New Hadrian Alexandrian coin with "traditional" Egyptian theme

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by DonnaML, Jan 9, 2021.

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  1. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    In my recent thread about my new Hadrian tetradrachm with a reverse depicting a mummiform Ptah-Sokar-Osiris (see, I made pretty clear that as fond as I am of just about all Roman Alexandrian coins, especially those from the 2nd Century AD, my favorites are those depicting old, "traditional" Egyptian themes and deities from Pharaonic times, rather than the syncretistic creations of the Ptolemies like Serapis, and the essentially Roman personifications like Nilus. They really are the perfect combination of my interest in Roman coins (Provincial as well as Republican and Imperial), and my interest in ancient Egyptian art and antiquities, dating back to my childhood trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    Before yesterday, I had three Roman Alexandrian coins that I think fell into that category, two of Hadrian and one of Antoninus Pius (see the thread cited above, and my thread at, for detailed descriptions):

    Alexandria Tetradrachm - Hadrian - Osiris Canopus.jpg

    Hadrian Alexandria - mummiform Osiris jpg version.jpg

    Antoninus Pius - Alexandria (Isis & Harpokrates on reverse).jpg

    (In the second thread cited above, I also posted my Julia Domna denarius with Isis nursing Harpocrates on the reverse; I think of it as an honorary member of the category! However, I expect to have more in the Isis-Harpocrates sub-category later this month, so I won't post it again right now.)

    Now I have a fourth, which differs from the other three in that it's an obol, not a tetradrachm (and thus considerably smaller), and also in that it's my first example of the "Nomes" coinage, which I didn't know much about before I bought this coin. See the footnote below for a (detailed and lengthy!) explanation.

    Hadrian, AE Nome Obol, Year 11 (126/127 AD), Alexandria, Egypt Mint (for Arsinoite Nome). Obv. Laureate bust right, slight drapery on left shoulder, AΥΤ ΚΑΙ - ΤΡΑΙ ΑΔΡΙΑ ϹΕΒ / Rev. Head of Egyptian Pharaoh right, no beard [identified with Amenemhat III, under Greco-Roman name of Pramarres], wearing nemes [royal striped headdress] with uraeus [sacred cobra, worn by deities and pharaohs] at forehead; APCI (= Arsi[noites]) to left, date L IA (Year 11) to right. RPC [Roman Provincial Coinage] Vol. III 6296 (2015); RPC III Online at ; Emmett 1211.11 /[Emmett, Keith, Alexandrian Coins (Lodi, WI, 2001)]; BMC 16 Alexandria, Nomes 72-73 at p. 357 [Pool, Reginald Stuart, A Catalog of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Vol. 16, Alexandria (London, 1892)]; Milne 1229 [Milne, J., A Catalogue of the Alexandrian Coins in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford, 1933, reprint with supplement by Colin M. Kraay). 19.4 mm., 5.32 g. (Purchased from Zuzim Inc., Brooklyn, NY Jan 2021; ex. Fontanille Coins, Auction 96, July 2017, Lot 7, sold as “the finest example [that dealer] ha[d] seen.”)*

    The first photo is from Fontanille Coins (is anyone familiar with them? They seem to be inoperative currently, although their auction archives are still up), and the second from Zuzim. I would say that the reverse of the first photo -- presented on the left for some reason -- and the obverse of the second, are the closest to what the coin looks like in hand, in terms of color and shade.

    Fontanille coins Auction 96 July 2017 No. 7 (Hadrian-Pharaoh, Alexandria Yr 11).jpg

    Hadrian-Pharaoh, Alexandria Yr 11, Zuzim photo.jpg

    *The Nomes (from Greek: Νομός, "district") were the 60-70 administrative divisions of Egypt under the Ptolemies and Romans; the Egyptian term for a nome was “sepat.” See The Arsinoite Nome (known as “Arsinoites”), the capital of which was the city of Arsinoe, corresponded to the area of the Fayum Oasis or Basin, Lake Moeris, etc., west of the Nile and southwest of Cairo. See It encompassed, among other things, the pyramid of Amenemhet III near the town of Hawara, north of the lake (the site of the famous necropolis where the Fayum mummy portraits were discovered). See id., see also the excellent discussion, with photos including one of the Hawara pyramid, by our own @Jochen1 -- together with a wonderful example of this same coin type -- at

