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Lesbos

Ancient Greek coins from Lesbos for sale in the Forum Ancient Coins shop

Burnett, A., M. Amandry, et al. Roman Provincial Coinage. (1992 - ).
Babelon, E. Traité des Monnaies Grecques et Romaines. (Paris, 1901-1932).
Bloesch, H. Griechische Münzen In Winterthur, Vol. 2. (Winterthur, 1987).
Bodenstedt, F. Die Elektronmünzen von Phokaia und Mytilene. (Tübingen, 1981).
Burnett, A. and M. Amandry. Roman Provincial Coinage II: From Vespasian to Domitian (AD 69-96). (London, 1999).
Forrer, L. Descriptive Catalogue of the Collection of Greek Coins formed by Sir Hermann Weber, Volume III, Part 1: Asia: Bosporus. Colchis. Pontus. Paphlagonia, Bithynia, Mysia, Troas, Aeolis, Lesbos, Ionia, Caria, Lydia. (London, 1926).
Franke, P. R. “Zur Münzprägung von Methymna” in H.G. Buchholz, Methymna. (Mainz, 1975).
Hoover, O.D. Handbook of Coins of the Islands: Adriatic, Ionian, Thracian, Aegean, and Carpathian Seas (Excluding Crete and Cyprus), Sixth to First Centuries BC. (Lancaster/London, 2010).
Klein, D. Sammlung von griechischen Kleinsilbermünzen und Bronzen. Nomismata 3. (Milano, 1999).
Price, M. J. The Coinage of in the Name of Alexander the Great and Philip Arrhidaeus. (London, 1991).
Sear, D. Greek Coins and Their Values, Vol. 2, Asia and Africa. (London, 1979).
Sear, D. Greek Imperial Coins and Their Values. (London, 1982).
Schönert-Geiss, E. Die Münzprägung von Bisanthe, Dikaia, Selymbria. (Berlin, 1977).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Denmark, The Royal Collection of Coins and Medals, Danish National Museum, Vol. 4: Bosporus - Lesbos. (West Milford, NJ, 1982).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Deutschland, München Staatlische Münzsammlung, Part 19: Troas - Lesbos. (Berlin, 1991).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Deutschland, Sammlung Hans Von Aulock, Vol. 1: Pontus, Paphlagonia, Bithynia, Mysia, Troas, Aiolis, Lesbos, Ionia. (Berlin, 1957).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Turkey 1: The Muharrem Kayhan Collection. (Istanbul, 2002).
Waggoner, N. M. 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).

The most powerful cities of this beautiful and fertile island were Mytilene and Methymna, the mint-places of the great mass of Lesbian coinage. Several smaller towns, Antissa, Eresus, and Pyrrha, and perhaps Aegirus and Nape, also issued coins. In addition to the local coins bearing the names of the various Lesbian cities (see infra, ‘Cities of Lesbos'), there were two important coinages, (i) in billon, i. e. very base silver, and (ii) in electrum, both of which doubtless had a general circulation throughout the island, although they appear to have emanated chiefly from Mytilene and Methymna.


558

BILLON COINAGE.

Circ. B.C. 550-440.

Billon coins were struck on two standards, the Phoenician, with a stater of about 236 grains, and the Persic, with a stater of about 171 grains. There are several subdivisions of the stater. The fabric is lumpy, and the reverse, almost invariably, a rude incuse square. Some few pieces are inscribed ΛΕΣ or Μ. Types: Boar types (Methymna). Calf types (Mytilene). Lion types (Mytilene). Gorgoneion (Methymna ?). Head of Orpheus, rev. Lion’s head (Mytilene ?, BMC Troas, &c., p. 155 note). Female head, rev. ΜΥ Lion’s head (Mytilene, BMC Troas, p. 155). Other types are Two human eyes, and a Negro’s head.

ELECTRUM COINAGE.

Circ. B.C. 500.

