Attambelos I of Characene

Hill, George Francis, Sir, 1867-1948
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




by G. F. Hill.

The five tetradrachms of this king, which were published in the recently issued volume of the British Museum Catalogue, 1 formed part of a hoard. Of this hoard 50 pieces in all were secured by Col. H. B. McCormick, D.S.O. Whether the hoard ever contained any more than these I am unable to state. It was reported to have been fetched across the border from Susa to Amara, where it was bought; but there may be no more truth in that statement than in another, to wit: that the coins had been buried in a bronze pot which, when examined by experts, proved to be of Arab workmanship and perhaps a thousand years later than the coins. That the coins had been in contact with copper is, however, undoubtedly true, for the forty-five coins which were brought to me by Col. McCormick were so thickly coated with a copper deposit that their real composition—a not very pure silver 2 —could hardly be surmised. They have all since been cleaned—nearly all with complete success; two, however, had considerable patches of deep-seated decay, which in the cleaning disappeared altogether, leaving large cavities on the obverses.

Of the 45 new coins shown by Colonel McCormick, one has been kept by himself, and 22 by the British Museum. In the following list, an asterisk is placed against the weight of the specimens retained by the Museum. I proceed to give a complete list of all the coins known to me of this king—51 in all, including the Berlin specimen, or 52, if, as seems probable, the bronze coin at Paris is of him and not of the second Attambelos.

All the coins are of the general description already given in the Museum Catalogue, as follows:

Obv. Head of King r., diademed, bearded, hair in curls; border of dots.

Rev. Herakles seated l., with club which rests on his r. knee. On r. downwards and on l. downwards, inscription (rarely preserved in full) ΒΑΣӀΛΕΩΣ ΑΤΤΑΜΒΗΛΟimage on r., ΣΩΤΗΡΟΣ ΚΑӀ ΕimageΕΡΓΕΤΟimage on l. Above r. arm, monogram; in exergue, date (too often mutilated).

They fall into three groups, according as they have

  • a monogram on obverse in front of the head, and on the reverse a monogram or letter under the arm, as well as the monogram above it.
  • no monogram on obverse, but a letter under the arm as well as the monogram above it.
  • no monogram on obverse, and on the reverse no letter under the arm, but only the monogram above it.

Contrary to the usual rule in the development of coins, the equipment of monograms and letters becomes less complicated as time goes on; the chronological order of the groups is the same as that given above.

Series A.

On the obverse, monogram image in front of head.

1–5. On the reverse, image above arm, image below; date, when legible ΖΞΣ (267). Weights, 15.09 grammes, 14.78 gr.*, 13,41 gr., 12.97 gr.* (Pl. I), 12.82 gr.

6. On the reverse, obscure monogram 3 above arm, Ο below date НΞΣ (268). Wt. 11.24 gr.* (Pl. I).

Series B.

No monogram on obverse; on reverse, above arm image (No. 7) or image (Nos. 8–13); below, a letter.

7. Letter under arm obliterated. Date, θΞΣ (269). Wt. 10.50 gr.* (B.M C. p. 291, No. 1).

8. Letter under arm, Ζ. Date, imageΞΣ Wt. 14.47 gr.

9. Letter under arm, Ζ. Date illegible. Wt. 13.37 gr.*

10. Letter under arm, Ρ. Date illegible. Same obv. die as No. 9. Wt. 14.02 gr.* (Pl. I).

11. Similar to No. 10, but from differ- ent dies. Date, Ο(?)Σ (270). Double struck on rev. Wt. 11.88 gr.

12. Letter X (?) under arm. Date, imageΣ (270). Wt. 13.15 gr*.

13. Letter X under arm. Date off the flan. Wt. 10.74 gr.* (B.M.C. p. 292, No. 5).

Series C.

No monogram on obverse; on reverse, monogram image above arm.

14, 15. Date, ΒΟΣ (272). Wts. 13.68 gr.* (B.M.C. p. 291, No. 3) and 13.72 gr.*

16, 17. Date, ΓΟΣ (273). Both from same obv. die as No. 15. Wts. 10.69 gr.* and (?) (the latter retained by Col. McCormick).

18, 19. Date, ΓΟΣ. Both from same obv. die. Wts. 13.46 gr.* (Pl. II) and 10.37 gr.

20. Date, ΓΟΣ or ΓΠΣ(283). Wt.? (Berlin; Waddington, Mélanges Pl. VI. 7, where the date is taken to be ΓΠΣ). The bottoms of the letters of the date are off the flan or not struck up, judging from a cast which I owe to Dr. Regling.

21. Date, ΕΟΣ(275). Wt. 12.53 gr.*

22. Date, Ε(?)ΟΣ. Wt. 9.95 gr.*

23. Date, imageΣ(276). Same obv. die as No. 22. Wt. 12.43 gr.*

24. Date, image[Ο]Σ. Different dies. Wt. 11.22 gr.

25, 26. Date, imageΣ (277). Both from same obv. die. Wts. 15.07 gr.* (Pl. II), 12.09 gr.*

27, 28. Date, НΟΣ (278). From the same pair of dies. Wts. 14.13 gr.* (Pl. II), 11.54 gr.

