Faustina Friday – Provincial issues of Bostra in Arabia Petraea

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Dec 3, 2021.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter


    Happy Friday, everybody! Today I'll be writing about a Roman provincial city, the city of Bostra in Arabia Petraea.

    Bostra, the modern Buṣrā al-Shām, is a ruined Syrian city, 67 miles (108 km) south of Damascus. First a Nabataean city, it was conquered by Trajan, who made it the capital of the Roman province of Arabia in AD 106, and it served as a key Roman fortress east of the Jordan River. The city eventually achieved the title metropolis under the Roman emperor Philip I "the Arab," who was a native of the city.

    Bostra Map.JPG

    Considerable ruins still stand at the site, which has been declared a World Heritage Center by the United Nations.


    Bostra theater.jpg

    The earliest coins which can with certainty be assigned to Bostra are of Antoninus Pius; but it is generally supposed that the coins of Hadrian, with the bust of Arabia holding two small figures in her arms, were struck at this mint.[1] Moreover, the coins of Trajan, Hadrian, Diva Faustina I, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus with the name "Nicopolis" formerly ascribed to Emmaus by such numismatists as G.F. Hill[2] and David Sear[3] have now been shown to belong to Bostra or Nicopolis ad Lycum in Armenia Minor.[4]

    I recently purchased two coins of Faustina I of Bostra and I'd like to share them for this week's installment of Faustina Friday.

    Faustina Sr Bostra barley ears.jpg
    Faustina I, AD 138-140.
    Roman provincial Æ quadrans 15.4 mm, 2.13 g, 6 h.
    Arabia Petraea, Bostra, after AD 141.
    Obv: ΘЄΑ ΦΑVϹΤ, veiled and draped bust, right.
    Rev: NT BO, three ears of barley bound together; all within wreath.
    Refs: RPC IV.3, 6365 (temporary); Sear 1538 (as Nicopolis-Emmaus); BMC 27.169, 2 (as Nicopolis-Emmaus); Rosenberger 11-12; Spijkerman 15; Kindler 11; SNG ANS 1183-85.

    Faustina Sr Bostra Tyche.jpg
    Faustina I, AD 138-140.
    Roman provincial Æ quadrans, 16.6 mm, 3.60 g, 6 h.
    Arabia Petraea, Bostra, after AD 141.
    Obv: ΘЄΑ ΦΑVϹΤЄΙΝΑ, veiled and draped bust, right.
    Rev: ΤVΧΗ ΝЄΑϹ ΤΡΑΙΑΝΗ ΒΟϹΤΡΑ, turreted Tyche standing facing, head left, holding spear, resting left hand on hip, and resting foot on swimming river-god.
    Refs: RPC IV.3, 6702 (temporary); BMC 28.27, 7-9; Spijkerman 11; Kindler 8b; Rosenberger 8.

    These are fun little coins. Typically crude and off-center, these are very difficult to find with complete, legible inscriptions, as the examples at RPC online demonstrate.

    Do you have any coins of Bostra? Post anything you feel is relevant!



    1. Hill, George Francis. Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum: Arabia, Mesopotamia and Persia. British Museum, 1922, pp. xxiv-xxv; p. 14.

    2. Hill, George Francis. Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum: Palestine. British Museum, 1914, pp. lxxx-lxxxi; p. 169, nos 1-2.

    3. Sear, David R. Greek Imperial Coins and Their Values: The Local Coinages of the Roman Empire. Seaby, 1991, p. 143, no. 1538.

