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I am trying to compile a visual guide of the Athenian Owl Tetradrachm and its evolution. Can anyone correct my chronology before I make a detailed infographic?


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Posted (edited)

So, by looking at Starr, various auctions and so on, I came up with this initial classification. The years are not exact, but please help me if you spot any mistakes!

Before the owl:  
  - Wappenmünzen  
      - Incuse square divided diagonally  
      - Panther’s head in a triangle of the incuse square  
      - Panter’s head fills the whole square   
   
OWL:  
   
Archaic:
  - Seltman:
      - Group H (525/10-515/05)  
      - Group L (515/05-500/490)  
      - Group M (500/490-485/82)  
      - Group Gii (500/490-485/82)  
      - Group Gi (500/490-485/82)  
      - Group C (482-480)  
      - Group F (482-480)  
      - Group E (480)  

Starr:
  - Starr I - 480-475 / 475-470
  - Starr II:
      - Starr II.A - 475-465
      - Starr II.B - 475-465 / 470-465
      - Starr II.C - 475-465 / 467-465
  - Starr III - 465-460
  - Starr IV - 475-465
  - Starr V:
      Starr V.A:
        - Starr V.A 1 - 460-454  
        - Starr V.A 2 - 460-454  
        - Starr V.A 3 - 460-454  
      Starr V.B:
        - Starr V.B 1 - 460-454  
        - Starr V.B 2 - 460-454  
        - Starr V.B 3 - 460-454  
        - Starr V.B 4 - 460-454  
        - Starr V.B 5 - 460-454  
    
Pi Style:
  - Classical - 454-404  
        - Flament Group I - 454-440    
             - Early (454)  
             - Late (450)  
        - Flament Group II - 440-420  
        - Flament Group III - 420-405  
  - Early Transitional - 393-355
  - Pi-Style I - 353-352
  - Pi-Style II - 353-350
  - Pi-Style III - 353-340
  - Pi-Style IV - 353-340
  - Pi Style V - 350-297
  - Quadridigité - 286-262

Mass Issue - 454-?
New Style - 165-164 to 63/62

We could add Christophe Flament analysis for the mass coinage (anyone knows where I can read it?) and the chronology of Margaret Thompson for the new issue, but I suppose she just looks at the different shapes / countermarks).

Any additional subdivisions I should keep in mind?

Also, I am not sure where I should put the mass issue coins and if they fall in the Pi-Style macro category.

Thanks in advance!

P.S. I still don't have clear all the differences between the various sub-types. Can you help me compile a comprehensive list and give me some characteristics of the various subtypes? Also, if you have a coin that falls into one of these categories, could you please post it? I will add it to my database for when I will finally make the infographic!

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EDIT: For example, from left to right:

Wappenmünzen:  
    - Incuse square divided diagonally
    - Panther’s head in a triangle of the incuse square
    - Panter’s head fills the whole square

Seltman:
    - Group H - They reproduce the 'Wappenmünzen' technique, have a flatter flan. Only 18 dies known, of which 6 have a left-facing owl, 3 have a moon instead of the olive branch and 3 have swapped the olive branch and the writing. Only 9 show the standardised design that we will find later. The theta (Θ) has a cross in the middle at the beginning, then it will be replaced by a dot. (14 dies have the dot, only 4 have the cross). The letter epsilon (
Εhas almost always diagonally descending bars.

image.jpeg.e6e8f6d1e343900fac990403974d5650.jpeg

 

    - Group L - The reverse is now coherent and does not show variations. (Only in one case do the inscription and the olive tree switch places). We find only a slightly more elaborate twig, but we are moving toward 'one berry and two flanking leaves.' Out of 19 dies, theta has the dot 13 times, and the cross only 6 times. Here too the epsilon has diagonally descending bars for the most part.

image.jpeg.00cf88432bfe7ebadd41c5928562a5d3.jpeg

 

For every group after the H and L: 

  • Theta has the dot;
  • The epsilon has horizontal bars.