    The Nomes coins were small bronze issues minted in Alexandria, each with the head of the reigning emperor on the obverse, and the name (in full or abbreviated, as with this coin) of one of the Nomes written in Greek on the reverse, together with an image ostensibly bearing some relationship to a deity or to cult worship associated with that Nome. They were issued under Domitian, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius Caesar. See Numiswiki, supra. See also Emmett at p. xv for a discussion of the Nomes coinage, noting that Hadrian issued “the most nome coins in terms of numbers of coins issued, numbers of different reverse types and numbers of nomes.” Indeed, Emmett specifically singles out this type from among Hadrian’s extensive series of bronze Nome obols and dichalkons issued in Year 11, as one of “only two interesting reverse types that appear on Hadrian’s obols: that of a bust of an Egyptian King on his Arsinoite nome obol”; it is the only Nomes type bearing such an image. Id. Emmett makes no attempt to identify which “King.” However, RPC III 1749 expressly identifies the reverse image as “head of Premarres (Amenemhet III),” who reigned in the 12th Dynasty, from 1842-1797 BC. (The more common spellings seem to be “Pramarres” and “Amenemhat.”). The evidence available online appears to support that identification.

    Thus, Emmett states that “[t]hese coins depict the local cult-worship of each nome,” with “Horus and Isis . . . the god and goddess most often represented in their various forms on the reverses of the nome coins.” Id. But the entry for Nomes in Numiswiki, supra, argues that the fact that the Nomes coins were minted in Alexandria “robs them of the interest they would otherwise have possessed as calculated to throw light on local cults,” and that the purpose of the Nomes coinage should be regarded as “primarily commemorative.” See also BMC Alexandria 16 at pp. xcviii-c, discussing the issue at length, citing various examples, and concluding that it seems “certain that the Nome types were not only selected at Alexandria, but that the selection was independent of local worship unconnected with Alexandria. Thus the series loses much of its interest as its mythological value is small and uncertain,” except for Nomes near Alexandria. (Id. at p. c.)

    But regardless of the significance of the reverse image on other Nome coins, a strong argument can be made that the image on the reverse of this type of the Nome coinage of Hadrian, bearing the name of the Arsinoite Nome -- unquestionably the image of a pharaoh, given the presence of the nemes and uraeus -- was, in fact, directly connected to cult worship in that Nome, which was the center of the cult of the deified Amenemhat III.

    It would seem farfetched to conclude that it could be purely a coincidence that the Arsinoite Nome was the only one for which a Nome coin was issued depicting a pharaoh, and that the very same Nome was the center of the cult of Amenemhat III, as the site of his pyramid, up to and into the Greco-Roman period, until the rise of Christianity. The available evidence strongly suggests that it was not a coincidence. See Uytterhoeven, Inge, and Ingrid Blom-Böer. “New Light on the Egyptian Labyrinth: Evidence from a Survey at Hawara.” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, vol. 88, 2002, pp. 111–120, JSTOR, , accessed 5 Jan. 2021, stating as follows on its first page:

    Excerpt from article re tomb of Amenemhat III in Hawara, Arsinoite Nome.jpg

    See also -- trismegistos is “a platform aiming to surmount barriers of language and discipline in the study of texts from the ancient world, particularly late period Egypt” -- for a lengthy discussion of the archaeological excavations at Hawara, including at the pyramid of Amenemhat III. The discussion specifically notes that “the fullest topographical description [of the location] in the Graeco-Roman period is found in P.Hawara Lüdd. XIX (85 BC): ‘the necropolis, which is in the Souchos village Hawara in the exo topoi in the area on the north side of the Moeris canal in the meris of Herakleides in the Arsinoite nome.’" (Emphasis added.) Thus, the location of the tomb of Amenemhat III within the Arsinoite Nome is not in question.

