The last of the Great Seleukids

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Only a Poor Old Man, Jan 18, 2021.

  1. Only a Poor Old Man

    Only a Poor Old Man Well-Known Member

    New coin arrived this morning, and it is a departure form what I have been focusing on for the past few months. I have been collecting mostly Byzantine coins and I kinda neglected my other area of interested, the Greek ones. So it felt good to hold in my hands a heavy piece of Greek silver after a while. And what a nice piece it is. It is a tetradrachm from the Seleukid king Antiochos VII commonly known as 'Euergetes' (benefactor). It is a beautifully toned coin with an excellent portrait in high relief. On the reverse, the eagle is very well rendered with good detail, legible legends and a plethora of mint marks that will make researching this coin a fun process.


    I always wanted a Hellenistic eagle coin. But for some unknown reason I was never that attracted to the Ptolemaic ones which are the most common ones. It is a matter of taste I guess, same as why i would prefer to go on a date with a freckled red-hair rather than the Angelina Jolie type. So when I saw this coin, it clicked and I had to have it, especially considering that the price was right. Once again, it was a retail purchase. If this coin was in an auction it would attract the kind of attention that drives the price is up. The seller's photo was on the bright side, so the attractive toning was a pleasant surprise. It must have been in someone's cabinet for a while, so I will try to investigate if it has an interesting provenance.

    The Hellenistic era is a period of history that fascinates me, and in my opinion its art is at least equal to the one of classical Greece. Furthermore, I have a tetradrachm from this guy's father (Demetrios I Soter), so it was only fitting that I should get one from his son. And a very successful son he was, as he is regarded as the last great king of the Seleukids. After him, the empire would be confined to mostly what is today's Syria, and it would often be nothing more than a Roman puppet state.

    His first nickname was Sidetes (as he came from Side - not very imaginative, I know). During his reign though he would add some more to his roster, ranging from 'pious' all the way to 'Euergetes' the one mostly associated with him. He ended up on the throne when his brother Demetrios II Nikator was captured by the Parthians. That was obviously not enough as he got married to his brother's wife as well. Why look for a new wife when there is one available that is only slightly used, he might have said...

    He was a fine king though! In his nine-year reign he managed to recapture much of the empire's lost territories and he squashed rebellions and internal feuds. Of great historical interest is his interactions with the Jewish people. Seleukids attacking Jerusalem was nothing new, but Antiochos earned his benefactor nickname from the Jews, as during a siege he willingly halted all hostilities for 7 days to allow the Jewish people to celebrate a religious festival. This impressed the Jewish nobility, so when Antiochos eventually took control of Jerusalem it was straightforward for him to maintain order and install a puppet ruler John Hyrcanus. Relations were so good that Jewish allied forces helped Antiochos in his later campaign against Parthia's troublesome ruler Mithridates.

    This connection is actually important to this new coin of mine. It was minted right about when Hyrcanus was installed in power, and hoard evidence shows that these tets would be widely used in the temple and would be the predecessor to the well known Tyrian shekels. Antiochos did well against the Parthians initially, and even Mithridates was killed in battle. His successor Phraates II was a bit of a cheeky one though, and he released Demetrios from prison who was immediately off to Syria to reclaim the throne from his brother. Maybe the wife too. Rebellions followed, and on his way to squash one Antiochos was ambushed by Phraates and killed. Parthians claimed he committed suicide, others that he was killed in battle. Nothing is certain.

    Show me your Antiochos coinage or any others from his family or the kingdoms he was associated with.
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  3. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    I sold this example at a Heritage auction several years ago :happy:.

    Antiochus VII.jpg
    Kingdom of Cappadocia, Antiochus VII, 138-129 BC, Reverse: Athena with a Nike trophy. AR Tetradrachm: 16.36 gm, 29 mm, 12 h.
  4. svessien

    svessien Senior Member Supporter

    Very nice, Old Man!
    I really like it. Makes me want to collect Seleukid coins. I used to have a Demetrius II tet, but my uncle took it over in return for some Norwegian coins. At least it’s in the family, and here’s Tryphon:


    It’s possible that this is a good book recommendation for you. Lots of nice pics and write-ups on the rulers:

  5. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks for the informative write-up! Also, that's a terrific portrait on your tetradrachm. Excellent style, attractive toning, clean strike, and smooth surfaces – what's more to wish for?

