This rare event, which occurred only every 1461 years, was marked by the by coincidence of Egypt's two traditional calendars, the Vague or civil calendar and the Sothaic or fixed calendar. The coin series itself however is based upon Greek astrology. Its drachms bear types symbolizing the sun, the moon, and the seven planets known to the ancients, passing through the signs of the Zodiac. Two rare varieties depict the entire Zodiac, or two Zodiacs with their signs in conjunction, clearly alluding to the coincidence of the two Egyptian calendars.

The offering below includes an impressive selection from the Zodiacal series with several specimens in outstanding state for their types.

The last special series, the Nome Coinage, names individual nomes or administrative districts on the reverses of its bronze coins. Early students of the Romano-Egyptian coinage interpreted these coins as actual issues of the nomes. But eventually the identity of style and fabric persuaded observers that these coins were struck at Alexandria, and this perception has recently been supported by the discovery of shared dies. The traditional separation of the Nome Coinage is nevertheless retained even in many scholarly works, as it is here for the convenience of collectors.

Nome Coins appeared for the first time in the eleventh year of Domitian, and thereafter were produced only in specific years, with major, extensive issues in year 11 of Hadrian and in year 8 of Antoninus Pius. Hadrian's year 11 emission stands out not only for its scope-some fifty nomes or towns are named—but also for adapting the special issue concept to small bronze denominations.

The typology of the Nome Coinage at first glance appears rather colorless. Yet behind these formulaic types lies the rich mythology of ancient Egypt. Repelled by the half-animal monstrosities of the Egyptian pantheon, the Romans generally depicted the patron deities of the nomes in anthropomorphic form, with any theromorphic elements converted into animal companions, typically held in the hand. For the smallest denomination (the dichalkon) this symbolic animal, or alternatively another attribute held by the god, becomes the type. The present offering of Nome Coinage is one of the most extensive on the market in recent years.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

In addition to the introductions in BMC and Milne, the above essay draws heavily on Erik Christiansen, The Roman Coins of Alexandria: Quantitative Studies (Aarhus, 1988), 2 vols. The author was unfortunately unable to consult Marcus Weder, "Romische Munzen und Munzstatten des 3. Jahrhunderts VI," SM 131 (1983), p. 67ff., treating Aurelian's reform at Alexandria.

Denominations of Roman Egypt           

Billon Tetradrachm

Tiberius - Diocletian's currency reform in 246. Tiberius fixed the silver content of his tetradrachms as equivalent to that of the Roman denarius. The silver content and weight decreased as the value of the Roman equivalent coinage decreased.

1st - 2nd Centuries - c. 23 - 26mm, c. 10 - 14g.
In 64 A.D. Nero debased the billon to 2.19 grams of silver per tetradrachm.
In 176/7 A.D. Marcus Aurelius debased the weight to c. 11.9g and silver content to only 0.92 grams.

Mid 3rd Century - c. 19 - 25mm, c. 8 - 14g.
The silver content decreased to 10% or less. Size and quality declines after Gallienus. These debased coins have been described as potin, vice billon, but this inaccurate term has fallen out of favor.
       
Mid 4th Century - c. 17 - 21mm, c. 5 - 12g.
By the reign of Diocletian the silver content is less than 1% and the size is much reduced.   
          
Bronze Fractions

Drachm
Nero - Marcus Aurelius and later sporadic issues, by Severus Alexander rare and likely commemorative, final rare and much reduced issue by Aurelian with Vabalathus, 30 - 36 mm, c. 12 - 28 g.
                     
Hemidrachm
Nero - Elagabalus, c. 28 - 30mm, c. 10 - 15g.
                         
Diobol
Augustus - Elagabalus, c. 22 - 26mm, c. 5 - 11g.
                     
Obol
Augustus - Antoninus Pius, c. 18 - 20mm, c. 3 - 6g.
                     
Dichalkon / Hemiobol
Augustus - Marcus Aurelius, c. 12 - 15mm, c. 1 - 2g.
                 
Chalkon / Quarter Obol
c. 8 - 12mm, c. 1 - 1.5g.