    The website states as follows:

    “Hawara owed its fame to Pramarres, the 12th Dynasty pharaoh Amenemhat III, who built his funerary complex at Hawara around 1800 BC. The Labyrinth, south of the pyramid, was evidently the main cult centre of the deified pharaoh (photo). The cult is attested by Ptolemaic dedications, such as I.Fayum I 34 and 35 (both 1st cent. BC) and the demotic stele Stewart 1983 Nr. 81 (Ptolemaic period).”

    The website also discusses how well-known the necropolis near the pyramid was, as far away as Alexandria (where this coin was minted), specifically because of its connection with the deified Amenemhat III. Note the reference to a will executed between 117 and 138 AD, i.e., during the reign of Hadrian:

    “Hawara, ideally located at the desert edge and easily accessible from the metropolis by the Bahr Yussuf, was a logical choice as necropolis for the nome capital. For some it was a privilege to be buried in the sacred area near the tomb and temple of the deified Amenemhat. Thus an anonymous metropolite, who lived at Tebtynis, explicitly mentioned in his last will that he wanted to be buried 'near the Labyrinth' (SB VIII 9642 l.4; 117-138 AD). At least part of the Hellenized elite buried at Hawara must have lived in the metropolis, e.g. the gymnasiarchs Tiberius Iulius Asklepiades and Dios and their wives. The specification ᾿Αρσινοείτης added to the occupation of the wool merchant Apollinarios (SB I 3965/III 7084; 2nd century AD) and the mention of the agora; τῶν ἱματοπωλῶν on the mummy label of Diodoros (SB XVIII 13654; Roman period) suggest that these too were inhabitants of Arsinoe.

    Hawara also attracted persons from other places in the Arsinoite nome. Thus the body of an undertaker of Alexandrou Nesos had to be placed in a family tomb at Hawara (P.Hawara Lüdd. IV; 220 BC). The unpublished account P.Ashm. I 30 lists deceased from the village Mendes, from Ptolemais Hormou and even from Meidoum in the Memphite nome. There may even be a relation between the place of origin of the dead and the cult places of Pramarres in the Fayum (e.g. Alexandrou Nesos and Tebtynis).

    Indeed, even people from outside the Fayum found their last resting place at Hawara, as is attested by the correspondence between the undertakers of Alexandria with those of Hawara (SB I 5216; 101, 68 or 39 BC) and by the mummy label of Pantagathos, sent "to the Arsinoite nome" (SB I 3967).”

    (Emphasis added.)

    The conclusion that the image of a pharaoh on the reverse of this coin of the Arsinoite Nome was intended to represent the deified pharaoh Pramarres, i.e. Amenehmhat III -- regardless of the fact that the coinage was minted in Alexandria -- appears inescapable. The type is historically significant, given that there is no other Egyptian pharaoh represented on Roman Alexandrian coinage.

    Please post your own Roman Alexandrian coins with "traditional" Egyptian themes from Pharaonic times, and/or your own examples of Nomes coinage.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2021
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    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    @DonnaML, your writeup and coins are at the usual, stunning level. Gawsh, I want Just One of those 2nd-century ones.
    Something that leaped out at me from the screen was your observation that as late as that, individual nomes still had their own, traditional local deities. ...If Pharaohnic Egypt itself could last an easy, what, two and a half millennia, why should it be any surprise that its cultural legacy could survive intact, among the natives, for a mere handful of centuries afterward?
    ...Wow. You lit up some synapses. Many thanks.
    DonnaML likes this.
  4. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..kool coin Donna....and a kool niche to go down! :)
    DonnaML likes this.
  5. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    What a wonderful type that I don't recall seeing before:woot::wideyed::artist:
    LOVE and wholeheartedly agree with your fascination/obsession with ancient Egypt.
    Here are a couple themes borrowed and ripped off from the ancient Egyptians (I know the second coin is far off from Alexandria. But the Jesus myth was so clearly lifted from the Osiris myth):
  6. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    There’s a scene from an old scooby doo cartoon where the gang is in Alaska. Shaggy and Scooby get to a sign that says Nome, Alaska

    shaggy says “well scoob when in nome do as the Nomans do!” And then they do something
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  7. Spargrodan

