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2023 Top 10 Ancients

2023 has been a year with many ups and downs - and a surprisingly good year for coins. Although I did add several Roman Republican denarii, it is harder to find the coins that are still on my wish-list. Bidding on Roman Republican coins often went well past my willingness to buy.

I am surprised to see that, overall, I purchased fewer coins this year than any of the last 4 years and average price was lower by a few pennies. This is surprising with the number of tetradrachms that are in my top 10. Also this year saw a large number of coins, duplicates or not relevant to my current interests, go to auction to fund future acquisitions.

Admittedly this is a "top 14" list and I could put together a nice set of Top Ten Bronzes, but will limit myself to three coins as "Honorable Mention".

Honorable Mention #3: This first coin is a great imperatorial bronze of Sextus Pompey. After Philippi, Sextus Pompey remained the lead adversary to the triumvirate. For notes on this and related coins see: The Road to Philippi.

Sextus Pompeius Magnus, As Sicily circa 42-38, Æ 30.50 mm., 26.40 g.

Obv: MAGN Laureate Janiform head of Pompey the Great.

Rev: PIVS Prow right; below, IMP

Ref: Babelon Pompeia 20. C 6. Sydenham 1044. Sear Imperators 336. Woytek Arma et Nummi page 558. Crawford 479/1.

Honorable Mention #2: "Hermias, Boy on a Dolphin" A century older than the previous coin, this coin comes with a modern choral piece written about the story it illustrates on the reverse. The story is a tragedy of the death of a boy, Hermias, and his friend, the grief stricken dolphin. For notes on this coin see:

Karia, Iasos, Æ 19mm, 6.4g, circa 200-150 BC, Eupolemos, magistrate

Obv: Jugate heads right of Apollo, laureate, and Artemis to right; behind, dolphin swimming downwards

Rev: Hermias on the back of the dolphin heading right; IAΣΕΩΝ across upper fields, star and ΕΥΠΟΛΕΜΟΣ below

Ref: SNG von Aulock 8096; SNG Copenhagen 415

Honorable Mention #1: Hadrian, A Dattari Plate Coin, this diobol from Roman Egypt features Agathodaemon. In Classical Greece, the Agathos Daimon, literally "noble spirit", was a personal companion spirit that brought health and good fortune. In Roman times, Agathos Daimon became agathodaemon, a protective companion spirit of individuals and the homes in which they lived.

Egypt, Alexandria. Dattari. Hadrian, 117-138 Diobol circa 129-130 (year 14), Æ 24.00 mm., 7.38 g.

Obv: Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right

Rev: Agathodaemon erect, right, crowned with pschent, enfolding caduceus and stalk of corn; in field, LIΔ

Ref: RPC 5755.28 (this coin). Dattari-Savio Pl. 98, 7900 (this coin)

In past years, a Newstyle Tetradrachm, might have made it much further up the list. Tetradrachms also outnumber denarii in this list. This year, there were several coins in line for spot #10 that I had difficulty choosing between: The Last Days of Sulla, Kuninda, A Didrachm of Cyrenaica.

#10 - An Athenian, New Style

This coin from Athens under Roman control, would have been minted during the rise of Sulla (~age 20 at the time, 111-110 BC, that this coin was minted). It was the time of the Jugurthine War that launched his career.

Attica, Athens, circa 165-42 BC, AR Tetradrachm (29.4mm, 16.57g, 12h), New Style coinage. Magistrates or επιμελητει (Phanokles, Apollonios), and Hieron, the witness from the committee of twelve Areopagites. Struck March/April 110 BC

Obv: Helmeted head of Athena right, wearing triple crested Attic helmet decorated with Pegasos springing right

Rev: ΦΑΝΟΚΛΗΣ − ΑΠΟΛΛΩΝΙΟΣ - IEPON, owl standing right, head facing, on amphora; letter Θ on amphora indicating the ninth month Elaphebolion == March/April; in right field, Artemis Phosphoros standing facing, holding torch with both hands; ME below; all within wreath.

#9 Caria, Myndos, A Beautiful Hemidrachm

Well preserved, perfectly toned, with an excellent portrait of "youthful Dionysos", there was no reason to add this coin other than - I liked it.

