Tag Archives: hellenistic royal coinages

Antigonid Coins Online

Ruling over parts of Asia Minor and Macedonia starting with Antigonus I Monophthalmus (the “One-Eyed”, r. 306­–301 BC), the Antigonid dynasty of Hellenistic kings produced some of the most attractive and important coinages of the late 4th through 2nd centuries BC. Curiously, however, Antigonid coinage has not attracted a great deal of concentrated scholarly attention since Edward T. Newell’s work on it roughly a century ago. That situation now is rapidly changing as a number of Greek scholars, notably Sophia Kremydi, ANS Visiting Scholar in 2009, and Katerina Panagopoulou, have offered recent monographs on the coinages of selected Antigonid dynasts. Kremydi’s 2018 volume, ‘Autonomous’ Coinage under the Late Antigonids (Melethmata 79) provides up-to-date overviews of the coinages of Philip V (r. 221–179 BC) and Perseus (r. 179–168 BC), while Panagopoulou’s about-to-be-published volume, The Early Antigonids: Coinage, Money and the Economy (ANS 2020), looks closely at the coinages from Antigonus II Gonatas (r. 277–274; 272–239 BC) down to Antigonus Doson (r. 229–221 BC).

As part of this broader push to re-evaluate Antigonid coinage, we are pleased to announce the launch of Antigonid Coinage Online (AGCO). As part of the National Endowment of the Humanities funded Hellenistic Royal Coinages project, AGCO is a new research tool that will provide wide access to the coins listed in various print typologies of the coinages produced by the Antigonid dynasts who ruled Macedonia from 306 to 168 BC, including eventually the current work by Kremydi and Panagopoulou. In the meantime, however, the first version of AGCO, launched in mid-July 2020, features only the coinage of Demetrius I Poliorcetes (r. 294–287 BC) based on the typology published in Edward T. Newell’s 1927 volume, The Coinages of Demetrius Poliorcetes with cross-references as well to those types in the name of Alexander III of Macedon catalogued by Martin Price in his 1991 volume The Coinage in the Name of Alexander the Great and Philip Arrhidaeus. While the coins of Demetrius in the ANS collection serve as the core of the current searchable catalogue, links to coins (many of which are unique) in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the British Museum, the Munzkabinett der Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and other public and private collections, are also available.

As always, a number of people have been involved behind the scenes in the production of AGCO besides myself and Ethan Gruber, our Director of Data Science. Andrew Meadows, former Deputy Director of the ANS and current Professor of History at Oxford University, did much of the heavy lifting in converting Newell’s 1927 typology into a digital format, while Lauren Tomanelli, a PhD candidate in archaeology at the University of Arizona, was instrumental in helping with numerous other tasks as well. Our thanks to them both. We would also like to thank our colleagues at the Münzkabinett in Berlin, Dr. Karsten Dahmen, and at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Dr. Julien Olivier, for their cataloguing work that has allowed us to link up examples of coins from the collections they oversee.

For those interested in the technical details of creating this and other ANS online resources, please see Ethan’s Numishare blog.

A New Monograms Function in Hellenistic Royal Coinages

One of the more enigmatic aspects of ancient Greek coinage, and Hellenistic coinage in particular, are the many symbols and monograms that appear on them. Already in the early fifth century BC, some coin producers, such as the exiled Samians in Zancle in Sicily, began to put letters and symbols on their coins that served functions beyond just identifying the political authority, like the abbreviated ethnic, ΑΘΕ, that appeared on early Athenian coinage identifying the Athenians as the producers of the new owl coinage.

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In the case of the Samians at Zancle, the sequence of letters on different issues, Α, Β, Γ, etc., clearly were not ethnics, but probably meant to distinguish the individual issues.

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The most convincing arguments to date suggest that these letters represent the sequential years of production, e.g., Year 1, Year 2, Year 3, etc.

Over time Greek coins became increasingly “chatty” with more letters and symbols appearing on them, usually on the reverse alongside the ethnic or name of a king or magistrate.

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While many of these letters are clearly era dates, some of them, especially the combined letters we call monograms, are not. Their function along with the multitude of additional symbols—everything from representations of animals to cups to weapons to plants, and so on—are far more perplexing. Some symbols we believe are “mint marks” serving much the same function as ethnics, identifying the authority or place of production, such as a rose on some posthumous Alexander types indicating that they were produced on the island of Rhodes under the authority of the Rhodians.

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Some of the symbols that we cannot so easily link to a specific political authority or place of production may have served other functions, identifying, for example, a lower-level authority responsible for the production of the that specific batch of coinage, or the source of the metal, for example. Similar arguments are made for many of the monograms.

