Coins of Roman Egypt
Greek Dates

This is the Roman Egypt section from Barclay Head's monumental work Historia Numorum.
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[R. S. Poole, Brit. Mus. Cat., Alexandria, &c., 1892 ; G. Dattari, Numi Augg. Alexandrini, Cairo, 1901, and also Various articles in Riv. Ital. di Num., 1900, and following years; G. Macdonald, Hunter Cat., vol. iii, 1905, pp. 402-566.

' Augustus inter alia dominationis arcana . . . seposuit Aegyptum,' says Tacitus (Annal. ii. 59). And down to the days of Diocletian the status of the province remained exceptional. It was in a peculiar sense the property of the emperor, and was controlled by a praefectus responsible to him alone. Its unique position is reflected in the fact that it had a special currency of its own. Roman gold is found in Egypt; but prior to circa A.D. 260 neither Roman denarii nor Roman bronze coins appear to have been imported (N. C., 1908, p. 300). The long series of Egyptian imperial money extends down to the brief reign of the pretender Domitius Domitianus, A. D. 296-7, and includes coins struck in the name of the Palmyrene Queen Zenobia and of Vaballathus. It begins with Augustus, whose earliest pieces betray a desire to be regarded, not as a foreign ruler, but as the direct heir of the Ptolemies. Except for the name and portrait, they exactly resemble the Æ with Π and Μ described above as having been minted by Cleopatra VII. The use of value-marks was soon abandoned. Simultaneously novel types were introduced. It is, however, extremely improbable that any great significance attaches to these changes. It was left to Tiberius to carry through a radical reform.

In A. D. 19 the last-named emperor revived the Ptolemaic tetradrachm, the issue of which had been in abeyance since Cleopatra's death. It was now struck not in debased AR, but in the mixture of AR and Æ known as billon. Regimental pay-sheets of the first century A. D. show that it was tariffed as roughly equivalent to the Roman denarius, but that for purposes of exchange a distinct advantage rested with the denarius, which was held to be worth 28 or 29 obols as against the normal 24 (Mommsen, Archiv für Papyrusforschung, i, pp. 273 ff., and A. von Prernerstein, Beiträge zür alten Geschichte (Klio), iii, pp. 8 ff.). The general effect of the reform was to facilitate commercial intercourse between Egypt and the rest of the Empire. At first the billon tetradrachm weighed over 200 grains and contained a fair proportion of AR. Deterioration rapidly set in. One of the most notable debasements took place in the reign of Commodus, when the percentage of AR was reduced to 10. The next great shrinkage began under Trebonianus Gallus, and continued till the time of Diocletian under whom the tetradrachm weighed little more than one-half of what it had originally done, while the proportion of AR sank as low as 2 per cent. An indirect effect of this process should be noted. The earlier emperors had all struck coins in Æ, pieces of very large module being introduced by Nero and minted in enormous quantities by Trajan, Hadrian, and Pius. Under Commodus the flow was suddenly checked, while under the later emperors Æ is hardly known at all. There was no longer any room for it even as a token-coinage. On the other hand, it is almost certainly to this period that the numerous small leaden pieces that have come to light on various Egyptian sites are to be attributed. They are in general badly executed and poorly preserved. But there can be no doubt that they represent local issues intended to meet the everyday wants of the ordinary population. The emperor's head is not placed on the obverse. Otherwise the types are reminiscent of those of the imperial coins proper. The few legends that do occur appear to have a local reference (Memphis, Oxyrhynchus, Arsinoite Nome, Athribis, &c.). For the best account of these difficult pieces see J. G. Milne, 'Egypto-Roman Leaden Token Coinage' (N. C., 1908, pp. 287 ff.).

