A Crumbling Seleucid Empire

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Sulla80, Sep 26, 2020.

  1. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    My latest coin is a tetradrachm from Antioch with a fabulous Tyche. This coin comes from the beginning of the first century BC as the Seleucid empire was crumbling.

    Between Egypt & Parthia

    For some background on the state of the Seleucid empire, and a few additional coins: Ptolemy VI Philometor put Alexander I Balas on the throne in Syria, married to his daughter Cleopatra Thea.
    Alexander Balas Drachm v3.jpg Seleukid Kingdom, Alexander I Balas, 152-145 BC, Drachm
    Obv: Diademed head of Alexander I to right
    Rev: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ / ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ - ΘΕΟΠΑΤΟΡΟΣ / ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΟΥ Apollo seated left on omphalos, holding arrow in his right hand and resting his right on his bow; monogram in exergue
    Ref: mint Seleucia on Tigris SC II 1859

    Ptolemy Vi then backed Demetrius II as he took back his family's throne and he gave Demetrius his daughter, Cleopatra Thea, as part of the bargain. Demetrius was captured by the Parthians (Mithridates I), and his brother, Antiochus VII, took the throne and Cleopatra Thea.

    Antiochus VII, battled with Parthia to reclaim eastern lands for the Seleucid empire from Mithridates I, only to lose them to Phraates II.
    Antiochus VII Eurgetes.jpg
    Seleukid Kings, Antiochos VII Euergetes nicknamed "Sedetes" for his city of origin (138-129 BC), Æ19, 6.15g, Antioch on the Orontes, year 176 (137/6 BC)
    Obv: Winged bust of Eros right
    Rev: BAΣIΛEΩΣ ANTIOXOY EYEPΓETOY Isis headdress; crescent and star below, IOP in exergue (date)

    Phraates II released his captive Demetrius II to create confusion, and after Antiochus VII died in battle or killed himself, Demetrius became Seleucid king again. We can only imagine the life of Cleopatra Thea who was married first to pretender to the throne Alexander I Balas, then Demetrius II, then his brother Antiochus VII, and ended up back with Demetrius again ruling over a truncated kingdom. Demetrius II Nicator ruled 130-25 BC and died battling another usurper sponsored by Ptolemy VIII.

    Civil Wars
    For more on this time period, that reads like an episode of a Netflix or HBO drama series, see Appian XI.69 or Justin XXXIX.2-3. I'll wrap up with this:

    Seleucus V, son of Demetrius, made a play to become king, however his mother, Cleopatra Thea, quickly shot him dead with an arrow. Cleopatra Thea reigned briefly as sole ruler, then became co-regent with her younger son, by Demetrius, Antiochus VIII a.k.a. "Grypus", named for his Γρυπός or "hook-nose". Grypus killed his mother, according to Appian with poison that she had prepared for him. Grypus fought in civil war with his half-brother, "Cyzicenus" and his uncle.

    The Coin

    All of this is long-winded context for this coin. The date on my tetradrachm is a "Civic Year" or CY 13 (97/96 BC). This is 13 years that start from 109/8 BC when Grypus granted the city of Seleukia Pieria independence in gratitude for support during his civil war. Here is an excerpt of the letter from Antiochus Gryphos to Ptolemy X referencing this:

    "Now, being anxious to reward them [The people of Seleukeia in Pieria] fittingly with the first [and greatest] benefaction, [we have decided that they be] for all time free, [and we have entered them in the treaties] which we have mutually concluded, [thinking] that thus [our piety and generosity] toward our ancestral city will be more apparent."
    - Royal Correspondence: 71
    Seleucia and Pieria Tetradrachm.jpg
    Seleukis and Pieria, Seleukeia Pieria, 105/4-83/2 BC, AR Tetradrachm, 30mm, 14.90g, dated CY 13 (97/96 BC)
    Obv: Veiled and turreted bust of Tyche right
    Rev: ΣEΛEYKEΩN / THΣ IEPAΣ / KAI / AYTONOMOY, Filleted thunderbolt on throne; ΓI (date = 13) below, monogram (ω/Δ) to lower right; all within wreath.
    Ref: Callataÿ, Production, pp. 75–6

    There is theoretically Christine Thompson/C. Arnold-Biucchi study (~1998) referenced by Callataÿ with more information on these coins, but I have been unable to find it, so far. Any corrections, added references, and comments are always appreciated.

