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Mazaios Stater: Seated Ba’al and the Walls of Jerusalem?


Curtisimo

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I was recently very happy to add an interesting coin with a provenance from the Stoecklin Collection.  This coin was struck under the Persian satrap, Mazaios.  Mazaios is most well known for surrendering the city of Babylon to Alexander the Great in exchange for an assurance that the city would not be sacked. After this he was named Satrap of Babylon by Alexander in exchange for his cooperation and advice. This coin was struck before Alexander's invasion while Mazaios was satrap of Cilicia and the levant. Hopefully you will all find my research on this coin useful and interesting.

Mazaios_Stater_Walls.jpeg.d83c46dd9340fbccb038bd9e23e7575b.jpeg.8e205433d29fc5900a312dea75decb31.jpeg

CILICIA, Tarsus
Issued under the Persian Satrap Mazaios
AR stater, Tarsus mint, struck ca. 361-334 BC
Dia.: 23.00 mm
Wt.: 10.39 g 


Obv.: (“Ba’altarz” written in Aramaic) Ba’altarz seated l., holding eagle-tipped scepter in extended r. hand; to l., grain ear and grape bunch above L; below throne, M. 
Rev.: (“Mazaios who is over Beyond the River and Cilicia” written in Aramaic) Lion pouncing l., attacking a bull collapsing to r.; below, above crenellated walls. 
Ref.: Hendin GBC6 6658; Casabonne Series 4, Group A. SNG France 360. SNG Levante 113. 
Ex W. M. Stoecklin, Winterthur, Switzerland, acquired prior to 1981; Ex Obolos 8, lot 318; Formerly slabbed by NGC graded Choice VF, strike 4/5, surface 3/5, NGC n. 6376589-009.

Obverse Iconography

The obverse of this coin shows the god Ba’al seated on a throne holding a scepter. The Aramaic inscription “Ba’altarz” names this god explicitly as Ba’al of Tarsus. In the Northwest Semitic Languages (Phoenician, Hebrew, Aramaic etc.) Ba’al meant “Lord” or “Master” and was used as an epithet for many different gods. This can make identifying which god is being referenced somewhat confusing. Due to the later association with Zues (discussed below), I think it is clear that the god being referenced here is the storm god Hadad. This is the same Ba’al that is referenced in the biblical story of Elijah. After a great drought Elijah challenges the priests of Ba’al to a contest of making a sacrifice of a bull without lighting the altar. When the priests of Ba’al fail in this task, Yahweh sends fire from the heavens and burns the alter set up by Elijah.  Soon after Yahweh sends rain to end the drought which is an important symbolic victory because of Ba’al Hadad’s association with rain, storms and fertility.

Numismatically, this coin is also important because the iconography of the seated Ba’al is taken up and used almost exactly as a reverse type by Alexander the Great for his silver issues. The only major change is that Ba’al is substituted for his Greek equivalent Zeus. This coin design would go on to become one of the most iconic designs in all of ancient coinage.

Reverse Iconography

A translation of the reverse inscription reads “Mazaios who is over Beyond the River and Cilicia” in Aramaic. “Beyond the River” (Abar Nahara) was the official name of the administrative district between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean in the Persian Empire. Therefore, Mazaios must have been the Satrap of both Cilicia and this larger region that extended south to include Jerusalem. The term “Beyond the River” for this region is attested in several places in the Bible, including in Ezra and Nehemiah. David Hendin points out that Nehemiah and Mazaios were both officials at the Persian royal court and would have been familiar with this nomenclature.

On this coin there are two main design elements that have an unclear meaning: 1) The double crenulated walls and 2) The lion attacking the bull.

1) I have read in various places that David Hendin has suggested that the walls could be a reference to Jerusalem and the extensive construction sponsored by the Kings and Satraps of Persia in that city. Hendin does discuss this coin in his Guide to Biblical Coins 6th edition, but he stops just short of suggesting a link between the walls on the coin and Jerusalem.  I have only been able to reference the 6th edition so perhaps this is a change from earlier editions. Regardless, the suggestion is an interesting one that has merit. However, I think it is more likely that the walls referenced are those of Tarsus itself. Tarsus was a large and important city in antiquity. I found references dating to the middle ages that refer to Tarsus as being surrounded by a “double wall. [2]” If this was the case in antiquity as well, then I think the walls are likely a symbol of the strength and security of the city of Tarsus under Persian protection. The Persian satraps took up a permanent seat in Tarsus as late as 401 BC, so Persia may have sponsored some relatively recent construction projects that may have included expansion or upgrading of the city’s walls.