The tetradrachms and the imperial Æ always have the imperial portrait on the obv. They were doubtless minted at Alexandria, which was at once the seat of the government and the busiest commercial centre in the whole of the Roman world. But the name of the city never appears except on certain alliance-coins struck at Ephesus under Gordian III. Like the Æ of Cleopatra on which it was modeled, the earliest Æ of Augustus was undated. Some time before the close of his reign there was a resumption of the Ptolemaic fashion of placing upon the coins the regnal year of the monarch in whose name they were issued. This practice continued to be observed till the very close of the series, and, since the Alexandrian year comrnenced on August 29, the dates and corresponding inscriptions are often useful in elucidating obscure points of Roman imperial chronology. As a rule, the year is indicated by a numeral letter or letters preceded by the symbol L (see supra, p. 847). Occasionally, however, the symbol L is replaced by ΕΤΟΥΣ (Hunter Cat., iii, pp. 424 ff., 459, 474, 543 ff., 547 ff., and 551). Sometimes, too, the actual numeral is written as a word. This happens much more frequently in the case of ΕΝΑΤΟΥ and ΕΝΝΕΑΚΑΙΔ(εκατου) than in the case of any other numbers. There appears to have been a superstitious reluctance to employ the letter Θ in such a connexion (Riv. Ital., 1901, F 380). At the same time it is noteworthy that under Hadrian and Plus L ΕΝΑΤΟΥ ushers in a series that runs as far as L ΤΡΙΣΚ(αιδεκατου). Very rarely we find, instead of LΙ, the words ΠΕΡΙΟΔ · ΔΕΚΑΕΤ (Commodus), ΠΕΡΙΟΔΟC ΔΕΚΑΤΗ (Severus Alexander), or ΔΕΚΑΕΤΗΡΙC ΚΥΡΙΟΥ (Gallienus)—obvious allusions to the vota decenalia, a festival which was also commemorated by the placing of a palm in the field of the rev. in the years that followed its celebration (Hunter Cat., Iii, p. 499 and p. 531).

Besides these variations, more or less marked modifications in the form of the obv. inscr. or in the treatment of the imperial head, as well as changes in the general character of the types of the rev., often occur at irregular intervals in the course of a single reign; for details see Hunter Cat. Iii, where they are made the basis of classification. A good example is furnished by the billon coinage of Nero. It falls into three quite distinct groups, corresponding to three successive periods of time, and differentiated partly by the characteristics of the obv. and partly by the use of three well-marked varieties of rev. type, to each of which a special set of family portraits is attached. The first group is distinguished by the frequent choice of personified qualities such as are common on Roman coins. The second exhibits a preference for subjects drawn from Egyptian mythology and religion. The chief feature of the third is the number of heads of Greek gods and goddesses. Modifications of the nature described usually take place in the middle of a year. As the year used for dating is the Alexandrian year, the inference is that they coincide with the beginning of the Roman year, that is, with the date at which a new official would naturally enter on his duties. Apparently, then, the moneyers at Alexandria had considerable latitude in the selection of designs. Until about A.D. 200 the types are most interesting. Thereafter there is much less variety, and in the end the reverses are almost monopolized by figures of Victory and by eagles. The eagle is, of course, no longer a Ptolemaic emblem. It is a compliment to the garrison, being often shown standing between vexilla, while on coins of Carinus and Numerianus it is accompanied by the legend ΛΕΓ Β ΤΡΑΙ.

The more important of the types are discussed in detail by Poole in his Introduction to B. M. Cat., Alexandria, &c. (q. v.). Here space forbids anything beyond a simple enumeration:—

