Another Tyche/Orontes Provincial from Antioch

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by DonnaML, Jan 12, 2021.

  1. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I recently posted (see this Maximinus II-period AE16 from Antioch, depicting Tyche with the river god Orontes on the obverse, probably issued in 312 AD for the Olympics held in Antioch. (See Kalina, David, “Anonymous Civic Coinage,” Series 1, at

    Maximinus II persecution issue AE16 Antioch (Tyche-Apollo), McAlee 170, Sear 14927  jpg issue.jpg

    And here's a new Antioch silver tetradrachm from Trajan's reign depicting the same theme on the reverse, issued precisely 200 years earlier in 112 AD:

    Trajan AR Tetradrachm, 112 AD, Seleucis & Pieria, Antioch Mint. Obv. Laureate head right, club below to left and eagle (standing right) below to right, AYTOKP KAIC NER TPAIANOC CEB ΓEPM ΔAK / Rev. Tyche of Antioch, wearing mural crown, seated on rocks, right, holding two ears of wheat and a poppy-head in her right hand, right foot on shoulder of river god Orontes in river swimming right, looking up at Tyche, left arm extended and left forefinger pointed, ΔΗΜΑΡΧ ΕΞ ΙϚ ΥΠΑΤ Ϛ [= TR POT XVI, COS VI]. RPC [Roman Provincial Coinage] Vol. III 4076 (2015); RPC Online at; McAlee 471 [Richard McAlee, The Coins of Roman Antioch (2007)]; Prieur 1499 [Michel and Karin Prieur, Syro-Phoenician Tetradrachms (London, 2000)]. 25 mm., 13.88 g.

    Trajan-Tyche, Seleucis & Pieria, Antioch, tetradrachm, jpg version.jpg

    Some questions:

    1. I get the eagle on the obverse, but does anyone know what the club signifies?

    2. You can see that Orontes's left forefinger is extended, and is pointing at a triangular object that does not appear to be part of the final letter (the Greek "S") of the reverse inscription. Any ideas on what it might be?

    3. What is that extending up behind Tyche's ear? Is it the end of the stem of her "bouquet," or something else?

    4. Is this just another case of pareidolia, or could the various lines in the folds at the bottom of Tyche's gown possibly include several letters of the Greek alphabet? (I see what might conceivably be an A, an O, and a Greek L, among other possibilities.) This is the area I've been looking at:

    Detail, Reverse, Trajan-Tyche, Seleucis & Prieur, Antioch, Tetradrachm.jpg

    5. RPC as well as McAlee (judging from the book's title) list this coin as having been issued in Antioch. David Sear's book Greek Imperial Coins (1982), at p. 100, lists as no. 1088 (and includes a photo of) what appears to be the identical coin type, but attributes it to Tyre. Is that an outdated attribution?

    6. Finally, the earliest depiction of Tyche & Orontes listed in RPC appears to be this reverse of an Augustus tetradrachm from Antioch, RPC I 4151 (not my coin):

    RPC I  4151 Tyche-Orontes reverse.jpg

    Does anyone know if this was the first coin depicting this theme, or if there were any coins that did so before the Empire?

    Please post your own Tyche/Orontes coins from any period, or your Trajan Provincials from any city.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2021
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  3. Iepto

    Iepto Active Member

    Jochen1 seems to have posted a thread about this topic before, and has a coin that predates the Augustus coin (95-56 BC) --

    The statue this theme is based on dates from the 3rd century BCE, so theoretically we could see other early coins with this theme? (See for a discussion on the statue)
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  4. Iepto

    Iepto Active Member

    And here's a coin I have with this theme:

    Syria, Seleucis and Pieria. Antiochia ad Orontem. Severus Alexander. A.D. 222-235.
    AVT KAI MAP AV CЄ AΛЄΞANΔP[OC CЄ], laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Severus Alexander right, seen from the front / ANTIOXЄΩN MHTPO KOΛ, Δ-Є, [SC], Tyche seated left on rocks, head facing; to left, a second Tyche standing facing, head right, holding rudder and cornucopia; to right, emperor(?) standing left, holding parazonium(?) and crowning the seated Tyche; below, half-length figure of river god Orontes swimming left; Butcher 488a.
  5. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you. A very interesting post and thread. Which raises at least one other question. Apparently, the Tyche (or city goddess) of Antioch was typically portrayed holding a palm branch. On my coin, according to the descriptions (and what I can see myself), what she holds is not a palm branch, but is composed of ears of wheat and at least one poppy. Does that suggest that the coin is not actually from Antioch?

