Archaic "drachms" of Parion (or is it Olbia?)

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by John Anthony, Feb 22, 2020.

  1. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    The city of Parion was founded in 709 BC. According to Strabo it was a colony of Milesians, Erythraeans, and Parians. It was under the hegemony of the Achaemenid Empire during the reign of Darius the Great, but after his death in 486, Parion joined the Delian League, an association of Greek city-states under the leadership of Athens.


    It was around this time that the Parians began minting their own coinage, these small, thick drachms featuring a gorgoneion. A gorgoneion was a type of protective amulet displaying the head of a gorgon. It was used most famously by Zeus and Athena, and it was often found on the shields of Greek soldiers. It's not clear why the Parians chose to put a gorgonion on their coinage, but it remained a trademark of their issues until Troas came under Roman rule.


    For those of you new to ancient coins, these drachms were struck in the archaic style, using a square rod to punch the flans into the anvil die. The ends of the punches were cut in geometrical shapes which created a pattern on the reverse known as a cruciform incuse square. (There are varieties of these patterns.) But by the end of the 5th century BC, the coinage of most of the Greek world had evolved to include fully-realized reverse devices, often as artistic as the obverse designs, so Parion's first independent coinage was a throwback to earlier techniques.

    In fact, these drachms, although smaller, have the feel and fabric of Achaemenid sigloi, which the Parians would have been familiar with during the rule of Darius I. Perhaps the same minters that made the sigloi in Mysia made these coins, and perhaps some of the sigloi were even melted down to make the flans - we may never know. They aren't the most beautiful coins in the world, to be sure, but they are an important part of the transition from Archaic to Classical minting. They were hastily produced in large quantities, probably owing to the needs of a burgeoning post-occupation economy. As such, many are weakly-struck and heavily circulated. I recently acquired a handful of better-than-average pieces with nice surfaces...


    These chunky little blobs are colloquially called drachms, but they typically weigh in between 3 and 3.5 grams, so some authors refer to them as 3/4 drachms, according to the Attic standard.

    Finally, our forum friend @Ed Snible has an excellent page on the coinage of Parion here: The Gorgons of Parion. Don't miss it! - Whenever I read anything of Ed's, I always feel smarter. :bookworm: :cigar:

    Post 'em if you got 'em.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2020
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  3. Carl Wilmont

    Carl Wilmont Supporter! Supporter

    Very interesting article, from which I learned much about this coinage- thanks! Ed Snible's page is also excellent!

    Mysia, Parion. 4th century BC. Silver hemidrachm. 13 mm, 2.14 g.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2020
  4. Ryro

    Ryro Trying to remove supporter status Supporter

    Fun thread idea with some great examples of these little fellas. Plus an excellent bonus thorough and in depth @Ed Snible article with more amazing examples!
    Here's a creepy and fun example I purchased from Frank Robinson a couple years back:
  5. Carl Wilmont

    Carl Wilmont Supporter! Supporter

    :nailbiting: Emerging Gorgon- run!
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  6. SeptimusT

    SeptimusT Well-Known Member

    I haven't gotten my hands on one of these yet, but I'm a big fan of the style. Finding one that hits the spot is difficult, but I like the ones I see here!

    A couple similar archaic coins with incuse reverses are these from Kindya and Kolophon (the smallest coin I own, which even the fine photographers at Roma couldn't do justice to). You can also see some influence of the Persian sigloi in the early coins of Gandhara, which show an evolution (via the Persians) from imitations of electrum Lydian bull coins to the more common bent bars and Satamana types. It take some imagination to see the influence by then, however.

    By the way, I wonder whether metallurgical testing could determine the source of the silver in the Parian drachms...

    Obverse: Head of Ketos (sea-serpent) left, with open jaws
    Reverse: Incuse geometric pattern
    AR tetrobol of Kindya, Caria, 510 - 490 BC, 12mm, 1.94g. SNG Helsinki 920, ex-Baldwin Maull collection

    : Archaic head of Apollo left
    Reverse: Irregular incuse punch
    AR tetartemorion of Kolophon, Ionia, 530 - 500 BC, 5mm, 0.19g. SNG Kayhan 343, ex Roma eSale 66 & CNG eAuction 244.

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  7. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks for the write-up!

    As far as I see, there is some serious doubt whether these really come from Parion. A while ago, @Ed Snible suggested in another thread that they might actually have been minted at Olbia. To quote his post, which in my opinion presented convincing evidence:

    My tag for this "Parion drachm" therefore reads "probably Olbia:"
    Magna Graecia – Mysien, Parion, drachm Gorgoneoin.png
    "Mysia, Parium" (probably Olbia), "drachm," ca. 480 BC. Obv: Gorgoneion. Rev cross-shaped incusum. 12.2mm, 3.14g. Ref: BMC 4–8; Sear Greek 3917; SNG Copenhagen 256, SNG von Aulock 1318.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2020
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  8. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    That's a fairly compelling argument for Olbia! Thank you for the link. I was not aware of an attribution controversy. I've edited the title of this thread to reflect the question.
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  9. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    I have mine listed as a 3/4 and 3.4g. I wish it were not so well centered but showed more of the bottom with tongue.
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