(α) Greek Types. Bust or full length figure of Kronos holding sickle. Bust of Zeus (ΔΙΟΣ ΟΛΥΜΠΙΟΣ, ΖΕΥΣ ΝΕΜΕΙΟΣ) or full-length figure enthroned (ΖΕΥΣ ΚΑΠΙΤΩΛΙΟΣ), or recumbent on eagle. Bust of ZeusAmmon,or full-length figure in biga drawn by rams. Bust of Hera (ΗΡΑ ΑΡΓΕΙΑ), or standing figure. Bust of Poseidon (ΠΟΣΕΙΔΩΝ ΙΣΘΜΙΟΣ), or figure in biga of hippocamps or standing holding dolphin. Bust of Apollo (ΑΚΤΙΟΣ or ΠΥΘΙΟΣ ΑΠΟΛΛΩΝ), or figure standing or seated; Apollo Didymeus, with stag and bow, sometimes between Nemeses ; Apollo and Artemis; &c. Artemis Huntress. Bust of Athena, or figure enthroned, or standing (ΑΘΗΝΑ ΣΕΒΑΣΤ), holding Nike, owl or ears of corn, sometimes before altar; Athena Stathmia; Athena Archegetis of Sais; Athena and Demeter; Athena and Ares. Bust of Ares, or figure standing. Bust of Demeter, or figure standing alone (ΔΕΜΗΤΗΡ), or between the Dioskuri, or with Euthenia or Harpocrates. Persephone carried off by Hades. Bust of Helios, alone or with Selene, or figure standing or on horseback; see also Sarapis infra. Bust of Selene, alone or with Helios, or figure in biga. Kybele enthroned. ; Bust of Dionysos, or figure in panther-car. Triptolemos in serpent-car. Bust of Asklepios, or figure standing alone or with Hygieia. Bust of Hygieia, or figure standing alone or with Asklepios. Bust of Hermes, or figure seated or standing. Pan. Busts of the Dioskuri, or figures on horseback or standing. ΗΩΣ holding prancing horse. Nike, frequently and variously represented; rarely with inscr., ΝΕΙΚΗ CΕΒΑCΤ, ΝΙΚΗ ΚΑΤΑ ΓΕΡΜΑΝΩΝ (Domitian), ΚΑΙΣΑΡΙ ΝΙΚΗ(Trajan), ΝΕΙΚΗ ΚΑΤΑ ΒΡΕΤΑΝ (Severus and family). Tyche standing (ΤΥΧΗ CΕΒΑCΤ), or seated, or recumbent on couch. Exploits of Herakles (Æ of Pius)—Nemean lion; Hydra; Keryneian stag ; Erymanthian boar ; Augean stables; Stymphalian birds; Cretan bull; Mares of Diomedes; Oxen of Geryon; Gardens of the Hesperides; Kerberos; Antaeos; Herakles entertained by the Centaur Pholos; Destroying vines of Syleus; Slaying the Amazon Hippolyte, the monster Echidna, &c. Perseus and Andromeda. Orpheus charming the wild beasts. Judgment of Paris. ΟΚΕΑΝΟΣ as river-god.

(β) Egyptian and Graeco-Egyptian Types. Bust of ΖΕΥΣ ΣΑΡΑΠΙΣ wearing modius. ΖΕΥΣ ΣΑΡΑΠΙΣ or ΗΛΙΟΣ ΣΑΡΑΠΙΣ standing or enthroned. Pantheistic bust of Sarapis, Zeus Ammon, Poseidon, &c. Sarapis standing or seated, alone or with Demeter, Agathodaemon, Homonoia, &c., or between the Dioskuri. Bust of Isis, alone or with Sarapis, or figure standing or seated, sometimes in temple or suckling infant Horus; Isis Pharia holding inflated sail before Pharos lighthouse; Isis Sothis on dog. Hathor-Isis (?) (Hunter Cat., Iii, Pl. LXXXVI. 15). Bust of Harpokrates, or figure as infant or youth, standing or seated on flower, finger at mouth. Bust of Hermanubis with palm-branch and caduceus, or figure standing with jackal at feet. Bull Apis. Bust of ΝΙΛΟΣ, or figure with cornucopiae and reed, recumbent or seated, accompanied by crocodile or hippopotamus, with Nilometer, or riding on hippopotamus or in biga of hippopotami; sometimes associated with Alexandria, often with Euthenia (Abundantia),

once with Tiber (ΤΙΒΕΡΙΣ ΟΜΟΝΟΙΑ). Bust of ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΕΑ (Fig. 383), or figure standing holding bust of Sarapis, crowning emperor, &c. 'Canopic' vases with heads of Isis and Osiris, sometimes in temple or on table. Serpent Agathodaimon (ΝΕΟ · ΑΓΑΘ · ΔΑΙΜ). Coiled serpent Uraeus. Birds and other animals—elephant, crocodile, hippopotamus, ibis, eagle, hawk of Horus, griffin with wheel, sphinx, lion, &c. Miscellaneous—Pharos, Imperial galley (ΣΕΒΑΣΤΟΦΟΡΟΣ), temples, altars, buildings, modius in serpent-car, &c., &c.

