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The Curious Case of the Hierapolis Bambyke Tetradrachm


Kaleun96
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I was doing some digging lately into a certain Alexander tetradrachm type attributed to Hierapolis Bambyke and found myself going down a bit of a rabbit hole that left me questioning its attribution. Price 3216 is the only Alexander type attributed to this mint and is known by a single specimen that dates back to the 19th century. This certainly struck me as a bit odd but assumed it would be unlikely to be attributed to this mint without strong evidence, given how odd it would seem to make an attribution for an entirely new Alexander mint based on a single coin.

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Price 3216 - a tetradrachm attributed to Hierapolis Bambyke.

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Map showing definitive and possible Lifetime mints of Alexander. Hierapolis Bambyke is located just to the East of Myriandrus.

I started by tracing the steps back from the main source, Martin Price's 1991 work "The Coinage in the Name of Alexander the Great and Philip Arrhidaeus" as it is the primary reference for coins of Alexander. Price leaned heavily on Edward Newell's attribution from his 1906 work on the Demanhur hoard, saying:

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Newell attributed to this mint a single coin of the Demanhur hoard. The style is distinctively near eastern, but does not fall within the main groups so far identified. [...] Amongst the latest of these are issues in the name of Alexander, but with his name written in Aramaic. This connection with the city indeed makes it possible that imperial issues might have emanated from the mint.

Price recognises that the coin is likely Eastern in origin and that seems likely given the style of Herakles with the sharp, pointed mane of the lion headdress as well as the stiff Baal-like portrayal of Zeus with uncrossed legs, parallel and paired folds of the himation, large sepal leaves on the throne legs, lotus-tipped staff, and the Eastern rendering of the Xi letter in Alexander's name. An Eastern origin seems almost certain, but from which mint? There were many active at this time, Tarsos, Sidon, Ake (Tyre), Myriandros, and Arados would be likely candidates, so why does Price attribute it to Hierapolis Bambyke? Price continues:

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Newell was impressed by the parallel between the Greek M, which appears on some issues of this mint, and the letter on this Alexander issue. However, the style and fabric of the Bambyce issues are always so different from the imperial issue, that it seems very unlikely that they were near contemporary products of the same mint.

Here Price notes why Newell originally attributed it to this mint: the letter "M" below the throne. Price seems to somewhat accept this reasoning, weak as it sounds, but notes that he thinks this coin and the other type from this mint that Newell links it to are unlikely to have been contemporaneous. If that's the case, why then suppose they must be linked? The M perhaps could stand for the other name by which this city was known: Manbog. However, there are several mints that all start with M and could equally claim that relationship, such as: Mallos, Myriandros, and Marathus.

To further understand exactly why Hierapolis Bambyke was chosen, we'll need to dig further. Price cites both Newell's Demanhur work and Müller's 1855 Numismatique d'Alexandre le Grand. Starting with Newell, as he was the first to make this attribution, we find that his reasoning does not go much further than what was explained by Price:

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The proposed assignment of this coin (Plate VI, 2) is still open to doubt. Its style closely resembles that found on the issues of Tarsus, Myriandrus, and some of the Phoenician cities, yet is still too individual to allow its insertion among the coinages of any of these mints. The actual cutting of the dies is also somewhat cruder. Now we know that a considerable issue of Persic silver staters took place in the very important religious and commercial centre of Bambyce in the period that immediately preceded and immediately succeeded the arrival of Alexander the Great. These issues, too, are in imitation of the contemporaneous coinages of both Tarsus and Myriandrus, and their execution is crude to the same degree as that of our tetradrachm, No. 2897. Furthermore, on the last issue of these local staters, on a coin actually bearing the name of Alexander in Aramaic characters, appears as magistrate’s sign the Greek letter M. This coin is perhaps the transitional piece between the local coinages of Persic silver staters and the introduction of the Alexander tetradrachm. At any rate, there is no other locality in all the eastern district to which this lone tetradrachm fits so well as to Hierapolis-Bambyce. Its possible attribution to that important city is therefore suggested here.

 

There is a few bits of new information here to follow up on. First, Newell thought the style was too crude and dissimilar to other Eastern mints to belong there. Second, he also thinks the Alexander and Persian types known to be struck at Hierapolis Bambyke also imitated the types of Tarsos and Myriandros and were similarly crudely engraved. And thirdly, that there is no other possible alternative given the facts we know.

