Tiny Owl from Sigeion in Troas

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Sep 22, 2020.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Sigeion (Latin Sigeium) was a city in Troas located at the mouth of the Scamander river near the entrance of the Hellespont.

    Map of the Troad. Source: J. Wallrodt. Fig. 5 Plan of the Stone Circles. Source: Blegen et al. 1958, fig. 369. Courtesy Carolyn Aslan of the Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati.

    Herodotus and Strabo note the city was founded in the 8th or 7th century BC by colonists from Mytilene.[1] Colonists from Athens soon followed and conflict arose. By the end of the 7th century BC, the Athenians achieved control of the city through a peace treaty brokered by Periander son of Cypselus.[2]

    Barclay Head dates the coins of Sigeion to the period B.C. 355-334, when the Athenian general Chares, son of Theochares, governed the city.[3] While this date may be a little early -- Mitchell dates them to 335-334 BC[4] -- Wroth notes that none of the coins can be dated later than circa 300 BC, for the city was besieged by Lysimachus in 302 BC, and shortly thereafter ceased to have an independent existence.[5] By Strabo's time (the latter part of Augustus' reign), the city no longer existed, for it was destroyed by the people of Ilium some time after 189 BC, and he describes Sigeion as κατεσπασμένη πόλις, "a city which has been torn down."[6]

    Its coinage is unmistakably Athenian in style. Barclay Head notes five coin types -- one silver and four bronze -- all of which depict an owl on the reverse. Four of these five depict Athena on the obverse and one depicts Zeus.[7]

    This little coin is typical. There is an issue with a similar obverse, but larger and heavier, with a double-bodied owl on the reverse type, such as that in @zumbly 's collection. I can't help but wonder whether the double bodied owl indicates a denomination of twice the value of my single-bodied owl coin.

    Post anything you feel is relevant!

    Sigeion Athena Owl SNG Cop 496-7.jpg
    Troas, Sigeion, c. 335 BC.
    Greek Æ 12.2 mm, 2.37 g, 5 h.
    Obv: Head of Athena facing slightly right, wearing triple crested helmet and necklace.
    Rev: ΣΙΓΕ, owl standing right, head facing; crescent to left.
    Refs: BMC 17.86,7-10; SNG von Aulock 7637; SNG Ashmolean 1214–6; SNG Copenhagen 496–8; Sear 4145.


    1. Herodotus 5.94.1, Strabo 13.1.38.

    2. Herodotus 5.95.2.

    3. Head, Barclay V., et al. Historia Numorum: a Manual of Greek Numismatics. Clarendon Press, 1911, p. 549. Fully digital version available online here, courtesy of @Ed Snible.

    4. S. Mitchell, "Sigeion" in M.H. Hansen and T.H. Nielsen (eds.), An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis (Oxford, 2004) no. 791, p. 1014.

    5. Wroth, Warwick. A Catalog of the Greek Coins in the British Museum: Troas, Aeolis and Lesbos. London, Gilbert and Rivington, 1894, p. xxxiii.

    6. Strabo 13.1.31; English version here.

    7. Head, op. cit., p. 549.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2020
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  3. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    That's a great little coin, especially with that detailed facing head of Athena!
    @Pellinore has a coin of Athens with a double-bodied owl, and in a post a couple of months ago, he dug up an explanation that came from Dane Kurth in reply to Steve's query to her some years back about his owl double-bodied owl Sigeion. I think the idea of it representing Chares and Sigeion's affinity with Athens is a neat one (especially in the context of the double-bodied owl appearing on coins of other cities, even Corinth's on one issue of staters as a control symbol), but I'm not sure if it's anything more than an intriguing theory.
  4. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    Super! There's nothing like a well-centered, well-detailed minute Greek bronze.
    thejewk and Roman Collector like this.
  5. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    That's a charming little coin. I love nice little Greek issues, but know next to nothing about them. It's a project for the next few years for me to read up and explore the history a bit.
  6. Carl Wilmont

    Carl Wilmont Supporter! Supporter

    Very nice coin and write-up @Roman Collector! That's a great mini Athena/Owl combo.

    Here's a pair of diminutive owls, one with folded wings and the other with wings spread:


    Athens. Circa 454-404 BC. AR Obol (9 mm, 0.75 g). Athens head right. / Owl standing right, facing, olive spray to left.

    Mysia Pergamon Athena & Owl with Spread Wings.jpg

    MYSIA. Pergamon. (Circa 200-133 BC).
    AE (Bronze, 2.76 g, 17 mm)
    Head of Athena right, wearing helmet decorated with star. / AΘHNAΣ / NIKHΦOPOY.
    Owl, with wings spread, standing facing on palm frond right.
  7. Alegandron

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

    NIiiiiiice, @Roman Collector ... I really like that little guy. Cool dinky AE!

    I have a few from Troas:

    Troas Tenedos late 5th-early 4th C BCE AR Obol 8mm 0.60g Janiform hd female-male - Labrys within incuse square SNG Ash 1235 HGC 6 387

    Troas Birytis 350-300 BCE Æ 9mm1.21g Hd Kabeiros L pileos - two stars above Club within wreath SNG Cop 249 Left

    TROAS Neandria AR Obol 4thC BCE 0.56g 8mm Laur hd Apollo r - NEA N Ram stdng right within incuse sq SNG Cop 446
  8. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Those are wee tiny!
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  9. Alegandron

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

    Yes, but having tiny AE’s like your Athena and my Kabieros truly show a very small denomination from those times. Very cool!
    Edessa and Roman Collector like this.
  10. Alegandron

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

    Here are a couple small Athena/Owl coins:

    Athens Attica 454-404 BCE AR hemidrachm 16mm 2.08g Athena frontal eye - facing Owl wings closed olive branches COP 70 SG 2528

    Athens 340-317 BCE BC AE 12 Athena attic helmet R- Double bodied Owl with head facing E olive sprigs kalathos RARE BMC 224
  11. eparch

    eparch Well-Known Member

    I agree they may be different denominations. I have one of each from Sigeion.

    Troas, Sigeion Æ21. Circa 355-334 BC. Head of Athena facing slightly right, wearing triple crested helmet and necklace / ΣIΓE, double-bodied owl standing facing; crescent to right. BMC 14-16; SNG München 304-6; SNG von Aulock 1570; SNG Copenhagen 493. 6.75g, 21mm, 8h.

    Troas, Sigeion Æ13. Circa 355-334 BC. Head of Athena facing slightly right, wearing triple-crested Attic helmet and necklace / ΣΓE, owl standing right, head facing, with crescent behind. SNG Copenhagen 496-7; SNG von Aulock 7637. 2.14g, 13mm, 12h.
  12. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & avid numismatist Moderator

    Oh, I quite like these!

    The only Troas I can recall owning was this Birytis.


    @eparch- I find this one particularly magnificent:

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