Featured Dyrrachion Stater: A Frustrating Coin to Study

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Curtisimo, Dec 1, 2018.

  1. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great

    Regrettably, I haven’t been around on CT as much lately nor have I had as much time to spend on my coin hobby in general as I would like. For one, I generally like to complete my study of a coin before I post to the forum. However, considering I am running out of year I figured I’d share a coin that I bought recently hoping to dive deeper into the question of the chronology…

    Well, it’s becoming plain that it will be quite some time before I will be able to acquire the necessary references, and more importantly, find the time to read them. In the meantime I figured you all might enjoy seeing my newest acquisition along with the handful of facts that I do know about it.

    Greek Colonies in Illyria
    Dyrrachion AR Stater, struck ca. 450-350 BC
    Dia.: 21.5 mm
    Wt.: 9.78 g
    Obv.: Cow suckling calf
    Rev.: ΔΥΡ around star pattern within linear square; club in field
    Ref.: BMC 22, SNG Copenhagen 421

    Ex Numismatica Ars Classica sale 641 2012, lot 224

    Dyrrachion… or is it Epidamnus?
    The city of Epidamnus / Dyrrachion was founded ca. 627 BC by settlers from the city of Corcyra with assistance from Corinth. The original name of the city was Epidamnus. This is the name by which Thucydides describes it in his history of the Peloponnesian War. Over time, it seems that it became common to refer to the city by the Greek name for the coastline that it was located on: Dyrrhachion (Δυρράχιον). This is likely a compound of the Greek words δυσ (bad) and ῥαχία (rocky shore / waves). This regional name was then adopted by the Romans, as Dyrrachium, when they took control of the region because Epidamnus had an inauspicious sound to Latin speakers.

    The rocky coast of Dyrrachion. The sheltered harbor made the site of the city advantageous for trade.

    One of the things that drew me to this coin is that this city features prominently in Thucydides account of the causes for the Peloponnesian War. Epidamnus was run by a tight oligarchy which in the second half of the 5th century was blamed for the bad outcome of a war with the native Illyrians [1]. The people formed a democracy and threw out the oligarchs who then allied with the city’s Illyrian enemies to besiege the city. The democrats sent for help to Corcyra but were rebuffed. They then went to Corinth to ask for help. Corinth was hostile to Corcyra (who was originally a colony of Corinth) and so agreed to help Epidamnus as an insult to Corcyra. The Corinthians broke the siege of Epidamnus but soon after lost a naval battle to Corcyra who had determined not to let the insult go unanswered.

    Map of the Peloponnese War. The site of Epidamnus is shown on the Adriatic Coast (Wikipedia).

    The Corcyians and Epidamnian oligarchs took the city, dispanded the democracy and sold many of thier political enemies into slavery or took them as hostages (including many of the newly arrived Corinthian settlers).

    An enraged Corinth decided to draw on the support of its Peloponnesian allies in preparation for a huge counterattack on Corcyra. Corcyra quickly recognized it was no match for the combined strength of the Peloponnesian League and so rushed to beg help from the Athenians. The Athenians were afraid that the large Corcyrian navy would fall into the hands of Spartan allies and be used to challenge its naval supremacy and so agreed to allow Corcyra into the Delian League. An indecisive battle between Corinth and its allies and Corcyra with Athenian assistance soon followed. In this way Sparta and Athens found themselves drawn ever closer to a conflict due to the internal struggles of this relatively minor city-state.

    Thucydides doesn’t tell us much about the later fate of Epidamnus and its internal struggles after the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War.

    The Chronology of this Type
    This coin design draws directly from the design used on the archaic staters of Corcyra, which in turn, seem to be a direct progression from the designs found on the archaic coins of Euboia. In this way we can identify the reverse design as a star pattern [2]. The fact that this coin design draws directly from Corcyra is interesting as it tells us something about the affiliation of the regime that issued the coin: namely that they were pro-Corcyra. There is also a series of staters struck at Dyrrachion that are of the Corinthian type (possibly Peloponnesian War issues?).

