The Roman Empire

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New Owner's Comments, Page 7 Golden Age II, Pseudo-autonomous Coinage



Latest update is that I posted my Owner's Comments on an Apollonian bronze, struck during the time of the Antonine dynasty.  Here are comments (for a picture of the obverse and reverse, please see the Roman Empire collection posted on the NGC Ancients, Custom Sets...


Ancient Roman coins denoted as “pseudo-autonomous” are generally defined as issues struck by cities and provinces under the suzerainty of Rome, yet lacking an imperial obverse portrait. Such coins not only bear historical importance, but also provide for interesting and artistic numismatic designs. The current coin, dating from Rome’s golden age under the rule of the Antonine dynasty (138-192 AD) provides a noteworthy example. 

The strike occurred at the ancient Asia Minor city of Apollonis, whose eponym was wife to Attalus I, first of that dynasty to reign as King of Permagon around late 3rd century BC.  Attalus I’s son and successor, Eumenes II, decreed the creation of Apollonis through a synoecism (a mechanism whereby the ancient Greeks amalgamated villages into city-states, similar to the modern concept of incorporation of a city). Succeeding Eumenes II was his son Attalus III, who, dying childless in 133 BC, bequeathed his lands to Rome.

By the time this coin was struck, Apollonis was firmly under Rome’s suzerainty.  Judging from this ancient bronze, the region held fast to its Hellenistic roots.  The obverse features the helmeted bust of the pantheonic goddess Athena.  To the ancient Greeks, Athena was one of the most powerful among all deities.  She represented a goddess of war; appropriately, she appears on this coin wearing an aegis and brandishing a formidable spear over her shoulder.  While a fearsome warrior, Athena only fought to repel outside enemies.  As such, many metropolises, presumably including Apollonis, worshipped Athena as their city’s own divine protector.  Athena’s talents didn’t stop there.  She also was goddess of other concepts such as handicrafts and agriculture.  Her impressive list of inventions included the bridle and yoke (facilitating domestication of animals), the pot, the rake, and even the ship and the chariot.

Complementing Athena on the coin's reverse is Tyche, the Greek goddess representing fortune and destiny, particularly over a city.  Tyche was thought to preside over prosperity as well as disasters; no wonder she had a faithful following.   Many Greek cities, presumably including Apollonis, established their own local franchise for the goddess.  Tyche’s attire provides clues to the goddess’ role in controlling the city’s fortunes.  Her kismetic vestments include a polos (a cylindrical crown inviting parallels to city walls), a gubernaculum (a ship’s rudder), and, of course, a cornucopia.

Pseudo-autonomous coinage was produced at Apollonis until at least late 2nd century AD, at which time - curiously- contemporaneous issues from that mint bore the busts of Roman Emperors and Empresses. The Roman provincial mint at Apollonis continued to strike coins until at least the reign of Augustus Severus Alexander.  Apollonian coins are generally rare, since the mint was not particularly prolific.  In the case of this particular civic issue, a seminal numismatic reference cites only three specimens.

Coin Details: LYDIA, Apollonis, Pseudo-autonomous, circa 138-192 AD (Antonine dynasty), AE (3.12g, 18mm), NGC Grade: AU, Strike: 4/5, Surface: 3/5, Obverse: Helmeted bust of Athena right, wearing aegis and with spear over shoulder, Reverse: Tyche standing left, wearing polos, holding gubernaculum and cornucopia, ΑΠΟΛΛΩΝΙΔЄΩΝ, References: RPC IV online 2490 (only 3 examples cited); SNG von Aulock -; SNG Copenhagen -; BMC 12-3.



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