Two hoards of Attic Bronze Coins

Bellinger, Alfred R. (Alfred Raymond), 1893-1978
Numismatic Notes and Monographs
American Numismatic Society
New York
Worldcat Works




Open access edition funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program.


Table of Contents




In 1927, the American Numismatic Society received as a gift from a person who desired to remain anonymous, two hoards of Attic bronze coins which had been acquired in Athens, and which were presumably found in Attica.

The first hoard consists of 244 pieces of an average diameter of about 19 mm., and 44 pieces of an average diameter of about 14 mm. They are well preserved and the difference in wear is sufficiently apparent to allow some conclusions as to priority of issue. These are, of course, largely conjectural, but it may be taken as certain that the type with the eagle at the feet of Zeus is the earliest here represented, and that, of that type, varieties I and II are earlier than varieties III and IV.

  Obverse Reverse Specimens
  Head of Athena r., wearing crested Corinthian helmet; border of dots. Zeus naked, striding r., hurling thunderbolt; at his feet, eagle to right.  
I   image In field to r., star. 7

B.M.C., p. 80, No. 542. Svoronos Pl. 81; 17, 18. The coins are so much worn that the star is rarely visible, but the placing of the letters on the reverse is peculiar to these pieces.

  Obverse Reverse Specimens
II Same image In field to l., ear of corn. 9
      8 others probable but not certain

B.M.C., p. 80, No. 541. Svoronos Pl. 81, Nos. 28, 29. These also are uniformly much worn so that the ear of corn is often obscure and never complete.

III Same image In field to l., plemochoë; to r., cornucopiae. 13

B.M.C., p. 80, No. 544. Svoronos Pl. 81, Nos. 19–24.

IV Same image In field to l., amphora. 15

B.M.C., p. 80, Nos. 545–7. Svoronos Pl. 81, Nos. 25–7.

V Same image Symbol to l., illegible. 1

Not in B.M.C., nor Svoronos. Plate I, 1.

  Head of Zeus r., bound with a taenia; border of dots. Athena r., hurling thunderbolt and holding shield on l. arm.  
VI   image In field to l., helmet l.; to r., horse's head r. 9

B.M.C., p. 84, No. 584. Svoronos Pl. 22, Nos. 53, 4, 6, 7. Svoronos would put this type early in the new coinage because of its likeness to the type of Antigonas Gonatas.

  Obverse Reverse Specimens
VII Same image In field to l., ear of corn; to r., coiled serpent. 5

B.M.C., p. 84, Nos. 582–3, Pl. XV, 2. Svoronos Pl. 22, No. 55. Plate I, 2.

VIII Same image In field to l., ear of corn; to r., coiled serpent. 18

Not in B.M.C., nor Svoronos, unless his Pl. 22, No. 58, be this variety; the picture is too poor to tell.

Either VII or VIII 5
Either VI or VII or VIII 2
Head of Athena r., wearing crested Corinthian helmet; border of dots. Zeus naked, striding r., hurling thunderbolt.
IX   image In field to l. and r., pilei of Dioscuri surmounted by stars. 87
      Plate I, 3.

The theta is sometimes image, and sometimes θ, sometimes between. B.M.C., p. 80, Nos. 549, 550, Pl. XIV, 4. Svoronos Pl. 81, Nos. 31–39.

Some of this variety are in very good condition, but there is a special reason for believing that it is the first of the varieties of Zeus without the eagle. There are some coins (Svoronos Pl. 81, Nos. 30, 31) not represented in this hoard, which have Zeus with the eagle to his right and one pileus to his left. It seems likely that, this attempt proving un- satisfactory, the old type was modified, omitting the eagle to make room for the other pileus, and that the eagle was never replaced.

