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

Ancient Coins of Syria

Augustus, 16 January 27 B.C. - 19 August 14 A.D., Antioch, Syria

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Possibly struck in the year of Christ's birth! Most biblical scholars believe Jesus was born between 6 and 4 B.C.
SL91533. Silver tetradrachm, McAlee 182; Prieur 52; RPC I 4153; BMC Galatia p. 167, 137; Cohen DCA 400, NGC F, strike 4/5, surface 2/5 (2490384-005), weight 13.664 g, maximum diameter 26.9 mm, die axis 0o, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, 4 - 3 B.C.; obverse KAIΣAPOΣ ΣE−BAΣTOY, laureate head right; reverse ETOYΣ HK NIKHΣ (year 28 Actian Era), Tyche of Antioch seated right on rocks, turreted, holding palm branch, half-length figure of river-god Orontes swimming right below, his head turned facing, YΠA monogram and IB (12th consulship) over ANT (Antioch) monogram in the right field; from the Maxwell Hunt Collection; $350.00 (€315.00) ON RESERVE


Seleukid Kingdom, Seleucus I Nikator, 312 - 280 B.C.

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Seleukos (Seleucus) founded the Seleukid Empire and the Seleukid dynasty which ruled Syria until Pompey made it a Roman province in 63 B.C. Seleukos was never one of Alexander the Great's principal generals but he commanded the royal bodyguard during the Indian campaign. In the division of the empire after Alexander's death Seleukos did not receive a satrapy. Instead, he served under the regent Perdikkas until the latter's murder in 321 or 320. Seleukos was then appointed satrap of Babylonia. Five years later Antigonus Monophthalmus (the One-eyed) forced him to flee, but he returned with support from Ptolemy. He later added Persia and Media to his territory and defeated both Antigonus and Lysimachus. He was succeeded by his son Antiochus I.
GS91686. Silver tetradrachm, Houghton-Lorber I 117(1)c (notes ∆ control var. from Hersh coll.), Newell ESM 4 (∆I), HGC 9 12i, VF/aF, superb sculptural high-relief head of Herakles, bumps and scratches, burnishing on reverse, weight 16.805 g, maximum diameter 26.1 mm, die axis 45o, Seleucia I mint, c. 300 - 296 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, wearing Nemean lion scalp headdress; reverse Zeus on throne, right leg drawn back, eagle in extended right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left, monogram in left field, ∆ (∆I variant) under throne, ΣEΛEYKOY downward on right, BAΣIΛEΩΣ in exergue; from the Maxwell Hunt Collection; very rare control variant; $300.00 (€270.00)
 


Antioch, Seleucis and Pieria, Syria, 5 - 4 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 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!).
RY94450. Bronze trichalkon, McAlee 87; Butcher 50c; RPC I 4252; SNG Cop 92; SNG München 640; BMC Galatia p. 159, 59; Cohen DCA 402 (S), VF/F, dark green patina, highlighting earthen deposits, porous, scratches, slightly off center, weight 8.671 g, maximum diameter 18.6 mm, die axis 0o, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, legate P. Quinctilius Varus, 5 - 4 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Zeus right; 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, ZK (Actian Era year 27) in the right field; scarce; $250.00 (€225.00)
 


Philip II, July or August 247 - Late 249 A.D., Zeugma, Commagene, Syria

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Zeugma was founded by Seleucus I Nicator who almost certainly named the city Seleucia after himself. In 64 B.C. the city was conquered by Rome and renamed Zeugma, meaning "bridge of boats." On the Silk Road connecting Antioch to China, Zeugma had a pontoon bridge across the Euphrates, which was the long time border with the Persian Empire. The Legio IV Scythica was camped in Zeugma. The legion and the trade station brought great wealth to Zeugma until, in 256, Zeugma was fully destroyed by the Sassanid king, Shapur I. An earthquake then buried the city beneath rubble. The city never regained its earlier prosperity and, after Arab raids in the 5th and 6th centuries, it was abandoned again.
SL89808. Bronze AE 27, Butcher 31c; SNG Cop 35; BMC Galatia p. 128, 35; SGICV 4142, NGC Ch VF, strike 5/5, surface 3/5 (4094544-007), weight 15.63 g, maximum diameter 27.4 mm, die axis 0o, Zeugma (Belkis, Turkey) mint, 247 - 249 A.D.; obverse AYTOK K M IOYΛI ΦIΛIΠΠOC CEB, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right, from behind; reverse ZEYΓMATEΩN, tetrastyle temple with peribolos enclosing the sacred grove of trees, below Capricorn right; from the Martineit Collection of Ancient and World Coins; $225.00 (€202.50)
 