Caria, Myndos, 180-140 BC, AR hemidrachm (1.81g, 3 h), struck under the magistrate Philon

Obv: Wreathed head of youthful Dionysos to right

Rev: ΜΥΝΔΙΩΝ / ΦΙΛΩΝ Winged thunderbolt; in right field, caduceus

#8 - M. Aurelius Scaurus, The Cimbrian War

M. Aurelius Scaurus, 118 BC, AR serrate denarius (20mm, 3.85g, 12h), Narbo mint

Obv: Head of Roma right, wearing Phrygian helmet; mark of value to left

Rev: Gallic warrior (Bituitus?) driving galloping biga right, hurling spear and holding shield and carnyx

Ref: Crawford 282/1; Sydenham 523; Aurelia 20; Type as RBW 1106

Note: the moneyer is likely the son of the consul of 108 of the same name and father of M. Aurelius M.f. Vol, see also British Museum notes

Seleucus V, the son of Demetrius, made a bid for the throne. However, his mother, Cleopatra Thea, swiftly ended his aspirations by fatally shooting him with an arrow. Afterward, Cleopatra Thea reigned briefly as the sole ruler. Later, she shared her rule as a co-regent with her younger son, Antiochus VIII, also known as "Grypus" due to his distinctive hook-shaped nose (Γρυπός). Grypus is said to have used poison, which had been prepared for him, to eliminate his mother. He also found himself involved in a civil war, fighting against his half-brother "Cyzicenus" and his uncle, marking a turbulent period in history.

Seleucid Kingdom, Antiochus VIII, 121/0-97/6 BC, AR tetradrachm, 16.33g, Damascus, 119/8 BC

Obv: Diademed head of kingfacing to right. Fillet border

Rev: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ Zeus Uranius, nude, standing to left, holding vertical scepter in left hand and extending right hand through legend, holding eight-rayed star. In outer left field, ΑΡ above ΕΣ. In exergue, Δϙp (year 194 of the Seleucid era). All within laurel wreath.

Ref: SC 2322.3a

#6 - Philip I Philadelphos, Seleucid End

With the end of the Third Mithridatic War, Rome became the supreme power in control of all the Mediterranean. Pompey celebrated a victory for the vast territories that he added to Roman control with the defeat of Mithridates. This coin comes from the time of the Third Mithridatic War and is an artifact of the last embers of the great empire founded by Seleucus I (or perhaps the first coin of the new Roman overlords). The exceptional style drew me to this coin.

Seleucid Kingdom, uncertain mint (possibly Antioch on the Orontes), Philip I Philadelphos 95-75 BC, AR Tetradrachm 24mm, 15.28g

Obv: Diademed head of Philip I right

Rev: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΥ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ ΦΙΛΑΔΕΛΦΟΥ, Zeus seated left, holding crowning Nike and scepter, beneath throne, monogram, in exergue, Π

Ref: SC 2464b

This coin took me to passages from Oppian's Halieutica, a five book poem on fishing, that describes some unusual Cilician fishing practices. The poet, Oppian, was a native of Anazarbus or Corycus in Cilicia. The fish in question, sargues, are a fish called white seabream or Diplodus sargus.

Roman Provincial, Cilicia, Aegeae, Hadrian, AD 117-138, AR Tetradrachm (27mm, 13.50g, 6h), dated year 180 of the Caesarean Era (AD 133/4)

Obv: Laureate and cuirassed bust right, slight drapery / AIΓЄAIΩN ЄTOVC · ΠP · (date)

Rev: Eagle standing facing on harpe, head and tail right, with wings spread; below goat heading right, kneeling left

Ref: Haymann 54; F. Haymann, "Hadrianic Silver Coinage of Aegeae (Cilicia)," AJN 26 (2014), Type 20 (this coin shown for dies O12/R68 on plate 45); L&M 305 (this coin); Prieur 721; SNG Levante 1719; RPC III 3349

Notes: ex Ken Dorney, ex CNG eAuction 518 lot 339 ex Crescent Collection (Classical Numismatic Group Electronic Auction 485, 10 February 2021, lot 279); purchased from Freeman & Sear, 2009.

#4 Antioch ad Maeandrum, Figs Sophists and Sulla

This coin, issued by Diotrephes during his third year as magistrate around 88/87 BC. It was the year when Mithridates orchestrated the massacre of tens of thousands of Romans, prompting Rome to declare war. In the same year, Sulla and Marius engaged in a power struggle, with Sulla eventually taking command and leading Roman armies against Mithridates.

Caria, Antioch ad Maeandrum, circa 90/89-65/60 BC, AR Tetradrachm (28 mm, 16.13g, 11h), Diotrephes (ΔIOTPЄΦΗΣ), magistrate for the third time (TO TPITON).

