Coins of Roman Egypt
Greek Dates




By K. Emmett

Augustus (27 B.C. — 14 A.D.)
5 drachm denomination No portrait of Augustus
Æ 10 mm. 0.86 gm.  
Obv: Crescent with tips facing upwards.
Rev: C(Ε)Β(Α)CΤοΥ around date: (L)Λς
ex. Dr. Henry Lindgren Collection*

The reverse inscription including the date, has the "L", the first "C", the top of the "Τ" and the right side of the "Υ" off the coin flan, while the "Α" is unreadable in the space between "Β" and "C", and the sigma "C" is square-shaped and the upsilon is "V" shaped. The crescent is on the beveled side of the coin.

This coin was issued in the first Alexandrian leap year of A.D. 6/7,* and it is the only known coin which is dated in year 36 of any emperor's reign. This coin represents the smallest bronze denomination struck during the Roman occupation of Egypt. The denominations and chronology of the Augustan Alexandrian bronze coins are still not completely known. Before discussing these issues, a list of the known specimens of the smallest coins, along with a few related coins, is provided below.

  Obverse*    Reverse      Reference
1. Crescent   ΣΕΒΑΣΤοΥ Date: LΛΕ   D49, RPC1-5033
2. Crescent   CΕΒΑCΤοΥ Date: LΛς   (This coin)
3. Crescent   ΣΕΒΑΣΤοΥ Date: LΛΗ   FM22, RPC1-5037
4. Crescent and Star   ΣΕΒΑΣΤοΥ Date: LΛΕ   COP27, RPC1—
5. Crescent and Star   ΣΕΒΑΣΤοΥ Date: LΛΗ   COP29, RPC1—
6. Star   ΣΕΒΑΣΤοΥ Date: LΚΗ   COP26, RPC1—
7. Star   ΣΕΒΑΣΤοΥ Date: LΛ   M24, RPC1-5031
8. Star   ΣΕΒΑΣΤοΥ Date: LΛΑ   DS6604, RPC1—
9. Star   ΣΕΒΑΣΤοΥ Date: LΛΒ   FM20, RPC1-5032
10. Star   ΣΕΒΑΣΤοΥ Date: LΛΗ   Berlin, RPC1-5038
11. Crescent   Wreath Date: LΚς   DS6600, RPC1—
12. Crescent   Wreath Date: LΚΗ   F558, RPC1-5018
13. Crescent   Wreath Date: LΛΕ   F559, RPC1—
14. Star   Wreath Date: LΚΗ   RPC1-5017
15. Star ΚΑΙCΑΡ LΜ   CΕΒΑCΤΟC     MS14,*  RPC1—
Related Undated Issues:
16. Crescent   Star     D19, RPC1-p. 692
17. Star   CΕΒΑCΤΟC     BMC25, RPC1-5011
18. Star ΚΑΙΣΑΡ   ΣΕΒΑΣΤΟΣ     F548, RPC1—
19. Lotus Flower   Star     D20, RPC1—
20. Prow of Vessel   CΕΒΑCΤΟC     D21, RPC1-5012
Similar Issues with the Portrait of Augustus:     
21. Bare head r.   Star     D12, RPC1-5024
22. Laureate hd. r.,
  Crescent and Star
    M9, RPC1-5021

The mean coin weights for the above coins are 0.88 gm., except for 11-14,* which are 1.53 gm., and 22, which is 2.65 gm.*

The bronze issues of Augustus can be divided into 5 groups:

1. Undated coins with Octavian's/Augustus' bare head.

2. Undated coins with Augustus' laureate head.

3. Dated coins with Augustus' laureate head.

4. Undated coins with no portrait of Augustus.

5. Dated coins with no portrait of Augustus.

Milne* organized Augustus' coinage into three series of undated coins, two series of dated coins and one series containing both dated and undated coins. Milne's scheme was based upon the weights, sizes and inscriptions on the coins. On the coins with the portrait of Augustus, the sequence is: bare head (undated) laureate head (undated) laureate head (dated) and Milne believed the inscriptions developed as follows:


Milne divided the non-portrait coin-type into his second and fourth series; however, the sizes and weights of these coins indicate that they are all closely related to Milne's second undated portrait series, which was based on the older Ptolemaic denominations.* The non-portrait series has two value marks on some coins: Κ=20 and Ι=10 (often described as a club), while the portrait series has coins with the value marks: Π=80 and Μ=40. The 5 drachm denomination did not bear a value mark.*

The non-portrait coins of Augustus can be divided into four denominations, namely, 40, 20, 10 and 5 drachms. The mean coin weights and sizes are as follows:

Denomination Weight (gm.)* No. coins Size (mm.) No. coins 
40 drachms* 6.35 +/- 0.70 7 20.06 +/- 0.9 5
20 drachms* 3.21 +/- 0.52 36 15.6 +/- 0.9 29
10 drachms* 1.41 +/- 0.25 9 14.1 +/- 0.1 6
5 drachms 0.88 +/- 0.17 41 11.3 +/- 1.1 30

The Milne second series, which has the bare head of Augustus on the obverse, consisted of 80, 40 and 5 drachm denominations.

The Naples* general collection (#9511) lists the following unpublished coin of Augustus:*

Obverse: Teste nuda di Augusto a dr.

