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CoinWeek Ancient Coin Series: The Ptolemies, Part III

CoinWeek Ancient Coin Series: The Ptolemies, Part III

CoinWeek Ancient Coin Collection  by Mike Markowitz …..
THE TRAGIC AND CHAOTIC final generations of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt have been dominated by the rising energy of Rome, and the fickle loyalties of Alexandria’s unruly inhabitants (often described by historians as “the mob”). A scarcity of historic statistics makes numerical estimates dangerous[1], however the consensus is that Alexandria on this period had as many as half one million inhabitants. Coinage of this era has a particular fascination for collectors of ancients largely due to the glamorous and dramatic determine of Queen Cleopatra VII.

Ptolemy IX Soter II “Lathyros” (116 – 107, 88 – 80 BCE)

Ptolemy IX Soter IIKleopatra III & Ptolemy IX Soter II (Lathyros). 116-107 BC. AR Tetradrachm (24mm, 13.32 g, 12h). Alexandreia mint. Dated RY 10 (108/7 BC). Diademed head of Ptolemy I proper, sporting aegis round neck / Eagle standing left on thunderbolt; LI (date) to left, ΠA to proper. Svoronos 1671

Ptolemy VIII had two sons by his spouse (who was additionally his niece and step-daughter), Cleopatra III. When he died in 116 BCE, she turned regent for the boys, each named Ptolemy. Nobody discovered this complicated, as a result of they have been referred to as by totally different “epithets” or nicknames. The elder, aged about 27, was generally known as Lathyros, which suggests “chickpea” in Greek (the rationale for this nickname baffles historians). When he got here to the throne, he adopted the epithet Soter (“savior”, which had already been utilized by the founding father of the dynasty, so he is called Ptolemy IX Soter II). The youthful, about 24, was often known as Alexander. There are, so far as we all know, no portrait cash of those two brothers, who spent many years making an attempt to overthrow each other.

Time of Ptolemy IX to Ptolemy XII (116-51 BC). AE. AlexandreiaTime of Ptolemy IX to Ptolemy XII (116-51 BC). AE. Alexandreia. Obv: Diademed head of Zeus-Ammon proper. Rev: ΠΤΟΛΕΜΑΙΟV ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ. Two eagles standing left on thunderbolt; cornucopia to left. Svoronos 1426 (Joint reign of Ptolemy VI and VIII); SNG Copenhagen 311-Four (similar).Weight: eight.60 g. Diameter: 20 mm.

Their relatively monotonous coinage consisted of tetradrachms in more and more debased silver alloy with a stylized picture of Ptolemy I on the obverse and the emblematic standing eagle on the reverse. The cash are dated within the reverse subject with the image “L” which means “year” and Greek numerals for the yr of the reign. The letters ΠΑ served because the mintmark for Alexandria and (confusingly) additionally for Paphos on Cyprus. The inscription is all the time “King Ptolemy”, however variations in type have allowed generations of numismatists to type out which cash go together with which king and the attributions made by Svoronos within the early 20th century have usually stood the check of time.

Ptolemy X Alexander (110 – 109, 107 – 88 BCE)

Ptolemy X Alexander I AR TetradrachmPtolemy X Alexander I AR Tetradrachm. Alexandria, dated RY 14 = 101/100 BC. Diademed head of Ptolemy I proper, sporting aegis round neck / BAΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΠΤΟΛΕΜΑΙΟΥ, eagle standing left on thunderbolt; LIΔ (date) to left, ΠA to proper. Svoronos 1674; SNG Copenhagen 363; DCA 68. 14.29g, 26mm, 12h.

Ptolemy X Alexander initially dominated collectively together with his mom, Cleopatra III. Deposed and exiled, he returned to energy in 107. In 101, he had his mom killed, after which dominated together with his spouse (who was additionally his niece), Berenice III. When the individuals of Alexandria and the military turned towards him in 88 BCE, he fled to Syria and raised a mercenary military. To pay these troops, he melted down the strong gold sarcophagus of his namesake, Alexander the Nice, changing it with one in every of glass (some sources say rock crystal). The exasperated Alexandrians drove him out once more, and he was killed in a sea battle whereas trying to cross over to Cyprus.

Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos “Auletes” (80 – 58, 55 – 51 BCE)

Ptolemy XII.Ptolemy XII. Neos Dionysos (Auletes), 80 – 51 BCE. Drachm (2,96g). Paphos 53 BCE.: Büst with broad Diadem Rv: ΠΤΟΛΕΜΑΙΟΥ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ, Eagle standing on thunderbolt, in area date LKH, (Yr 28) and mint mark ΠΑ.