    4. See note 1, p. 223 in Eck, Werner, and Dirk Kossmann. "Emmaus Nikopolis: Die Städtische Münzprägung Unter Elagabal Und Angebliche Inschriften Für Diesen Kaiser." Zeitschrift Für Papyrologie Und Epigraphik, vol. 198, 2016, pp. 223–238.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2021
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  3. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    Very interesting, I am presently working on Bostra coinage. I am convinced that the civic coinage of this city only started under Antoninus Pius. There is no real reason to think the Hadrian coins with "APABIA" (in Greek) holding two small figures in her arms were minted in Bostra. Among the coins found by archaeologists in excavations in the territory of Bostra, I don't know any specimen of these coins, but they are found in southern Jordan. And if you compare the style of the coins, the legends, etc. you can see they resemble much the Hadrian coins of the Petra mint. For me, these "APABIA" coins were minted in Petra, not Bostra.
    There are a lot of coins, not all cleaned, that were found in Bostra excavations in the 1990s and 2000s, but they are not published yet. They must be kept in some archaeological storage in Bostra or Deraa, but since 2011 nobody can see them... In better days, there may be studied and published. There are also hundreds of coins from the Umm al-Jimal excavations in Jordan (it was in the territory of Bostra) but very few of these coins have been published for the moment.
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  4. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Ancient Kingdoms Supporter

    Another great Faustina Friday post, @Roman Collector !

    I’ve no Bostra Faustina coins but I’m still doing backflips for joy and designing coin flips for my newly acquired Faustina denarii.


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  5. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter Dealer

    The final word (to date) on the coinage of Bostra is Arie Kindler's Coinage of Bostra, published in 1983 by Aris and Phillips. I bought a copy some years ago which I posted in this thread. My book has a nice provenance, ex libris Bruce R. Brace. Brace was considered by many to be the dean of Roman numismatics in Canada. (His extensive collection was sold by CNG in 2011 and 2012.)

    Kindler was the director of the Kadman Numismatic Museum in Tel Aviv. The book is not merely a sylloge. It contains a 100-page analysis that covers the geography and history of Bostra, its relationship to Petra, the Roman governors of Provincia Arabia, a summary of archaeological and numismatic research, the monetary system, countermarks, misattributions, and the catalog with 10 pages of plates. (Not to mention three excursus concerning the Nabataean deity Dusares, Legio III Cyrenaica, and the Roman Provincial Mint.)

    Even if one is not interested in the coinage of Bostra per se, it's eminently worth reading the book as an elegant, penetrating, and inspiring work of numismatics.

    Kindler does not begin the chronology with any coins of Hadrian. In fact, there is no mention of Hadrian, even in his discussion of misattributions and excluded coins. He starts the list with a quasi-autonomous issue with bust of Tyche and two camels, although he includes the caveat that Hill questioned this attribution, pointing out the similarity of the Tyche/Camels type to one of Orthosia, Phoenicia. The catalog proper begins with Antoninus Pius.

    My only coin of Bostra at the moment is this dupondius-sized bronze of Philip II. The ‘Aktia Dousaria’ was a festival in honor of Dushara, or Dusares, a Middle-Eastern deity worshipped by the Nabataeans at Petra and Madain Saleh. It was held every year on December 25.


    AE28, 14.85g; Bostra mint, 244-247 AD.
    Obv.: [MARC IVL] PHILIPPOS CESAR; Radiate bust right.
    Reference: SNG ANS 1247-50, Kindler 46.

    @Roman Collector - I've attached a few images to this post which will be of interest to you: Kindler's discussion of the Tyche and barley types, The two pages with Faustina I's coin types, and the plate that has her coins on it. This material is legally excerpted under fair use laws, as it is less that 1/6th of the work, and it's properly attributed. (I haven't inserted the images in the post, just to keep it succinct.)

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Dec 3, 2021
  6. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    In fact this coin (which is unique) is no longer attributed to Bostra. It is a coin of Botrys in Phoenicia, and there are no camels : the rev. type is Baal between two winged lions. Cf. Roman Provincial Coinage I 4524, and Sawaya Ziad, « Le monnayage de Botrys en Phénicie », RN 162 (2006)159-180, p. 161 nr.4. The rev. legend is BO[TRY]HNѠ[N], L HK (RPC) or [L]HK-BOT[PY]HNѠ[N] ↺ (Sawaya).
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  7. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter Dealer

    Kindler's plate image is of the typically poor quality found in older texts. Now that I see your image of the coin, I wonder how anyone could have interpreted those beasts as camels! Lol.