    Spargrodan Well-Known Member

    Nice writeup Donna, damn I really want that Hadrian canopy type.
    DonnaML likes this.
  8. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    I agree-- there's something special about Alexandrian coins depicting Egyptian gods and local themes! :)

    Yes, mainly for their pages about "restoration" of bronze coins. I can't quite tell where they draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable "restoration", but the webpages are interesting.
    David Atherton and DonnaML like this.
  9. Only a Poor Old Man

    Only a Poor Old Man Well-Known Member

    I love this forum and its members, but as a practicing Christian I find this comment unnecessary. Everyone's ideology and beliefs are respected, but theological debate is not what this forum is about in my humble opinion.
  10. Orange Julius

    Orange Julius Well-Known Member

    I'm sure no offense was intended. There are many themes that were shared, modified and borrowed from in these times. As Christianity spread, bits and pieces of other belief systems were surely included in-part to include others and spread the reach of their message... right?
  11. svessien

    svessien Senior Member Supporter

    Donna, I have to compliment you in general when it comes to finding nice new old coins. I think you always post nice examples of interesting types. You have a great eye for them, and the knowledge behind it. Good coin!
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  12. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

    First of all, thank you for the well-researched and well-written article Donna. Can we make sure it gets published somewhere?

    As a student of late antiquity who has studied a bit about your question @+VGO.DVCKS note that during the period of the anchorites or desert fathers which became popular in the latter 3rd century, including St. Anthony - the Egyptian word for monastery, hen-ete in Coptic descended from the word for temple in the Pharaonic lexicon, hwt-netcher.

    Christianity spread rapidly throughout the countryside in the 3rd and early fourth centuries so that by the time of Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373 A.D.) it had become the dominant religion, superceding traditional rites as well as Gnosticism and the practice of Hermes Trismegistus (Thrice holy Hermes). The Nag Hammadi Codex, in addition to the alternate gospels they present also contain contain bits of Neoplatonism and Hermes Trismegistus.

    As Trinitarianism espoused by Athanasius came to the fore and as evidenced by his Festal letter of 367 we can assume that the Codex' contents, which also survive on papyrus fragments from other sites in Egypt, were deemed to be heretical and had to be hidden in a clay pot not far from the Pachomian Monastery at Chenoboskion.
  13. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    Sorry to read. I always enjoy your posts and wouldn't want to hurt your feelings.
    I suppose I should've typed mythology, as that was my intent. I thought this stuff was fairly well known:

    Here he is being resurrected after being betrayed
    Melita - Mummy of Osiris Bronze
    218-175 BC Obv: veiled and diademed female head right, wearing earring. Rev: Mummy of Osiris standing facing, head left, holding flail and sceptre, between winged figures of Isis and Nephtys, each with sun disk on their heads and one wing angled inwards; Punic ‘NN above. 12.78 grams. Fair.
    Property of a Hertfordshire, UK gentleman; with old envelope.
    Literature CNS 2; SG Cop (Vol. 8) 458-459; Mayr 2; Sear 6584.
    Alegandron, +VGO.DVCKS, Bing and 3 others like this.
  14. Only a Poor Old Man

    Only a Poor Old Man Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't say it was so intense as to hurt my feelings and I am happy that it wasn't an intentional dig at Christianity. Written stuff on the internet can be easily interpreted in a different way from what the writer intended, and is one of the problems that comes with the territory. But it is a moot point, as it is your right to have any opinion you want about anything and having different opinions with me on any subject would never be a sufficient reason for me to stop enjoying your posts, your coins and engaging with you in numismatic conversations. :shame:

    After all this is what this forum is about, talking about coins, and our ideological backgrounds have nothing to do with that. As this is the internet though, some topics are best approached with caution. I could further discuss the chart about Jesus/Horus you posted and my objections about it, but there is really no point in doing it as it would be off-topic and of a sensitive subject matter.

    Exactly, and there isn't really anything wrong with that. Half the Christian calendar is full of holidays that evolved (usually as a matter of convenience) from earlier pagan ones. It was a part of the whole transition process.

    I apologise if I caused any drama, I would hate to think that I got 'triggered' as I dislike that word which so much represents the absurdity of the times we live in.
  15. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Do you have any you'd like to show, even if you've posted them before? Remember, some of us are relatively new members and there are still a lot of your coins we haven't seen!