Gadara, Decapolis, 64 - 63 B.C.

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This type and another similar anonymous year one of Rome type, have traditionally been attributed to Gadara. In 64/3 BC Roman troops under Pompey "liberated" the Greek cities conquered by the Judaean king Alexander Jannaeus. Pompey personally supervised reconstruction in Gadara. Commemorating these events, Gadara established the year 64/3 B.C. as the beginning of a new Pompeian era, replacing the previous Seleukid era. Hoover says the attribution to Gadara is in error; that the fabric and style suggest a mint in southern Syria. For now, at least, we retain the traditional attribution.
RP91034. Bronze AE 23, Meshorer City-Coins 217, Spijkerman 1, Rosenberg IV 1, HGC 10 381 (S), RPC I -, aVF, weight 11.043 g, maximum diameter 22.8 mm, die axis 0o, Gadara (Um Qais, Jordan) mint, 64 - 63 B.C.; obverse bust of Herakles left, draped with lion's skin, club on left shoulder, anepigraphic; reverse galley ram right, L A / PΩMHS (year 1 of Rome [Pompeian Era]) in two lines above, all within wreath; rare; $225.00 (€202.50)
 


Seleukid Kingdom, Antiochus VII Euergetes Sidetes, 138 - 129 B.C.

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Oliver Hoover, in Coins of the Seleucid Empire from the Collection of Arthur Houghton, attributes this type to the Cappadocian Kingdom, c. 130 - 80 B.C. The symbols were used on Cappadocian royal coinage, the coins are found in Cappadocian hoards and a tetradrachm naming the Cappadocian King Ariarathes VII Philometor (116 - 99 B.C.) bears the obverse portrait of Antiochus VII. He notes they may have been struck to pay foreign (Syrian?) mercenaries who preferred the types of Antiochus VII.
GS87618. Silver tetradrachm, Houghton-Lorber II 2061.1s, Newell SMA 280, SNG Spaer 1852, HGC 9 1067d, VF, well centered on a broad flan, light bumps and marks, small spots of light corrosion on the obverse, weight 16.109 g, maximum diameter 31.7 mm, die axis 0o, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, 138 - 129 B.C.; obverse diademed head of the Seleukid King Antiochos VII right, fillet border; reverse Athena standing slightly left, head left, right hand extended through inscription to border holding Nike, grounded shield in left hand, spear leaning on left arm, BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ANTIOXOY in two downward lines on right, EYEPΓETOY downward on left, ligate ∆I over Λ outer left, laurel wreath border; $200.00 (€180.00)
 


Seleukid Kingdom, Achaios, Usurper in Anatolia, 220 - 214 B.C.

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Achaios (Achaeus) was an uncle of Antiochos III. In 223 B.C., Antiochus III appointed Achaeus to the command of Anatolia on the western side of Mount Taurus. Achaeus recovered all the districts which had been lost; but was falsely accused by Hermeias, the minister to Antiochus, of intending to revolt. In self-defense he assumed the title of king. Antiochus marched against Achaeus after he concluded the war with Ptolemy. After a two-year siege of his capital of Sardes, Lydia, Achaios was captured and beheaded.
GY89996. Bronze AE 17, Houghton-Lorber I 956 corr. (unlisted control symbol), SNG Spaer 834 var. (same), Newell WSM 1442 var. (same), HGC 9 436 (S-R1), VF, green and garnet patina, off center, light deposits, tiny edge split, weight 3.260 g, maximum diameter 17.0 mm, die axis 0o, Lydia, Sardes (Sart, Turkey) mint, c. 220 - autumn/winter 214 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right, hair in formal (corkscrew) curls; reverse eagle standing right, head right, wings closed, wreath in talons, BAΣIΛEΩΣ (king) downward on right, AXAIOY downward on left, A (control symbol) outer right; apparently unpublished and only two sales recorded on Coin Archives in the last two decades; very rare; $180.00 (€162.00)
 


