Lysimachos, Pergamon and Cistophori
I have been slowly adding Cistophoric tetradrachms from various cities in Asia minor, and today was looking back at one of my first posts on a Cistophoric tetradrachm linked to Mark Antony in 42-39. The cover of William Metcalf's book on "The Later Republican Cistophori" features this 19th century reconstruction of the Acropolis of Pergamon.
Reconstructed view of Acropolis of Pergamon by Friedrich Thierch, 1882, Public Domain image via Wikipedia.
Where is Pergamon?
Pergamon was an ancient Greek city on the Western shores of modern Türkiye that became the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon under the Attalid Dynasty (282 BC-133 BC). The Kingdom of Pergamon was one of the kingdoms that came out of the battles between the diadochi for control of Macedonia after the death of Alexander the Great.
Map of the regions controlled by the Diadochi after the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC. Image from Luigi Chiesa, shared under CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons. The region controlled by Lysimachos in orange and the region controlled by Seleucus in yellow.
The acropolis was built with Athens as the model.
Lysimachos & the Lion
Lysimachos was the son of Agathocles, a nobleman in the court of Phillip II of Macedon. Lysimachos was educated in the court with Alexander the Great. There is a story told by Justin of Lysimachos taking pity on the philosopher Callisthenes, who was being tortured by Alexander, and furnishing him with poison.
For when Alexander the Great, in his anger, had pretended that Callisthenes the philosopher, for his opposition to the Persian mode of doing obeisance, was concerned in a plot that had been formed against him, 4 and, by cruelly mangling all his limbs, and cutting off his ears, nose, and lips, had rendered him a shocking and miserable spectacle, and had had him carried about, also, shut up in a cage with a dog, for a terror to others, Lysimachus, who was accustomed to listen to Callisthenes, and to receive precepts of virtue from him, took pity on so great a man, undergoing punishment, not for any crime, but for freedom of speech, and furnished him with poison to relieve him from his misery. At this act Alexander was so displeased, that he ordered Lysimachus to be exposed to a fierce lion; but when the beast, furious at the sight of him, had made a spring towards him, Lysimachus plunged his hand, wrapped in his cloak, into the lion's mouth, and, seizing fast hold of his tongue, killed him. -Justinus, Epitome of Pompeius Trogus' Philippic Histories, 15.3
This act of strength and courage led to Lysimachos becoming one of the Diadochi, the generals of Alexander that would battle each other for control of his vast kingdom after his death in June 323 BC. Coins of Lysimachos often feature the forepart of a lion as does this drachm:
Kings of Thrace, Lysimachos, 305-281 BC, AR Drachm, in the types of Alexander III, Kolophon, circa 301/0-300/299
Obv: Head of Herakles to right, wearing lion skin headdress
Rev: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ - ΛΥΣΙΜΑΧΟY Zeus seated left on low throne, holding long scepter in his left hand and eagle standing right with closed wings in his right; to left, forepart of a lion left above crescent left; below throne, pentagram
Ref: Müller 20; Price L28; Thompson 127
Here are three more coins of Lysimachos - a~4 gram drachm, a ~16g tetradrachm tetradrachm and a ~2g AE. On the silver coins Nike is crowning the first letter of Lysimachos' name with a victory wreath.
Kings of Thrace, Lysimachos, AR Drachm, Ephesos, circa 294-287 BC
Obv: Diademed head of the deified Alexander the Great right, wearing horn of Ammon
Rev: Athena Nikephoros seated left, left arm resting on rim of shield, transverse spear in background, E-Φ with bee between to inner left; BAΣIΛEΩΣ to right, ΛYΣIMAXOY to left
Ephesos chief output was drachms although some tetradrachms and staters were struck. Lysimachos captured Ephesos ~295 BC and renamed it Arsinoe after his wife.
Kings of Thrace, Lysimachus (305-281 BC), AR tetradrachm, Lampsacus mint, ca. 297-281 BC
Obv: Diademed head of deified Alexander III right, with horn of Ammon / ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ / ΛΥΣΙΜΑΧΟΥ
Rev: Athena enthroned left, Nike in outstretched right hand crowning royal name, resting left arm on grounded shield decorated with gorgoneion boss, transverse spear beyond; K in outer left field, ΔΞ monogram in inner left field
Note: ΔΞ monogram in inner left field is also found on coins of Magnesia (see M. Thompson). ΔΞ potentially a magistrate who was transferred from Magnesia to Lampsacus in the late 290's.
Kings of Thrace, Lysimachus, Ae (323-281 BC),
Obv: Head of Herakles right, wearing lion's skin headress.
Rev: ΒΑΣΙ / ΛΥΣΙ, Legend within grain ear wreath.
Ref: SNG Copenhagen 1168.