    My own Antiochos VII Evergetes comes in modest bronze:
    Seleukiden – Antiochos VII Evergetes, AE, Eros und Isiskrone, SC II 275–278..png
    Antiochos VII Evergetes, Seleucid Empire, AE denomination B, 138–129 BC, Antioch mint. Obv: bust of Eros, winged, r. Rev: BAΣIΛEΩΣ ANTIOXOY [EYEPΓETOY]; headdress of Isis with feathers, horns, and sun disk, star and crescents at base; unclear date. 19mm, 5.75g. Ref: Seleucid Coins II, 275–278.
  6. Pavlos

    Pavlos You pick out the big men. I'll make them brave!

    A great example of the type! Antiochos VII was indeed the last capable Seleukid king out there, what had been in disintegration in 138 BC had been stitched back together by the late 130s BC. The Seleukid kingdom consisted of the urbanized areas of Syria from the Taurus Mountains to the Sinai Desert, which were unfortunately tensioned by the semi-independent or independent minor states along the northern and eastern borders. He was in able to reconstruct a new political base for the kingdom he had inherited. During Antiochos VII his reign it became a populous and wealthy land, and would have formed a good and sufficient kingdom.

    Antiochos VII Euergetes (138-129 B.C.). AR Drachm, Soloi mint.
    Diademed head of Antiochos VII right.
    Reverse: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ / ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΟΥ. Tyche seated left on throne, holding sceptre and cornucopia. Controls: Two monograms in exergue.
    Mint: Soloi mint. Date Range: 138-129 B.C. Reference: SC 2051; HGC 9, 1079.
    3.81g; 19mm

    The evidence for Antiochos VII’s power in Cilicia is mainly numismatic. Coins in his name were minted mainly at the city of Tarsos, but also in Soloi, Seleukeia-on-the-Kalykadnos, and Mallos. The number of coins from these last three mints was not large, and it has been suggested that the issues were symbolic more than economic, that is, the coins were issued as pledges of the cities’ loyalty to the king, and to demonstrate to those who would use the coins just who the king was. Symbolic or not, these issues show that Antiochos VII had a firm grip on the lowlands of Cilicia, an important territory with several cities and ports, productive of soldiers and wealth.

    Antiochos VII Euergetes (138-129 B.C.). AE Denomination C. Antioch on the Orontes mint, struck 139-138 B.C.
    Lion's head right.
    Reference: SC 2068.1-11.
    2.55g; 15mm

    I also have an eagle coin but then from Alexander I Balas. Alexander was the king who first introduced these types.

    Seleukid Empire. Alexander I (Balas), 152/1-145 BC. AR Tetradrachm. Tyre mint. Dated SE 167 (146/5 BC).
    Diademed and draped bust of Alexander Balas right.
    Reverse: Eagle standing left on prow of galley, palm-branch over right shoulder; club surmounted by monogram to left, ΙΞΡ (date) and monogram to right.
    Reference: SNG Spaer 1545-1546; Newell, Tyre 79; Houghton 749.
    13.73g (Phoenican standard)

    Long have been suggested that the Ptolemaic eagle on the reverse of Alexander Balas’ coinage indicates a close relationship between the Ptolemaic king (Ptolemy VI Philometor) and Alexander Balas either on political or economic grounds. Initial minting activity in Coele-Syria and Phoenicia was limited. Antiochos III apperantly did not strike silver coinage in the region, and his succesors seem to have only minted coins in Ake-Ptolemais. An apparently small series from Seleukos IV, a larger series from Antiochos IV, and another small series from Demetrios I survive. An analysis of the hoard evidence from the region showed that Ptolemaic coinage on the Phoenician standard was predominant in the hoards up to the 140s BC, and the hoarding of Phoenician standard coinage presumably indicated local demand. Interestingly, the hoards outside of the region rarely show coins of the Phoenician standard. Alexander Balas’ Phoenician standard issues responded to local demand by using the Ptolemaic eagle on the reverse in a number of mints, and would be continued by his successors until the Seleukid kings lost control over the region.
  7. Only a Poor Old Man

    Only a Poor Old Man Well-Known Member

    Wow, @Pavlos this was an excellent write-up. Great detailed account to my mere introduction. Your Balas tet is really nice.

