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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Greek Coins| ▸ |Geographic - All Periods| ▸ |Anatolia| ▸ |Lesbos||View Options:  |  |  |     

Lesbos

Lesbos is the third largest Greek island, located in the northeastern Aegean Sea, separated from Turkey by the narrow Mytilini Strait. Abundant pottery finds and the worship of Cybele suggest cultural continuity of the population from Neolithic times. Greek emigrants, mainly from Thessaly, arrived probably beginning in the Late Bronze Age. When Cyrus defeated Croesus in 546 B.C. the island became subject to Persia, until the Persians were defeated by the Greeks at the Battle of Salamis in 480 B.C. The island was governed by an oligarchy in archaic times, followed by quasi-democracy in classical times. For a short period it was a member of the Athenian confederacy, its apostasy from which is described in a stirring chapter of Thucydides' history of the Peloponnesian War. In Hellenistic times, the island belonged to various successor kingdoms until 79 B.C., when it passed into Roman hands. The most powerful cities were Mytilene and Methymna. In addition to the local coins bearing the names of the various Lesbian cities, there were two important coinages, one in billon and another in electrum, both of which doubtless had a general circulation throughout the island. The word lesbian is derived from the name of the island, owing to the poems of the 6th-century B.C. poet Sappho, who was born on Lesbos and who wrote with powerful emotional content directed toward other women.


Methymna, Lesbos, c. 500 - 450 B.C.

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This rare type must have been struck at Methymna, based on style and composition (also note the dotted frame). On top of that this coin came in a group of other Lesbos fractions.
GA82200. Silver obol, CNG 63, lot 455; cf. Klein 793 (attributed to Lycia); SNG Cop -; SNGvA -; SNG München -, aVF, interesting die break, weight 0.551 g, maximum diameter 8.7 mm, die axis 0o, Methymna mint, obverse helmeted head of Athena right; reverse turtle within dotted frame and incuse square; rare; SOLD


Mytilene, Lesbos, 3rd - 2nd Century B.C.

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Mytilene's most famous citizens were the poets Sappho and Alcaeus and the statesman Pittacus (one of the Seven Sages of ancient Greece). Aristotle lived on Mytilene for two years, 337-335 B.C., with his friend and successor, Theophrastus (a native of the island), after becoming the tutor to Alexander, son of King Philip II of Macedon. In 56 A.D., Paul the Apostle stopped at Mytilene on the return trip of his third missionary journey (Acts 20:14).
GB83421. Bronze AE 15, BMC Troas p. 189, 55 - 57; SNG Cop -, aVF, weight 2.067 g, maximum diameter 14.6 mm, die axis 0o, Mytilene mint, obverse diademed and draped bust of Artemis right; reverse M-Y/T-I, lyre, tripod left, monogram right; SOLD


Lesbos, c. 550 - 480 B.C.

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A most unusual use of illusion on a coin. The two confronting boars' heads can also be viewed as the facing head of a panther.
GA71724. Billon 1/24 stater, SNG München 648, Rosen 544, BMC Troas p. 151, 17; HGC 6 1071; SNGvA -; SNG Cop -, VF, well centered and struck, toned, minor encrustations, weight 0.631 g, maximum diameter 7.45 mm, uncertain Koinon of Lesbos mint, c. 550 - 480 B.C.; obverse confronting boar heads, creating the illusion of a facing head of a panther; reverse tripartite incuse square punch; SOLD


Lesbos, c. 550 - 440 B.C.

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In 570 B.C., Lesbos took part in the founding of Naucrate, the Greek Colony in Egypt. This coin, depicting an African, and others with Egyptian related types, likely boast of Lesbos' role at Naucrate.
GA84173. Billon 1/12 stater, SNG Cop 296; SNGvA 7715; BMC Troas p. 153, 42 - 44; SNG München -, VF, dark toning, weight 0.473 g, maximum diameter 7.4 mm, uncertain Koinon of Lesbos mint, c. 550 - 440 B.C.; obverse head of a Nubian right; reverse rough incuse square punch; rare; SOLD


Lesbos, c. 550 - 480 B.C.

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A most unusual use of illusion on a coin. The two confronting boars' heads can also be viewed as the facing head of a panther.
GA86282. Billon 1/12 stater, SNGvA 7712; SNG München 646; Rosen 542; BMC Troas p. 151, 15; HGC 6 1069 (R2); SNG Cop -, gVF, uneven toning, light encrustation, weight 1.173 g, maximum diameter 9.7 mm, Koinon of Lesbos mint, c. 550 - 480 B.C.; obverse confronting boar heads, creating the illusion of a facing head of a panther; reverse incuse square punch, M in one quarter; SOLD


Methymna, Lesbos, c. 500 - 460 B.C.