Let's start with the earlier Persic stater issued at this mint in the name of Alexander that has the same "M" monogram. The coin comes from the collection of the British Museum and was plated in Warwick Worth's A Catalogue of Greek Coins in the British Museum in 1900. 

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Plate XVII coin 7 is a Persic stater type issued from Hierapolis Bambyke after Alexander's arrival and in his name. The M monogram can be found below the horse on the obverse.

The photo quality is not great so it's hard to draw any solid conclusions about the accuracy of the imitative iconography (e.g. the walking-lion reverse known from Tarsiote staters of this period). The "M" itself seems reasonably similar to that of Price 3216 but it also looks like a fairly standard Greek "M" - why should it be only similar to the M of this issue? For other tetradrachm types with an "M" monogram, Newell instead supposes they're representative of a magistrate instead of a city. In those cases, the mint attribution is more clear so there's no need to guess whether the M stands for the city or magistrate name but that fact only makes Newell's argument in favour of Bambyke for the 3216 coin weaker.

The Persic stater from Bambyke Newell alludes too is the only example of its type, and as far as I can work out no other similar types from this mint carry the same monogram. Nathanael Andrade published new plates of this example (Plate 5, coin 53) in his article The Silver Coinage of Syrian Manbog (Hierapolis-Bambyke). However, the JSTOR copy of this article has low resolution so there's no use repeating the photos from the article of the coin again here. Nathanael does not dwell too much on this specific type (designated Series 12) as most other types struck in the name of Alexander from this mint are also known from only a couple of examples and are fairly divergent in iconography, so little can be drawn from this specifically. He does note that they must've been issued following the Battel of Issus in 333 BC and perhaps without strict supervision of Macedonian authorities given the different iconography versus the standard Alexander type and the fact that his name was written in Aramaic. This might point to a date closer to 333 BC than, say, 330 BC, and perhaps could be interesting if they were found to predate the standard Alexander tetradrachms altogether. These stater types must've halted production shortly after, however, given the low numbers by which they're known. The thread kind of dries up here as it doesn't seem there's much more we can say to link this specific stater with the "M" monogram to Price 3216.

Turning our attention now to Müller, Price 3216 is designated as Müller 1315 and attributed to the mint of Mallos. His reasoning is translated from French somewhat roughly below:

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The pieces that follow are joined by the letter M and are linked to the previous series by the monogram Ml, the initials Ml, the massae, the unusual monogram on No. 1316 and by B. The monogram on No. 1306 in front of the figure provided the letters MA or MAA which undoubtedly express the name of the city of Mallus; the same monogram se. sees under the lion on a silver piece of tarsal indentation of the Alexander period and has been explained there with reason in the same way. M , probably in the same meaning, is placed on other coins of Tarsus before Baal Tars enthroned, and under the throne of the same god on coins which for several reasons must be attributed to Mallus. We have already observed (p. 280 note 24) that B is added to some of the latter, and that the club may be an emblem of Mallus whose coins offer Herculean types. We can conclude that M on the pieces of this suite denotes Mallus.

Müller is connecting many different Alexander types here based on the similarity of monograms to Persic issues he believe were struck at Mallos. It's worth noting that many of the Alexander types he has attributed this way have since been attributed to several other mints such as Myriandros and Sidon, or no known mint at all. These types are also all very different in style and must span a large timeframe given some are clearly early lifetime Alexanders, and others are later posthumous types. So in general, is his reasoning here seems very weak, but not much can be expected given the time he was working in and the information he had available. One thing that is worth following up on is his link to the Persic staters with the "M" monogram.

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9188669.jpg.066afd807732fffaf43fff987779722c.jpg

 

I believe he may have been referencing the above type, a Persic Cilician stater with a seated Baaltars on the obverse and the Walls of Tarsos with a lion, bull, and club on the reverse. Leu Numismatik attributed the top coin to Tarsos under Mazaios, while CNG attributed the bottom coin to Mallos under Balakros. I haven't looked into this attribution specifically but my assumption was that this type is from Tarsos, not Mallos. CNG has attributed similar types with the "B" letter on the reverse to Tarsos under Balakros. I also think it's possible that the "M" is actually a rotated sigma, as this type is known to feature a retrograde or rotated sigma letter below the throne. If rotated 90 degrees, Σ would appear as an M. Whether Tarsos or Mallos, I don't think it helps us too much here unless we want to start speculating with the 3216 coin is from Mallos, but such an argument seems just as week as supposing it is from Manbog (Hierapolis Bambyke).