Historia Nummorum

Augustus inter alia dominationis arcana ... seposuit Aegyptum, ' says Tacitus (Annal. ii. 59). And down to the days of Diocletian the status of the province remained exceptional. It was in a peculiar sense the property of the emperor, and was controlled by a praefectus responsible to him alone. Its unique position is reflected in the fact that it had a special currency of its own. Roman gold is found in Egypt; but prior to circa A.D. 260 neither Roman denarii nor Roman bronze coins appear to have been imported (N. C., 1908, p. 300). The long series of Egyptian imperial money extends down to the brief reign of the pretender Domitius Domitianus, A.D. 296-7, and includes coins struck in the name of the Palmyrene Queen Zenobia and of Vabalathus. It begins with Augustus, whose earliest pieces betray a desire to be regarded, not as a foreign ruler, but as the direct heir of the Ptolemies. Except for the name and portrait, they exactly resemble the Æ with Π and Μ described above as having been minted by Cleopatra VII. The use of value-marks was soon abandoned. Simultaneously novel types were introduced. It is, however, extremely improbable that any great significance attaches to these changes. It was left to Tiberius to carry through a radical reform.

In A.D. 19 the last-named emperor revived the Ptolemaic tetradrachm, the issue of which had been in abeyance since Cleopatra 's death. It was now struck not in debased AR, but in the mixture of AR and Æ known as billon. Regimental pay-sheets of the first century A.D. show that it was tariffed as roughly equivalent to the Roman denarius, but that for purposes of exchange a distinct advantage rested with the denarius, which was held to be worth 28 or 29 obols as against the normal 24 (Mommsen, Archiv für Papyrusforschung, i, pp. 273 ff., and A. von Prernerstein, Beiträge zür alten Geschichte (Klio), iii, pp. 8 ff.). The general effect of the reform was to facilitate commercial intercourse between Egypt and the rest of the Empire. At first the billon tetradrachm weighed over 200 grains and contained a fair proportion of AR. Deterioration rapidly set in. One of the most notable debasements took place in the reign of Commodus, when the percentage of AR was reduced to 10. The next great shrinkage began under Trebonianus Gallus, and continued till the time of Diocletian under whom the tetradrachm weighed little more than one-half of what it had originally done, while the proportion of AR sank as low as 2 per cent. An indirect effect of this process should be noted. The earlier emperors had all struck coins in Æ, pieces of very large module being introduced by Nero and minted in enormous quantities by Trajan, Hadrian, and Pius. Under Commodus the flow was suddenly checked, while under the later emperors Æ is hardly known at all. There was no longer any room for it even as a token-coinage. On the other hand, it is almost certainly to this period that the numerous small leaden pieces that have come to light on various Egyptian sites are to be attributed. They are in general badly executed and poorly preserved. But there can be no doubt that they represent local issues intended to meet the everyday wants of the ordinary population. The emperor 's head is not placed on the obverse. Otherwise the types are reminiscent of those of the imperial coins proper. The few legends that do occur appear to have a local reference (Memphis, Oxyrhynchus, Arsinoite Nome, Athribis, etc.). For the best account of these difficult pieces see J. G. Milne, 'Egypto-Roman Leaden Token Coinage ' (N. C., 1908, pp. 287 ff.).

The tetradrachms and the imperial Æ always have the imperial portrait on the obv. They were doubtless minted at Alexandreia, which was at once the seat of the government and the busiest commercial center in the whole of the Roman world. But the name of the city never appears except on certain alliance-coins struck at Ephesus under Gordian III. Like the Æ of Cleopatra on which it was modeled, the earliest Æ of Augustus was undated. Some time before the close of his reign there was a resumption of the Ptolemaic fashion of placing upon the coins the regnal year of the monarch in whose name they were issued. This practice continued to be observed till the very close of the series, and, since the Alexandrian year commenced on August 29, the dates and corresponding inscriptions are often useful in elucidating obscure points of Roman imperial chronology. As a rule, the year is indicated by a numeral letter or letters preceded by the symbol L (see supra, p. 847). Occasionally, however, the symbol L is replaced by ΕΤΟVΣ (Hunter Cat., iii, pp. 424 ff., 459, 474, 543 ff., 547 ff., and 551). Sometimes, too, the actual numeral is written as a word. This happens much more frequently in the case of ΕΝΑΤΟV and ΕΝΝΕΑΚΑΙΔ(εκατου) than in the case of any other numbers. There appears to have been a superstitious reluctance to employ the letter Θ in such a connection (Riv. Ital., 1901, p. 380). At the same time it is noteworthy that under Hadrian and Pius L ΕΝΑΤΟV ushers in a series that runs as far as L ΤΡΙΣΚ(αιδεκατου). Very rarely we find, instead of LΙ, the words ΠΕΡΙΟΔ · ΔΕΚΑΕΤ (Commodus), ΠΕΡΙΟΔΟC ΔΕΚΑΤΗ (Severus Alexander), or ΔΕΚΑΕΤΗΡΙC ΚVΡΙΟV (Gallienus)—obvious allusions to the vota decenalia, a festival which was also commemorated by the placing of a palm in the field of the rev. in the years that followed its celebration (Hunter Cat., iii, p. 499 and p. 531).