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Methymna, the prosperous second city of Lesbos, was, According to myth, named after a daughter of Lesbos, the patron god of the island, and Macar, the island's first king. Methymna had a long-standing rivalry with Mytilene and sided with Athens during the Mytilenaean revolt in 428 B.C. All the other cities of Lesbos sided with Mytilene. After Athenians put down the revolt, only Methymna was spared from being made a cleruchy. After 427, Methymna and Chios were the only members of the Delian League to remain self-governing and exempt from tribute, indicating a privileged position within the Athenian Empire. Methymna was briefly captured by the Spartans in summer 412, but quickly retaken by the Athenians. When the Spartan Kallikratidas besieged Methymna in 406, the city stayed loyal to its Athenian garrison and held out until it was betrayed by several traitors.
SH62499. Silver hemiobol, HGC 6 893 (R2), Franke Methymna -, SNG Cop -, SNGvA -, SNG Kayhan -, Traité -, Klein -, Rosen -, BMC Troas -, Mitchiner ATAC -, VF, toned, weight 0.276 g, maximum diameter 6.7 mm, die axis 180o, Methymna mint, c. 500/480 - 460 B.C.; obverse head of Nymph right, hair bound in sakkos; reverse chicken hen standing right, MAΘ above, square dotted frame, all within incuse square; very rare; SOLD


Lesbos, 550 - 480 B.C.

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Apotropaic magic is a ritual observance that is intended to turn away evil. Curiously, eyes were often used to ward off the "evil eye."
GA83596. Billon 1/48 stater, SNG Cop 292; SNG München 650; SNGvA 7716; BMC Troas, p. 152, 27; Traité 2/1; Rosen 548; HGC 6 1074 (R1), VF, weight 0.29 g, maximum diameter 5.9 mm, die axis 90o, uncertain Koinon of Lesbos mint, 550 - 480 B.C.; obverse two apotropaic eyes; reverse quadripartite incuse square; ex Roma Numismatics e-sale 21 (31 Oct 2015), lot 287; rare; SOLD


Lesbos, c. 550 - 480 B.C.

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Lesbos, the third largest Greek island, in the NE Aegean Sea, is separated from Turkey by the narrow Mytilini Strait. Greek emigrants probably started arriving in the Late Bronze Age. When Cyrus defeated Croesus in 546 B.C. the island became subject to Persia, until the Persians were defeated by the Greeks at the Battle of Salamis in 480 B.C. The most powerful cities were Mytilene and Methymna. In addition to the local coins bearing the names of the various Lesbian cities, there were two important coinages, one in billon and another in electrum, both of which circulated throughout the island.
GA88080. Billon 1/3 stater, cf. SNGvA 7714 (4.08g); HGC 6 1083 (R2, c. 1.39g); Babylon I 601 (1.25g); BMC Troas p. 155, 56 (0.9g); SNG Cop -; SNG München -; Rosen -, aVF, edge splits, minor flan flaws, earthen deposits, weight 2.221 g, maximum diameter 13.2 mm, uncertain Koinon mint, c. 550 - 480 B.C.; obverse Head of Apollo left, wearing tainia; reverse quadripartite incuse square; an unpublished denomination of a very rare series; SOLD


Lesbos, 550 - 440 B.C.

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The usual published type for these coins is a single incuse square with uncertain detail, probably a rough quadripartite design, while a scarcer die has six triangles in a pseudo-"Union Jack" pattern. Our "swastika" pattern appears to be unpublished.
GA81866. Billon 1/48 stater, BMC Troas, pp. 152 - 3, 26 ff. var. (reverse type); SNG Cop 292 - 293 var. (same); SNGvA supp. 7716 var. (same), aVF, weight 0.353 g, maximum diameter 6.3 mm, uncertain Koinon of Lesbos mint, obverse two apotropaic eyes; reverse incuse "swastika" pattern; very rare; SOLD


Methymna, Lesbos, c. 450 - 379 B.C.

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Methymna, the prosperous second city of Lesbos, was, According to myth, named after a daughter of Lesbos, the patron god of the island, and Macar, the island's first king. Methymna had a long-standing rivalry with Mytilene and sided with Athens during the Mytilenaean revolt in 428 B.C. All the other cities of Lesbos sided with Mytilene. After Athenians put down the revolt, only Methymna was spared from being made a cleruchy. After 427, Methymna and Chios were the only members of the Delian League to remain self-governing and exempt from tribute, indicating a privileged position within the Athenian Empire. Methymna was briefly captured by the Spartans in summer 412, but quickly retaken by the Athenians. When the Spartan Kallikratidas besieged Methymna in 406, the city stayed loyal to its Athenian garrison and held out until it was betrayed by several traitors.
GS76285. Silver obol, SNG Cop 351, Klein 351, HGC 6 904 (R2), SNGvA -, VF, centered, uneven toning, die wear and cracks, tiny flan cracks, light corrosion, weight 0.520 g, maximum diameter 8.1 mm, die axis 270o, Methymna mint, c. 450/40 - 406/379 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, wearing crested Attic helmet with spiral floral ornament; reverse kantharos, MAΘ around, linear circle border, all within a round incuse; SOLD




    




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REFERENCES|

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Franke, P. 'Zur Münzprägung von Methymna" in H. Buchholz, Methymna. (Mainz, 1975).
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Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Sweden II, The Collection of the Royal Coin Cabinet, National Museum of Monetary History, Part| 3: Attica-Lesbos. (Stockholm, 1991).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Turkey 1: The Muharrem Kayhan Collection. (Istanbul, 2002).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, United States, Burton Y. Berry Collection, Part 2: Megaris to Egypt. (New York, 1962).
Waggoner, N. Early Greek Coins from the Collection of Jonathan P. Rosen. ANS ACNAC 5. (New York, 1983).
Wroth, W. A Catalog of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Troas, Aeolis and Lesbos. (London, 1894).

Catalog current as of Tuesday, January 21, 2020.
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Lesbos