Tag Archives: greek

PELLA: Coins of the Kings of Macedonia


The American Numismatic Society has launched a digital project that promises to be an important new research tool in ancient Greek numismatics. PELLA: Coins of the Kings of Macedonia is a comprehensive and accessible online catalogue of the coinage produced by the kings of the Macedonian Argead dynasty from 700 to 310 BC. In its current version, PELLA uses the numbering and typology system developed by Martin Price of the British Museum to catalogue individual coin types with additions that greatly enhance its usefulness as an online resource. So, for example, here is a silver tetradrachm struck under the authority of Alexander the Great that is classified as a Price 4.

ANS, 1908.229.1
ANS, 1908.229.1

If you follow this link to the search results, you will be presented with a typological description and all examples of that type from participating institutions. In this case there are 45 objects from the ANS and the Münzkabinett Berlin, which are accompanied by a useful visualization of the geographic and historical context of the coins in the form of a map delineating mints and find spots with a sliding timeline underneath.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 10.57.50 PM

Below this, all of the coin specimens are detailed and usually pictured, making comparative study relatively simple. Perhaps the most useful tool for researchers can be found in the Quantitative Analysis subsection at the bottom of the page. Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 4.42.34 PMIt calculates and lists the average axis, diameter, and weight of all the examples for the Price 4 specimens, allowing for straightforward analysis of variations within a given type.

One of the other noteworthy features is that the platforms allows for searching based on the symbols common to this coinage. Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 1.49.17 PMIn the Browse menu, you will find that there are a variety of options for customizing a search along the left hand side of the page. Under the Symbol menu, there are boxes arranged by location which have lists and checkboxes which allow for searching either particular symbols or locations. Although the precise terminology used to describe the various symbols is a work-in-progress, the feature will make it much easier for researchers to investigate this oft-debated subject.

If all of that is not enough, perhaps the neatest feature of the website centers on the way it allows users to Visualize Queries. This gives you the ability to construct a search and query the database with the results displayed as a graph or chart. Below is one that I created which shows the weight of the tetradrachm in ten-year intervals from 340 BC to 140 BC. Notwithstanding what seems to be some bad data in the one outlier decade, what you can see is a slow decline in the weight of the tetradrachm over two centuries.

chart (1)As a linked data platform, PELLA connects to the relevant pages in the online collection databases of the contributing institutions, which presently includes the ANS, the British Museum, and the Münzkabinett Berlin. The catalogue also shares data with the Inventory of Greek Coin Hoards Online, and further links will be created as the project expands. All of this is made possible by stable numismatic identifiers and linked open data methodologies established by the Nomisma.org project.

Hair in the Classical World

Bellarmarine-HairThe  Bellarmine Museum of Art at Fairfield University has just opened a fascinating new exhibition with the theme of “Hair in the Classical World.” On display in the gallery are an assortment of objects and images from the Bronze Age through late Antiquity, including a diverse array of sculptures and, of course, coins. As the introduction to the exhibition notes, hair is particularly “resonant of cultural identity,” and the way that it was styled and sported in antiquity served a variety of different purposes. Among other things, hairstyles signified social position, served as a medium of cultural exchange, and played an important role in various rituals and rites of passage.


One of the most compelling aspects of the exhibition is its manifest interdisciplinarity. Any consideration of hairstyles must necessarily draw upon a wide range of material, historical, and visual sources, and the interpretation effectively mixes insights from archaeology, art history, and cultural studies. As everything from the intricate hair pins on display to the careful texturing and arrangement of hair on the statuary suggests, hairstyles were an important means of self and artistic expression in the classical world.

Limestone bust, Cyprus, mid-5th century BCE The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Limestone head, Cyprus, mid-5th century BCE
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A significant inspiration for the exhibition was the Caryatid Hairstyling  Project, which employed a professional hairstylist and student models in an attempt to replicate the elaborate hairstyles on the famed marbles of the Erechtheion. A short film of that project is on view as part of the exhibition. While all of this might give the impression that the focus is exclusively on women, there is also material reflecting on men’s hairstyles, which at times were as elaborate as those that adorned women. Braids were one style common to boys and girls in ancient Greece. Grown out along the central part, the braid was ritually cut and dedicated to the goddess Artemis when entering adulthood.

