Featured A CT Collaboration: Paeonians & Celts

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Sulla80, Feb 3, 2022.

  1. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    @John Anthony and I discovered that we were researching related coins, so we decided a joint post might make an interesting read.....

    An event during Alexander the Great's conquest of the Achaemenid Empire is potentially depicted on the reverse of my coin. However, a very different option emerges from a more detailed look at the coin.

    In his biography of Alexander the Great, Quintus Curtius Rufus writes about Paeonians serving in the cavalry of Alexander. Ariston, the Paeonian commander of the cavalry, heroically brings victory, and the head of his opponent, to Alexander.

    "He [Mazaeus, the Persian satrap] had sent only 1,000 cavalry ahead, and so, Alexander, discovering and then scorning their small numbers, ordered Ariston, the commander of the Paeonian cavalry, to charge them at full gallop. The cavalry, and especially Ariston, distinguished themselves in that day’s engagement. Ariston aimed his spear straight at the throat of the Persian cavalry commander, Satropates, ran him through, and then followed him as he fled through the thick of the enemy, hurled him from his horse and decapitated him as he struggled. The head he brought back, and to loud applause, laid before the kings feet."
    -Curtius Rufus, Quintus, Historia Alexandri Magni, translated by John Yardley, Penguin Books, 1984, Book IX 24-25

    Plutarch finishes the story with an illustration of Alexander's good humor and generosity.

    "Ariston, the captain of the Paeonians, having slain an enemy, brought his head and showed it to Alexander, saying: ‘In my country, O King, such a gift as this is rewarded with a golden beaker.’ ‘Yes,’ said Alexander with a laugh, ‘an empty one; but I will pledge thy health with one which is full of pure wine.’"
    -Plutarch, Plutarch's Lives, translated by Bernadotte Perrin, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1919. Alexander 39.2

    Ariston was possibly the brother of King Patreos who minted this coin:
    PAEONIA Patraos 1030.jpg
    Kings of Paeonia, Patraos, circa 335-315 BC, AR Tetradrachm (22mm, 12.72g, 11h).
    Obv: Laureate head of Apollo to right
    Rev: ΠΑΤΡ[ΑΟΥ], Paeonian horseman, wearing crested helmet and full armor, galloping right and spearing fallen enemy; below to left, bucranium
    Ref: Paeonian Hoard 334, SNG ANS 1030
    Note: this particular coin with horse's head or bucranium behind the horse seems to be scare or rare (25 out of 750 coins on ACSearch)

    A bucranium illustrated in "Regola degli cinqve ordini d'architettvra" by Vignola, 1507-1573 published in 1602. Public Domain via Archive.org.

    A reverse die match from Gorny and Mosch, via ACSearch, confirms a couple of details in the clothing of the rider and fallen soldier. upload_2022-2-3_14-36-38.png

    Where is Paeonia?

    This map of Greece, before the Pellopenisian War (431 BC), shows the location of Paeonia to the North of Macedonia.

    Philip II Subjugates Paeonia

    Circa 358 BC, Philip II of Macedonia, Alexander's father, captured Paeonia and made it a vassal state.

    "Now that he [Philip II] was relieved of the war with the Athenians and had information that the king of the Paeonians, Agis, was dead, he conceived that he had the opportunity to attack the Paeonians. Accordingly, having conducted an expedition into Paeonia and defeated the barbarians in a battle, he compelled the tribe to acknowledge allegiance to the Macedonians."
    -Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, 4.2

    Hugo Gaebler proposed in AMNG, in 1935, that this coin depicts Ariston's defeat of Satropates.

    "The depiction on the reverse celebrates the brilliant victory that Ariston, a relative (most likely brother) of King Patraos, won over the Persian cavalry prefect Satropates in a reconnaissance battle before the battle of Gaugamela (331 BC) (Curt. Ruf. IV, g, 25). The Paionian horseman wears a long chiton under the armor, and his head is protected by a helmet with a large plume; he sits on a saddlecloth held in place by a strap around the horse's chest. The sunken Persian usually wears trousers with a short, belted chiton and on his head a round, mostly bashlyk-like, extended cap."
    -Hugo Gaebler, Die Antiken Münzen Nord-Griechenlands, vol 3.2 p302

    The idea was further popularized by I.L. Merker in ‘The Ancient Kingdom of Paionia,’ Balkan Studies 6 (1965), p. 44 (download pdf)

