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The naughty coinage from Thassos


Troyden
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One of the most interesting issues of ancient Greek coins are those issued by Thassos (or Thasos), a city-state located on a small island off the Aegean coast of Thrace. Initially a Phoenician colony (of which the tangible remnant was the cult of Melkart, identified with Heracles, which lasted in historical times), the island was settled in the Archaic era by the Ionian Greeks. The latter brought the cult of Dionysus to the island, and the satyr became a symbol of the state. 

Thassos' wealth came from the rich precious metal mines located on the island-controlled Thracian coast. Coins have been minted from these metals since the archaic era. And what coins! They depicted the city's symbol - a satyr, referring to the Dionysian cult. On staters and drachmas, the satyr kidnapped (for a purpose known only to him) a young nymph, who raised her hand in protest. The small, fractional denominations show the satyr just by himself in a strange pose. According to some satyr runs, others claim he is pleasing himself, as befits a satyr.

Thassos' prosperity did not last forever. The city had the misfortune to make a pact with the devil, that is, it became part of the Delian League. Initially a loose alliance led by Athens, the League quickly turned into Athenian heavy-handed hegemony. Thassos famously revolted in 465 BCE, but received no aid from Persia or from Sparta and Athens forced the islanders to surrender after a two-year siege. The city was severely restricted in its rights. For us, it is interesting that Athens took control of Thassos' mines and since then the city has stopped minting its coins. Instead, the silver flowed to Athens and was used to strike the famous Owls.

Thassos managed to regain independence in 411 BCE, during the final phase of the Peloponnesian War. It also regained control of its mines and resumed coin production. But these were different coins. Visually, the style has changed, simple archaic figures have been replaced by beautiful ones, made in the classic canon of beauty. The coins were also much "polite". On large denominations, the satyrs no longer abducted nymphs. On the contrary, the nymph now embraced the running satyr, and a smile was drawn on her face. For the satyr was no longer a symbol of the militant masculinity of the islanders like in the old days. Now it seems Thassos itself was represented by the nymph, she was the freed virgin whom the satyr was taking to a place of safety. The satyr also behaved more politely on the smaller coins. Instead of assuming strange poses, he would kneel and offer a goblet like a gift of freedom to the inhabitants of the island. There are also motifs of the head of Dionysus and jumping dolphins.

In the Hellenistic era, the satyrs and nymphs almost completely disappeared. The city still minted coins in great numbers, but now they mainly depicted the head of the young Dionysus and the figure of Heracles-Melkart, linking the two most important religious cults for the island.

Thassos (island off Trace),  archaic stater (525-463 BC); weight 8.26 g, diameter circa 20 mm; catalogue: SNG COP 1008, Sear 1357image.thumb.png.8e0db026cfad7b80e6793b9664ecedd3.png

Unfortunately this is the only coin from Thassos that I own. Post yours please!

 

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image.jpeg.2336865cd6ed9f6ea36432f79b6cdd20.jpeg

Thasos AR TriHemiObol Satyr running Kylix Amphora 411-350BCE 0.69g 12mm SNGCop 1030

Ex: @Bing

 

301380132_ThraceThasos146-50BCERomanprovincialorMilitarymintARTetDionysosHeraklesClubLionskin.JPG.52442327ff56c077abadbcf1d9c23dc3.JPG

Thrace Thasos 146-50 BCE Roman provincial or Military mint AR Tet Dionysos Herakles Club Lion skin

Ex: @ancientnoob

 

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image.png.d4c92352f88d4e8294e935ed005d6b50.png

Thrace. Thasos circa 500-480 BC.
Diobol AR
13 mm, 1,08 g
Obv: Ityphallic satyr on his knee to the right. Rev .: Quadripartite incuse square. Le Rider 4, SNG Cop 191-194 (Lete), HGC 6, 333

 

image.png.852613276ea5f3728fb4b4329731a1a0.png

Thrace. Thasos circa 404-340 BC.
Obol AR
10 mm, 0,73 g
Satyr kneeling left, holding kantharos / ΘAΣIΩN, amphora. Le Rider, Thasos 27; SNG Copenhagen 1029

 

I also intend to buy the OP coin sometime in the future.

 

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I have no Thasos coins now. The original Thasos tetradrachms were well struck and Dionysos was beautifully represented. How long this independent coinage lasted I don't know but soon the deterioration took place and the art work rapidly went down hill. Who actually minted those later tetradrachms and where is not known It seems the Romans applied pressure and the style fall off the wall It seemed to have been used to pay Thracian mercenaries since most of the surviving coins are found in Bulgaria. The Thracians really took to those coins and minted their own whose style became outlandish. Those late coins are weird and wonderful. Prokopov is the expert, but he is hard to understand and seems to write bits and bobs with no overview. DeCallatay wrote about it being a Roman proxy coinage like the enigmatic Aesillas coinage and the Athens NewStyle,dracms of Apollonia and dyrrachium and others. The Romans really dominated. More than it would seem.