When Ptolemy IX Lathryos died in 80 BCE, aged about 62, he was briefly succeeded on the throne by his daughter, Berenice III, “who was much beloved by the Alexandrines” (Bevan, 342). As a result of custom insisted on a male co-ruler, she selected an illegitimate son of her uncle, who turned “Ptolemy XI Alexander II”. This proved to be a poor selection; after about six months, he murdered her. The mob invaded the palace and tore him to items. At this level, the one out there royal was one other illegitimate son, shortly put in as Ptolemy XII, taking the Greek epithet Neos Dionysos (“the New Dionysus”, after the god of wine and ecstasy.) He’s higher recognized for his musical expertise as Auletes (“flute player”).

Proficiency in flute-playing might go together with critical pursuits, because it did within the case of Frederick the Nice, however in Ptolemy XII the intense pursuits appear to have been missing, and the common accompaniments of flute-playing in historic days have been justly held discreditable in a king (Bevan, 351).

There’s a uncommon portrait coin of Auletes: a silver drachm issued at Paphos[2]. The engraver exhibits him with a pointy nostril, however there’s a clear resemblance to his Ptolemaic ancestors. Most of Auletes’ Alexandria coinage carries the acquainted picture of Ptolemy I, however the workmanship is poor and the metallic was more and more debased (right down to about 80% silver).

The Roman Senate initially refused to acknowledge Auletes as ruler of Egypt. In 58 BCE, Auletes traveled to Rome, borrowed funds for an unlimited bribe of 6,000 skills[3] to safe Julius Caesar’s help, and was declared a “Friend and Ally of the Roman People”.

Auletes produced at the very least three daughters and two sons by no less than two unsure wives. His eldest daughter, Berenice IV, seized energy in her father’s absence. Pressured to marry a Seleucid prince as a male co-ruler, she quickly grew uninterested in him and had him strangled. In 55 BCE, Auletes returned to Alexandria with the assistance of Roman troops and Berenice was beheaded.

Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator (51? – 47 BCE)

When Auletes died in 51 BCE the political state of affairs turned chaotic. In concept, his 11-year-old eldest son took the throne, symbolically “married” to his half-sister Cleopatra VII, aged about 17. His epithet was Theos Philopator (“the god beloved of his father”). In actuality, the military commander, the younger king’s tutor, and a strong palace eunuch named Pothinus, have been in management. Cash have been issued, as normal, within the identify of “King Ptolemy” with the stylized picture of Ptolemy I on the obverse, however the regnal yr of the present ruler in Greek numerals within the area of the reverse. Cash of Ptolemy XIII are comparatively widespread; an instance from Yr 9 (c. 72 BCE) introduced $382 USD in a 2015 public sale[4].

Cleopatra VII Thea Neotera (51 – 30 BCE)

Cleopatra VII Thea NeoteraPtolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, Cleopatra VII AR Tetradrachm. Askalon, Yr 64 Period of Askalon = 41/40 BC. Diademed bust of Cleopatra proper, sporting necklace, hair plaited in rows and tied at again in a chignon / [ΙΕΡΑΣ ΑΣΥΛΟΥ] ΑΣΚΑΛΩ[ΝΙΤΩΝ] Sacred and Inviolate of (the individuals of) Askalon”, eagle standing to proper, palm over left wing; monogram and dove to left, LΞΔ to proper. Unpublished, however cf. Svoronos 1883 (yr 52) and 1885 (yr 55) = BMC Palestine 20, p.108; cf. Naville XVI, 1933, 1473 (yr 66). 12.70g, 28mm, 12h.In 48 BCE, the 21-year-old Cleopatra was accused of plotting to overthrow her brother, and she or he fled to Palestine, the place she raised a military for the approaching civil conflict. At this level, Julius Caesar arrived in Alexandria, and Cleopatra smuggled herself into the palace to satisfy him.

The unbiased city-state of Ascalon on the coast of Palestine was by no means a part of Cleopatra’s realm, however she should have charmed the residents, or carried out them some favor, as a result of they issued silver tetradrachms with a powerful portrait of the younger queen (c. 50-49 BCE). On Harlan Berk’s listing of the 100 biggest historic cash, this uncommon sort is #30 (Berk, 74). Lower than 10 examples are recognized. The final one to seem at public sale in 2017 introduced over $87,000[5]!

Arguably probably the most well-known lady of classical antiquity, Cleopatra VII was born about 69 BCE. We have no idea who her mom was, and the quantity “VII” could also be in error (the id of Cleopatra VI is unsure, and could also be a double-counting of Cleopatra V). With the assistance of Caesar’s legions, Cleopatra defeated her brother, who was drowned within the Nile. One other spare youthful brother, aged about 12, was duly put in as ceremonial male co-ruler “Ptolemy XIV Theos Philopator II”.