 

And so on, I might add more info in this post when I feel like it / as new info arrives.

Edited by AncientCoinnoisseur
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I'm far from being an expert in Athens owls, but my understanding is that there's no even marginally accepted dating of classical owls narrower than 454-404 BCE (and even that's controversial).

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2 hours ago, AncientCoinnoisseur said:

New Style - 165-164 to 63/62

For this section we also have a specialist - @NewStyleKing  He has posted an extensive chronology by type here - scroll down here.

I know little about the early  owls, but Harlan Berk - the man, not the business - has recently rechallenged ordering I believe. Latest in a series of challenges of course.

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18 minutes ago, Deinomenid said:

For this section we also have a specialist - @NewStyleKing  He has posted an extensive chronology by type here - scroll down here.

I know little about the early  owls, but Harlan Berk - the man, not the business - has recently rechallenged ordering I believe. Latest in a series of challenges of course.

Thank you! What I am trying to do is find out what is (for example) the key difference between, say, Starr II.A and Starr II.B, or Starr IV and Starr V, or Flament I and Flament II, and so on and so forth, and then find an example for each type, and do a sort of infographic / guide / flowchart to identify each tetradrachm correctly. It's almost impossible to find all the info in one place, and written in simple terms so that the average joe can look at a coin and say: "Oh, that's a Flament III" or "Oh, that's a Starr IV". There is still too much gatekeeping / the information is still hard to find for the layman, so I'm trying to do it myself 🙂 But I need help from expert like you guys!

 

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My understanding is that Seltman's dating for the archaic owls is too early.  Some experts argue that 510 BC, or thereabouts, is the starting point for this series.

Here's one take on archaic owl dating:

And here's a video for the ANS:

Seltman's exhaustive and pioneering reference on archaic Athenian coinage is primarily based on an analysis of Athenian history and artistic styles linked to the coinage.  Roberto Delzanno's presentation on YouTube is a more updated approach to dating this series. 

Also, looking at archaic owls offered for sale or at auction, the Seltman groups are referred to on a spotty basis, with a number of owls given a rather broad dating range, while others are more narrowly dated to around the time of the second Persian invasion, in 480 BC.  The view now is that there was a tremendous increase in coin minting near the time of the invasion, as Athens needed to raise funds for defenses and more importantly its navy.  Because of this rush the theory is that relatively unskilled die engravers were brought in, resulting in a large output of fairly crude owls; time and speed dominated production.

However, this is not to say that Seltman is irrelevant. His grouping for the early archaic owls still, to me, is still current.  Stylistically his groups are quite distinct.  

Here's my earliest example

Athens, archaic tetradrachm, Group H, 515-10 BC.

17.46 grams

D-CameraAthensarachicowlGroupH17.46g525-10-515-0BCeBay202111-22-21.jpg.95e548d5c421e946d3cefaad85205a1e.jpg

 

Here's a later archaic owl, very crude and quite underweight, produced in the rush when the Persians invaded in 480 BC.  The archaic owls often have a wide weight range, much more so than the later classical owls. 

Athens archaic tetradrachm, 480 BC, Seltman Group E.

13.04 grams

D-CameraAthenstetradrachm.1archaic485-480BCShlomoMoussaieffSeltE13.04g01-21-21.jpg.4a234899b0e2955fe56b29f8378cc165.jpg

 

As for the Starr groups I still use them, although there are many examples that are borderline in style.  The standardized classical owls (mass issue) are generally given a date range of 440-404 BC, 404 BC being the year that Athens fell after a siege at the end of the Peloponnesian Wars.

The Pi-Style owl dates in the OP are the ones that I use for that type.  Note that in order to use this dating system a good portion of the tendril end on the helmet, the "Pi" needs to be visible, which is not the case for many examples.