2) At first glance a coin showing a lion attacking a bull is a strange choice of iconography considering Ba’altarz is often associated with a bull. However, in this case I think we need to make a disconnect between the iconography on the obverse and reverse. The lion attacking a bull is an artistic motif that goes back centuries and possibly millennia before this coin was struck.  The motif was embraced by the Kings of Persian and used extensively in the royal palace at Persepolis. As such I think it represents Persian royal power. Taken in connection with the representation of the double walls, it could be a reminder of the strength and security of the empire.

Persep.jpg.b2d564b96cb8715789645b126868d912.jpg

Lion attacking bull relief carving at the royal palace at Persepolis.

References

[1] Hendin, David, Guide to Biblical Coins Sixth Edition, American Numismatics Society, 2022

[2] https://www.biblicalcyclopedia.com/T/tarsus.html

Please post your:

  • Mazaios coins
  • Coins of Tarsus
  • Alexander coins with seated Zeus
  • Lions on the attack!
  • Coins issued under Persian rule

 

Edited by Curtisimo
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Great coin that I've been after four years now! With a solid provenance ta boot!!

That lion is biting right into the back of that bull's neck like me into a chocolate chip cookie!

Though, not what you asked for, I've got a seemingly unique coin from the same area, Tarsus, from much later. It's one of three different emperors I have with this reverse. That of Herakles wrestling the giant, son of mother earth, Antaeus, who got all of his strength from touching his mother. Hence Herakles having to squeeze the life out of him mid air.

It's the only coin of the type from this ruler in my collection...or on RPC:

2367204_1637161027.l-removebg-preview.jpg.ed4c783145aa49202cd92076d5586f58.jpg.581790576a8acee2525a2686ba7f1f23.jpg

Volusian

CILICIA, Tarsus (?). 251-253 AD. Æ 33mm (21.1 g). Radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind / Herakles and Antaeus: Herakles standing facing, head left, leaning right and wrestling Antaeus; he lifts Antaeus up into the air by the waist while Antaeus tries to break his grip. Unlisted in RPC/ACSearch/Wild Winds/ Very Fine. Purchased from NBS auction November 2021

1542978897344845-ercole-e-anteo.jpg.2a866a3c6fc22b815d9939acffd366b9.jpg

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6 minutes ago, Ryro said:

Great coin that I've been after four years now! With a solid provenance ta boot!!

That lion is biting right into the back of that bull's neck like me into a chocolate chip cookie!

Though, not what you asked for, I've got a seemingly unique coin from the same area, Tarsus, from much later. It's one of three different emperors I have with this reverse. That of Herakles wrestling the giant, son of mother earth, Antaeus, who got all of his strength from touching his mother. Hence Herakles having to squeeze the life out of him mid air.

It's the only coin of the type from this ruler in my collection...or on RPC:

2367204_1637161027.l-removebg-preview.jpg.ed4c783145aa49202cd92076d5586f58.jpg.581790576a8acee2525a2686ba7f1f23.jpg

Volusian

CILICIA, Tarsus (?). 251-253 AD. Æ 33mm (21.1 g). Radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind / Herakles and Antaeus: Herakles standing facing, head left, leaning right and wrestling Antaeus; he lifts Antaeus up into the air by the waist while Antaeus tries to break his grip. Unlisted in RPC/ACSearch/Wild Winds/ Very Fine. Purchased from NBS auction November 2021

1542978897344845-ercole-e-anteo.jpg.2a866a3c6fc22b815d9939acffd366b9.jpg

Love that coin! What a great piece of mythology. Hercules being a man-beast at his finest. 😉

Thanks also for the reminder that I forgot to ask for Tarsus coins. I just updated that.

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That's a wonderful example! Much better than mine.

331A1453-Edit.jpg.fb4ffe826e5f96f236afa6b27f2cea87.jpg

Tarsos. Mazaios, Satrap. Circa 361-334 BC. AR Stater.
Baaltars seated left, holding sceptre surmounted by an eagle in right hand,
left arm at side; grain ear, bunch of grapes to left, monogram under throne
/ Lion attacking bull above double row of turreted walls.
10.11g
SNG Levante 113; SNG France 360

 

Personally, I agree with you that the reverse depicts the walls of Tarsos. I'm probably thinking too simply here, but ba'altrz seems to me to mean "Lord of Tarsos", which implies to me that the coin was minted in Tarsos. Therefore, the most likely walls depicted on the reverse would be Tarsos. I do wonder if Hendin was biased since his primary studies were of the Holy Land.