    The problem is that I don’t know how to date this stater issue and it seems that many of the auction houses are undecided as well as there is often conflicting attribution information depending on which auction you are looking at. For my above I have stuck with the ca. 450-350 BC dating since that is the attribution used by the auction I purchased it from (also used on Wildwinds). This attribution seems to be based on Gorse [3] (others?). I have not been able to read this reference yet so I do not know if the arguments for this dating are convincing. This dating would partially overlap with the narrative given by Thucydides and so would be very interesting in light of the Corcyrian inspired design and the events described above.

    The “asklapiadas” site suggests a date in the mid 4th century based partly on “hoard contents” but does not list specific sources [4]. BMC Thessaly simply lists “4th Century”. One theory is that Dyrrachion and Appolonia were left to fend for themselves monetarily after the Pelopponesian commander Mnesippus occupied Corcyra ca. 375 BC. Another is that the first local coins struck at Dyrrachion should be associated with Timolean’s campaign to Sicily ca. 344 BC.

    To be honest, I don’t yet have an opinion on which of the chronologies is more likely… opinions welcome.

    Coin Production and Fabric
    Another aspect of this coin that I need to spend some time researching is the fabric. On this example there is a very prominent seam around the edge that is made all the more prominent due to uneven corrosion. I am fairly convinced of the authenticity of this piece and that it was struck but I would like to better understand the mechanism by which this fabric was produced.


    The seam obviously suggests casting. The flans for these coins would have to have been cast but where they typically cast in a two part mould as this coin suggests? If so this coin could be the product of a misaligned mould. It is surprisingly hard to find information on the production methods of individual Greek city states. I find this to be an interesting question and I welcome any commentary or suggested references.

    [1] http://classics.mit.edu/Thucydides/pelopwar.1.first.html

    [2] https://www.cngcoins.com/Coin.aspx?CoinID=223773

    [3] Gorse, S.W., Catalog of Mclean Collection of Greek Coins, Vol. 2, Cambridge University Press (1926).

    [4] http://asklapiadas.ancients.info/index.html

    Please post your coins
    • from Apollonia and Dyrrachium
    • that you still need to study further
    • related to the Peloponnese War
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2018
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Thank you for the effort you put into studying this type. I have a couple of examples in my collection, but I've not put in the time to study.
    AR Drachm
    OBVERSE: Cow stdg. right, head turned, suckling calf left, ΞENΩN, eagle above, hound running right in exergue
    REVERSE: Double stellate pattern within double linear square with sides curved inwards, DYR/ FILO / DA/ MOS
    Struck at Dyrrhachium, after 29BC as a Roman Protectorate
    3.31g, 17mm
    BMC 131, 132
    AR Drachm
    OBVERSE: Zenokles and Chaienos. XENOKΛHΣ, Cow standing left, looking back, suckling her calf
    REVERSE: AΠOΛ XAIΡHNOΣ around double stellar pattern in square
    Dyrrachium 70-60 BC
    3g, 17mm
    Ceka 91; BMC 39
    AR Drachm
    OBVERSE: MENISKOS, cow & calf, Nike flying above with wreath, thunderbolt in ex
    REVERSE: DYR KAL LW NOS around double stellate pattern
    Dyrrachium 70-60 BC
    3.22g, 17mm
    Ceka 322
  4. Ryro

    Ryro You'll never be lovelier than you are now... Supporter

    Very nice! She's a beauty and fantastic write up. Thanks for showing her off.
    Your big ol cow makes my coins look like a calf. Your coin vs mine:
    image-1-4.jpg CollageMaker Plus_201842820376203.png Illyria, Dyrrhachion.
    Drachm (Circa 229-100 BC)
    Zoilos and Zopyros,
    Obv: ZΩIΛOΣ.
    Cow standing right suckling calf;
    above, head of Helios; to right,
    Double stellate pattern within
    linear borders.
    BMC 72. VF
    Weight: 3.2 g.
    Diameter: 19 mm
    CollageMaker Plus_201846184618119.png
    c. 250 - 30 BCE -
    Cow Suckling Calf -
    Reverse: Square with
    double Stellate
    Pattern - Silver
  5. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    beautifull picture of that impressive stater, congrats Curtisimo

    Just adding another Drachma:
  6. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Good to see a new post from you! I'm having the same problem-- a backlog of coins, never enough time to track down articles and books, and I prefer to do a certain amount of research before posting.

