Curtis JJ Posted July 31, 2022 · Member Share Posted July 31, 2022 (edited) At first I was commenting on @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix's interesting thread on Right-Facing Portraits, but decided to split my comment between the two, and put the reverses here. (I'm still editing my left-facing obverses comment over there, but it's coming!) Just as obverses have a tendency to face right, there seems to be a preference for Left-Facing Reverses. I have a mini-collection of "seated left" imagery. It began in late archaic / early classical Greek coinage (and other art), which probably influenced the later coins, but my examples begin with the influential AR Stater of Tarsos under Mazaios, c. 361 - 334 BCE, shortly before the city and mint were taken by Alexander III. One great detail from this turning point in history is Alexander's adoption of the Baaltars imagery for his own Tetradrachms. (I think it's obvious, though others may disagree; see Biblio at end.) This was more than an artistic choice: Alexander III wanted a design that could appeal both to the local population (who would see it as Baal, the "old god") and to Alexander's Greeks (who would see it as Zeus). (See esp. Rowan 2016, in Biblio note.) Over 750 years, from Baaltars of Mazaios, to Zeus of Alexander III, to Athena of Lysimachos and the other Diadochi, then outward to other Greek Kingdoms and cities, to Vesta and Roma et al., the imagery persists all the way to 19th and 20th century coinage (and today). Zeus, Athena, Roma, Britannia, Liberty... It's all Baal. S'all Baal, man! (Some of these images are from my previous posts) I have a bunch of others "seated left" but, at a quick glance, I only notice a few "seated right" in my collection. These ones come from Parthia (and maybe Persis), probably less constrained by Greco-Roman convention (interesting, the obverses also face the "wrong" way from a Greco-Roman perspective, leftward): WHY? Hypothesis 1: Since there's a preference for right facing obverses, a left-facing reverse gives the illusion of the obverse figure gazing toward the reverse (which gazes back). (Even if the coin doesn't have a 12h die axis, one imagines the viewer reorienting the coin properly to "see" the full tableau created by the two sides.) Only a tentative hypothesis. I'm interested to hear others. H2 (not mutually exclusively with the first): "Institutional inertia." It's how the early, trend-setting examples were done. Later versions, wanting to borrow from the familiar design elements, and have their coinage readily accepted, adopted the general imagery. This is more-or-less the explanation given by Thonemann (2015). Having once-upon-a-time studied a bit of the "new institutionalism" in sociology and economics, this explanation makes good sense to me. Note: Short Baal-Zeus Biblio. - Clare Rowan’s 2016 “Ambiguity, Iconography, and Entangled Objects" ; - Reid Goldsborough, including rival hypotheses: http://rg.ancients.info/alexander/tets.html ; - Orestes Zervos vs. MJ Price, 1982, “DEBATE: The Earliest Coins of Alexander the Great,” pages 166-190, including pp. 167-170 on "Derivation of the Seated Zeus" ; - similarly for Samarian Baal coinage, Wyssmann [2014, “The Coinage Imagery of Samaria and Judah in the Late Persian Period”]: pp. 232-234 (incl. notes, esp. 38), see also pp. 245, 247 ; - Thonemann’s (2015) The Hellenistic World: Using Coins as Sources (available here, on Archive, at least for the moment... though I found it worth it to get the paperback copies of the Cambridge "using coins as sources" series). Edited July 31, 2022 by Curtis JJ 11 2 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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