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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.


Ptolemaic Kingdom, Ptolemy III Euergetes, 246 - 222 B.C.

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In 226 B.C., Rhodes suffered an earthquake which damaged and destroyed much of the city. The Colossus of Rhodes snapped at the knees and fell. Polybius records aid promised by Ptolemy III: "300 talents of silver, a million artabas of wheat, timber for the construction of ten quinqueremes and ten triremes, consisting of 40,000 cubits of squared pine planking, 1,000 talents of bronze coinage, 3,000 talents of tow, 3,000 pieces of sail-cloth, 3,000 talents for the repair of the Colossus, 100 architects with 350 workmen, and fourteen talents every year for their wages, and in addition 12,000 artabas of wheat for competitions and sacrifices, and 20,000 for the supplying of ten triremes. Most of this he gave at once, as well as a third of the money promised." This unpublished coin shares the style of an issue struck by mints across Phoenicia, with some of the coins dated year 23. Morkholm has identified the king as Ptolemy III, and the date as 225 - 224 B.C. Prior to this issue, Ptolemy III had last struck silver tetradrachms in 243 B.C. The unusual need for new silver coinage after 17 years was almost certainly to finance his generous gifts to Rhodes.
SH82654. Silver tetradrachm, Unpublished, cf. Svoronos 701 (control monogram), VF, bumps, marks, and scratches, obverse die wear, tight flan, reverse slightly off center, graffiti (E+?) in reverse right field, weight 14.115 g, maximum diameter 27.0 mm, die axis 0o, Tyre mint, 225 - 224 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Ptolemy I right, wearing aegis; reverse ΠTOΛEMAIOY ΣΩTHPOΣ, eagle standing left on thunderbolt, head left, wings closed, Tyre monogram over club left, monogram (control symbol) right; very rare; $750.00 (€637.50)
 


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 (Arwad, Syria) mint, c. 200 - 190 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, wearing Nemean lion-scalp headdress; reverse AΛEΞAN∆POY BAΣIΛEΩΣ, Zeus Aëtophoros 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; $480.00 (€408.00)
 


Ptolemaic Kingdom, Ptolemy II Philadelphos, 285 - 246 B.C.

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We might expect the K on the reverse right to indicate regnal year 20. BMC Ptolemies notes, however, the title ΣΩTHPOΣ (savior) did not appear on the coinage until Ptolemy II's regnal year 25. On some very similar specimens, it is not just a K but instead a KE ligature (), which has been interpreted to mean year 25. Svoronos describes this type (Sv 723) with a KE ligature but the plate coin actually looks like a plain K. It seems likely that a KE ligature was intended but for some specimens it was not correctly engraved or not fully struck.
SH82655. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Milan 142 (same rev. die); cf. Svoronos 723 (ligate KE); BMC Ptolemies p. 29, 55 (same); SNG Cop 509 (same), Weiser -, Noeske -, aVF, test marks, obverse a little off center, bumps and scratches, graffito on reverse before eagles neck, weight 13.808 g, maximum diameter 27.0 mm, die axis 0o, Sidon (Saida, Lebanon) mint, 261 - 260 BC; obverse diademed bust of Ptolemy I right, wearing aegis; reverse ΠTOΛEMAIOY ΣΩTHPOΣ, eagle standing on thunderbolt left, ΣI over ∆I inner left, K inner right; ex Bertolami Fine Arts e-auction 57 (Mar 2018), lot 46; ex Pavlos Pavlou Collection; rare; $380.00 (€323.00)
 


Arados, Phoenicia, Uncertain King, c. 400 - 384 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.
GS87352. Silver stater, Elayi-Elayi Arwad group III.2.1; HGC 10, 32 (R1), VF, typical compact flan, bumps and marks, weight 10.308 g, maximum diameter 20.1 mm, die axis 270o, Arados (Arwad, Syria) mint, c. 400 - 384 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 (abbreviating Melech Arad - King of Arados) from right to left above, three waves below; ex CNG e-auction 424 (11 Jul 2018), lot 252; rare; $235.00 (€199.75)
 


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; $135.00 (€114.75)
 


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; $120.00 (€102.00)
 


Macedonian Kingdom, Alexander the Great, 336 - 320 B.C.