    I like your new coin. I haven't seen many staters of that type.

    I could take this thread to page 10 posting coins I still need to study further :D

    Here are a couple from Apollonia instead.

    ILLYRIA, Apollonia
    c. 1st century BCE
    AR 15 mm, 1.25 gm
    Obv: AI-NEA; fires of the Nymphaeum of Apollonia; dotted border
    Rev: AΠOΛΛΩ-NIATAN, lagobolon; dotted border
    Ref: BMC 44; Maier 121

    ILLYRIA, Apollonia
    c. 81-60 BCE
    Aibatios and Chairenos, magistrates.
    AR drachm, 18 mm, 3.2 gm
    Obv: AIBATIOΣ; cow standing left, suckling calf standing right below; in exergue, grain ear left
    Rev: AΠOΛ / XAIPHNOΣ; fire of the Nymphaeum and lagobolon within linear frame
    Ref: Maier 120; SNG Copenhagen 398; HGC 3.1, 5 (I do not own any of these references; seller's attribution)

    Tangentially related, this Roman Republic coin may have been struck in or around Apollonia:

    Roman Republic, the Pompeians
    L. Cornelius Lentulus and C. Claudius Marcellus

    Military mint in the East (Apollonia and Asia), 49 BC
    AR denarius, 19 mm, 3.8 gm
    Obv: Triskeles, with winged head of Medusa facing at center; stalk of grain between each leg
    Rev: Jupiter standing facing, head right, holding thunderbolt in right hand and eagle on left; LE(NT) (MAR) upward to left, COS upward to right
    Ref: Crawford 445/1b; Sydenham 1029a
  7. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    I have only one coin of this type, produced centuries after yours. It's far outside of my usual collecting area (Roman Imperial) and I knew next to nothing about the history of the city. Thank you so much for your informative and entertaining write-up about it!

    Completely different fabric from yours:

    Dyrrhachium Drachm.jpg
    Illyria, Dyrrhachium.
    AR drachm, 2.95 g, 17.4 mm, 11 h.
    Magistrate Zopyros, 80-70 BC.
    Obv: Cow suckling calf, owl in right field before cow; ΦΙΛΩΤΑΣ above, head of Helios facing right, top.
    Rev: Square with double stellate pattern, ΔΥΡ/ΖΩ/ΠΥ/ΡΟΥ around.
    Refs: Ceka 451; Maier 221; SNG Cop 469; SNG Evelpides 1744; SNG Leipzig 715.
  8. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Checking CNG's auction records shows that older sales (before 2012) give the earlier dating you're using, but more recent descriptions go with 340-280 BC, in line with what Gyula Petrányi's website states about coinage at Dyrrhachion only beginning around 340 BC.

    I know about these Illyrian issues pretty much only what I've read in that website, but I do have two Dyrrhachion staters and can confirm that both show some evidence on the edge that they were cast in a two part mould. Yours does seem to be on the light side for a series where the weight range seems quite consistently between 10.5-10.7g, though. A result of corrosion and/or cleaning, maybe?

    Here's one of mine, which I liked because of the four-animal cow-calf-bird-lizard combo.

    Illyria Dyrrhachion - Stater 1054.jpg
    ILLYRIA, Dyrrhachion
    AR Stater. Rare variety. 10.61gm, 20.5mm. ILLYRIA, Dyrrhachion, circa 340-280 BC. Maier -; SNG Copenhagen -; BMC 17. O: Cow standing right, looking back at suckling calf standing right below; bird above. R: Δ - Y, double stellate pattern divided by line within linear square border; club above and lizard below; all within linear circle border.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2018
  9. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great

    Thank you for the excellent reply @zumbly ! My new stater is certainly on the light side of the weight range. I looked into the weight when I first received the coin because the unexpected seam made me a little nervous. A paper by Ross [5] from 2013 luckily catalogues the known coins from seven museum collections (including the British Museum) with weight for the Dyrachium staters ranging from 9.66 to 11.26. About 6% where in the 9.8 range. So my example is just at the acceptable limit for weight. Interestingly the catalog also uses the ca. 450-350 BC dating.

