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Antiochus IV "Egyptianizing"

The coin I initially used to illustrate this was pretty ugly, nearly unidentifiable. I have since replaced it with a much nicer coin:

Seleucid Empire, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, 175-164 BC, Æ (24mm, 11.79g) "Egyptianizing" series, Antioch on the Orontes mint, struck 169-168 BC

Obv: Head of Isis right, wearing tainia

Rev: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ANTIOXOY ΘEOY EΠIΦANOYΣ, eagle standing right on thunderbolt. Ref: SC 1414

This coin was produced in Antioch during the sixth Syrian war (170-168). At 10.32 grams it is significantly underweight compared to the 18-19.99g median of Seleucid Coin 1414 and closer to the range of SC 1415 - Denomination B. I don't have a good explanation for this - smaller unpublished "Denomination B"? a mint mistake? over-struck on a smaller coin? contemporary counterfeit? Other suggestions? I find the portrait a bit unusual too - lacking the obvious hair in long curls falling to the neckline - is this really a portrait of ISIS - it does seem to have an Isis headdress? could it be a laureate portrait of Antiochus?

Seleucid Empire, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, 175-164 BC, Æ (22mm, 10.32g) "Egyptianizing" series, Antioch on the Orontes mint, struck 169-168 BC

Obv: Head of Isis right, wearing tainia

Rev: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ANTIOXOY ΘEOY EΠIΦANOYΣ, eagle standing right on thunderbolt. Ref: SC 1414

ISIS, vol 2 plate XVII,one of 108 Plates from "Gemmarum Antiquarum Delectus" first published in 1783; gems engraved by Francesco Bartolozzi after drawings by G.B. Cipriani. Image modified to face right.

While it won't win any beauty contests, it is interesting for the Ptolemaic eagle reverse and Isis obverse on a Seleucid coin. This issue described as "Egyptionizing series" in auction catalogs.

Public domain image of Isis from Philae Temple, Egypt

Antiochus IV Epiphanes invaded Egypt twice during this time. The co-regents of Ptolemy VI attempted to retake Syria and Phoenicia, lost to Antiochus III during the Fifth Syrian War. In November 170, Seleucid and Ptolemaic armies clashed near Mt. Casius, on the border between Türkiye and Syria near the mouth of the Orontes River. Antiochus IV won decisively, and earned Egyptian goodwill by sparing the lives of the defeated soldiers.

"At the time when Antiochus occupied Egypt, he was joined by envoys sent from Greece to make peace. Giving them a kind reception, he entertained them splendidly upon meeting with them for the first time, and on the second granted them an audience, and bade them tell him what their instructions were."
-Polybius, The Histories, XXVIII, 20.1-2 

Antiochus was so persuasive that Ptolemy Philometor and Antiochus joined up in Memphis. Ptolemy's regents in Alexandria reacted by setting up a competing government. Ptolemy Philometor remained the recognized ruler in most of Egypt outside of Alexandria. When Antiochus failed to capture Alexandria and in 169 returned to Syria, he left Philometor as King, and the King reconciled with his siblings. This caused Antiochus IV to reenter Egypt and establish himself as king. However, Rome surprisingly influential in halting Antiochus (at least from point of view of Livy).

"After crossing the river at Eleusis, about four miles from Alexandria, he was met by the Roman commissioners, to whom he gave a friendly greeting and held out his hand to Popilius. Popilius, however, placed in his hand the tablets on which was written the decree of the senate and told him first of all to read that. After reading it through he said he would call his friends into council and consider what he ought to do. Popilius, stern and imperious as ever, drew a circle round the king with the stick he was carrying and said, "Before you step out of that circle give me a reply to lay before the senate." For a few moments he hesitated, astounded at such a peremptory order, and at last replied, "I will do what the senate thinks right.""
-Livy This History of Rome, 45.12.3-6 

The Ptolemaic eagle on the reverse stands on a thunderbolt and faces left versus facing eagle of Egyptian coins. Antiochus planned to annex Cyprus and possibly part of Egypt proper. This "Special "Egyptianizing" Series" is dated in Seleucid Coins as "autumn 169-summar/autumn 168". Seleucid Coins authors report that Svonoros catalogs the series as "struck by Antiochus IV during his occupation of Egypt". It may have been produced for use Seleucid controlled Ptolemaic territories or commemorative coins to promote his Egyptian policy locally in Syria.