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Unlisted in Price but certainly part of the issues attributed to Byblos by Newell. Newell interpreted the monogram on this type as A∆PA, for King Adramelek, whose name appeared on preceding autonomous coinage of the city (Newell Demanhur pp. 123 - 125). The style very closely resembles Price 3424, a tetradrachm. Price notes that the style bears a resemblance to Arados and attribution to Byblos is very doubtful. He also reaffirmed the rights of coinage they had as dynasts under Persia.
GS83929. Silver obol, cf. Price 3424 (Babylon, tetradrachm), gF, toned, minor encrustations, rough, scratches, edge split, weight 0.641 g, maximum diameter 8.9 mm, die axis 90o, Arados(?) mint, probably a lifetime issue, c. 330 - c. 320 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, clad in Nemean Lion scalp headdress tied at neck; reverse Zeus Aëtophoros enthroned left, nude to the waist, himation around hips and legs, right leg forward (archaic lifetime style), eagle in extended right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand, AP monogram left, AΛEΞAN∆POY downward on right; rare; $120.00 (€102.00)
 


Seleukid Kingdom, Demetrius II Nikator, 146 - 138 and 129 - 125 B.C.

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Demetrius II ruled for two periods, separated by years of captivity in Parthia. He gained the throne with the help of Egypt, but general Diodotus rebelled, took Antioch and made Antiochus VI Dionysus his puppet king. Demetrius then ruled part of the kingdom from Seleucia. In 38 B.C. he attacked the Parthians but was defeated and captured, ending his first reign. The Parthians released him in 129 B.C. when his brother, Antiochus VII Sidetes, marched against Parthia. They hoped the brothers would fight a civil war but the Parthians soon defeated Sidetes, and Demetrius returned to rule Syria. His second reign portraits show him wearing a Parthian styled beard. His second reign ended when he was defeated and killed by yet another usurper set up by Egypt, Alexander II Zabinas.
GY85817. Bronze AE 21, Mantis ANS 1944.100.77326 (also same countermark on obv.), Houghton-Lorber II 1957, HGC 9 999 (R3),, F, green patina, porous; c/m: F, weight 6.031 g, maximum diameter 20.7 mm, die axis 0o, Sidon (Saida, Lebanon) mint, 146 - 138 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Demetrios II right, countermark: war galley prow in round incuse punch; reverse war galley left, BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ∆HMHTPIOY in two lines above, ΣI∆ΩNIΩN over Phoenician (both reading "of the Sidonians") below; ex Moneta Numismatic Services; extremely rare; $110.00 (€93.50)
 


Ptolemaic Kingdom, Berenike II, c. 244 - 221 B.C., Wife of Ptolemy III

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Matt Kreuzer attributes this type to the second reign of Berenike III, 81 - 80 B.C.
GP85837. Bronze hemiobol, cf. Svoronos 1056 (EY in left field); Noeske 131 (same), SNG Cop -; SNG Milan -; Weiser -; BMC Ptolemies -; Malter -, aVF, blue-green patina, rough, scratches, edge crack, weight 3.259 g, maximum diameter 16.1 mm, die axis 0o, uncertain Phoenician mint, c. 244 - 221 B.C; obverse BEPENIKHΣ, bust of Queen Berenike II right; reverse ΠTOΛEMAIOY BAΣIΛEΩΣ (King Ptolemy), eagle standing left on thunderbolt, head left, wings open; ex Moneta Numismatic Services, ex CNG e-auction 291 (21 Nov 2012), lot 155; $100.00 (€85.00)
 


Seleukid Kingdom, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, 175 - 164 B.C.

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Antiochus IV took the name "Epiphanes," meaning "Select of God." His subjects made a pun on his name, calling him "Epimanes" or "madman." In 168 B.C., Antiochus IV ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. The Temple in Jerusalem was seized and dedicated to Zeus. The Jews revolted and after three years of fighting, Judah Maccabee defeated the Seleukid army. Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, commemorates the rededication of the Temple in 165 B.C. According to the Talmud, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, enough time to prepare and consecrate fresh oil.
GY87387. Bronze AE 21, Houghton-Lorber 1453d; BMC Seleucid p. 39, 51; Rouvier, JIAN V, p. 122, 1208; Hoover Seleukid 665 (R1), F, well centered, light corrosion, weight 5.456 g, maximum diameter 21.0 mm, die axis 0o, Quasi-municipal, Sidon (Saida, Lebanon) mint, c. 168 - 164 B.C.; obverse diademed and radiate head of Antiochos IV right, ∆ (control) behind; reverse galley left, BAΣIΛEΩΣ / ANTIOXOY in two lines above, ΣI∆ΩNIΩN over Phoenician script (of the Sidonians) below; rare; $100.00 (€85.00)
 




  



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REFERENCES

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Catalog current as of Sunday, November 18, 2018.
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Phoenicia