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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.


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; $380.00 (€334.40)
 


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 (Ptolemy Savior), 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; $340.00 (€299.20)
 


Macedonian Kingdom, Demetrius I Poliorketes, 306 - 286 B.C.

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Demetrius I Poliorketes (The Besieger), son of Antigonus I Monophthalmus, was given the title king by his father in 306 B.C. after he defeated Ptolemy I at the Battle of Salamis. In 294 he seized the throne of Macedonia by murdering Alexander V. The combined forces of Pyrrhus, Ptolemy and Lysimachus, forced him out of Macedonia in 288. Abandoned by his troops on the field of battle he surrendered to Seleucus in 286 and died in captivity in 283 B.C.
SL87623. Silver tetradrachm, Newell 30, pl. III, 13 (XXXIV/69); Newell Tyrus 32, pl. III, 7 (same dies); Hersh Tyrus 43a; HGC 3 1011; SNG Alpha Bank -, NGC F, strike 4/5, surface 3/5 (2490378-002), weight 16.877 g, maximum diameter 25.5 mm, die axis 180o, Phoenicia, Tyre mint, c. 306 - 295 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, wearing Nemean Lion skin, scalp over head, forepaws tied at neck; reverse Zeus Aëtophoros enthroned left, nude to the waist, himation around hips and legs, eagle in extended right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand, right leg drawn back, feet on footstool, club left in a circle on left, AP monogram under throne, ∆HMITPIOY downward on right, BAΣIΛEΩΣ (king) below; rare; $340.00 (€299.20)
 


Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, 7 March 161 - February 169 A.D., Arados, Phoenicia

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Ancient Arados, surrounded by massive walls on an island about 800 m long by 500 m wide, about 50 km north of Tripolis, was an important trading city with an artificial harbor on the east side toward the mainland. A walled island provides great security, but the lack of water on Arados was a serious challenge. Strabo recounts that Phoenicians collected rainwater and channeled it into cisterns, and that they shipped containers of fresh water from the mainland. Perhaps the most resourceful solution came from the fortuitous discovery—probably by sponge and coral divers—of an undersea freshwater spring, not far from the island in the channel between Arwad and the mainland. This spring, says Strabo, was exploited as a last resort when war or other crises interrupted water supplies from the mainland: "...into this spring the people let down from the water-fetching boat an inverted, wide-mouthed funnel made of lead, the upper part of which contracts into a stem with a moderate-sized hole through it; and round this stem they fasten a leathern tube (unless I should call it bellows), which receives the water that is forced up from the spring through the funnel. Now the first water that is forced up is sea-water, but the boatmen wait for the flow of pure and potable water and catch all that is needed in vessels prepared for the purpose and carry it to the city."Arados
RP89763. Bronze AE 24, RPC IV online T6746 (16 spec.); SNG Hunterian II 3258; BMC Phoenicia p. 48, 379; Rouvier III p. 257, 410, VF, struck on a thick, heavy flan, minor edge porosity , weight 11.959 g, maximum diameter 24.0 mm, die axis 180o, Arados (Arwad, Syria) mint, 162 - 163 A.D.; obverse ANTWNOC KAI OYHPOC CEBACTOI, confronted, laureate, draped, and bearded busts of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus; reverse AKY E APA∆IWN, humped bull charging left, head turned facing, AKY (year 421 of the local era) above, E in right field, APA∆IΩN below; ex Leu Numismatik web auction 1 (25 Jun 2017), lot 830; ex European Collection formed before 2005; very rare; $200.00 (€176.00)
 


Macedonian Kingdom, Ptolemy I, as Satrap, 323 - 305 B.C.

