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ISAW Papers 2 (2012)

Review of Ptolemaic Numismatics, 1996 to 2007

Catharine Lorber and Andrew Meadows

Abstract: The authors review scholarship on Ptolemaic numismatics published between 1996 and 2007. They present the major conclusions of articles discussing the distribution, role in the economy, iconography, weights standards and other aspects of this important Hellenistic coinage.

Keywords/Subjects: Greek Numismatics, Economic history--To 500, Ptolemaic Empire, Ptolemy I, Ptolemy II, Ptolemy III, Ptolemy IV, Ptolemy V, Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy VIII, Ptolemy IX, Ptolemy X, Ptolemy XII, Arsinoe II, Berenice I, Berenice II, Cleopatra I, Cleopatra II, Cleopatra III, Cleopatra VII, Seleucid Empire.

Table of Contents


The following summaries of research in the field of Ptolemaic numismatics are based on chapters originally published in the International Numismatic Commission's Survey of Numismatic Research, which appears in conjunction with the conferences held by that organization every six years. That by Meadows, covering the years 1996-2001, appeared in the volume produced to coincide with the Madrid International Congress of 2003 [1]; that by Lorber, covering the years 2002-2007, was written for the Glasgow meeting of 2009 [2]. Both contributions have been augmented either with items missed in the original publication (Meadows) or with items that had to be cut from the printed version for reasons of space (Lorber). A certain amount of rearrangement of material has also taken place in order to harmonize the treatment of topics under a single series of headings. The result is reflected in the Table of Contents.

General Works


Two general surveys of Ptolemaic coinage have appeared from the pen of LE RIDER [88], [72]. The former together with other articles on Ptolemaic coinage by the same author have also been reprinted in volume 3 of a collection of his essays [15]. Various important insights provided by these works are incorporated in discussions below.

Several general surveys of Ptolemaic history have drawn on numismatic evidence. CHAUVEAU [7] illustrates a number of coins and includes a discussion of the cash economy and inflation in Ptolemaic Egypt. MEADOWS [103] in both an introductory essay and catalogue entries has sought to situate Ptolemaic coinage and related issues within their political setting. The history of the Ptolemaic empire by HÖLBL [11] has now appeared in an English edition; while providing much useful background discussion, its treatment of monetary and economic history is sadly all but non-existent. An opportunity was also missed for the incorporation of numismatic evidence in BRINGMANN and VON STEUBEN’s collection of evidence for royal benefactions [6], although this omission has now been partially corrected (at least for the Ptolemies) by NOEKSE [18], who discusses various numismatic testimonia for benefactions on the parts of Ptolemies I to VI and VIII. Equally political in focus is LAMPELA’s study of Rome’s relations with the Ptolemies [15]. However, she begins with a discussion of the supposed numismatic evidence for collusion between Philadelphus and Rome, in the form of similar control marks on Roma/Victory didrachms and the coinage in the name of Arsinoe II. Like some other recent commentators on this matter (cf. MATTINGLY [99], HOLSTEIN [84]), she raises the question of Ptolemaic influence on Roman mint practice, coming down in favour of their having been a connection.


The recent revival of interest in the Hellenistic world has inspired the publication of numerous histories, handbooks, and collections of sources in translation. Typically the broader works offer only brief summaries of Ptolemaic economic and/or monetary policy aimed at orienting the student or the non-specialist (DAVESNE AND MIROUX [9], DAVIES [10], REGER [21], WILSON [22]. More substantial is PICARD [20], a chapter on coinage and fiscality that compares the roles of grain and coinage in early Ptolemaic fiscal policy, traces the development of the coinage, and relates the introduction of large bronze denominations to the Revenue Laws of Ptolemy II. This reformed bronze coinage, according to Picard, involved six denominations of which the largest was an octobol, not a drachm, and face values for other denominations are suggested in captions to the illustrations. Major documents pertaining to Ptolemaic monetary and tax policy are available in the revised editions of AUSTIN [3] and of BAGNALL AND DEROW [4]; the latter work includes only epigraphic and papyrological sources and is strongly weighted toward the Ptolemaic kingdom.

Ptolemaic coins figure in two new studies of Hellenistic colonization. COHEN [8] includes Ptolemaic coin finds in the documentation for eight settlements and provides references for the Ptolemaic mints at Ptolemais-Akko, Seleucia-Gaza, and Ptolemais-Barce. MUELLER [17], treating Ptolemaic colonization exclusively, mentions coins as the first attestations of Arsinoe-Rithymna on Crete, Ptolemais-Lebedus in Ionia, and Ptolemais-Larissa in the Troad.

In his website on Ptolemaic genealogy BENNETT [5] cites numismatic sources for several dates and challenges both the numismatic and calendrical components of HAZZARD’s case for a coregency of Ptolemy V and VI (“The use of the Macedonian calendar under Ptolemies V and VI,” Travaux de numismatique grecque offerts à Georges Le Rider, eds. Amandy, M., and Hurter, S. (London, 1999), pp. 147–159). HUß’s magisterial history of Ptolemaic Egypt [12] mentions coinage in some half dozen passages, the most interesting being an account of exchange between the Egyptian, Phoenician, and Attic currencies under Dynasty XXVII; an extended discussion of the numismatic policies and iconography of Ptolemy V mostly follows Kyrieleis.

The use of Ptolemaic coins to illustrate non-numismatic works can be marred by inaccurate descriptions. KURTH [14] illustrates a tetradrachm of each king involved in the construction of the temple of Horus at Edfu, implying that the issues of Ptolemies VI through X bear their portraits, whereas they are in fact standard tetradrachms with the image of Ptolemy I. JONES [13] makes a similar error with a tetradrachm of Ptolemy XII and eschews a Ptolemaic coin portrait of Cleopatra VII in favor of a Roman denarius of Antony and Cleopatra.

Catalogues, Collections, and Exhibitions


Volumes of collections devoted solely to Ptolemaic or Egyptian coinage have been published by GUIDO [31] and [32]: Brescia), NOESKE [41]: Frankfurt am Main), PITCHFORK [43]: Sydney) and RÉMY [45]: Grenoble). A number of other collections have also now had their Ptolemaic holdings published as parts of larger catalogues by DE CALLATAŸ and VAN HEESCH, [27]: Brussels, du Chastel), HOLLOWAY [34]: Brown University), IRELAND [35]: Amasya, Turkey), LESCHHORN [38]: Braunschweig), MIELCZAREK [40]: Lodz), ZWICKER [53]: Erlangen-Nürnberg). A new acquisition at Kassel is published by LÖHR [39], and a coin in Sibiu by DUDAU [28]. KAMEL [36] has published photographs of some highlights of the Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria, including some Ptolemaic pieces and what purport to be dies for K gold issues in the name of Arsinoe II. The recent acquisition of a group of Hellenistic jewellery by the Getty Museum, Malibu, has prompted the publication of a volume on the subject of Ptolemaic gold (including some coins) by PFROMMER [42]. Exhibition publications containing Ptolemaic coinage have included the permanent display of the gold coins from the Gulbenkian collection edited by HIPÓLITO [33], and two major temporary exhibitions on broader Ptolemaic themes. One originated in Paris (RAUSCH [44]), the other in London (WALKER, HIGGS, [50], [51]). The latter contains brief surveys of Ptolemaic coinage as well as detailed commentary on coins struck by, and with the portrait of Cleopatra VII (MEADOWS [103]).


Selected Ptolemaic issues commonly found on Cyprus are featured in TZIAMBAZIS’ catalogue of Cypriot coins [49]. Ptolemaic acquisitions by the Danish National Museum during the years 1942–1996 are included in the supplement to SNG Copenhagen by SCHULZE and ZAHLE [46]. These coins reflect the research interests of Mørkholm, with an especially strong representation of issues connected with the Fifth Syrian War. A single Ptolemaic bronze in the Schledehaus collection in Osnabrück is the occasion for extended comments by CAVAGNA [26].

In 1999–2000 the Archaeological Museum of Heracleion, Crete, displayed an exhibit illustrating the contacts between Crete and Egypt over three millennia, including 36 Ptolemaic coins found on the island and catalogued by STEFANAKIS [48]. GODDIO’S spectacular discovery of another Heracleion, the submerged city of Heracleion-Thonis, inspired a traveling exhibition that included a gold stater of Ptolemy I found in the ruins of Heracleion [30]. In 2006 the Harvard University Art Museums added a permanent exhibit of early Hellenistic coins, including four of Ptolemy I; in the catalogue ARNOLD-BIUCCHI [23] favors Alexandria as the original location of Ptolemy’s mint and attributes to Cyrene a gold stater traditionally assigned to Barce, reading the symbol in the exergue as a silphium plant rather than an apple branch. In 2007 SHEEDY [47] mounted and catalogued an exhibition of Hellenistic coins in Sydney, including fourteen Ptolemaic coins, predominantly issues of Ptolemy I, as satrap and as king.



Hoards containing Ptolemaic coinage have been reported from the following locations. Torraca and Pompeii in Italy: MASTELLONI [183]: 5 AE, Ptol. II); CASTELLONI, OLIVIERO [172]: 1 AE, Ptol. II). Bosanska Krupa and an unknown findspot in Yugoslavia: MIRNIK [184]: 8 AE, Ptols. IV–VIII), UJES, BAKÍC [191]: 9 AE, Ptols. III–VI). Thrace: ARSLAN, LIGHTFOOT [168]: 11 tetradrachms of Ptols. I and II, closing late 260s). Attica and Geraki in Greece: LAGOS [182]: 1 AE, Ptol. II, see below) and VAN DER VIN [192]: 1 AE, Sv. 1000). Vasilika Anogeia on Crete: STEFANAKIS [190]. Söğütlüdere, near Fethiye in Asia Minor: ASHTON, ARSLAN, DERVIŞAĞAOĞLU [170]: 18 Ptolemaic tetradrachms closing c. 256 BC, perhaps in the context of the Second Syrian War; cf. DAVESNE [78]). Eurychon in Cyprus: DESTROOPER-GEORGIADES [174]: 17 AE to Cleopatra VII). Palestine and elsewhere in the Levant: KUSHNIR STEIN, GITLER [181]: 1 AE, Ptol. II); DAVESNE, LEMAIRE [173]: 252+ AE, Ptols. I–II). Elephantine (679 AE, Ptols. II–IV), Xois (123 AE, Ptols. II–IV) and an uncertain location (49 AE, Ptols. II–IV) in Egypt: NOESKE [185]; JENKINS [179] publishes a group of 13 bronze coins and four others, all said to have been found in the Cemetery of the Sacred Rams on Elephantine Island, Aswan. All of the hoard coins and two of the strays were as Sv. 1424, probably to be attributed to Ptolemy V (see below), not the joint reign of Ptolemies VI and VIII. KOVALENKO [180] publishes a hoard now in Moscow, of unknown findspot, containing 32 tetradrachms of Cleopatra VII, years 9–20.


Our period saw only a few hoard studies, several of which are discussed below in the context of Ptolemaic bronze coinage.

DUYRAT [175] reexamines the great Demanhour hoard (IGCH 1664) as a source of information about coin circulation in early Hellenistic Egypt.

AUGÉ [171] reports the 1993 find of Ptolemaic tetradrachms at Iraq al-Amir in Jordan, reportedly involving more than a thousand coins, most of which were dispersed on the numismatic market (see CH IX, 497; Paul Keen will publish a reconstruction). For the 315 specimens acquired by the Archaeological Museum of Amman, Augé provides a tabular summary by mint and date according to the classification of Davesne in Gülnar II. He concludes that the hoard was formed in Palestine or Transjordan and secreted in or shortly after 243/2, probably in connection with the Seleucid counterattack or with the action of Joseph the Tobiad.

