Featured Countermark with Battle of Actium Connections - Tarkondimotos of Cilicia

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Marsyas Mike, Sep 1, 2019.

  1. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    I am pretty geeked out over this one, ugly as it may be. This is an AE from Cilicia issued by Tarkondimotos, a king with Roman sympathies who died at the Battle of Actium fighting for Marc Anthony. Tarkondimotos spent his entire career supporting Rome, but always the wrong guy - Pompey against Caesar, then Cassius, then Marc Anthony. The Battle of Actium put an end to this, and the coin was countermarked shortly thereafter with an anchor by his son Philopator I, who was hoping, probably, for another royal pardon from Octavian (nope).
    CM - Cilicia, Tarkondimotos Aug 2019x (0).jpg
    In addition to being fairly unattractive, this coin puzzled me at first and I wasn't planning on bidding on it - a "Seleucid" anchor countermark on a coin issued this late seemed flaky to me. I doubted there'd be much information. The day the auction was closing I did a halfhearted search online and found that this issue was somewhat abundant, with several examples on FORVM and elsewhere. It was the FORVM listings that led me to the Battle of Actium.

    "Tarkondimotos was made dynast by Pompey and crowned king by Marc Antony. He died at the Battle of Actium. The anchor countermark, frequently used in an earlier era by Seleukid kings, is almost certainly post-Actium, perhaps from Antioch." (FORVM)

    Soon afterwards I came across a wonderful article by Nicholas L. Wright (excerpts below). According to Wright, the countermark served several purposes, including obliterating the reverse legend, which carried the politically dangerous ‘Philantonios’ ("friend of Anthony"). In all the other examples I could find online, the countermark was indeed placed on the neck of the king, vertically aligned, so that it obliterated the offending Philantonios legend on the reverse. Unfortunately, the die axis of my specimen is not 12 o'clock, so the reverse-obliteration did not work (a lot of circulation wear did take out the reverse legends).

    I thought this coin came with far more provenance than is typical for my eBay purchases - according to the flip this is ex CNG Sale XXXIII, Lot 358, ex Frank Kovacs collection. I found the CNG auction online, but the lot described was for an un-countermarked specimen. So much for the reliability of old flips (the seller made no mention of this "provenance" in the eBay auction, so I am not complaining).

    An excerpt and link to Wright's article is below. Any other of these out there, countermarked or not?

    Tarkondimotid responses to Roman domestic politics: from Antony to Actium by Nicholas L Wright

    "...Tarkondimotos led his own squadron during the engagement and died fighting against Agrippa.14 He was succeeded in Kilikia by his sons, Philopator I and Tarkondimotos II.

    It would appear that one of the first actions taken by Philopator on his succession was to systematically countermark his father’s regal coins with an anchor symbol across the neck of the obverse portrait (Fig. 4). The choice of a maritime symbol to legitimise the coinage of a king who had just died in a naval battle may not be as strange as it first sounds. The anchor was widely understood as a sign of safety, and the symbol had been the official mark of the Seleukids from earliest times as a subtype, reverse type, a symbol on official weights and seals, and as a countermark. In this context the countermark may have symbolised the right of the Tarkondimotidai as successors of the Seleukids to continue their rule in Kilikia during the uncertainty that followed the battle of Actium.15 Furthermore, Tarkondimotos I’s regal coins have a uniform die axis of 12 o’clock. By hammering the countermark punch into the neck of the obverse portrait, any detail below the exergue line of the reverse type became obliterated. This was precisely the location of the epithet ‘Philantonios’ which has become all but invisible on the known countermarked specimens of this coin type. Through the countermarking process Philopator I was making a dual statement stressing both his own legitimacy and, just as important in the political environment after Actium, reneging on his father’s support of Antony. Even so, he maintained the royal title for little more than a year before Octavian officially relieved him of the kingship in 30 BC.16 Nevertheless, Philopator retained his influential position within the region, probably with the hereditary title of toparch although specific evidence for this is lacking." (p. 76)

    http://www.numismatics.org.au/pdfjournal/Vol20/Vol 20 Article 6.pdf
    Sulla80, 7Calbrey, Penna_Boy and 21 others like this.
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  3. jamesicus

    jamesicus Supporter! Supporter

    Really excellent information @Marsyas Mike - and a great coin. Thank you for the post.
    Marsyas Mike likes this.
  4. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Thank you, James. I learn something new every day...or try to anyway. I hope your birthday blast was a blast and that you didn't eat too much pizza (I tend to lose all control around a pizza and regret it the next day).
  5. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    I agree!
    ominus1 and Marsyas Mike like this.
  6. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Fascinating history behind that countermark! That's what ancient numismatics is all about!
    ominus1 and Marsyas Mike like this.
  7. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Great post, Mike! Tarkondimotos is on The List, but I wasn't aware of the neat countermark. So cool! :)
    Marsyas Mike likes this.
  8. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    I have nothing to share but I found your write up and coin interesting.
    7Calbrey and Marsyas Mike like this.
  9. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    I am a fan of anchors and have one in a countermark.
    7Calbrey, chrsmat71, Andres2 and 4 others like this.
  10. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Such a historically cool coin, Mike. Thanks for the writeup on it!
  11. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Thank you all for your kind comments. And thanks too to whoever made this post a "featured" article - a first for me. I am truly honored.

    As for the write-up, the credit goes to Nicholas L. Wright and his fine article on this issue. This was all new to me - I only know what I read there.
  12. Alegandron

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

    Super write-up and very interesting info @Marsyas Mike ! I enjoy countermarks / bankmarks on my coins... they really enhance the history around them!

    Mine does not have a countermark, but is a coin of a King as far away as Baktria that aided Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium, according to Virgil. Purdy cool...

    INDO-GREEK KINGDOM Zoilos II Circa 50-30 BCE AR drachm 17mm 2.3g Athena Alkidemos l monograms Antony Actium SNG ANS 1654-1658
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