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Gift Coin! Secret Saturnalia Seleucid


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Io, Saturnalia everyone!

This morning I was pleasantly surprised to learn that today marks the beginning of Saturnalia. (For some reason I had been thinking it was this coming Monday.) The mysterious package which had been sitting on my desk for the past week could finally be opened!

It's my first year participating in this gift exchange and I had a lot of fun putting together the package for my giftee. As for my own gift, I knew I'd like it, but of course I had no idea what it might be. However, I had not expected to open the package and see this!



I am simply blown away by the generosity of my Secret Santa. Many, many thanks to @Nerosmyfavorite68 for such an amazing gift! It's my first Seleucid coin, and will remain a top favorite in my collection. I love the dark toning and the details on both obverse and reverse - the above photo is okay but to do the coin more justice I took a short video of it as well:



Receiving this coin also prompted me to learn more about Antiochus VII. For many of you this is probably old knowledge, but I found it fascinating, particularly his unusually respectful and tolerant behavior toward the Jews:

"In his nine-year reign, Antiochus made some effort to undo the massive territorial and authority losses of recent decades. Antiochus defeated the usurper Diodotus Tryphon at Dora and laid siege to Jerusalem in 134 BC. During the siege he allowed a seven-day truce for the Jews to celebrate a religious festival, impressing the Jewish leadership. According to Josephus the Hasmonean leader John Hyrcanus opened King David's sepulchre and removed three thousand talents, which he then paid Antiochus to spare the city. Nevertheless, King Antiochus' respectful treatment of the Jews, and respect for their religion, earned him their gratitude and added name Euergetes ("the Benefactor"). With no Jewish sources of that time (the Book of Maccabees ends a few years before his time), it is unclear if the siege of Jerusalem ended with a decisive Seleucid victory or simply a peace treaty. Furthermore, Jewish forces later assisted Antiochus in his wars, and for nearly 20 years after his death, John Hyrcanus refrained from attacking areas under Seleucid control.

"Antiochus spent the final years of his life attempting to reclaim the lost eastern territories, overrun by the Parthians under their "Great King", Mithridates I. Marching east, with what would prove to be the last great Seleucid royal army (including a unit of Judean troops under John Hyrcanus), he defeated Mithridates in two battles. He restored Mesopotamia, Babylonia and Media to the Seleucid empire, before dispersing his army into winter quarters.

"The Seleucid king and army spent the winter feasting, hunting and drinking (the Seleucids maintained the Macedonian tradition of heavy drinking). As with any time an army is quartered upon a population, tensions soon grew between the locals and the Syrian troops.

"The new Parthian ruler, Phraates II, had not been idle. He raised a new army while stirring up rebellion in the Seleucid occupied towns of Media. Hoping to further sow dissension amongst his foes, Phraates also released his long-held prisoner, Demetrius II, Antiochus' older brother, who returned to Syria to reclaim the throne.

"That winter (130–129 BC), several Median towns rose in rebellion and attacked their Seleucid garrisons. Antiochus marched to support one such isolated garrison with only a small force (probably only his Royal Guards). In a barren valley, he was ambushed and killed in the Battle of Ecbatana by Phraates II and a large force of Parthians, who had entered the country without being detected. After the battle the Parthians claimed that Antiochus killed himself because of fear. Most Greco-Roman historians state that he died in battle. Appian, however, states that he did commit suicide."

(Taken from Wikipedia)

Thanks once again to my Secret Santa and to @Curtisimo for organizing this fun exchange!

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I am most delighted that you really liked the coin!  I'm sorry that the first try was a failure but the fine folks at Forum bailed me out.  My strategy was to find a beautiful but common, coin, rather than a grotty rarity.  Europe really has the best deals on the former but there was no time to go back and try again. Perhaps events turned out for the best.

I had to scramble a bit to choose the second coin but it was the best of the coins within that general price point. There were some of Antiochus III but they were rather mushy and were brightly cleaned.  I have since searched for an example for myself and I guess I didn't do too badly, they were much more expensive.  Hmm, I might have one.. I kind of remember having one with a bird on the reverse, a 1990's buy.

I've always been interested in the Seleukid kingdom.  If my giftee is into something which I know about or am interested in, I can pick out a pretty good one. I know little to nothing about non-Hellenistic Greek or Judean AE.  If my giftee had been into that, I could have picked one with a nice patina, but other than that, I don't know one from another.  I would have also been in trouble with Indian.

I'm a bit agoraphobic so hence I'm a bit like Nero Wolfe.  That's why I found it very difficult to go the the post office during rush season and had to rely on it being sent directly.  The work ATM no longer sells stamps so I couldn't just slap some stamps on the first package (and the stamps would take up the entire package).

It warms my heart that my gift might open new collecting interests.

Oh, and I also read in  some dealers' description that the Tyrian ones were struck in the Tyrian shekel standard.


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I am very annoyed that due to the regulations in my country (last year I had to refuse one of our colleagues who wanted to send me a gift) - I cannot participate in such actions (receiving or sending) but I must say I am very glad to see collectors engaging in this type of activity 🙂

And yes, the coin is great - congratulations @Nerosmyfavorite68for the generosity and @CPK for the write-up.

Edited by ambr0zie
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25 minutes ago, Nerosmyfavorite68 said:

Oh, and I also read in  some dealers' description that the Tyrian ones were struck in the Tyrian shekel standard.


That is correct as I just learned from @Leo's great video on the Seleucid Empire. 

Another interesting thing about this coin is the speculation that it may have been struck with silver from the Jewish Temple treasury, out of the 3,000 talent tribute paid by John Hyrcanus. I'm not sure what the chances of this are, but it's an interesting though nonetheless!

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