Questions about Anonymous Civic "Persecution" Coin from Antioch, under Maximinus II

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by DonnaML, Dec 25, 2020.

  1. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I've had this coin for a little while, but didn't really know that much about it until I read two very excellent threads on such coins from last year: first, the important thread by @David@PCC (David Kalina) entitled "Sacred Apollo (anonymous civic coinage part I)" at -- which led me to the expanded version at his website, And second, the very informative thread begun by @Roman Collector entitled "Pagan coin of The Great Persecution" (see, with contributions by, among others, @David@PCC, @Valentinian (citing his own website on these coins,, and @Victor_Clark.

    In other words, some of our heaviest hitters, or, if you prefer, our most amazing scholars!

    Based on those two threads and the associated websites, and after consulting the few sources that I own or were quoted or linked in the threads (Sear, ERIC II, McAlee, notinric), I was able to cobble together for my personal catalog my own description of my coin, in which -- because I was persuaded by David's arguments, as I was in placing his interpretation of "SMA" first -- I refrained from characterizing the coin as part of a so-called pagan "Persecution" issue:

    Anonymous civic issue, reign of Maximinus II, AE quarter follis [?][Sear] or 1/12 nummus [?][McAlee], Antioch Mint (3rd Officina), ca. 311-312 AD. Obv. Tyche (city-goddess of Antioch) wearing mural crown, seated facing on rock, holding grain ears[?] with right hand and, with left hand, holding a two-handled basket (filled with grain ears[?]) resting on ground to right, river god Orontes swimming below with arms spread, GENIO ANTIOCHINI / Rev. Apollo standing left, pouring libation from patera held in right hand, and holding lyre in raised left hand, Γ [gamma, signifying 3rd Officina] in right field, APOLLONI SANCTO around; in exergue, SMA [meaning Sigmata Moneta Antioch (money struck at Antioch) or Sacra Moneta Antioch]. [Not in RIC; see] Sear RCV IV 14927 (ill); Vagi 2954; McAlee 170; Van Heesch Type 3 [Van Heesch, J. "The last civic coinages and the religious policy of Maximinus Daza (AD 312)" in Numismatic Chronicle (1993), pp. 63-75 & Pl. 11]; ERIC II, “Anonymous Religious Coinage of the Fourth Century,” pp. 1198-1199, No. 2. 16 mm., 1.35 g. [Struck either (1) to promote propaganda against Christians and aid in their persecution (and thus traditionally denominated the pagan “Persecution issue”); or (2) as proposed by David Kalina, for use in festivals, including the Festival of Apollo at Daphne, held in conjunction with the Olympics in Antioch in 312 AD. See Kalina, David, “Anonymous Civic Coinage,” Series 1, at]

    Maximinus II persecution issue AE16 Antioch (Tyche-Apollo), McAlee 170, Sear 14927  jpg issue.jpg

    But, after all that, I still have a couple of admittedly minor questions.

    First, essentially the same question that @dougsmit raised in the final post in @Roman Collector's thread last year: what is the basis for the different denominations ascribed to the coin by various authorities, i.e., 1/4 vs. 1/12 of whatever the standard monetary unit was in Antioch at the time (no matter the fictional name one attaches to that unit, whether it be follis or nummus). Is it based entirely on the rather small (but not tiny) size of the type, 16 mm.? There's a rather large difference between 1/4 and 1/12, so I'm a bit puzzled.

    Second, none of the authorities I looked at (except McAlee in passing in the page reproduced in one of last year's threads), and nobody that I noticed in the two threads, addressed the questions of what Tyche holds in her right hand, and the identity of the object sitting on the ground next to Tyche on the right, beyond a "basket."

    The object in her right hand can't be seen at all in many examples, and it's certainly not so clear in mine. But, based on the fact that Tyche is usually shown holding a sheaf of grain ears in her right hand in the tetradrachms of Seleucis and Pieria, I'm guessing that that's what she's holding on my coin. Any thoughts?

