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Thessaly, Phalanna: Two Uncommon AE Added to my Collection (both ex-BCD, as most of them are!)

Curtis JJ

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As with most things, I have a LOT more to say about the coins of Phalanna at some point (I'll restrain myself now), specifically the type with the "bare male head," sometimes identified as Ares (?) or less commonly as Apollo (?). Preview/short version: Only the helmeted one on the right is actually Ares. All the bare male heads should probably be called Peloros, the mythological Thessalian "messenger" hero.


  • Left: Æ Dichalkon: 16mm, 4.25g, 6h, Male head left / Head of nymph right wearing sakkos (BCD Thess II 584; Rogers 454; HGC 4, 179; Papevangelou-Genakos 11; BMC p. 41, 11) [Ex L.H., BCD Collection]
  • Right: Æ Chalkous: 12.5mm, 2.01 g, 12h (Ex CNG 519, 106) Head of Ares helmeted / Horse pracing right (BCD Thess 577; Rogers 457; HGC 4, 182; Papevangelou-Genakos 11) [Ex CNG 519, 106, BCD Collection, acq. early 1990s].


I have several dozen other Phalanna AE (at least 40 more); the vast majority are Male Head Right / Nymph Head Right types.

The head left varieties are all rare (male head, nymph, or both). The Ares in helmet is also at least scarce, but CNG has sold a few of them lately, as have other sellers.

Just a few others:


(See also: CNG EA 455, Lot 84 and Lot 85.)

The vast majority of mine are also ex-BCD. But it's clear from looking at auction records that the majority of Phalannian coins passed through the collection: CNG sold group lots containing thousands of ex-BCD bronzes just from Phalanna (Triton XVI, Lot 1641 alone contained 1,124 Phalanna AE). (There is a lot more variety, and the series is a lot more interesting, than one might realize. The dies are quite variable, and issues were struck for multiple generations, if not centuries.)

A coin-in-hand video showing a few favorites:


On a related note: Any time I buy coins with old collector tags -- especially in group lots, where they could be mixed up and be difficult or impossible to sort again -- I immediately photograph the coins with the tags. (That way I always know which goes with which, and even if the tags were to get lost, the information would at least be saved.)

Please share some coins or thoughts or something!

Edited by Curtis JJ
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Another BCD coin from Phalanna 

Ae Trichalkon of Phalanna 250-200 BC. According to BCD probably circa 220 BC Obv Male head right bare (Ares?) Rv. Head of nymph Phalanna right wearing sakkos HGC 171 5.01 grms 18 mm Photo By W. Hansen Triton XV Lot 593.4 BCD Collection January 3  2012phalanna5.jpg.c913fa777a2c849b30e34cd49d0dbe35.jpg

This is a fairly late example from this mint that was in BCD's remarkably extensive collection. This group was probably bought by a dealer who sold it sometime later to a Canadian dealer who in June of that year sold the coin to me. 

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8 hours ago, The Pontian said:

Unfortunately the video that you posted is not working

Thanks for the heads-up. Are you sure, though? I just tried it on a couple different people's phones (iPhones) and it was fine, just as on my Android (and my Windows laptop). Either they're was a temporary problem or something I'm unable to see. 

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Nice new acquisitions! My only coin from Phalanna is the most common type and not in the best condition. It was an unattributed pick bin find back when I started collecting:


Thessaly, Phalanna, AE17, ca. 400–344 BC. Obv: Head of Ares r. Rev: ΦΑΛΑΝΝΑΙΩΝ; head of nymph (Phalanna?) r., with hair in sakkos. 17mm, 5.15g. Ref: SNG Copenhagen 205; BMC 4–7.

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Wow! Nice collection from Phalanna!

I've been looking to acquire a Phalanna bronze, but the series is daunting to understand. Attribution to a year also seems controversial. For example, I've seen some auctioneers correlate an issue to the Battle of Crocus Fields (which, if possible, would make it a high priority). However, I've read elsewhere that it's nearly impossible to date or even order this series with any certainty.

Is there one resource that's well-respected for this series, or is it pretty much a wild west? I haven't purchased one yet because I'm not certain which will fit my collection best.

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Lovely Phalanna AE, @kapphnwn! Definitely deserved its place in BCD Thessaly II, unusually artistic for the late series. Also a die-match to lot 124 in CNG 90, an useful BCD Thess. Supplement.

Your monogram ~ 7h rev. makes it special. The "plate coins" (BCD Thess I & II) disproportionately have "signatures" / controls, since they're showing the full range, not a random sample. But only a few of mine have any visible. I don't think there's an adequate explanation for them yet. (They appear peppered through the entire series, well over a century.)

This later series with Ā - monogram (A w/ hat) is absent from BCD Thess II (unless Lot 579’s “A” is actually Ā) 


Speaking of dating, very few have any kind of date more precise than "4th century" or "early 3rd century."