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Aradus minted coinage in the name of Alexander during his lifetime and shortly after. When Aradus gained autonomy in 259 B.C., the city again minted coinage in the name of Alexander. After the Ptolemaic victory over the Seleukid Kingdom at Raphia in 217 B.C. Aradus fell under the control of Egypt. In 214, Aradus ceased to issue Alexander coinage and struck regal Ptolemaic issues. In 202 B.C., as Ptolemaic power waned, Aradus returned to issuing coinage of Alexander. The last Alexander coinage of Aradus was struck in 166/165 B.C.
GS89324. Silver obol, unpublished in references but several known from auctions, CNG e-auction 201, lot 34 (same dies), VF, toned, earthen encrustation, porosity, weight 0.649 g, maximum diameter 9.0 mm, die axis 13.5o, Phoenicia, Aradus mint, c. 323 - 315 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, wearing Nemean Lion skin, scalp over head, forepaws 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, AΛEΞAN∆POY downward behind, A/P monogram (control) left; $180.00 (€158.40)
 


Ptolemaic Kingdom, Ptolemy I Soter, 305 - 282 B.C.

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In Coins of the Ptolemaic Empire, Catherine Lorber writes that this, and similar types, "match the module and types of Alexandrian bronze hemiobols, but the style is local and somewhat crude; Alexander's features often resemble those of Ptolemy, probably unintentionally."
GP88275. Bronze hemiobol, Lorber CPE B134, Svoronos 630 (8 spec.), Cox Curium 73, BMC Ptolemies -, SNG Cop -, SNG Milan -, Noeske -, Weiser -, Hosking -, Malter -, VF, black patina, small earthen deposits, flan adjustment marks (scrapes), weight 4.364 g, maximum diameter 16.5 mm, die axis 0o, Phoenicia, Tyre mint, c. 294 - 282 B.C.; obverse diademed head of deified Alexander right, ram's horn at temple, long wavy hair; reverse ΠTOΛEMAIOY BAΣIΛEΩΣ (King Ptolemy), Eagle standing left on thunderbolt, wings open, head left, club over (ΠA monogram) left; ex Ora Eads Collection; ex CNG Sale 41 (19 Mar 1997), lot 1035 (part of); very rare; $160.00 (€140.80)
 


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

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This type is found primarily in Lebanon and Svoronos attributed it to Sidon, with some reservations. In Coins of the Ptolemaic Empire, Catherine Lorber writes of this and related types, "Because mintmarks were a characteristic feature of coins issued by the coastal cities of Phoenicia and Palestine, the lack of mintmarks on these coins may point to an inland origin. The persistence of the double cornucopia after the reign of Ptolemy II suggests and important association with Arsinoe Philadelphus and perhaps an attribution to a city named for her."
GP88273. Bronze obol, Lorber CPE B340, Svoronos 761, Noeske 106, Weiser 44, SNG Milan 147, BMC Ptolemies -, SNG Cop -, Hosking -, Malter -, aVF, brown tone, edge split, beveled obverse edge, central cavities, weight 10.201 g, maximum diameter 25.5 mm, die axis 0o, Phoenicia, uncertain mint, c. 260 - 246 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Zeus right; reverse ΠTOΛEMAIOY BAΣIΛEΩΣ (King Ptolemy), eagle standing left on thunderbolt, wings open, head left, filleted double cornucopia left; ex Ora Eads Collection; ex CNG Sale 41 (19 Mar 1997), lot 1035 (part of); $150.00 (€132.00)
 


Trajan, 25 January 98 - 8 or 9 August 117 A.D., Dora, Phoenicia

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Dora, on the coast eight miles north of Caesarea, was a Canaanite city. It fell to the Philistines early in the 12th century B.C. Solomon appointed the son of Abinadab as overseer of Dor (I Kings 4:11). In the Persian period Dor was a Sidonian colony. In Hellenistic times it was a Ptolemaic seaport and royal fortress, once besieged by Antiochus VII, (1 Macc. 15. 11-14). Under the Romans, Dora was a free city. See also Josh 11:2, 17:11; and Judg 1:27.
RP89041. Bronze AE 27, RPC Online III 3915 (18 spec.); De Saulcy 2; Rouvier 768; BMC Phoenicia p.117, 30; Meshorer Dora 33; Rosenberger II 26; Sofaer pl. 39, 28; Hendin 850, nice F, dark patina, weight 13.034 g, maximum diameter 27.2 mm, die axis 0o, Dora mint, 112 - 113 A.D.(?); obverse AVTOK KAIC NEP TPAIANOC CEB ΓEPM ∆AK, laureate bust right, drapery on left shoulder, star under chin; reverse ∆WP IEP ACYΛ AYTON NAYAP (Dora, Holy Asylum, Autonomous, Naval Headquarters), laureate head of Doros right, to right aphlaston, POE below (year 175) below; ex Gert Boersema Ancient Coins; $140.00 (€123.20)
 


Ptolemaic Kingdom, Ptolemy IV Philopator, 221 - 204 B.C.

