Numismatic Commemorations of Vaccination Research

The year 2020, which brought to the world a coronavirus pandemic, is coming to an end. Humanity looks forward with hope to successful innovations against the new deadly virus. This is an appropriate time to pay tribute to the achievements of scientists of previous generations.

For the topic of vaccination, the name of the English doctor Edward Jenner (1749–1823), outstanding physician and pioneer of smallpox vaccination, is foremost. For centuries, smallpox swept through communities, often killing nearly a quarter of its victims and leaving many of the survivors deeply scarred or blind. In 1796, Edward Jenner demonstrated that an infection with the relatively mild cowpox virus conferred immunity against the deadly smallpox virus. Jenner even created the word “vaccination”, derived from the Latin word vacca, meaning “cow”. Jenner’s vaccine was one of the great triumphs of medicine, which first brought smallpox under medical control and opened the way for the eventual elimination of this disease. The results from Jenner’s vaccination experiments were widely circulated after their publication in 1798, and vaccination was promoted as a public health tool throughout Europe.

A number of medals by the German medalist Friedrich Wilhelm Loos (1767—1816/19) are dedicated to Jenner’s discovery of smallpox vaccination. They not only pay tribute to Jenner’s workbut also served as rewards for parents who had their children vaccinated. They were intended to indicate the importance of the vaccination programs (figs. 1–3):

Fig. 1: Prussia. Silver medal of Edward Jenner, by Friedrich Wilhelm Loos, Berlin mint (ANS 1919.60.150).

Fig. 2: Prussia. Bronze medal of Edward Jenner, by Friedrich Wilhelm Loos, Berlin mint (ANS 1940.100.662).

Fig. 3: Prussia. Silver medal of Edward Jenner, by Friedrich Wilhelm Loos, Berlin mint, 1811 (ANS 1940.100.661).

Some of the medals, like a silver medal from the time of Napoleon, depicting a cow and some medical instruments, were presented to doctors in recognition of the vaccinations they had given. This medal, designed by the French artist and engraver Alexis Joseph Depaulis (1790–1867) , reflected the importance of the doctors who were attached to vaccination programs (fig. 4).

Fig. 4: France. Award medal of the Parisian municipal vaccination program, by Alexis Joseph Depaulis, Paris, 1814 (ANS 1925.57.28).

For the centennial of Jenner’s vaccination experiment on May 14, 1796, the Medical Society of the County of Kings (Brooklyn) issued a commemorative medal in 1896 (fig. 5).

Fig. 5: United States. Bronze medal of the Medical Society of the County of Kings, in honor of the centennial of Edward Jenner’s vaccination experiment, 1896 (ANS 1940.100.661 [wrong accession number]).

In the mid-nineteenth century, research brought many new insights about infectious diseases. The prominent French biologist, Louis Pasteur (1822–1895), introduced innovative experiments and techniques, which became fundamental to modern microbiology. He researched the microorganisms that cause dangerous diseases and discovered how to make vaccines from weakened microbes. Based on those studies, Pasteur developed the earliest vaccines against major veterinary diseases such as chicken cholera, anthrax, and rabies (Figs. 6–7).

Fig. 6: France. Silver plaque for the 70th birthday of Louis Pasteur, by Louis-Oscar Roty, 1892 (ANS 1959.148.93).

Fig. 7: United States. Bronze commemorative medal dedicated to Louis Pasteur, by Abram Belskie, 1972 (ANS 1980.165.29).

Another dangerous human disease, tuberculosis, also demanded attention. In the nineteenth century it became increasingly serious, causing up to one quarter of deaths among Europe’s adult population. In 1882, the German microbiologist Robert Koch (1843–1910) isolated the bacterium that causes tuberculosis and created a substance useful for diagnosing the infection. Koch investigated the effect of an injection derived from dead bacilli had as a treatment for tuberculosis. This treatment failed, but it later turned out to be a useful diagnostic tool for identifying tuberculosis infection. Koch’s research also opened the way for Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin to develop a successful tuberculosis vaccine in 1906. For his fundamental work, Robert Koch won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1905 (fig. 8).

Fig. 8: United States. Bronze commemorative medal of Robert Koch (1843–1910), by Abram Belskie, 1972 (ANS 1980.165.18).

In 1883 Koch also isolated Vibrio cholerae, the cause of cholera. A series of cholera pandemics killed many millions of people in the nineteenth century, and scientific research on an anticholera vaccine become a vital necessary. The battle against cholera was won by a talented young microbiologist, Waldemar Haffkine (fig. 9).