Besides these variations, more or less marked modifications in the form of the obv. inscription or in the treatment of the imperial head, as well as changes in the general character of the types of the rev., often occur at irregular intervals in the course of a single reign; for details see Hunter Cat. iii, where they are made the basis of classification. A good example is furnished by the billon coinage of Nero. It falls into three quite distinct groups, corresponding to three successive periods of time, and differentiated partly by the characteristics of the obv. and partly by the use of three well-marked varieties of rev. type, to each of which a special set of family portraits is attached. The first group is distinguished by the frequent choice of personified qualities such as are common on Roman coins. The second exhibits a preference for subjects drawn from Egyptian mythology and religion. The chief feature of the third is the number of heads of Greek gods and goddesses. Modifications of the nature described usually take place in the middle of a year. As the year used for dating is the Alexandrian year, the inference is that they coincide with the beginning of the Roman year, that is, with the date at which a new official would naturally enter on his duties. Apparently, then, the moneyers at Alexandreia had considerable latitude in the selection of designs. Until about A.D. 200 the types are most interesting. Thereafter there is much less variety, and in the end the reverses are almost monopolized by figures of Victory and by eagles. The eagle is, of course, no longer a Ptolemaic emblem. It is a compliment to the garrison, being often shown standing between vexilla, while on coins of Carinus and Numerian it is accompanied by the legend ΛΕΓ Β ΤΡΑΙ.

The more important of the types are discussed in detail by Poole in his Introduction to B. M. Cat., Alexandria, &c. (q. v.). Here space forbids anything beyond a simple enumeration:—

(α) Greek Types. Bust or full length figure of Kronos holding sickle. Bust of Zeus (ΔΙΟΣ ΟΛΥΜΠΙΟΥ, ΖΕΥΣ ΝΕΜΕΙΟΣ) or full-length figure enthroned (ΖΕΥΣ ΚΑΠΙΤΩΛΙΟΣ), or recumbent on eagle. Bust of Zeus Ammon, or full-length figure in biga drawn by rams. Bust of Hera (ΗΡΑ ΑΡΓΕΙΑ), or standing figure. Bust of Poseidon (ΠΟΣΕΙΔΩΝ ΙΣΘΜΙΟΣ), or figure in biga of hippocamps or standing holding dolphin. Bust of Apollo (ΑΚΤΙΟΣ or ΠΥΘΙΟΣ ΑΠΟΛΛΩΝ), or figure standing or seated; Apollo Didymeus, with stag and bow, sometimes between Nemeses; Apollo and Artemis; etc. Artemis Huntress. Bust of Athena, or figure enthroned, or standing (ΑΘΗΝΑ ΣΕΒΑΣΤ), holding Nike, owl or ears of corn, sometimes before altar; Athena Stathmia; Athena Archegetis of Sais; Athena and Demeter; Athena and Ares. Bust of Ares, or figure standing. Bust of Demeter, or figure standing alone (ΔΕΜΗΤΗΡ), or between the Dioskuri, or with Euthenia or Harpocrates. Persephone carried off by Hades. Bust of Helios, alone or with Selene, or figure standing or on horseback; see also Sarapis infra. Bust of Selene, alone or with Helios, or figure in biga. Kybele enthroned. Bust of Dionysos, or figure in panther-car. Triptolemos in serpent-car. Bust of Asklepios, or figure standing alone or with Hygieia. Bust of Hygieia, or figure standing alone or with Asklepios. Bust of Hermes, or figure seated or standing. Pan. Busts of the Dioskuri, or figures on horseback or standing. ΗΩΣ holding prancing horse. Nike, frequently and variously represented; rarely with inscription, ΝΕΙΚΗ CΕΒΑCΤ, ΝΙΚΗ ΚΑΤΑ ΓΕΡΜΑΝΩΝ (Domitian), ΚΑΙΣΑΡΙ ΝΙΚΗ (Trajan), ΝΕΙΚΗ ΚΑΤΑ ΒΡΕΤΑΝ (Severus and family). Tyche standing (ΤVΧΗ CΕΒΑCΤ), or seated, or recumbent on couch. Exploits of Herakles (Æ of Pius)—Nemean lion; Hydra; Keryneian stag; Erymanthian boar; Augean stables; Stymphalian birds; Cretan bull; Mares of Diomedes; Oxen of Geryon; Gardens of the Hesperides; Kerberos; Antaeos; Herakles entertained by the Centaur Pholos; Destroying vines of Syleus; Slaying the Amazon Hippolyte, the monster Echidna, etc. Perseus and Andromeda. Orpheus charming the wild beasts. Judgment of Paris. ΟΚΕΑΝΟΣ as river-god.