    As for the object sitting on the ground to the right, next to Tyche's left hand, when I first saw it I thought it was a gigantic bunch of grapes! If it's a basket, it has an awfully large weave. But unless I'm imagining things, I see a handle on the right, and possibly another handle on the left that Tyche is holding. But what's in the basket? The same kind of thing she's holding in her other hand, namely grain ears? (McAlee says ears of wheat.) Again, most descriptions of the type I've looked at say nothing about the basket or its contents. Admittedly a minor issue, but sometimes such questions intrigue me.

    If anyone would like to share their own coins from Antioch from this and related issues, either ones they already posted last year (it's been long enough, I think!) or new ones acquired since, please go ahead.
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2020
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  3. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    On his website, @David@PCC writes: "Tyche also holds wheat stalks that symbolize the city's prosperity". This coincides with your and McAlee's interpretations of the object in Tyche's hand.

    Concerning the object on the right, I had always assumed that it represented the rocks that Tyche sits on.
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2020
  4. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    My example of the OP, but a different officina:

    Anonymous issue under Maximinus II.
    Roman billon quarter follis, 1.35 g, 16.3 mm, 11 h.
    Antioch, officina 6, AD 311-312.
    Obv: GENIO ANTIOCHENI, Tyche of Antioch seated facing; river god Orontes swimming below.
    Rev: APOLLONI SANCTO, Apollo standing left holding patera and lyre; S in right field, SMA in ex.
    Refs: RCV 14927; Vagi 2954; Van Heesch 3(a); McAlee 170f.
  5. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks. That was my second thought after the giant grapes! But if you zoom in as much as possible on the top of the object on mine, I think you'll see the edge of a basket, a handle attached to the right side near the top, and a bunch of something sticking out of the basket. Plus, I'm sure I read a description somewhere that called it a basket, so it's not as if I'm making it up out of whole cloth!
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2020
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  6. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

  7. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

  8. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I see Tyche's basket clearly on your coin.
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  9. Broucheion

    Broucheion Supporter! Supporter

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  10. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

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  11. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Thanks for posting the link for allcoinage where a couple of my coins appear as Private Collection P. I have learned no more about these coins than I knew the first time we discussed them here and have undoubtedly forgotten much of what I knew then. I am glad at least more people now acknowledge these exist (they are not in RIC or ERIC II). My best one (I love the robe detail) is the shop 9 below.
  12. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

  13. David@PCC


    I'll try to answer the OP's questions. The original Tyche was Seleucid and has been lost to time. But if we look at copies she holds grains in her hand
    antioch_tyche_vatican_grain.jpg representing Antioch's fertility, she sits on on a rock representing nearby Mount Sipylus. As far as the denomination I don't believe it was on par with other coins circulating within the empire and was made only for use around Antioch. A large festival would have a need for small change where these coins would serve that purpose. I'm not sure the denomination makes all that much of a difference as these would probably not be spent outside of the city. That is why I just call them a fraction.
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  14. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    That's a very beautiful example. And the 5+4 to avoid "death" is special even apart from the coin's quality.
  15. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you. That makes sense to do, instead of trying to decide whether it represented 1/4 or 1/12 or some other specific fraction.

    When people use the term wheat rather than grain to refer what she's holding, or vice versa, are they really intending to make a distinction, or just speaking generically? I would assume the latter, although I suppose grain is a broader category, including barley and rye, etc. (There weren't many farms where I grew up in Manhattan.)
  16. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    The big problem here has always been Americans reading grain descriptions in British books not realizing that the two cultures use different words for some grains. 'Corn' in England is not 'Corn' in the US. The ancients used a lot less 'wheat' so many of us citified moderns who could not tell, on the stalk, barley from rye from wheat get confused. It is not all that different from the confusion with various cats and the moose/elk matter. This does not get a lot better when we ad to the mix the changes in grains/plants/animals brought about by man playing in the gene pools. Roman emperors did not ride Clydesdales or thoroughbreds. Neither did they eat Hard Red Spring Wheat like we into artisan bread baking might.
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