That being said, when I have guests over and I show them this coin, I of course say "you see those walls. Those are of Jerusalem!" 

Here are some other coins of Persian satraps also minted at Tarsos.

331A1708-Edit.jpg.387a9c3356467218a3a738340542c0da.jpg

Cilicia, Tarsos
AR Stater 10.62g, 20mm, 9h.
Circa 440-400 BCE
Horseman (Syennesis?) riding to left, wearing kyrbasia, holding lotus flower in right hand and reins in left, bow in bowcase on saddle; key symbol below horse, eagle(?) standing to left behind / Archer in kneeling-running stance to right, quiver over shoulder, drawing bow; key symbol behind, 'trz' in Aramaic on the lower right; all within dotted border within incuse square
BMC -; SNG von Aulock -; SNG Copenhagen -; SNG Levante -; SNG BnF -, cf. 213 for types = Casabonne Type D2, pl. 2, 10 = MIMAA pl. V, 6 = Traité II, 523

 

331A3702-Edit.jpg.bf5530d89e4e70d2b20786cd844ba591.jpg

Cilicia, Tarsos: Pharnabazos
379-374 BCE
AR stater, 24mm, 10.3 g
Female head facing
Bearded and helmeted head left, test cut and two countermarks, one of "bull crossing (with crescent?)" and one of "wolf leaping with crescent at rear" (Callatay countermarks B and C)
SNG Cop. 266

 

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9017.7.14_1.jpg

Mazaios Stater, (25 mm, 10.90 g, 2 h)

 

i really like cilician coins! i have one coming soon once leu finally gets around to shipping it. super interesting how the seated Zeus is likely inspired by these coins. i also agree that the walls are probably not jerusalem, but tarsus. next target is one with a fresher obverse die. seems like these are usually struck with pretty worn obverses.

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A great coin design that was on the top of my wish list for a long time. And not very easy to acquire a decent example, since I had 2 conditions to be fulfilled:

1. Lion and bull to be clear, so not an advanced wear / test cut to avoid the design
2. The coin to remain budget friendly - I know this term has different meaning for collectors - for me, budget friendly = ~ 100 euros 
These 2 conditions  are a little difficult to meet, as the ones I see are either sub par condition wise or too expensive. 

This one was exactly what I was after. The obverse wear / worn die / imperfect strike is not relevant for me. 

image.png.d7790b4f1f52470a91cb6e2238b6bc51.png

Cilicia, Tarsos. Mazaios (361-334 BC). AR Stater. 23 mm, 10.8 g.
Baaltars seated left on throne, head facing, holding lotus-tipped sceptre, grain ear, grape bunch and eagle; 'BLTRZ' Aramaic legend to right / Lion left attacking bull left; Aramaic legend above 'MZDI' = Mazaios, Aramaic letters below
Casabonne Series 2A, SNG France 338-347 (controls), SNG Levante 101 var

Of course, an example with walls would have been excellent but let's not ask for too much. 

As for Tarsos, I find this one of the most interesting mints, historically. The artistry from this period is unquestionable. But the interesting designs remained through ages. I am a big fan of interesting reverses, with unique/dynamic scenes, I love coins from cities where I can recognize the city from the reverse theme. 
I acquired this Antiochus VII Euergetes drachm because of the reverse (the image was used later also, for provincial issues)

image.png.26ef52da95cffae29e7d800a2e68cead.png

Seleukid Kingdom. Antiochus VII Euergetes (138-129 BC). Tarsus, “civic” workshop.
AR Drachm. 18 mm, 3,7 g.
Diademed head of Antiochus VII right / BAΣΙΛΕΩΣ ANTIOXOY EYEPΓETOY, Sandan standing right, wearing a polos and with bow and quiver over shoulder, holding labrys and flower, on the back of horned lion-griffin right; to outer left, [ΛY above monogram].
Cf. SC 2058.1; HGC 9, 1081

And from a different era, this is one of my favorite  Provincial coins, also because of the interesting reverse (this is not an unique reverse theme for Tarsos, but still uncommon). 