Fig. 9: Waldemar Mordechai Wolff (Zeev) Haffkine (1860–1930). Photo from the Royal Medical Society.

Born in in the Russian Empire (in what is today Ukraine) in 1860, Haffkine was admitted in 1879 to Odessa (Novorossiya) University, where he studied and worked under the supervision of the world-famous biologist Ilya Mechnikov (1845–1916). Later,in 1908, Mechnikov was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine (along with the German physician and scientist, Paul Ehrlich) in recognition of hispioneering research on immunology (fig. 10).

Fig. 10: Ukraine. Nickel-silver 2 hryvnias commemorating Ilya Mechnikov, 2005.

In 1888, Waldemar Haffkine emigrated to Geneva, and a year later he joined Mechnikov at the Pasteur Institute, the most innovative research center for infectious diseases at that time. From the beginning of his research career, Haffkine concentrated on development of a cholera vaccine. On July 18, 1892, he performed the first test on himself. In 1893 he moved to India, where his vaccine became widely used and undoubtedly saved thousands of lives. In October 1896, another terrible epidemic struck Mumbai, this time of bubonic plague. Haffkine accepted the challenge and, after three months of intense work, successfully developed a plague vaccine. On January 10, 1897, he vaccinated himself to test the safety of his vaccine. For his outstanding achievements, Haffkine was appointed Companion of the Indian Empire by Queen Victoria in 1897. Two years later he was granted British citizenship.

Unfortunately, epidemics cannot be avoided and new diseases attack the world from time to time. However, the memory of the pioneers of science who have helped shape human lives for the better inspires our belief in the successful discovery of new treatments and vaccines.

“The Right of Trial by Jury Shall be Preserved” . . . Thanks to Numismatics

While few people truly hope to find themselves before a court of law, most should be happy that a jury is present when on trial (fig. 1). In the midst of such tense scenarios, few individuals stop to think (let alone care) about the historical processes that led to that development. However, even fewer recognize that a specific numismatic incident helped secure this right to American citizens.

Figure 1: A trial by jury

In May of 1786, the General Assembly of Rhode Island authorized the printing of £100,000 in legal tender bills of credit (fig. 2). On its own, this was no strange occurrence. By this time, all the other newly-formed states of the Union had also issued paper currency, which was their legal right under the Articles of Confederation. Not unlike the paper currency of several other states, these notes were made a legal tender that “shall be received in all Payments” in the state. However, in August, the General Assembly further amended the legal tender status of the bills to be enforced by courts summarily without a jury trial or appeal.

Figure 2: A £3 note of Rhode Island, May 1786. Courtesy Heritage Auctions.

By this time, 170,000 notes in 12 different denominations were released into circulation (6d, 9d, 1s, 2s6d, 3s, 5s, 6s, 10s, 20s, 30s, 40s, and 3 pounds). Unlike present-day money, colonial and pre-federal currency was issued in payment for specific objectives, such as the compensation of troops for a particular war or the construction of a specific building or utility. The May 1786 Rhode Island notes were issued to amortize a group of 4% 7-year loans on realty and known as the Tenth Bank.

Quickly, the legal tender status of the notes and, particularly, the juryless trial that ensued if a note was refused became a hot topic in the state. By September of that year, the case of Trevett v. Weeden had worked its way up the Rhode Island Supreme Court and heard by Justice David Howell. Everyone saw the inconsistency in the law, especially since the Constitution of Rhode Island had already guaranteed a trial by jury. The senior counsel for the defense, General James M. Varnum (fig. 3), successfully made the case that the colonial constitution of Rhode Island, despite being nullified by the American Revolution and held no legal footing, “continued in vigor as a part of the unwritten constitution of the new State.” The Court agreed and, in turn, gave them the power to decide on the constitutionality of any piece of legislation presented to them.  On September 26, the May 1786 Currency Act has the distinction of being the first law in the United States to be declared unconstitutional and voided.

Figure 3: James M. Varnum, senior counsel for the defense of Trevett v. Weeden (1786).

By December of 1786, the illegal features of the original act were amended, though the notes still remained a tender. In September 1789, their legal tender status was officially repealed, as the bills had depreciated down to only 10% of their stated values. Between 1793 and 1803, more than 96% of the original notes were burned by the State. Today, the legal right of trial by jury is protected by the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution, which was adopted as one of the Bills of Rights on March 1, 1792. For this, we have the Rhode Island currency of May 1786 to thank.

The National Endowment for the Humanities funds the ANS-Oxford University OXUS-INDUS Project

by Peter van Alfen, Ethan Gruber, Andrew Meadows, Simon Glenn, Gunnar Dumke

Silver Drachm of Apollodotus I of Bactria, Uncertain, 174–65 BC. ANS 1944.100.74510.

