Review: Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum. Danish National Museum. Supplement

Sabine Schultz and Jan Zahle, eds. Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum. The Royal Collection of Coins and Medals of the Danish National Museum. Supplement: Acquisitions 1942-1996. Copenhagen: Nationalmuseet, 2002. 123 pp., 54 b/w pls. Sb. ISBN 87-89384-80-6. $95.00.

Before offering a general overview of the material catalogued in the new Supplement to the SNG Copenhagen it should be pointed out that it includes a number of star attractions, superlative and historically important pieces that will impress even the most jaded of numismatists. From the western reaches of the Greek world there is a beautiful Syracusan decadrachm (81) signed by Kimon, while the Greek homelands around the Aegean are represented by a rare tetradrachm (306) of Lampsacus naming Demetrius the son of Demetrius, an unusual Attic weight tetradrachm (316) of Eumenes II struck in the name of Athena Nikephorus, a tetradrachm (326) of Mytilene with the types of Zeus Ammon and a Dionysiac herm, and several wonderful spread flan civic issues of Ionian Miletus (335-336) and Carian Alabanda (343-344). From the Hellenized lands to the east there is an incredible portrait tetradrachm (280) depicting Mithradates III of Pontus that was used for the dustcover of Otto Mørkholm’s Early Hellenistic Coinage (1991), a flawless stater (1205) of Hierapolis-Bambyce depicting Atargatis, and a decadrachm of Alexander the Great (1296) commemorating the Indian campaign.

Even if by some tragedy someone might fail to be impressed by one of these absolute jewels of ancient Greek coinage, there is still hope. In addition to the stars mentioned above there is something for almost every area of interest among the 1341 coins catalogued in the Supplement, which covers issues from just about every part of the Greek world, with the exception of material from the bordering Celtic lands. The latter is intended to appear in its own future SNG volume. Whether one specializes in the coinage of mainland Greece, Punic North Africa, or the Parthian Empire there are coins worth seeing here. However, the Supplement will be most valuable to those interested in the coinages struck by the Greek colonies in Italy, the fifth and fourth century issues struck by the cities and dynasts of Lycia, and the coinages of the Hellenistic cities and monarchs, particularly those of the Cappadocian and Seleucid kings. The largest amount of material in this latest addition to the SNG Copenhagen falls into these major categories thanks in part to the three numismatic giants who helped to mould the Greek collection of the Danish National Museum over the last several decades: Rudi Thomsen, Jan Zahle and Otto Mørkholm. Due to their respective interests in these three areas, the present volume is in large part a monument to them, thereby making it an especially important work to those who would follow in their footsteps.

The Italian section of 85 pieces boasts a number of aes grave issues of the Etruscans and Romans (2-19), as well as two early Roman didrachms (20-21) and an interesting Samnite denarius (23) from the period of the Social War (90-88 BC), but as one would expect, it is much stronger in the coinages of the Hellenic foundations of Magna Graecia than of the native Italic states and peoples. The most notable pieces struck by Greek cities in Italy and listed here include three Tarentine obols (34-36) with variant types from those previously known, an Archaic stater of Siris and Pyxus (53), and a tetradrachm (68) of Messana produced during the Samian occupation of 491/0 BC.

The additions to the Lycian collection include almost 150 coins (366-508) struck by the cities and local dynasts over the course of more than two centuries, a few of which are entirely new types. Five unpublished staters and fractions (378, 380, 382, 388, 391) bearing various animal types expand our knowledge of the anepigraphic silver coinages produced in the first half of the fifth century BC, but unfortunately the problem of attribution to specific mints and rulers still remains. For the inscribed issues, a stater in the name of MUTUSE (437) and three silver fractions marked WEDREWI (497, 502-503) are also new and noteworthy. The quantity and general high quality of the preservation of the Lycian material presented in the Supplement will make it indispensable to students of this series.

Almost as impressive as the extensive coverage of Lycian coinage is the large group of Hellenistic coins struck by the kings of Cappadocia (629-942), many of which come from the Cappadocia 1959 Hoard (IGCH 1419). Although we do not have the excitement of discovering previously unpublished pieces here, there can be little doubt that the Cappadocian section will be of great value to the students of this interesting, but somewhat understudied coinage. With the exception of the pretender Orophernes and the weak rulers who followed Ariobarzanes I, all of the Cappadocian kings are represented by at least one of their coins, while most are illustrated by multiple examples. Of all the kings, Ariarathes IX (820-907) is best represented by some 87 pieces, while his predecessors Ariarathes V (638-709) and VII (742-798) are not far behind.

