Many students of ancient history make the mistake of limiting themselves to the great states of Greece and Rome. The ancient world was, however, also home to a number of minor civilizations. Some of these nearly have escaped the notice of history; some left only slight evidence that they ever existed. When that evidence is in the form of coins, numismatists take notice. Such is Elymais: a kingdom which occupied a space between Babylonia and Persis.

Elymais was ruled by a king who was subordinate to the Parthian 'King of Kings'. Written history on Elymais is almost non-existent (one sentence by Lucian mentions a king named Kamnaskires) but we have dozens of varieties of coins spanning the last two centuries BC and the first two centuries AD. Most coins show an anchor (recalling their association with the Seleucid Empire) and a star in crescent (symbol of the Achaemenids). The earliest of these coins are quite rare but the later silver plated bronze coins are well within the reach of most collectors. Shown below are a few examples of these coins.

Kamnaskires VI(?) - Bronze tetradrachm c. 100 AD
15.3g, 29x25mm diameter - Sear GI 5888
Bust left with pointed beard - Anchor, crescent & star
Crude head left with short beard - legend (?) around

Originally silver plated this tetradrachm has a very low silver content. Some (earlier?) varieties have legible legends naming the king but history does not record how many different kings used the name Kamnaskires so placement of any individual coin to a specific ruler is not certain. Later issues saw the reverse image degenerate to a meaningless jumble of lines. This example is midway along the line of styles from rather crude to meaningless. The head is recognizable and the legend is present if not readable.

Three Bronze Drachms
Orodes I
Early 2nd Cent. AD
2.6g, 14mm - SGI 5892
Bust left
anchor, crescent & star
Artemis bust right
Greek legend='King Orodes'
Mid 2nd Cent. AD
2.6g, 14x12 mm - SGI 5902
Bust left
anchor, crescent & star
Reverse of dashes
Kamnaskires-Orodes III
Late 2nd Cent. AD
2.6g, 14x12 mm - SGI 5910
Facing head
anchor, crescent & star
Reverse of dashes

Early in the second century AD a group of kings came to power using the same names as the Parthian rulers. Whether these were the same men that ruled in Parthia or other members of their family is not certain. Again, what is known about the history of the period come largely from the coins which occasionally show readable legends. Exact placement of each coin may be subject to update by new research.

The coins of Elymais are interesting as examples of the many ancient civilizations that left little trace on the written history of the world. Opportunities for further research seem endless.

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(c) 1997 Doug Smith