    Edited to add: to answer my own question, it seems not. According to RPC, all the Provincial coins depicting Tyche and Orontes were issued in Antioch. The ones issued by Augustus all show Tyche holding a palm branch. The ones issued by Trajan and Hadrian all show her holding two ears of wheat and a poppy. The ones issued by Marcus Aurelius show her holding just the two ears of wheat. The ones issued by Trajan Decius and Trebonianus Gallus all show a statue of Tyche and Orontes inside a temple, with no indication of what Tyche is holding, if anything. And the anonymous civic coinage of Antioch issued during the reign of Maximinus II all appears to show her holding ears of wheat.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2021
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  6. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    In the @Jochen1 thread I posted yesterday, @Ed Snible posted another pre-Imperial coin -- not from Antioch -- with a reverse showing Tyche and Orontes:

    "@Jochen1 your coins look great, especially that Tigranes II.

    Tarsos had a very similar Tyche depiction. That Tyche is holding poppies and wheat, and standing upon a different river-god, Kyndos.

    Early example of Tyche-Orontes coin from tarsus.jpg

    Cilicia, Tarsos, 164-27 BC, AE26, 13.54g
    Obv: ΤΑΡΣΕΩΝ / ΜΑΞΙΜΟΥ ΝΙΚΟ-ΛΑΟΝ; Zeus seated left, holding Nike with wreath and staff.
    Rev: ΟΡΤΥΓΟΘΗ ΡΑ; Tyche seated right on stool, holding poppy and corn-ears, river-god Kyndos swimming right below.
    Ref: SNG Levante 984, SNG Paris 1387
    ex-Stacks/Coin Galleries April 2005, lot 135

    I can't recall which catalog gave me the date of "164-27 BC" that I am using here. Probably I combined the earliest and latest dates from conflicting catalogs. I am not sure if this coin is earlier or later than your Tigranes.

    Given how the arm is broken off I don't know how Visconti determined the statue is the Antioch version with palm and not the Tarsos version with poppy.

    Tyche represents the local town. For Tarsos, the city's slogan might have been "come for the wheat, stay for the opium (?) poppies."

    So it seems that the depiction of Tyche holding wheat and poppies (instead of a palm branch) started out in another city, Tarsos, at least a couple of hundred years before it first appeared on coins of Antioch during the reign of Trajan. (See above.)
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2021
  7. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    So it seems that I now have answers to my questions 5 and 6. Regarding question 1, I can guess that given that a club usually is associated with Hercules (or Melqart "as Hercules" in the Near East), its presence on the obverse of my coin, together with the eagle, probably has something to do with strength, power, imperium, etc.

    Would anyone care to venture a guess at the other three questions, particularly questions 2 and 3 (on the assumption that question 4 is a product of my imagination!)?
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2021
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  8. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    Nothing of consequence to add Donna other than to say that the club resembles that shown on Commodus' coinage, which would suggest the Hercules link, and that you have a remarkable and wonderfully detailed Trajan Tet!
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  9. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member


    It is admirable how you notice the smallest details on the coins and consider them worthy of pursuing their meaning. For me, this increases the intellectual pleasure that a coin gives me.

    To your questions:
    (2) The river gods extend their pointing finger on most of the depictions. I think the small triangle is a kind of separator, which, like a usual point, ends the legend.
    (3) I have no idea. But it looks like something floral.
    (4) is just a pattern on Tyche's clothing. Anything else would be interpreted into it.

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  10. Limes

    Limes Supporter! Supporter

    Nice coin @DonnaML. I do wonder about your coin/month ratio ;-) You're on a role!

    I perhaps can assist you with question no. 1. See this article on, which goes into the carefully cultivated link of Trajan and Hercules.
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  11. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

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  12. Alex22

    Alex22 Active Member

    There are a few coins with similar Tyche depictions brought in, along with one that has the Tyche-river god (Araxes) combination minted in Tigranocerta (80-68 BC, mint-wise attributed in C. Foss. "The Coinage of Tigranes the Great: Problems, Suggestions and a New Find" in NC 1986, and in F. Kovacs' "Armenian Coinage in the Classical Period"). The city god-river god combination is fascinating, considering that most cities started at around a river, hence people may have looked at the city/river unity in a special symbolic way.
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  13. 7Calbrey

    7Calbrey Well-Known Member

    The first silver Tet is similar to the OP coin but with lesser condition, the second shows Nabataean king Arates III on obverse with Tyche and a river deity on reverse. I wonder whether there was a river goddess in their mythology. Struck in 80 BC, this strange coin is thought to have been minted in Damascus but reverse reads DEIHN which stands for Dium in Northern Syria rather than the capital Damascus!? Meshorer N6.