The Founder of the Attalid Dynasty
Philetaerus was one of the lieutenants of Lysimachos and it is his name that appears on this next coin from Pergamon. Philetaurus was commander of Pergamon until ~284/283 BC when rebelled against Lysimachos and subsequently declared his allegiance to Seleucus. Lysimachos had troubles at home, and was eventually overthrown by Seleucus. According to Strabo, Lysimachos was "treacherously murdered by Ptolemy Ceraunus", the same Egyptian, Ptolemaic prince who would later be connected to the murder of Seleucus as well.
The coin issued during the reign of Ptolemy Keraunos, the older brother of Ptolemy II and son of Ptolemy I.
Kings of Macedon, temp. Ptolemy Keraunos, 281-279 BC, Æ (20mm, 8.30g, 9h). Kassandreia mint
Obv: Laureate head of Zeus right
Rev: Eagle standing right on thunderbolt; AP monogram to upper left, ΠAP monogram to right
Ref: Psoma, Maroneia M305; HGC 3, –. VF, dark green patina, compact flan.
Note: this coin is conventionally attributed to a non-extant city of Paroreia in Macedon, see chapter 8 in S.E. Psoma, The Coins from Maroneia and the Classical City at Molyvoti: A Contribution to the History of Aegean Thrace (Athens, 2008).
"Now Pergamum was a treasure-hold of Lysimachus, the son of Agathocles, who was one of the successors of Alexander, and its people are settled on the very summit of the mountain; the mountain is cone-like and ends in a sharp peak. The custody of this stronghold and the treasure, which amounted to nine thousand talents, was entrusted to Philetaerus of Tieium, who was a eunuch from boyhood; for it came to pass at a certain burial, when a spectacle was being given at which many people were present, that the nurse who was carrying Philetaerus, still an infant, was caught in the crowd and pressed so hard that the child was incapacitated. He was a eunuch, therefore, but he was well trained and proved worthy of this trust." -Strabo, Geography, 13.4.1
Philetaurus was the founder of the Attalid dynasty and this coin was issued by a successor and relative of Philetaurus, Attalus I, the longest reigning king of the Attalid Dynasty and the first to be called King (ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ). Attalus was a loyal ally to Rome and supported Rome in the first and second Macedonian Wars against Philip V of Macedon.
Pergamene Kingdom, Attalus I (241–197 BC), AR tetradrachm, Pergamum, ca. 241–235 BC.
Obv: Laureate head of Philetaerus right
Ref: ΦΙΛΕΤΑΙΡΟΥ, Athena enthroned left, crowning royal name and resting elbow on shield propped against throne, transverse spear in background, cornucopia in outer left field, EYMΘ monogram in inner left field, bow in outer right field.
Ref: Westermark Group VI A
Note: For dating see G. Le Rider, Florilegium Numismaticum, pp. 236–238.
This Roman Republican denarius celebrates the victories of Rome over Philip V's son Perseus, in third and final Macedonian War.
L. Aemilius Lepidus Paullus, 62 BC, AR Denarius, Rome mint
Obv: Veiled and diademed head of Concordia right
Rev: Trophy; to left, three captives (King Perseus of Macedon and his two sons) standing right; to right, Paullus standing left
Ref: Crawford 415/1; Sydenham 926; Aemilia 10
The Treaty of Apamea
The region controlled by the Pergamene Empire reached a peak after the Treaty of Apamea. This treaty at the end of war between Rome and Antiochus III saw much of the western Seleucid lands distributed to Rome and allies, with Eumenes II, son of Attalus I, gaining control of a much larger portion of Western Asia Minor as shown in the map below.
Pergamon before and after the Treaty of Apamea. This map is my own modified version of the public domain image found on Wikipedia.
The Cistophoric Tetradrachm
By the late 160s BC the cistophoric tetradrachms had replaced the portrait coins in the name of Philetaurus. These were minted under the Attalids and later under the Romans.
Attalus III of Pergamum, bequeathed Pergamum to the Roman republic on his death in 133. Some of these Cistophori (from the city of Ephesus) are dated from the formation of the province of Asia in 134/133 or perhaps more likely from the date of Attalus III's death and grant of "autonomy" to the city of Ephesus. Others are undated a
Mysia, Mint: Unknown (Pergamon or Ephesus?), AR Cistophoric Tetradrachm, Unknown Quaestor (?) maybe L. Sempronius Atratinus (?)
Date: 42-39 BC
Obv: Cista mystica within ivy wreath
Rev: Bow case between two serpents; monogram above, Q to left, thyrsos to right.
Size: 12.6g (heavier than the average 12.13g and median 12.25g for this issue as found in the book above), and 25mm
The images on this coin are linked to the divine ancestors claimed by the Attalid dynasty. These tetradrachms were sometimes minted in relatively large numbers from a small number of dies, and had an exchange rate of 1 to 3 with a Roman denarius, and 4 to three with an attic standard tetradrachm. The cista mystica, the grapes and ivy leaf, are references to Dionysus, a deity from whom the Attalids claimed descent. On the reverse, the bow-case refers to Herakles, father of Telephus, the legendary founder of Pergamon, who is also claimed as an ancestor by the Attalids.