Lucius Verus, 7 March 161 - February 169 A.D., Abila, Decapolis

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Abila in the Decapolis, also known for a time as Seleucia, and ancient Raphana, is now called Quwaylibah, a site occupied by two tells (Tell al-Abila and Tell Umm al-Amad). Tell in Arabic means only "hill." The archaeological connotation of "hill of accumulated debris" in this case does not apply. The city was built over two natural hills on the left bank of Wadi ("valley") Qweilibeh, which is, in fact, delineated by hills and escarpments. The largest site is located amidst verdant agricultural fields near the modern Ain Quweilbeh spring. Roman temples, Byzantine churches and early mosques lie amidst olive groves and wheat fields.
RP91008. Bronze AE 24, RPC IV online T6512 (3 spec.), Sofaer 10, Rosenberger IV 9, Spijkerman 9, SNG ANS -, VF, well centered, tight flan, earthen deposits, scratches, weight 9.675 g, maximum diameter 23.9 mm, die axis 45o, Abila in Decapolis (Quwaylibah, Jordan) mint, 162 - 163 A.D.; obverse AYT KAICAP Λ AYPOYHPΩC, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, seen from the front; reverse CE ABIΛHNW-N I A A I KOI CY (of the people of Seleucia Abila in Coele-Syria), nude Herakles seated left on rocks, right hand resting on grounded club, left hand on rocks behind, ϖKC (year 226) in exergue; rare; $150.00 (€135.00)
 


Lucius Verus, 7 March 161 - February 169 A.D., Abila, Decapolis

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Abila in the Decapolis, also known for a time as Seleucia, and ancient Raphana, is now called Quwaylibah, a site occupied by two tells (Tell al-Abila and Tell Umm al-Amad). Tell in Arabic means only "hill." The archaeological connotation of "hill of accumulated debris" in this case does not apply. The city was built over two natural hills on the left bank of Wadi ("valley") Qweilibeh, which is, in fact, delineated by hills and escarpments. The largest site is located amidst verdant agricultural fields near the modern Ain Quweilbeh spring. Roman temples, Byzantine churches and early mosques lie amidst olive groves and wheat fields.
RP91009. Bronze AE 24, RPC IV online T6512 (3 spec.), Sofaer 10, Rosenberger IV 9, Spijkerman 9, SNG ANS -, VF, well centered on tight flan, sage green patina, earthen deposits, weight 11.291 g, maximum diameter 24.1 mm, die axis 0o, Abila in Decapolis (Quwaylibah, Jordan) mint, 162 - 163 A.D.; obverse AYT KAICAP Λ AYPOYHPΩC, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, seen from the front; reverse CE ABIΛHNW-N I A A I KOI CY (of the people of Seleucia Abila in Coele-Syria), nude Herakles seated left on rocks, right hand resting on grounded club, left hand on rocks behind, ϖKC (year 226) in exergue; rare; $150.00 (€135.00)
 


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); HGC 9 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; $120.00 (€108.00)
 




  



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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).
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Butcher, K. Coinage in Roman Syria: Northern Syria, 64 BC-AD 253. (London, 2004).
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de Callataÿ, F. "Le production des tétradrachmes civiques de la Cilicie jusqu? à la Palestine" in Les Monnayages Syriens.
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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).
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Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Great Britain, Volume IV, Fitzwilliam Museum, Leake and General Collections, Part 8: Syria-Nabataea. (London, 1971).
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Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Israel I, The Arnold Spaer Collection of Seleucid Coins. (London, 1998).
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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.
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Wruck, W. Die Syrische Provinzialprägung von Augustus bis Traian. (Stuttgart, 1931).

Catalog current as of Monday, February 17, 2020.
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Syria