Featured A Roman Provincial from Nisibis in Mesopotamia

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Aug 10, 2019.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Post your coins minted in Nisibis or anything you feel is relevant!

    Nisibis (Νίσιβις; modern Nusaybin in southeastern Turkey, along the Syrian border) was ancient even in the Roman period, having been founded as an Aramean settlement before 900 BCE. It is situated in the region of Mygdonia, in northern Mesopotamia, on the frontier between the Greek and Roman empires and the empires of the east: Babylon, Achaemenid Persia, Parthia, and the Sasanians.


    The city was conquered by by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE and coin production first began in the Seleucid period, with the first issues struck under Antiochus IV. Being on the crossroads between the great empires of the west and east, Nisibis was often taken and retaken. It was captured by Lucullus in 68 BC; however, this first Roman occupation was exceedingly brief. During the reign of Nero, Corbulo seized Nisibis during his Armenian campaign, but this second Roman occupation was also of short duration. The city was captured again by Trajan in 115 CE, then lost and regained against the Jews during the Kitos War. Lost in 194, it was again conquered by Septimius Severus, who made it his headquarters and re-established a colony there, which he named Septimia. The first coins struck in the name of the city under Roman rule were issued under Caracalla, and feature his youthful bust on the obverse and a turreted, veiled and draped figure of the city goddess seated on a rock, holding what appear to be ears of corn (MacDonald p. 315, no 1).

    The last battle between Rome and Parthia was fought in the vicinity of the city in 217 between the forces of Macrinus and the Parthian army of Artabanus V. It lasted for three days and ended with a Parthian victory, with both sides suffering large casualties.

    As a result of the battle, Macrinus was forced to seek peace, paying the Parthians a huge sum and abandoning the invasion of Mesopotamia that Caracalla had begun a year before. Nisibis, however, remained under Roman control and continued to mint coins.

    The coins of this era feature the right-facing bust of Macrinus on the obverse and the right-facing, turreted and veiled bust of the city goddess on the reverse. The city goddess -- often called Tyche or Fortuna in the numismatic literature -- remained a constant feature on the reverses of coins minted in this city.

    Twenty years after the Parthian victory at Nisibis, the city came under siege by the first Sasanian King, Ardasir, after his failure to conquer Armenia. It was relieved by the Roman Emperor Severus Alexander in 233 CE. From then on the city was given the title of metropolis in addition to colonia. Its coins thereafter bear the legend CЄΠ KOΛΩ NЄCIBI MHT -- "Septimian colony at the metropolis of Nisibis" (Head, HN ii, p. 815). Beginning with the reign of Severus Alexander, the zodiac figure of Ares and a star was typically added to the reverse design of coins issued in the city.

    Five years later, it was lost again to the Persians during the brief reign of Maximinus in 238. Gordian III re-conquered it after his victory at Rhesaina over Sapur I. Under Gordian III, the figure of the local river god, Mygdonius, became a common reverse motif, in addition to featuring the city goddess, the zodiac sign Ares, and a star.

    According to the treaty signed between Philip the Arab and Sapur, Nisibis together with the rest of Upper Mesopotamia were left in Roman hands and to her official title was now added the name "Julian" to signify the honors bestowed on her by Philip whose full name was Julius Philippus (cf. Head, HN ii, p. 815). Coins issued under Philip bear the reverse inscription IOY CЄΠ KOΛΩ NЄCIBI MHT to reflect this change in the city's titulature.

    Arabic sources note the city was recaptured by Sapur ca. 250 CE. The numismatic record indicates that no further coinage was produced there by the Romans after the reign of Philip I (244-249 CE).

    This coin -- a new acquisition -- was one of the last Roman provincials issued by the city.

    Otacilia Severa Nisibis.jpg
    Otacilia Severa, AD 244-249.
    Roman provincial Æ 24 mm, 14.34 g.
    Mesopotamia, Nisibis, AD 244-249.
    Obv: MAP ΩTAKIΛ CЄOYHPAN CЄB, diademed and draped bust right, on crescent.
    Rev: IOY CЄΠ KOΛΩ NЄCIBI MHT, tetrastyle temple containing statue of city goddess seated facing; above her head, ram (Aries) leaping right; below, river god Mygdonius swimming right.
    Refs: BMC 27; SNG Copenhagen 244; Sear GIC 4065; SNG Hunterian 2447; MacDonald 4.

    Here's the BMC plate coin for a clearer look at the reverse details:

    Otacilia Severa Nisibis BMC plate.JPG


    Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, New York, 1996-. Nisibis (Samuel Lieu).

    MacDonald, George. Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the Hunterian Collection, University of Glasgow. J. Maclehose and Sons, 1905.

    Head, Barclay Vincent. Historia Numorum a Manual of Greek Numismatics. Durst, 1983. Available online thanks to CT's own @Ed Snible here.

    Hill, George Francis. Catalogue of the Greek Coins of Arabia, Mesopotamia & Persia. British Museum, 1922.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. David@PCC

    David@PCC Well-Known Member

    Was any coinage produced at all after Philip at this mint? As far as I know Demetrios II was the last Seleucid king to mint at Nisibis.
  4. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    I don't know enough about Sasanian coins to answer this question.
  5. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Nice, I also have an example of this type:
    Otacilia Severa Nisibis.jpg
    Johndakerftw, Bing, ominus1 and 3 others like this.
  6. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Nisibis is not listed in any list of Sasanian mint cities that I can find (in my admittedly incomplete search). Of course, given how the various published works identifying Sasanian mintmarks often disagree with each other, and how some assignments are only slightly better than guesswork, I would hesitate to state definitively that Nisibis was never a Sasanian mint city, but it looks likely that it was not.
  7. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Great coin and write up RC, I have that type on my want list. I have a Mesopotamia.
    Mesapotamia Trjan Decius.jpg MESOPOTAMIA. Rhasaena. Trajan Decius, 249-251. (Bronze, 27 mm, 9.83 g, 5 h). ΑΥΤ ΚΑΙ ΓΑΙ ΜЄϹ ΚΥ ΤΡΑ ΔЄΚΙΟϹ ϹЄΒ Radiate, draped and cuirassed bust of Decius to right, seen from behind. Rev. ϹЄΠ ΡΗϹΑΙΝΗϹΙωΝ L III P Temple seen in perspective; within, eagle standing left with closed wings; below, river-god Chaboras swimming left between two palms.Castelin 70 good fine.

    The reverse legend refers to the Legio III Parthica, whose main base was at Rhasaena.
  8. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Nice write up, @Roman Collector !

    Looks like I have the last Roman Ruler coin from there...

    RI Philip II 244-249 Nisibis Mesopotamia-farthest EAST Temple
  9. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Trajan Decius, AD 249-251
    AE 26, 14g, 315°
    Bust, draped and cuirassed, radiate, r.
    2 city goddesses, in long garment and with mural crown, on the left side Edessa stg. r. with Aquarius on pedestal behind, on the right side Rhesaena stg. l., with Sagittarius behind, stg. confronted and clasping hands; between them a burning altar, above an eagle; beneath river-god Chaboras swimming. r.
    Ref.: BMC 29; SNG Copenhagen 246
    Rare, F+/about VF, black-green Patina
    According to R. Ziegler it is not a Homonoia Coinage, because the issuing city (Rhesaena) is standing on the right side, whereas on Homonoia Coinages she stands usually on the left side.

    Chaboras, today Khabur, a tributary of the Euphrates

    Best regards
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page