The American Numismatic Society (ANS) is pleased to announce that the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded the Society a $150,000 grant for the two-year joint ANS-Oxford University OXUS-INDUS project. The award comes through the New Directions in Digital Scholarship in Cultural Institutions program that partners the NEH with the United Kingdom’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) intended to fund trans-Atlantic co-operative projects. At the ANS, Dr. Peter van Alfen and Ethan Gruber will be working with their partners Prof. Andrew Meadows and Dr. Simon Glenn at Oxford University, who are funded by the AHRC, along with Dr. Gunnar Dumke at Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg in Germany, to create a new online typology and research tool for ancient Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek coinage.

Ancient coins provide a wealth of information about the societies that produced them. The economic function of coinage requires no more than a simple indication of authority and denomination, yet since antiquity producers have sought to adorn their coins with complex imagery and inscriptions. The images chosen to appear on coins can tell us much about cultural identity and self-representation, the languages and scripts selected for their inscriptions can indicate an intended audience, the places they are found reveal patterns of circulation and movements of peoples. Their varying weights, and estimates of the numbers of coins produced, may inform us of the economic situation, while understanding the control marks that appear on them can tell us about their system of production. Crucially, the coins struck under particular rulers may be the only surviving evidence of their existence. This is the case for many of the rulers of the Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kingdoms, which existed between c. 250 BCE and the beginning of the first century CE and covered areas of modern Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and India. Formed in the wake of Alexander the Great’s incursion into the region, these kingdoms remain some of the least understood and most understudied political and social entities of the ancient world. Indeed, only eight of these kings are known from literary, epigraphic, and archaeological sources, while over 40 can be identified on coins alone, an astonishing disparity in source material that underscores the importance of the numismatic evidence for our understanding of these early rulers and their interactions with those they ruled.

Silver Tetradrachm of Eucratides I of Bactria, Bactria, 170–145 BC. ANS 1997.9.68.

Tens of thousands of these coins exist today, dispersed in collections, both public and private, across the globe, not just in Europe, the UK and US, but, rather importantly, in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India as well. With standard reference works out of print and only existing in French and English, it is difficult for scholars and those working in cultural institutions holding these coins to engage with the material at a number of different levels, including not just basic cataloguing but advanced research too. Lacking, in many cases, basic and accurate typological information describing where, when, and who produced the coins, the potential of these collections to serve as historical resources remains currently locked. The OXUS-INDUS project aims to resolve current catalogue and collection accessibility problems by providing a multilingual, freely accessible, and technologically sophisticated Linked Open Data web-based portal that will offer a new, up-to-date typology of the coins, taking into account the many new variations and newly-proposed rulers since the last standard reference work was published 30 years ago by Osmond Bopearachchi. This new tool will also allow access to the images and data of thousands of coins, initially incorporating the major collections of the ANS, Ashmolean Museum, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Leeds University Library, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and, more critically, the State Bank of Pakistan. Many of these collections were assembled and had reached their current composition by the mid-20th century, meaning that new varieties, which have appeared in recent years are not present. Some of these collections already have an online presence and linkable data on individual coins; some, however, do not, notably those collections located outside of Europe and the US. For this reason, as part of the project, the open source Numishare project platform will be adapted to allow the inclusion of coins from a variety of sources regardless of their current digitized state. The digital format and Numishare architecture for the OXUS-INDUS project has already been successfully deployed in existing and widely used numismatic resources including the NEH-funded Online Coins of the Roman Empire and Hellenistic Royal Coinages at the ANS and the AHRC-funded OPAL and ARCH projects in Oxford. It will also be deployed in the new, ERC-funded CHANGE project.

Besides offering a much-needed tool for understanding Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek coinage at a basic level, we anticipate the OXUS-INDUS resource will also be used to advance new research agendas. In recent years, for example, scholarship on the archaeology and history of the Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kingdoms has moved away from a polarized view of ‘Greek’ and ‘non-Greek’ influences to one of cultural hybridity. Numismatic scholarship has generally remained focused on political history, with attempts to link the coins to the very few historical events known from literary sources. The subject is thus long overdue for a decolonizing approach, moving away from the systems created in the 19th century by historians from a European colonial background and returning to the evidence of the coins themselves. The new overview created by the OXUS-INDUS project will allow a reappraisal of the numismatic evidence for the kingdoms in the light of these new approaches and provide a framework for studying and analyzing the coins, which does not rely on knowledge of detailed and technical numismatic arguments. The Linked Open Data approach taken will also be fully extensible in the future to include other coinages from the region, and from different periods.