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Posted · Supporter

My only Thasos coin is from the later issue after 411 BC:

325805903_GriechenThrakischeInselnThasosTrihemiobol..thumb.png.9deda006ad3fc7b9bc54bf3a1237d6dc.png

Islands off Thrace, Thasos, AR trihemiobol, c. 411-350  BC. Obv: Satyr kneeling l., holding kylix. Rev: ΘAΣ-IΩN; amphora. 12mm, 0.87g. Ref: SNG Copenhagen 103.

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thasos2.jpg.24ce2862bb2993bf4e2fdb5708afb5d9.jpg

Thrace, Islands off. Thasos. 200-1 BC. Æ 20mm.

Diademed & draped bust of Artemis right, bow & quiver over shoulder / QASIWN, nude Herakles standing right, drawing bow about to shoot an arrow, lionskin around neck.

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Posted · Supporter

Thasos produced some lovely coins, in Classical days and later on.

There is one thing I never quite understood about their coinage, though. The Thasians owned rich gold mines, both on the island itself and on the the mainland they controlled. According to Wikipedia these yielded up to 2-300 talents yearly. Yet, to the best of my knowledge, they never minted any gold or electrum coins next to their silver. I never really got that bit. But I'm sure there's a logical explanation somewhere.

Here is a Thasos coin:

44486869_Thasosstater480-463BC.Satyr.thumb.png.6f092953570cb8aa61aa3ee312d5ca63.png

 

 

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Thasos Ar Stater 480-463 BC Obv Ithyphallic satyr in a running kneeling stance right carrying off protesting nymph, Rv quadripartite  incuse square anepigraphic Rosen 142  480-463 BC 8.88 grms 21 mm Photo by W. Hansenthasos1.thumb.jpg.c662f31ceea368ad466b388521ddd29f.jpg

By employing this image the Thasians are in a backhanded way attempting to show adherence to Greek ideas . The ancient Greeks believed that civilization in the form of civic rule brought order out of chaos. However chaos was never far below the surface and had to be feared and respected. Chaos is well represented by the Satyr. Though well muscled and strong he was totally useless for any kind of work. They were slaves to their pursuit of physical pleasure which on this coin ins represented by the nymph. Nymphs are minor female nature deities and usually enjoy an overall positive reputation. Satyrs are obsessed with nymphs. Thus by advertising this image the Thasians are trying to show that their city is a bastion of order and that only a few miles away lies the domain of chaos. 

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I was hoping someone would ask my question so I wouldn't have to.  Alas, it's come down to me.  It's about the archaic diobols: is the satyr, erm, wanking? or just... what?

🤪

I don't have one but if he IS wanking I think I ought to get one!

To post a coin:

image.thumb.jpeg.7da859433eca5d20098211ce085820cb.jpeg

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On 6/8/2022 at 4:34 PM, DANTE said:

Thasos produced some lovely coins, in Classical days and later on.

There is one thing I never quite understood about their coinage, though. The Thasians owned rich gold mines, both on the island itself and on the the mainland they controlled. According to Wikipedia these yielded up to 2-300 talents yearly. Yet, to the best of my knowledge, they never minted any gold or electrum coins next to their silver. I never really got that bit. But I'm sure there's a logical explanation somewhere.

Here is a Thasos coin:

44486869_Thasosstater480-463BC.Satyr.thumb.png.6f092953570cb8aa61aa3ee312d5ca63.png

 

 

According to Sear, Thasos had gold and silver mines. 

My guess is that gold was exported for use in jewelry and votives. Gold coins weren't that much popular in Greece proper before the Hellenistic era.

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Posted · Supporter
48 minutes ago, Troyden said:

Gold coins weren't that much popular in Greece proper before the Hellenistic era.

Good poin. Could be part of the explanantion. But electrum was widely used (and could easily be madefrom gold of high purity) and Achaemenid darics, which were around, were a well known and sought after currency.

Edited by DANTE
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2 hours ago, DANTE said:

Good poin. Could be part of the explanantion. But electrum was widely used (and could easily be madefrom gold of high purity) and Achaemenid darics, which were around, were a well known and sought after currency.

As island nation, Thasos was never part of the Persian Empire and thus was outside of the Achaemenid monetary system. Thasos followed monetary trends of mainland Greece where gold coins weren't popular during the Archaic and Classical eras.