    "In any case, I think that we can consider the Paionian coin type as a representation of the epic battle of Ariston and Satropates. The name Ariston appears later as the name of a member of the royal family, and probably our Ariston was likewise a member of the royal family — perhaps a younger brother of Patraos. Patraos himself issued two types of silver tetradrachms. The first issue, a very rare one,showed a horse’s head on the reverse; the second, much more common, is the one I described before."
    -Merker, p.44

    However, there are some problems with this connection. First of all, why would Petraos celebrate the accomplishments of his relative/brother, who would potentially be a rival for the throne. Nicholas Wright explores convincingly an alternate explanation for the reverse of this coin. His arguments:
    • This event would not necessarily have been important to the Paeonians - it is told to glorify Macedonia and Alexander the Great.
    • There is no precedent for Greek coins to portray narratives in this way on coins.
    • From a dynastic point of view it wouldn't make sense to put your brother on a coin and create competition for yourself and your heirs for the throne.
    • On coins where the shield can be made out, held by the warrior on the ground, it looks Macedonian.
    • The horseman's clothing illustrates a member of the Paeonian military elite.
    • The warrior on the ground, if he were a Persian cavalryman, would not have carried a shield.
    There are some variations of this coin that may reflect changing relationships over time between Paeonia and Macedonia or Paeonia and its other neighbors. My coin appears to have a laureate Apollo, a Paeonian horseman and a warrior on the ground with a Macedonian kausia and shield. To me it is a bit ambiguous whether he is naked or wearing trousers, so potentially a Macedonian warrior - a message of hostility toward their southern neighbors, or perhaps some other enemy of the Paeonians to the east or north.

    In AMNG, on the page 301, Gaebler describes the reverse of the coin in this way:

    "Paeonian rider to right on a rearing horse, the reins in his left hand, pointing a spear downwards with his right at an enemy who is under the horse's front legs with left foot far forward, resting on the left foot, with the raised r. hand to throw a javelin while reaching out and covers himself with a round shield decorated in the manner of the Macedonian"
    -Hugo Gaebler, Die Antiken Münzen Nord-Griechenlands, vol 3.2 p301

    I have to admit, looking at the coins in AMNG, I can see how one might see the head covering as a bashlyk-like, add in non-Macedonian trousers, and conclude: "Persian". Gaebler doesn't really give an argument, he simply declares the connection. Although he clearly recognized the shield as Macedonian.

    With the three coins in series, the changing position of the warrior seems almost cinematic:

    I find Wright's argument convincing enough to reject the view that this is specifically Ariston. Rather than reinforcing the view that Paeonia is a vassal state, it does seem credible that these coins declare a hostile posture against the Macedonians, and provide evidence that between 331 BC and the death of Alexander in 323, Patraos of Paeonia had broken free of Macedonia.

    This is where I will hand off to @John Anthony, for another coin and the next chapter....

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  3. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    Recently Sulla80 contacted me and told me he had acquired a Paeonian tetradrachm of Patraos. It turns out that I was in the process of preparing a post that examined the historiography of the Ariston/Satropates interpretation, so we decided to collaborate. My interest in these coins stems from the fact that several years ago I had sold one of them to a fellow forum member, @Theodosius, and recently acquired a Celtic imitation for my collection. Here they are side-by-side…


    KINGS OF PAEONIA. Patraos, 335-315 BC.
    AR Tetradrachm, 25mm, 12.83 grams, 6h.
    Obv.: Laureate head of Apollo right.
    Rev.: ΠATPAY; Horseman holding spear and trampling warrior holding Macedonian shield, wearing kausia and chiton.
    Ref.: Sotheby’s Paeonian Hoard 461 (same dies); SNG ANS 1040 var.
    Ex-Fred Shore.

    Imitating Patraos of Paeonia.
    AR Tetradrachm, 25mm, 12g, 6h; after 335 BC.
    Obv.: Celticized head of Apollo right.
    Rev.: ΠATPAY; Horseman holding spear and trampling warrior holding Macedonian shield, wearing kausia and chiton.
    Ref.: Sotheby’s Paeonian Hoard 508.
    Dr. Busso Peus Nachfolger, Auction 425 Lot 174, 2019. From the H. S. Collection. ex-M&M Basel, List 407, 17, 1979.

    Sulla asked me if I had a copy of Sotheby and Co.’s Catalogue of the Paeonian Hoard, the record of a sale on 16 April 1969, and the only important reference for Paeonian coinage. During my research, I had purchased a copy of the catalog on eBay, and when it arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find a letter in in from B. Curtis of D. J. Crowther, one of the preparers of the sale, to none other than Irwin Merker. (The eBay seller had in fact included an image of the letter in the listing, but I hadn’t bothered to look at all the images, hence the surprise!) From the letter we can gather that Merker had not seen the coins of the Paeonian Hoard before he published The Ancient Kingdom of Paeonia, and indeed the catalog is not listed in his bibliography.