image.png.2751d00ccea36364b8431e6509855d8d.png

Cilicia, Tarsus. Maximinus I. 235-238 AD. Ӕ Hexassarion 37 mm 26,1 g. Obv: ΑΥΤ Κ Γ ΙΟΥ ΟΥΗ ΜΑΞΙΜƐΙΝΟϹ Π Π, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, seen from rear / Rev: ΤΑΡϹΟΥ ΜΗΤΡΟΠΟ Α Μ Κ Γ Β, the three Graces standing facing with arms around each other, one head l., the others head r., each holding flower. RPC VI, 7113 (temporary); SNG Levante 1096, BMC 233–4

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An excellent coin and write-up @Curtisimo, here's a 2nd or 1st  century coin of Tarsos under Seleucid or Roman rule with "Zeus seated left" substituting for "Ba’altarz seated left".

image.png.233e5590c113c9725805831879bf8ab3.png

Cilicia, Tarsos, 164-27 BC, Æ (18.5mm, 5.20 g, 12h)

Obv: Zeus Aëtophoros (Zeus holding eagle) seated left, TAPCЄΩN to right, border of dots

Rev: Filleted club; monograms flanking; all within oak wreath

Ref: SNG BN 1365

 

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18 hours ago, kirispupis said:

That's a wonderful example! Much better than mine.

331A1453-Edit.jpg.fb4ffe826e5f96f236afa6b27f2cea87.jpg

Tarsos. Mazaios, Satrap. Circa 361-334 BC. AR Stater.
Baaltars seated left, holding sceptre surmounted by an eagle in right hand,
left arm at side; grain ear, bunch of grapes to left, monogram under throne
/ Lion attacking bull above double row of turreted walls.
10.11g
SNG Levante 113; SNG France 360

 

Personally, I agree with you that the reverse depicts the walls of Tarsos. I'm probably thinking too simply here, but ba'altrz seems to me to mean "Lord of Tarsos", which implies to me that the coin was minted in Tarsos. Therefore, the most likely walls depicted on the reverse would be Tarsos. I do wonder if Hendin was biased since his primary studies were of the Holy Land.

That being said, when I have guests over and I show them this coin, I of course say "you see those walls. Those are of Jerusalem!" 

Here are some other coins of Persian satraps also minted at Tarsos.

331A1708-Edit.jpg.387a9c3356467218a3a738340542c0da.jpg

Cilicia, Tarsos
AR Stater 10.62g, 20mm, 9h.
Circa 440-400 BCE
Horseman (Syennesis?) riding to left, wearing kyrbasia, holding lotus flower in right hand and reins in left, bow in bowcase on saddle; key symbol below horse, eagle(?) standing to left behind / Archer in kneeling-running stance to right, quiver over shoulder, drawing bow; key symbol behind, 'trz' in Aramaic on the lower right; all within dotted border within incuse square
BMC -; SNG von Aulock -; SNG Copenhagen -; SNG Levante -; SNG BnF -, cf. 213 for types = Casabonne Type D2, pl. 2, 10 = MIMAA pl. V, 6 = Traité II, 523

 

331A3702-Edit.jpg.bf5530d89e4e70d2b20786cd844ba591.jpg

Cilicia, Tarsos: Pharnabazos
379-374 BCE
AR stater, 24mm, 10.3 g
Female head facing
Bearded and helmeted head left, test cut and two countermarks, one of "bull crossing (with crescent?)" and one of "wolf leaping with crescent at rear" (Callatay countermarks B and C)
SNG Cop. 266

 

That is an excellent example. Very nicely centered and toned. In fact, all three of your Tarsus coins are nice examples.

I agree that a Jerusalem interpretation would be cooler from a show and tell perspective to the average person. Tarsus is still cool for my money though. 🙂

19 hours ago, Cordoba said:

9017.7.14_1.jpg

Mazaios Stater, (25 mm, 10.90 g, 2 h)

 

i really like cilician coins! i have one coming soon once leu finally gets around to shipping it. super interesting how the seated Zeus is likely inspired by these coins. i also agree that the walls are probably not jerusalem, but tarsus. next target is one with a fresher obverse die. seems like these are usually struck with pretty worn obverses.

