Featured Regnal Dates on Late Ptolemaic Coins

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by CoinDoctorYT, Jun 21, 2020.

  1. CoinDoctorYT

    CoinDoctorYT Well-Known Member

    So this post is more of a beginners guide, but I thought I'd share this for the enjoyment of advanced collectors and new collectors as a whole. Feel free to post your regnal date Ptolemaic coins for others to try and figure out.

    Ptolemy XII Auletes or Neos Dionysos

    Ptolemy XII Auletes, famously known as Neos Dionysos, was the half brother of previous ruler Ptolemy XI Alexander II who ruled only 19 days in 80 BC. Neos Dionysos, however, enjoyed two reigns from 80-58 BC and then again from 55-51 BC.

    The reason to know this information: Tetradrachms were struck in all periods of Neos Dionysos’ reign. They are labeled 1st reign and 2nd reign. Tetradrachms labeled 1st reign were struck from 80-58 BC and 2nd reign Tetradrachms were struck from 55-51 BC. They continued being struck during his absence.

    What makes it simple is that all the Tetradrachms were struck at Alexandria or Paphos—and there isn’t any major varieties.

    Analyzing the Regnal Dates of Ptolemy XII Tetradrachms

    To begin, Svoronos lists 15 varieties struck in Neos Dionysos’ reigns. Of course, that excludes dies which could have struck multiple other varieties not listed.

    First reign Tetradrachms will be classified into category A. Second will be category B. Period Tetradrachms feature a lot of markings containing the letter L. Knowing the Greek alphabet, the letter L didn’t exist. What’s fascinating is the reason why L was included. In volumes 5-7 of The Numismatic Circular, it states the Greek form of the letter L is in its modern form sloping slightly left. It is very similar to out modern day letter. The earliest form is found on Roman monograms dating to 218 BC. The letter is linked with the regnal year of dating—a system which measures how long a particular king or ruler reigns. It is possible that L marks the start of a date. This can help us identify which coins were struck in category A or B.

    Of course I am not getting any of this information from nowhere. Many scholars have identified regnal year patterns for decades. Coins showing similar “L” patterns were deductively placed into their own sections.

    Screen Shot 2020-03-23 at 5.25.24 PM.png
    Ptolemy XII Auletes Neos Dionysos
    Head of young Ptolemy I right
    Eagle standing left on thunderbolt;
    ΠA date marker
    Dating: LΔ mark to the left=Regnal Year 4
    (78-77 BC)

    The regnal year follows the Greek alphabet substituted by Greek characters for numbers. For the above image LΔ would translate to L4. The Greek alphabet goes from A, B, Γ, Δ. The fourth character is Δ, making it coincide with L4.

    For more complex dates with multiple characters, the numbered characters have to be combined. The coin below shows a date numbered LKZ. Looking at the Greek Alphabet, Kappa is the tenth character in the alphabet and Zeta is the sixth character. Kappa is now 20 and Zeta is now 7—adding up to 27.

    Below I have included every combination:

    Single Double Triple

    A=1 K=20 P=100

    B=2 Λ=30 Σ/C=200

    Γ=3 M=40 T=300

    Δ=4 N=50 Y=400

    E=5 Ξ=60 Φ=500

    S=6 O=70 X=600

    Z=7 Π=80

    H=8 Q=90



    Screen Shot 2020-06-21 at 10.34.38 AM.png
    Ptolemy XII Auletes Neos Dionysos
    Head of Ptolemy I right
    Eagle standing left on thunderbolt; ΠA date marker
    Dating: LKZ mark to the left=Regnal Year 27
    (55-54 BC)

    Recognizing Regnal dates

    Knowing this information, it is now simple to classify categories A and B. Other coins will feature different markings to represent dates in other languages such as Phoenician. It is most common, however, that late Ptolemaic coinage will have regnal dates.

    Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator

    Classically, the examples struck by Cleopatra show much more detail and preciseness because most were struck in Alexandria.

    The obverse portrait of Ptolemy seems to be much more feminine than the other portraits from previous kings. Perhaps she was attempting to identify with the great Soter from so many years before. The reverse reads the legend King Ptolemy (ΠTOΛEMAIOY BAΣIΛEΩΣ). The reason we can distinguish this type belonging to Cleopatra from the rest of the similar types is Regnal dates. Even after Regnal identification it is still not certain whether this issue was struck by Cleopatra or by another Ptolemy.

    The regnal years are marked the same as before: with an L. Unlike other issues, there are a set of monograms that link with each year. For example: LΓ (year 3) 50BC—ΛΓ or PA monogram.

    Screen Shot 2020-06-21 at 10.40.02 AM.png
    Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator
    Head of Ptolemy I right
    Eagle standing left on thunderbolt, PA behind
    ΠA date marker
    Dating: LI mark to the left=Regnal Year 10
    (43-42 BC)


    Thank you for reading this post if you got this far. :)
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