Philip II of Macedon horse question

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by kirispupis, Mar 25, 2021.

  1. kirispupis

    kirispupis Well-Known Member

    Hello everyone! I just sprang an order on a Philip II tetradrachm (same type as this one), and there's one question about the coinage that has really puzzled me.

    The following is what I understand as the chronology:
    359 BCE - Philip II takes the Macedonian throne
    356 BCE - Philip's horse wins in the Olympics, so he starts minting this coin. In the initial issues, the horse faces left, which is the same for the coin I purchased.
    347 or 348 BCE - In all coinage, the horse now faces to the right.
    336 BCE - Philip II is assassinated. His son Alexander continues to mint Philip's coins.
    328 BCE - Alexander ceases minting coins in the name of Philip, moving fully to his own famous issues. These coins, though, would again be produced after Alexander's death by Kassander and others.

    From this, it seems like all Philip II tetradrachms/staters with the horse facing left are lifetime issues, while those with the horse to the right (discounting the later ones by Kassander et al) may be lifetime issues, but because they continued to be minted after his death without change there's no way to know for sure.

    Now, the question that's been bugging me is: why did the horse change direction?
    I know the Greeks were very particular on which way things were facing. The horse didn't just get lost and head back home. It meant something.

    From history, Philip II took Olynthus in 348 BCE. Could the direction be related to that? Or is the horse now looking toward the east and his planned conquests there?

    My feeling is there must be an academic paper on this, but so far I haven't found one. If anyone knows the answer, I would very much appreciate it.
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  3. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    Interesting question (would love to see a picture of your coin btw).
    I've no horse in this race:hilarious: as the silver Philip IIs are just a bit out of my wallet size. I'd love to hear if @Alegandron has heard anything or has an opinion. The guy had a Philip II poster on his wall in high school instead of Cheryl Tiegs... now that I think about it, maybe Philip II changed the direction of his horse the day he realized his son was going to be superior to him in every way, except when it came to coming back from defeat. But that's only because Alexander never had to deal with defeat!:punch:
    (Jk, I know, I know. Though not atrocious, Alexander was no where near the statesman that his father was. Philip dos used diplomacy like a sword and Alexander used generals that his father had crafted over the last two decades.)
    Anyway, here's some of my best Philip twos, all running right. The way of admittance that ultimately Alexander and not he conquered the East:
    20190326_171110_4D00BE6E-1ED8-4C52-8119-7FBAEEE03F10-406-000000E34F02834D.png 20190326_171218_3663FC0B-5046-4726-8B28-0F5DC118F764-406-000000E3B123C3A0.png 20190326_170429_33CEBEB7-B8D5-4C2C-8B9E-7076CEC450A9-406-000000E2BAA3E016.png
    Ps, I will also point out that Alexander was also born the same year wild Phillies horse won, 356, and Philip won one of his most important victories in the 1st of the " Sacred Wars".
    356 was a BIG year for Philip II and the world.
  4. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    The principal work on the silver and gold coinage of Philip II of Macedon is Le Monnayage D'Argent et D'Or De Phillippe II written by Georges Le Rider back in 1977. He later clarified some of his findings in Alexander The Great Coinage Finances and Policy which was translated into English in 2007. Essentially all the coins King on horseback facing left issues are lifetime. However the Jockey on horseback facing right are divided into lifetime and into a number of groupings which are posthumous. Essentially any of the jockey group that he dates to ending in 336 BC are lifetime. However the groups which he dated to 340-336/328 BC are all issued by Alexander III from 336-328 BC. As most most people use the older 1977 dating system you will see that still used today. Without getting into too much detail that is the easiest and fastest system available. Mind you it makes buying any of his lifetime gold staters and lifetime "Jockey" tetradrachms really difficult. As for why the two reverses face in opposite directions. I suspect that given that the on the reverse the image of the humans on horseback are very small. Having them face in opposite directions would make it much easier to distinguish king from jockey philipII-2.jpeg Alexander III of Macedon Ar Tetradrachm 336-328 BC In the name and types of Philip II obv Head of Zeus Laureate. Rv. Nude jockey on prancing horse right. Le Rider 357 14.33 grms 25 mm Photo by W. Hansen
    PS For those who might have thought their coins of Antigonos Gonatas were safe. I just got this book. Looks my my Gonatas has just become a Doson:eek: 41dY0bk9x+L._SX364_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg Now I think my Doson is a Gonatas:confused:
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2021
  5. Alegandron