Official Launch of the ANS eBay Store

The banner for the American Numismatic Society’s eBay store.

As every collection grows, there comes a time when decisions must be made about what to keep, and what to retire. This is true for both private collections, as well as cultural institutions such as the American Numismatic Society. In a perfect world, vault space would be unlimited, and the ability to store, maintain, and make available an endless supply of numismatic material would be not only feasible, but practical. Alas, vaults are built to fixed specifications, and with it come similar constraints on any institution’s ability to care for, research, and exhibit their collection. And as guardians of cultural artifacts, we must do what is right by the collection, and the members and donors who contribute to the American Numismatic Society.

As such, the ANS has decided to accept the important challenge of determining what items in the collection should be permanently re-homed. In reality, this is a win-win situation. Not only will the ANS be able to create more space for future objects, but the revenue generated will help support our mission of promoting and advancing the study, research, and appreciation of numismatics. Additionally, members and collectors alike will now have the opportunity to acquire an incredibly diverse range of material pedigreed to the Society at prices dictated by the open market. Pedigree and provenance are hugely important in numismatics, and we feel that giving others the opportunity to incorporate a small piece (or many pieces) of the ANS into their own collections is a benefit to both collectors and the Society.

The first coin listed by the ANS on eBay, a 1900 $1 Morgan coin.

So, what are the steps necessary to carry out this endeavor in an appropriate manner? First and foremost, members of the Curatorial team are carefully considering what items can and should be removed from the collection based on their purview and area of expertise. It should be stressed that only duplicates are being considered. Even then, duplicates also have their place in the ANS collection, as die varieties and die states can provide a wealth of numismatic knowledge about a particular coin series. Once we have identified a duplicate and determined that it is not a unique variety or die state that should remain in the collection, we can then decide which coin is the best-preserved example and therefore should be the specimen we keep.

A duplicate 1787 Fugio Copper from the ANS eBay store.

Next comes the manner in which the duplicate material should be sold. It is our belief that the fairest and most appropriate method to advertise and sell our collection of duplicates is via open auctions with the widest possible reach. As such, eBay auctions will be our main vehicle for the majority of the material that will be leaving the ANS’ collections, at least initially. Not only does eBay have the widest reach of any online auction platform, but eBay’s unique format also allows the Society to add small batches of material on a weekly basis, as opposed to orchestrating larger timed auctions where many hundreds of items go live and sell on the same day. This helps ensure a steady supply of items for collectors to bid on, and makes the day-to-day logistics of running auctions (photographing, listing, and shipping) a more streamlined and manageable operation. Additionally, eBay allows the ANS to list our material with low starting bids and no reserves to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to bid on and win objects from our collection, and that market demand and market demand alone dictates the final price of any sold piece. As a non-profit, this is of paramount importance and ensures that we are approaching this new project with integrity, honesty, and fairness.

An attractive 1878 2 Centavo essai coin from Argentina from the ANS collection.

On many collector’s minds is what range of material will the ANS be considering? While we are initially focused on coins, paper money, tokens, and medals from the Americas—including the United States, Canada, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America—eventually the project will be broadened to other world coins and paper money, world medals and tokens, and ancient coins. Numismatic literature is also on the horizon, as the ANS library also includes many duplicates.

We hope to share updates from this project as time goes on, and hope to learn from members and collectors as to how we are doing. Deaccessiong is never an easy process, and for the ANS (as it is for any institution) it will be a continuous work-in-progress where we learn, grow, and improve with each sale. Ultimately, our efforts are grounded in doing what is right for the ANS, our members and donors, and our collection, but we hope that anyone who wishes to add an item from the ANS will be able to do so in the months and years to come.

See the ANS’s current eBay listings.

The Collier Prize in Ancient Numismatics

Self-Portrait after Hans Memling (2006)

The American Numismatic Society, with the support of Carole Anne Menzi Collier, is pleased to announce The Collier Prize in Ancient Numismatics, a new award that will be offered for the first time in 2021. This substantial monetary prize will be awarded biennially to the best single or multi-authored book, catalogue, or online digital work in the field of ancient numismatics (650 BCE–300 CE). The winner(s) will receive prize money of $20,000, to be split equally in the event of a multi-authored work. For the initial prize eligible publications will be limited to those works published in 2019 or 2020. A jury of five senior numismatists will be appointed biennially by the President of the American Numismatic Society, which will include a senior ANS curator. For the initial Prize the jury is expected to announce its selection in late 2021. The winner(s) will be invited to an award ceremony to be held—we hope—in person at the ANS’s headquarters in New York City. To apply for the Collier Prize, please fill out the application form, which can be found on this webpage and forwarded it to the Prize secretary, Dr. Peter van Alfen. The deadline for applications is January 15, 2021.