Great coin! I also am waiting for a shipping email from Leu. With 7000 coins to ship I’ll just be impressed if I get the one I won! 🙂 

18 hours ago, ambr0zie said:

A great coin design that was on the top of my wish list for a long time. And not very easy to acquire a decent example, since I had 2 conditions to be fulfilled:

1. Lion and bull to be clear, so not an advanced wear / test cut to avoid the design
2. The coin to remain budget friendly - I know this term has different meaning for collectors - for me, budget friendly = ~ 100 euros 
These 2 conditions  are a little difficult to meet, as the ones I see are either sub par condition wise or too expensive. 

This one was exactly what I was after. The obverse wear / worn die / imperfect strike is not relevant for me. 

image.png.d7790b4f1f52470a91cb6e2238b6bc51.png

Cilicia, Tarsos. Mazaios (361-334 BC). AR Stater. 23 mm, 10.8 g.
Baaltars seated left on throne, head facing, holding lotus-tipped sceptre, grain ear, grape bunch and eagle; 'BLTRZ' Aramaic legend to right / Lion left attacking bull left; Aramaic legend above 'MZDI' = Mazaios, Aramaic letters below
Casabonne Series 2A, SNG France 338-347 (controls), SNG Levante 101 var

Of course, an example with walls would have been excellent but let's not ask for too much. 

As for Tarsos, I find this one of the most interesting mints, historically. The artistry from this period is unquestionable. But the interesting designs remained through ages. I am a big fan of interesting reverses, with unique/dynamic scenes, I love coins from cities where I can recognize the city from the reverse theme. 
I acquired this Antiochus VII Euergetes drachm because of the reverse (the image was used later also, for provincial issues)

image.png.26ef52da95cffae29e7d800a2e68cead.png

Seleukid Kingdom. Antiochus VII Euergetes (138-129 BC). Tarsus, “civic” workshop.
AR Drachm. 18 mm, 3,7 g.
Diademed head of Antiochus VII right / BAΣΙΛΕΩΣ ANTIOXOY EYEPΓETOY, Sandan standing right, wearing a polos and with bow and quiver over shoulder, holding labrys and flower, on the back of horned lion-griffin right; to outer left, [ΛY above monogram].
Cf. SC 2058.1; HGC 9, 1081

And from a different era, this is one of my favorite  Provincial coins, also because of the interesting reverse (this is not an unique reverse theme for Tarsos, but still uncommon). 

image.png.2751d00ccea36364b8431e6509855d8d.png

Cilicia, Tarsus. Maximinus I. 235-238 AD. Ӕ Hexassarion 37 mm 26,1 g. Obv: ΑΥΤ Κ Γ ΙΟΥ ΟΥΗ ΜΑΞΙΜƐΙΝΟϹ Π Π, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, seen from rear / Rev: ΤΑΡϹΟΥ ΜΗΤΡΟΠΟ Α Μ Κ Γ Β, the three Graces standing facing with arms around each other, one head l., the others head r., each holding flower. RPC VI, 7113 (temporary); SNG Levante 1096, BMC 233–4

Great coins @ambr0zie. I think you did very well with your criteria on that example. Well done!

13 hours ago, Sulla80 said:

An excellent coin and write-up @Curtisimo, here's a 2nd or 1st  century coin of Tarsos under Seleucid or Roman rule with "Zeus seated left" substituting for "Ba’altarz seated left".

image.png.233e5590c113c9725805831879bf8ab3.png

Cilicia, Tarsos, 164-27 BC, Æ (18.5mm, 5.20 g, 12h)

Obv: Zeus Aëtophoros (Zeus holding eagle) seated left, TAPCЄΩN to right, border of dots

Rev: Filleted club; monograms flanking; all within oak wreath

Ref: SNG BN 1365

 

Thanks @Sulla80! That is a very interesting coin. It’s sort of ironic to see this coin design so thoroughly outlast the original god it was designed to honor even at its place of origin.

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I have one with walls. I wanted the legend legible. The test cut is deep but could be much worse.

image.jpeg.0c8dccc4462df10c21e9ab5545c14445.jpeg

23 mm. 10.86 grams.
ex CNG on-line auction 116, June 15, 2005 "From the Tony Hardy Collection."

Tarsos is an important city for Greek coins of Asia--more important in numismatics than a casual reading of history books would suggest. This type is one of the most interesting from Tarsos. Eighteen years later and I'm still very happy I have it. May you be so fortunate as to enjoy your coins for many years. 

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