PINCOCK [188] attempts to refute the analysis of CH VIII, 317 by Huston and Lorber in NC 2001 and to defend the traditional attribution of Svoronos 1424 to the joint reign of Ptolemies VI and VIII. The author notes that he has been unable to publish his critique in peer-reviewed journals.

VON REDEN [121] provides useful appendices of all hoards containing coins of Ptolemies I–V, separated by metal and by geographic distribution.

Excavations, Finds and Circulation


From within Ptolemaic dominions, AMANDRY [195] has published 232 Ptolemaic coins (150 identifiable, Ptolemies I–XII) from the French excavations at Tanis in Egypt, MYŚLIWIEC [242] lists coins found at Athribis (2 AR, Ptols. I–II, 4 AE, Ptols. II and IV), PICARD [246] publishes some of the the recent finds from Alexandria, while BUTTREY publishes over 500 Ptolemaic period coins of the Cyrenaic mints from the excavation of the sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone at Cyrene (BUTTREY, MCPHEE [215]. Interestingly, only one Ptolemaic find from this site is from the mint of Alexandria. Buttrey also supplies a brief commentary on the Ptolemaic coinage of this region. SHEEDY (SHEEDY, CARSON, WALMSLEY [250], published the 5 coins (Ptolemies I–VI) found in the Australian excavations at Pella. Numerous sites in Israel have furnished Ptolemaic material: Yodfat (AVIRAM, EDEN-BAJOWITZ [197]); Akko (AVSHALOM-GORNY [205]); Giv’at Yasaf (BERMAN, ARIEL [208]; Jerusalem (GITLER [225]); Ramat Aviv (GORSALSANI [229]); Sasa (SMITLEIN [251]); Haifa-Qr Ha-Orvim (YEIVIN [259]); Beth Shean (TSAFRIR, FOERSTER [257]). In addition coin finds from Ake (the Court House excavations), Dora, Kibbutz Ginosar on the N.W. shore of the Sea of Galilee and other sites in the region are adduced by GITLER and KUSHNIR STEIN [82], and used to date certain issues of Ptolemies IX and X (see below). AUGÉ [196] has discussed (though not fully published) the coin finds from Ras Ibn Hani, c. 5 km to the north of Latakia (Laodiceia) in Syria. The discovery here of c. 170 Ptolemaic coins (Ptols. I–III) is taken to provide evidence for the Ptolemaic occupation of the peninsula, perhaps in the context of the Third Syrian War. Elsewhere in the overseas dependencies, Limyra in Lycia has yielded Ptolemaic finds (GORECKI [227], [228], as have survey work in central Lycia (GREGORY [233] and Caria (KONUK [238], and excavation at Caunus (KELLNER, [235]. DESTROOPER-GEORGIADES [218] publishes an overstrike of Demetrius Poliorcetes (Newell Pl. ii, 9–10) on a bronze of Ptolemy I (Sv. 27) found in excavations at Dali on Cyprus. The same author also publishes the single Ptolemaic coin found in the French excavations at the Archegesion on Delos (DESTROOPER-GEORGIADES [219]. Stefanakis (62a???) has collected the evidence for finds of Ptolemaic coinage on Crete. Meanwhile, the phenomenon of Ptolemaic bronze circulating in the west continues to be reported in finds from Tevere (FREY-KUPPER [220], Puglia (TRAVAGLINI [256] and Este (VISONA [258].


PARENTE [245] has published the excavation coins from Bakchias in the Fayum. These include an important proportion of Ptolemaic coins, dominated by the second-century double eagle type Svoronos 1424. Interestingly, bronzes were replaced by tetradrachms under Ptolemy XII and Cleopatra VII. FREND [223] reports the coin finds from the 1974 campaign at Qazr Ibrahim; these include five Ptolemaic bronzes, unfortunately misdescribed as coins of Roman Alexandria. Individual coin finds include a bronze of Ptolemy II discovered in excavations of the bath of the Mammisi in Alexandria, reported by SZYMAØSKA AND BRABAJ [254], and a bronze of Ptolemy VI uncovered in the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri by the Polish-Egyptian excavations in 1982, reported by MYŚLIWIEC [241].

NOESKE’S [243] publication of the coin finds from the Upper Egyptian pilgrimage center of Abu Mina entails a mammoth survey of comparable material. Although the topic is coinage of the fourth through eighth centuries A.D., the survey captures a certain residue of Ptolemaic coinage, much of it previously unpublished. (The individual finds at Abu Mina from the campaign seasons 1963, 1965–1969 and 1975–1983 include, somewhat surprisingly, a Berenice bronze of Ras Ibn Hani (cf. LORBER [279], which overlooks this findspot) and two Cypriot bronzes, as well as two Egyptian bronzes dated year 3 and year 4 which are erroneously ascribed to Cyprus. Their Egyptian origin has now been demonstrated by FAUCHER and SHAHIN [176]. Disappointingly, Ptolemaic coins are scarcely better represented in NOESKE’S subsequent volume [244] cataloguing Greco-Roman coin finds from the Fayum.

BUTCHER [214] has published the pre-Islamic coin finds from sectors BEY 006 and 045 of the Beirut excavations conducted jointly by the American University of Beirut and the Archaeological Collaboration for Research and Excavations. These sites yielded 70 Ptolemaic bronzes, most of the Alexandria and Tyre mints. The presence of at least three (and perhaps as many as six) examples of Svoronos 838 inspires their tentative reattribution from Sidon to Tyre. The bronze varieties assigned to Berytus by Svoronos were not represented in the excavations, a fact consistent with their reattribution to southwest Asia Minor as proposed by ASHTON [261], [24]. The distribution of the Beirut excavation coins by reign is strongly weighted to Ptolemy II, but Svoronos 706–711 should probably be reattributed to Ptolemy III (as acknowledged p. 46, n.1). In his commentary Butcher compares the bronze denominational systems for Alexandria and Tyre, with the suggestion that they may have corresponded. He also discusses the stratigraphic evidence from BEY 006 indicating that Ptolemaic bronze coins were removed from circulation after the Seleucid conquest of Phoenicia. In a shorter overview of the coin assemblages from BEY 006 and 045 [213], BUTCHER also treats the Seleucid demonetization of Ptolemy currency but mentions that third-century Ptolemaic bronzes sometimes occur in stratigraphic levels of the fifth and sixth centuries A.D.

SIDEBOTHAM [232] reports a Ptolemaic bronze coin recovered from exploratory soundings in the civic center of Petra, conducted by the Hellenistic Petra Project in 2004. The coin was a worn Æ 26 without central cavities, thus an issue of Ptolemy I or Ptolemy II before the currency reform of the 260s, countermarked with an incuse trident. Sidebotham compares the countermark to the Seleucid anchor countermark of the second century and inexplicably cites the vertical die axis as atypical of Alexandria. He consequently proposes a Phoenician mint (Tyre or Sidon) and submits that the worn state of the coin points to a century or more of circulation before its deposit at Petra. The goal of the Hellenistic Petra Project is to discover evidence of settlement at Petra before 100 B.C., the date at which the Nabataeans are assumed to have abandoned their nomadic lifestyle (following Diod. 19.94.10). The Ptolemaic coin is thus significant because it, together with two third-century Aradian bronzes from the same trench, helps to define Hellenistic strata, as did Aradian and Ptolemaic coins found in the British excavations of 1955/6. Sidebotham undertakes an overview of the association of Aradian and Ptolemaic coins with “Nabataean” sites along the caravan route, citing much information provided by the Israel Antiquities Authority. He also draws attention to the association of Ptolemaic and Aradian coins at Ras Ibn Hani and hypothesizes commercial exchanges between the Ptolemaic kingdom and Aradus after the end of the Third Syrian War.

The small silver coins of Judah rarely occur in controlled excavations. ARIEL [199] reports that even the earliest issues, thought to be of the Persian period, were found together with coins of Ptolemy II in the excavations and survey of the caves of the Northern Judaean Desert. ESHEL and ZISSU [221] also report a Yehud coin with Ptolemaic types from the 1999–2001 excavations at Horvat ‘Ethri. Many Israeli excavations and an archaeological survey have reported Ptolemaic bronze coins, mainly of Ptolemy I and II and mainly of the Alexandria and Tyre mints, usually in small numbers (ADAN-BAYEWITZ AND AVIAM [194], 2 coins; AMITAI-PREISS [198], 2 coins; ARIEL [199], 12 coins; ARIEL [200], 8 coins; ARIEL [202], 1–3 coins; ARIEL [203], 1 doubtful; BARKAY [206], 33 coins; BEN-TOR, BONFIL, AND ZUCKERMAN [207], 3 coins; BIJOVSKY [209], 1 coin; BIJOVSKY [210], 1 coin; BIJOVSKY [211], 3 coins; EVANS [222], 3 coins; GITLER [226], 6 coins; GORZALCZANY [230], 4 coins; GORZALCZANY AND BARKAN [231], 4 coins; HERBERT AND BERLIN [234], 15 coins; KINDLER [236], 12 coins; KINDLER [237], 10 coins; Meir [240]. Overall these reports, like the finds from Beirut, seem to indicate a gap for the reign of Ptolemy III, but this probably reflects erroneous attributions in the standard works of reference.

The excavations at Gan Soreq have yielded a bronze of Ptolemy VIII from the Cyrene mint, the first securely identified and provenanced Cyrenaican found in Israel (personal communication from Donald T. Ariel).

Coin finds at two Israeli sites have clarified the history of Hellenistic city foundations. In analyzing the stamped amphora handles from the Bet Shean excavations, ARIEL [201] recalls a hoard of tetradrachms of Ptolemy II, found in the University of Pennsylvania excavations of Tel el Husn between 1921 and 1933. These finds, together with the distribution of excavation coins, point to the conclusion that Hellenistic Nysa-Scythopolis was founded in the Ptolemaic period at Tel el Husn and relocated to Tel Istabbah in the Seleucid period. EVANS [222] observes that the excavations at Caesarea Maritima have yielded only three Ptolemaic bronzes but numerous Seleucid coins. Consequently she argues against an early date for the foundation of Strato’s Tower, preferring a date after the Seleucid conquest.

STEFANAKIS [253] reviews recent research on Ptolemaic coinage (as of 2000) and surveys the evidence for its circulation in Crete. Numerous didrachms of Ptolemaic Cyrenaica were hoarded in Crete or overstruck by Cretan cities; the influx of Cyrenean coins can probably be explained by the involvement of Cretan mercenaries in the campaigns of Ophellas and Magas, and/or treaties of Magas with Gortyna and the confederacy of the Oreioi. Ptolemaic royal coinage found in Crete is dominated by issues of Ptolemy II, perhaps to be associated with the Ptolemaic garrison established at Itanos by Patroclus. The Lagid substitution of bronze for silver coinage is reflected in the finds for Ptolemy III and his successors.

CHRYSSANTHAKI [217] provides a detailed account of Ptolemaic coin circulation in Greece and the Aegean. Along the Thracian coast and in the Aegean Ptolemaic coinage is quite scarce and its presence does not correlate with areas under Ptolemaic control, an indication that the Ptolemies did not impose the use of their coinage. Ptolemaic coinage in Greece reflects the dynasty’s policy of intervention in Greek affairs, both through direct military action and through subsidies and donations. Silver subsidies from Ptolemy I and II enabled Athens to strike the series of tetradrachms of the style called quadridigité, which financed the Chremonidian War. The extensive military operations of the Ptolemaic admiral Patroclus in Attica during that war are attested by bronzes of Ptolemy II marked with a shield and monograms. Portrait bronzes of Ptolemy III have been found at sites throughout the Peloponnesus; at Corinth they were officially accepted into the city’s monetary system, without countermarking, and circulated for nearly a century until the destruction of Corinth in 146. Publication of the excavation coins from Methana-Arsinoe in Greece provides an occasion for GILL [224] to outline the city’s coinage. BIRGE, KRAYNAK, AND MILLER [212] allude to Ptolemaic coin finds in the Nemea excavations.