So I don't think Müller's reasoning here is sound but it relies on roughly the same amount as evidence as does Newell's and Price's attribution to Hierapolis Bambyke, given both types they allude to with the "M" monogram were being issued at approximately the time of Alexander's arrival. Given we're running out of steam on where to look next, I'm going to touch on just two further points: the origin of the single example of Price 3216 and its similarities with types from other mints.

Starting with the origin of the coin, I admit I have no dug too deeply but I did come across an interesting passage in Giovanni Dattari: un numismatico italiano al Cairo, a study of the life and work of famous numismatist Giovanni Dattari. The original is in Italian so I have translated it to English below:

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In the lot, now in the possession of Dattari, alongside 239 owls, there would also have been a tetradrachm Heracles/Zeus enthroned with the mark M (300): although the oxidation led Dattari himself to consider the coin congruous with the hoard, nevertheless he he resigned himself to concluding that ''whether the single coin was really found in the hoard or whether it was accidentally or purposely put there, I have been unable to ascertain; I feel obliged to mention this fact, but refrain from discussing it, though it would be of extreme interest, if the coin really formed part of the hoard''

Footnote 300: The coin, which was cataloged according to the 1855 catalog compiled by Ludvig Muller as a Mallus issue (Muller 1315), would later be reconsidered by Martin J. Price as a production of Hierapolis (PRICE 3216).

This makes it sound like Dattari possibly had a second example of this type, as Newell's was from the Demanhur hoard. I have been unable to find out where Müller's example came from, he only cites "Vienne" and I haven't found it in the Museum Wien's online collection. The source for this hoard of Dattari's is Comments on a Hoard of Athenian Tetradrachms found in Egypt, "Journal International d’Arche´ologie Numismatique" 8, pp. 103-114 but I have yet to find a copy available online for free. If anyone has it and can check, that would be very much appreciated! It would be especially interesting to see other examples of this type to better understand if it's really that unique in style or just expected variation of an existing type.

Which brings me to my final point, does Price 3216 resemble any other Alexander tetradrachm types? Well, yes it does, quite closely too. Price 3239 and Price 3240 are early types attributed to Ake (Tyre) by Martin Price and both feature an "M" monogram beneath the throne but with 3239 having a globule below the M. Price actually has 3239 as having the M and globule in the left field but this appears to be a mistake as Newell has the M and globule below the throne for both types and I can only find examples like this in PELLA as well.

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Price 3240

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Price 3216 again, for easy comparison

Price 3239 and 3240 seem to be similar enough in style and execution to be considered together, and in fact most examples of 3239 in PELLA are actually 3240 and several examples of 3240 are actually 3239. We see the same Eastern style on these examples as we do for the Price 3216 example above: stiff posture of Zeus, parallel legs, paired folds of the himation, hint of a lotus-tipped staff, Eastern-style Xi letter, curved legend, and similar style of Herakles' lion headdress. These two examples in particular are indeed quite close, even down to the style of throne (note the placements of the sepal leaves, mouldings on the legs, crossbars between the legs, and decoration below the seat). You might even think they could be the same engraver, but from what I can tell there aren't any die matches between 3239/3240 and 3216. The portraits of Herakles on 3239/3240 are all slightly more "pointed" in the facial features than for the 3216 portrait, and tend to have a slight hint of a smirk. The "M" is also usually a bit different but not so much that I think it not explainable by expected variation of a type across engravers at a mint.

So I don't think we can conclusively say 3216 is in fact from the Ake (Tyre) mint and an example of Price 3240 but it does seem just as likely as attributing it to Hierapolis Bambyke or Mallos, perhaps even much more likely given the number of similarities between the two types. However, I do think it worth dismissing Price 3216 as being attributed to Hierapolis Bambyke mint going forward, at least for my own purposes I think it is far too much of a stretch to uphold this attribution based on available evidence. If we can find photos of the other one (Dattari) or two (Müller) examples, that would definitely help clear things up.

I'll wrap things up here as this is getting a bit long now. Hope you enjoyed the read, this was a bit of an ad hoc research effort from yesterday so I may have made some mistakes here and there. I'll probably tidy this up in another draft and publish it on my website as a short article too.

Edited by Kaleun96
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45 minutes ago, Kaleun96 said:

The source for this hoard of Dattari's is Comments on a Hoard of Athenian Tetradrachms found in Egypt, "Journal International d’Arche´ologie Numismatique" 8, pp. 103-114 but I have yet to find a copy available online for free. If anyone has it and can check, that would be very much appreciated!