The reason we are writing this up here is of course because coins feature prominently in the exhibition. The curators liken coins to the social media of today insomuch they were a medium through which images of hairstyles circulated and reached a wide audience.

Denarius of Augustus, ANS 1957.172.1500 | Tetradrachm of Leontini, ANS 1997.9.121
Denarius of Augustus, ANS 1957.172.1500 | Tetradrachm of Leontini, ANS 1997.9.121

The American Numismatic Society has ten coins on loan to the Bellarmine Museum for the exhibition, including a silver decadrachm from Syracuse, a denarius of Julia Domna and a gold aureus of Faustina the Younger. Coins were a form of propaganda and a way to project power in the classical world, and the variety of hairstyles captured in the portraits reflect the politics and fashion of their age. Perhaps the pièce de résistance  in terms of the coinage is a silver decadrachm that features a portrait of the water nymph Arethusa wreathed by swimming dolphins. It was minted in Syracuse between 405 and 400 BCE, when the city-state was ruled by the tyrant Dionysius. In an attempt to buttress his reputation and power, he engaged the best engravers available to produce some of the finest coinage anywhere in the Greek world.

ANS, 1964.79.21

“Hair in the Classical World” will be on view through December 18, 2015, and the Bellarmine Museum is free and open to the public (see here for hours and directions). It should also be noted that the museum will also be hosting a scholarly symposium on the subject on the afternoon of November 6. Speakers include Dr. David Konstan from New York University, author of Beauty: The Fortunes of an Ancient Greek Idea (2015) and Janet Stephens, a Baltimore-based hairdresser and amateur forensic archaeologist. To pre-register for the symposium and to see more information about other public programs connected to the exhibition, head here.

Matthew Wittmann

New Festschriften from the ANS

BooksThe American Numismatic Society’s reception at the International Numismatic Congress this evening is being held in honor of Basil C. Demetriadi and in memory of the late Richard B. Witschonke. Not coincidentally, the ANS has two new publications  celebrating the careers of these distinguished numismatists and collectors. The volume dedicated to Demetriadi, ΚΑΙΡΟΣ, features twenty-one new and fully illustrated articles on ancient Greek coinage. Witschonke’s volume, FIDES, brings together twenty new and fully illustrated articles on coins of the Roman world. Both are limited to 150 hand-numbered copies and were printed on heavyweight archival paper. The volumes are bound in Greek-blue and Roman imperial purple linen respectively and have the coins pictured below embossed on their covers in silver and gold. To order from our website, just click on the titles in this post. Alternatively, you can call Catherine DiTuri to place your order at 212-571-4470, ext. 117.


ANS, 1957.172.1462
ANS, 1957.172.1462

ΚΑΙΡΟΣ: Contributions to Numismatics in Honor of Basil Demetriadi, edited by Ute Wartenberg and Michel Amandry.