In order to truly understand the function of these symbols and monograms, we need a comprehensive electronic database of all of them, something which would include the estimated 10,000 separate monograms and thousands of additional symbols that appear on Greek coinage from early 5th century down to the end of the Hellenistic period. Such a comprehensive database would allow us to observe with greater accuracy where and for how long specific monograms and symbols were used, which in turn might offer some insight into their specific function. A number of researchers independently have been toiling away on monograms and symbol databases for specific subsets of coinage. For example, our colleagues in Berlin, led by Ulrike Peter, working the Coprus Nummorum have been building an important database of monograms and symbols appears on coins produced in ancient Moesia Inferior, Thrace, Mysia, and Troas. Dr. Peter along with other members of the Greek steering committee of Nomisma.org, who have been working on other databases, have been holding discussions on how to combine all efforts into a larger universal database.

At the ANS, our efforts towards this larger goal have, for the moment, focused on the coins covered by our Hellenistic Royal Coinages project: the coinages (in the name) of Philip II of Macedonia; the coinages (in the name) of Alexander III the Great; Ptolemaic coinages; and Seleucid coinages. With the help of Mark Pyzyk, Lauren Tomanelli, and Oliver Hoover, we have been systematically digitizing all of the monograms appearing on these coins—nearly 5,000 individual monograms—creating scalable and printable svg files for each one. Individual nomisma.org IDs are then created for each monogram, which is then linked to the type record in HRC for the coin type on which the monogram appears, whether in PELLA, Seleucid Coins Online, or Ptolemaic Coins Online.  In the meantime, I have been identifying the Greek letters that to my eye at least appear in these monograms trying to be as inclusive as possible. All of our work now has added a new dimension of functionality to HRC.

When users select the “Symbols” tab at the top of the PELLA landing page, for example, they are presented with images of the first 24 of the 1,207 monograms appearing on the coinages (in the name) of Alexander. Users can continue to search visually for the monograms that interests them, or can parse by selecting constituent letters. Once the desired monogram has been located, clicking on the image of the monogram takes them to a separate page that includes metadata information, a map of where coins produced with that monogram were struck, and links to examples of coins in PELLA with that monogram. For the symbols that appear on the coins, such as a rose, users can employ the symbol search function locating on the left-hand side of the browse screen, specifying where on the coin the symbol appears.

Currently, the monogram functionality is limited to just PELLA and PCO, but soon it will be added to SCO as well. Our ultimate goal remains to combine these three separate monogram and symbol tools into one that is much larger including not just our work on the monograms and symbols appearing on Hellenistic Royal coinages, but the work of others on different groups of Greek coinage as well.

For more information on this new monogram functionality please see the blog of our Director of Data Science, Ethan Gruber.

CoinHoards.org Launched

igch-bannerThe American Numismatic Society is pleased to announce the launch of CoinHoards, a new web-based, linked open data tool for research in ancient Greek numismatics and ancient economies.

Coin Hoards is a component of the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded Hellenistic Royal Coinages project developed by the American Numismatic Society (ANS). An innovative research resource, CoinHoards provides primary data and other information on 2,387 hoards of coins produced by Greeks and other non-Roman peoples in the Mediterranean and adjacent regions between ca. 650 and 30 BCE. In addition to a basic description, users will find on the page devoted to each hoard mapping tools for the findspot and mint(s) where the coins found in the hoard were produced, bibliographical references, and a list of the hoard contents. These tools will allow users to compare and contrast circulation patterns of coinage in various parts of the Mediterranean world over time. Where possible, each type of coin listed is linked to a typological description, such as those found on PELLA, Seleucid Coins Online, and Ptolemaic Coins Online. Additional links are provided where possible to relevant resources associated with the hoard, which might include the MANTIS record of individual coins from the hoard held in the ANS collection, ANS publications, the notebooks of Edward T. Newell, and associated correspondence, notes, and archival material.

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The current version of CoinHoards is based on the print publication Inventory of Greek Coin Hoards, edited by Margaret Thompson, Otto Mørkholm, and Colin Kraay, published in 1973 by the ANS for the International Numismatic Commission. Future versions of CoinHoards will incorporate material from the print publications Coin Hoards, vols. 1–10, published by the Royal Numismatic Society, and more recently by both the Royal Numismatic Society and the ANS.

The launch of CoinHoards is a remarkable step forward in our ability to trace circulation patterns of ancient coinage and thereby gain greater insight into patterns of trade and other types of economic interaction. This new website allows users to conduct in-depth research on scores of related hoards and their contents in just a few minutes, saving hours or even days of research time.

For more information on the technical side of how CoinHoards was assembled, see the ANS’s Director of Data Science Ethan Gruber’s Numishare blog.