    Are we certain they're not boxers?

    Last edited: Dec 3, 2021
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  8. Ryro

    Ryro The last of the Diadochi Supporter

    Ooh! Cool coins RC!
    Am I gonna have to be the one to say it?
    Clearly Tyche on the second coin with her hip out like that, holding a spear with foot on the river gods face looks like a pole dancer resting her foot on some I'll behaved dog in the crowd!
    Showgirls 2: Tyche it never happened
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  9. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    Julia Mamaea. Augusta, 222-235 AD. Arabia Petraea, Bostra. AE (20 mm, 5.90 gm, 6h). Obv: IVLIA MAMAEA AVGVSTA, laureate and draped,bust right. Rev COLONIA BOSTRA, draped bust of Zeus-Ammon, right, wearing solar disk. Spijkerman 52; SNG ANS 1237; Sofaer 50. SGI 3482
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  10. cmezner

    cmezner do ut des Supporter

    Don't have any Faustina from Bostra, just a Trajan Sestertius, which has seen several attributions Sydenham assigns it to Caesarea, Cappadocia (Sydenham 232), RPC assigns it to Cyrenaika, and finally, Arie Kindler argues convincingly for Bostra where the III Legion Cyrenaica was stationed after being transferred eastward during Trajan’s Arabian campaign, hence the Zeus-Ammon, protector god of Cyrenaica on the reverse.

    Arabia Petraea, Bostra, 103 - 111 AD
    28 x is 30 mm, 19.995 g
    Ref.: Kindler, Bostra 5; Sear 1068; Metcalf, Silver P. 83, note 1 (attribution to Cyrene); RPC III 5

    Ob.: AYTOKP KAIΣ NEP TPAIANO ΣEB ΓEPM ΔAK Laureate bust of Trajan r., slight drapery on far shoulder
    Rev.: ΔHMAPX - EΞ YΠAT E Head of Zeus-Ammon r.

    upload_2021-12-3_18-24-47.png upload_2021-12-3_18-25-0.png
  11. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Awesome writeup, RC. This is one of my favorites of yours!

    I don't have any Bostran bronzes, but here's one of my biggest wins in my cleaning career:
  12. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    I have this coin for her son, Severus Alexander... a thoughtful Saturnalia gift a couple of years ago from coinpal @Severus Alexander who knew I'd appreciate a provincial of Zeus-Ammon. I understand there is some speculation that these Bostran provincial are cast rather than struck. After a low-power examination of the coin, I lean towards cast but am not sure. It (and others like it) do have that sort of sand cast/clay cast look to the surfaces... or maybe the appearance has to do with the alloy used and typical burial conditions.

    The young emperor looks very determined in this portrait :D.

    ARABIA, Bostra
    Severus Alexander (222-235 CE)
    AE 19.5 mm, 6.88 gm
    Obv: IMP CAES M AVR SEV ALEXANDER AVG; laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind
    Rev: COLONIA BOSTRA; draped bust of Zeus-Ammon right wearing solar disk
    Ref: SNG ANS 1222
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2021
  13. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    I remember when I was visiting South Syria with my GF. We visited Bosra and slept at the youth hostel built on top of a tower of the Roman theatre / medieval castle. We caught the scabies. Sweet memories...
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  14. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    Here is another one:


    21-20 mm.
    SNG ANS 6 1231-1236.
    Kindler, The Coinage of Bostra, 40.
    Bought in Israel in 1972.

    and one of her son


    Severus Alexander (22-235)
    22-21 mm. 7.14 grams.

    SNG ANS 6 Bostra 1218
    Kindler, The Coinage of Bostra, 36.
    Bought in Dan Clark auction 118, lot 543 in 2004.

    Both of these types are cast, not struck. There are extremely few types of official ancient Roman imperial coins or Roman provincial coins that are cast, but these are two of them.
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