    Post autonomous tetradrachms, coins of the Seleucid kings mentioned, or anything else you find interesting or entertaining.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2020
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  3. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    Very nice coin and write up. It's great to learn more about the latter Seleucid days.
  4. David@PCC

    David@PCC allcoinage.com

    I like those autonomous tets. As far as I know the last one to issue from this mint was Demetrius III with a very similar reverse.
    My only Seleucid from this mint.
    Demetrios II, FIRST REIGN
    Mint: Perhaps Seleucia in Pieria
    146 to 138 BC
    Obvs: Diademed head of Demetrios II right within dotted border.
    Revs: BAΣΙΛEΩΣ ΔHMHTPIOY in two lines on right, NIKATOPEΣ on left. Anchor, flukes upward. Lily/Lotus flower inner right.
    AE 16x17mm, 3.90g
    Ref: cf. SC 1928; HGC 9, 1008(R2)
    Note: Unpublished with control mark unlisted. This mark only noted for drachms.

    Antiochus VII
    Mint: Antioch
    Year 175, 138/137 BC
    Obvs: Lion head right, dotted border.
    Revs: BAΣIΛEΩΣ ANTIOXOY on right EYEPГETOY on left, vertical club. EoP below club, left field: monogram above sceptre.
    AE 14mm, 2.75g.
    Ref: SC 2068.3c; HGC 9, 1097(S)

    Favorite owl
    Cleopatra/Antiochos VIII
    Mint: Antioch
    123 BC
    Obvs: No inscription. Antiochos radiate head right, within dotted border.
    Revs: BAΣΙΛΙΣΣHΣ KΛEoΠATPAΣ KAI BAΣIΛEΩΣ ANTIOXOY, Owl standing on prostrate amphora. Star in ex
    AE 19mm, 5.7g
    Ref: SC 2263.2h
  5. Carl Wilmont

    Carl Wilmont Supporter! Supporter

    @Sulla80, interesting write-up about the latter part of the Seleucid Empire. Nice coins posted by all.

    Here's another example of a coin of Antiochus VII Euergetes:


    Seleucid Kingdom.
    Antiochos VII Euergetes (138-129 BC).
    AR Drachm (16 mm, 3.23 g, 12 h). Uncertain mint.
    Diademed head of Antiochos VII right within fillet border. / ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΟΥ, Nike advancing left, holding wreath; two monograms to outer left.
    HGC 9
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2020
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  6. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    @Carl Wilmont, thanks, a nice drachm of Antiochus VII Euergetes
    @David@PCC - thanks for sharing these - I especially like the Demetrios II with anchor. Here's another relevant coin for the usurper, Alexander II Zabinas, initially supported by Ptolemy VIII, who defeated Demetrios II in 125 BC. He wasn't mentioned by name in the OP. Ptolemy VIII was a fickle supporter, and turned on Alexander II in favor of Cleopatra Thea and Antiochus VIII. Athena on this coin has an amazingly long right arm. Alexander II Zabinas.jpg
    Seleukid kings of Syria, Alexander II Zabinas, 128-122 BC, Æ, Antioch on the Orontes mint, Struck circa 125-122 BC
    Obv: Radiate and diademed head of Alexander II right
    Rev: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ, Athena standing left, holding Nike and spear, shield propped against base of spear; to inner left, monogram above grain ear
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2020
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  7. Edessa

    Edessa Supporter! Supporter

    Seleukid Empire. Alexander I Balas, 152-145 BC. Æ18 (5.12g, 12h). Antioch on the Orontes mint. Obv Head of Alexander right, wearing lion skin. Rev: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ/ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ; Apollo standing left, holding arrow and grounded bow; cornucopia to outer left, monogram in exergue. Ref: SC 1795.1; HGC 9, 901.

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  8. Pavlos

    Pavlos You pick out the big men. I'll make them brave!

