Greek portraits

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Valentinian, Oct 23, 2020.

  1. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    Many ancient-coin collectors have the series of Roman portrait coins in mind. Of course, many also collect other themes as well. I have been at it a long time and have worked on many sub-collections, mostly Roman, that interested me. Read a lot about ancient coins and you will find very many potential themes and many collectors conceive of their own, unique to them. In May I bought Pangerl's magnificent new book on Hellenistic portrait coins (which I wrote about in a thread at the time: )
    I looked at it again recently and was impressed with the coins and the thought I could extend the portrait series to Greek coins. I thought I'd like to add some portraits of Greek rulers too. Today two Seleukid coins came in the mail:

    30-29 mm. Large. 13.97 grams.
    This is from the second reign, 129-125 BC, of Demetrios II, Seleukid king. Dated according to the Seleukid era in the right field: 130/129 BC (very early in his second reign.)
    Hoover Handbook 1222. Sear Greek 7105.

    28-27 mm. 14.07 grams.
    Antiochus VII, 138-129. Dated in the right field according to the Seleukid era: Struck 137/6 BC.

    (The Seleukids were kings in Syria and beyond after Alexander the Great.)

    Look at the two portraits closely and they look pretty similar. There is a reason for that--they were brothers! The story is far more complex than I will give here, but the outline is Demetrios II came to the throne as a young man after challenging the successor to his father. He gained the throne but was unpopular and usurpations broke out. Also, he had to go fight the Parthians and got himself captured in 138. Thereupon his younger brother Antiochus VII claimed the throne. After successes against rivals he became sole ruler and the Parthians, cleverly, released Demetrios II (who had reportedly been treated well for ten years) to sow discord among the Seleukids. Antiochus VII was killed fighting Parthians in the east leaving Demetrios II to claim the throne for a second time. None of this action was accomplished in isolation; the Ptolemies were meddling and supporting Seleukid rivals all the time. Many of the second-reign portraits of Demetrios II show him with a long beard (much like Parthian rulers), but this one has him look much like his brother. I think the same man engraved the dies for both portraits.

    I recommend a small, inexpensive, and well-done book entitled "Royal Greek Portrait Coins" by Edward Newell. It is 125 pages with life-size B&W photos and very short biographies of almost 200 different Greek kings, organized by region and easy to find in an 8-page index. Amazon does not have it inexpensively now, but AbeBooks does, under $10.

    If you decide you like Seleukid coins, the book to get is Oliver Hoover's "Handbook of Syrian Coins, Royal and Civic Issues, Fourth to First Centuries BC," published by CNG. It is very well and thoroughly illustrated in B&W.

    We have had many threads on portraits of Roman emperors. Let's show a selection of non-Roman portraits.
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  3. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    The portraits of the Seleukid kings are the bridge between the portraits of Alexander the Great and the Romans. In my mind this is one of the more sucessful Seleukid portraits. Perhaps not a technically perfect but the composition is wonderful. The treatment of truncation of the neck is what gives this image its power and its grace. Demetrios I Soter Ar Tetradrachm Antioch SC 164 155-154 BC Obv Head right diademed Rv Tyche seated left. (I will say that the image of Tyche is less than inspiring) 16.81 grms 26 mm Photo by W. Hansen SKdemetriosI-1.jpg
  4. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    Another Antiochus vii: 1160549_1588454427-removebg-preview.png
    Antiochos VII. Euergetes (138-129 BC). AR Drachm
    Condition: Very Fine
    Weight: 3,99 gr
    Diameter: 16,85 mm

    And how's about an ATG portrait:
  5. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    I have this drachm of Ariobarzanes I of Cappadocia (96-63 BC), with a rather attractive portrait. On this coin he uses the epithet "Philoromaios" (Friend of the Romans), as he allied himself with the Roman Republic against his powerful neighbors Mithradates VI of Pontus and Tigranes II of Armenia.
    Cappadocia Ariobarzanes.jpg
  6. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    Those are some great Seleucid tets, @Valentinian ! And nice idea for a thread. As far as non-Romans, I always enjoy the portraits of the Cappadocian kings, here are a couple of mine:


    KINGS OF CAPPADOCIA. Ariarathes IX Eusebes Philopator, AR Drachm (18 mm, 4.13 g), Eusebeia, RY 6 = 95/4 BC. Diademed head of Ariarathes IX to r. Rev.BAΣΙΛΕΩΣ / APIAPAΘOY / EYΣEBOY / ς Athena standing front, holding Nike in her r. hand and resting her left on shield set on ground, spear leaning against arm; monogram in inner l. field.

    Kings of Cappadocia, Ariarathes V Eusebes Philopator, 163-130 BC., AR Drachm (17 mm, 3.99g), Eusebeia-Mazaca, circa 131 B.C. Diademed head of Ariarathes to right. Rev. BAΣΙΛΕΩΣ APIAPAΘOY EYΣEBOYΣ, Athena standing l. holding Nike, spear and shield set on ground.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2020
  7. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    Here's my favorite, a tetradrachm of Perseus. This is most likely the original die from a lengthy series where the art degraded quickly. The text beneath the portrait of "Zoilus" is likely the magistrate name and accompanies these early, high-relief portraits:

    TIF, Sulla80, jdmKY and 26 others like this.
  8. David@PCC


    This one is probably my best.
    Antiochus X
    Antiochon the Orontes
    94 BC
    AR Tetradrachm
    Obvs: Diademed head of Antiochus right with short sideburn.
    Revs: BAΣIΛEΩΣ ANTIOXOV EVΣEBOYΣ ·I·IΛOΠATOPOΣ, Zeus Nikephoros seated left, holding lotus-tipped scepter; Σ monogram and A to outer left, Π below throne; all within wreath.
    26x27mm, 14.91g
    Ref: cf. SC 2428a; cf. HGC 9, 1287(R1)
    Note: Unpublished with neither lack of nor long sideburn, but a "short" sideburn.

    I've seen a lot of these Tetradrachms of Tyre lately been wanting to pick up one myself.
  9. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Ptolemy II.png
    AR Tetradrachm
    OBVERSE: Diademed head of Ptolemy II right, wearing aegis around neck
    REVERSE: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ [ΠΤΟΛΕΜΑΙΟΥ], eagle standing left on thunderbolt, to left, club surmounted by Tyre monogram
    Tyre 285-260 BC
    25 mm., 14.14 grams
    Svoronos 644; SNG Copenhagen 482-3
    ex. JAZ Numismatics
    CAPPADOCIAN KINGDOM Ariarathes V.jpg
    AR Drachm
    OBVERSE: Diademed head of Ariarathes V right
    REVERSE: Athena standing left, holding Nike & resting hand on grounded shield, HDI monogram in outer left field, PAFI monogram in inner left field, HF monogram in outer right field, date GL in exergue
    Struck at Cappadocia, Year 33 (= 130 BC)
    4.2g, 18mm
    SNG Copenhagen Suppl. 673–678. Simonetta p. 24, 20b
    AR Drachm
    OBVERSE: Diademed head right
    REVERSE: Athena Nikephoros standing left; monogram to inner left
    Mint A (Eusebeia-Mazaka) 68-67 BC
    3.73 g, 16mm
    Simonetta, Coins 38s
  10. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    I have a handful of Greek portrait coins, mostly incidental lot accumulation rather than a deliberare purchase.

    The first living kings to appear on coinage were actually the satraps of the Achaemenid Empire, as the Greeks considered it to be taboo and/or in poor taste until after the Wars of the Diadochi.

    Hecatomnos, satrap of Caria (Father of Maussolus) Caria Mylasia satrap Hecatomnos AR diobol .jpg

    Datames, or Tarkamuwa as he called himself, one of the most renowned pre-Alexander generals and satrap of Cilicia
    Cilicia obol datames arethusa.jpg

    This Cilician obol may depict Artaxerxes III

    Then come the Hellenes!