This is my main reference for that series:

https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=pi-style

As for dating the New Style owls, I use this source as my main reference:

https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=new style

 

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What you need to know the hoards that they are found in, what else is in these hoards, the compositions/types in the hoards. Can the hoards be contextualised? What you think could be missing?  The problem is other than AOE they are mute and I guess any other coins that might be found with them.

Where did Seltman and Starr start? In later times where does Flement start? I guess a lot of it is Like Flinders Petrie idea of a stylistic progression, seriation,  until types with symbols appeared and quickly disappeared heralding the arrival of the NewStyle which by comparison is chockfull of information of the type  missing from oldstyle hoards. We can guess on the Mass classic owls followed by various Pi style where folded flans took place rather then melting them down, but nothing really seems to tie them down. Countermarks seem to reveal nothing of use, silver analyses, may say that it maybe a imitation, some Bactrian types may be obvious(?) many less so.

I wish you luck, The NewStyle is found in hoards often mixed with coins of the Seleucid Kings that are dated, , the Demetrios l hoard and Gaziantep overlap and finish within a year or so of each other, the runs of the Newstyle show that the earlier sequencing is most probably correct.  You got nothing to match for the oldstyle, where are you going to truly start as you do with the horrible archaic Athena's pointy nose becoming less horrible!  Ironic, the Newstyle Athena grows worse from a great start!

Best of luck!

Margaret Thompson said this imitation has elements of the oldstyle in its depiction of Athena, whilst the reverse seems to mirror  a reverse of the 150's BC

Athens New Style Tetradrachm c153/2 BC Obs : Athena  32.5mm 16.27g  Die axis: 6 o'clock Thompson catalogue : IMITATION  Obs : 1350     Rev : NEW  Rev : ΑΘΕ ethnic Above symbol LF Cicada Below ΠΟ  Owl standing on overturned panathenaic amphora All within a surrounding olive wreath Keywords:  Athena old-style Corinthian helmet owl imitation wreath owl amphora

Edited by NewStyleKing
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22 hours ago, robinjojo said:

My understanding is that Seltman's dating for the archaic owls is too early.  Some experts argue that 510 BC, or thereabouts, is the starting point for this series.

Here's one take on archaic owl dating:

And here's a video for the ANS:

Seltman's exhaustive and pioneering reference on archaic Athenian coinage is primarily based on an analysis of Athenian history and artistic styles linked to the coinage.  Roberto Delzanno's presentation on YouTube is a more updated approach to dating this series. 

Also, looking at archaic owls offered for sale or at auction, the Seltman groups are referred to on a spotty basis, with a number of owls given a rather broad dating range, while others are more narrowly dated to around the time of the second Persian invasion, in 480 BC.  The view now is that there was a tremendous increase in coin minting near the time of the invasion, as Athens needed to raise funds for defenses and more importantly its navy.  Because of this rush the theory is that relatively unskilled die engravers were brought in, resulting in a large output of fairly crude owls; time and speed dominated production.

However, this is not to say that Seltman is irrelevant. His grouping for the early archaic owls still, to me, is still current.  Stylistically his groups are quite distinct.  

Here's my earliest example

Athens, archaic tetradrachm, Group H, 515-10 BC.

17.46 grams

D-CameraAthensarachicowlGroupH17.46g525-10-515-0BCeBay202111-22-21.jpg.95e548d5c421e946d3cefaad85205a1e.jpg

 

Here's a later archaic owl, very crude and quite underweight, produced in the rush when the Persians invaded in 480 BC.  The archaic owls often have a wide weight range, much more so than the later classical owls. 

Athens archaic tetradrachm, 480 BC, Seltman Group E.

13.04 grams

D-CameraAthenstetradrachm.1archaic485-480BCShlomoMoussaieffSeltE13.04g01-21-21.jpg.4a234899b0e2955fe56b29f8378cc165.jpg

 

As for the Starr groups I still use them, although there are many examples that are borderline in style.  The standardized classical owls (mass issue) are generally given a date range of 440-404 BC, 404 BC being the year that Athens fell after a siege at the end of the Peloponnesian Wars.

