• sulla80

Ptolemaic Coins of Egypt

Updated: Apr 12


Rosetta Stone photo © Hans Hillewaert

I have quite a few Roman provincial Egyptian coins, but have not ventured much earlier into the Ptolemaic era. This first coin is one that I find compelling for the portrait of Isis also for its link to Ptolemy V and the Rosetta Stone (or Memphis decree) affirming the royal cult of the king. The Rosetta stone a personal favorite stop in the British Museum along with the Babylonian Map of the World. Update: Thanks to a referral to this site from Daniel Wolf it seems that this coin, based on weight, is more likely from Faucher Lorber Series 7C which would make it from the time of Ptolemy VI–VIII, circa 180-116 BC Ptolemy VII rather than V. Note: Rosetta Stone © Hans Hillewaert used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Ptolemaic Kings of Egypt, temp. Ptolemy VI–VIII, circa 180-116 BC, AE (25mm, 14.51 g, 12h), Alexandria mint, Series 7c

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

Rev: ΠTOΛEMAIOY-BAΣIΛEΩΣ, eagle with open wings standing left on thunderbolt

Ref: Svoronos 1235; Faucher & Lorber Series 7c; SNG Copenhagen 247–8


and a second coin of the same type:


Note: Some useful information at Ptolemaic.net


I find myself fairly lost trying to differentiate rulers. I was initially off on the attribution on the Isis coin as Ptolemy V Epiphanes, and seem to have gotten it right with the next one, Ptolemy II, but not knowing these coins well, I have many questions.


Reading Wolf's site I don't feel too bad about this confusion on the Isis coin - regarding Svoronos 1234 and 1235:


"even experts cannot tell them apart when they are mixed together in groups. If experts cannot distinguish them and if their sizes and weight ranges overlap, then it isn't really clear how to distinguish between them except for those at the extremes of the size and weight ranges."

-Wolf, Ptolemaic Bronze Denomination


With a monetary reform circa 205 BC all bronze was demonetized and reissued with new denominations. Series 7c (and my coin) at ~15g is significantly reduced from earlier issues (e.g. 6a) and the bronze diluted with lead - usually exceeding 20% lead and sometimes more than 30% lead.


Q1 - Denomination: Faucher and Lorber were helpful, but I still don't know whether I should call this Isis coin a diobol, Denomination B or something else...is there a system of naming or a summary of the denominations and how they changed over the years? Sure enough this site provides a great overview: Daniel Wolf's Ptolemy Coin Project.


Here's a second coin from Ptolemaic Egypt:

Ptolemaic Kings of Egypt, Ptolemy II Philadelphos, 285-246BC, AE Diobol (31.7mm, 20.79g, 12h), Alexandria mint, post-reform, series 3, Struck circa 261/0-246 BC

Obv: Diademed head of Zeus-Ammon right

Rev: ΠΤΟΛEΜΑΙOΥ BAΣΙΛEΩΣ, eagle with closed wings standing left on thunderbolt; ∆ between legs

Ref: Svoronos 438; Weiser –; SNG Copenhagen 156; Noeske –; PCO B218; CoinProject 2-050

The bust below is considered to be Ptolemy II, the son of Ptolemy I who was the founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty after the death of Alexander the Great. Ptolemy II struggled with the Seleucid Empire and promoted the Library of Alexandria. He also established the cult of Ptolemeic kings when he deified his mother and father.

Naples National Archaeological Museum, used under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons


I only find 4 of the Zeus Ptolemy II properly attributed in ACSearch which suggests to me that this might be a difficult coin to find, I find 58 of the Isis Ptolemy V. I also expect that this are often misattributed - is there any good way to know what is common vs. rare for these coins? Were diobols at this time a well used coin - none of the four Ptolemy II that I did find are in much better condition than this one?

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