  • Patricia Felch–Basil C. Demetriadi
  • Friedrich Burrer–Die Hemidrachmen-Prägung von Gyrton
  • François de Callataÿ–A Long-Term View (15th–18th Centuries) on Prices Paid to Acquire Ancient Coins
  • Wolfgang Fischer-Bossert–Die Eule der Athena
  • Evangelia Georgiou–The Coinage of Orthe
  • Jonathan Kagan–Maximilian John Borrell (c. 1802–1870). Dealer, Collector, and Forgotten Scholar and the Making of the Historia Numorum
  • Sophia Kremydi and Michel Amandry–Le monnayage d’époque sévérienne frappé à Aigosthènes en Mégaride
  • John H. Kroll–Small Bronze Tokens from the Athenian Agora: Symbola or Kollyboi?
  • Catharine C. Lorber–The Beginning of the Late Facing Head Drachm Coinage of Larissa
  • Aliki Moustaka–Bendis and the Wolf: An Unpublished Numismatic Type from Thessalian Phaloria
  • Olivier Picard–Corpus et classement des émissions: les bronzes hellénistiques de Thasos
  • Selene E. Psoma–Did the So-called Thraco-Macedonian Standard Exist?
  • Pierre Requier–Une rare série de Cos sans portrait imperial du IIIème siècle
  • Kenneth A. Sheedy–The Emergency Coinage of Timotheus (364–362 B.C.)
  • Derek R. Smith–New Varieties of the Eleusinian Triptolemos/Piglet Coinage from the BCD Collection
  • Vassiliki E. Stefanaki–Corpus des monnaies aux dauphins attribuées à Potidaion/Poseidion de Carpathos
  • Peter G. van Alfen–The Chalkid(ik)ian Beginnings of Euboian Coinage
  • Hans-Christoph von Mosch and Laura-Antonia Klostermeyer–Ein Stempelschneider auf Reisen. Die Antinoosmedaillen des Hostilios Markellos und Hadrians Reise im Jahr 131/2 n. Chr.
  • Mary E. Hoskins Walbank–Prospectus for Palaimon
  • Ute Wartenberg–Thraco-Macedonian Bullion Coinage in the Fifth Century B.C.: The Case of Ichnai
  • Arnold-Peter C. Weiss–The Persic Distaters of Nikokles Revisited



ANS, 1967.153.5
ANS, 1967.153.5

FIDES: Contributions to Numismatics in Honor of Richard B. Witschonke, edited by Peter G. van Alfen, Gilles Bransbourg, and Michel Amandry.

  • A Bibliography of Richard B. Witschonke
  • Katerini Liampi — A Hoard from Thessaly Containing Aeginetan Staters and Thessalian Issues of the Taurokathapsia Type
  • Andrew Burnett and Maria Cristina Molinari — The Capitoline Hoard and the Circulation of Silver Coins in Central and Northern Italy in the Third Century BC
  • Peter van Alfen — A Late Third Century BC Hoard of Sardo-Punic Bronzes (IGCH 2290)
  • Gilles Bransbourg — Currency Debasement and Public Debt Management at the Time of the Second Punic War
  • David Vagi — Alliance and Coinage: South Italy during the Second Punic War
  • Andrew McCabe — A Hoard of Cut Roman Republican Denarii from the Second Punic War
  • François de Callataÿ — The Late Hellenistic Didrachms of Leukas: Another Case of Greek Coinage for the Roman Army
  • Andrew R. Meadows — Four Cistophoric Hoards?
  • William E. Metcalf — The Cistophori of Nysa
  • Nathan T. Elkins — “A City of Brick”: Architectural Designs on Roman Republican Coins and Second-Style Wall Painting
  • Liv Mariah Yarrow — Ulysses’s Return and Portrayals of Fides on Republican Coins
  • Clive Stannard — The Labors of Hercules on Central Italian Coins and Tesserae of the First century BC
  • Michael H. Crawford — Sextus Pompeius between Hispania and Germania
  • Philip Davis — Erato or Terpsichore: A Reassessment
  • Bernhard E. Woytek — The Aureus of Pompey the Great Revisited
  • David Hendin — Judaea and Rome: The Early Numismatic Commentary, First Century BCE
  • Patrick Villemur — De Quelques Émissions Coloniales Romaines en Sicile: Retour à Tyndaris
  • Sophia Kremydi and Athena Iakovidou — Corinth and Athens: Numismatic Circulation from the Late Republic to the High Empire
  • Jane DeRose Evans — The Third Neokorate of Sardis in Light of a New Coin Type Found in Sardis
  • Michel Amandry — Le Monnayage de la Res Publica Coloniae Philippensium: Nouvelles Données

American Journal of Numismatics 26 (2014)


The 26th volume of the American Journal of Numismatics is now in print. Subscribers should have already received their copies, but they are also available for purchase by individuals and libraries.