The Pi-Style owl dates in the OP are the ones that I use for that type.  Note that in order to use this dating system a good portion of the tendril end on the helmet, the "Pi" needs to be visible, which is not the case for many examples.

This is my main reference for that series:

https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=pi-style

As for dating the New Style owls, I use this source as my main reference:

https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=new style

 

Thank you for these resources, they will be very valuable!

 

11 hours ago, Brennos said:

An excellent idea !
I did a similar but less comprehensive study a few years ago if that helps.

https://www.forumfw.com/t15826-chronologie-et-identification-des-tetradrachmes-d-athenes

 

 

This is exactly what I was / am looking for: a guide that tells you the various styles one after the other and the characteristics of each coin and how to distinguish it from a different type, maybe with a visual example. It is a very precious work, thank you!

2 hours ago, NewStyleKing said:

What you need to know the hoards that they are found in, what else is in these hoards, the compositions/types in the hoards. Can the hoards be contextualised? What you think could be missing?  The problem is other than AOE they are mute and I guess any other coins that might be found with them.

Where did Seltman and Starr start? In later times where does Flement start? I guess a lot of it is Like Flinders Petrie idea of a stylistic progression, seriation,  until types with symbols appeared and quickly disappeared heralding the arrival of the NewStyle which by comparison is chockfull of information of the type  missing from oldstyle hoards. We can guess on the Mass classic owls followed by various Pi style where folded flans took place rather then melting them down, but nothing really seems to tie them down. Countermarks seem to reveal nothing of use, silver analyses, may say that it maybe a imitation, some Bactrian types may be obvious(?) many less so.

I wish you luck, The NewStyle is found in hoards often mixed with coins of the Seleucid Kings that are dated, , the Demetrios l hoard and Gaziantep overlap and finish within a year or so of each other, the runs of the Newstyle show that the earlier sequencing is most probably correct.  You got nothing to match for the oldstyle, where are you going to truly start as you do with the horrible archaic Athena's pointy nose becoming less horrible!  Ironic, the Newstyle Athena grows worse from a great start!

Best of luck!

Margaret Thompson said this imitation has elements of the oldstyle in its depiction of Athena, whilst the reverse seems to mirror  a reverse of the 150's BC

Athens New Style Tetradrachm c153/2 BC Obs : Athena  32.5mm 16.27g  Die axis: 6 o'clock Thompson catalogue : IMITATION  Obs : 1350     Rev : NEW  Rev : ΑΘΕ ethnic Above symbol LF Cicada Below ΠΟ  Owl standing on overturned panathenaic amphora All within a surrounding olive wreath Keywords:  Athena old-style Corinthian helmet owl imitation wreath owl amphora

Thanks! Yes, that is no easy task. I don't plan on rewriting the chronology myself, just to create an infographic to recognise the different owl styles just by looking at them. A sort of 'reference guide', so to speak!

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I laud the effort, @AncientCoinnoisseur, but I am bereft of any basis to contribute. I remember being disappointed when I finally obtained a copy of Starr's work. I had expected better, particularly for the "After 449 B.C." coinage. 

I struggle to remember the different authors and when they wrote. So, here's my spontaneous short-list, amplified by a post by Samuel S on FAC:

Kraay, C. M. (1956). THE ARCHAIC OWLS OF ATHENS: CLASSIFICATION AND CHRONOLOGY. The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society, 16, 43–68. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42678382 
 