    TrajOront O   Prieur1500.JPG TrajTyche Tet R     Antioch.JPG Nabaret.JPG Arets R.JPG
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  14. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

    Very interesting type shown here. Thanks for starting the thread Donna.
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  15. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    There is no real certainty where your Trajan Tet was minted. McAlee provides evidence that the dies for Tets striking Trajan's coinage were minted in Alexandria, Rome, Tyre, & Antioch. So it is possible that your coin could have been struck in Antioch from dies engraved elsewhere. The same thing applies to the coin pictured below that I sold 2 years ago. McAlee lists the coin under Antioch-Syria, & Prieur lists the coin under Tyre-Phoenicia :confused:.

    McAlee 455a (2).jpg
    Trajan, AD 98-117. AR Tetradrachm: 14.91 gm, 27 mm, 6 h. Ex Tom Cederlind.

    All the experts seem to be in agreement that the Augustus Tets of the type you have & the one I sold below were struck in Antioch, Syria.

    100_4902.JPG 100_4905.JPG

  16. Alegandron

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

    Nice coins, @DonnaML ...and nice write-up.

    I have one from the Augustus period. Not a great example, but a more difficult one to snare, as it is Quinctilius Varus before he lost the Legions...

    Publius Quinctilius Varus
    5-4 BCE
    AE20 8.0g Tetrachalkon
    Tyche Orontes
    Antioch Yr ZK
    RPC 4252 SNG Cop 92
  17. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    @Al Kowsky, it seems that one expert who hasn't been in agreement that the Tyche/Orontes tets like mine were from Antioch is David Sear, who, as I mentioned above, attributed the type to Tyre in his Greek Imperial Coinage. What the basis was for that attribution, and whether he's changed his mind since 1982, I have no idea. (By the way, the Augustus tet I posted isn't mine, unfortunately. The image is of the coin illustrating the type at RPC.)

    I do have one Trajan Provincial tetradrachm generally attributed to Tyre. Note that it also has an eagle and club on the obverse:

    Trajan AR Tetradrachm, 100 AD, Phoenicia, Tyre. Obv. Laureate head of Trajan right; behind, ear of grain in left field; to right, club in right field; below, eagle with folded wings standing right, ΑΥΤΟΚΡ ΚΑΙϹ ΝΕΡ ΤΡΑΙΑΝΟϹ ϹΕΒ ΓΕΡΜ / Rev. Laureate bust of Melqart (as Herakles) right, lion’s skin tied at neck, ΔΗΜΑΡΧ ΕΞ ΥΠΑΤ Γ [= COS III]. RPC [Roman Provincial Coinage] Vol. III 3526 (2015); RPC Online at; Prieur 1482 [Prieur, Michel and Karin, Syro-Phoenician Tetradrachms (London, 2000)]; McAlee 452 [McAlee, Richard, The Coins of Roman Antioch (2007)]. 27 mm., 14.25 g.

    Version 2 Trajan-Melqart Tyre, Phoenicia 100 AD jpg.jpg

    I imagine that the attribution of this coin to Tyre didn't present any issues, given Melqart's specific association (as I understand it) with Tyre and Phoenicia. But the Tyche/Orontes tet I posted isn't the only Trajan Provincial coin for which there's been uncertainty as to the place of minting. Not surprising, I suppose, when there's no ethnic giving the location as part of the legend.

    For example, my Trajan Provincial drachm with a camel on the reverse was apparently attributed originally to Caesarea in Cappadocia (according to Sydenham's 1933 book), and then for many years to a mint in Arabia Bostra. But a 2015 article by Woytek and Butcher argues that these drachms were actually minted in Rome.

    Trajan AR Drachm, 115-Feb. 116 AD [before granting of Parthia title], Arabia Bostra (or Rome*) Mint. Obv. Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Trajan right, with paludamentum, seen from rear, AYTOKP KAIC NЄP TPAIANѠ APICTѠ CƐB ΓƐPM ΔAK [equivalent of IMP CAES NER TRAIANO OPTIMO AVG GERM DAC] / Rev. Bactrian (two-humped) camel, walking left, ΔHMAPX ЄΞ YΠATO ς [equivalent of TR P COS VI (sixth consulship)]. RPC [Roman Provincial Coinage] Vol. III 4076 (2015); RPC Online at, SNG ANS VI 1158; Sydenham 205 [E. Sydenham, The Coinage of Caesarea in Cappadocia (1933)]. 19 mm., 3.10 g. Purchased from Kenneth W. Dorney. (Coin is double die match to Roma Numismatics Auction, May 21, 2013, Lot 767 []; image of that coin is reproduced as Plate 14, No. 7 in Woytek & Butcher article cited in note below.)

    Trajan - Drachm, Arabia Bostra, Camel reverse - jpg version.jpg
    See Bernhard E. Woytek and Kevin Butcher, The Camel Drachms of Trajan in Context: Old Problems and a New Overstrike, The Numismatic Chronicle Vol. 175 (2015), pp. 117-136 (
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