ANS, 1944.100.10426
ANS, 1944.100.10426

The first essay by Jonathan Kagan, “Notes on the Coinage of Mende,” examines the numismatic legacy of this important Greek city on the Chalcidic peninsula. Kagan’s piece ends with a consideration of the iconography of the bird found on many of the coins. Although traditionally described as a crow, some possible alternatives are proposed.

ANS, 1951.116.271
ANS, 1951.116.271

Evangeline Markou, Andreas Charalambous, and Vasiliki Kassianidou next offer a detailed chemical analysis of classical age Cypriot gold coins. The data derived from using an Innov-x Delta Engery-Dispersive XRF analyzer (pXRF) on 48 gold coins showed that the percentage of gold varied between 88.4% and 99.7%, which leads them to some interesting conclusions about the economic history of ancient Cyprus.

In “The Last Seleucids in Phoenicia: Juggling Civic and Royal Identity,” Panagiotis P. Iossif proposes that Phoenician cities were not as autonomous within the Seleucid kingdom as previously thought and suggests that coinage issued in this period was a form of annual tax payment to their Hellenistic rulers.

ANS, 1944.100.43617
ANS, 1944.100.43617

Elizabeth Wolfram Thill‘s contribution examines an innovative coin type that appeared during Trajan’ reign (AD 98-117). The article details fourteen new types of group scenes, i.e. ones that feature multi-figure action, and emphasizes how this reflected a connection between the emperor and the ‘common man.’ The relationship between the coins and monumental reliefs is also considered, and Thill suggests that it indicates that there was a remarkably integrated artistic climate during this period.

ANS, 1982.2.1
ANS, 1982.2.1

A die study of silver coinage of Cilician Aegeae during the reign of Hadrian (AD 117-38) by Florian Haymann shows that it was much more abundant than has been supposed, and leads him to argue that this was a kind of imperial beneficium by Hadrian, who took a special interest in the region.

Articles by Jack Nurpetlian and Dario Calomino also look at different aspects of coinage in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. Working with limited data, Nurpetlian was able to construct a useful die link diagram and employs statistical analysis to offer insights into the production of silver tetradrachms under Caracalla (AD 213-217), primarily minted in Damascus. Calomino’s contribution is a fascinating study of bilingual (Latin and Greek) coins of Severus Alexander (AD 222-235).

ANS, 1944.100.38256
ANS, 1944.100.38256

Saúl Roll-Vélez’s detailed analysis of antoniniani (left) issued immediately prior to and during the Diocletian reform of the coinage that began in AD 293 corrects some problems in the relevant RIC volume. Roll-Vélez argues that the CONCORDIA MILITVM antoniniani might have been minted as forerunners of the reform and reflected the larger drive towards standardization.

Daniela Williams and Antonino Crisà each provide studies of coin hoards; one found in Rome’s historical port of Ostia and the other unearthed near Palermo. Williams details a set of fifty-one bronze coins found dated to the mid-fourth century while Crisà focuses on the 1869 discovery of a terracotta vase full of silver coins near Cerda, of which forty-nine were recovered. Both articles bring a wealth of archival material to bear in contextualizing and understanding the respective coins in question.

Michael Fedorov’s contribution to the volume looks at early mediaeval Chachian coins and offers a new classification schema for the tamgha type.

Last but not least, François de Callataÿ answers a question that we have all been wondering about: “How poor are current bibliometrics in the humanities?” Naturally taking numismatic literature as his point of departure, Callataÿ shows how existing search engines and digital indexes fail to capture much of what has been and is being produced by numismatic scholars. The article points to both the massive amount of numismatic research being published and some of the attendant problems in getting that material properly indexed by the powers that be.

books copy

The review articles by ANS curators Gilles Bransbourg and David Hendin focus on Le monnayage de Maxence (2013) by Vincent Drost and Gold Coin and Small Change: Monetary Circulation in Fifth– Seventh Century Byzantine Palestine (2012) by Gabriela Bijocsky.