  Obverse Reverse Specimens
X Same image In field to l., Βά×χος 15
  B.M.C., p. 81, No. 551. Svoronos Pl. 77, Nos. 26, 7.  
XI Same image In field to l., filleted thyrsos. 29
  B.M.C., p. 80, No. 548. Svoronos Pl. 70, 26.  
  Either X or XI   3
Either I–V or IX–XI   18
  Head of Athena r., in close fitting ornamental helmet with two olive leaves Two owls half facing on thunderbolt; beneath A image E. All in an olive wreath. 44
  B.M.C., p. 79, Nos. 537–540, Pl. XIV, 3. Svoronos Pl. 24, Nos. 62–8
  Careful inspection leads me to believe that the two olive leaves noted on B.M.C., No. 540, are a regular feature of this type.

It is evident that this last is the fractional issue in use throughout the whole period represented by the hoard, though it may well be that its use did not begin quite so early as that of the first larger issues. The pieces vary greatly in size and in condition, so that it is apparent that they extend over a considerable period. Without going into the dangerous question of names and values too deeply, I would point out that a smaller coin regularly struck for circulation with a larger is in all prob- ability intended to represent half of the larger. Now the type of two owls was previously used on the silver tetrobol (e. g., B.M.C., p. 16, Nos. 160–1, Pl. V, 12) and I suggest, therefore, that these stood for four units, of whatever name, the larger coin standing for twice as much, or eight units.

The relations of this bronze to various silver issues are as follows:

  • The ear of corn, the symbol on II, VII and VIII, is also the symbol on the silver series with the monograms image and image (B.M.C., p. 29, Nos. 290–2, Pl. IX, 1. Svoronos Pl. 34, Nos. 6–10).
  • The plemochoë which occurs on III is found on the silver series with image and Βά×χος (B.M.C., p. 29, No. 286. Svoronos Pl. 33, Nos. 7–11).
  • The serpent of VII and VIII appears on the silver of Xenokles-Harmoxenos. (B.M.C., p. 70, No. 483. Svoronos Pl. 76, Nos. 16–25). Plate I, 4.
  • The pilii surmounted by stars of IX are the symbol on the series of Demetrios-Agathippos (B.M.C., p. 45, Nos. 362–5. Svoronos Pl. 58).
  • The Βά×χος of X is the symbol on the silver of Sotades-Themistokles (B.M.C., p. 73, No. 499, Pl. XIII, 6. Svoronos Pl. 77, Nos. 18–22).
  • The filleted thyrsos of XI is found on the silver of Architimios-Pammenes (B.M.C., p. 40, No. 341, Svoronos Pl. 70, Nos. 21–4).

Of these, the first three are not cases of complete agreement. The fact that the ear of corn occurs on bronze issues which are certainly not contiguous makes it useless to try to connect it with a single silver issue, particularly as it is so common an emblem in one form or another that mere coincidence is quite as likely as connection. The plemochoë on the bronze is combined with a cornucopiae, on the silver with a Βάκχος, a difference which makes one cautious in relying too much on the resemblance. The coiled serpent is a symbol unusual enough so that the addition on the bronze of an ear of corn not found on the silver might be overlooked, even though the correspondence is not exact.

The three latter are clearer instances of the same symbol used on both silver and bronze. We might conclude then, that somewhere in the period covered by the latter half of this hoard, fall the official years of Xenokles-Harmoxenos, perhaps, and probably those of Demetrios-Agathippos, Sotades-Themistokles and Architimos-Pammenes. Unfortunately, the latest review of the Athenian issues of the new style (Head "Historia Nummorum," 2nd Ed., pp. 378 ff.) gives a chronology which does not fit ours. Head, following Sundwall, dates these four issues as follows:

Xenokles-Harmoxenos B.C. 91–89
Demetrios-Agathippos Circ. B.C. 110–100
Sotades-Themistokles Circ. B.C. 50
Archetimos-Pammenes Circ. B.C. 30