    Ptolemy I, I believe the first to put his ugly mug on coinage
    Ptolemy I soter Egypt tetradrachm.jpg

    Seleukos, perhaps Herakles stylized to look a bit like himself? ZomboDroid 09022020185903.jpg

    Antiochus is always a favorite
    Seleucid Antiochus I tetradrachm.jpg

    Demetrius I Soter
    Seleucid Demetrius I soter drachm.jpg

    Antiochus VIII Epiphanes
    Seleucid AR drachm Antiochus VIII Epiphanes tripod.jpg

    Ptolemy V (?)
    Ptolemy V AR tetradrachm.jpg

    Cappadocia, Ariarathes V Cappadocia Ariarathes V drachm 130 BC.jpg
  11. Edessa

    Edessa Supporter! Supporter

    This is one of my favorite coins...

    Seleukid Empire. Demetrios II Nikator, first reign, 146-138 BC. AR Drachm (17mm, 4.11 g, 12h). Seleukeia on the Tigris mint. Struck circa 145-141 BC. Obv: Diademed head right; monogram to left. Rev: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ / ΔΗΜΗΤΡΙΟΥ - ΦΙΛΑΔΕ-ΛΦΟΥ / ΝΙΚΑΤΟΡΟΣ; Zeus Nikephoros seated left. Ref: SC 1986.1; HGC 9, 984. Ex CNG.

  12. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    What is the earliest Greek coin that has what is considered an actual portrait of the ruler and is inscribed with his name? I have never been all that interested in the Hellenistic period so I have rather few portrait coins. Without pushing the matter and calling the running kings of the Persians 'portraits', who can show anything before Philip II?
    Pavlos, PeteB and DonnaML like this.
  13. Alegandron

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


    Egypt Ptolemy I Soter Tet Delta bankers marks
  14. Herodotus

    Herodotus Well-Known Member

    :greedy: <-----My 'Green with envy' face. That is a very special piece of art.

    Alex5.png PAMPHYLIA, Aspendos. Circa 212/11-184/3 BC. AR Tetradrachm. 33mm 16.08 g
    In the name and types of Alexander III "The Great" Struck year 24 (189/8 BC)
    O: Head of Herakles right, wearing lion's skin headdress
    R: Zeus Aëtophoros seated left, holding eagle and scepter, AΣ/KΔ before, eagle standing left below throne. c/m: Seleukid anchor
    Price 2903; Müller 1216

    Seleukid Kings, Seleukos IV Philopator. (187-175 BC). AR Tetradrachm.
    Antioch on the Orontes mint. 27mm 16.30g
    O: Diademed head right
    R: Apollo Delphios seated left on omphalos, holding arrow and resting on grounded bow
    HGC 9, 580e
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2020
  15. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I have only two:

    Egypt, Ptolemaic Kingdom, Ptolemy VI Philometor [“Mother-loving”] (First reign, 180-164 BCE), ca.180-170 BCE, Alexandria Mint. Obv. Diademed head of Ptolemy I right, wearing aegis / Rev. Eagle with closed wings standing left on thunderbolt, ΠTOΛEMAIOY on left, BAΣIΛEΩΣ on right. Seaby 7895 [Sear, David, Greek Coins & their Values, Vol. II: Asia & Africa (Seaby 1979)]; Svoronos 1489 (ill. Pl. 51a, Nos. 1-5) [Svoronos, J.N., Ta Nomismata tou Kratous ton Ptolemaion (Athens, 1904-08)] (see [incorrectly attributed to Ptolemy VIII]); SNG Copenhagen 262-268 [Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Copenhagen, The Royal Collection of Coins and Medals, Danish National Museum, Part 40: Egypt: The Ptolemies (Copenhagen 1977)]; BMC 6 Ptolemaic Egypt 3 (p. 100) (ill. Pl. XXIV No. 5) [Poole, R.S., A Catalog of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Vol. 6, Ptolemaic Kings of Egypt (London, 1883)]. 26 mm., 12.14 g.