The coin finds from the excavations at the Decumanus Maximus in Carthage, published by BALDUS [204], include one bronze coin of Ptolemaic Cyrenaica.

MANGANARO [239] surveys the Ptolemaic coins found in Sicily, the majority of which are bronzes with a shield symbol, ostensibly of Ptolemy II (for reattribution of this coinage, see WOLF AND LORBER [287]. STANNARD [252] reports that Ammon/Isis headdress bronzes account for 2.6% of all coins found at Liri in Italy and are also overstruck with local imitative Roman types, mostly quadrantes.

Ptolemaic coins have strayed far from their usual areas of circulation. TALVIO [255] reports tetradrachms of Ptolemy II and Ptolemy VI found in Finland. A bronze of Ptolemy IV was the earliest coin in the large hoard from the ford of Saint Léonard (Mayenne) [193].

Coinage in the Ptolemaic economy


Two articles by VON REDEN have sought to place Ptolemaic coinage against the background of other monetary media and customs in Hellenistic Egypt. In the first [122] she turns her attention to the question of how far the Ptolemies were responsible for the monetisation of Egypt. She notes the extent to which Egypt was already monetised in the dynastic period, stressing the use of money of account and the use of this in circles where physical forms of money did not in fact circulate, and the ability of different social strata to participate in the resulting monetary economy. Set against this background, the introduction of coinage into Egypt can be seen as restrictive rather than enabling. For this reason, and because of the weakness of local silver supplies, the local economy of Egypt, she suggests, continued to operate on a money of account basis, which may in turn account for the observable instability of ratios between silver (interstate currency) and bronze (epichoric). In the second [123] she develops this idea of dichotomy in the monetary instruments of Ptolemaic Egypt, by stressing on the one hand the symbolic value of high-value precious metal coinages, and on the other the ability of the chora to function economically in the absence of physical monetary instruments. ROWLANDSON too [110] has emphasised the extent to which the coin in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt can be deeply embedded within existing non-coin monetary practice, such as to make its form almost incidental.

BOGAERT has produced two further studies on the workings of banks in Ptolemaic Egypt. In one [67] he examines them from an operational point of view. Of particular numismatic interest is his summary of an earlier article (Historia 33 (1984), pp. 181–198) on the state-contracted banking activities, including the role of such banks in the exchange of foreign currency for local, and epichoric silver for bronze. He also discusses the role of private banks in the latter activity. In the other [66] he gives an overview of banking in Ptolemaic Egypt and the overseas dependencies, providing a list of known banks and bankers arranged geographically.

Once known as the copper standard, but to be re-christened, as LE RIDER and CADELL [72] insist, the idea of a bronze standard distinct from the silver standard has long been current among papyrologists and numismatists. The supposition of a dislocation between the two ‘standards’, imposed by the Ptolemaic rulers from the reign of Philopator onwards seemed a necessary conclusion to be drawn from the escalating bronze prices observable in the papyri from this period onwards. This assumption has lain behind the book length attempt by MARESCH [98] to establish the relative values of bronze and silver throughout the history of Graeco-Roman Egypt. His discussion is unfortunately compromised in some of its detail by various assumptions concerning the bronze coinage, arrived at in collaboration with W. Weiser that seem at best questionable. LORBER [300] in her review of the latter author’s catalogue of the Cologne collection, and in her other publications on the third century bronze (see above), has highlighted some of the problems. Nonetheless MARESCH’s basic conclusion, that the silver and bronze standards were unified under Ptolemy II and then became dislocated under Philopator may well be close to the truth. The question of the relationship between the pre- and post-reform bronze of Philadelphus remains moot, however. That the steep rise in prices was the result of dirigiste policy on the part of the Ptolemaic rulers has recently been called into question, however, by CADELL and LE RIDER [72]. Instead of seeing in the price rise a reaction to a devaluation of the bronze coinage, they suggest that the rise in prices may simply have been the result of inflation, due to an increase in the money-supply. Certainly, on the basis of the grain prices they trace over the third and early 2nd century BC, the inflation seems not to be as regular or extreme as earlier theories of royal intervention have postulated. The rupture between the silver and bronze standards was a reaction to this price inflation: an attempt by the administration to maintain the price of grain for the foreign market by fixing it in silver drachms, and allowing the bronze in use in the chora to find its own level against this. Whether an increase in money supply could have been sufficient to cause inflation at the level at which it occurred, remains a matter of uncertainty: doubt is cast on this by BAGNALL [291]. HUSTON and LORBER [178] add further doubts about the mechanism adopted by the authorities to deal with the inflation. They suggest that, in the monetary reform they have identified in the reign of Ptolemy IV, there may be evidence for an attempt on the part of the government to demonetise old coin stock and reduce the money supply. It remains unclear whether the obvious reductions in weight standard now identified by LORBER and HUSTON [291] in the reigns of Ptolemies IV and V were solely reactive, or whether they were part of the driving force behind inflation at this period. It seems nonetheless clear that this problem is more complex than had for long been thought.


Both numismatists and economists have become deeply interested in the role of coinage in the Ptolemaic economy, seeking to determine the degree of monetization and to define the operations and character of the economy. In addition, numismatists and papyrologists continue to draw on written documents, and to compare them to the numismatic record, in an attempt to refine the chronology and to establish the face values of Ptolemaic bronze coins. So many important and detailed publications have appeared that it is impossible to summarize them adequately.

Several works in this subject area include accounts or partial accounts of the development of Ptolemaic coinage (BURKHALTER AND PICARD [68], CUVIGNY [75], LE RIDER AND DE CALLATAŸ [91], MONSON [104], MUHS [105], PICARD [20], VON REDEN [120], [121]. There is growing consensus that the early Ptolemies imposed monetization through their tax policies, and several scholars emphasize the connection between the new tax laws promulgated after 264 (partially recorded in P. Rev.) and the introduction of an expanded system of bronze denominations in the late 260s (MANNING [97]; MUHS [105]; PICARD [20], [282]; VON REDEN [120], [121]. Some scholars also underline the profits inherent in closing the economy to foreign coinage, in striking gold coins underweight, and in promoting the use of fiduciary coinage for internal payments (PICARD [20]; LE RIDER AND DE CALLATAŸ [91].

LE RIDER AND DE CALLATAŸ [91] collaborate in a comparison of the monetary systems and fiscal policies of the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms. They contrast the closed economy of the Ptolemies with the open economy of the Seleucids, pointing out that both developed from models already present in the Greek world. The authors’ central object is to define the role of coined money in both economies. They draw attention to the continuing importance of payment in kind and are not persuaded that either government sought to impose monetization on rural areas. Because both dynasties had ample reserves of precious metals in the form of plate, jewelry, and other luxury items, Le Rider and de Callataÿ reject the common assumption that monetary production was constrained by shortages of bullion. For these authors it reflects the preferences of the monarchs, whose principal need for coinage was to support military preparedness.

PICARD [20] also sees the desire for a strong military as the principal motive behind Lagid fiscal policies. He discusses the early evolution of Ptolemaic coinage in relation to three of those policies: taxation in kind for the grain economy, to keep the price low and to ensure that the king had a large supply for sale abroad; the money taxation of oil products, which were consumed internally; and the apomoira, which extended the power of the treasury in the service of royal cult.

MANNING [97] treats coinage as an aspect of the development of the Ptolemaic state. Currency itself was an expression of sovereignty, as was the imposition of its use, effected through tax laws and through the introduction of Greek financial institutions, especially banks and tax farming. Early Lagid economic policy was designed to ensure stability and predictability, to insulate the treasury from risk, and only then to capture as much revenue as possible through taxation; the result was an economic intensification that eventually contributed to rural unrest. Within this framework, Manning discusses specific taxes required in cash; the codification of the legal traditions of the various ethnic communities; the role of temples in the monetized economy; use of cash by the native Egyptians; and loans, interest rates, and the limitations of the credit market. In a chapter on the relevance of Ptolemaic Egypt for studies of “the ancient economy,” VON REDEN [120] characterizes coinage and contracts as economic institutions whose introduction, in combination with Ptolemaic royal ideology and rituals, served to integrate Egypt both politically and economically while stimulating economic growth. The papyrological evidence implies widespread commercial exchange within Egypt; however this was not a Greek market driven by individual profit seeking but rather one in which many individuals were motivated by ideals of service to the monarchy and ambition for positions of power at the court or in local hierarchies. The major purpose of the salt tax was to compel circulation of the king’s coinage and to force the population into paid labor contracts. Local taxes collected in bronze coinage were recycled locally through paid labor, especially for maintenance of the irrigation system (under the Ptolemies, even compulsory labor was paid by the local administration or set off against taxes). Von Reden mentions papyrological evidence for royal financial problems under Ptolemy IV, describes his monetary reform, and refers to the subsequent redefinition of the bronze drachm as “the stater of an independent currency.” The problems of the late third century indicate that the cohesion of the economy did not emanate from economic mechanisms alone, but depended importantly on the authority and charisma of the king, which was maintained through extensive public ritual, aimed at both Greek and Egyptian subjects, in which coinage played a part.

VON REDEN’S book on money in the Ptolemaic economy [121] is, like the two preceding studies, limited to the third century, and develops many of the same themes, but in much greater detail. Two chapters are devoted to the evolution of the coinage, covering familiar ground but also offering fresh ideas and useful information from the field of papyrology. The early coinage was linked to the legitimization of Lagid rule, with gold coinage in particular associated with state payments and royal cult. Precious metal coins were aimed at Alexandria, the harbors, and the economy of cleruchs, while bronze coins were intended for the chôra; although they were exchangeable, these were essentially separate currencies, hoarded separately and usually separated in accounts. By the 230s precious metal coins had largely disappeared from the chôra, and exchange between silver and bronze currency became a matter of negotiation and local policy, apparently controlled by royal banks. Monetization was uneven and in the chôra it could only be maintained by an extensive system of credit. Under these circumstances prices were not sensitive to money supply, so that the inflation of the late third century cannot be explained by an oversupply of coinage or a shortage of goods. (This conclusion ignores the current tendency of economists to consider credit as part of the money supply and the recent painful lessens that credit can indeed lead to price inflation.) Von Reden critically reviews the documentary evidence for the inflation of the late third century and suggests that the disappearance of monopoly banks (responsible for money changing) after the reign of Ptolemy III and of the salt tax after 217 may have contributed to a piecemeal disintegration of the monetary system under Ptolemy IV, which culminated in the removal of most bronze coinage from circulation. (In contrast, CLARYSSE AND THOMPSON [73] submit that the salt tax continued to be levied to the end of the Ptolemaic dynasty, and that the lack of records is an accident of survival.) A sixty-fold elevation in wages toward the end of the century indicates that bronze coinage had become an independent currency in which the bronze drachm served as a unit of account equivalent to one sixtieth of the silver drachm, consistent with the traditional Egyptian silver : bronze ratio of 1 : 60. The earliest unequivocal attestation of the new system is P. Tebt. III 829, dated 201. Another chapter details the exchange of bronze and silver and the circumstances governing allagé (the commission paid to exchange bronze coinage for silver, or silver coinage for gold). The rest of the book minutely examines every aspect of the Ptolemaic economy: money taxes and taxes in kind; rents; cash wages and consumption allowances of oil, wine, and clothing; labor contracting; loans, including those attached to a pending or actual sale, a lease, or a labor contract; the role of patronage and protection in economic life; and banking.