But the Ares / Horse AE Chalkoi (my right OP coin) were dated to "Circa 322 BC":

  • "[The depicitions of Helmeted] Ares, the god of war ... are a departure from the nymph subjects, probably not without a reason. At the beginning of the Lamian War the Thessalians were allies of Macedon, but soon changed sides and supported the rebel forces that were led by the Athenians and included practically all the central and southern Greek cities. The outcome of the war was not in their favour but after the battle of Krannon the victorious Macedonians treated the Thessalians very leniently and life in the cities returned to normal quite quickly. It may be that the bronzes featuring Ares on the obverse were struck as one of the contributions of Phalanna when the Thessalian cities decided to join their southern neighbours in the fight against Macedonian imperialism."
  • BCD Thessaly II 576 (see also 577; seven months earlier, ASW had cataloged BCD Thess. Part I, Nos. 1257 & 1258 with much less specificity).


I'm plotting a post on my annotated bibliography of the BCD Collection(s), catalogs, and others' bibliographies of it, along with my "BCD Collection-Collection" (~90 coins). For now, just  a few more of my Thessaly AR & AE -- that way if anyone wants to share any other mint (including Roman Provincial -- very interesting!!), their coins can feel welcome too! (Or even non-Thessaly BCD coins. And, it goes without saying, non-BCD Thessaly!)

Krannon, AE Hemichalkon or Chalkous (13mm, 2.10g, 12h), 4th cent. BCE.
BCD Thess II 115.4
Photo: Leu.


Larissa AR Drachm, 20mm, 5.68g, 5h, c. 400-370 BCE.
BCD Thess II 218 = Lorber-Shahar (2007)Group 1, Head Type 1, dies O6/R3, Specimen A = Lorber (2009, SNR) “Thessaly 1993 Hoard (CH IX 64),” page 131, No. 9 & Plate 9.
Photo: CNG Triton XV.


Nero, Koinon of Thessaly (Thessalian League) Assarion or Diassarion (?) (22mm, 9.52 g, 6h). Depicting Nero-as-Apollo radiate playing Kithara on rev. This type copies the famous Nero-fiddling-as-Apollo type Roman Imperial As and Dupondius issues. Struck 66/7 CE.
Type = RPC 1439.
This coin = Burrer 1.1 A1/R1 = CNG EA 325, Lot 39 ("Coinage of the Thessalian League from the BCD Collection”) 


Another Nero Koinon issue, same denomination (20mm, 6.88 g, 12h). This one depicts a traditional Thessalian scene -- the Taurokathapsia. Kind of an ancient Greek rodeo / bull fighting. In this case, think of bull-wrangling from horseback. Until Burrer (1993) and BCD (2011-2012), who was a colleague of Burrer's, the description from Rogers (1932) still stood, that this was a “bovine centaur seizing a rearing horse”! Occasionally one still sees scholars mistakenly using Rogers rather than the newer descriptions.
Type = RPC 1440.
Also from the "BCD Thessalian League" sale, which I consider one of the important BCD Thessaly Supplements (my page annotating the sale). Lot 45.


Thessaly, Heraclea AR Oboll (10mm, 0.81g, 7h).
Jameson 1081A = ex Lambros, BCD, and J. Gilman (and Kirk Davis Catalog 78, 25!)



Halos AE Dichalkon (20mm, 5.98g, 12h). 3rd century BC.
Type: BCD 85-86.2; Rogers 241-242.


Lamia (the Malians) AE Chalkous (14.5mm, 2.89g, 12h). 4th century BC.
Type: Rogers 384 (Malia); BCD Thessaly II 125.


Edit: Rogers is 1932, not 1936 (fixed now). Available online from FORVM: 
Rogers, E. 1932. The Copper Coinage of Thessaly. London: Spink & Son.

Edited by Curtis JJ
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I have a number of bronze coins with BCD attributions, but only one coin that is ex-BCD. I have his tag, but not a photo of it.


Arkadia. Arcadian League. Megalopolis
AR Obol 320-275 BCE
12.24mm .87 grams
Obverse: Head of Pan left
Reverse: Monogram of the Arcadian League, I in left field, syrinx below
BCD Peloponnesos (Megalopolis) 1517
Ex Strasbourg (4 December 1985)
Ex Marc Breitsprecher

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This one's another ex-BCD Collection coin:

Phalanna Thessaly : Ae Chalkous, Mid-late 4th century BC (14.8mm, 4.4gms) 

Obv: ΠΕΛΟΡEΣ; Head of Zeus Peloris right

Rev: ΦΑΛΑ-NN; The nymph Phalanna seated right on chair, feeding stork to right

Ref: BCD Thessaly II - 5



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1 hour ago, kirispupis said:

Is there one resource that's well-respected for this series, or is it pretty much a wild west? I haven't purchased one yet because I'm not certain which will fit my collection best.

