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Between the Seleucid and Attalid Kingdom

Since my first note (November 2020) on countermarks of Attic tetradrachms, I have added three more coins, so my notes needed some significant revisions. Why were these coins marked, and at what location? What were the major events at this time? When were these coins countermarked? While this post is a summary of what I’ve found, so far, it still only touches the surface and more information is provided with the links and references. The Seleucid Coins Appendix 4A is where I would start.

The Coins

First, a 27-28mm, 16.25g, tetradrachm from Pamphylia – as I have mostly drachms and denarii, the scale of this coin already makes it a special coin in my collection. Reasonably well centered, even wear, pleasing style, light toning and the counter-mark, all add up to an interesting and attractive coin.

PAMPHYLIA, Side, c.205-175 BC, AR Tetradrachm, ST–, magistrate

Obv: Helmeted head of Athena (guardian deity of Side from its founding) right; countermark: Seleukid anchor within oval incuse

Rev: Nike advancing left, holding wreath; to left, pomegranate (a symbol of Side), Σ T mark of the issuing magistrate

Ref: Seyrig, Side 20; SNG France –

This coin is an Attic standard tetradrachm, the weight standard adopted by Phillip II of Macedon that spread rapidly with the expansion of the Macedonian Empire and increased use of money in the Greek world, over 300 years of the Hellenistic period. The placement of the countermark on these coins is mostly (not exclusively) standardized with this location behind Nike and a second option on the bowl of Athena's helmet on the obverse.

This second tetradrachm is an example of the "Facing Helios" or "Bust of Helios" countermark. This underlying coin is another Side Tetradrachm with a different issuing magistrate (DEM). From Bresson 2014, the hoard evidence leans (not definitive) toward Helios countermarks being applied at Seleukeia on the Tigris and other eastern mints.

Pamphylia, Side, circa 205-175 BC, AR Tetradrachm

Obv: Helmeted head of Athena right

Rev: Nike left; pomegranate before, ΔH-M across field, Helios countermark at Nike's feet.

Ref: SNG France 684

And a third in the name of Alexander III with Anchor countermark - countermarked in the 170s BC from neighboring Aspendos to re-authorize within the Seleucid kingdom some time after the Peace of Apameia. Aspendos is today Antalya, Türkiye - along the southern coast about 1 hour drive (72km) west of Side, Türkiye. The placement of these countermarks is mostly (not exclusively) standardized with this location behind the ear and a second option behind Zeus' throne on the reverse. These differences may indicate different time periods or locations where the countermark was applied.

Pamphylia, Aspendos, circa 212/11-184/3 BC, AR Tetradrachm (29mm, 16.70 g, 12h), in the name and types of Alexander III of Macedon, dated CY 27 (circa 186/5 BC)

Obv: Head of Herakles right, wearing lion skin; c/m: anchor within deep oval incuse

Rev: Zeus Aëtophoros seated left; in left field, AΣ above KZ (date) flanking cornucopia

Ref: Price 2909

The fourth coin, minted further west in Perge, which was once the capital of Pamphylia.

Pamphylia, Perge, 221/0-189/8 BC, AR Tetradrachm (30mm, 16.0g, 1h), struck in the name and types of Alexander III, dated CY 33 (ΛΓ = 189/8 BC)

Obv: Head of Herakles right, wearing lion skin

Rev: Zeus Aëtophoros seated left; ΛΓ (date) in left field; c/m: Seleukid anchor within rectangular incuse

Note: Meadows (2009) makes the case for this coin being minted 191/190 BC at the end of a period of Seleucid Sponsored freedom for Perge that began in 222/223 BC and ended with Antiochus' defeat by Rome in the Battle of Magnesia.

Where is Side, Pamphylia?

Side is important to see on the map, located during the time of this coin between the Kingdom of Pergamon to the West and the Seleucid Empire to the East. The borders of this map were redrawn by the Treaty of Apamea in 188 BC between Rome and the Seleucid Empire. Antiochus III lost to Rome and was pushed East of the Taurus Mountains and had to pay indemnities to Rome (link for more from Appian).

What were the major events of the time?