In their study of the salt tax registers of P. Count [73], CLARYSSE AND THOMPSON provide many details about the process of census taking and tax collection in the nomes covered by their documents, as well as a full account of the various taxes of third-century Egypt. They touch on some of the same themes as the above studies of monetization but rarely allude to coinage per se except as it is reflected in the rates of the salt tax (which applied to animals as well as to people). Complexity is a characteristic of Ptolemaic rule, resulting from particular adaptations of ancient institutions, such as the imposition of tax farming upon the existing system of tax collection by royal officials. Egyptian scribes continued to work in record keeping, but this was now a bilingual operation at the lower levels of the hierarchy, and the scribes had to add the Greek terminology of drachms and obols to the Egyptian terminology of deben and kite. The latter, the authors note, was not well suited to recording the small amounts of cash involved in salt tax levies. The salt tax, the obol tax, and other cash taxes were pervasive but modest, suggesting a symbolic importance at least as great as their economic importance. The rates were repeatedly lowered, a development that may reflect some difficulties in collection but also attests to the concern of the rulers for the welfare of their subjects and their land. In addition various occupations and groups were exempt from these taxes, and the earliest exemptions—of teachers, athletic coaches, Dionysiac artists, victors in the national games—illustrate official Ptolemaic support for Greek culture. These and other exemptions highlight the privileged position enjoyed by the immigrant population and by those natives who assisted in the royal administration. Census registers confirm privileged status of immigrants vis-à-vis Egyptians, evident in their larger households, slave holding, and ownership of cattle and sheep. It was newcomers who invested in lucrative new sectors such as livestock, vineyards, orchards, and olive groves; these were cash products sold mainly in Alexandria, and subject to money taxes, so that they contributed to the process of monetization. Another feature of Ptolemaic rule was the omnipresence of police, for whom pay figures are provided, and various kinds of armed guards. Cash for their pay was not always on hand and sometimes improvised measures were necessary.

VON REDEN [119] is an early statement of her insight that money in circulation in Ptolemaic Egypt was probably not sufficient to pay taxes, because of the large number of subjects taxed, so that credit extended by royal banks or between private individuals was a vital precondition to the operation of the tax system. BINGEN [65] reprises his negative judgment of the same phenomena. For him, the formation of groups to put up even modest sums reflects both the insufficiency of cash in circulation and the insufficiency of individual financial resources. The prevalence of borrowing is proof of the deleterious impact of the monetary economy, new tax structures, and Greek capitalism on native Egyptians, many of whom were destitute and unable to amass even the small sums of cash required for the payment of taxes. Adding to their burdens was the need for sureties to guarantee future payments and appearances.

Other specific aspects of Ptolemaic taxation received attention in our period. In a study of tax receipts from early Ptolemaic Thebes, MUHS [105] reports a great increase in the number and extent of money taxes before year 22 of Ptolemy II, with most receipts for the yoke tax, levied on males only, probably at the rate of 4 kite (8 drachms) annually, and replaced by the salt tax in 264. The proliferation of money taxes led to the introduction of tax farming, first documented in a demotic contract dated year 14 of Ptolemy I. Muhs provides a detailed account of the processes involved in tax farming and describes the numerous taxes, including the amounts of money paid. His discussions of the coinage trace exchange rates, weight reductions, the development of bronze coinage and its face values, the introduction of the “copper standard,” and demotic accounting, relying especially on Hazzard and Reekmans. Documents pertaining to Ptolemaic taxation are far more rare outside of Egypt. MEADOWS [101] reinterprets an inscription at Argos that records donations by the coregents Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy VIII, and Cleopatra II, and by several Cypriot cities. He suggests that the latter may represent the apomoira, and that these donations to Argos could be related to the service of Polycrates of Argos to Ptolemy V, father of the three rulers.

CUVIGNY [75] surveys the use of the term chrysous in Egyptian documents of the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. The form is adjectival, with stater understood, and outside of Egypt it referred to the gold stater on the Attic standard. In Egypt under the reign of Darius II, numerous documents attest to the equivalence of the silver deben (c. 91g) and the Attic-weight gold stater, itself equivalent to 20 silver drachms or 87.5g of silver. In the Ptolemaic period the chrysous is rarely mentioned as the equivalent of 20 silver drachms except in a particular type of demotic marriage contract involving a (probably fictive) payment from bride to groom of deben of silver from the treasury of Ptah, and translated in Greek registers as syngraphe trophitis argyriou chryson drachmon—evidence that the term chrysous could be used to refer to silver. This ambiguity is relevant to interpreting the term chrysoi in the Greek text of the Pithom Stele (Raphia Decree); Cuvigny concludes that it was used as an accounting term only, reflecting the expenditure of 6 million drachms of unspecified metal. Another question that engages Cuvigny is the name of the quarter mnaiaion: MARESH (Bronze und Silber (Opladen, 1995), p. 108) proposed that this coin was called a chrysous, but Cuvigny rejects the interpretation because the only support for it comes from P. Oxy. XLIX 3455.28–29, a theoretical document from the third or fourth century A.D. The nomenclature of gold coinage had an additional role in metrology. The term mnaiaion referred to an actual coin but was also a unit of weight; similarly, the term chrysous was the Greek equivalent for the deben as a unit of weight. In this perspective, the deben, as a unit of weight equivalent to 20 drachms, was perhaps reduced to 72g to conform to the weight of 20 Ptolemaic drachms of 3.27g. The tetarte was an accounting unit only, reckoned as one sixteenth of the mnaiaion and one quarter of the chrysous, but with no corresponding coin.

BURKHALTER AND PICARD [68] review the papyrological evidence for the monetary units employed in different periods of Ptolemaic history, contrasting the bronze drachm of the third century, which could (with the payment of allagé) be exchanged for a silver drachm at a slight discount, with the bronze drachm of the second and first centuries, which must have been a unit of account rather than an actual coin, since prices for this period are given in minae and talents. The actual record of coin production does not support the thesis of CADELL and LE RIDER (Prix du blé (Brussels, 1997)) that these prices were due to a normal if aggravated inflationary process fueled by an excessive supply of money, but points instead to a monetary reform at the beginning of the second century. Burkhalter and Picard also compare the Egyptian bronze coinages of Cleopatra VII and Augustus, both of which employed marks of value, and conjecture that the 80-drachm bronze of Cleopatra was equivalent to an octobol on the silver standard, that of Augustus to a tetrobol. A lengthy table at the end of the article summarizes relevant documents that record allagé, silver/bronze conversions, penalties, and obols and fractions.

The monetary terms of the second and first century are further confirmed from documents published by HAGEDORN [83], SCHENTULEIT [112], and SALMENKIVI [111], the last of whom also cites P. Berol. inv. P. 25903 (Busiris, 86 B.C.) for the conversion of silver drachms to “copper” drachms of account at the ratio 1 : 500. VERHOOGT [118], commenting on late second century texts from Kerkeosiris, notes the mention of small sums in bronze—5, 10, 20, 50, 60, and 120 drachms—and suggests these might correspond to the face values of actual coins; as for larger sums, he reasonably proposes that they must have been stored in pouches or vessels. Verhoogt also reports six prices for the silver tetradrachm, ranging from 1500 to 2000 bronze drachms over a period of just a few years, and points out that the price of the tetradrachm fluctuates even within individual accounts, presumably in response to the condition and/or weight of the coins involved. These prices demonstrate that tetradrachms traded as market commodities, while the keeping of separate accounts for bronze and silver supports the idea of two standards advanced by other papyrologists.

The publication and interpretation of papyri and ostraca continue to enlarge our dossier of actual prices, penalties, wages, and concession fees and to confirm known patterns in the use of monetary units (COWLEY [74], KALTAS [85], MANNING [96], RODRIGUEZ [109], SALMENKIVI [111], SCHENTULEIT [112], SOLDATI [114], VANDORPE [117], VERHOOGT [118]. MONSON [104] offers a particularly interesting study of the finances of private religious associations, which assessed dues and penalties, paid death benefits, and provided aid to wrongly imprisoned members, all in cash. The wheat equivalents provided by the author show the annual contributions of office holders in the third-century Ghoran association sometimes exceeded the price of a year’s supply of wheat. Also interesting is a demotic annuity contract of 176/5 published by FARID [80], in which a son promises 15 sacks of emmer annually to his mother in exchange for her surrender of “10 silver pieces = 50 staters = 10 silver pieces, copper 24, kite 2.”

Gold and Silver Coinage


Price had regarded the opening of a mint at Alexandria for the Alexander coinage as an innovation of Ptolemy I (previous issues having been produced at the mint of Memphis). This reconstruction has come under attack from LE RIDER [87], [90] who regards the earliest Egyptian Alexanders as the product of a new mint at Alexandria set up by Cleomenes of Naucratis, prior to the assumption of the satrapy by Ptolemy. On this reconstruction, Ptolemy did not move his mint, but continued to use one already in existence. In this respect the correct construction of the legend ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΕΙΟΝ ΠΤΟΛΕΜΑΙΟΥ, which appears on some early tetradrachms of Ptolemy, is crucial. Price had regarded the adjective as qualifying the word ‘mint’, and thus adverting to the new production of coinage at the city of Alexandria. However, it is now clear that this must qualify ‘coin’, and refer to the weight standard (this interpretation has recently been restated by KNOEPFLER [86].

WHEATLEY [125] returns to the problem of the chronology of events in the eastern Mediterranean in the period 315–311, and the role of numismatic material in fixing points in the chronology. A tetradrachm of Ptolemy I with types Alexander hd./Athena st. from the mint of Sidon dated year 22 (X) indicates that the city was in Ptolemaic hands for at least part of 312/1. Since no Ptolemaic issue is known from the previous year (Φ: 313/2), he argues that the battle of Gaza must have been fought late in that year (312).

LORBER [300] offers a rearrangement of the order of silver issues of Alexandria c. 277–259 proposed by Davesne in his publication of the Meydancikkale hoard, (a) to take account of the pattern of weight-loss observed on these issues in that hoard, and (b) to provide a clear break in 261/0 between the use of the legends ΠΤΟΛΕΜΑΙΟΥ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ and ΠΤΟΛΕΜΑΙΟΥ ΣΩΤΗΡΟΣ.

The famous papyrus dated 258 BC and alluding to officially required exchange of coinage (PCZ 59021) has received attention from BOGAERT [67] and LE RIDER [88], a propos of the diagramma governing the exchange of coinage that it presupposes; from DAVESNE [77] concerning the layers of official administration of the coinage that are revealed; and again from LE RIDER [89], who examines the sense of lines 9–16. He endorses the reading of epichorion nomisma as ‘local coinage’ in the sense of the coinages local to the foreigners importing it to Egypt, viz., from an Egyptian point of view, foreign gold coinage. He then surveys the coinage to which this might refer.

The relationship of gold coinage to silver has also been examined by LE RIDER [88], [72], who makes the important point that where we know the names of gold coins they seem always to be couched in terms of their value in silver (trichyson, mnaieion, pentekontadrachmon). This, he notes is an important point to remember in the case of the so-called gold octadrachms of Ptolemy II. Known as mnaieia (100 dr. coins) in the contemporary sources, these coins, at c. 27.80g to do not weigh the equivalent of a Ptolemaic octadrachm (ideally 28.5g). Instead their weight is governed by the gold-silver ratio. In this case the ratio is 1:12.8 and the mnaieia provide evidence for an increase in the ratio from the 1:12 evinced by the earlier trichryson.