The artist in his studio in 2012. Image: Magpeye Photography.

Prof. James M. Collier

The Prize is named after the late Professor James M. Collier and commemorates the life of a remarkable man, an ardent lover of the history and culture of Europe and the Ancient world, and a passionate collector of ancient Greek and Roman coins. Prof. Collier was born on Halloween in 1943 in Bellingham, Washington, in the Pacific Northwest, where he pursued his early academic training, graduating from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) (Tacoma, Washington) with a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1965. After graduating from PLU he worked for the Boeing Corporation as an engineer. He was seconded to Washington D.C. on the Minuteman project, where his office was located across from The National Gallery. For two years he spent every lunch hour at the Gallery and came to realize his real love for art and art history. Returning to Pacific Northwest he attended the University of Oregon and graduated with a Master of Arts in Art History in 1970. Thereafter, he moved to the Midwest to pursue a PhD in Art History at the University of Michigan, which he completed in 1975. He was appointed an Assistant Professor in the Art History Department at Auburn University (Auburn, Alabama), where he eventually was tenured and became department chair. Over the course of his academic career, he lectured widely and published on the Italian Renaissance and Early Netherlandish perspective, which had been the subject of his doctoral dissertation, entitled Linear Perspective in Flemish Painting and the Art of Petrus Christus and Dirk Bouts.

Giacomo (1999) and Carolina (1999)

While a PhD student he assisted Professor Marvin Eisenberg with the University of Michigan’s Sarah Lawrence Summer Program in Italy. It was in Florence that summer that he met his wife Carole Anne in the Sacristy of Sta Croce. Traveling the world was to remain an important part of his life. He visited over 84 countries. In 2012 he sailed with a crew of three on a 50-foot sailboat from Capetown, South Africa to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, covering over 4,000 nautical miles across the South Atlantic. A motor racing enthusiast, his travels also included frequent trips to the Indy 500 and following the Formula One circuit.

Galleon (1995)

It was also during his time as a graduate student in Italy that his interest in ancient coins was fully reignited, as well as his love for Rome and the Classical World. His interest in coins had started when he was seven years old when his father returned from a business trip to New York City with six ancient coins that awaited him under the Christmas tree. He collected for the next 65 years; the last coin, an aureus of Nero, was logged into the collection a week before his death in 2015. Collecting ancient coins became the foundation of his broad fascination with art, history, and culture. His collection of almost 1,000 Greek and Roman coins gave him immense pleasure, continually inspiring him by their beauty and depictions of famous monuments and portraits of Hellenistic and Roman rulers. While the Collier Prize at the ANS commemorates his love of ancient coins, his love for Rome and the Classical World has also been commemorated by the Collier Scholarships at the American Academy in Rome, which allow students from Oregon, Michigan, and Alabama to attend the Classical Summer School thereby extending his passion for the Ancient World to future generations. He was a greatly admired and beloved teacher who brought dozens of students to Rome to share with them the wonders of the ancient world.

Reconstruction of Brunelleschi’s Baptistry Experiment (1980). Image: Museo Opera Del Duomo Florence.

Essentially a self-taught painter, Prof. Collier took up painting full time in 1987, when he joined Carole Anne in New York City to improve his skills at the National Academy of Design, where he attended the Program in Painting from 1988 to 1989. Already by that point he had published and exhibited his work in a number of venues. His interest in perspective and its application in the visual arts has deep roots. Even as a child in kindergarten his teacher noted that he had “an unusual awareness of perspective compared to his peers.” In 1980, for example, he began to combine his academic interest in perspective with painting by reconstructing the first painting in single point perspective: Filippo Brunelleschi’s lost painting of the Florentine Baptistry. The painting was exhibited in the Biennale in Venice in 1986 in the Italian pavilion and now is in the permanent collection of the Museo del Opera del Duomo in Florence where the original experiment was conducted in 1425. His series of paintings “Eccentric Views of Italian Architecture” reflect that lifelong interest in perspective.