That the Supplement will be of great interest to specialists in Seleucid coinage should come as little surprise since Mørkholm was himself fascinated by the series and published widely on Seleucid numismatic topics. Almost 230 silver and bronze coins are listed ranging from the early Alexandrine types of the dynastic founder, Seleucus I (956-957, 959-961) to a bronze (1184) struck at Antioch in the name of Tigranes II during the Armenian occupation of Syria from 83-69 BC (the dates 95-44 BC printed in the catalogue are erroneous). Thanks to Mørkholm’s special interest in the rulers of the early and mid second century BC, the issues of Antiochus III, Seleucus IV, Antiochus IV and Demetrius I are especially well represented. Some of the more interesting pieces in the Seleucid section include a beautiful tetradrachm (996) of Seleucus II depicting the king with a full beard, rare issues of the usurpers Molon (1006) and Timarchus (1110-1112), a jugate portrait issue (1122) of Demetrius I overstruck on a tetradrachm of the latter, an eastern obol of Alexander Balas (1156), a cornucopiae drachm (1168) of Demetrius II, and a bronze (1138) from the brief reign of Seleucus VI at Antioch. An imitation of the drachms of Demetrius I (1138) is a new example of the Commagenean imitation a19 p19 published in O. Hoover, “Notes on Some Imitation Drachms of Demetrius I Soter from Commagene,” AJN 10 (1998).

Although the Seleucid material is generally well described, it is somewhat odd that the most recent major reference cited is A. Houghton’s Coins of the Seleucid Empire (1983). While there is no doubt that this is a popular modern reference, we might have expected to see additional reference made to SNG Spaer (1998), which updates some of the attributions in CSE. If this newer work had been used, items like the small bronze no. 1021 would have been attributed to Antiochus IV, rather than Antiochus I-III (However, the identification of the obverse as Medusa is preferable to its description as Heracles wearing lion’s skin (SNG Spaer 1066). Likewise, it might have been easier to tell that a small bronze (1137) of Demetrius I attributed to Mopsus and said to depict Artemis actually shows the Phoenician god Kronos-El and was produced at Byblus under Alexander Balas (SNG Spaer 1500). It is also worth pointing out that the Supplement went to press before the appearance of A. Houghton and C. Lorber’s Seleucid Coins I (2002) and therefore does not take into account any of the changes to mint attribution and chronology prescribed therein.

In addition to the main Seleucid coinages, the Supplement also includes notable foreign pieces with connections to the Seleucid Empire. Several posthumous Alexanders from Chios (144) and Aspendus (182a, 183-185) bear anchor countermarks while an issue from Phaselis (181) has a Helios head countermark, all of which are thought to have been applied by the Seleucid authorities under Antiochus IV, or perhaps more likely, Demetrius I. An attractive municipal tetradrachm struck at Lebedus (1562) is also stamped with the Macedonian helmet used as the badge of the Seleucid usurper, Diodotus Tryphon. The most impressive of all the Seleucid-related material, however, is probably the beautiful and rare didrachm of Euboean Carystus (255), thought by some to have been struck during the military operations of Antiochus III in mainland Greece. This view is taken by the editors of the Supplement, although Mørkholm (Early Hellenistic Coinage (1991), p. 158) actually preferred an earlier date. The obverse is described simply as “Diademed male head r.,” thus leaving the question open as to whether it was intended to represent a local dynast or Antiochus III (see R. Fleischer, Studien zur seleukidischen Kunst (1991), pp. 35-36).

There is no question that the main focus of the Supplement is on the coinages of the Classical and Hellenistic periods, but there are still a number of items that should appeal to students of the Greek East under Roman rule. For example, a Hadrianic didrachm (943) of Cappadocian Caesarea with a Tyche reverse and two Roman Provincial bronzes from Cilician Laertes (577) in the name of Salonina the wife of Gallienus, and from Nicomedia (296) under Antoninus Pius, respectively, are previously unpublished coins. A beautiful 5-assaria issue (522) of Side is also new, although it is mistakenly described as a neocorate issue, when it is in fact a homonoia piece. The second city of the alliance appears to be Alexandria ad Issum, but the inscription is somewhat unclear. Specialists in Roman Cilicia will almost certainly appreciate the listing of some fifty Provincial bronzes (551-602, 617-619) from the region, including issues of most of the major centers, as well as some of the more obscure cities. A nice selection of large diameter bronzes from the neighboring regions of Pamphylia (521-524), Pisidia (525-529, 532-534), and Lycaonia (535-536) rounds out the more important Roman Provincials included in the catalogue.

The extremely high quality of the photography makes the plate coins very easy to read and therefore makes the correction of erroneous descriptions a fairly simple task. Thus, despite the occasional textual mistake, the Supplement is an excellent tool for coin identification and will make a welcome addition to the bookshelf of any Greek numismatist, although it will have special appeal to Thomsen’s, Zahle’s and Mørkholm’s fellow explorers in the coinages of Magna Graecia, Lycia, and the Hellenistic East.

—Oliver D. Hoover