• sulla80

Seleucia ad Calycadnum

Researching ancient coins and the people behind them, my knowledge of ancient geography is regularly stretched and challenged. Today's post shares 3 coins from Asia Minor or Anatolia that span about 1300 years from the time of the Roman republic, to the Crusades. Two of these coins, raise the question: "Seleucia ad Calycadnum, where is that?"

"Seleucia ad Calycadnum (Silifke) Rough Cilicia, Turkey.

A city founded by Seleucus Nicator, probably between 296 and 280 BC after his seizure of Cilicia, and for which he brought inhabitants from Holmi, a nearby port. It is said to have been known as Hyria or Olbia before Seleucus' foundation."

-The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites


Another book, "Voyage de l'Asie Mineure" by Leon de Laborde in 1838, shows a plan of a modern city on the Calycadnus River:

And a view of the ruins of a Basilica, below the Theatre and the Castle of Silifke.

Circa 2000 years earlier on the southern edge of modern Turkey, Seleucia on the Calycadnus River (modern Göksu river) is where this coin was minted:

Cilicia, Seleukeia ad Kalykadnon, AE, circa 150-50 BC

Obv: Helmeted head of Athena right, torch below chin, monograms behind head

Rev: ΣΕΛΕΥΚΕΩΝ ΤΩΝ ΠΡΟΣ ΤΩΙ ΚΑΛΥΚΑΔΝΩΙ, Nike advancing left, holding branch; ΔH under monogram to left

Size: 10.22g, 22mm


Here is another coin from this city ~3 centuries later

Cilicia, Seleucia ad Calycadnum, Geta, as Caesar, AD 198-209, Æ

Obv: ΠΟ CЄΠ ΓЄTAC K, bareheaded and cuirassed bust right

Rev: CЄΛЄYK KAΛYKA, bull standing right; star and crescent above

Ref: SNG France –; SNG Levante 751


This town known centuries later for the death of Frederick Barbarossa, in AD 1190. During the Third Crusade (1189–1192) : Ayyubid Sultan, Saladin captured Jerusalem in 1187. Philip II of France, Richard I of England and Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor set out to retake the Holy Land in 1189.


Following impressive victories in the Battle of Philomelion and the Battle of Iconium against the Turkish armies, Frederick while in Cilicia drowned trying to avoid the hot and rocky road:


"The Emperor, who had shared in all the dangers, wished both to moderate the inordinate heat and to avoid climbing the mountain peak. Accordingly, he attempted to swim across the very swift Calycadmus River. As the wise man says, however, "Thou shalt not swim against the river's current ."[Eccles. 4:32] Wise though he was in other ways, the Emperor foolishly tried his strength against the current and power of the river. Although everyone tried to stop him, he entered the water and plunged into a whirlpool. He, who had often escaped great dangers, perished miserably. Let us comment the secret judgment of God, "to Whom no man dares say: Why have you acted thus," when he takes such or so many men in death."

-Medieval Sourcebook


I'd like to add a coin from Saladin, this coin of his ally is as close as I can get:

Nasir al-Din Artuq Arslan, AE 1/2 Dirham, AH 597-637 (AD 1201-1239)

Obv: Male head facing slightly left, hair disheveled, garment fastened with a clasp at neckline to the right, surrounded by circular legends in angular transitional Kufic, ﺮﻜﺑﺭﺎﻳﺩ ﻚﻠﻣ ﻥﻼﺳﺭﺍ ﻖﺗﺭﺍ ﻦﻳﺪﻟﺍﻭ ﺎﻴﻧﺪﻟﺮﺻﺎﻧ

Translation: "Nasır al-Dunya wa al-din Artuk Arslan Malik Diyarbekr"

Rev: Script in five lines ﺏﻮﻳﺍ ﻦﺑ ﺮﻜﺑﻮﺑﺍ ﻝﺩﺎﻌﻟﺍ ﻚﻠﻤﻟﺍﻦﻴﻨﻣﺆﻤﻟﺍﺮﻴﻣﺍﻪﻠﻟﺍ ﻦﻳﺪﻟﺮﺻﺎﻨﻟﺍ ﺪﻤﺣﺍ ﺱﺎﺒﻌﻟﺍﻮﺑﺍ

Translation: "Abu 'l-'Abbas Ahmad al-Nasır li-din Allah Amir al-mu'minin al-Malik al-'Adil abu Bakr bin Ayyub"

Size: 22mm, 6.24g

Ref: Spengler-Sayles Type 40 p132


Spengler-Sayles suggest (and stop well short of concluding) that the obverse could be a representation of the sun personified, as the rulers of Mardin had an affinity for solar representations on their coins. Whatever the image represents - this particular seems to me to be well executed, good style, excellent condition with an even dark brown/green patina.


Nasir al-Din Artuq Arslan is the son of Nūr al-Dīn Muḥammad, son of Kara Arslan. Nūr al-Dīn Muḥammad allied with the Ayyubid sultan Saladin against Kilij Arslan II, Seljuk sultan of Rûm, whose daughter had married Nur ad-Din Muḥammad. It all gets a bit complicated but Kilij Arslan II promised passage to Barbarossa, but his sons didn't agree and fought against the Crusaders at the Battle of Philomelion Iconium. See: History of the Anatolian Seljuks.


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