Seltman, Charles T. Athens, its history and coinage before the Persian invasion. (Cambridge, 1924). 228 pages, 24 plates. Reprint: (Chicago, 1974).  ebook.
Starr, Chester. Athenian coinage 480-449 BC. (London, 1970). 96pp. + 26 plates.  No ebook available. Durst reprint (1980).
Flament, Christophe. Le monnayage en argent d 'Athènes. De l 'époque archaïque à l 'époque hellénistique (c. 550-c. 40 av. J.-C.). (Lovain-la-Neuve, 2007). 310 pp., 39 plates. Quarto, card cover. Daehn 4017. [The silver coinage of Athens. Archaic period to the Hellenistic period (c. 550-c. 40 BC)]

Kroll, John H. The Greek Coins. The Athenian Agora, vol. XXVI. (Princeton, 1993). ISBN 0876612265  978-0876612262. "Catalogs 16,577+ identifiable Greek coins produced by the excavations of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens between 1931 and 1990. The majority are Athenian bronze, from the 4th century B.C. through the 3rd century A.D. Included are Athenian silver and hundreds of non-Athenian gold, silver, and bronze coins. More than 1,035 coins illustrated. Substantial introductory discussions place all the coins in clear historical and numismatic contexts and give a sense of the range of international commercial activity in the ancient city. This comprehensive reference work is indispensable for students and scholars of Greek coinage and history. Presenting a reliable chronology of Athens' bronze coinage for the first time, it will be the standard reference for this important coinage in particular for years to come."  250 pages. PDF available.

Kroll, J. H., & Waggoner, N. M. (1984). Dating the Earliest Coins of Athens, Corinth and Aegina. American Journal of Archaeology, 88(3), 325–340. https://doi.org/10.2307/504555 

Kroll, J. H. (1981). FROM WAPPENMÜNZEN TO GORGONEIA TO OWLS. Museum Notes (American Numismatic Society), 26, 1–32. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43574049

Alfen, P. G. (2012). The Coinage of Athens, Sixth to First Century B.C., In: Metcalf, W. E. (ed), The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. Oxford University Press. (pp. 88-100) https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195305746.001.0001 (Call Number: CJ 339.O95) 

Mørkholm, O. (1984). THE CHRONOLOGY OF THE NEW STYLE COINAGE OF ATHENS. Museum Notes (American Numismatic Society), 29, 29–42.  http://www.jstor.org/stable/43573675

I cannot vouch for any of these works! Like you, I seek clarity.

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4 minutes ago, Anaximander said:

I laud the effort, @AncientCoinnoisseur, but I am bereft of any basis to contribute. I remember being disappointed when I finally obtained a copy of Starr's work. I had expected better, particularly for the "After 449 B.C." coinage. 

I struggle to remember the different authors and when they wrote. So, here's my spontaneous short-list, amplified by a post by Samuel S on FAC:

Kraay, C. M. (1956). THE ARCHAIC OWLS OF ATHENS: CLASSIFICATION AND CHRONOLOGY. The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society, 16, 43–68. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42678382 
 
Seltman, Charles T. Athens, its history and coinage before the Persian invasion. (Cambridge, 1924). 228 pages, 24 plates. Reprint: (Chicago, 1974).  ebook.
Starr, Chester. Athenian coinage 480-449 BC. (London, 1970). 96pp. + 26 plates.  No ebook available. Durst reprint (1980).
Flament, Christophe. Le monnayage en argent d 'Athènes. De l 'époque archaïque à l 'époque hellénistique (c. 550-c. 40 av. J.-C.). (Lovain-la-Neuve, 2007). 310 pp., 39 plates. Quarto, card cover. Daehn 4017. [The silver coinage of Athens. Archaic period to the Hellenistic period (c. 550-c. 40 BC)]

Kroll, John H. The Greek Coins. The Athenian Agora, vol. XXVI. (Princeton, 1993). ISBN 0876612265  978-0876612262. "Catalogs 16,577+ identifiable Greek coins produced by the excavations of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens between 1931 and 1990. The majority are Athenian bronze, from the 4th century B.C. through the 3rd century A.D. Included are Athenian silver and hundreds of non-Athenian gold, silver, and bronze coins. More than 1,035 coins illustrated. Substantial introductory discussions place all the coins in clear historical and numismatic contexts and give a sense of the range of international commercial activity in the ancient city. This comprehensive reference work is indispensable for students and scholars of Greek coinage and history. Presenting a reliable chronology of Athens' bronze coinage for the first time, it will be the standard reference for this important coinage in particular for years to come."  250 pages. PDF available.

