Featured Ancients: The Enigma of Oinoanda

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by AncientJoe, Jul 26, 2014.

  1. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter


    Oinoanda, an ancient Greek city located in the upper valley of the Xanthus River, was built on the top of a high mountain in the ancient province of Lycia, now modern southwest Turkey. Little is known of the early history of the settlement in spite of several exploratory surveys which have been carried out in the region.

    It was a substantial city in antiquity but surprisingly, it issued its own silver coins at only one moment in its long history. Until the early 2000s, the coinage was known from only a single specimen acquired by the British Museum in 1897. The discovery of a small group has allowed the coinage to be studied in much more detail and has added to our admittedly sparse understanding of the coinage of the period.

    Three distinct issues have been identified, marked by a sequence of letters and symbols. They are dated to the first three years of Attalid rule of the region following the peace of Apameia in 188 BC after the Roman defeat of Antiochos III in 190 BC. The terms of the peace dictated that much of the Seleukid territory in Anatolia passed to the control of Pergamon and Rhodes.

    Because of this, Oinoanda was able to establish sufficient autonomy to begin to mint its own coinage. It is apparent due to the wide variety in coin weight that the mint did not have experience in quality control, but each of the coins were intended to be Attic didrachms, weighing about 8.65 grams.

    Contrary to the very prevalent drachm and tetradrachms in the region, didrachms were an unusual denomination. It has been theorized that this weight was chosen for streamlined exchange between the Attic weight and the new cistophoroi of the Attalids, with three Oinoandan didrachms equaling two cistophoric tetradrachms.

    With both cistophoric and Attic coinages being used in Oinoanda, the didrachm would make it easier to handle official payments to the Attalid authorities and deal with local and nearby territories still on the Attic standard.

    The underlying purpose for this rare and isolated coinage is still unclear but it may have been minted to pay for the Hellenistic city walls built during the period after the formal Attalid takeover. However, the four known obverse dies would have produced a substantially insufficient quantity of coins to pay for such a large undertaking, indicating that unless more dies are discovered in the future, the difference may have been funded by the cistophoroi or Side tetradrachms which circulated in the region.

    Zeus was the principal deity of Oinoanda and he is depicted on the obverse of this coin with a lotus-tipped scepter over his shoulder. His eagle is shown standing to the right on a winged thunderbolt on the reverse. The design appears to have been influenced in part by the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, sharing similar attributes, but clearly deviating in actual execution.

    This coin is the finest of only four known from the first die pair in the series, marking it as one of the first coins struck by Oinoanda and placing it at the beginning of an enigmatic and aesthetic coinage that historians are still learning from today.

    LYCIA, Oinoanda. 188 BC. AR Didrachm (19mm, 7.92 g, 12h). Laureate head of Zeus right; A and scepter behind / Eagle standing right on winged thunderbolt. Ashton, Oinoanda 1 (A1/P1), otherwise unpublished. EF, dark iridescent toning. Well centered and sharply struck from the first die pairing of the series. Extremely rare and the finest of the four known from these dies.
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  3. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Interesting discovery! That is some lovely toning on the reverse, too.
  4. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Enjoyable writeup and lovely coin. I like the toning too.
  5. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I like the toning too.
  6. Travlntiques

    Travlntiques Well-Known Member

    Sweet heavenly days, do you own that coin?
    It's a beautiful example and an amazing piece of history.
  7. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES!

    very cool AJ...agreed that the toning is fantastic. have never seen anything quite like it...thanks for sharing.
  8. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Another outstanding coin AJ.
  9. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Gorgeous! You did some mighty deep digging for that history-- thanks! Now if only I could find one...
  10. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

  11. Whizb4ng


    Damn it AJ! Knew I should have posted my coin tomorrow :p

    Quite the interesting coin you have here. Is the reverse slightly concave? I really enjoy the thunderbolts on ancient coins. Especially how they always have that nice grip where Zeus places his hand. The wings makes it seem so cute and innocent like the flying keys in Harry Potter.
    stevex6 likes this.
  12. stevex6

    stevex6 Random Mayhem

    => I hear ya, brother (*sigh*)

    Wow AJ, it's another total winner!! (congrats on having fantastic taste in coins and a fistful of cash!!)
  13. Zohar444

    Zohar444 Member

    The write up is as pleasant as the coin. Superb.
  14. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

  15. josh's coins

    josh's coins Well-Known Member

    I do think you do some very great write ups and it is pretty obvious now that you have 6 featured articles. However my concern is that a good portion of the featured section is about Ancient Coins and not everyone is into collecting Ancient Coins.

    I'm not really into Ancient coins but I do collect Greek Coins and your article leaves me to believe that I should start collecting Ancient Greek Coins. Where would one start on this journey?
  16. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    I will answer from my perspective. Buy a book entitled "Collecting Greek Coins" by John Anthony. You can generally pick it up used at decent prices.
    dougsmit likes this.
  17. josh's coins

    josh's coins Well-Known Member

    Alright, Thank you sir.
  18. TJC

    TJC Well-Known Member

    Fantastic coin AJ! Very attractive! Great history and write up! Real nice photography too!
  19. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks :) Yes, I only post coins that I own.
    Travlntiques likes this.
  20. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    :) You're correct - the reverse is indeed concave, with the eagle coming up almost as high as the coin is deep.
    stevex6 likes this.
  21. Whizb4ng


    That is fantastic. It is a truly beautiful coin. You would be hard pressed to find a fault.
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