    Merker never returned to the study of Paeonian history after his one-and-only treatise, but if he had examined the coins found in the Sotheby’s catalog, he surely would have revised Gaebler’s theory. As Mr. Sulla mentioned in the first post, that revision came 50 years later from Nicholas Wright. It’s curious to note that the authors of the Sotheby’s catalog had foreshadowed the reinterpretation of the horseman and warrior: “The significance of the headdress and weapons of the fallen foot soldier – the Macedonian causia, or crested helmet and the Macedonian shield – has not been fully explained, though the meaning would appear to be implicit.” [Catalog of the Paeonian Hoard, Sotheby and Co., 1969, p. 10.]

    Did Merker examine any of the coins himself? He does not refer to any specific examples or collections in the body of his paper, nor are any listed in the bibliography, and the single image of a Patraos tetradrachm in the article is small and blurry. Apparently Merker simply imported Gaebler’s ideas into his paper wholesale. Can we fault him for that? Perhaps not. Prior to the discovery of the Paeonian Hoard, the tetradrachms of Patraos were quite rare. Merker may have had no opportunity to inspect one personally, and if he had had better images to work with, I assume he would have included one in the paper. Furthermore, there was no reason not to trust an esteemed scholar such as Hugo Gaebler.

    I won’t recapitulate Wright’s arguments, as Sulla has done a thorough job of summarizing them in the first post, so I’ll move on to the discussion of the Celtic imitations.

    The Celts

    Archaeological evidence of the Celts begins with the Hallstatt culture of the 6th and 7th centuries BC, which ranged from southern France across Switzerland and into south-western Germany. Social, economic, and religious changes in the 5th century compelled the tribes to disperse. They migrated both eastward and westward, eventually encompassing an area from the Danube River Valley to the tip of the Iberian Peninsula.

    By the middle of the 4th century BC, the Celtic advance had pushed the Triballi (a Thracian tribe) into Macedonia. Alexander III, crowned in 335, pursued and defeated the Triballi, and the Celts, perhaps wishing not to incur a similar fate, sent a delegation to the young king that swore an oath of allegiance to him.


    Expansion of the Celtic tribes into Thrace according to Francisco Villar, added to Nicholas Wright’s map by John Anthony.​

    Earlier, Paeonia had had its share of conflict with Macedonia, but that conflict had been temporarily resolved by Phillip II with a combination of force, diplomacy, and bribery. When a Paeonian regiment was assembled to march with Alexander on Darius III, Celtic mercenaries were a part of the company. Daphne Nash informs us that the earliest Celtic coinage must be interpreted in this military context.

    “Although Celtic mercenaries are recorded as having served for Dionysius I of Syracuse at the beginning of the fourth century, they were first employed on a truly mass scale in the eastern Mediterranean, by Philip II of Macedon (359-336 BC) and then by Alexander the Great (336-323 BC) and his successors. Philip’s coinage furnished prototypes for the earliest native issues both in the Danube basin and in the upper Rhineland, suggesting his soldiers were recruited from both areas.” [Nash, Daphne. Coinage in the Celtic World. B. A. Seaby Ltd., London. 1987, pp. 16-17.]

    In addition to the coinage of Philip II and Alexander III, the Eastern Celts also imitated the tetradrachms of Patraos. Excepting a few light-weight outliers, both the tetradrachms of Patraos and their Celtic imitations were struck on what the Sotheby’s catalog refers to as a “debased graeco-asiatic standard” – drachms weighing around 3 grams, tetradrachms between 12 and 13. While Celtic tribes struck coins imitating the tetradrachms of Philip II throughout the continent, these imitations appear to be a local phenomenon. For instance, in de Jersey’s exhaustive list of hoard and individual finds of Armorica [Philip de Jersey. Coinage in Iron Age Armorica. Oxford University Press. 1994] there isn’t a single instance of the Paeonian imitations. The Celtic imitations are also very rare. Of the hundreds of coins of Patraos discovered in the Paeonian Hoard, only 18 were Celtic. I found about thirty examples online. Those thirty coins share very few die linkages, which suggests that many more were produced than have survived or been discovered. Here is a representative sample…


    On my specimen, the warrior is clearly outfitted with a Macedonian shield, kausia, and chiton, although he is also wearing trousers or some sort of leggings. So, the Eastern Celts were willing to imitate coin types that celebrated Patraos’ independence from Macedonia. That, in addition to the fact that the imitative coins were mostly struck on the same standard, strongly suggests that they were used specifically for trade with Paeonia.