Yes, it is very challenging. Aside from the BCD Catalogs (below), I've been unable to find much written about Phalanna. Nothing really that's specific to just Phalanna, but BCD Thessaly gives it more attention than anyone else. Part One (BCD Thessaly I = Nomos 4) was cataloged by Alan S Walker, and it includes the best of the best in the collection. It's wonderful to read and includes lots of introductory and background materials, maps, etc., that are worth reading. But it doesn't aim to be as comprehensives as Part Two (BCD Thessaly II = CNG XV), cataloged by BCD himself, and trying to cover as much range as possible and give as many varieties as he could. It's important not to just use the ACSearch records of the lots because much of the important material is actually in the group lots (you also miss all the front material with history, geography, anthropology, etc.). I've linked free PDFs (downloadable or read-online) for both catalogs (from the publishers, so it's with permission).


From my Annotated Bibliography of BCD Collection / Catalogs

BCD Thessaly I = Nomos 4 (10 May 2011) = ACSearch 437 lots (large group lots show tiny photos [e.g., 1435 of 31 AR], I’ve had trouble with Nomos online archive, but CNG archive includes “Nomos 3 & 4” & shows all); pdf catalog available on Issuu; famously cataloged by ASW with back-and-forth commentary from BCD;

BCD Thessaly II = Triton XV [CNG] (3 Jan 2012) = ACSearch first 1,000 lots (doesn’t separate XV.1-2 from XV.3 [non-BCD], printed in separate catalogs, only one coin per group lot, CNG’s web archive shows all); pdf catalog on Issuu or on Archive;

Edit: I haven't gotten this one so I don't know what it says yet, but I know Phalanna is included: 
Hoover, O. 2014. Handbook of Coins of Northern and Central Greece. HGC 4. Lancaster, PA: CNG. 
Rogers is mainly of Bibliographic / Historical value: 
Rogers, E. 1932. The Copper Coinage of Thessaly. London: Spink & Son.

Also, on BCD Collection / Catalogs: 


I recommend Warren W Esty’s valuable page annotating the important BCD sales (I keep a printed copy on the shelf with my catalogs): http://augustuscoins.com/ed/catalogs/BCD.html. See also: indexes of LHS 96 by WWE & ASW. For his catalog annotations generally, see “Contents of Sale Catalogs (by firm)(by collecting theme).”


I'll check my bibliography and see if there's anything else, but I don't think there is.

Some more general thoughts...

Older references on Thessalian coinage (like Rogers 1932) or major references (like BMC Thessaly or Head's Historia Numorum) describe Phalanna's coins, but only in a very summary way, as do some more recent references on Thessaly. As far as I'm aware, no one besides BCD and ASW (who cataloged BCD Thess Part I) has really tried to catalog or conduct a die-study of the Phalanna series in any detail. (I would imagine BCD must have unpublished materials, but I've never contacted him to ask.)

Not much is known about Phalanna the city either. My Barrington Atlas of the Ancient World shows it as Orthe/Phalanna, located in Norther, mainland Thessaly. But I don't think that's entirely accepted. BCD Thessaly raises the point that Orthe-Phalanna is not the same as the Orthe (Orthos) referenced in Homer; apparently, they're usually believed to be the same. There's an entry for it in An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis but I don't remember what it says. (There was probably also a Phalanna on Crete, which confused early scholars: Eckhel’s 1829 Part I, Vol 2, page 147 describes Phalanna as an island in Crete.)

There are really a lot of open mysteries about Phalanna and its coins. (Having realized how little is written about Phalanna's coins, I have been drafting a little paper or "research note" that I may try to submit somewhere.)

Edited by Curtis JJ
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26 minutes ago, O-Towner said:

This one's another ex-BCD Collection coin:

Phalanna Thessaly : Ae Chalkous, Mid-late 4th century BC (14.8mm, 4.4gms) 

Obv: ΠΕΛΟΡEΣ; Head of Zeus Peloris

Ah, yes, the Zeus Peloris chalkoi from Phalanna! Interesting coins.

There is a World War II article in Harvard Theological Review that begins:

  • "A note of mine written under war conditions may now be supplemented from literature to which I recently had access. I had proved, with the help of a Greek coin of Phalanna in Thessaly which is preserved in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, that the Zeus of the Thessalian Peloria had the name Peloris, not Pelorios...."
  • Hechelheim 1947; on JSTOR with free account.


On well enough preserved examples the obv legend would read: ΠΕΛΟΡΕΣ ... But that's very rare to see. Here's one that's truly exceptional for even having part of the legend visible:  CNG EA 351, 125:




This is my one example of the type:


Purchased by BCD at CNG e-Auction 183 (5 Mar 2008), Lot 54. Apparently he believed at first that there was countermark on the obverse (Zeus' ear and cheek) but later changed his mind (according to his hand-written tag), based on comparison to other dies.