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Ptolemy IV's surname Philopator means father lover, ironic since according to some authorities he poisoned his father. Ptolemy IV is a major protagonist of the apocryphal 3 Maccabees, which describes events following the Battle of Raphia, in both Jerusalem and Alexandria. He was a cruel and evil monarch.
GP88102. Bronze obol, Lorber CPE B546, Svoronos 1153 (4 spec.), BMC Ptolemies -; Weiser -; SNG Cop -, Noeske -, SNG Milan -, Malter -, aVF, scratches, weak reverse strike, dark patina with highlighting earthen deposits, slightly beveled obverse edge, central cavities, weight 10.556 g, maximum diameter 24.6 mm, die axis 0o, Phoenicia, Tyre mint, obverse diademed head of Zeus-Ammon right; reverse ΠTOΛEMAIOY BAΣIΛEΩΣ (King Ptolemy), eagle standing left on thunderbolt, head left, wings closed, club left, ΣE monogram between legs; scarce; $100.00 (€88.00)
 


Ptolemaic Kingdom, Ptolemy V Epiphanes, 204 - 180 B.C.

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Svoronos attributed this type to Ptolemais due to the monogram, but symbols between the eagle's legs are usually control marks, not mint marks and the club in the left field is typical of Tyre.
GP88280. Bronze hemiobol, Svoronos 1060 (only 2 specimens known to Svoronos, Ptolemais mint), Lorber CPE -, SNG Cop -, Weiser -, Noeske -, Malter -, VF/aF, rough, central cavities, weight 5.497 g, maximum diameter 17.9 mm, die axis 0o, Phoenicia, Tyre or Ptolemaios mint, c. 204 - 180 B.C.; obverse filleted and horned head of Zeus Ammon right; reverse ΠTOΛEMAIOY BAΣIΛEΩΣ (King Ptolemy), eagle standing left on thunderbolt, wings closed, double cornucopia on eagles shoulder with one straight and one waiving fillet, club left, monogram between legs; ex Ora Eads Collection; ex CNG Sale 41 (19 Mar 1997), lot 1035 (part of); extremely rare; $100.00 (€88.00)
 




  



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REFERENCES

Burnett, A., M. Amandry, et al. Roman Provincial Coinage. (1992 - ).
Betlyon, J. The Coinage and Mints of Phoenicia. The Pre-Alexandrine Period. Harvard Semitic Monographs, Vol. 26. (Chico, CA, 1982).
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Cohen, E. Dated Coins of Antiquity: A comprehensive catalogue of the coins and how their numbers came about. (Lancaster, PA, 2011).
Duyrat, F. Arados Hellénistique: Étude historique et monétaire. (Beirut, 2005).
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Meshorer, Y. "The Coins of Dora" in INJ 9 (1986).
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Newell, E. The Dated Alexander Coinage of Sidon and Ake. (Oxford, 1916).
Newell, E. Seleucid Coins of Tyre: A Supplement. ANSNNM 73. (New York, 1936).
Prieur, M. & K. Prieur. The Syro-Phoenician Tetradrachms and their fractions from 57 BC to AD 258. (Lancaster, PA, 2000).
Price, M. The Coinage of in the Name of Alexander the Great and Philip Arrhidaeus. (London, 1991).
Rouvier, J. "Numismatique des Villes de la Phénicie" in Journal International d'Archéologie Numismatique. (Athens, 1900-1904).
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Catalog current as of Monday, July 22, 2019.
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Phoenicia