    As Mr. Sulla has already posted a bibliography, I’ll give a brief book review…

    I slogged my way through Bernhard Maier’s factually dense magnum opus, The Celts. Covering 2400 years of history in 253 pages doesn’t leave much room for elaboration, but the book is an extremely valuable reference that offers a broad overview, and points to hundreds of additional sources for further study. There is, however, very little discussion of coinage.

    Daphne Nash’s Coinage in the Celtic World is an essential primer on the subject, covering the earliest imitative issues of the 4th century BC to the later issues of the various tribes of Gaul and Britain, with an important discussion of the role of coinage in Celtic society. However, there is no mention of the Paeonian imitations, which is odd, as they constitute a rare but significant departure from the coinage modeled after Macedonian types, and Nash was writing 18 years after the publication of The Paeonian Hoard.

    Sotheby and Co.’s Catalogue of the Paeonian Hoard is the only substantial reference for Paeonian coins, far more comprehensive than SNG ANS. The hoard included a small number of staters and tetradrachms of Philip II, a handful of staters of Alexander III, and a few tetradrachms of Paeonian king Lykkeios. The bulk of the coins were the tetradrachms of Patraos (several hundred), and 18 Celtic imitations (of only the Patraos type). This is the only reference that allows a detailed study of die varieties, although very few of the coins were photographed (9 plates), presumably because of the expense of imaging and printing in 1969.

    Last edited: Feb 3, 2022
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  4. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    John, That's a wonderful score for an early Celtic imitation Tet :jawdrop:!
  5. Theodosius

    Theodosius Fine Style Seeker

    A super informative and entertaining thread, good job guys! Gives me new appreciation for the awesome coin I got from John Anthony.

  6. Orange Julius

    Orange Julius Well-Known Member

    Great post @John Anthony and @Sulla80 ! I don't have any of these coins but found your information fascinating. It's always more fun when information about coins connects back back to ancient sources, while also using maps and research... rather than just being a reference. Feature this thread!
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2022
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  7. kazuma78

    kazuma78 Supporter! Supporter

    Wonderful thread and great write up! Now I want a celtic imitation to pair with my Paeonian tet... you guys make my list grow haha
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  8. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    Let's see your Paeonian tet...
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  9. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    I wanted one of these for a long time but was turned off by so many of them being off center on small flans missing either the legend or most of the victim. I ended up settling for one with a test cut making the obverse even worse than it was. What is that between the leg of the man and the horse? What is there just left of the horseman's arm?
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  10. kazuma78

    kazuma78 Supporter! Supporter

    20201205_204047.jpg 20201205_204026.jpg
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  11. cmezner

    cmezner do ut des Supporter

    Two great and informative write ups, @Sulla80 and @John Anthony.

    This is my only one from Paeonia:
    Paeonia, Astibos or Damastion (?) struck ca. 335-315 BC

    25 x 26 mm, 12.688 g
    Sear 1520; BMC 5.4; HGC 3, 148; Peykov E2160; SNG ANS 1031

    Ob.: Laureate head of Apollo right, with short hair
    Rev.: (ΠA)TPAOY, Paeonian cavalryman, wearing crested Attic helmet and full armor, on horseback galloping to r. spearing fallen Macedon soldier holding a round shield; monogram (E)M in l. field behind horse

    upload_2022-2-3_21-19-54.png upload_2022-2-3_21-20-6.png
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  12. Edessa

    Edessa Well-Known Member

  13. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish)

    Great thread @Sulla80 and @John Anthony . I was lucky to get a sneak peak of John’s Celtic example a while back and was very impressed then and just as much so now.

    Interestingly enough I acquired an example of this coin at the end of last year after missing out on the very same beautiful coin shown by @kazuma78 . I started researching a bit myself but never finished compiling into notes.

    I also found Nicholas Wright’s article and found it very interesting. It was very useful how he analyzes the headdress, shield, and clothing of the fallen warrior to determine that some probably show a Macedonian foot soldier and others likely show “northern barbarians.”

    One thing not considered as far as I’ve found is that this iconography also crops up in a purely Macedonian context around this same time. Near the Ancient Macedonian capital of Pella is a tomb known as the Kinch Tomb (310-290 BC). The below painting is from the tomb.
    To me it seems pretty clear that this painting and the scene on the coins are iconographically related.

    If we go back a little further we see a similar scene from the gravestone of a cavalryman from Athens who died ca. 394 BC. The Athenian cavalryman is fighting a Spartan holding a shield.