    Nice writeup and beautiful coins! I too like the autonomous civic tetradrachms, they all have a nice background story on how they got autonomous. In the time of Philip I, eventhough he was king of Antioch, it was pretty much autonomous already. He didn't even mint bronze coins since the city itself was issuing them already. Autonomous Antioch coins are a lot harder to find than the coins from the time of Pompey or Ceasar.

    One of my favorite Seleukid drachms in my collection, from Antiochos VII.
    Antiochos VII Euergetes (138-129 B.C.). AR Drachm, Soloi mint.
    Obverse: Diademed head of Antiochos VII right.
    Reverse: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ / ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΟΥ. Tyche seated left on throne, holding sceptre and cornucopia. Controls: Two monograms in exergue.
    Mint: Soloi mint. Date Range: 138-129 B.C. Reference: SC 2051; HGC 9, 1079.
    3.81g; 19mm

    One of the first autonomous coins from Seleukeia during the reign of Alexander I Balas.
    SYRIA, Seleukis and Pieria. Adelphoi Demi (Tetrapolis). AE Double Unit Dated 149/48 B.C. Under the reign of Alexander I Balas (152/1 - 145 B.C.)
    Obverse: Laureate head of Zeus right.
    ‘ΑΔΕΛΦΩΝ’ above, ‘ΔΗΜΩΝ’ below (“of the Brother Peoples”). Winged thunderbolt; monogram to left, EΞP (date) and monogram to right; all within wreath.
    Reference: SNG Copenhagen 397; BMC 7; HGC 9, 1396.
    6.91g; 21mm

    Bronze coins in the name of “the Brother Peoples” were struck in Seleukeia between 149/8 and 147/6 BC. This coinage probably reflected some form of civic alliance (homonoia) with Antioch on the Orontes. Four types of these coins were struck in three denominations: the quadruple unit, two types of the double unit and the single unit.
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  9. Ryro

    Ryro You'll never be lovelier than you are now... Supporter

    Perfect timing for this excellent thread @Sulla80 !!!
    I just received this seleucid bronze this week and have been super geeked to show it off:
    Antiochus VIII and Cleopatra Thea -
    125-121 BC Antioch mint.
    Obv: radiate head of Helios right. Rev: BASILISSHS KLEOPATRAS and KAI BASILEWS ANTIOXOY to left and right of owl standing right, head facing, on amphora. 6.34 grams. (.). Near extremely fine. [No Reserve]
    Provenance: From the estate of a Cambridge University academic.
    BMC 105; SNG Cop 377; SNG Spaer 2441. Ex: Timeline
    I really line your owl as well @David@PCC
  10. Magnus Maximus

    Magnus Maximus Dulce et Decorum est....

    Very good article and coins!
    Yeah, I tend to think that the untimely death of Antiochus IV in 164 BCE really doomed the Seleucids. Had he lived a decade longer he may have been able to expand deep into Parthia and Bactria. C'est la vie!
    I'll post my coins of the period later when I'm off from work.
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  11. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    @Edessa, @Pavlos, and @Ryro - thanks for the excellent additions of coins from Alexander I Balas, Cleopatra Thea, and Antiochus VIII. The owls look very Athenian, "New Style" with the amphora. Here's another of the characters from this time period.
    Phraates II TAM.jpg Parthia, Phraates II, 132-126 BC, AR Drachm, Tambrax mint
    Obv: Diademed bust left; TAM down right
    Rev: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ / ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ ΘΕΟΠΑΤΟΡΟΣ, Archer (Arsakes I) seated right on omphalos, holding bow
    Ref: Sellwood 16.11; Sunrise 272; Shore 50
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  12. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    Antiochos IX Ar Tetradrachm Antioch 96-95 B.C. Obv Head right diademed and beardless. Rv Zeus seated left SC 2369/3 16.14 grms 23 mm CNG E Auction173 Lot 368 September 26 2007 Sold erroneously as an Antiochos X Photo by W. Hansen SkantiochosVIIII-6.jpeg You know he kind of looks sad in this portrait. Maybe he figured out what was coming.
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  13. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    I love that dated Tyche Tet from Seleukeia-Pieria :D! The coin pictured below I sold several years ago pictures Antiochos VIII, Gryphos, and was struck at the Phoenician mint of Sidon. On this coin he isn't sporting the huge hooked nose usually seen on the coins from Antioch :p.