(β) Egyptian and Graeco-Egyptian Types. Bust of ΖΕΥΣ ΣΑΡΑΠΙΣ wearing modius. ΖΕΥΣ ΣΑΡΑΠΙΣ or ΗΛΙΟΣ ΣΑΡΑΠΙΣ standing or enthroned. Pantheistic bust of Sarapis, Zeus Ammon, Poseidon, etc. Sarapis standing or seated, alone or with Demeter, Agathodaemon, Homonoia, etc., or between the Dioskuri. Bust of Isis, alone or with Sarapis, or figure standing or seated, sometimes in temple or suckling infant Horus; Isis Pharia holding inflated sail before Pharos lighthouse; Isis Sothis on dog. Hathor-Isis (?) (Hunter Cat., iii, Pl. LXXXVI. 15). Bust of Harpokrates, or figure as infant or youth, standing or seated on flower, finger at mouth. Bust of Hermanubis with palm-branch and caduceus, or figure standing with jackal at feet. Bull Apis. Bust of ΝΙΛΟΣ, or figure with cornucopia and reed, recumbent or seated, accompanied by crocodile or hippopotamus, with Nilometer, or riding on hippopotamus or in biga of hippopotami; sometimes associated with Alexandreia, often with Euthenia (Abundantia),


FIG. 383.

once with Tiber (ΤΙΒΕΡΙΣ ΟΜΟΝΟΙΑ). Bust of ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΕΑ (Fig. 383), or figure standing holding bust of Sarapis, crowning emperor, etc. 'Canopic ' vases with heads of Isis and Osiris, sometimes in temple or on table. Serpent Agathodaimon (ΝΕΟ · ΑΓΑΘ · ΔΑΙΜ). Coiled serpent Uraeus. Birds and other animalselephant, crocodile, hippopotamus, ibis, eagle, hawk of Horos, griffin with wheel, sphinx, lion, etc. Miscellaneous—Pharos, Imperial galley (ΣΕΒΑΣΤΟΦΟΡΟΣ), temples, altars, buildings, modius in serpent-car, etc., etc.

(γamma) Astronomical Types. Summer (Dattari, Nos. 2986-9). Autumn (Dattari, No. 2985). Phoenix, inscription ΑΙWΝ, referring to commencement of Sothic cycle (Year 2 of Pius = A.D. 139). Zodiac in circle round busts of Helios and Selene. Two zodiacs in double circle round busts of Sarapis and Isis. Zodiac in circle, with inner ring containing Sun, Moon, and major planets, round bust of Sarapis. Head of Helios over lion, indicating the Sun in Leo; and similar representations of the Moon in Cancer, Mercury in Gemini and in Virgo, Venus in Taurus and in Libra, Mars in Aries and in Scorpio Jupiter in Aries in Sagittarius and in Pisces, Saturn in Capricorn and in Aquarius. The zodiacal types all belong to the year 8 of Pius (cf. Riv. Ital., 1901, pp. 157 ff.).