Three studies have brought the evidence of Ptolemaic gold and silver to bear on the matter of wartime expenditure under Philadelphus. DAVESNE [78] has assembled the numismatic evidence for Ptolemaic activity during the Second Syrian War, including hoards, the opening of mints at Ake, Joppa and Gaza and the legend change on Ptolemaic silver to ΠΤΟΛΕΜΑΙΟΥ ΣΩΤΗΡΟΣ (which he sees as programmatic). He reasserts his view that Sv. 894–8, attributed by Svoronos to Ephesus, were minted at Aradus during the period of Ptolemaic control of the city and reassigns the Ptolemaic issues of the Tarsus mint (Sv. 910–911) from the reign of Euergetes to that of Philadelphus in the context of the Second Syrian War. Elsewhere, DAVESNE [79] also suggests that the well-attested spate of countermarking of Ptolemaic issues by the city of Byzantium is the result of the subvention of Philadelphus to the city known from Dion. Byz. 41 and that this occurred during the same war (the generally acccepted date of 280/79 for this episode would rule out such a connection, however: see BRINGMANN, VON STEUBEN [6], p. 271). In fact, a more systematic treatment of the evidence by NOESKE [18] reveals that a sequence of 10 countermarks was used, the earliest appearing on a Ptolemaic issue of 280, the latest on an issue of 246. Noeske notes that the first example of the countermark may be connected with Demetrius’ testimonium, but suggests that Ptolemaic aid must have been ongoing. However, it may well be questioned whether the countermarks have anything to do with Ptolemaic benefactions at all. In general, DAVESNE [79] finds no particular links between the other Syrian Wars fought by Philadelphus (the hypothesised conflict of 281–79 BC, and so-called First Syrian War of 274–1) and reform of or unusual activity at the Ptolemaic mints. Indeed the major monetary reform dated by Davesne to c. 265 BC is taken to be the reason that Philadelphus could not involve himself in the Chremonidean War in 265/4. Drawing on Davesne’s figures for coin production by the first three Ptolemies (revisited by DAVESNE himself [79], [77]), RODRIGUEZ [108] comes to essentially the opposite conclusion regarding the year 266/5. The spike on Davesne’s graph of Ptolemaic emissions that occurs in this year is taken by Rodriguez as evidence of Philadelphus’ gearing for the conflict. However, caution is required here. This spike is produced in large part by Davesne’s attribution of many undated Ptolemaic issues of the Tyre and Sidon mints to a single year on the basis of their perceived weight loss in the Meydancikkale hoard. (To the material gathered by Rodriguez may now be added the hoard from Attica apparently of Chremonidean War date published by LAGOS [123], which contained one specimen of Sv. class Z, series B.)

Another coinage often regarded as having a wartime context, in the Third Syrian War, must now certainly be moved. The precious metal issues in the name of Berenice II have received a considerable amount of attention of late. VAGI [116] has collected details of more than twenty examples of the silver denomination which Svoronos (aware of just a single specimen: Sv. 988) regarded as an Attic weight dodecadrachm. The new specimens, most if not all of which derive from a hoard of unknown origin that began to appear in commerce in the early 1990s, are in far better condition than that known to Svoronos and have an average weight of 52.7g. Vagi thus reclassifies them as Ptolemaic weight pentekaidekadrachms. LE RIDER [72] has also questioned the weight standard of this silver, as well as the accompanying large gold (Sv. 986). BAGNALL [291] plausibly suggests that the latter, weighing c. 43g, should be interpreted as a 1.5 mnaieion (150 drs.). CACCAMO CALTABIANO [69], cf. [70] and [71] has argued strongly that the bulk of the gold issues in the name of Berenice cannot have been issued as early as the 240s. The portrait is that of a middle-aged woman, and the control marks on these issues need also to be considered. Caccamo Caltabiano’s own date for the issues, late in the reign of Ptolemy III cannot stand either however. Of the control marks they exhibit, E (Sv. 973) and chi-rho (Sv. 962) tie in to bronze coinage of Ptolemy III that must have been in production from at least the middle of his reign until its end, while the controls Σ and ΣΕ (Sv. 991) link to bronzes which seem now not to have been among the first issued by Philopator (Sv. 992–3, 1148–9). If LORBER [93] is correct in the sequence she offers for these bronze issues, then the Berenice gold was apparently in production from around the 230s until well after Berenice’s murder in 221 BC.

HAZZARD [177] republishes the Cyprus 1982 hoard (originally published by Mørkholm, NC 1987, pp. 156–8, and now in Copenhagen), and uses it to provide a date span of c. 204–166 BC for the Dionysiac silver issues it contains (Sv. unlisted x2, 1786, 1789, 1794). He goes on to suggest that the rash of small denominations and fractional silver of this type issued on Cyprus in the early 2nd century was brought about by the dislocation between the silver and bronze standards at this time: contemporary bronzes no longer served as denominations on the silver standard.

On the basis of control marks shared with later Seleucid issues, LORBER and KOVACS [95] have attributed certain Serapis and Isis/eagle on thunderbolt tetradrachms (as Sv. 1136 and var.) to the mint of Soli in Cilicia. Soli thus apparently became a royal mint under Ptolemy V, probably during the Fifth Syrian War, before being employed by Antiochus III after his conquest of the region in 197 BC. Interestingly, two of the controls in question also appear on standard Paphian silver of Ptolemy V (Sv. 1302–5).

On the basis of die-links and an overstrike, LORBER [300] has also set out a revision of the order of the portrait issues of Ptolemy V proposed by Mørkholm (Essays Thompson, pp. 203–214).

The so-called ‘coins of an uncertain era’ continue, unnecessarily, to cause confusion. Mørkholm (NNÅ 1975–6, pp. 23–58) brilliantly reattributed these to the civic mint of Aradus. More recently Hazzard (see eg. Ptolemaic Coins (Toronto 1995) has suggested again that they are official Ptolemaic issues produced at a hitherto unattested mint at Pelusium, and dated according to a hitherto unattested era of ‘Soter’. The findspots alone of these coins strongly suggest that Mørkholm was correct and Le Rider (BCH 119 (1995) pp. 391-404) has given a clear exposition of the prevailing monetary system of the region which would have given rise to such imitations at Aradus. Nonetheless confusion now reigns. CACCAMO CALTABIANO [69] has returned to the notion that the era is Ptolemaic (beginning in 311). PITCHFORK [43], nos. 34 and 73) has them as royal issues produced at Aradus. NOESKE [41], nos. 395–406) has them as civic issues of Aradus. LE RIDER [72] sits on the fence, but is attracted by the re-reading of the earliest dated issue by LORBER [300] as year 42, which coincides on Hazzard’s Soter era with the accession year of Ptolemy IV. LORBER [300] has rightly cast doubt upon Hazzard’s thesis.


In his master’s thesis OLIVIER [280] investigates every aspect of Ptolemaic gold coinage. For each separate category of the coinage he reviews all relevant hoards, reports the results of metallurgical analyses conducted at the Centre Ernst Babelon, and discusses the chronology (which remains unresolved for many series). In addition he examines the role of gold coinage in the Lagid monetary system: the evolving gold/silver ratio, the likely commercial uses of Ptolemaic gold coinage, and the possible exchange rates available to foreign merchants. Olivier demonstrates that each denomination of the Attic-weight gold coinage of Queen Berenice could also exchange on the Lagid standard and proposes that this coinage was struck for Ptolemaic troops stationed in or near Seleucid territory, in which case the queen honored on the coinage should be Berenice Syra. Other topics include the possible use of metallurgical analyses to localize mints; the sources of gold; and estimates of the volume of production of mnaiaia.

The coinage of Ptolemy I has attracted the interest of various scholars. LE RIDER [273] and LORBER [275] both find that the Demanhur hoard implies a date of 324/3 for the opening of the Egyptian mint, though they disagree about its location, Le Rider favoring Alexandria and Lorber Memphis. COHEN [8] vacillates on the location of the mint but uses a long footnote to review the scholarship and ancient sources relevant to interpreting the coin legends ΑΛΕΞΑΔΝΡΕΙΟΝ ΠΤΟΛΕΜΑΙΟΥ and ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΕΙΟΝ. DAHMEN [274] notes that the gold staters with Alexander’s portrait and a prow reverse were the only Ptolemaic coins of their time to circulate outside Egypt and suggests a connection with the Ptolemaic successes on Cyprus. LORBER [275] cites control links between silver and bronze coinage to fix the first reduction of the tetradrachm to 306/5, with subsequent dates lowered accordingly; the weight reduction thus appears as an emergency response to the catastrophic losses in the battle of Salamis. RODRIGUEZ [283] reconstructs Ptolemy’s military assets and correlates changes in his coinage with his military policy, emphasizing iconographic appeals to Macedonian mercenaries but also associating the revival of gold coinage with the necessity of rebuilding the Lagid fleet after the disaster at Salamis. In a paper on the closing of the Ptolemaic monetary economy, DE CALLATAŸ [265] envisions a two-stage reform of the coinage, with a brief reduction of the tetradrachm to c. 14.90 g around 300, followed by a final reduction to c. 14.25 g around 295. His reexamination of the Alexandrian tetradrachms of Ptolemy I in the Meydancikkale hoard reveals that the number of obverse dies has been overestimated and identifies numerous obverse die links between coins with different control marks. He estimates that ten emissions of tetradrachms were produced within a short period of time, perhaps as little as two years.

WHEATLEY [286] examines Sidon’s year 22 tetradrachms of Ptolemaic type to date the battle of Gaza. In a separate paper [284] he reconsiders the sequence of tetradrachm dies at Tyre against the historical background and reaches the conclusion that Ptolemy did not get permanent possession of Tyre and Sidon until 289 or early 288.

GITLER and LORBER [268] catalogue the rare sub-drachm silver fractions of Ptolemy I, including a new obol variety struck in Palestine after the battle of Gaza. ARIEL [199] criticized the various proposals (as of 2002) concerning the chronology of the small silver coins issued in the name of the province of Judah, including those with Ptolemaic types. Subsequently GITLER and LORBER [269] assembled a corpus of Ptolemaic Yehud issues. Their commentary essays a relative and absolute chronology based on types, die axes, and comparison with Alexandrian coinage; metrological and metallurgical analyses are appended.

DAVESNE [263] expresses his view that Ptolemaic minting on Cyprus commenced immediately after recovery of the island in 295. For Asia Minor he recognizes only two Ptolemaic mints, Ephesus and Tarsus, and limits their activity, as well as the penetration of Ptolemaic hoards into Asia Minor, to the years 265–255 and 246¬–240. His reattribution to Aradus of some coins considered Ephesian by Svoronos is rejected by DUYRAT [266].

In a book on Ptolemaic propaganda, HAZZARD [270] pulls together various arguments he has developed over the years for an era of Ptolemy Soter. He demonstrates that the epithet Soter was not associated with Ptolemy I in official usage until 261/0, when it became the regular legend of Ptolemaic tetradrachms; it was not introduced in the dating protocols of legal documents until 259. Hazzard associates these changes with the introduction of a “Soter era” in January 262, whose purpose was to fix the celebration of the Ptolemaieia in relation to astronomical events. In Hazzard’s view, the so-called era tetradrachms and didrachms are dated by this era and are official Ptolemaic issues emanating from Pelusium.

Comments offered by MEADOWS in the last Survey of Numismatic Research inspired CALTABIANO [262] to reiterate her theory that Berenice II exercised a right of coinage separate from that of Ptolemy III, and that the coinage of this queen is to be dated after her husband’s death. According to Meadows, control links between the precious metal coinage in the name of Berenice and bronze coins in the name of King Ptolemy imply a chronology extending from the 230s (approximately) until well after Berenice’s murder. Caltabiano submits that contemporary minting of these coinages would violate the normal hierarchy of political power, which was always reflected in the coinage, unless the bronze coins were struck during a period when Ptolemy IV played a subordinate role, i.e., during a regency of Berenice II after the death of Ptolemy III. (This solution is problematic, not only because the regency in question is unattested in the historical record, but also because it would have to accommodate at least three large issues of bronze coinage, including one of the largest in Ptolemaic history, the series marked with the letter E.) Caltabiano also attempts to reconcile her low chronology with the record of third-century bronze hoards but in the process confuses two different reforms, one being the reduction of the bronze weight standard with the introduction of the ???  series and the other being the introduction of a new accounting unit, ostensibly under the reign of Ptolemy IV.