    Around the same time (ca. 400-375 BC) a Persian dynast from the Troad in Asia Minor put this scene on his tomb. The relief is in Greek influenced style and the dynast is fighting a Greek hoplite (helped by another Greek handing him spears ironically).

    I think it is possible that the scene on the coins is an iconographic borrowing of a popular ancient theme used here to celebrate the vaunted Paeonian cavalry. It shows the influence of Hellenization on Paeonian art. This, of course, doesn’t preclude the possibility that the falling warrior is meant to be a Macedonian or a “barbarian.”

    Here is my example. My unfortunate warrior is shirtless and wearing trousers so he is definitely not Greek or Macedonian. He is possibly an early representation of the Celtic tribes that are going to make life interesting for the Greeks while on their way to Galatia.
    Kings of Paeonia
    Patraos (c. 335-315 BC)
    AR Tetradrachm, mint at Astibos or Damastion.
    Dia.: 24 mm, 1 h
    Wt.: 12.93 g
    Obv.: Laureate head of Apollo right
    Rev.: Warrior on horse rearing r., spearing enemy warrior who defends with shield and spear.
    Ref.: Paeonian Hoard 493-9; HGC 3, 148

    This coin made #6 on my top coins of 2021.
  14. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    I believe you have the reverse die of Paeonian Hoard 116. The catalog describes the object under the horse as an upright thunderbolt and the object just left of the horseman's arm as a bunch of grapes. It's possible your obverse also shares the same die as 116, but there isn't enough detail to say for sure.

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  15. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    You have obverse die 448 with reverse die 373. There are three coins listed in the Sotheby's catalog with that combination:

    No. 490, described as extremely fine with a die axis of 3h.
    No. 491, described as extremely fine with a die axis of 12h.
    No. 492, described as very fine with a die axis of 1:30h.

    Almost all of the extant tets of Patraos come from the Paeonian Hoard, so it's possible your coin is either 490 or 491. It's clearly EF in grade. What is the die axis?

    Sotheby's also sold coins with that die combination in group lots, but none of them are described as grading higher than VF in the catalog. Also, not all of the hoard was sold in the Sotheby's sale. Some of the coins were sold in New York by Parke-Bernet Galleries, but when describing the catalog of that sale, CNG says it consisted of the "lower end of the hoard," see here. There's nothing lower-end about your coin, so if it has a die axis of 3h or 12h, there's an extremely high probability that it's either the exact coin 490 or 491. Also, my catalog came with the realized prices and buyers' names. Both 490 and 491 were bought by Spink. Did your coin come with a Spink provenance?
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2022
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  16. kazuma78

    kazuma78 Supporter! Supporter

    This is fantastic information! My coin is between 3h and 4h so it very well could be lot 490. The only provenance from the auction listing I got it from was from the "Aletheia Collection, acquired prior to 2005".
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  17. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    You can at least attribute it as Paeonian Hoard 490, possibly this coin. It's really too bad they didn't photograph and publish all the coins of the hoard, but I suppose that would have been prohibitive with the technology of 1969. I'm not sure how many coins there were, but judging by the Sotheby's catalog, at least a thousand.
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  18. kazuma78

    kazuma78 Supporter! Supporter

    I wish I could find my coin with a sale record of a Spink sale at some point. At least that would give it an even better chance at being that coin.
  19. Meander

    Meander Well-Known Member

    Great research and write up @Sulla80 and @John Anthony. The Celtic imitations presented are very intriguing. Now I want one too :) I own two specimen mainly due to a different style of the obverse.


    Paeonia, Patraos. AR Tetradrachm 12.5gm, c.340-315 BC. Laureate head of Apollo facing right. Rev: Helmeted warrior on horseback right, spearing fallen enemy, Π—A—[TPAOY]. (SNG Copenhagen 1390).

    For the second specimen there is apparently a theory that the obverse shows a portrait of the king himself.


    KINGS of PAEONIA. Patraos. Circa 335-315 BC. AR Tetradrachm, Astibos or Damastion mint. Head of male right, wearing tainia / Warrior on horse rearing right, thrusting spear at enemy lying below who defends with shield.
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  20. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    Spink paid 17 pounds for lot 490 in 1969, which worked out to $40 back in the day.
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  21. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    The Sotheby's catalog describes the busts on coins 73-78 as the king; 79, 80, 82, and 83 simply as "laureate head"; and 81, 84ff as Apollo. Your "king" coin shares the obverse of 73.


    These do have a distinctly different look than the busts described as Apollo, which are fairly homogenous, and in a properly generic classical style.

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