Again, the AJN 26 is available to order on the website, or you can call Catherine DiTuri to place your order at 212-571-4470, ext. 117. The list price is $75; ANS members may purchase it for $52.50.

386 pp, 62 pls | ISSN: 1053-8356 | ISBN: 978-0-89722-336-2

Profiles in Research: Katherine van Schaik

Last week the ANS was visited by Katherine van Schaik, an M.D. and Ph.D. student at Harvard University. Katherine was kind enough to sit for a short interview about her work, and what follows is a lightly edited transcript of our talk.

FullSizeRenderSo you are pursuing both a medical degree and a Ph.D. in Ancient History?

I work on the history of medicine, so that’s where the overlap is. I also study bioarchaeology and paleopathology, which is the study of disease in the past. I look at changes in the burden of disease and disease patterns over time. 

And how did you get interested in numismatics?

I did my undergraduate degree at Harvard College, so I had interacted with Carmen Arnold-Biucchi at that time. She taught a section on coins for a course I was taking, and the idea she communicated to our section — that you could see and hold something that someone had seen and held and used so long ago — was just incredible to me. And that’s what I really like about coins: the opportunity to do ‘hands-on’ history. That’s also part of why I like studying human remains: there’s really no way to get closer to the people of the past then to examine their bones and their remains. It makes the past very real and very human, and I think coins also inspire this feeling of connection. And so that section with Carmen stuck in my head. Fast forward a few years to my work in the PhD program at Harvard. We have a numismatics requirement for our Ph.D., so I was thinking about what I was reading and studying with regard to these healing sanctuaries in the ancient world–Epidaurus, Cos, Pergamon, among others. I had seen some coins from Epidaurus with the healing god Asclepius on them, and I was intrigued by the iconography. It seemed a little bit like a form of marketing that this city that is so tied to its identity as a place of healing would put iconography associated with healing on its coinage. And so I approached Carmen and asked if she would consider teaching me in an independent study course on the topic. 

And so clearly that project has significantly progressed. What brought you to the ANS today?

The breadth and depth of the collection.. Harvard has a fantastic collection and what’s available on the ANS website is great, but being here and actually seeing these trays of coins was transformative. You can see all of the different varieties and changes next to each other. I can look at a coin from a healing sanctuary in Cos and then I can compare it to a coin from Epidaurus. It’s the intensity and immediacy of the comparison that makes for a really fruitful research opportunity.

ANS, 1944.100.48492
ANS, 1944.100.48492

Could you talk about a coin that you saw today that you found particularly important?

One that I found interesting is this silver drachm from the island of Cos, which had a huge temple to Asclepius and also is supposedly where Hippocrates was born and taught medicine. The word cancer that we use to denote neoplastic growth was used in Greco-Roman antiquity to mean any kind of hardened lump on the body. We’re not sure exactly if it was cancer in the sense that we would understand cancer or if it was an abscess or some other form of swelling. It’s clear that the word (καρκίνος) could mean ‘cancer’ in the sense that we now understand but the term did not apply to this pathological condition exclusively. In a medical context, the word καρκίνος is descriptive, in that its literal meaning is ‘crab’. The image of the crab is very common for coins from the island of Cos, and it is hard to prove this idea, but I do wonder if there is some connection between the iconography of the crab and the idea that one goes to Cos to be healed of the swelling called a καρκίνος. I don’t know if there’s a pun or some kind of link with what happened at the healing sanctuary and the iconography. And it might be something impossible to prove, but its something I am considering in my research at the moment.

And finally, what are your future plans for this work?

I am presenting the results of this research later this year at the International Numismatic Congress in Taormina for which I generously received funding from both the ANS and INC. Hopefully I will be able add to the conference proceedings volume as well. The healing sanctuary coinage I will be presenting myself, and then I am also presenting jointly with Carmen the research on the crab and its potential relationship with cancer and Cos. 

You can find out more about Katherine’s ongoing research and publications via her Harvard website here