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Artemis & Abydos

Image of Diana (Roman equivalent of Artemis) from a fountain in Archimedes Square in Syracuse, Sicily, created by Giulio Moschetti in 1907 from reinforced concrete.

This AR (silver) tetradrachm is from Abydos in Troas, northwestern Turkiye, on the coast at the narrowest point of the Hellespont. It was minted in the 1st century BC, has perfect surfaces, beautiful toning, and good centering. The coins of this magistrate are lighter than the Attic Tetradrachm standard, and compatible with the Roman Republican denarii of the time.

Troas, Abydos, AR Tetradrachm (15.71g, 3mm, 12h), 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. Near Extremely Fine. Rare.


Polybius describes the location of Abydos:

"To describe at length the position of Abydus and Sestus and the peculiar advantages of those cities seems to me useless, as every one who has the least claim to intelligence has acquired some knowledge of them owing to the singularity of their position, [skip] For just as it is impossible to sail from the sea called by some the Ocean and by others the Atlantic Sea into our own sea except by passing through the mouth of it at the Pillars of Heracles, so no one can reach the Euxine and Propontis from our sea except by sailing through the passage between Sestus and Abydus. [skip] The city of Abydus itself lies between two capes on the European shore and has a harbour which affords protection from all winds. Without putting in to the harbour it is absolutely impossible to anchor off the city owing to the swiftness and strength of the current in the straits."
-Polybius, 16.29.3-14  


According to legend, the hero Leander would swim across the straits from Abydos to Sestos every night to be with his lover, Hero until he drowned in a storm.

Hero und Leander, 1875, painting by Ferdinand Keller (Museum: Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe), Public Domain License CC0

Persan Invasion at Abydos - 5th Century BC

Persian King Xerxes, in 480 BC, built a pontoon bridge near Abydos on top of 674 rafts to cross the Hellespont and invade Greece.

"They made the bridges as follows: in order to lighten the strain of the cables, they placed fifty-oared ships and triremes alongside each other, three hundred and sixty to bear the bridge nearest the Euxine sea, and three hundred and fourteen to bear the other; all lay obliquely to the line of the Pontus and parallel with the current of the Hellespont."
-Herodotus, The Histories, 7.36.1 

The Battle of Thermopylae was fought by ~7000 Greek soldiers against an invading force of 150-300 thousand Persian soldiers and they heroically fought to the death. The story of Leonidas and the 300 Spartan warriors that fought in this battle is the subject of the movie 300.

3rd to 2nd Century BC

This region was an important strategic location and changed hands multiple times as Multiple groups vied for comtrol of Asia Minor.

  • Antiochus I controlled Abydos around 280 BC

  • Ptolemy III Euergetes, King of Egypt, conquered Abydos in 245 BC

  • By c. 200 BC it was under control of the Attalid Kingdom of Pergamon

  • At the beginning of the second century the region saw the siege of Abydos by Philip V of Macedonia.

  • Philip V left with the end of the 2nd Macedonian War (200–197 BC)

"A few days later the ten commissioners arrived from Rome, and with their approval peace was granted to Philip on these terms: that all the Greek cities which were in Europe or in Asia should enjoy their liberty and laws; that, whatever cities had been under the sway of Philip, from these Philip should withdraw his garrisons and should hand them over to the Romans, free of his troops, before the time of the Isthmian Games; that he should withdraw also from the following cities in Asia: Euromum and Pedasa and Bargyliae and Iasus and Myrina and Abydus and Thasos and Perinthus (for it was determined that these too should be free); that, regarding the liberation of the Ciani, Quinctius should write to Prusias, king of Bithynia, the decision of the senate and the ten commissioners; that Philip should turn over to the Romans the prisoners and deserters, all his warships except five, and one royal galley of almost unmanageable size, which was propelled by sixteen tiers of oars; that he should have a maximum of five thousand soldiers and no elephants at all; that he should wage no war outside Macedonia without the permission of the senate; that he should pay to the Roman people an indemnity of one thousand talents, half at once and half in ten annual instalments."
-Livy, The History of Rome, 30.33 
  • Hannibal took refuge in the court of Antiochus III after the second Punic War (~196 BC)

"Then in the following year, when Marcus Claudius and Lucius Furius were consuls, (196 BC) envoys came to Carthage from Rome. Hannibal thought that they had been sent to demand his surrender; therefore, before they were given audience by the senate, he secretly embarked on a ship and took refuge with King Antiochus in Syria. When this became known, the Carthaginians sent two ships to arrest Hannibal, if they could overtake him; then they confiscated his property, demolished his house from its foundations, and declared him an outlaw."
- Cornelius Nepos, The Book on the Great Generals of Foreign Nations. Hannibal, 33.7  
  • Antionchus III worked to control Asia minor and attacked Thrace, in a "cold war" with Rome that eventually led to the Roman–Seleucid War (192–188 BC)

  • The Roman-Seleucid war ended with the Treaty of Apamaea which took all of the territory in Asia minor west of the Tarsus mountains from Antionchus III and gave most of it to the Kingdom of Pergamon

  • The Romans inherited the Kingdom of Pergamon at the end of Attalid rule with the death of Pergamene King Attalus III (133 BC)

From this point forward the region was part of the Roman province of Asia Minor.

1st Century BC

This brings us to the time of this coin, in the 1st century BC. The rise of Pontic King Mithridates VI who was the latest to resent Roman influence in Asia Minor. The Roman's and Mithridates VI were in the third and final Mithridatic War. By the end of the war, Rome would control all of Asia minor.

There is a potential later date for this coin. Andrew Meadows (2022) proposes that this coin by Iphiades may be a reissue under Roman control of an earlier coin type - with lower "denarius compatible" weight standard. He suggests that this coin may have been issued in 40 BC as Mark Antony and Octavian were in a tenuous alliance as members of the triumvirate after the assassination of Julius Caesar.

18th Century AD

Abydos declined during the 13th century AD and was abandoned by the early 14th century. From the 14th to the early 19th century the ruins were taken for construction and other purposes. A new city of Kale-i Sultaniye (later Çanakkale) was established 5-6 km to the south of Abydos.

This 18th century etching represents the "Ruins of Abydos" from the time of the Ottoman Empire.

"Voyage Pittoresque de la Grèce" by Comte de Choiseul-Gouffier, Marie-Gabriel-Auguste-Florent (1752-1817), published in 1782, v.2 pt.2. Public Domain image.

The book describes briefly the history of Abydos and mentions that "Abydos was fortified, as well as Sestos, by Antiochus III, King of Syria, in the year 190 BC, and besieged the following year by Livius, leading the Roman fleet." (p. 448)


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