    Antiochus VIII Tet.jpg Antiochos VIII.jpg
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  14. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    Nice tetradrachm!

    The history of the late Seleucid Empire is chaotic to say the least. Here are two coins of the abovementioned Antiochos VII Evergetes and of Alexander II Zabinas, the son of a merchant raised to the Seleucid throne by Ptolemy VIII mainly in order to create mischief:

    Seleukiden – Antiochos VII Evergetes, AE, Eros und Isiskrone, SC II 275–278..png
    Antiochos VII Evergetes, Seleucid Empire, AE denomination B, 138–129 BC, Antioch mint. Obv: bust of Eros, winged, r. Rev: BAΣIΛEΩΣ ANTIOXOY [EYEPΓETOY]; headdress of Isis with feathers, horns, and sun disk, star and crescents at base; unclear date. 19mm, 5.75g. Ref: Seleucid Coins II, 275–278.

    Seleukiden – Alexander II Zabinas, AE, Helios und Athena, SC II 2233..png
    Alexander II Zabinas, Seleucid Empire, AE denomination B, 125–122 BC, Antioch mint. Obv: head Alexander II or Helios, radiate, r. Rev: BAΣIΛEΩΣ AΛEXANΔΡOY; Athena standing l., holding Nike, spear and shield. 21mm, 6.64g. Ref: Seleucid Coins II, 2233.
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  15. Magnus Maximus

    Magnus Maximus Dulce et Decorum est....

    As promised!

    SYRIA, Seleukid Kings. Demetrios II. First Reign. 145-140 BC. AR Tetradrachm (16.37 gm). Seleukeia on Tigris mint. Diademed head of Demetrios right / Tyche seated left holding baton and cornucopiae, Nereid supporting throne; monogram in exergue. SNG Spaer 1752; Houghton, CSE 1010; Le Rider, Suse, pl. XXIX, S. Probably part of the 1965 Susa Hoard.

    I love the youthful portrait of Demetrius II on this coin. I need to do a proper write up for it in a few weeks, as it really is a historical piece. Hint- Look at the reverse legend. Many thanks to @Pavlos for that heads up!
  16. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Excellent additions all, "Cyzicenus" in Antioch before his third and final reign there was ended by the son of Grypus thanks to @Terence Cheesman.

    A handsome Grypus from Sydon with thanks to @Al Kowsky.

    Bronzes of Antiochos VII Evergetes "Sedetes" and Ptolemy's mischief maker, Alexander II Zabinas, from @Orielensis.

    And an intriguing Tetradrachm of Demetrios worth waiting for, which I think must must pre-date July 141 when Seleucia on the Tigris fell to the Parthians (I look forward to the write-up, @Magnus Maximus ).
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2020
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  17. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    @Sulla80, now I need to go to ...sorry for this, but... the Wiki article on the Seleucid Empire. I only ever ran across them as context, in secondary sources, for the Republican Romans, and more properly Hellenistic polities in the more immediate neighborhood. (Right, and one small serrate AE, decades ago.) ...Thanks for putting my head in this place.
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  18. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths Supporter

    Many Seleucid princes went to Athens for an immersion in Greek culture. Since Athens was militarily emasculated this cannot reasonably have alliance purposes.
    No doubt the owl on amphora was a tribute-I think!

    See my simple article on copies of the NewStyle type from academia.edu.
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  19. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Glad to hear that you you were led astray, and no shame in the wikipedia. I can recommend SeleukidTraces as a rich source of information, and Seleucid Coins Online, and @David@PCC's Seleucid Identification Site as additional places to meander through history and coins. Caution is certainly advised as this can lead to a wonderful set of 4 volumes from Houghton, Lorber, and Hoover and of course more coins.
    Thank you! I enjoyed your article, and in general find these not so subtle messages of origin, allegiance, alliance, authority, challenge, conflict, deference, tribute, value....interesting to see.
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  20. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    @Sulla80, thanks lots for the links! SeleukidTraces is pretty (dramatic pause) phenomenal. The first time there, I didn't even get to the coins!
  21. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Wow. So in effect, @NewStyleKing, there was that much precedent for what happened with the Romans. This is All New from here. Very cool stuff!
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