    He seems to think that "repatination" -- like what A. and Z. are known for -- as well as painting and even some smoothing are OK as long as they're disclosed , and draws the line only at tooling.

    My instinct is to disagree, because even if smoothing, painting, and repatination are disclosed, there comes a point -- I'm not sure exactly where -- at which I would wonder if it's really the same coin anymore. .On the other hand, I can see the logic of taking a position that if, say, someone accidentally scratches a coin, it should be considered acceptable to repair and restore it, even if that involves a certain amount of smoothing. Just as paintings in museums get restored when someone slashes them or they're otherwise damaged. They aren't just left as they are according to a policy of non-intervention. In fact, people make a living as art restorers. It's OK to repaint portions of "The Last Supper" that have deteriorated over time, so why not a coin, especially when all the repairs can be reversed if someone wants to?

    Bottom line, I'm not sure where to draw the line myself. Except that I agree that tooling is not something that should be done.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2021
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  16. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    If anybody wants to see some other examples of Roman Egyptian "Nome" coinage -- since nobody has posted any in this thread! -- there are at least a half dozen photos of very nice examples of them, including this type, that @Okidoki posted at pages 25 and 26 of the "Roman Provincial Coin Cities -- How many can we cover?" thread, beginning at

    In general, they do seem to be considerably scarcer than most ordinary Roman Alexandrian coins; I don't see them offered very often. Although my type is classified in the most common category by Emmett -- like every other Alexandrian coin I have, even the types like this one that I rarely see.
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  17. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    @Ryro and @Only a Poor Old Man: as much as I dislike the idea of contributing to the derailing of my own thread, I consider myself a third party observer here, as neither a Christian nor a worshipper of the old Egyptian Gods nor whatever @Ryro considers himself, in terms of religion or absence thereof.

    As such, I think that it's certainly true that the story of the life of Jesus as presented in the various Gospels (taking into account the various differences among them) bears an obvious resemblance not only to the Isis-Osiris story but to a number of other "dying and reviving god" stories, and that the motif of Isis nursing infant Horus (Harpocrates) bears an even more obvious resemblance to the Mary with infant Jesus motif that replaced it.

    However, I also suspect that the righthand side of that comparison table that @Ryro posted is largely made-up nonsense. Isis was a virgin? I thought one of of the major points of the story was that after Osiris was brought back to life, he impregnated Isis with the child Horus. Horus was born on December 25, according to a story that dates back to a couple of thousand years before there was a calendar that had a "December," never mind a December 25? I don't think so. Horus was born outside Egypt, and his birth was attended by three wise men? What? Isis took him to Egypt to escape the wrath of Typhon, a figure from Greek mythology? What? Anup the Baptizer? There's no such character in Egyptian mythology.

    And so on. It's mostly just a silly Internet meme dug out of crackpot books or simply fabricated. There are historicity issues with certain elements of the various stories of Jesus's childhood -- most obviously the ones that appear to have been written after the fact to match certain supposed prophecies in the Hebrew Bible -- but this is not the leg to stand on!
  18. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    Several very good points. Though, I will point out that Anpu is another name for Anubis. As well, Likewise, Horus was born of the virgin Isis, also called Meri, who had “relations” (she is documented as a virgin) with the god Osiris.
    And maybe more to the point...
    It's time for bed.
    My isis, and first Livia
  19. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Have a good night, and let's leave the discussion of this there!
  20. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    I believe in Victory not Angels (or maybe I believe in Nemesis?)...... I do not believe in many gods .. and certainly not one. I thoroughly enjoy trying to understand our ancient ancestors - and how their beliefs shaped their decisions. Man's mind is complex, however we are near the end of the need for a crutch.

  21. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I think people who believe that religion of all kinds is a crutch -- and I won't say whether or how much I agree or disagree -- may be mistaken in predicting the end of humankind's need for it. People are not really so much different in the way they think from the way they were thousands of years ago. But none of us is a prophet (as far as I know!), or really knows what's going to happen in the future.
    Magnus87 and +VGO.DVCKS like this.
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