Cleopatra VII Thea Neotera & Ptolemy XV CaesarionCleopatra VII Thea Neotera & Ptolemy XV Caesarion. 44-30 BC. BI Tetradrachm (24mm, 13.20 g, 11h). Alexandreia mint. Dated yr 1 of Caesarion (37/6 BC). Diademed head of Ptolemy I proper, sporting aegis round neck / Eagle standing proper on thunderbolt; to left, star above LA (date); ΠA to left. Svoronos 1816 (Ptolemy XIII); SNG Copenhagen 412; Noske 374. Good Fantastic, some roughness, spot of encrustation on obverse. Uncommon. The first situation for Caesarion.

On June 23, 47 BCE, Cleopatra gave delivery to Julius Caesar’s son, Ptolemy XV, recognized by the epithet “Caesarion”. Uncommon cash dated Yr 1 of Caesarion have been issued in 37 BCE to mark the boy’s elevation to co-ruler together with his mom[6].

Cleopatra’s bronze coinage was a big foreign money reform. Her portrait seems on the obverse, and her identify and title (KΛEOΠATPAΣ BAΣIΛIΣΣHΣ, “of Queen Kleopatra”) are inscribed round an eagle on the reverse. There have been two primary varieties: a big “diobol” of about 21 grams, denominated as 80 bronze drachms and marked with the Greek numeral for 80 (Π); and a smaller “obol” of about 9 grams, marked with “M” for 40.

As a result of so many collectors need to personal a coin of Cleopatra, these varieties command very robust costs. Lengthy after Cleopatra’s dying, they remained in circulation; surviving examples are sometimes fairly worn. Prior to now, many of those cash have been tooled to “improve” the small print of the portrait, so really pristine examples go for a lot larger costs. An outstanding diobol introduced over $10,000 in a 2013 public sale[7], and in 2010 a selection obol went for $three,500 towards an estimate of $1,000[8].

Mark Antony issued some traditionally necessary and extremely collectible cash bearing Cleopatra’s portrait, however these won’t be thought-about right here since they have been Roman relatively than Ptolemaic Egyptian.

To keep away from being paraded by way of Rome in Octavian’s triumph, Cleopatra killed herself on August 10 or 12, 30 BCE.

The last scene of Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra repeats the traditional author Plutarch’s account, through which a Roman officer bursts into the room the place Cleopatra has simply died to demand of her handmaid Charmian, “Is this well done?”:

It’s nicely completed, and becoming for a princess
Descended of so many royal kings.

–Act V, scene ii

Ptolemy of Mauritania: The Final Ptolemy (24 – 40 CE)

Cleopatra VII’s surviving daughter by Mark Antony, Cleopatra Selene, married Juba II (reigned 30 BCE – 23 CE), the Roman shopper king of Mauritania[9]. Their son, Ptolemy of Mauritania, struck cash on the Roman denarius commonplace, together with his portrait and his identify and title inscribed in Latin[10]. In 40 CE he was summoned to Rome by his cousin, the emperor Caligula, and murdered–apparently as a result of he wore a gold-embroidered purple cloak extra splendid than Bootsie’s[11].

With the dying of Cleopatra’s grandson, the dynasty of the Ptolemies got here to an finish.

* * *


[1] Few historic papyrus paperwork survive from Alexandria because of the humid local weather and frequent civil unrest – the prevailing paper path primarily displays life in Higher Egypt.

[2] Gorny and Mosch, Public sale 232, 5 October 2015, Lot 316. Realized $three,364 USD.

[3] Numerous weights have been used for the silver expertise in antiquity. The Romans reckoned a expertise at roughly 33 kg (73 kilos).

[4] Bertolami Public sale 16, 17 June 2015, Lot 301.

[5] Roma Numismatics, Public sale XIII, 23 March 2017, Lot 428. Realized $87,686 USD.

[6] Classical Numismatic Group (CNG) Sale 84, 5 Might 2010, Lot 770. Realized $1,400 USD.

[7] Roma Numismatics, Public sale 6, 29 September 2013, Lot 682. Realized $10,479 USD.

[8] CNG Triton XIII, 5 January 2010, Lot 240.

[9] In western North Africa; the capital was Caesarea, now Cherchell, 55 miles (89 km) west of Algiers.

[10] Marti Hervera, Soler & Llach Public sale 107, 18 Might 2012, Lot 2406. Realized approx. $165 USD.

[11] The nickname “Caligula” actually means “Little Boots”.


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