(δ) Graeco-Roman Types. Bust of Roma, or ΡΩΜΑ seated or standing. ΔΗΜΟΣ ΡΩΜΑΙΩΝ standing. Trophy between captives, sometimes with ΑΡΜΕΝΙΑ (Verus). Wolf and twins. Right hands clasped, sometimes with ΟΜΟΝΟΙΑ (Verus). ΤΙΒΕΡΙΣ (see supra under ΝΙΛΟΣ).

(ε) Personifications of abstract conceptions. These are mostly copies of familiar Roman types—ΑΦΙΕΡCΙC (Consecratio), ΔΙΚΑΟΣΥΝΗ, ΔΥΝΑΜΙΣ (Venus Victrix), ΕΙΡΗΝΗ, ΕΙΡΗΝΗ ΚΑΙ ЄVΘΗΝΑ, ЄΙΡΗΝΗ ΚΑΙ ΟΜΟΝΟΙΑ, ΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΙΑ, ΕΛΠΙC, ЄΥΘΗΝΙΑ (Abundantia), usually associated with Nilus, Eutycheia (Felicitas), ΚΡΑΤΗΣΙΣ (Virtus), ΜΟΝΕΤΑ, ΟΜΑΝΟΙΑ, Eusebeia (Pietas), ΠΡΟΝΟΙΑ, ΣΗΜΑΣΙΑ (Female figure on galloping horse, brandishing sword), &c.

(ζ) Personal Types. Emperor seated, standing, on horseback; in biga of centaurs, of elephants, of Tritons; in quadriga of horses, of elephants; beside prisoners, once with ΒΡΕΤΑΝΝΙ (Commodus of A.D. 185-6); with Alexandreia, Ares, Demeter, Nike, Pronoia, Roma, Sarapis, &c. Hadrian welcomed by Alexandreia. Bust of Antinous (ΑΝΤΙΝΟΟΥ ΗΡΩΣ) or Antinous on horseback as Hermes. Commodus as ΡWΜΑΙWΝ ΗΡΑΚΛΕΑ. And many others.

There still remain to be mentioned the curious series of Æ pieces which bear on the rev. the names of the various νομοι or administrative districts into which ancient Egypt was divided. These Coins of the Nomes were not issued locally. They were struck at Alexandreia, a circumstance which robs them of the interest they would otherwise have possessed as calculated to throw light on local cults. It is significant that the issues usually coincide with specially abundant Alexandrian issues. We may infer that their purpose was primarily commemorative. The emperors whose heads and names they bear are as follows:— Domitian (Year 11), Trajan (chiefly Years 12-16), Hadrian (chiefly Year 11), Pius (Year 8), and Marcus as Caesar (Year 8 of Pius). Generally speaking each set comprises coins of one denomination only. The issue of Hadrian 's Year 11 is exceptional. It has usually two denominations, one of which is less than half the weight of the other, while both are much smaller than was customary; the rev. type of the lower is normally, but not invariably, an animal or other object which appears on the rev. type of the higher as an adjunct of the standing figure of a divinity, being, as a rule, held in the hand. The great majority of the subjects are taken from the Egyptian pantheon. For detailed descriptions see B. M. C. and Dattari 's Numi Augg. Alexandrini. There were between sixty and seventy nomes in all, and the names of about three-fourths of these occur on existing specimens, often considerably abbreviated:—