Kroll, J. H., & Waggoner, N. M. (1984). Dating the Earliest Coins of Athens, Corinth and Aegina. American Journal of Archaeology, 88(3), 325–340. https://doi.org/10.2307/504555 

Kroll, J. H. (1981). FROM WAPPENMÜNZEN TO GORGONEIA TO OWLS. Museum Notes (American Numismatic Society), 26, 1–32. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43574049

Alfen, P. G. (2012). The Coinage of Athens, Sixth to First Century B.C., In: Metcalf, W. E. (ed), The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. Oxford University Press. (pp. 88-100) https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195305746.001.0001 (Call Number: CJ 339.O95) 

Mørkholm, O. (1984). THE CHRONOLOGY OF THE NEW STYLE COINAGE OF ATHENS. Museum Notes (American Numismatic Society), 29, 29–42.  http://www.jstor.org/stable/43573675

I cannot vouch for any of these works! Like you, I seek clarity.

Thank you for this additional material! I hope I'll be able to make a comprehensive post about the whole chronology and individual characteristics of each type (although not an easy task!)

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I had not heard of pi-style before, and it surprised me to see it listed here first, in your post, and partially described by @robinjojo with a link to FAC

There are literally hundreds of pi-style Athenian tetradrachms in acsearch.info, often undifferentiated by phase.  
image.jpeg.50743b85cdaf801051452a92867edc97.jpeg  

I've spent ages looking for differentiating devices on the 'mass coinage' coins and failing, then resorting to brute-force die matching, and failing at that, too.

GR.Attica.Athens.note(1).jpg.38b4834b7591ffb85d1a737c9a27c23c.jpg

Edited by Anaximander
Added Triton V note on dating Athenian tetradrachms.
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I've found that dating the pi-style owls by the style of the pi quite satisfying generally, although there are instances where the difference of one style to the next can be very subtle.  The fact that many of these coins are not attributed this way may de due to the preference of the seller/cataloguer for a broader date range.  The problems dating these coins, as well as other owls types will undoubtedly continue and be debated probably forever.  

Of the listed pi-styles my favorite is the very distinctive Quadridigité style, which are often very crude but with also with a showy pi when visible.

Attica, Athens, "Quadridigité" style tetradrachm,  circa 286 - 262 B.C.  Folded flan.  From Roma E-Sale 103, lot 245.

17.06 grams

D-CameraAthensQuadridigitc286-262B.C.foldedflanRoma10324517.06grams2-10-23.jpg.d60f37af01c8d76180b7b943a7751542.jpg

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image.png.06ceb24591c23be73aa57e6c4db6aa5a.pngSome coins from the Larissa Hoard now called the Sitochoro Hoard.  Look at the Athena on these and my imitative NewStyle above. Very rare Athens tetradrachms previous to the NewStyle, so rare that many OldStyle collectors do not know of their existence!!!! Under Athens in the Larissa  hoard my  NewStyle imitation type is mentioned. I got mine via eBay from Mr Lanz who, along with Roma I miss very much.  Those were the days when hoards would appear and I would buy choice examples.

Athens New Style Tetradrachm c153/2 BC Obs : Athena  32.5mm 16.27g  Die axis: 6 o'clock Thompson catalogue : IMITATION  Obs : 1350     Rev : NEW  Rev : ΑΘΕ ethnic Above symbol LF Cicada Below ΠΟ  Owl standing on overturned panathenaic amphora All within a surrounding olive wreath Keywords:  Athena old-style Corinthian helmet owl imitation wreath owl amphora

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