It would be reckless to try to rearrange all the silver from the evidence of the bronze alone, yet, if we are to hold to any connection between silver and bronze issues having the same symbol, there is good reason to believe that all these series belong to the period preceding the siege by Sulla in 86. The evidence is this. The commonest single variety of Athenian bronze of the type with the head of Athena and Zeus hurling a thunderbolt is that which bears as a symbol a star between two crescents (B.M.C., p. 81, Nos. 552 ff)—Plate II, 1. Now that same symbol appears on silver with the names of Mithridates and Aristion (B.M.C., p. 65, No. 458). The probability of this Mithridates being the king of Pontus himself is emphasized by the fact that Ariston (as we know from Pausanias i, 20, 5) was the ambassador whom Mithridates sent to Athens, and by whose efforts Athens was persuaded to join him against Rome. But the point is made certain by a rare goldpiece, hitherto unpublished, in the possession of Mr. E. T. Newell, to whom I am indebted for permission to reproduce it (Plate II, 2). It bears the star between two crescents and the inscription ΒΑΣΙΛΕ ΜΙΘΡΑΔΑΤΗ. We have the best of reasons, then, for dating both silver and bronze in B.C., 88. Now, common as the type is, not one piece of it occurs in this hoard. It must, then, either be too early or too late. To put it before the hoard is out of the question, as it would leave Athens without bronze from 220 to 88. The hoard was buried, therefore, before 88 and the series of Sotades-Themistokles and Architimos-Pammenes, if they are to be connected with our X and XI, must be dated earlier.

The difficulty of the wrong sequence of the series Xenokles-Harmoxenos and Demetrios-Agathippos can be removed by returning to Head's earlier dating of the former (B.M.C., pp. liii f). Xenokles and Harmoxenos struck three different symbols on the silver, which lead Sundwall to place their series in the years B.C., 91–89, for, due to the oligarchical administration, annual changes of magistrates were not necessary, Medeios actually being Archon for all three years. But one of the symbols is a figure seated half left, which Head now calls Roma (H.N., p. 386) but which in B.M.C., he had conjectured to be either Metellus or his successor Mummius (Plate II, 3). The former attribution seems to me most convincing, for there is, as he points out, another series with the names ΚΟΙΝΤΟΣ and ΚΛΕΑΣ bearing as a symbol the same seated figure being crowned by a standing Nike (Plate II, 4). It is difficult not to believe that this represents the crowning of Q. Caecilius Metellus. In that case the Xenokles-Harmoxenos series (VII and VIII) will fall about 146 B.C., which is perfectly adapted to our needs here, for that will allow for I to VI in the period from 220–146, and IX to XI in the period from 146–88. One other variety of the time is not found in the hoard; that with the types of Athena's head and Zeus holding a thunderbolt in his lowered r., with a prow for symbol (B.M.C., p. 81, Nos. 557–9). This I should place before the Mithridates issue because I doubt whether there is room for another issue between 88 and the fall of Athens in 86. This is, of course, a pure guess. As there is no reason to suppose that any bronze issues of the new style preceded the first of those here, we can feel with some confidence that the list of this hoard, followed by the type just mentioned and the Mithridates issue, comprises all the bronze from the beginning of the new style until the reduction of Athens by Sulla.


The second hoard consists of 45 pieces averaging about 20 mm., and 1 of 14 mm., somewhat corroded though not much worn. Because of the small number and their general condition, it would not be safe to attempt to indicate the chronology of the issues, and they are listed for the sake of convenience, in the order in which they appear in the B.M.C.