29. Date, НΟΣ. Different dies. Wt. 13.98 gr.

30. Date, imageΟΣ (279). Wt. 13.54 gr.* (B.M.C. p. 291, No. 2).

31. Date, imageΣ. Wt. 12.13 gr.*

32. Date, ΓΟΣ. Wt. 12.15 gr.* (B.M.C. p 292, No. 4). I cannot explain the very puzzling digit sign. In some lights there seems to be a middle horizontal. If the right vertical were continued downwards and a bottom horizontal supplied, we should have a square theta, such as is used in the name of the next king, Thionesios. The loss of the missing parts would be accounted for by a slight depression in the surface which occupies their place. Judging by the style of the obverse, the coin belongs to about this period of the reign. The weak point of this explanation is that a round theta seems to be used on Nos. 30 and 31.

33. Date, imageΟΣ. Wt. 11.20 gr.*

34. Date quite illegible. Same obv. die as No. 33. Wt. 11.50 gr.

35,36. Date, imageΟΣ or imageΠΣ. From same obv. die. Wts. 12.97 gr.*, 12.18 gr. (a large cavity on obverse of the latter).

37–40. Date, imageΟΣ or imageΠΣ. Wts. 12.14 gr., 11.96 gr., 11.94 gr., 10.04 gr.

41. Date, ΓΠΣ(283). Wt. 12.42 gr.* (large cavity on obverse).

42. Date, ΔΠΣ (284). Wt. 12.30 gr.* (Pl. III).

43. Date, imageΣΣ. Same obv. die as No. 42; therefore the first letter of the date is probably Γ, Δ or Ε.

44, 45. Date illegible. Both from same obv. die. Wts. 13.20 gr.*, 12.72 gr.

46, 47. Date illegible. Both from same pair of dies. Weights 11.66 grammes, 10.11 grammes.*

48–51. Date illegible. Wts. 14.05 gr., 11.63 gr., 11.31 gr., 9.93 gr.

52. The bronze coin with Nike as reverse type (Waddington, Mélanges, p. 89, No. 6, here Pl. III) seems to me, judging from a cast, to be of this Attambelos rather than of the second.

The first point to be noted is that if the date on the coins of Thionesios I were really ΓΟΣ, as it has always been read, he would be an intruder in the middle of the reign of Attambelos I. But, as Mr. Robinson has observed to me, the omicron on these coins is always square, and the middle sign is therefore presumably a koppa. His suggestion is completely confirmed by M. Babelon who, having re-examined the coins, kindly informs me that the beginning of the tail of the koppa is discernible on the two out of the three specimens on which the date is legible at all. (See Pl. III, A.) We thus have the dates 267 to 284 (46/5–29/8 B.C.) fixed in the chronology of Attambelos I and 293 (20/19 B.C.) in that of Thionesios I. 4 There thus still remains a gap of nine years to be supplied between the dates established for the two kings; and, further, since it is uncertain whether the latest date of Tiraios II is 261 or 264, there may be a year or two to add on at the beginning of the reign of Attambelos.

The next king known in succession to Thionesios I is Attambelos II. His portrait is easily distinguishable from that of Attambelos I by the treatment of the hair; both are in long locks, but those of the first king are frizzed, whereas on the head of the second they hang more or less lankly. A good specimen is figured in Pl. III, B. This is the piece the date on which M. Babelon 5 has read ΕΠΣ. Since this would make Thionesios I an intruder in his reign, the reading would seem to require revision. The coin is slightly double struck, and on the cast I seem to see that the hundreds figure may have been a Τ of which only the right-hand portion of the horizontal and the upper portion of the vertical remain legible. It bears the same monogram as coins dated ΓӀΤ(?),ςӀΤ and ΙӀΤ 6 and resembles them also in the style of its lettering. The earliest date otherwise read on coins of this king is ΕimageΣ (Berlin). 7 Taking this, then, as the first fixed point in his reign, we have a gap of 12 years between him and Thionesios I.

It is unlikely that these gaps will be filled by the discovery of other kings, because, as I have remarked elsewhere, the series we now know squares with the numbers given by a passage of Pseudo-Lucian which caused some difficulty before the discovery of Attambelos I.

I am unable to offer any certain explanation of the monograms and letters which distinguish these coins. But it seems probable that those on the reverses represent officials in charge of the mint, for they are used continuously for a shorter or longer period of years, and do not recur after an interval, as they might if they represented place names. The monogram on the obverse of Series A is possibly meant for the king's own name, like the somewhat similar countermark, which is found on coins of Attambelos III and Thionesios III. 8 The letters under the arm cannot represent months, since they run to X.

The weights, it will be observed, are excessively irregular. This may partly be due to the cleaning of the coins; although nothing has been deliberately removed, chemical changes in alloy may have affected the weights of some of the pieces.



End Notes

Arabia &c., pp. 291–2. In the course of these notes I have made a few tacit corrections in my previous descriptions of these coins.
But easily distinguishable from the metal of the succeeding kings, which is very base.
All that is clear is a loop resembling the lower part of a B.
Assuming the use of the Seleucid era, and not that of Alexander; a point on which Col. Allotte de la Fuÿe will have something to say.
Mélanges numismatiques iii (1900) p. 230.
B.M.C. p. 293. Nos. 1–3. I note here that No. 5 of this king has the same monogram as his earlier coins of imageΣ. ΕimageΣ and Τ, and should therefore have been placed before No. 1, although its date is illegible.
There is also one at Paris with imageΣ.
B.M.C. Arabia, p. cciii.


Plate I


Plate II


Plate III



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