    Ptolemy VI tetradrachm jpg version.jpg

    Syria, Seleucid Empire, Antiochos VIII Epiphanes (Grypon) Tetradrachm, 109-96 BCE Antioch Mint. Obv. Diademed head of Antiochos VIII right / Rev. Zeus Nikephoros seated left on high-backed throne, holding Nike on outstretched right hand and scepter in left; to outer left, E/P monogram above A [Antioch]; ΔI monogram below throne; BAΣΙΛΕΩΣ ANTIOXOY EΠIΦANOYΣ; all within laurel wreath. Seleucid Coins [SC] Pt. 2, 2309; Seleucid Coins Online [same] (see; Seaby 7145 (ill.) [Sear, David, Greek Coins & their Values, Vol. II: Asia & Africa (Seaby 1979)]; Hoover HGC 9, 1200 [Hoover, Oliver, Handbook of Syrian Coins, Royal and Civic Issues, Fourth to First Centuries BC, The Handbook of Greek Coinage Series, Volume 9 (2009)]; Newell SMA 405 [Newell, E.T., The Seleucid Mint of Antioch (1918)], SNG Israel 2554-55 [Spaer, A. & A. Houghton, Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Israel I, The Arnold Spaer Collection of Seleucid Coins (London, 1998)]. 27 mm., 16.2 g.

    Detail Antiochos VIII tetradrachm.jpg
  16. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    Hieronymous II of
    Syracuse (215-214 BC)

    Attached Files:

  17. Only a Poor Old Man

    Only a Poor Old Man Well-Known Member

    Alexander the Great aside, I only have one of Dimitrios I Soter.

  18. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    This 5 litrae coin of Syracuse antedates Philip II and has the queen's name on the reverse.

    Philistis, wife of Hieron II.
    Greek AR 5 litrae.
    Syracuse 270-230 BCE, 4.46 gm, 18.1 mm.
    Obv: Diademed and veiled head, l., palm branch behind.
    Rev: ΒΑΣΙΛΙΣΣΑΣ ΦΙΛΙΣΤΙΔΟΣ, Nike driving biga to left, E in l. field.
    Refs: SNG ANS 893; SNG III (Lockett) 1017; Forrer 196.
  19. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    Some of the Early Greek portraits have real character, Here is an image of a guy you probably would not like to meet on in a dark alley. Possibly the only eunuch to start a dynasty.... Phlietairos Ar Tetradrachm Pergamon. Obv, Head right diademed Rv, Athena sseated left holding shield in front of her. Westermark III/2 16.90 grams 29mm Photo by W. Hansen Philetairos1.jpeg
  20. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    If it's from 270-230 BCE, it doesn't antedate Philip II. The one from Macedon, anyway!
  21. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    Incidentally I just purchased an upgrade of the type yesterday. Perikles' staters are seen as the first portrait of a king on a coin (there are a few earlier examples where the ruler is shown as a reverse figure but this is a stark progression from an artistic and iconographic perspective). The reverse is always messy so I can forgive it.


    DYNASTS OF LYCIA. Perikles, circa 380-360 BC. Stater (Silver, 26 mm, 9.71 g, 4 h), Phellos. Laureate and bearded head of Perikles facing three-quarters to left, with his hair in dramatic disarray; traces of a cloak around his neckline; to right, dolphin swimming downward. Rev. - ('Perikle - Wehñtezẽ' in Lycian) Perikles, nude but for Corinhtian helmet, advancing to right, wielding sword in his right hand and holding shield in his left; in field to right, triskeles; all within incuse square. Mildenberg, Mithrapata, 21 and pl. 4, 20 and 22 (this coin). Müseler VIII, 35 var. (same obverse die, but differing reverse symbol). N. Olçay & O. Mørkholm: The Coin Hoard from Podalia, in: NC 1971, 407 (this coin). SNG von Aulock 4249 (same dies). Beautifuly toned and with a spectacular and dramatic portrait
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2020
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