Among the early electrum staters of the Milesian standard there is one which has been conjecturally assigned to Methymna, but the attribution is very doubtful:—

Sow. [B. M. C., Ion., Pl. I. 25.] Quadripartite incuse square.
EL. Stater, 216 grs.

For smaller electrum coins see Babelon, Traité, p. 115.

Circ. B.C. 480 (or earlier) — circ. B.C. 350.

This coinage consisted of staters and hectae (sixths of the Phocaic stater, weighing 38 to 40 grains). The hectae are extant in large numbers, but only a single specimen of the stater struck at Mytilene (238.4 grains) is known to exist (see infra, p. 559). A few pieces only are inscribed (ΛΕ or Μ) and the types are extremely varied, being (as in the case of the electrum of Cyzicus) apparently, in most cases, magistrates’ symbols rather than municipal types. There can be no reasonable doubt that Mytilene was the chief, if not the sole, mint of these coins which, though undistinguished by the badge of the city, present a well-marked uniformity in style and fabric. They bear a very close resemblance to the hectae of Phocaea in Ionia, but the latter are marked by the phoca-badge and usually show on the obv. a head turned to the left, while the heads on the Lesbian obverses almost invariably turn to the right. A lapidary inscription (BMC Troas, p. lxv; Hicks and Hill, Greek. Hist. Inscr., No. 94) records an agreement entered into circ. B.C. 400 between Mytilene and Phocaea, according to the terms of which the two cities were, in turn, to mint for a year a coinage of electrum (το χρυσιον) for common circulation, and magistrates were appointed to try offenders charged with debasing the coinage. The electrum was therefore, in this case, not a natural but an artificial alloy.

For numerous varieties of these hectae reference must be made to BMC Troas, &c., pp. 156 ff., where the coins are arranged in three series as follows:—


559

In Series I, animal types predominate. Series II and III comprise some of the most beautiful coins that have come down to us from antiquity.

FIG. 290.FIG. 291.FIG. 292.

Series I. Circ. B.C. 480-440. The reverse type is in intaglio, e. g. obv. Head of ram or forepart of winged boar, rev. Lion’s head in intaglio (Fig. 290). Obv. Lion’s head, rev. Calf’s head in intaglio.

Series II and III. Circ. B.C. 440-350 or later. In series II the reverse type is placed within a plain incuse square (Fig. 291); in series III it is placed in a linear square, the whole being within an incuse square (Fig. 292).

Many of the male and female heads on these pieces remain unidentified, but most of the principal Greek divinities may be recognized, as Apollo, Dionysos, Athena, Demeter, Hermes, Zeus Ammon, Nike, &c. A head sometimes called Sappho is probably Aphrodite (B. M. C., Troas, &c., p. lxviii).

The following stater, struck at Mytilene, belongs to circ. B.C. 440 or rather later. Obv. ΜVΤΙ Head of Apollo, hair short, rev. Incuse square quadripartite. El., 238.4 grs. (BMC Troas, &c., pl. xxxii. 1; J. H. S., 1904, p. 205).

Koinon of Lesbos.

The following (struck at Methymna?), circ. B.C. 330-280?, may have been issued (Imhoof, Z. f. N., III, p. 312) for general use in Lesbos. Obv. Head of Athena, rev. ΑΙΟΛΕ Fulmen. AR 35 grs. Obv. Head of Hera (?), rev. ΑΙΟΛΕ Fulmen; beneath, grapes. Æ size, 0.65-0.45.

Imperial—M. Aurelius; Commodus. Inscr. ΚΟΙ·ΛΕCΒΙΩΝ. Types: Term of bearded Dionysos on prow placed between Athena and young Dionysos. The Emperor, and the goddess of Lesbos holding model of temple (Pick, Jahreshefte oesterr. arch. Inst., vii. 1904).

CITIES OF LESBOS.

Aegirus, a κωμη (Strab. xiii. p. 617) between Methymna and Mytilene (B. M. C., Troas, &c., p. lxxvii).