Hi @Kaleun96,

Very interesting! The Dattari article is available here https://archive.org/details/journalinternati89sboruoft/page/n108/mode/1up?q=Dattari

- Broucheion 

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Broucheion said:

Hi @Kaleun96,

Very interesting! The Dattari article is available here https://archive.org/details/journalinternati89sboruoft/page/n108/mode/1up?q=Dattari

- Broucheion 

Thanks for finding that! I wonder if Dattari included it in the plates, unfortunately it seems most of the plates are missing from that online copy. But what is useful is that I can see Dattari attributed the coin to Müller 1315, which is the attribution that Price uses for 3216 (the Hierapolis Bambyke coin). What's interesting about this is that, according to Price, it seems Müller did not have an attribution for the types from Tyre (Price's Ake) with the M monogram beneath the throne. So without a plate of either Dattari or Müller's coin, we can't say for certain whether it's actually a Price 3216 example or a Price 3240 example.

We know Newell at least to seemed to think they were different, given he attributed both the 3216 coin and examples of 3239 and 3240 in Demanhur. That was published in 1923, before this he published on the Sidon and Ake mints in 1916, where Price 3239 is known as Ake 2 and Price 3240 is Ake 3 but there's no mention of the Hierapolis Bambyke type, which I might've expected given its similarities. In fact, I don't think Newell explicitly comments on the similarities between these types at all, unless it's recorded elsewhere in his notes.

It doesn't appear that Newell even commented on the Price 3216 type prior to Demanhur, so perhaps he could not find any examples but surely he must've known of it from Müller. I'm not sure if he used Müller for any of his attributions in general either, I can't really find any references to Müller's typology in his work so perhaps not? I did notice that the example of Price 3239 he plates in The Dated Alexander Coinage of Sidon and Ake is from the Dattari collection! I wonder if this is the same coin Dattari noted in his 1905 publication of the Egyptian hoard and which he attributed to Müller 1315. Possibly not given the globule is not mentioned by Müller but it's possible that this was missed - as is still the case for some Tarsos types - or Dattari figured they were close enough.

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An example of Ake 2 / Price 3239 from the Dattari collection and published in The Dated Alexander Coinage of Sidon and Ake

 

To be more certain we'd need to know the weight of the Dattari example from the hoard but unfortunately it doesn't seem to be specified in either his article or in IGCH 1663. So in the end, we're left with Müller's 1315 type possibly being a known example of Price 3239 or 3240, Dattari's example possibly being 3239 or an a second 3216 example, and Newell with the only plated example of what became Price 3216. For Price himself, either he's inadvertently linked Müller's 1315 to his Price 3216 when it should be 3239 or 3240, or Müller's 1315 really is meant to be another example of 3216. We'll never know unless we can find the source of Müller's coin in the Vienna collection, and until we can find more info on the Dattari coin I'm inclined to think it's really just another example of 3239.

 

Edited by Kaleun96
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2 hours ago, Kaleun96 said:

Thanks for finding that! I wonder if Dattari included it in the plates, unfortunately it seems most of the plates are missing from that online copy.

Hi @Kaleun96,

For some reason the plates were shifted to around page 176. You can get to plate#2 from here, but the coin is not pictured. Dattari seems to have only mentioned it because it is not an Athenian tetradrachm but was found with the rest.

https://archive.org/details/journalinternati89sboruoft/page/n184/mode/1up?q=miNaz+il

- Broucheion

 

Edited by Broucheion
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1 hour ago, Broucheion said:

Hi @Kaleun96,

For some reason the plates were shifted to around page 176. You can get to plate#2 from here, but the coin is not pictured. Dattari seems to have only mentioned it because it is not an Athenian tetradrachm but was found with the rest.

https://archive.org/details/journalinternati89sboruoft/page/n184/mode/1up?q=miNaz+il

- Broucheion

Thanks again! Bit of a shame it's not plated but four Ptolemaic tetradrachms are, though I guess those are a bit more pertinent to the paper's topic given the hoard was found in Egypt. Still two avenues for tracking it down, though I'm unsuccessful so far:

1. Papers / resources in which Dattari's collection is published

2. Finding this paper on the hoard by Nicolet-Pierre and hoping that she mentions the coin: Nicolet-Pierre, H. 2001. “Retour sur le trésor de Tel el-Athrib 1903 (IGCH 1663) conservé à Athènes,” ArchEph 2001, pp. 173-187.