ΑΘΡΙΒΙΤΗC, ΑΛΕΞανδρεων Χωρα, ΑΜΜΟΝΙΑΚΗΤΗC (?), ΑΝΤΑΙΟΠΟΛΙΤΗC, ΑΠΟΛΛWΝΟΠΟΛΙΤΗC, ΑΡΑΒΙΑ, ΑΡCΙΝΟЄΙΤΗC, ΑΦΡΟΔЄΙΤΟΠΟΛΙΤΗC, ΒΟVΒΑCτιτης, ΒΟVCΙΡΙΤης, ΓVΝΑΙΚοπολιτης, ΔΙΟΠΟΛΙτης ΜЄγας, ΔΙΟΠολιτης Κατω τοπον, ЄΡΜΟΠΟΛΙΤΗC, ΕΡΜWΝΘιτης, ΗΛΙΟΠΟΛЄΙΤης, ΗΡΑΚΛЄWΠΟΛΙΤΗC ΝΟΜΟC, ΘΙΝΙτης, ΚΑΒΑCΙτης, ΛΑΤΟΠΟΛιτης, ΛЄΟΝΤΟΠΟΛΙΤΗC, ΛΗΤΟΠολιτης, ΛΙΒVΗ, ΛVΚΟπολιτης, ΜΑΡΕWΤΗC, ΝΟΜΟC ΜΕΜΦЄΙΤΗC, ΜЄΝΔΗCΙΟC ΝΟΜΟC, ΜЄΝЄΛΑЄΙΤΗC, ΜЄΤΗΛΙτης, ΝΑVΚΡΑΤΙC, ΝЄCVΤης, ΝΟΜΟC ΞΟΙΤΗC, ΟΑCЄΙτης, ΟΜΒΙΤΗC, ΟΝΟVΦιτης, ΝΟΜΟC ΟΞVΡVΝΧΙΤΗC, ΠΑΝΟΠολιτης, ΠΛΟVCΙΟV (?), ΠΡΟCWΠΙΤΗC, CΑЄΙΤΗC ΝΟΜΟC, ΝΟΜΟC CЄΒЄΝΝΥΤΗC, CЄΒЄννυτης Κατο τοπον, CΕΘΡWΕΙΤΗC ΝΟΜΟC, ΤΑΝΙΤΗC, ΤЄΝΤVΡιτης, VΨΗΛΙτης, ΦΑΡΒΑΙτιτης, ΦΘΕΜΘονθις (?), ΦΘΕΝΕΟVτης.

Roman Egypt Reverse Inscriptions

Most of the "legends" on Roman provincial coins minted in Alexandria are actually dates. See the NumisWiki Greek Dates page for more information on those inscriptions. Some reverse inscriptions name the emperor or empress. Alexandria also minted coins for the Egyptian nomes (provinces) and those coin name the nome. Seen the NumisWiki nomes page. Most of the other legends are names of gods, goddesses or personifications. Some examples of Greek words, names, and abbreviations found in coin reverse legends from Roman Egypt follow:

AKTIOΣ AΠOΛΛΩN - Apollo Aktios (Octavian defeated Mark Antony at the naval Battle of Actium, and built a temple to Apollo on the shore near the site)

AΛEΞAN∆PEA - Alexandria

AΘHNA - Athena

AYTOKPA - Autokrator (Imperator - supreme commander, dictator, emperor, literal translation: self-ruler)

CEBATH - Augusta (empress)

CWTHP - soter (savior)

∆HM EΞOYC - (Tribunicia Potestate - holder of tribunician power)

∆HMHTEP - Demeter

HMOΣ PMAIN - Demos of the Romans

IKAIOΣYNH - Dikaiosyne

∆IOΣ OΛYMΠIOY - Dios Olympios (Olympian Zeus)

EIPHNH - Eirene (peace)

EΛEYΘEPIA - Eleutheria (liberty)

EΛPIC - Elpis (hope)

EYΘHNIA - Euthenia (abundance)

HΛIOΣ - Helios

HPA APΓEIA - Hera Argeia (named for her cult sanctuary between the former Mycenaean city-states of Argos and Mycenae)

HWC - Eros

ICIC - Isis

Iς - 16 (the ideal height of the annual Nile flood, sixteen cubits)

KAIΣAR - Caesar (prince)

KPATHΣIΣ - Kratesis (goddess of Roman authority)

MONHTA - Moneta

NEIΛOΣ - Nilus

NIKH - Nike (victory)

NIΛOΣ - Nilus

NOMΩ - Nomos (province)

OMONOIA - Homonoia (harmony, concord)

ΠOΣEIDN - Poseidon

PΩMH - Rome

ΣEBAΣTOV - Sebastos (Augustus - emperor)

ΣEBAΣTOΦOPOΣ - Best wishes (lit. - hope) [for the safe travel] of the Emperor

ΣEPAΠIΣ - Serapis

ΘEON ΠPONIN - Providence of the Gods

ΘEOΣ - Theos (god, divine)

ΘEOΣ ΣEBAΣTOΣ - Theos Sebastos (Divo Augustus - the deified Augustus)

YΠATOC - Ypatos - (consul, often followed by a Greek numeral (letter) indicating the number of times appointed)

ZEYΣ - Zeus

ZEYΣ KAΠETWΛIOΣ - Zeus Capitolinus

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