(γ) Astronomical Types. Summer (Dattari, Nos. 2986-9). Autumn (Dattari, No. 2985). Phoenix, inscr. ΑΙωΝ, referring to commencement of Sothic cycle (Year 2 of Pius=AD 139). Zodiac in circle round busts of Helios and Selene. Two zodiacs in double circle round busts of Sarapis and Isis. Zodiac in circle, with inner ring containing Sun, Moon, and major planets, round bust of Sarapis. Head of Helios over lion, indicating the Sun in Leo; and similar representations of the Moon in Cancer, Mercury in Gemini and in Virgo, Venus in Taurus and in Libra, Mars in Aries and in Scorpio Jupiter in Aries in Sagittarius and in Pisces, Saturn in Capricorn and in Aquarius. The zodiacal types all belong to the year 8 of Pius (cf. Riv. Ital., 1901, pp. 157 ff.).

(δ) Graeco-Roman Types. Bust of Roma, or ΡΩΜΑ seated or standing. ΔΗΜΟΣ ΡΩΜΑΙΩΝ standing. Trophy between captives, sometimes with ΑΡΜΕΝΙΑ (Verus). Wolf and twins. Right hands clasped, sometimes with ΟΜΟΝΟΙΑ (Verus). ΤΙΒΕΡΙΣ (see supra under ΝΙΛΟΣ).

(ε) Personifications of abstract conceptions. These are mostly copies of familiar Roman types—ΑΦΙΕΡCΙC (Consecratio), ΔΙΚΑΟΣΥΝΗ, ΔΥΝΑΜΙΣ (Venus Victrix), ΕΙΡΗΝΗ, ΕΙΡΗΝΗ ΚΑΙ ΕΥΘΗΝΑ, ΕΙΡΗΝΗ ΚΑΙ ΟΜΟΝΟΙΑ, ΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΙΑ, ΕΛΠΙC, ΕΥΘΗΝΙΑ (Abundantia), usually associated with Nilus, Eutycheia (Felicitas), ΚΡΑΤΗΣΙΣ (Virtus), ΜΟΝΕΤΑ, ΟΜΑΝΟΙΑ, Eusebeia (Pietas), ΠΡΟΝΟΙΑ, ΣΗΜΑΣΙΑ (Female figure on galloping horse, brandishing sword), &c.

(ζ) Personal Types. Emperor seated, standing, on horseback; in biga of centaurs, of elephants, of Tritons ; in quadriga of horses, of elephants; beside prisoners, once with ΒΡΕΤΑΝΝΙ (Commodus of AD 185-6); with Alexandria, Ares, Demeter, Nike, Pronoia, Roma, Sarapis, &c. Hadrian welcomed by Alexandria. Bust of Antinous (ΑΝΤΙΝΟΟΥ ΗΡΩΣ) or Antinous on horseback as Hermes. Commodus as ΡωΜΑΙωΝ ΗΡΑΚΛΕΑ. And many others.

There still remain to be mentioned the curious series of Æ pieces which bear on the rev. the names of the various νομοι or administrative districts into which ancient Egypt was divided. These Coins of the Nomes were not issued locally. They were struck at Alexandria, a circumstance which robs them of the interest they would otherwise have possessed as calculated to throw light on local cults. It is significant that the issues usually coincide with specially abundant Alexandrian issues. We may infer that their purpose was primarily commemorative. The emperors whose heads and names they bear are as follows:— Domitian (Year 11),Trajan (chiefly Years 12-16), Hadrian (chiefly Year 11), Pius (Year 8), and Marcus as Caesar (Year 8 of Pius). Generally speaking each set comprises coins of one denomination only. The issue of Hadrian's Year 11 is exceptional. It has usually two denominations, one of which is less than half the weight of the other, while both are much smaller than was customary; the rev. type of the lower is normally, but not invariably, an animal or other object which appears on the rev. type of the higher as an adjunct of the standing figure of a divinity, being, as a rule, held in the hand. The great majority of the subjects are taken from the Egyptian pantheon. For detailed descriptions see B.M.C. And Dattari's Numi Augg. Alexandrini. There were between sixty and seventy nomes in all, and the names of about three-fourths of these occur on existing specimens, often considerably abbreviated:



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