Florence Cathedral (2008)

In 1990, Prof. Collier and Carole Anne moved to the Netherlands, where he had been an American Field Service exchange student, eventually taking up residence and establishing a studio in a seventeenth-century canal house on Amsterdam’s famous Keizergracht. Although Prof. Collier continued on occasion to lecture on art history and to work as an academic, including a stint in 1993 as a Smithsonian Institution Art Historian in Florence, he was until the end of life a self-sufficient artist. His work was shown in solo and group exhibits in various parts of the U.S., the Netherlands, and Italy, and is represented in private collections in the U.S., as well as in the Netherlands, Italy, England, Norway, and Thailand.

Twelve Houses (2008)

His paintings, a selection of which are illustrated here, cover a range of topics, including portraits, dogs, views of Amsterdam, Italian architecture, ships, and fantasies (more of his paintings can be seen on a website devoted to his work). Prof. Collier was inspired by the world of visual reality. He strove to reflect a selective view of things based upon careful empirical observation, which was never the result of artificial non-observational means such as photographic projection. As Prof. Eisenberg noted on Collier’s solo exhibition of Italian architectural paintings at the Italian Cultural Institute in Amsterdam in 1992, “James Collier’s eye is both lens and filter. He grasps both the large and the small, the essential shape and the minute inflection of light, color, and texture. His power to see is what the American poetess Marianne Moore calls ‘piercing glances into the life of things.’” His work displays not just his acute attention to detail and the play of light and shadow, but also the joy he took in the medium of painting and its long history, most apparent in the portraits he did of himself and Carole Anne.  

When Being a Friend of Rome (philorhomaios) Makes you a King (or a Queen)

In the winter of 88 BCE, the proconsul C. Cassius found himself in a little bit of a bind. Earlier that year, Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus, had invaded the Roman province of Asia (modern Turkey) and killed more than 80,000 Italians residing there (Figs. 1–3).

Figure 1. Roman Asia Minor.
Figure 2. Bust of Mithridates VI Eupator Dionysius, king of Pontus and Armenia Minor in northern Anatolia (c. 120–63 BCE). First century CE. Louvre, Paris.
Figure 3. Silver tetradrachm of Pontus, 120–63 BCE. ANS 1972.184.14.

The Pontic king had then swiftly invaded the rest of the Province of Asia, while important cities like the Phrygian Laodicea willingly handed over Roman generals to Mithridates (Fig. 4, Appian, Mithridatic Wars 4.20).

Figure 4. A colonnaded street in the Phrygian city of Laodicea ad Lycum.

C. Cassius and his troops, barricaded in the neighboring city of Apamea, were about to face a difficult winter, since the enemy armies had cut off their supply lines. Then—right when it was needed most—an exceedingly rich man from the Lydian town of Nysa, Chaeremon son of Pythodorus, asked for a private audience from Cassius. Their meeting had game-changing effects for Cassius and his men, as the proconsul himself later wrote in a letter to the magistrates of Nysa. Chaeremon offered to send 60,000 modii of wheat flour to the Roman camp for free. In order to understand the enormity of Chaeremon’s gift, it is important to note that 60,000 modii of wheat corresponded to 633,800 pounds of wheat, which was enough to feed 5,300 men for two months. Thanks to Chaeremon, C. Cassius’ army had enough to survive through the winter. However, this was not enough to stem Mithridates’ triumphal advance into the province early in the following year.

The Pontic king did not take Chaeremon’s initiative lightly, as made evident by the letter he wrote to one of his lieutenants, the satrap Leonippus, where he offered 40 talents of silver to “anyone who apprehends Chaeremon or Pythodorus or Pythion living” or 20 talents to anyone bringing in the head of any of these.” A talent was the equivalent of ca. 100 pounds of silver, which implies that Mithridates was willing to pay a bounty in the enormous amount of 4,000 pounds of silver for Chaeremon’s family.

The wealthy Nysan was thus compelled to flee in order to save his and his sons’ lives. His sons, Pythodorus and Pythion, were sent to Rhodes along with Cassius, and Chaeremon himself took refuge in the temple of Artemis at Ephesus. However, Chaeremon seems to have survived the ordeal. An eponymous magistrate by the name of “Chae()” appears on a Nysan cistophoric didrachm at an uncertain date between 90/89 and 68/67 BCE (Fig. 5). Though incomplete, this name suggests not only Chaeremon’s return to his city, but also the fact that he had retained his social rank and possibly his wealth, as he was serving as a moneyer for the city.

Figure 5. Lydia, Nysa. Silver Drachm, 90–67 BCE. Obv. Bunch of grapes on field of oak leaves. XAI. Rev. Club and lion skin surrounded by wreath. Paris, SNG Delepierre 2796. 17 mm. 2.42 g.

