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Two is Better Than One

David Atherton

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Recently, I was quite thrilled to find this 'Lycian' drachm struck under Domitian on Vcoins. Fine portrait style and an aesthetically pleasing reverse. What more could you want?




AR Drachm, 3.28g
Rome mint (for Lycia), 95 AD
Obv: AYT KAIC ΔOMITIANOC CЄBACTOC ΓЄPM; Head of Domitian, laureate, bearded, r.
Rev: ЄTOYC IΔ YPATOY IZ; Caduceus between two lyres
RPC 1503 (5 spec.).
Acquired from Tom Vossen, June 2022.

A small issue of drachms were struck by Domitian for Lycia in 95. The style and six o'clock die axis point to Rome as the home mint. These drachms were produced alongside Domitian's Roman style cistophori from the same year. Both issues share the same Macedonian silver content of 80% fineness. The drachms weighed about one third of a cistophorus and likely were valued accordingly. It is not known if the two denominations circulated together or separately. Because of the drachms similar weight and appearance with contemporary denarii, they appear in denarius hoards all over the empire and seemed to have circulated with them. Several reverse designs were employed, this drachm featuring two lyres is one of the more common types struck for the issue.

Two is better than one indeed!

Thanks for looking!

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Domitian Drachm of the Lycian League Minted at Rome? Obv Head  right laureate Rv Caduceus flanked by two lyres RPC 1504 This coin featured on On Line version  3,46 grms 18 mm Photo by W. Hansenlycia2.jpg.864790945f6b5ce1a8ac1c0858b812c1.jpg

When I was looking at these and other silver coins minted for the eastern part of the Roman Empire I was struck as to how many of these coins appeared to have been struck at Rome. The 80% silver content is interesting as it would mean that these coins would have a difficult time being accepted in the west and thus were more likely to remain close to where they were intended to be used. 

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@David Atherton, your beautiful coin has a similar reverse to this Lycian drachm of Trajan, except that mine has an owl with the two lyres rather than a caduceus. I'm afraid I don't have enough knowledge to speculate on the differing symbolism.

Trajan AR Drachm, AD 98/99, Koinon of Lycia. Obv. Laureate head of Trajan right, ΑΥΤ ΚΑΙϹ ΝΕΡ ΤΡΑΙΑΝΟϹ ϹΕΒ ΓƐΡΜ / Rev. Two lyres with owl perched on top of them, standing to right, ΔΗΜ ΕΞ ΥΠΑΤ • Β [COS II]. RPC [Roman Provincial Coinage] Vol. III 2676 (2015); RPC III Online 2676 at https://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/coins/3/2676; SNG von Aulock 4268 [Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Deutschland, Sammlung Hans Von Aulock, Vol. 2: Caria, Lydia, Phrygia, Lycia, Pamphylia (Berlin, 1962)]; BMC 19 Lycia 9-11 at p. 39 (ill. Pl. IX No. 11) [Hill, G.F., A Catalogue of Greek Coins in the British Museum, Lycia, Pamphylia, and Pisidia (London, 1897)]. Purchased Jan. 6, 2022 at Roma Numismatics E-Sale 93, Lot 717. 18 mm., 2.87 g., 6 h.



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Nice one David.  I've had one of these on my watch list for a long time.

 Hermes is Apollo's half brother who became mesmerized by his playing of the lyre.  Apollo then gives Hermes the caduceus as a symbol of their friendship.  The caduceus also became a symbol of trade.


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