Reverse: LΚΗ in corona di alloro (br. 23)

There is a parallel non-portrait issue which is also dated in year 28.* If the sequence of bare headlaureate head is correct, then the laureate head-type must have been issued after B.C. 3/2, or very close to that time. The Naples specimen is also important as it is the earliest dated coin with a portrait of Augustus.

Historically, it been assumed that once dating appeared on Augustus' coins, no coins were issued without dates, however, there is no reason to believe that this is true. In face, the opposite is the case, since his coins with the ΠΑΤΗΡ ΠΑΤΡΙΟΔΟΣ have a laureate head on the obverse, and they are related to the Roman issue which was minted in 2 B.C., and these coins do not bear a regnal date; therefore, non-portrait coins which bear no regnal date could have been issued either before or after Augustus' 28th regnal year.

In year 39, the regular series of diobols, obols and dichalkons* were issued. There are no coins with a laureate head of Augustus issued after year 28 which are of the same weights and sizes as his non-portrait 10 and 5 drachm coins.

The question as to when the older Ptolemaic denominations became replaced with the obol-based denominations is difficult to determine. Milne's third and fourth series may have been a reduced-weight series of 80 drachms* (10.11 gm.), 40 drachms (5.14 gms.) and 20 drachms (2.66 gms.), or they may have been a new equating series of a diobol, obol and half obol,* which had been reduced, again, as evidenced in Milne's fifth and sixth series.

Concerning the role of the coin-types without the portrait of Augustus, these coins provided the necessary smaller denominations of 40, 20, 10, and 5 drachms. The fact that they lack the portrait of Augustus makes them easy to distinguish from the later obol-based denominations. This indicates that the older Ptolemaic denominations lasted in Alexandria at least until year 38 of Augustus. It may well be that a dual value system for the coins was utilized for the Augustan bronze pieces:— one based on an equivalence to silver and the other one based on obol denominations.*

Reprinted with permission from
Vol. 17, No. 8 August 2003

References cited:

Berlin Coins in the Staatliche Museen, Berlin as cited by Vogt.
Poole, Reginald Stuart: Catalogue of the coins of Alexandria and the Nomes. London 1892.
Christiansen, Erik and Kromann, Anne: Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum. The Royal Collection of Coins and Medals. Danish National Museum. Part 41: Alexandria - Cyrenaica. Copenagen 1974.
Dattari, Giovanni: Monete Imperiali greche. Numi Augg. Alexandrini. Catalogo della Collezione G. Dattari. Compliato dal Propietario. Cairo 1901.
Bernardi, Guilio (ed.): Catalogo Completo della Collezione Dattari, Numi Augg. Alexandrini. 323 Tavole con l'aggiunta di oltre 7000 monete rispetto al catalogo del 1901. Gulio Bernardi. Trieste 1999.
F Feuardent, F(elix): Collections Giovanni di Demetrio. Numismatique. Égypte ancienne. II. Domination romaine. Paris 1872.
Förschner, Gisela: Die Münzen der Römischen Kaiser in Alexandrien. Historisches Museum Frankfurt am Main. Germany (1987)
Milne, Joseph Grafton: Catalogue of Alexandrian Coins. University of Oxford, Ashmolean Museum. Oxford 1933, Oxford 1971 (with supplement by Colin M. Kraay).
Mionnet, T.E.: Déscription de médailles antiques, grecques et romaines. Suppl. Volume IX. Paris 1837.
Fiorelli, Guiseppe: Catalogo del Museo Nazionale di Napoli. Medagliere I. Monete Greche. Napoli 1870.
Burnett, Andrew and Amandry, Michel and Ripollès, Pere Paul: Roman Provincial coinage. Volume I. From the death of Caesar to the death of Vitellius (44 B.C. - A.D. 69). Part I: Introduction and catalogue. Part II: Indices and Plates. London and Paris. 1992.
Burnett, Andrew and Amandry, Michel and Ripollès, Pere Paul: Roman Provincial coinage. Volume II. From Vespasian to Domitian (A.D. 69-96). Part I: Introduction and catalogue. Part II: Indices and Plates. London and Paris. 1999.
Vogt Vogt, Joseph: Die Alexandrinischen Münzen. Stuttgart 1924.


Dattari, Giovanni
"Appunti di Numismatica Alessandrina: Le date sulle monete d'Agusto e l'introduzione del nuove Calendario", Revista Italiana di Numismatica e Scienze Affina XIII. 1900, pp. 275-280
Dattari, Giovanni
"Appunti di Numismatica Alessandrina: La monetazione da Ottavio a Claudio I", Revista Italiana di Numismatica e Scienze Affina XV. 1902, pp. 412-431
Dattari, Giovanni
"Esame critico circa una nuova teoria sulla monetazione Alessandrina di Augusto", Revista Italiana di Numismatica e Scienze Affina XVII. 1904, pp. 153-168
Maresch, Klaus
Bronze und Silber: Papyrologische Beiträge zur Geschichte der Währung im ptolemäischen und römischen Ägypten bis zum 2.Jahrhundert n. Chr., Opladen 1996
Milne, J.G.
"The Alexandrian Coinage of Augustus", Journal of Egyptian Archeology XIII. 1927, pp. 135-140 + plate XXXI.



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