DUYRAT [266] updates Mørkholm’s corpus and die study of the Ptolemaic era coinage and offers a critical review of the relevant scholarship. Having emphasized the Seleucid sympathies of Aradus, she is skeptical of Mørkholm’s tentative attribution of the era coinage to Aradus and favors a mint in the Ptolemaic province of Syria and Phoenicia. LORBER [278] publishes an era tetradrachm dated year 115, belonging to the final phase of the era coinage which was formerly known to comprise didrachms only. She also reviews the scholarly controversies and concludes that Hazzard has arrived at correct dates, even if his theory of a “Soter era” remains problematic. She accepts Hazzard’s claim that this coinage was introduced into Coele Syria and Phoenicia in connection with the Syrian Wars but proposes that it was carried there from Cyprus by the Ptolemaic fleet.

In a paper on seal impressions from Kedesh, ARIEL and NAVEH [260] note the correlation between the inauguration of the era of the people of Tyre in 275 and the date proposed for the beginning of Ptolemaic coinage at Tyre by DAVESNE (Le Trésor de Meydancikkale, Gülnar II, p. 266). In their view, the correlation is probably significant. LORBER [276] shows that Tyre was the probable mint of tetradrachms of Ptolemy V bearing his epithet Epiphanes, and of a complex of precious metal issues that share its monogram and spearhead symbol.

Bronze Coinage


A hoard of 252 coins seen in commerce in Jerusalem in 1991 provides DAVESNE and LEMAIRE [173] with the opportunity to discuss the bronze coinage under Ptolemies I and II, before the latter’s reform in the 260s. Under Ptolemy I (c. 310–300) two denominations were produced (20–22mm, 9g; 16–17mm, 5g). Subsequently (c. 300 onwards) these two denominations were maintained (the larger with a change of type) and supplemented by one smaller module (11mm, 2g) and two larger (26–28mm, 18g; 32–35mm, 28g). Under Philadelphus mints opened for this coinage on Cyprus. The authors speculate as to which of the earlier two denominations (9g or 4.5g) was the chalkous, and thus as to the nature of the other denominations, and the ratio of bronze to silver values. In a subsequent study DAVESNE [76] argues instead that the smallest denomination, now described as weighing c. 1g is to be seen as the chalkous. If, as PICARD [107] suggests, there is a continuity between the bronze systems of Ptolemy I and the reformed system of Ptolemy II, the ascertainment of the ideal weight of the chalkous at the earlier period is of particular interest. For example, if this was in the order of 1.5g (so PICARD, [107].), then a drachma of bronze on the same standard would have had an ideal theoretical weight of c. 72g. Since this now appears to have been the weight of the the principal bronze denomination after Philadelphus’ reform of the coinage in the 260s (see below), then such a conclusion has clear implications for the nature of Philadelphus’ reform. It would be come one of denomination, not of standard. As PICARD [106], elsewhere notes, if the bronze of the Ptolemies is simply to be viewed as a replacement for silver fractions no longer being struck, then their policy has parallels elsewhere in the Greek world at the same time. Some weight tables are urgently needed for the further discussion of this problem, which remains unresolved.

In a detailed review of the hoard evidence for Ptolemaic bronze coinage in the reigns of Ptolemies II-IV, LORBER [93] has made a considerable advance in the ordering and attribution of the post-reform third-century bronze. She has, moreover, come to the startling conclusion that the largest bronze denomination (her module A: c. 45mm; 96g) was issued predominantly under Euergetes, not as has been thought since Svoronos, under Philadelphus. Instead the largest, and standard, bronze coin under Philadelphus was, for most of the time, her module B (c. 40mm; 72g). This was replaced, she suggests, for a brief period at the beginning of Euergetes’ reign with module A, before module B again became the standard denomination in the later reign of Euergetes and the beginning of that of Philopator. She further hypothesises that the two denominations alternated in use as the bronze drachma. The reasons for these oscillations remain a matter for speculation. LE RIDER [88], [72] too has turned his attention to the problem of the bronze drachma. He notes one clear advantage of viewing the 72g coin, rather than the 96g, as the drachma. If the former were the drachma, then it is possible to identify an obol (Head of Alexander/eagle, wings open, c. 12g) among the bronze coins issued by Philadelphus. There is no coin that would correspond to an obol at a 96g drachm standard.

On the basis of the near simultaneous closure of several of the hoards under consideration in the reign of Philopator, together with the appearance of the cornucopia countermark on module C (c. 38mm; 48g) issues of Philopator, HUSTON and LORBER [178] go on to posit a further currency reform under this monarch which saw the reduction of the standard (largest) bronze denomination from module B to around that of module C (from c. 72g to c. 45g). Earlier module C issues were countermarked and a new type began to be struck at Alexandria at a slightly lower weight of 40g, and characterised by an obverse Ammon head with enlarged horn and no basileion, and two eagles on the reverse. A date of c. 207/6 BC for the reform is posited, on the basis of the absence of the new type enlarged horn issues from hoards buried apparently in the context of the Upper Egyptian Revolt of 207/6–206/5. Shortly thereafter, in the reign of Epiphanes (c. 200 BC), they suggest, a further reduction in weight to c. 29g took place. An important corollary of their hoard study is the reattribution of the extremely common Sv. 1424 to the reign of Ptolemy V, and the observation that this issue should probably be divided in two (two distinct standards being indicated by weight tables).

In an article devoted to those bronze issues with a lotus-blossom control mark, LORBER [94] has succeeded in disentangling the previous confusion surrounding these coins. On the basis partly of control symbols shared with other bronze issues, in one case of countermarking, and general stylistic grounds, she makes the following attributions: Sv. 841–3 and Paphos II 47–51 – Phildelphus/Euergetes; Sv. 1409, 1411, 1412–14 – Philopator; Sv. 636–7 – Epiphanes; Sv. 1396–1402, 1403–8 – Philometor. The lotus-blossom symbol, she concludes was a specifically Cypriot symbol and identifies issues produced at a mint or mints on the island. If this identification is accepted then an interesting pattern of circulation emerges whereby it is clear that after the reign of Euergetes only Cypriot bronzes circulate on Cyprus; similarly Cypriote bronze ceased to circulate in Egypt from the same point until the early 80s BC. Another important consequence of this and Lorber’s other work on the third century bronze is that we can now see that issues with the same control marks were produced under Philopator at the mints of Alexandria, Tyre, Cyrene and Cyprus.

PICARD [246], [247] has published a hoard from excavations at Alexandria of bronzes of an entirely new type. There are four modules: 1.9–2 cm, 7.13g; 1.5–1.6 cm 3.64g; 1.2–1.3 cm, 2.05g; 0.9–1 cm, 0.942g. The three largest have the same types (head of Apollo laur. r./falcon st. l.), while the smallest has the same obverse, but a different reverse (thunderbolt). Picard suggests a second-century date for the new coins and argues that the four denominations are obol, hemiobol, dichalkon and chalkous. If he is right about the denominations, however, we may extrapolate a bronze drachm weight of c. 45g at the time of their issue. This conforms to the bronze standard in use late in the reign of Ptolemy IV and early in that of Ptolemy V (so HUSTON and LORBER [178] – see above), and may suggest a late 3rd century date. However, the absence of legends and control marks for the new bronzes creates uncertainty as to the authority behind them, and indeed as to whether they are coins (as opposed to tokens), at all. MEADOWS [103] suggests that they may been used in some temple/sanctuary context.

MATTINGLY [100] has suggested moving the Ptolemaic portrait bronzes well known from finds in the Peloponnese (Sv. 1000) out of the reign of Ptolemy III and into that of Ptolemy V, seeking to connect their appearance in Achaea with the subvention to the League by Epiphanes recorded by Polybius (22.9.3). However, the portrait on these issues is very close to that on Sv. 996-9 and these latter are certainly coins of Euergetes.

GITLER and KUSHNIR STEIN [82] note a curious pattern of Ptolemaic coin finds in Palestine. Few Ptolemaic pieces are found there after the Ptolemaic loss of the area at the end of the third century, with the exception of a curiously high representation at Dora, Ake and the Galilee area of Cypriot bronzes as Sv. 1698, usually attributed to Ptolemy IX or X. They suggest that the most probable occasion for such an influx of this particular type is the invasion of Phoenicia launched from Cyprus by the Ptolemy IX in 103/2 BC. A terminus ante quem can thus be suggested for Sv. 1698, though the identity of the issuer of these and related issues (Sv. 1694-1714) remains uncertain. The authors also note the existence of a module unknown to Svoronos: c. 16-17mm; head of Zeus-Ammon/ single ribboned cornucopia.


LORBER [274] presents a synopsis of the development of Ptolemaic bronze coinage in Egypt. From her studies of third-century hoards she deduces that the bronze drachm was normally a coin weighing c. 72 g, but that a heavier weight standard based on a drachm of c. 96 g was temporarily in effect during part of the reign of Ptolemy III. PICARD [20],[282] prefers a consistent set of six denominations for this period, with a drachm of 65–75 g and the heaviest denomination valued as an octobol. Picard’s reconstruction depends in part on his perception that types were used to identify the various denominations; this leads him to consolidate two pairs of neighboring denominations with identical types in Svoronos’ system of eight denominations for Ptolemy II. However, FAUCHER [60] reports that his metrological study confirms two separate weight populations for each of the contested “twin” denominations. VON REDEN [265] rejects the idea that the bronze drachm must have existed as an actual coin and notes the lack of a demotic term for drachm. Based on salt tax rates and the existence of a demotic term for obol, she proposes that the bronze of c. 72 g was a triobol, that of c. 96 g a tetrobol. Drawing on the traditional Egyptian silver : bronze ratio of 1 : 60 (dating back to the Ramesside period), she demonstrates that a later bronze tetrobol of c. 72 g struck under Ptolemy IV could have been equivalent to 40 drachms under the new system of accounting put in place toward the end of the century—but she does not confront the evidence that this denomination was selectively removed from circulation toward the end of Philopator’s reign.

PICARD [281] reports a second-century bronze hoard from excavations at Tebtynis replicating the contents of the earlier Tebtynis hoard IGCH 1705 and other hoards from the Fayum to Lower Egypt. On the basis of these hoards he submits that bronzes with the double eagle reverse remained in circulation over many reigns, filling the period between Isis head bronzes and the coinage of Cleopatra VII, though the absolute chronology remains uncertain. A second-century hoard from Kom Truga, consisting of double eagle bronzes of the type discussed by Picard, is reconstructed by SHAHIN [189].

FAUCHER and SHAHIN [176] publish a hoard of dated Ptolemaic bronzes (Svoronos 1190–91 and 1193) found near Lake Mareotis together with a bronze wing severed from a statue, but no other coins. The authors demonstrate that these coins, attributed to Cyprus or Crete by Svoronos and to Syro-Phoenicia by Mørkholm, were in fact struck at Alexandria; citing the still-unpublished Megadim shipwreck off the coast of Israel, they date the coins to the first reign of Ptolemy IX. Their die study yields an estimate of about 70 dies for the two denominations, pointing to a substantial coinage that was probably intended to replace completely an earlier bronze coinage withdrawn from circulation.

PICARD [191] reports some salient features of the assemblage of Ptolemaic coins found in the French excavations at Alexandria. The excavations did not yield countermarked coins, an indication that this method of revalidation was not employed at Alexandria. (Countermarked coins have subsequently been found in the Alexandria excavations.) Cast coins are represented for all periods, but especially for the late second to first half of the first century, when they comprise nearly a third of the total finds. The same period also saw the use of unstruck flans in exchange and a high proportion of lead in the alloy. These phenomena were not observed in coins from the Tebtynis excavations and may be peculiar to Alexandria. The cast coins were probably not the products of counterfeiters but of local authorities who needed currency to make payments. One twelfth of the Lagid coins found in the Alexandria excavations were small bronzes with the letters B—A and K—Λ (Svoronos 1732–1733). Picard considers these to be 5-drachm pieces of Cleopatra VII and associates them with her reformed 80- and 40-drachm bronzes, which replaced double eagle coins.

