A very interesting discovery

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Pavlos, Jan 22, 2021.

  1. Pavlos

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

    I have owned this coin for almost 1.5-2 years now, and I always labeled it as the usual "Barbarian imitation" of a drachm from Demetrios I Soter, a king of the Seleukid empire.

    The imitative coin I own:
    Demetrios I Soter (161-150 B.C.) AR Drachm. Barbaric (Galatian?) contemporary imitation of Antioch mint issue dated 152/1 BC (SE 161)
    Diademed head right of Demetrios I right.
    Reverse: Cornucopia; below, two monograms above AΞ(P) (date) below.
    Reference: For type: SC 1657.
    4.30g; 15mm

    The host coin:
    Courtesy of CNG

    I started to dive deeper by looking up other imitations that were sold, and there was a huge variety in examples in different styles, but many of them were lacking three things: A clear date and monograms imitated from the host coin (AΞ[P] = 152/151 BC), a fairly good-styled portrait of Demetrios and an almost perfect Attic weight of ~4.3g (all other examples were (heavily) underweight).
    These coins were labeled Barbarian imitations, Galatian imitations, and Commagenian imitations, which were attributed to the reigns of either Samos II Theosebes Dikaios (130-109 BC) or Mithradates I Kallinikos (96-70 BC)

    Example of how most Demetrios I imitations look like that are attributed to Samos II Theosebes-Mithradates I Kallinikos:
    Courtesy of Nomos

    The Attic weight of the coin made me think it had been minted in an early date of issue, when Demetrios I Soter his drachms were still circulating actively.
    I started to look for literature and came across this paper from O. Hoover, called “Notes on Some Imitation Drachms of Demetrius I Soter from Commagene”.

    Here I made a very interesting discovery. First I was right that this was an early imitation, but much earlier then I thought!
    Here is how the story goes: There was a person called Ptolemaios, he was the son of King Orontes IV of Armenia. From 201 B.C. he was a satrap of Commagene under the Seleukid Empire, and he served four Seleukid kings. He wanted to escape the Seleukid hegemony, and in 163 B.C. he revolted and was successful. However, upon gaining independence the rebel satrap failed to immediately issue coins in his own name, thereby failing to present himself as a legitimate ruler to his subjects. To date no coins of any kind have been discovered bearing the personal types and name of Ptolemaios. A reason for this could be simply because he never adopted the royal title, so he was in fact a 'free satrap' or a pariah, and not a king.


    As a new and independent ruler of Commagene, Ptolemaios must have needed to produce coinage at some point in his reign. Especially the fact that he even attempted to invade Cappadocia, therefore he was militarily active and he probably needed to pay his troops with money. After 153/2 B.C., a sudden emission of imitation drachms of Demetrios I Soter appeared with no known authority behind their issue. These issues were imitations of good style with a fairly realistic portrait, readable legend, monograms and date. The fact that Ptolemaios did not strike coinage in his own name suggests the strong possibility that the coins of this group may have been struck under Ptolemaios himself.
    The weights of the coins in this group, ranging in the Attic standard weight, also contribute to this theory because they imply the use of the Attic standard, which was employed by the official Demetrius drachms of Antioch, thereby pointing to an early date or issue when Commagene was still fairly close to the Seleucid economic sphere.
    Such an early date was the reign of Ptolemaios, when the state was independent but not yet so independent that its ruler could risk upsetting the legitimate economic and political systems already established by the Seleukids.

    Basically this is the first coin of the first king (or better said the first ruler) of the Commagenians, to pay for his soldiers.

    Therefore the attribution of the coin can now be as follow:
    Kingdom of Commagene, Ptolemaios (163-130 B.C.) AR Drachm. Imitating Demetrios I Soter, Antioch mint issue dated 152/1 B.C. (SE 161). Struck by uncertain mint in Commagene, ca. 152/1-130 B.C.
    Diademed head right of Demetrios I right.
    Reverse: Cornucopia; below, two monograms above AΞ(P) (date) below.
    Reference: O. Hoover, “Notes on Some Imitation Drachms of Demetrius I Soter from Commagene” in AJN 10 (1998), Series I, Group A.
    4.30g; 15mm

    All in all a very interesting discovery.