  Obverse Reverse Specimens
A. Head of Athena Parthenos r., in ornamental helmet; border of dots A θ E Owl, wings closed, standing on amphora which lies on its side. All in an olive wreath.  
    In field to r., pilii of the Dioscuri surmounted by stars. 2
  B.M.C., p. 78, No. 523. Svoronos Pl. 79, Nos. 8–14.  
B. Same In field to r., cicada. 1
B.M.C., p. 78, Nos. 525, 6. 40–42. Svoronos Pl. 79, Nos.
C. Same In field to r., poppy head between two ears of corn. 2
B.M.C., p. 78, No. 527. Svoronos Pl. 79, Nos. 15–17.
D. Same In field to r., caduceus. 1
B.M.C., p. 78. Nos. 528, 9. 25–8. Svoronos Pl. 79, Nos.
E. Same In field to r., Bimage xχiς. 2
  Not in B.M.C. Svoronos Pl. 79, Nos. 18–21.
F. Same image Owl half r., on prow r., All in an olive wreath. 6
  B.M.C., p. 79, No. 536 (except that these pieces show no sign of the smaller owl specified in B.M.C.). Svoronos Pl. 80, Nos. 37–43.
G. Same image Zeus naked r., hurling thunderbolt on his outstretched l., eagle. 2
    In field to l., ear of corn.  
  B.M.C., p. 81, No. 556, Pl. XIV, 6. Svoronos Pl. 80, Nos. 25–8.
  Obverse Reverse Specimens
H. Same image Nike advancing r., carrying a fillet. All in an olive wreath. 1
  B.M.C., p. 82, No. 560. Svoronos Pl. 80, Nos. 15–17.  
I. Same image Athena advancing r., armed with helmet, spear and aegis. All in an olive wreath. 13
  B.M.C., p. 82, Nos. 561, 2, Pl. XIV, 8. Svoronos Pl. 80, Nos. 29–32.
J. Same image Apollo, naked, facing, holding statuettes of the three Graces in r., bow in l.  
    In field to l., cicada. 2
  B.M.C., p. 82, No. 563, Pl. XIV, 9. Svoronos Pl. 80, Nos. 8–14, Pl. 56, Nos. 26, 7.
K. Same image Tripod  
    In field to l., poppy head; to r., thunderbolt. 4
  B.M.C., p. 83, Nos. 566–9. Svoronos Pl. 80, Nos. 1–7
L. Same image Sphinx wearing modius, seated r. All in an olive wreath. 3
  B.M.C., p. 83, Nos. 570–2. Svoronos Pl. 80, Nos. 18–21.
M. Gorgon's Head. Athena advancing r., with spear image 2
  B.M.C., p. 84, Nos. 578–581, Pl. XV, 1. Svoronos Pl. 25, Nos. 22–28. (Attributed to Sciathos (?) ).
  Obverse Reverse Specimens
N. Head of Zeus r., laur.; border of dots. Head of bearded Dionysus r., bound with ivy image 2
  B.M.C., p. 86, Nos. 604–607. Svoronos Pl. 25, Nos. 36–42. (Attributed to Peparethos (?)).
O. A Θ E Plemochoë. All in a com wreath. Dolphin r., and trident: border of dots. 1
      (14 mm.)
  B.M.C., p. 90, No. 641, Pl. XV, 13. Svoronos Pl. 77, No. 15.

It is at once evident on comparing the two hoards that the issues of the second are later than those of the first, and there seems no reason to doubt that they are to be assigned to a new output of the mint, after the break caused by the subjection of the city to Sulla.

It must be confessed that the symbols and types and their connection with symbols on the silver coinage are embarrassing. It will be best to give a list of them.

  • The pilii of the Dioscuri found on A are, as we have already seen, also found on the silver Demetrios-Agathippos series.
  • The poppy head between the two ears of corn of C occurs on the silver of Lysandros-Oniophilos (B.M.C., p. 62, No. 443. Svoronos Pl. 73, Nos. 18–24).
  • The caduceus of D is found on the Polycharm-Nikog series (B.M.C., p. 72, Nos. 494, 5. Svoronos Pl. 49, Nos. 23–26).
  • The Bimage xχoς on E is the symbol of Sotades-Themistokles, already mentioned.
  • The Apollo type of J is used as a symbol on the silver of Sokrates-Dionysodo (B.M.C., pp. 72 f., Nos. 496, 8, Pl. XI, 8. Svoronos Pl. 56, Nos. 1–25).
  • The tripod which is the reverse type of K is found on the Polemen-Alketes series (B.M.C., pp. 71, f., Nos. 489–493. Svoronos Pl. 50, Nos. 18–29).
  • The Sphinx of the reverse of L occurs on silver of Diophontes-Aeschines (B.M.C., p. 50, No. 387. Svoronos Pl. 72, Nos. 8–10).
  • The Gorgon's Head, the obverse type of M is found on the Niketes-Dionysios series (B. M. C., pp. 69 f., Nos. 480–2. Svoronos Pl. 66, Nos. 1–22).
  • The dolphin and trident type of O is the symbol for the Xenokles-Harmoxenos series (B.M.C., pp. 70 f., Nos. 484–8. Svoronos Pl. 77, Nos. 1–14).