    It is also a relief that your examples show evidence of the same fabric. Some of the coins shown on Petrányi's website seem to show evidence of a two part mould as well.

    Possible mould seam between 3 and 6 o'clock. Photo courtesy of http://asklapiadas.ancients.info/02General.html

    I also noted that CNG was one of the auction houses that started using the mid 4th century date range. I wish I knew where this came from specifically. Who proposed this updated chronology and on what evidence? I wish I knew.

    Where these staters struck at Corcyra for use in Dyrrachium and Apollonia? Where they local issue staters? If 340 BC is the start date why did these cities wait so long to begin their own emmisions? (seems strange based on what we know of their histories and how long the Corcyra staters were issued) These are some of the questions I hope to find some time to research eventually.

    Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts and coins Z!

    [5] Ross, Scott (2013) An assessment and up-to-date catalogue of the coins of Apollonia and Dyrrhachium between the 5th and 1st centuries B.C. MPhil(R) thesis.
  10. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great

    Thanks @TIF and great examples! I hope to get back into posting more soon! I have 2 or 3 unfinished write ups I'd like to get to by year's end. Hopefully you'll find some extra coin time also ;)

    Thanks @Andres2 . Nice example.

    Haha to that big ol' cow photo. Great coins man! Thanks for posting :)
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2018
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  11. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great

    Sorry for the late reply. Thanks for the comments RC! I like the later drachm types like yours as well. Seems there are usually good deals on those if you look.

    Another fun fact about Dyrrachium is that it was the site of an important battle between Caesar and Pompey in 48 BC.
    RAGNAROK and Alegandron like this.
  12. gogili1977

    gogili1977 Well-Known Member

    Illyria, Dyrrhachium
    Illyria, Dyrrhachium.jpg
    lllyria, Apollonia
    lllyria, Apollonia.jpg
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  13. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES! Supporter

    Interesting coin @Curtisimo ! Man, that flan looks like one of my cast Republican AE as with that thick seamed edge, neat!

    Here is my vanilla Illyrian cow drachm.


    Illyria, Dirrhachium AR Drachm, 3rd-2nd Century BC

    O:cow and calf, moneyer name above. R: double stellate pattern in square borders, 17 mm, 3.3 g.
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  14. jonathan layne

    jonathan layne Well-Known Member

    how much do these coins cost on average
  15. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    The three of mine I posted above cost anywhere from $25 to $40. To me, that's not expensive.
    Curtisimo likes this.
  16. jonathan layne

    jonathan layne Well-Known Member

    im looking for one
    where can i get one
  17. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great

    Your best bet if you are looking to acquire one in the short term is to look on Vcoins. Link below:


    You might be able to find one at a lower price than those shown in the link but you would need to keep an eye out for them and be patient.

    Note that these are mostly drachms. The staters weigh about double and wil cost more. Both denominations are interesting and have their own unique history as they were struck in different eras.
  18. jonathan layne

    jonathan layne Well-Known Member

    thank you
  19. kaparthy

    kaparthy Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks for the very detailed write up. I have nothing to add to quibble. You found all the facts I knew when I wrote about the coin. "Dyrrachium: Rome's Gateway to Greece," The Celator, Vol 11 no 4, April 1997.

    The reverse of the coin is often called only a "stellate pattern" but it has been suggested that these are the doors to a great hall as referred to in The Odyssey.

    "... Epidamnus had an inauspicious sound to Latin speakers." Because it has the root word "damn" in it, of course. As for AUSPICIOUS, that, too, has a deeper meaning.
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  20. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great

    Thank you @kaparthy .

    Thank you, also, for bringing your Celator article to my attention. I will definitely give it a read. I always enjoy reading essays / articles / books written by fellow CTers.
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