I'll add this coin of Ptolemy IV Philometor.

Ptolemaic Kings of Egypt, Ptolemy VI Philometor, first reign, 180-170 BC, Æ (22.5mm, 9.67g) Obol, uncertain mint on Cyprus

Obv: Diademed head of Zeus-Ammon right

Rev: BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΠTOΛEMAIOY, Eagle with closed wings standing left on thunderbolt; lotus flower in left field, EYΛ between legs

Ref: Svoronos 1398 (Ptolemy VI with Eulaios as regent); Lorber, Lotus Series VI.3; SNG Copenhagen 294

This coin provides a Ptolemaic portrait of Isis under Ptolemy VI Philometor:

Ptolemaic Kings of Egypt, Ptolemy VI Philometor, second sole reign, 163-145 BC, Æ (25mm, 15.82g), Alexandreia mint, Series 7

Obv: Head of Isis right, wearing wreath of grain ears, and her hair in long curls

Rev: Eagle with open wings standing left on thunderbolt; ΠΑ monogram to left.

Ref: Svoronos 1384 (Ptolemy VI and Kleopatra I as Regent); Weiser 147 (Ptolemy VI and Kleopatra I as Regent); SNG Copenhagen 279-87 (Ptolemy VI and Kleopatra I as Regent); Noeske 201-7 (Ptolemy VI); Lorber & Faucher Series 7B.

More on Antiochus IV

Hanukkah commemorates the Maccabean victories over Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164 BC). In 168BC Antiochus banned Jewish practice and December 25, 167 BC he rededicated the Temple to Zeus.

"Not long after this, the king sent an Athenian senator to compel the Jews to forsake the laws of their fathers and cease to live by the laws of God, and also to pollute the temple in Jerusalem and call it the temple of Olympian Zeus, and to call the one in Gerizim the temple of Zeus the Friend of Strangers, as did the people who dwelt in that place."
-2 Maccabees 6:1-2

The Maccabean Revolt was successful in gaining control of Jerusalem and rededicating the Temple on Kislev 25 (December 24th), in 164 BC.

"[For example, I shall relate] how Antiochus, who was named Epiphanes, took Jerusalem by force, and held it three years and three months, and was then ejected out of the country by the sons of Asamoneus: after that, how their posterity quarreled about the government, and brought upon their settlement the Romans and Pompey;"
- Josephus, The Jewish Wars, Preface 7 

After the death of Antiochus IV in 164, his son agreed to a peace. The peace didn't last long and the Maccabees appealed to Rome for help. They eventually made another peace agreement with Alexander Balas and then became independent from the end of the Seleucid empire until 63 BC.

Seleukid Kingdom, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 BC), AE (15-17mm, 3.34g)

Obv: Veiled and diademed bust of Laodice IV right.

Rev: BAΣIΛEOΣ ANTIOXOY, head of elephant left.

Ref: SC 1407


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2 Kommentare

Alfred Kowsky
Alfred Kowsky
27. Feb. 2022

Sulla, Excellent article & illustrations 😊. I especially like the "Greek style" Isis on the Ptolemy VI bronze 🤗. I think it would be a good idea if you included the weight and diameter of all the coins as you did on the 1st. one 😉. The Egyptian style has left an indelible impact on the art world. I have nothing ancient depicting Isis to share but will post an interesting silver snuff box made by an Egyptian craftsman in the 1920s. After King Tutt's tomb was revealed there was a strong revival of Egyptian art throughout the world. My snuff box is shaped like a coffin & weighs 35 gm, & is 47 mm long. It is hallmarked in…

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27. Feb. 2022
Antwort an

Hi Al, an interesting snuffbox - definitely a big change in style between Philae Temple image above, your snuffbox and the "Greek style" of the boht coin of Antiochus and Ptolemy VI. Thanks for your suggestion, I've added weights and diameters.



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