Much more certain is the presence in Nysa of the younger son of Chaeremon, Pythion. As suggested by P. Thonemann (esp. pp. 206–08) and W. Metcalf, he should be identified with the ΠΥΘΙΩΝ /ΧΑΙΡΕ, who signed a Nysan cistophorus dated to the sixteenth year of the Nysan Era, i.e., around 74/73 BCE (Fig. 6).

Figure 6. Silver cistophorus, Nysa, 68–67 BCE. ANS 2015.20.1344.

Chaeremon’s older son, Pythodorus, relocated in Tralles, where he retained his father’s fortune, which was valued by Strabo (14.1.42) at 2,000 talents. The Roman orator’s Cicero (In Favor of Flaccus 52) unsurprisingly considers Pythodorus one of the richest men in Tralles.

He married Antonia, only known from an inscription from Smyrna, where she is defined as a benefactress of the city. Some scholars have suggested she was the daughter of the triumvir Mark Antony and his second wife Antonia Hybrida Minor, but without any substantial proof. Antonia’s Roman nomen, and the citizenship possessed and exploited by her descendants, must have derived from a citizenship grant by Antonius, who bestowed Roman citizenship to several of his supporters in Asia after the end of the Parthian War. The loyalty of this family to the Romans was thus key to its success, as it will become even clearer for the following generations (Fig. 7).

Figure 7. The descendants of Chaeremon of Nysa and Zeno of Laodicea. Thonemann 2011, p. 207.

One of Pythodorus’ sons, Chaeremon, owner of an estate named Siderous in the vicinity of Tralles, was instrumental in getting much-needed help for Tralles after the devastating earthquake of 26 BCE. Through a personal embassy to Augustus, he secured funds for the reconstruction of the city that from that moment on added “Caesarea” to the city’s name in order to commemorate the generosity of the Emperor (Fig. 8).

Figure 8. Bronze Coin of Augustus, Tralles, 27 BCE–CE 14. ANS 2008.24.6.

Another of Pythodorus’ offspring, his daughter Pythodoris, married the Laodicean Polemon, son of Zeno. Polemo and his father, the orator Zeno, had risen to Roman favor in the summer of 40 BCE, when they defended Laodicea, their city, from the Parthian army, led by the renegade Roman general Labienus (Fig. 9, Strabo 14.2.24).

Figure 9. Uncertain mint in Syria or southeastern Asia Minor. Quintus Labienus, early 40 BCE. Silver Denarius. Obv. Q • LABIENVS PARTHICVS • IMP. Bare head of Q. Labienus r. Rev. Parthian horse standing right on ground line, wearing saddle with quiver attached and bridle. RRC 524/2; Hersh 15 (dies F/13). BNF REP-5739. 18 mm. 3.77 g.

Whether their attempt was successful or not, Mark Antony, on the eve of the reconquest of the province at the hands of the Romans in 39 BCE, established Polemo as tetrarch in Lycaonia and Rough Cilicia. In 37 or 36 BCE Polemo became king of Pontus (Appian, Civil Wars 5.75), a position he retained until his death in 8 BCE (Fig. 10).

Figure 10. Silver drachm of Polemon I of Pontus, Pontus, 36–8 BCE. ANS 1944.100.41481.

The marriage of Pythodoris and Polemo was intended to unite two of the leading pro-Roman families of the province of Asia: the descendants of Chaeremon of Nysa and the Zenonids of Laodicea. The joint destinies of these two families of philorhomaioi, “friends of Rome,” led to the birth of a number of client kings who would rule the Roman East under the Julio-Claudian emperors. The political success of their union is demonstrated by the fact that two of their three children would come to rule kingdoms in their own right. Pythodoris herself, after Polemo’s death, married king Archelaus of Cappadocia (Fig. 11).

Figure 11. Silver drachm of Archelaus of Cappadocia, Cappadocia, 36–17 BCE. ANS 1944.100.62416.

After Archelaus’ death in CE 17 she returned to Pontus, where she ruled until her death in CE 38. Her coinage adopted the Augustean Capricorn on the reverse, giving visual evidence to the clientele relationship between Roman Empire and Pontus (Fig. 12).

Figure 12. Silver drachm of Pythodoris of Pontus, Pontus, 8 BCE–CE 23. ANS 1944.100.41482.

Pythodoris’ eldest son, Zeno, later known as Artaxias III (CE 18–34), was made king of Armenia by Germanicus (Tacitus, Annals 2.56). His coronation is represented on silver coins from Caesarea in Cappadocia bearing the portrait of Germanicus on the obverse, and on the reverse Germanicus crowning Artaxias. These coins might have been issued at the same time of  coronation of Zeno Artaxias or as late as the reign of the Emperor Claudius (CE 41–54) (Fig. 13).