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Here are two Thasian coins from my collection:

gHupR9j.jpeg

bWGtIRa.jpeg

Thrace, Thasos AR stater

480-463 BC
Obverse: Nude ithyphallic satyr advancing right, carrying off protesting nymph.
Reverse: Quadripartite incuse square.
References: Le Rider, Thasiennes 5; HGC 6, 331; SNG Copenhagen 1010-1011  
21mm; 8.86g

4Cp90wx.jpeg

Thrace, Thasos AR tetradrachm

Circa 148-90/80 BC
Obverse: Head of Dionysos right, wearing ivy wreath.
Reverse: HPAKΛEOYΣ / ΣΩTHPOΣ / ΘAΣIΩN; Herakles standing left, holding club and lion skin. Control: Monogram to inner left.
References: SNG Copenhagen 1040-5; HGC 6, 359.
32 mm; 16.72g

Edited by Jeremy
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Posted · Benefactor

Great coins, gang

Yup, ya gotta love the fun lovin' times that the sensitive Satyr is having with the playful and willing Nymph (they're obviously in love ... it's so nice to see ancient love stories depicted on coins)

 

Thasos, AR Archaic Stater. Satyr & Struggling Nymph (below)

Islands off Thrace, Thasos

c.525 - 463 BC

Diameter: 21.5 mm

Weight: 8.60 grams

Obverse: Satyr carrying off a struggling nymph, who raises her arm in protest

Reverse: Quadrapartite incuse square

Reference: SNG Cop 1010

Other: Nice metal with good facial detail. A classic archaic Greek type!

Ex-stevex6

 

Hopefuly everybody is having a nice Friday afternoon (I am relaxing after a day of yard-chores) ... I'm now having a glass o' vino and livin' the dream

Cheers

 

nymph.jpg

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Posted · Benefactor
Posted (edited)

That's a sweet coin, Ed ... Hi, stevex here

 

Hey Ed, I still can't thank you enough for finding that amazingly awesome Pontos coin, which completed my neat mini-set (Pontos Laodikia) ... man, it was a beauty, eh?

 

 

Pontos Laodikia TIF touch.jpg

Pontos TIF Tray-Revised.jpg

 

=> Thanks again ... so cool (it killed me to break-up and sell-off that sweet set ... sigh)

Yikes ... sorry I interrupted this cool Thasos thread (my bad) ... I just got excited and nostalgic when I saw Ed's face!

Cheers to all

 

 

Edited by Steve
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Posted · Benefactor

Here's one from the cover of the Spring 1988 Monetarium Fixed Price List. Looking at the coins in this thread, I notice that the nymph's raised hand is sometimes quite stylized (like this one) and sometimes far more realistic.  I don't own any examples, sadly.

 

image.thumb.jpeg.09142607884431727a40f6ae662f6595.jpeg

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Here's a later, Classical-style nymph and satyr type for variety.

 

381865065_Thasos-Stater2387.thumb.jpg.4fb0ad647424053f6f855e277d38479b.jpg

THRACE, Thasos
AR Stater. 8.52g, 21mm.
THRACE, Thasos, circa 412-404 BC. Le Rider, Thasiennes 6; HGC 6, 334.
O: Satyr advancing right, carrying off protesting nymph; A to right.
R: Quadripartite incuse square.

 

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On 6/10/2022 at 2:49 AM, Severus Alexander said:

I was hoping someone would ask my question so I wouldn't have to.  Alas, it's come down to me.  It's about the archaic diobols: is the satyr, erm, wanking? or just... what?

Sear calls this a trihemiobol but I bought it as a 1/8 stater and two dots is probably the denomination but I know nothing including what the fellow is doing.  Ask him?  When I bought it, the city was given as Lete but that is a matter of opinion more than fact as is the way this whole series rolls.  0.78g.

g30685fd3345.jpg.93399db2a0c804e89ed6bdada015a67e.jpg

 

This was also sold to me as a trihemiobol or 1/8 stater but weighs 1.0g.  I'd be more likely to call it a diobol but I used to think I knew more about these than I think I do now.  Don't ask him questions that you don't want to hear the answer.  In 1991, this was considered a 'rough' coin but now it is more a 'delicate' subject. 

g30680bb0479.jpg.69ae2956a64a853d79f9c26375e35bd4.jpg

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Thanks, @dougsmit!  Not sure about the "Lete" but that particular "diobol" seems pretty clear, certainly clearer than most! 😳

Guess I'd better get one.  Certainly suitable for my "erector set" in any case.

Here's an Antoninus Pius from Lampsakos (Mysia) where there was a Priapos cult:

image.jpeg.cbab2088971e0bd0ff8881296817e441.jpeg

(Reverse represents a herm, RPC IV online 2562.)

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