In general remarks on the state of research into Ptolemaic coinage, DE CALLATAŸ [264] notes the artificiality of attributing bronze coinage by reign and advocates an approach based on hoards, excavation coins, modules, and types. In his view the most fruitful line of research will involve correlating actual coins with the monetary units attested in written documentation.

DAVESNE [263] questions the attribution to Menelaus of the early Cypriot bronze coinage with the head of Aphrodite on the obverse, stating that the eagle on thunderbolt reverse type was introduced when Ptolemy became king. However the eagle on thunderbolt is also the reverse type of small Egyptian bronzes in the name of Alexander, which most specialists date to Ptolemy’s satrapy; Davesne’s case would have been stronger had he cited the use of Ptolemy’s name as issuing authority.

WOLF AND LORBER [287] examine an anomalous bronze coinage of Ptolemy II whose style is sometimes described as “Sicilian.” The die axes and border conventions do not conform to the practice of Alexandria. The coins in question circulated almost entirely in Sicily (see MANGANARO [239] and are control linked to the bronze coinage of Hieron II, factors that reveal these coins to be imitative issues struck at Syracuse. The notable presence of Ptolemaic coins in Sicily is also treated by CARROCCIO [216] and PUGLISI [249], with list of hoards].

ARSLAN and ÖZEN [169] have published a hoard of small Ptolemaic bronzes portraying Arsinoe II (as Svoronos 387), together with new bronze varieties with the types Poseidon/trident and Apollo/cornucopiae, signed ΠΤΟΛΕΜ and ΒΑΣ ΠΤΟ, respectively. The hoard was found in Turkish Thrace, providing the first known context for the Arsinoe bronzes, and the authors cite the types and fabric of the other coins to suggest an origin at Byzantium. Their attribution to Ptolemy Ceraunus is less persuasive, however, and other scholars will surely prefer a date no earlier than the reign of Ptolemy II. (Such a reattribution has now been offered by PSOMA, “Numismatic evidence on the Ptolemaic involvement in Thrace during the Second Syrian War,” AJN 20 (2008), pp. 257–263.)

The value of publishing local collections is demonstrated by ASHTON [24] and KONUK [37], who singled out the Ptolemaic holdings of the Fethiye Museum and the Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum, respectively. At both museums two bronze series of Ptolemy II or III, one marked by a trident and the other by a tripod, were conspicuously overrepresented. As both collections were formed locally, it is clear that these series were minted in southwest Asia Minor in the neighborhood of Telmessus and Halicarnassus, and not at Berytus and Ptolemais (Ake) where Svoronos had placed them. ASHTON [261] suggests Caunus as the mint of both series. Nevertheless, DAVESNE [263] expresses skepticism about the local production of these coins, emphasizing his perception that for Asia Minor the minting or importation of Ptolemaic coinage was limited to the time of the Second and Third Syrian Wars.

The excavations at Ras Ibn Hani in Syria have yielded an important concentration of Ptolemaic bronzes with a female portrait labeled Queen Berenice, paired with reverses naming King Ptolemy and showing either a cornucopiae or an eagle. In view of the scanty representation of this series elsewhere, LORBER [279] proposes that it was a local mintage of Ras Ibn Hani rather than the several products of Sidon, Tyre, and Ioppe or Gaza as attributed by Svoronos. She investigates the iconography, metrology, and other aspects of the coinage to determine whether it should be given to Ptolemy II (honoring Berenice I) or to Ptolemy III (honoring Berenice II). The pattern of coin finds at Ras Ibn Hani supports the latter, established interpretation.

LORBER [276] identifies the last Ptolemaic bronze issue of Tyre in a rare coin with the types Zeus Ammon/filleted club, which bears the epithet of Ptolemy V, Epiphanes, on its obverse, along with a spearhead. This epithet first appears in demotic documents in 199, and the Tyrian bronze probably represents the earliest appearance of its Greek form. The coin is evidence that Tyre remained in Ptolemaic hands until at least the seventh year of Ptolemy V and perhaps until 198.

LORBER [277] reaffirms the Egyptian attribution of the rare bronze coins of Ptolemaic type issued by Antiochus IV (contra Mørkholm, who had assigned them to Cyprus). She also examines the historical circumstances and the possible function of these coins in the context of the Sixth Syrian War.

In a book on the self-representation of Ptolemy VIII [152], NADIG asserts that bronze coins with his epithet Euergetes come mainly from Cypriot finds, but he provides no specific citations, nor does he mention that Buttrey has attributed these same bronzes to Cyrenaica on the basis of finds there (The Extramural Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone at Cyrene, Libya: Final Reports VI (Philadelphia, 1997)). Based on finds in Italy, STANNARD [252] concludes that small Ammon/Isis headdress bronzes must have been the main coin circulating in Cyrenaica in 96, when Rome acquired the province.

In a footnote to a paper on Nabataean lead coinage, HOOVER [271] draws attention to late Hellenistic lead pieces from Nabataean contexts imitating the types of Svoronos 1733, the B—A pentadrachms of Cleopatra VII. Elsewhere HOOVER [298] provides an appropriately critical response to KREUZER [272], a self-published and highly speculative reconstruction of Cleopatra’s Cypriot coinage that influenced the attributions of some coin dealers.

Technical Matters


HAZZARD [61] discusses the numismatic evidence for the Macedonian (as opposed to Egyptian) calendar in use in Egypt under Ptolemy V and VI, and appends a list of dated Ptolemaic coins from 193/2–146/5 BC. DAVESNE [77] provides a survey of the orgainisation of the Ptolemaic mints, including the use of mint marks, magistrate’s marks, methods of manufacture and die-engraving. On this last point he discusses the problems (already noted by ASHTON [290]) presented by the so-called delta-engraver. The small delta which appears behind the head of the portrait of Ptolemy has often been taken as an artist’s signature. However, this ‘signature’ appears to have been use for a period of fifty years and at the mints of Alexandria, Sidon, Tyre, as well as on Cyprus. While it cannot be ruled out that this was all the activity of one prolific individual, it begins to look unlikely. BOUYON, DEPEYROT and DESNIER [55] have argued that the central cavities that appear on Ptolemaic bronze coinage are not in fact a technical feature of production method, but are deliberate parts of the coin design intended to identify post reform coinage. It is unclear, however, why this feature should last so long on the coinage.

As part of broader technical studies DE CALLATAŸ [56], [57] and [58] has commented briefly on the die axes of Ptolemaic coinage (always adjusted to 12h.), provided estimates for the sizes of certain coin emissions of Ptolemies III, V, VIII, IX and X (on this question cf. DAVESNE [77], and discussed the evidence for die-engravers’ signatures. SCHULZE [113] re-examines the problem of the trident countermark that appears on some early Ptolemaic bronzes, and speculates that they may be evidence of a reduction in standard that took place as part of Philadelphus’ great reform in the 260s. LICHOCKA [92] too, publishing a trident-countermarked coin from the Polish excavations at Nea Paphos surveys the evidence and possible explanations for these countermarks. She notes that they have been reported as appearing on coins issued by Euergetes and tentatively suggests that they may have been applied by a Ptolemaic mint in the context of the Third Syrian War (in fact one of the specimens she cites is reported as being as Sv. 993 (J.W. Crowfoot et al., Objects from Samaria (London, 1957), p. 50) which, if correctly identified, is an issue of Ptolemy IV). Clearly a full and careful collection of the evidence is required.


FAUCHER’S doctoral dissertation [60] is a major contribution to the study of Ptolemaic bronze coinage, centered on production technique at the Alexandria mint. He reports the results of metallurgical analyses conducted at the Centre Ernst Babelon on Alexandrian and provincial bronze coins, with particular attention to the introduction of lead into the alloy in the second century and the improved tin content under Cleopatra VII. In addition he examines every aspect of the minting process: organization of the mint, production of dies, the function of controls and symbols, types, stylistic consistency and provision of dies to provincial mints, production of flans and the striking process, cast coins, metrology, and size of issues. Faucher’s metallographic observations of the famous central cavities introduced under Ptolemy II confirm the theory of Guey and Picon that these conical holes were added individually to each flan to hold it steady on a lathe so that it could be smoothed before striking.

ARIEL [54] surveys the distribution of known flan molds, noting that Ptolemaic molds from Cyprus are typologically and technologically indistinguishable from those of Judaea. He also draws attention to the curious lack of either stone or clay flan molds from Egypt, though pottery molds for forging coins have been published.

A pair of dies in the Greco-Roman Museum at Alexandria, ostensibly for second-century Ptolemaic mnaiaia, are exposed as nineteenth-century forgeries by FAUCHER [59], who warns of the danger that numismatic studies may be contaminated by false mnaiaia. PROKOPOV and MANOV [62] identify some Bulgarian counterfeits of coins of Ptolemies II through IV.

In a paper relating the metrology of ancient plate to that of coinage, VICKERS [64] cites a mid-first century papyrus inventory of three sets of silver table settings of which the first two each have a weight of 13,000 drachms, based on drachms of 3.51 and 3.55 g, respectively. He speculates that the total weight of 13,000 drachms may reflect the Ptolemaic gold : silver ratio of 1 : 13, making these sets each equivalent to 1000 gold drachms, i.e., a mina of gold.

Portraiture, iconography, and self-representation


JOHNSON [142] discusses the gold mnaieia with portrait of Euergetes (as Sv. 1117–9) restating the view of R.R.R. Smith (Hellenistic Royal Portraits (Oxford, 1988)) that divine elements present in the design are suggestive rather than programmtically syncretic. He compares the suggestive arrangement of the ΘΕΩΝ ΑΔΕΛΦΩΝ legend on the mnaieia of Ptolemy II: theos does not have to be read as qualifying adelphos, but can be. (On the correct identification of obverse and reverse of these issues, see the comments of LE RIDER [72], p. 12 n.15). Johnson notes that explicit divine titulature (ΘΕΟΣ) is absent from documentary material (including coins) before the reign of Philometor. SMITH himself [164] has returned to the portrait of Ptolemy III, emphasising the way in which the divine attributes accorded Ptolemy were carefully adapted to set them in a specifically royal, not divine sphere. He contrasts the calm, impassive demeanour of the Ptolemaic portraiture with the more martial and dynamic style of other Hellenistic royal houses. The former style he sees as distinctively Alexandrian. ASHTON [128] has used numismatic material as comparanda in her investigation of the interraction between Greek and Egyptian traditions in Ptolemaic portrait sculpture. SALZMANN [161] has used coins to help to identify a sculptural portrait of Ptolemy I in the Kestner Museum, Hannover. Numismatic material features alongside portraits on gems, sealings, rings and cameos in PLANTZOS’ work [158] on Hellenistic gems.

The portrait of a Ptolemy has in the past been identified on bronze issues of the city of Abdera in Thrace. ASHTON [127] suggests that this identification should be rejected. SPAER [165] restates his view that the late tetradrachms of Ascalon do not feature portraits of Ptolemaic kings, but rather the immobilised portrait of Antiochus VIII. The appearance of the portrait of Cleopatra VII of Egypt on the city’s silver he takes to be an honour paid by the city to Julius Caesar on the occasion of his defeat of Pompey at Pharsalus in 48 BC; similarly he suggests the reappearance of the portrait in the thirties to be a civic honour for Mark Antony. Neither interpretation is compelling, and indeed the former is ruled out, since the coin in question was issued in 50/49 BC, not 48.

The portraiture of Cleopatra continues to fascinate. FLEISCHER [138] analyses the schizophrenic nature of her numismatic portraits. Numismatic material plays and important part in discussions in WALKER, HIGGS [50], [51].