Circ. B.C. 310.

Head of Athena.
[Imh., Monn. gr., p. 276.]
ΑΙΓΙ Female head with sphendone, ear-ring and necklace.
Æ .35

Antissa, west of Methymna on the north coast in peninsula of Tchifut-Kalessi. Destroyed by the Romans circ. B.C. 167. The inhabitants were removed to Methymna. The curious head on the reverses has been called


560
Orpheus (cf. B. M. C., Troas, &c., lxxviii), but is almost certainly a reproduction from the archaic xoanon of Dionysos Φαλλην (Imh., Z. f. N., xx. p. 285; cf. Methymna, infra).

Circ. B.C. 300-167.

Female head; hair rolled. ΑΝΤΙΣ Male head with pointed beard, long hair, and tall head-dress.
Æ .7
Bull standing; above, club. ΑΝ Similar type.
Æ .5
Id. ΑΝ Apollo Kitharoedus.
Æ .6

Cithus ? (See Imhoof, Monn. gr., p. 277; BMC Troas, &c., p. 173; and N. C., 1905, p. 326.)

Circ. B.C. 500-440.

ΚΙΘΙ ? Two boars’ heads, face to face. Quadripartite incuse square.
AR 26 grs.
Two boars’ heads, face to face. Inc. sq. divided diagonally.
AR about 26 grs.
Id. Boar’s head: incuse square AR 4 grs.

Eresus (Ereso), on the west coast, famous for its wheat. Archestratus (ap. Athens, iii. 111), in a passage that illustrates the coin-types, says that if the gods eat bread they send Hermes to buy it at Eresus (BMC Troas, &c., p. lxxix).

Circ. B.C. 300 to B.C. 200 or later.

Head of Hermes. ΕΡΕΣΙ Young head wreathed (Demeter or Apollo).
Æ size .55
Id. ΕΡΕΣΙ Ear of corn.
Æ size .7
Id. ΕΡΕ Ear of corn.
Æ size .35
Id. ΕΡΕ Caduceus.
Æ size .45
[Fox, No. 59; cf. Imh., Gr. M., p. 768.]
Female head (Artemis ?). ΕΡΕΣΙ Ear of Corn.
Æ size .45
Ear of corn. ΕΡΕΣΙ Caduceus.
Æ size .5
[Brit. Mus.]

(Other types in Æ, Apollo, Lyre, Club, Gorgoneion, &c., in Z. f. N., xx. p. 284.)

ImperialCaligula to Philip I. Also quasi-autonomous. Inscr. ЄΡЄCΙΩΝ. Types: Athena; Temple; Lyre; Head or figure of CΑΠΦΩ or ΣΑΦΦΩ, whose birthplace Eresus claimed to be (BMC Troas, etc. lxxix; Z. f. N., xxi. 219); Hermes; Asklepios.

Magistrate. Strategos.

Methymna, on the north coast of the island. On the electrum and billon coinage of Methymna see supra, p. 558.

Circ. B.C. 500-450.

ΜΑΘVΜΝΑΙΟΣ Boar. ΜΑΘVΜΝΑΙΟΣ Head of Athena; square border of dots: incuse square
AR 132 grs.

561
Gorgoneion. Head of Athena: square border of dots; incuse square.
AR 22 grs.
Warrior kneeling, holding spear and round shield. Horseman riding on forepart of horse: square border of dots; incuse square.
AR 43 grs.

Circ. B.C. 420-377.
Head of Athena. ΜΑ Lion’s head facing; square border of dots; incuse square.
AR 20 grs.
Id. ΜΑΘVΜΝΑΙΟΝ Lyre on square tablet; incuse square.
AR 93 grs.
Id. ΜΘΑ Kantharos; incuse square.
AR 49 grs. and 5 grs.
[See also Z. f. N., xx. p. 284.]

Circ. B.C. 330-240.