These various silver issues are by no means all assigned to the period after Sulla. In fact, they show a distressing variety of dates. Doubtless some of the difficulties could be reconciled by a little ingenuity, but the heart of the problem is here; the pilei and the Βάκχος each occur on two bronze issues which cannot be contemporary. To which shall we relate the silver bearing those symbols? I believe it must be to the earlier, as the style suggests, in spite of the fact that the type of the later reproduces the silver type. Further evidence may refute this hypothesis at any time, but the present hoards furnish insufficient evidence for argument as to the connection between the silver and this later bronze, and we must wait for more definite guidance.







Numismatic Notes and Monographs

  • Sydney P. Noe. Coin Hoards. 1921. 47 pp. 6 pls. 50c.
  • Howland Wood. The Mexican Revolutionary Coinage. 1913–1916. 1921.44 pp. 26 pls. $2.00.
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  • Sydney P. Noe. Medallic Work of A. A. Weinman. 1921. 31 pp. 17 pls. $1.00.
  • Gilbert S. Perez. The Mint of the Philippine Islands. 1921. 8 pp. 4 pls. 50c.
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  • George F. Hill. Attambelos I of Characene. 1922. 12 pp 3 pls. $1.00.
  • M. P. Vlasto. Taras Oikistes (A Contribution to Tarentine Numismatics). 1922. 234 pp. 13 pls. $3.50.
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  • Agnes Baldwin. Six Roman Bronze Medallions. 1923. 39 pp. 6 pls. $1.50.
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  • Edward T. Newell. Alexander Hoards—II. Demanhur Hoard. 1923. 162 pp. 8 pls. $2.50.
  • Harrold E. Gillingham. Italian Orders of Chivalry and Medals of Honour. 1923. 146 pp. 34 pls. $2.00
  • Edward T. Newell. Alexander Hoards—III. Andritsaena. 1924. 39 pp. 6 pls. $1.00.
  • C. T. Seltman. A Hoard from Side. 1924. 20 pp. 3 pls. $1.00.
  • R. B. Seager. A Cretan Coin Hoard. 1924. 55 pp. 12 pls. $2.00.
  • Samuel R. Milbank. The Coinage of Aegina. 1925. 66 pp. 5 pls. $2.00.
  • Sydney P. Noe. A Bibliography of Greek Coin Hoards. 1925. 275 pp. $2.50.
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  • Sydney P. Noe. The Mende (Kaliandra) Hoard 1926. 73 pp. 10 pls. $2.00.
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  • H. Alexander Parsons. The Earliest Coins of Norway. 1926.41 pp. 50c.
  • Edward T. Newell. Some Unpublished Coins of Eastern Dynasts. 1926. 21 pp. 2 pls. 50c.
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  • Sydney P. Noe. The Coinage of Metapontum. 1927 (Part I). 134 pp. 23 pls. $3.00.
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  • Edward Rogers. The Second and Third Seleucid Coinage of Tyre. 1927. 33 pp. 4 pls. $1.50.
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  • Edward T. Newell. Alexander Hoards. IV. Olympia. 1929. 31 pp. 8 plates. $1.50.
  • Allen B. West. Fifth and Fourth Century Gold Coins from the Thracian Coast. 1929. 183 pp. 16 plates. $3.00.
  • Gilbert S. Perez. The Leper Colony Currency of Culion. 1929.10 pp. 3 pis. 50c.