I could easily get carried away with a long post on the history of Side, founded by Greek settlers from Kyme of Aeolis, on the southern Mediterranean shores of modern Türkiye. I will refrain as there are many good sources starting with the wikipedia to visit. Arrian, wrote in the second century AD of Alexander the Great in Side:

“Alexander now went towards Side, whose inhabitants are Cymeans from Aeolian Cyme; they give this account of themselves, that as soon a they reached that land, the first to leave Cyme, sailing thither to colonize, they forgot their native tongue and talked a foreign language straight away, and that not the Persian of the natives there, but their own idiom, in fact a new dialect; henceforward the citizens of Side had been many foreigners, contrary to the ways of their neighbors.”
- Arrian XXVI.4, Robinson, E.I., 1929, W Heineman, London, p.109-110

A few key events during this time:

188 BC: Peace of Apamea; Antiochus III is forced to pay tribute to Rome (1000 silver talents annually), and his son Antiochus IV Epiphanes is given as a hostage to Rome

187 BC: Seleucus IV Philopator succeeds Antiochus III

178 BC: the son of Seleucus IV, Demetrius, replaces Antiochus IV as hostage to Rome

3 September 175: Heliodorus, who was sent to Jerusalem to collect taxes to pay to Rome, returns and kills Seleucus IV Philopater. Laodice IV, wife of Seleucus IV, marries Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who soon succeeds his brother, Seleucus IV.

168 BC: Antiochus IV launched an attack on Jerusalem and defiled the Temple with a sacrifice of swine to Zeus on the altar, sparking the Maccabean Revolt (167–160 AD)

164 BC: Antiochus IV died and his 9-year-old son became emperor under the control of Lysias as regent

162 BC: Demetrius escapes from Rome and takes the throne, killing Lysius and Antiochus V, then he deals with an eastern revolt by Timarchus, appears to marry his sister, Laodice V, and by 160 is recognized by Rome as Seleucid King.

June 150 BC: Demetrius and Laodice are killed by Alexander Balas, a pretender backed by Egypt, Pergamon, and Cappadocia

State Validation of Foreign Attic Silver Coins

There are competing theories on the Attalid, Seleucid countermarks, where they were minted, at what exact time period, and whether or not there is any relationship to the introduction of Cistophori in Pergamon. Alain Bresson (2014) provides an exhaustive overview, with an overwhelming amount of data, from which I extract several conclusions:

  • The chronology of the beginning of the Seleucid countermarks is firmly established by hoard evidence. The Baiyada hoard gives a terminus post quem of c. 175 for the Seleucid with the absence of countermarks. The Latakia and Aleppo hoards provide a terminus ante quem in 169/168, with first appearance of Seleucid countermarks. The practice of countermarking may have lasted until c. 150 BC.

  • Pamphylia and the coinage of Pamphylia played an active role as hub between Attalid (Pergamon) and Seleucid Empires. Coins countermarked both in the Attalid and Seleucid kingdoms moved back and forth playing a major role in commercial traffic between Attalid western Asia Minor and Seleucid northern Syria.

  • After 175 BC, when Eumenes II of Pergamon introduced the new cistophori and created a closed currency system. Countermarks granted Pamphylian tetradrachms the right to circulate in the kingdom (before the 160s BC reduction of autonomous Sidetan tetradrachms). Before 169 BC and until perhaps 150, the Pamphylian tetradrachms with the Seleucid countermark (anchor, and facing helios head) were recognized in the Seleucid territory.

  • An additional conclusion - a hypothesis that I hesitate to accept – that Pamphylia actively negotiated these privileges for their currency with both kingdoms.

Andrew Meadows, published data on locations, finds, countermarks and relative size of issues to inform the debate and hypotheses on the rationale for countermarking. He writes that counter-marking of Attic weight coins as “comparatively rare, and when it occurs appears from the surviving evidence to be highly episodic”. He gives an overview of 5 key events when this occurred:

  • Egypt, lath 4th century BC - not specific in the region of host coin origin, perhaps related to closure of the currency system by the Ptolemaic authorities.

  • Byzantium c 230’s-220’s BC - Byzantium (prow of a ship+BY+) & Calchedon (Apollo, Demeter, or,Persephone+) appears to have been applied to a random sample of Attic weight coins likely to have been in general circulation in the 230s-220s BC.

  • ‘Cistophoric’ Countermarks, c. 180s BC – very narrowly applied to coinage from 4 Pamphyla mints and 80%, disproportionately, from Side. The date narrowly assigned to 180 BC.

  • Anchor and Facing Helios, c. 170s BC – non-Seleucid coinage, as with my tetradrachm, being re-authorized within the Seleucid kingdom after the Peace of Apameia. Alexander tetradrachms outnumbered coins of Side at the time.

  • Tyche head, late 150s-140s BC and other coinage which are arguably civic counter-marks as cities regulated coinage in their markets e.g. Smyrna and Tyche head. This is the main focus of the article and has more depth of coverage in the paper.

Demetrios I Soter paying his mercenaries?

Harold Mattingly, in an article from “From Coins to History”, uses hoard evidence, and two other examples of countermarking, to propose that the anchor counter-mark was minted in Lycia/Pamphilia and is from Demetrius I as he prepared to invade Syria in 162 BC declaring his arrival and authority before he controlled any mint.