Head of Athena. ΜΑΘΥ Lyre within square of bead and reel pattern.
AR 42 grs.
Head of young Herakles. ΜΑΘΥ Arion in long chiton and chlamys seated on dolphin, holding lyre.
AR 19 grs.
Head of Athena. ΜΑΘΥ Kantharos.
Æ Size .65-.5

Second and first centuries B.C.

Bull standing; above, club. ΜΑΘΥ Arion on dolphin.
Æ Size .55
Head of Athena. ΜΑΘΥ or ΜΑ Kantharos.
Æ .7-.4
Head of Apollo. (See also Hunter Cat., ii. Pl. L. 5.) ΜΑΘΥ Arion on dolphin.
Æ .9

For Alexandrine coins see Müller, Nos. 981, 982.

ImperialAugustus to Severus Alexander. Inscr. ΜΗΘVΜΝΙΑΙΩΝ. Types: Dionysos in chariot; Arion on dolphin; Athena; Head of Dionysos Φαλλην (Z. f. N., xx. p. 285; cf. BMC Troas, p. lxxvi, and Mytilene  infra, Imperial coins with the xoanon of Dionysos). An olive-wood image of Dionysos Φαλλην was dragged up by some Methymnaean fishermen, and the people of the city there upon offered sacrifices to it (Paus. x. 19).

Magistrate. Strategos.

Mytilene, the chief city of Lesbos. For its billon and electrum coinages see supra, pp. 558, 559.

Circ. B.C. 440-400.

Head of Apollo. [N. C., 1902, p. 333.] ΜVΤΙΛΗΝΑΟΝ Head of nymph, Mytilene, wearing sphendone, incuse square.
AR 60.8 grs.
Head of nymph, Mytilene, facing.
[N. C., 1896, p. 94.]
ΜVΤΙ Goat’s head: incuse square.
AR 10.1 grs.
Μ Head of nymph, Mytilene, three-quarter face. ΜVΤΙ Lion’s head: incuse square.
AR 13.5 grs.
ΜVΤΙ Head of Apollo r., hound with taenia. Quadripartite incuse square.
AR 4.4 grs.
[BMC Troas, Pl. XXXVII. 10.]

562
Head of Apollo r., bound with taenia. ΜVΤΙ Calf’s head: incuse square.
AR 10.2 grs.
[BMC Troas, Pl. XXXVII. 11.]
Head of Apollo r. ΜVΤ Calf’s head.
Æ Size .4

Circ. B.C. 400-350.

Head of Apollo r. Head of nymph, Mytilene: various symbols.
AR 22 grs.
ΜΥΤ Lyre. Lyre.
AR 9 grs.
Head of Apollo. Calf’s head: various symbols.
Æ Size .35
Head of Apollo. ΜΥ, &c. Bull’s head: various symbols
Æ Size .35

Circ. B.C. 350-250.

Head of Apollo r. ΜΥΤΙ Lyre with fillet attached: various symbols: linear compartment.
AR 176 grs.; 44 grs.
Head of nymph, Mytilene, in sphendone. ΜΥΤΙ Lyre: various symbols and monograms.
Æ sizes .55-.5

Circ. B.C. 250-200.

Head of Apollo r. ΜΥΤΙ Lyre and two monograms (countermarked with owl, and bust of Artemis).
Æ .75

Second and first centuries B.C.

For Alexandrine coins see Müller, Nos. 967-980.

Head of Zeus Ammon, beardless. ΜΥΤΙ Term of bearded Dionysos on pedestal.
Æ .65
Head of Zeus Ammon, bearded. ΜΥΤΙ Term of bearded Dionysos on pedestal; sometimes on prow.
Æ .9-.65
Bearded head (Seilenos or Zeus ?). ΜΥΤΙ Term of Dionysos and male figure, both on prow.
Æ .6
Head of Zeus. ΜΥΤΙ in wreath.
Æ .9
Bust of Artemis. ΜΥΤΙ Lyre.
Æ .7-.5
Head of Helios. ΜΥΤΙ Tripod and laurel branches.
Æ .55

