Lycian Dynasts coin in extinct script

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Parthicus, Oct 17, 2021.

  1. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    (photo from seller because I can't get a decent picture of the coin)
    Lycia. Local dynasts under Achaemenid Persian rule. Mithrapata (c.390-380 BC). AR diobol (1.6 g, 14 mm). Obverse: Facing lion's scalp. Reverse: Triskeles with astragalus to left, surrounded by "Mithrapata" in Lycian script. SNG von Aulock 4246, Sear Greek Coins 5228. This coin: @John Anthony auction (2021).

    Lycia is a region in southwestern Anatolia, and has been inhabited for a long time. The early history is unclear, but they are apparently mentioned in Egyptian records as allies of the Hittites. Around 540 BC, Lycia was conquered by Cyrus the Great and incorporated into the Achaemenid Persian empire. Rather than appoint a satrap, the Persians instead ruled through local quasi-independent kings known to modern scholars as "dynasts". Lycia was persuaded to join the Athenian-led Delian League against the Persians about 470 BC, but dropped out during the Peloponnesian War, and soon came under Persian rule again, though still under local dynasts rather than a satrap. Mithrapata ruled around 390-380 BC, near the end of the Dynastic period. His name is of Persian origin, but it isn't known whether he was of Persian descent or if he just adopted a Persian name. His rule seems to have been based in the eastern part of Lycia, and he competed with another ruler called Arttumpara. In the 360s BC Lycia was assigned to the Satrapy of Caria, ending the Dynastic period. Persian rule in the region ended with Alexander III of Macedon's invasion of the region in 334 BC, as part of his successful conquest of the entire Achaemenid Empire.

    This coin is definitely interesting historically, and it fits into my collection of coins from Achaemenid satrapies and other Achaemenid-ruled lands under the "Greater Persia" rubric. But what most interested me about the coin is its use of an extinct script, which ties into a whole extinct language family. The Lycian script is derived from the Greek alphabet, but if you look at the above specimen and try to read it as Greek you can see it is not quite the same- the first vowel is written as E instead of I, the "Theta" is strange, etc. The local language of Lycian, which utilized the script, was a later development of the Luwian language family, a branch of Indo-European that was once widespread in Anatolia. Texts in the Lycian language are mainly found carved into stone (starting in the 5th century BC) as well as on coin inscriptions of the Lycian dynasts. With apologies to any actual linguists reading this, here's a sample text, borrowed from a Wikipedia article ( ) :

    ebenne prnnawa meti prnnawate
    xisteriya xzzbazeh tideimi
    hrppi ladi ehbi se tideime

    this building, [it was] he who built it:
    Qisteria, Qtsbatse's son,
    for his wife and for the sons

    Unfortunately, the use of Lycian declined after the conquest by Alexander, as more Greek-speakers moved into the region and Greek became the language of government. Lycian became extinct by the 1st century BC, and it was only in the 20th century that archaeologists and linguists were able to figure out the language again. Please post your coins of the Lycian Dynasts, or other coins featuring extinct languages.
    DonnaML, zumbly, PeteB and 14 others like this.
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Lycia, Mithrapata.png
    AR Diobol
    OBV: Facing lion's scalp
    REV: Triskeles, Lycian script around; all within incuse square (possible arrow in field)
    Struck at Lycia, 425 BC - 360 BC
    1.25g; 14mm
    Müseler VI, 86-90 var. (legend)
    zumbly, PeteB, Orielensis and 9 others like this.
  4. Ignoramus Maximus

    Ignoramus Maximus Nomen non est omen.

    Nice coin, @Parthicus.

    Here's my coin with Lycian script. It's from the dynast Kherei. The only Greek is the letter 'P', the rest are uniquely Lycian symbols.
    Dynasts of Lycia, Kherei, quarter stater.png
    Incidentally, it also has the ugliest obverse I've ever come across. Take a peek if you want.
    Dynasts of Lycia, Kherei 2 (2).png
    Terrible, right?:D

    What attracted me to this coin, apart from the script, was the combination of the traditional Greek obverse and the more exotic Achaemenid (and ultimately Assyrian) reverse.

    The winged bull is an adaptation of the winged, man-headed lamassu, originally an Assyrian protective deity (with roots going back even further in time, to a Sumerian goddess called Lamma). It also frequently appears in a Persian context (the palace in Persepolis comes to mind, where statues of the lamassu stood and guarded the entrance to many of its rooms). The 'normal' man-headed version of the winged bull is quite frequently found on Lycian staters, but the bull-headed version, like on my coin, was only struck under Kherei. Why this is so, I don't know. There are some staters, and, rarely, fractions. All quarter staters like these all share a single, highly worn obverse die (the zombie Athena), so I think it must have been a very small issue to begin with. I found three or four in the auction record. It's not in Wildwinds or any of the references that I have access to.
    zumbly, PeteB, Johndakerftw and 7 others like this.
  5. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    A fine addition to your collection. The astragalos on the reverse adds, at least in my eyes, further interest.

    I have three coins with Lycian letters, and two of them were struck for Mithrapata:

    Griechen – Lykien, Dynast Perikles, third stater, lion, triskeles.png
    Dynasts of Lycia, Perikles, AR 1/3 stater, ca. 380–360 BC: Obv: Lion scalp facing. Rev: PERIKLE in Lycian script; triskele. 14mm, 2.76g. Ref: SNG von Aulock 4254–5.

    Griechen – Lykien, Dynast Mithrapata, 1:6 Stater, Delfin.png
    Dynasts of Lycia, Mithrapata, AR 1/6 stater, ca. 390–370 BC: Obv: Lion scalp facing. Rev: METRAPA[T]A in Lycian script; triskele; in field, dolphin. 13mm, 1.13g.

    Griechen – Lykien, Dynast Mithrapata, 1:6 Stater, Löwenskalp:Triskele.png
    Dynasts of Lycia, Mithrapata, AR 1/6 stater, ca. 390–370 BC: Obv: Lion scalp facing. Rev: [M]ET in Lycian script; triskele. 13mm, 1.18g. Ref: SNG Copenhagen Suppl. 476 var.
    zumbly, Curtisimo, PeteB and 3 others like this.
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