William E. Metcalf's 2017 book on Later Republican Cistophori is a necessary resource for these coins - for a thorough review of the book; see here.
Die studies help to sequence coins and the book has >500 coins, in 86 plates, illustrating die variations. My coin matches obverse die O21 seen in two of the coins in the book. Features that I crudely see as a “two line lid”, a “duck”, a “mouse” and “two balloons with string” along with some image overlays that seemed to fit reasonably convince me.
After a bit of careful paging through the images, I also found a match for my reverse die - RB28 from coin 644.
When I purchased the coin, the issuer was described as Lucius Antony, brother of Mark Antony, or Marcus Antonius their grandfather who was a quaestor in Asia in 113/112 BC. However, a note from 2009, by William E Metcalf, summarized in the book, makes a convincing case based on the monogram, shared obverse dies, and hoard evidence that the date range for this coin is 42-39 BC and a possible quaestor is L. Sempronius Atratinus. He notes, ”the monogram contains all the elements of ATPATIN in Greek”. Atratinus was the praetor who struck on behalf of Mark Antony and should have been quaestor before that time.
There is a second coin from this issue with some shared obverse dies – which is almost the same except that is has a torch on the reverse in place of the thyrsos. A thyrsos is staff of giant fennel topped with a pine cone used in Dionysian rituals. Shared obverse dies across these two coins is convincing evidence that they were minted in one location (not two as is often described).
To connect to Sulla - I will just quickly mention that there are Cistophoric tetradrachms issued at the end of the first Mithridatic war that are associated with Sulla's imposition of taxes on the province of Asia and coins that are dated in Apamea based on a Sullan Era date. (see also Romans in Asia Minor)
To conclude a long and rambling journey, covering all of the Attalid rule in Pergamon, and ~300 years from the court of Phillip II of Macedonia to the civil wars of the Roman republic. I will end with this coin of Mark Anthony.
Mark Antony and Octavian, Spring-early summer 41 BC, Cr. 517/2, The Triumvirs, AR Denarius, Ephesus mint, M. Barbatius Pollio, quaestor pro praetore
Obv: M•ANT•IMP•AVG•III•VIR•R•P•C•M BARBAT•Q•P, bare head of Mark Antony right
Rev: CAESAR•IMP•PONT•III•VIR•R•P•C•, bare head of Octavian right, with slight beard
Ref: Crawford 517/2; CRI 243; Sydenham 1181; RSC 8a
Pinder (1856). Über die Cistophoren und über die Kaiserlichen Silbermedaillons der römischen Provinz Asia. Berlin: Akademie der Wissenschaften.
Kleiner (1972), The dated Cistophori of Ephesus, ANS Museum Notes 18, p.17-32
Kleiner & Noe (1977), ANS Digital Library, the “Early Cistophoric Coinage”,
Kleiner (1978), Hoard Evidence and the Late Cistophori of Pergamon, ANS Museum Notes v. 23, p.77-105
Mørkholm, O. (1979). SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE EARLY CISTOPHORIC COINAGE. Museum Notes (American Numismatic Society),24, 47-61.
Rigsby, K. (1979). The Era of the Province of Asia. Phoenix,33(1), 39-47. makes the case that 134/3 BC was a civic era related to the granting of freedom by Attalus III to Ephesus.
Stumpf (1991), l:Numismatische Studien zur Chronologie der römischen Statthalter in Kleinasien, pp. 14-17
Roman Provincial Coinage I (1997), p. 376
1998 Jörg Müller suggesting that the series should be split into two groups and the first group shifted by ~5 years later
W. E. Metcalf, "A Note on the Later Republican Cistophori," SNR 88 (2009), pp. 205–8
Rick Witschonke (2010), Cistophoric Mysteries, timeline and selected bibliography
De Callataÿ, F. (2011). More Than It Would Seem: The Use of Coinage by the Romans in Late Hellenistic Asia Minor (133-63 BC). American Journal of Numismatics (1989-),23, 55-86.
Peter Thonemann, Attalid Asia Minor: Money, International Relations, and the State. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. xviii, 335
Carbone, Lucia Francesca (2016), ‘Romanizing’ Asia: the impact of Roman imperium on the administrative and monetary systems of the Provincia Asia (133 BC – AD 96), Thesis Columbia University
W.E. Metcalf, “The Later Republican Cistophori” ISBN 978-0-89722-347-8 Hardcover, 184 pages
ACSearch for L Sempronius Attratinus
Wikipedia entry for L. Sempronius Atratinus: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucius_Sempronius_Atratinus
An interesting overview of the history of the Kingdom of Pergamon
M. Thompson, "The Mints of Lysimachos," Essays in Greek Coinage Presented to Stanley Robinson (Oxford 1968) 163-182;