ImperialTiberius to Gallienus. Also quasi-autonomous. Inscr. ΜVΤΙΛΗΝΑΙΩΝ. Types. Mytilene holding term of Dionysos; ΖЄVC ΒΟVΛΑΙΟC; Zeus Ammon; Artemis; Asklepios; Bull Apis; Simulacrum of Dionysos (cp. the autonomous coins) apparently similar to the Dionysos Φαλλην of Methymna (q. v.). Many types relate to the Emperors. There is also an interesting series of representations of famous men, heroes, and benefactors connected with the city (see Wroth, Class. Rev., 1894, p. 226; BMC Troas, &c., p. lxx; Imhoof, Z. f. N., xx. 286, and Kleinas. M., p. 511; Svoronos in Rivista ital., 1908, p. 317 f.), as follows:— head of ΦΙΤΤΑΚΟC (Pittacus of Mytilene); head of ΑΛΚΑΙΟC (the poet); seated figure and head of ΨΑΠΦΩ (the head of Sappho probably does not occur on the autonomous El. and Æ, as sometimes asserted:


563

cf. B. M. C., Troas, &c., p. lxx f.); Theophanes of Mytilene, the historian, ΘΕΟΦΑΙΝΗC ΘΕΟC; Archedamis, his wife?; Lesbonax the elder, the philosopher, time of Augustus, and a younger Lesbonax represented as Dionysos, and styled ΛΕCΒΩΝΑΞ ΗΡΩC ΝЄΟC; Deinomachus; his wife Julia Procula, and his daughter Flavia Nicomachis (BMC Troas, &c., p. lxxiii, and Rivista ital., 1908, p. 321); Sextus, CЄΞCΤΟΝ ΗΡΩΑ, and another Sextus; Andromeda (N. C., 1902, p. 334); Dada; Pankratides; Nausikaa (not the Homeric heroine); Leukippos.

Magistrate. Strategos.

Pyrrha, on the coast of the bay of Kalloni (BMC Troas, etc. lxxx).

Fourth century B.C.

Head of nymph, Pyrrha, in sphendone. ΠΥΡ or ΠΥΡΡ Goat standing.
Æ Size .45

HECATONNESI, ISLANDS NEAR LESBOS.

Nesos, the largest of this group of islands, now Moschonnision (Nesi). It had a temple of Apollo (BMC Troas, &c., p. lxxxi).

Fourth century B.C.

Head of Apollo. ΝΑΣΙ Panther standing.
AR 39 grs.
Head of Apollo. ΝΑΣ Panther running.
Æ Size .45

Third century B.C.

ΝΑΣΙ Dolphin. Panther running. [Hunter Cat., ii. p. 320.].
Æ .35
Head of Apollo. ΝΑΣΙ Dolphin; various symbols.
Æ .75-.5
Id. ΝΑΣΙ Lyre; also with rev. Tripod.
Æ .75
Horseman. ΝΑΣΙ within laurel-wreath.
Æ .75

Pordosilene, later called Poroselene (now the island Pyrgos). Pausanias (iii. 25. 5) has an account of the tame dolphin of Poroselene; cf. the dolphin type, and BMC Troas, &c., p. lxxxii.

After circ. B.C. 450.

Young male head (Apollo ?)
[B. M. Guide, Pl. X. 24.]
ΠΟΡΔΟΣΙΛ Lyre; incuse square.
AR 61 grs.

Circ. B.C. 400.
Bearded head (Seilenos ?). ΠΟΡ Dolphin.
Æ Size .35
[See also Invent. Wadd., p. 55.]

Imperial—Ant. Pius to Sept. Severus. Inscr. ΠΟΡΟCЄΛΗΝЄΙΤΩΝ [Hirsch, Auct. Cat., xiii. Pl. XLI. 3626] or ΠΩΡΟCЄΛΗΝЄΙΤΩΝ. Types: Asklepian; Head of Athena.