Obv: Laureate head of Apollo to right with bow and quiver over his shoulder

Rev: ANTIOXЄΩN - ΔIOTPЄΦΗΣ / TO TPITON Zebu bull standing left, head facing; all within maeander pattern border

Ref: Thonemann (2019) Group A, 2 (O3/R6) - illustration of the double die match from Thoneman's publication is shown.

#3 - Massalia, Artemis & Lion

This coin, believed to have been minted around 150-130 BC, comes from a time of unrest between Celtic tribes in Gaul. Rome, recognizing the strategic importance of the situation, intervened to support the Greek colony of Massalia (modern-day Marseille) in its struggles. This unusually beautiful coin is an artifact from this turbulent time.

Gaul, Massalia, AR Drachm (2.78g), 150-130 BC, lighter standard

Obv: Draped bust of Artemis right, diadem radiated, with Φ/K before. The hair is divided into three braids, two are tied, one on the head, the other behind, the third goes down the back of the neck to the shoulder. Shoulder visible behind bow and quiver. Pearl necklace. Earring with three pendants.Tiara with four points. Small lock of hair on the cheek.

Rev: MAΣΣA above the lion, ΛIHTΩN in exergue, lion advancing right with Φ/K before and tail passing under the right hind leg.

Ref: De La Tour 944 (variant); Sear 76 (variant), Jean Charra 1124, BNF 1031-1034, Laugier 117/4

#2 - Q. Crepereius M.f. Rocus, Amphitrite & Neptune

Amphitrite, one of the Nereids, was Poseidon's official consort, a role similar to Hera for Zeus in Greek mythology. Initially, she refused Poseidon's interest in marriage, seeking refuge on the Atlas mountain. However, a delegation led by a dolphin successfully persuaded her, earning Poseidon's gratitude. This lead to the immortalization of the Dolphin in a constellation. As the Lady of the underwater caves and the sovereign of the seas, Amphitrite only left her watery realms to care for the denizens of the ocean depths, her loyal subjects. Since this is a Roman republican denarius, the the deities depicted would have been see as Salacia and Neptune, the Roman counterpart of Amphitrite & Poseidon.

Roman Republican Coins, Q. Crepereius M.f. Rocus, AR serrate denarius (3.87g, 19 mm), 69 BC, Rome

Obv: Draped bust of Salacia/Amphitrite right, seen from behind; fish to left, H to right

Rev: Q CREPEREI / [ROCVS], Neptune, holding reins and brandishing trident, driving sea-chariot drawn by two hippocamps right; H above

Ref: Crawford 399/1a

#1 - C. Cassius Longinus, Cassius, Conspirator

This coin issued by Cassius not long before Mark Antony defeated him at Philippi on October 42 BC, where Cassius, defeated, had a freedman, Pindarus, cut off his head. Although the coin is significantly double struck it is still attractive and key elements are well defined. The obverse showing liberty and declaring Cassius as Imperator. the items on the reverse referring to Cassius as augur. P. Cornelius Lentulus Spinther was the quaestor or proquaestor in Asia during the years 44 and 43 BC. In the spring of 42, Lentulus played an important role in the Rhodian campaign of Cassius also supported Brutus in Lycia.

Roman Republican, C. Cassius Longinus, AR denarius (3.83g, 20mm), 42 BC, military mint moving with Brutus and Cassius, probably at Smyrna, P. Lentulus Spinther, legatus

Obv: C CASSI IMP / LEIBERTAS, diademed and draped bust of Libertas right.

Rev: LENTVLVS SPINT, capis and lituus

Ref: Crawford 500/3

#0 - Abydos Tetradrachm

This late entrant, arrived in mid-November and swept into first place as a 15.69g, beautifully toned, large 31mm, silver tetradrachm from Abydos in Troas. I decided to add it as #0 rather than try to push another coin out of the top 10. There is a mystery about this coin as Andrew Meadows suggests that is is a revived coin type from ~40 BC, alternatively is is from the series in 80-70 BC.

Troas, Abydos AR Tetradrachm, circa 80-70 BC, Iphiades, magistrate

Obv: Draped bust of Artemis to right, wearing stephanos; bow and quiver over shoulder

Rev: Eagle, with wings spread, standing to right; ABYΔHNΩN above, IΦIAΔOY below, radiate head of Helios to right with sun above in right field; all within laurel wreath

Ref: Callataÿ, Abydos, D32 (same obv. die); SNG München 32; SNG von Aulock 1453. 15.71g, 31mm, 12h. Near Extremely Fine. Rare.

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