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An exotic couple ruling the client kingdom of Commagene


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These two are Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Julia Iotape -- brother and sister and husband and wife -- and they ruled the Kingdom of Commagene in north-western Mesopotamia from 38 to ca. 72CE. They were both citizens of Rome by the 30s and their kingdom was offered to them by Caligula in 38. With some interruptions, they ruled it as a late Seleukid monarchy, acting as a buffer zone between Armenia, Rome and Persia. As other client kings and Eastern princes, they were also given land in the Roman Empire proper, in this case in the mountains of Cilicia and in Galatia.

This arrangement worked in a similar way to medieval feudalism -- the princes had limited sovereignty, with full autonomy in internal politics but owed allegiance to Rome externally. They also had coining rights and their coinage follows the Roman coinage in Syria in style and metrics.

In fact this series (Butcher Group IV cf. Coinage in Roman Syria from 64BC to 253AD, 1991 p. 516) is so close stylistically to the late Nero, Otho and Galba SC coinage of Antioch, that it was thought that if not the actual coinage at least the dies were created by the Antiochene mintmasters, around the late 60s to early 70s.


AE28mm 15.50g orichalcum(?) unit, minted at Samosata, ca. 66-72.
ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ·ΜΕΓΑΣ·ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΣ; diademed and draped bust of Antiochos IV, r.
ΚΟΜΜΑΓΗΝΩΝ; scorpion; all in wreath (wreath enclosed in lines)
RPC I 3857; Butcher Group IV 10



ANTIOCHUS IV (38-72) for JULIA IOTAPE as Queen of COMMAGENE (38-52)
AE25mm 13.31g orichalcum unit, minted at Samosata, ca. 66-72.
ΒΑΣΙΛΙΣΣΑ ΙΩΤΑΠΗ ΦΙΛΑΔΕΛΦΟΣ; diademed, jeweled and draped bust of Iotape, r.; countermark on neck (crossed cornucopiae?)
ΚΟΜΜΑΓΗΝΩΝ; scorpion; all in wreath (wreath enclosed in lines)
RPC I 3858; Butcher Group IV 11; Howgego 403? (countermark)


These were probably intended to work at parity with the coinage of Antioch properly and starting with the reign of Vespasian in 69, a series of countermarks were added on these coins, probably with the intent to set them apart as legal tender after a tax had been levied on their use. The countermarking starts during the reign of Antiochus as the early ones have an anchor flanked by A - N and continues likely after 72, when Vespasian disbanded the kingdom and incorporated Commagene into the Roman Empire once more. Some countermarks, like the double cornucopiae might have been added by Callinicus and Epiphanes (the sons of Antiochus) during their brief positioning to resist the orders of Vespasian in 72. In fact Antiochus and his sons surrendered eventually to Vespasian and were allowed to live in luxury at Rome as part of the Roman aristocracy.

This coinage was likely in use for some time after 72 and some countermarks added at this point were in fact meant to make sure that the coin is tariffed as a Roman dupondius.


From the latest very eclectic order, which included:

- a small Seleukid from Ake-Ptolemais
- these two AEs of Commagene
- two 'provincial' AEs from Serdica and Anchialus
- a Severus Alexander from Hierapolis during his campaign East
- a small Cyzicus pseudo-autonomous with a nice amphora or krateros on reverse
- a terrific billon denier tournois of the Catalan Company in Attikoboiotia

Edited by seth77
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