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


    Makedon Philip II Tet Pella LIFETIME 353-349 Zeus Horse star spearhd Le Rider 102

    @Terence Cheesman said it all.
  6. Alegandron

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


    MAKEDON Philip II 1/5th Stater Apollo head r - Horseman r trident below as S6691
  7. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    Very cool! Thanks so much for shedding some light:singing:
    And I've been singing the song for a while:
    But from Gonatas to a sad little regent!?
    I'm very interested in this book and the find data she uses to remove Gonatas from the equation entirely and making it all Doson the whole time:bookworm:
    Does she talk about the bronze coinage of Gonatas/Doson III?
    There is a distinct change up in the bronze as well as silver with the fun and unique corn ears coinage that differentiates something:pompous:
    (Wish I had Pan examples to show. Though, the ears of corn are seen on both bronze and silver. The silver examples aren't as artistic, generally, when the reverse helmet has the unique grain ears. But I must've just assumed that they were the distance between regent, Doson and KING Antigonos Gonatas):
    (Grain ears)
    (Grain ears)

    Eh, either way, now I've got to find a copy of this book!
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2021
    Claudius_Gothicus and Bing like this.
  8. FrizzyAntoine

    FrizzyAntoine Active Member

    There are a number of papers, and even books written on the subject, and you've certainly come to the right place to find illumination, though I don't think anyone will ever have a definitive answer! However, I do think @Terence Cheesman has summed up the collecting side of it incredibly well.

    As to the figures represented, their purpose, and the timings, I personally subscribe to the view that the original issue, likely minted in Pella after the capture of Krenides and the nearby Pangean mines, commemmorated Philip's triumphs over the Illyrians, Paeonians, and Thracians, and therefore shows him as king.

    The later issue is more contentious, with some suggesting it represents his winning Olympic jockey and others believing it to be the young Alexander, and acting as a declaration that Philip and by extension Macedon had an heir. I don't know where I fit into this camp. On the one hand it seems plausible that he would wish to show the Greek world that Macedon is strong and portraying his young son as a competant horseman, metaphorically taking up the reigns of Philip's empire would certianly do the trick, especially when one considers how widely Philip's coinage circulated. However, I think it's just as plausible, if not somewhat moreso, that Philip wished to commemorate his Olympic successes in monumental fashion, immortalizing them in a new series of coinage and showing his "Greek-ness" to those on his southern border and beyond.

    At any rate, here's my Philip II, one made either at the twilight of his own life or the very beginning of the young Alexander's reign. I prefer to beleive it fits into the late-lifetime chronology, and have as yet found myself unsatisfied by arguments to the contrary. I also believe we share the same dies @Terence Cheesman, what a coincidence! :woot:

    IMG_7649_cr.jpg IMG_7650_cr.jpg
    Claudius_Gothicus, Ryro, Bing and 4 others like this.
  9. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    That is a spectacular coin - thank you for posting.. just wow!
    FrizzyAntoine likes this.
  10. kirispupis

    kirispupis Well-Known Member

    Wow! I second that comment! This coin is stunning.

    In terms of Gonatas vs Doson, I found this older paper (1). While I'm not a numismatist, his logic certainly seems sound based on the hoard evidence and the images on the coins. I would be curious to know what new evidence Panagopoulou has found that refutes it. I have neither coin, though a Gonatas is on my extended radar.

    I'm still on the lookout for a paper that discusses the horse. I did read this one (2).
    It doesn't discuss the horse, but it does cover 348 BCE as a major transition for Philip II as he looked to broaden his borders. I'm still thinking the change in direction has something to do with that.

    1) Merker, Irwin L. "THE SILVER COINAGE OF ANTIGONOS GONATAS AND ANTIGONOS DOSON." Museum Notes (American Numismatic Society) 9 (1960): 39-52. Accessed March 26, 2021.

    2) West, Allen B. "THE EARLY DIPLOMACY OF PHILIP II OF MACEDON ILLUSTRATED BY HIS COINS." The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society 3 (1923): 169-210. Accessed March 26, 2021.
    FrizzyAntoine likes this.
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