    Lol, when I saw your book pic I though that coin in the background looks familiar. Then I realised that it was mine! :joyful: I will check that book out when I get the chance. Actually, there was a coin book that arrived along with the coin today. It is Philip Grierson's 'Byzantine Coins' which I already started devouring.

    This is a nice coin and it demonstrates that Antiochos VII had a nice variety of tets for someone that ruled for only 9 years. Yours seem to be the more common one, then comes mine, and there is another one I know of with Athena Magarsia facing forwards. I wonder if anyone here has one.
    DonnaML, +VGO.DVCKS and svessien like this.
  8. AussieCollector

    AussieCollector Moderator Moderator

    Great acquisition @Only a Poor Old Man !

    A Hellenistic eagle is high on my list (like you, a non-Ptolemaic version), but so far has evaded me.

    I do have a Sidetes to share though :)

    SELEUCID Antiochos VII Euergetes (Sidetes), 138-129 BC. Tetradrachm (Silver, 30 mm, 16.10 g, 12 h), Antiochia on the Orontes. Diademed head of Antiochos VII to right. Rev. ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ / ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟY - EYEPΓETOY Athena standing front, head to left, holding Nike in her right hand and spear and shield with her left; to outer left, monogram above A within circle; all within laurel wreath. SC 2061.1n. Darkly toned and with some deposits
  9. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

  10. cmezner

    cmezner do ut des Supporter

    According to Josephus, the Hasmonean king John Hyrcanus paid Antiochus VII a tribute of three thousand talents, directly from King David's sepulchre, in order to spare Jerusalem. The tribute must have worked, because Josephus also records that Antiochus treated the Jews very well, and they themselves bestowed the title "Euergetes" on him, meaning "Benefactor." We don't really know what happened after that event, as Josephus goes silent, and the Book of Maccabees ends before Antiochus' time. However, we do know that Hyrcanus refrained from attacking Seleucid-controlled areas during his rule, and that he even assisted Antiochus in his various campaigns.
    Antiochus VII spent his final years trying to reclaim territories lost to Mithridates I and the Parthians. His Seleucid forces, including Judean mercenaries, were successfully initially, but ultimately defeated. Euergetes was either killed by his enemies, or committed suicide to avoid capture. The last important Seleucid king and last great Seleucid army had come to an end.

    The Seleucids were among the first to portray their reigning emperors on coins, long before the Romans took up this tradition.

    This is an example of the eagle reverse variety, also called a Shekel, and was produced specifically for commerce with the east. The version of the coin with Athena holding Nike on the reverse, was produced for dealings with the west (Greeks).

    Tetradrachm, Tyre mint. Dated SE 177 (136/5 BC)
    26 mm, 13.282 g;
    SC 2109.5a; HGC 9, Hoover 1074;

    Ob.: Diademed head of Antiochos VII right, border of dots
    Rev.: ANTIOXOY Eagle standing to l. on prow; palm frond in background; to left, Tyre monogram A / PE above club; in r. field A ΣΥ ligate / ZOΡ (date); control mark between legs


    This is the same issue as the one shared by Severus Alexander:
    Antiochia on the Orontes, 138-129 BC
    31 x 34 mm, 16.141 g
    SC 2061.10; HGC 9, 1067;

    Ob.: Diademed head of Antiochos VII r. filleted border
    Rev.: BAΣIΛEΩΣ ANTIOXOY EΥEΡΓETOΥ Athena Nikephorus standing with spear, shield and holding Nike. ΔI monogram and A below, in inner right field O, all within laurel wreath
    upload_2021-1-19_0-31-24.png upload_2021-1-19_0-32-3.png
  11. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Denarios Sancti Terram Supporter

    Very interesting article, @Only a Poor Old Man !

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