    Please post your coins of Commagene, coins of Demetrios I and your imitations!
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2021
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  3. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    Great post, thanks for the write up.
    Pavlos likes this.
  4. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    What a thrillride to read! How exciting and great detective work! BIG COINGRATS
    I've never heard of this pariah (hope nobody calls me that when I'm dead and gone).
    I could only find one example, that I think is a match, on AC search (I had to run the ID through Google translate):
    SELEUKIDS. Demetrios I Soter, 162-150 BC Chr. Drachma (3.17g). Obv .: head with diadem to the right. Rev .: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΔΗΜΗΤΡΙΟΥ ΣΩΤΗΡΟΣ, cornucopia, below date ΑΞΡ and two monograms. O. Hoover, Notes on Some Imitations Drachms of Demetrios I Soter from Commagene, AJN 10, 1998, A 16 (Vs. stgl.); SC 1768; HGC 807.
    R! Commagenic addition! vz
    Ex Lanz auction 144, Munich 2008, 294 (there as Mitridates I. Kallinikos).
    The centrifugal developments within the Seleucid rule led to ever more disintegration phenomena. Ptolemy, who came from the Iranian-Armenian dynasty of the Orontids and was Epistates in Commagene from 170-163, made himself in 163 BC. Independent and became the founder of the Commagenic Kingdom. However, he did not mint any coins in his name. However, it fits into the temporal context that under the rule of Demetrius I Soter, imitations of the official coins appear, which are located in the area of the Commagenic Empire and could be related to this withdrawal movement. see Hoover a.O. P.83; SC II 1 p.207.
    Curtisimo, Alex22, Spaniard and 13 others like this.

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    I need to second everything in @Ryro's first paragraph ...absent the ensuing, no less bracingly erudite details, which summarily go sailing over my head. --Whoosh!
    You guys are just That Good.
    Pavlos and Ryro like this.

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    ...@Pavlos, where did you find that map? Hoping it's free online, somewhere. A link would be Cordially, Promise you, appreciated.
    Pavlos and Parthicus like this.
  7. David@PCC

    David@PCC allcoinage.com

    The original I suppose.
    Demetrius I
    Year 161, 152/151 BC
    Mint: Antioch
    AR Drachm
    Obvs: Head of Demetrius right diademed within fillet border.
    Revs: BAΣΙΛEΩΣ ΔHMHTPIOY ΣΩTHPOΣ, Cornucopia. Two monograms below.
    17mm, 4.1g
    Ref: SNG Is. 1285; SC 1642.3b; HGC 9, 806(C)

    That's some good sleuthing. I have a hard time telling the imitations apart.
    Curtisimo, Spaniard, Pavlos and 5 others like this.
  8. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Very cool discovery!

    I have the original
    Seleucid Demetrius I soter drachm.jpg

    And two much, much later imitations

    Very slightly finer style (sold this one a while back)
    Celtic AR seleucid imitation cornucopia.jpg

    And almost indistinguishable from the original
    Eastern Celts imitating Demetrius I Cornucopia drachm.jpg
  9. Pavlos

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

    Thank you for your additional detective work Ryan :bookworm:. That one is quite low in weight though for this group. From all the examples I found, including the paper, mine has one of the highest weights.

    I will have to check for you again, will send you a PM when I found it.

    Thanks for sharing David, nice drachm.

    Very nice imitations! Your last coin must have been minted very late, most likely under Antiochos I Theos.
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  10. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Great write up Pavlos, I agree with your new description, doesn't look barbaric at all.

    P1150754 (3).JPG
    Tetradrachm issued by his son, Demetrios II Nikator:

    P1180776 best.JPG
  11. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    Good sleuthing @Pavlos and interesting coin. Thanks for sharing this

    Pavlos likes this.
  12. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Enrich the soldiers...ignore all others

    Excellent detective work and a nice write-up @Pavlos - very interesting.
    Pavlos likes this.
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