"The invading force was largely mercenary, and Lycia/Pamphylia was an excellent recruiting area, and Ptolemy VIII had found a few years earlier, when planning to seize Cyprus from his eldest brother. From Tripolis, Demetrios advanced to Apamea, which is suggestively near the find spot of Ma’arrat hoard. It was surely buried during the fighting for the control of the approaches to Antioch. If I am right in my conjecture the countermarks throw an interesting sidelight on Demetrios’ venture, though not any longer on the economic policies of the Seleucid empire." -H. Mattingly, From Coins to History, pp.52-56​

Hoard evidence from the Latakia 1759 hoard (Seleucid Coins 2008) brings into question Mattingly's timelines. Regardless the historical context is still relevant to the Seleucid, the countermark, the region where and years when this coin was minted and circulated.

Demetrios I, was born c. 186 BC, reigned 162-150 BC as Seleukid King. He was the son of his Seleukos IV Philopator and his sister Laodike IV. At 10 or 12 years old, under the terms of the Peace of Apamea, he was sent to Rome as a hostage. After the death of his uncle, Antiochos IV, and appointment of 9-year old cousin to the throne, Demetrios I escaped Rome circa 162/1 BC to return to Tripoli and take over as king.

Demetrios may have married his sister Laodice V, whom no neighbors would accept as a bride given his troubles with Rome and her previous marriage to an enemy of Rome (King Perseus of Macedon). Although Rome recognized him as King in 160 BC, the Roman senate was never too warm to him, and he further irritated the Ptolemies with an attempt to take over Cyprus in 154 BC. With support of the Roman Senate, Egypt’s Ptolemy VI, and Pergamon’s Attalus II, a questionable “son of Antiochus IV” named Alexander Ballas, killed Demetrius in battle and took over as Seleucid King in 150 BC.


There is relatively recent data and many hypotheses on Seleucid and Attalid countermarks. I only touch the surface in this post and much more can be found in the references. There is no debate about the anchor countermark being Seleucid, the Helios countermark also leans Seleucid. I've updated the date range of my coin a bit more narrowly to c. 205-175 BC and the date range for the countermark being applied to between 175-168 BC. As for where the countermark was struck - location remains elusive although Besson (2014) makes a case that 91% of anchor-countermarked Pamphylian coins from hoards come from the Seleucid Levant or from the regions immediately neighboring, while Oliver (2008) argues "Mattingly is almost certainly correct that the countermarking was actually done in Pamphylia and Lycia".

Sidean tetradrachms have been found countermarked by both the Attalids (cistophoric countermark) and Seleucids (anchor and Helios) and offer no shortage of excuses for more reading...


  • Bresson, A. (2014). “Coins and Trade in Hellenistic Asia Minor: the Pamphylian Hub.” in B. Wojtek, ed. Proceedings of the conference “Infrastructure and Distribution in Ancient Economies.” Vienna, Austrian Academy.

  • MCINTYRE, ANDREW P. “The Eras of the Alexanders of Aspendos and Perge.The Numismatic Chronicle (1966-), vol. 167, 2007, pp. 93–98.

  • Houghton, A. (2004). Seleucid Coinage and Monetary Policy of the 2nd c. B.C. Reflections on the Monetization of the Seleucid Economy, Topoi. Orient-Occident Année 2004 Suppl. 6 pp. 49-79

  • Hoover, O.D. (2008), Seleucid Coins, Appendix 4A. Countermarks on Seleucid and Foreign Silver Coins (Seleucus I–Antiochus VII), vol II part II, ANS & CNG, pp. 157–193

  • Bauslaugh, R. (1990). Cistophoric Countermarks and the Monetary System of Eumenes II. The Numismatic Chronicle (1966-), 150, pp. 39-65

  • Robinson, E.I. (1929). ARRIAN XXVI,4, W Heineman, London, pp.109-11

  • Mattingly, H. B. (2004). From coins to history: selected numismatic studies. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press

  • Meadows, A. (2018). Civic Countermarks on the Silver Coinage of Asia Minor in the 2nd Century B.C. Proceedings of the Second International Congress on the History of Money and Numismatics in the Mediterranean World, Suna & İnan Kıraç Research Institute on Mediterranean Civilizations, Antalya, 5-8 January, 2017 (Antalya, 2018), Pp. 185-219

  • Veselý, Petr (2013). Demetrios I,

  • Thonemann, P. (2016), The Hellenistic World: Using Coins as Sources, University of Oxford

  • Meadows, A. (2009). The Eras of Pamphylia and the Seleucid Invasions of Asia Minor. American Journal of Numismatics (1989-), 21, 51–88.

  • Seleucid Coins Online

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