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35 minutes ago, Kaleun96 said:

Finding this paper on the hoard by Nicolet-Pierre and hoping that she mentions the coin: Nicolet-Pierre, H. 2001. “Retour sur le trésor de Tel el-Athrib 1903 (IGCH 1663) conservé à Athènes,” ArchEph 2001, pp. 173-187.

HI @Kaleun96,

That paper is here https://www.archetai.gr/images/pdfs/efimeris/Publ_A.E._2001.pdf#page=183

See footnote 8 on page 175, but I don't see the coin pictured nor the weight mentioned.

- Broucheion

 

Edited by Broucheion
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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, Broucheion said:

HI @Kaleun96,

That paper is here https://www.archetai.gr/images/pdfs/efimeris/Publ_A.E._2001.pdf#page=183

See footnote 8 on page 175, but I don't see the coin pictured nor the weight mentioned.

- Broucheion

You're good at this! I don't know how you managed to find it on that site, I was looking around on it yesterday but couldn't find it anywhere.

Thanks for finding the footnote too. Here's the relevant paragraph from the main text translated:

Quote

Dattari does not specify whether the alexandre which was part of the lot he was able to acquire also bore stamps. He only insists on the fact that his oxidation was similar to that of the “owls”. According to the reference he gives, this tetradrachm with the usual types of Alexander (head of Heracles / Zeus aetophorus) bore on the reverse the mark M under the seat of Zeus. In the great alexander hoard found at Demanhour in the Delta in 1906, four pieces bore, according to Newell, this mark. Three of them are attributed to the mint of Babylon, the fourth, in a very uncertain way, to a Syrian mint. All are dated during Alexander's lifetime. The presence of an alexander minted around 325 does not seem totally implausible in the treasury of Tel el-Athrib, whose coins have been used for a long time, as the stamps attest. However, too much uncertainty weighs on its real connection to the treasure for us to be able to draw a solid dating argument from it.

Here Nicolet-Pierre is referencing Price 3589, a type from Babylon that also has the M monogram. Babylon had many lifetime types with an M letter in various positions, this is the only one that has it below the throne with no other symbols. I had not bothered to mention or include it earlier in my initial discussion since the style is so obviously different but for the sake of completeness, here it is:

3589.jpg.1979c504bc40827d5c077a7f39007e2b.jpg

Price 3589 from Babylon. A lifetime example but of quite different style to either Price 3216 or Price 3240.

It is interesting to see that Newell differentiates the M of 3216, the M of 3589, and the M of 3239/3240:

M.jpg.71dc4f1334b957ba0df22c1963c66e25.jpg

Newell's "M" for Price 3216 (left), Price 3239/3240 (middle), and Price 3589 (right)

Basically a difference in size and with/without serifs. Not entirely sure why this difference is made, as on 3239/3240 the M can be a bit squashed and compact with the dots at intersecting lines giving an impression of serifs, but it can also be a bit more spread out and with less noticeable dots, more similar to the M on 3216. While Price 3589 doesn't seem to use dots at all for the intersecting lines and is of similar size and proportion (width relative to its height) to 3216. I can maybe understand why he made a point of differentiating them based on size but it definitely seems odd to give serifs to the Price 3589 "M", it seems less serif-like than the Price 3216 "M".

579080130_Mactual.jpg.518286ff323a11512f18126f54f2b3c5.jpg

 

Examples of the monogram from: Price 3216 (left), Price 3240 (middle x2), and Price 3589 (right).

Edited by Kaleun96
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48 minutes ago, Sulla80 said:

An interesting journey of trying to understand the attribution - thanks for sharing.

Interesting to note that there are a few eastern european imitations to be found in auction databases e.g.

image.png.32eab344410e7dd918ff75bbc2b15c4e.png

https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=2147577

https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=4884317

 

Yeah I wasn't quite sure what to make of those but found it odd that the auction houses had jumped to assuming they are imitations of the Hierapolis Bambyke coin. The Naumann coin in the photo seems to even have the royal title legend in the left field, and then the CNG coin has crossed legs and a questionable "M" below the throne. An "M" below the throne can be found on quite a few posthumous types, particularly when accompanied by other symbols in the left field. I guess it could be argued that if they copied the M why not copy the other symbols, but it also strikes me as unlikely that the tribes would copy the "M" and have the presence of mind to "update" the Zeus by using the more posthumous crossed-leg style than the uncrossed-leg style of the Hierapolis Bambyke coin.

So in the end I err on the side of them being imitative of some type but not the Hierapolis type in particular, or even then Ake/Tyre type.

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