Figure 13. Cappadocia, Caesarea. Silver didrachm, CE 43–48. Obv. GERMANICVS · CAESAR – TI · AVG · F · COS · II. Head of Germanicus r.  Rev.  GERMANICVS / ARTAXIAS. Germanicus standing l. and holding scepter crowns the Armenian king Artaxias. RPC 3629. Künker 153, 14 March 2009, 8623. 21 mm. 7.47 g.

Independently of their precise date of production, it is evident that the central theme is the clientele relationship between Zeno Artaxias and Roman power, further highlighted by local monetary production, where the emperors Tiberius and Livia (Julia) are invoked as “Imperial Gods” (Fig. 14).

Figure 14. Armenia, Artaxata, RY 4 (21/22 CE). King Artaxias III (CE 18–34). AE tetrachalkon. Obv. ΘΕΟΙC CΕΒΑCΤΟΙC ΚΑΙCΑΡΙ ΚΑΙ ΙΟΥΛIΑ. Armenian tiara with five peaks l., star on r., Δ below. Rev. BAC APTAΞIOY TOY ЄB B ΠΟΛЄ KAI ΠYΘOΔωΡΙ. Horse prancing l. beaded border. Leu Numismatik 14, 12 December 2020, 533. 22 mm. 12.95 g.

Polemo and Pythodoris’ daughter, Antonia Tryphaena, married Kotys VIII of Thrace, and bore him three sons who also became kings in turn: C. Iulius Polemo II of Pontus, Rhoemetalces II of Thrace, and Kotys IX of Lesser Armenia. Although she was never queen of Pontus, she is styled as queen on some of the issues struck by her son Polemo II (Fig. 15).

Figure 15. Pontus, Amisus? Polemo II, with AntoniaTryphaena (ca. CE 38–64). Silver drachm, dated RY 14 (AD 51/2). Obv. [BACIΛEΩC] ΠOΛEMΩ-NOC, diademed head right. Rev. Diademed and draped bust of Tryphaina right; ETOYC IΔ (date) around. RPC I 3825. CNG Triton XVII, 7 January 2014, 245. 17 mm. 3.47 g.

Once again, the dependence of these client kings’ power from Rome is made evident by the fact that the imperial portrait takes the obverse, while the jugate portraits of the king and queen (Rhoemetalces II and Pythodoris II) are placed on the reverse (Fig. 16).

Figure 16. Bronze dupondius of Rhoemetalces I, Thrace, 11 BCE–CE 12. ANS 2015.20.2647.

The third child of Polemo I and Pythodoris, M. Antonius Polemo, never became king and stayed in Laodicea, where he was presumably responsible for the production of a bronze issue in the name of Antonius Polemo philopatris around 5 BCE (Fig. 17). 

Figure 17. Phrygia, Laodicea ad Lycum. M. Antonius Polemon Philopatris, ca. 5 BCE. Obv. ΓAIOΣ KAIΣAP. Bare head of Caius to right. Rev. ΛΑΟΔΙΚΕΩΝ. Eagle standing front, wings spread and head to left, between monograms of ΠΟΛΕ and ΦΙΛΟΠΑΤ. RPC I 2900. Leu Numismatik 7, 24 October 2020, 1463. 16 mm. 2.55 g.

The historian Strabo (12.3.29) tells us that “as a private citizen, [he] was assisting his mother [Pythodoris] in the administration of her realm.” However, royal power passed on to one of his sons, M. Antonius Polemo, who became dynast of Cilicia at time of the emperor Gaius (Caligula) (Fig. 18).

Figure 18. Cilicia, Olba. M. Antonius Polemo, high priest. Bronze, dated year 10 (AD 27/28).Obv. Bare head of Marcus Antonius Polemo right. Rev. Winged thunderbolt; Є I (date) below. Staffieri, Olba 30. RPC I 3736. CNG E-Auction 460, 29 January 2020, 411. 23.5 mm. 13.30 g.

The success of these two families, who ascended from the rank of local notables to client kings (and queens) under the Julio-Claudians, shows how advantageous the friendship to Rome was for provincial elites. Their support to Roman provincial power during the momentous years of the Mithridatic Wars first and of the Parthian campaign later made them the ideal candidates to the new dynasties put by the Romans on the thrones of strategically important kingdoms in the outskirts of the Empire. At the same time, it reveals the inclusivity of the provincial organization of the Roman East in the first century of the Roman Empire, when well-off provincial families could aspire and obtain dynastic power simply on the basis of their good services to Rome.