But I'm not convinced: Looking at the coin in hand, it's very hard for to accept it's not a countermark! It certainly looks like one. I'll keep looking, though, because no one has ever known Thessalian coinage better than the coin's previous owner.

Edited by Curtis JJ
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Thanks for the info Curtis! I'll have to change my attribution to Peloros from Ares.  


Another Phalanna Ex BCD with tags and a redish/maroon mixed patina.


Phalanna, Thessaly. AE dichalkon 17mm. Ex BCD.

Obv: Young male head of Ares right / ΦAΛANNAIΩN.
Rev: Head of the nymph Phalanna right, A behind neck.



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25 minutes ago, AncientOne said:

Thanks for the info Curtis! I'll have to change my attribution to Peloros from Ares.  

Thanks! I would keep Peloros tentative for the moment though: "Male head right (Peloros?)" or something like that. That attribution is often found with the silver ones from Phalanna but less often the bronze coins of the same type for some reason.

The basis for "Ares" is really kind of absurd once you look into the history of it: It comes from Gardner's 1883 BMC Thessaly (no problem so far, that's a foundational text). But elsewhere he explains his reasoning:

He claims it's the same head as used on Philip II's gold staters -- not entirely unreasonable, except that ... everyone else accepts Philip II's Gold Staters as depicting Apollo, not Ares!

not my coin, photo by CNG (484, 142)


(I do think you could actually make a case for Apollo on the Phalanna coins, despite the absent laurel wreath; it's certainly more sensible than Ares.)

It's just bizarre that Gardner's Ares has been so widely adopted without anyone really even noticing why he believed it. He pulled a switcheroo!


Here's a relevant section from something I started drafting on the topic in 2020 and need to get back to, including the references cited and links to  free online copies via Google Books:

  • [...] The identification of Ares seems to have been popularized by Percy Gardner in the British Museum’s Catalogue of Greek Coins, Volume 6, covering the coins of Thessaly (1883a: p. 41). He identified the obverse imagery (on a silver drachm) as “Male head r. with short hair (Ares?).” (For the bronze coinage, immediately following in the catalog, Gardner dropped the mention of Ares, but it is understood to apply to all such obverses and has been widely adopted.)

    Though the British Museum Catalogue doesn’t explain why the head is identified as Ares, Gardner does explain in an essay published separately the same year (1883b: p. 153-154). In it, he suggests a rather controversial rationale, that it is the same figure as depicted on the obverse of the famous gold Staters in the name of Philip II of Macedon. Such a claim would be easy to accept, were it not for the fact that he takes the outlandish position that the Philip II AV Stater depicts Ares rather than the nearly universal identification of Apollo. [...]

    Gardner, Percy. 1883 (a). A Catalogue of Greek Coins in the British Museum: Thessaly to Aetolia, Volume 6. London: British Museum.
    Gardner, Percy. 1883 (b). The Types of Greek Coins: An Archaeological Essay. Cambridge U Press.


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I've had this smaller Ae (chalkous?) for a while and not sure how to describe it. The weight seems to be lighter than the seated reverse type.

Phalanna Thessaly : Ae : Mid-late 4th century BC (14.3mm, 2.8gms)

Obv: Bearded bust of Zeus Peloris right

Rev: ΦΑΛΑNN; Head of nymph right with hair in sakkos tied with ribbons

Ref: Rogers 455


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26 minutes ago, O-Towner said:

I've had this smaller Ae (chalkous?) for a while and not sure how to describe it. The weight seems to be lighter than the seated reverse type.

I would say this in within the usual range of both types.There are coins of this and the nymph seated that range anywhere from under 2.4 (a seated one, for example, even less is worn/corroded, mine is only 2.27g) to over 4.3g (a 4.37g example of the same type as yours).

Personally, I would call it an AE Chalkous. There are two factors complicating which types to call "Hemichalkon," "Chalkous," "Dichalkon," and "Trichalkon" (don't know if there are Phalanna "Tetrachalkoi," I've only seen it used for coins that others would call "Di-" or "Tri-"):

1. There's a lot of variability within any single issue -- they weren't nearly as precise about weight with the bronze coins as with the silver. On occasion, heavy specimens can weigh double the light specimens.

2. The mint was producing relatively similar coins for centuries, and the standards may well have drifted over time. So a fourth century Dichalkon might weigh the same as a third century Trichalkon. Possibly vice-versa.

BCD Thessaly I and II are generally the most careful and studied references, but I'm not even sure they're entirely consistent on this point. (And CNG certainly hasn't been consistent in following it in the decade-plus since.)

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