Outside of Egypt, numismatic evidence has been exploited by scholars seeking to demonstrate links between Ptolemaic Egypt and the West. TALIERCIO MENSITIERI [115] collects the evidence for Ptolemaic coin finds and stylistic influence in Bruttium and at Rome and in Campania. TRAVAGLINI [256] collects the evidence for Ptolemaic coin finds in Puglia, while GARRAFFO [81] notes a close stylistic correspondence between the coinage of Agathocles of Syracuse and contemporary issues of Ptolemy I. He goes on to identify, on the basis of metrological study, a close relationship between the weight standard adopted by Hieron II of Syracuse and the Ptolemaic standard in the latter half of the third century. CACCAMO CALTABIANO [71] also notes metrological similarities and uses what she regards as stylistic derivation to date the coinage of Philistis after the Ptolemaic issues of Berenice that they copy. MEADOWS [102] has suggested, albeit speculatively, the possibility that Ptolemaic influence is to be seen in the choice of the Mars/Eagle on thunderbolt gold produced by Rome during the Second Punic War.


Three themes dominated recent studies of the iconography of Ptolemaic coins: the interpretation of divine attributes associated with the rulers, the representation of Ptolemaic queens, and the influence of Egyptian culture on royal self-representation.

Several authors treat the depictions of Alexander the Great on the coinage of early Hellenistic Egypt. There is disagreement over the small Egyptian bronzes showing a male head in Phrygian cap, with the reverse type of a Pegasus forepart. LE RIDER [273] argues that the obverse cannot represent Alexander and that the coins may not even be Egyptian. DAHMEN [136] accepts the image as a lifetime portrait, but admits that its satrapal attributes are difficult to account for. He stresses the originality and the essentially transitional character of Ptolemy’s posthumous portraits of Alexander, which project the conqueror’s divine nature in order to legitimize Ptolemy’s rule. The bronze coinage initially showed Alexander without the elephant headdress, so that his horn, signifying his relation to Zeus Ammon and thus his connection to Egypt, was more immediately apparent to the local population that used these coins. PFROMMER [156] anachronistically cites a late myth that Osiris hunted elephants in India to explain Alexander’ elephant headdress. BOSWORTH [132] interprets the figure of Alexander in an elephant quadriga on Ptolemy’s gold staters, drawing attention to episodes in Alexander’s campaign that associate elephants with Indian kingship. He emphasizes Ptolemy’s role in promoting elephant imagery and speculates that for Ptolemy elephants were symbols of great power defeated, whereas Seleucus made them symbols of his own victory at Ipsus, trumping Ptolemy’s use of elephant imagery and effectively driving it from his coinage.

KROLL [144] offers the premise that Hellenistic royal portraits with divine attributes grew out of a Greek tradition that reserved coin obverses for representations of gods. After tracing the development of the coin types of Ptolemy I, he notes that the Zeus imagery of Ptolemy’s final precious metal coinage relates his coin portrait to his epithet Soter, received from the Rhodians in 304 (a point of history that has been disputed by HAZZARD, “Did Ptolemy I get his surname from the Rhodians in 304?” ZPE 93 (1992), pp. 52–56). Kroll submits that coin portraits of living Ptolemaic rulers without divine attributes appear only in territories outside Egypt and reflect Seleucid influence in these areas (Cilicia and Coele Syria).

The numismatic papers from the Fifth International Italo-Egyptian Conference at Turin look for Egyptian influence on Ptolemaic coin types. LICHOCKA [147] observes how the lack of Egyptian precedents for numismatic artistry resulted in a coinage of Greek style that often conveyed Egyptian ideas. Its repetitive iconography and legends underlined the continuity of power. CALABRIA [135] cites the ancient Egyptian tradition that reserved precious metals, especially gold, for the pharaoh and notes the implications for royal portraits on coinage; the absence of such a tradition in Cyrenaica allowed Magas to place royal portraits on bronze coinage. Jugate portraits of the royal couple on Egyptian mnaieia and in other media such as cameos likened the rulers to Osiris and Isis and drew on the pharaonic tradition of the “great royal wife,” a divine spouse capable of giving birth to the next pharaoh. The coinage of Cleopatra VII broke with both of these traditions, portraying Cleopatra as sole ruler, principally on bronze coinage. FINOCCHI [135] considers the numismatic portraiture of Ptolemaic queens against the background of female pharaohs. She endorses La Rocca’s conclusion that portrayal of a queen diademed but otherwise bare headed was a sign of her real and legal exercise of power, a standard met only by Berenice II and Cleopatra VII; however Finocchi’s own discussion of the Cyrenaican portrait coins of Magas for Berenice I provides a counterexample.

Seeking the origin of female ruler portraiture, GORINI [139] credits Lysimachus with the first such depictions on coins: the portraits of his wife Arsinoe (the future Arsinoe II) and his daughter Eurydice on coins of Ephesus and Smyrna, respectively. For Gorini, the Cyrenaican coins issued by Magas in the name of Queen Berenice depict two different queens, those with young portraits representing Berenice I and those with older portraits Berenice II. Also noteworthy are Gorini’s attribution to Cyrenaica of high value precious metal coins of Berenice II usually ascribed to Egypt and his date of 262 for certain mnaieia of Berenice II struck at Ephesus. PARENTE [155] examines the numismatic iconography of Arsinoe Philadelphus. Like Gorini, she identifies the earliest numismatic portraits of Arsinoe on the coins of Arsinoe-Ephesus. Arsinoe’s veil represents her married status. Her Egyptian coins depict her with the horn of Ammon, reflecting her epithet “daughter of Ammon.” Of particular interest is the complex symbolism of the pomegranates in the dikeras, which evoke love, marriage, fertility, and life after death and thus associate the deified queen with Hera, Aphrodite, Persephone, and Isis. VON REDEN [149] sees the fruits in the dikeras as Dionysiac. She recalls an Egyptian myth that Zeus fathered Dionysus on Amaltheia (source of the horn) and then named the place of their lovemaking, a fertile region shaped like a bull’s horn, Amaltheias keras. For PFROMMER [156], the fundamental horn shape of the double cornucopiae recalls Io, a divine forerunner of the refugee Arsinoe, while the dikeras itself symbolizes the sacred marriage of the Theoi Adelphoi and serves to mitigate the scandal of the incestuous union. In a paper on Ptolemaic incest, AGER [126] deals in part with tryphé and with coin types expressing it; she suggests that the double cornucopiae of Arsinoe Philadelphus might symbolize incest as well as tryphé. Regarding the Berenikeia nomismata, PFROMMER [156] shares the opinion of many scholars that it was issued during the Third Syrian War and is an expression of Berenice’s full sovereignty during the king’s absence on campaign. The youthful, idealized portrait on the mnaieia struck at Ephesus is, in Pfrommer’s view, a likeness of Berenice Syra, designed to conceal her death and to legitimize Ptolemy’s aggression through the fiction that he was acting on her behalf.

BRICAULT [145] relates the tetradrachms of Ptolemy IV portraying Sarapis and Isis to inscriptions from Philopator’s reign attesting to a cult of this divine couple as Savior Gods. The author hypothesizes that the king may have credited the Savior Gods with a battlefield intervention that led to his unexpected victory at Raphia, in which case the coins should be dated to the time of the battle of Raphia. Less credibly, Bricault claims that the atef crown of Sarapis marked his official consecration by the religious authorities at Memphis (in fact, Sarapis was a Hellenized version of the Memphite god Osorapis) and that the temporary elimination of Amun led to the Theban revolt (Zeus-Ammon was consistently portrayed on the bronze coinage of Ptolemy IV).

In a major study of solar imagery in ruler portraits, BERGMANN [130] discusses the propaganda purposes of radiate portraits of Ptolemy III and V in the context of the Fourth and Fifth Syrian Wars. She generally follows Kyrieleis in interpreting the iconography of Ptolemy III as pantheistic and as symbolizing power over land and sea, success in the Third Syrian War, and the fertility of Egypt. She associates the coins portraying the deified Ptolemy III with the donative promised by Arsinoe III before the battle of Raphia and recorded in the Raphia Decree. The war propaganda of Ptolemy V included portraits of his parents because they were victors over Antiochus III at Raphia. Bergmann develops the idea that radiate portraiture was transmitted from the Ptolemies to the Seleucids via the Syrian Wars, but notes that Persian sources could also have inspired the astral symbolism of Antiochus IV. BLASIUS [131] also emphasizes the interchange between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids, tracing the epithets of Antiochus IV as well as his solar imagery to the example of his brother-in-law Ptolemy V. The “Egyptianizing” bronze coinage of Antiochus IV borrowed its types and metrology from Ptolemaic coinage and for Blasius it is best explained as a coinage struck at Antioch for use by the Seleucid army during its two invasions of Egypt. To explain the absence of these coins in Egypt, he points to the removal of Ptolemaic ΕΥΛ bronzes from Cyprus when the Seleucid occupation ended.

Publication of an Edfu seal impression with the portrait of Antiochus IV of Syria leads PLANTZOS [159] to a discussion of the coin portraits of Ptolemy VI. Both the unique tetradrachm in the American Numismatic Society and the unique mnaieion of Cleopatra I and Ptolemy VI in the British Museum are cited, without reference to HAZZARD’S identification of Ptolemy V on the New York tetradrachm (“Theos Epiphanes: Crisis and response,” Harvard Theological Review 88/4 (October 1995), pp. 415–436).

THOMAS [166] has published a bronze statuette in a Rhenish private collection, identifying it as a posthumous representation of Ptolemy IV in the guise of Osiris. Her analysis entails a wide-ranging survey of the documentation for the assimilation of kings to gods, drawing heavily on coin imagery, with special emphasis on the Ptolemies. She concludes that portrayals of Ptolemaic kings with divine attributes represent them in their role as pharaohs. A table at the back of the book presents a chronological overview of all Hellenistic coins bearing ruler portraits with divine attributes, with columns summarizing Thomas’ thoughts as to the significance of the attributes and the occasion of issue. It is regrettable that there is not also a column for numismatic references, as the coin varieties are not always clearly recognizable. The Rhenish statuette is revisited by HUß [140], who notes grain ears in its crown. He cites tetradrachms of Ptolemy V with a grain ear on his diadem as evidence that the young king was identified with Triptolemus and probably with his Egyptian equivalent Harpocrates. For Huß, the statue more likely represents Ptolemy V in the guise of Harpocrates.

NADIG [152] compares the rare numismatic portraits of Ptolemy VIII with the radiate portraits of Ptolemy III and Ptolemy V, concluding that Euergetes II adopted the radiate aureole and the eagle with sceptre reverse to recall his father and also to advertise himself as benefactor and paymaster to the soldiery after the attempted usurpation by Galaestes two years earlier. The discussion does not mention that Euergetes II struck his portrait coins on Cyprus. The snakes of the aegis are misread as a double wreath on the king’s neck, following ASHTON (Ptolemaic Royal Sculpture from Egypt (Oxford, 2001), p. 59).

A study of the Egyptian pictorial elements in the Ptolemaic seal impressions from Nea Paphos prompts KYRIELEIS [145] to comment on various symbols that also occur as subsidiary symbols on coins. Among his more interesting suggestions: symbols of the Dioscuri appear on coins intended for the military, but since the Dioscuri were Theoi Soteres, their symbols could also refer to the Theoi Soteres in royal cult, either Cleopatra III and Ptolemy IX or Cleopatra III and Ptolemy X.

Several elements of Ptolemaic coin iconography have received separate study. MARITZ [148] analyzes the elephant exuviae on Ptolemaic and other coinages. The gold staters of Agathocles, which imitate silver tetradrachms of his father-in-law Ptolemy, must portray Alexander rather than a personification of Africa, and later Ptolemaic bronze coins with the elephant headdress may also be ruler portraits. MASTROCINQUE [149] recalls the myth of the infant Zeus nurtured by the goat Amaltheia, submits that this creates a link between Zeus and the cornucopiae, and suggests that Ptolemaic coins associating the eagle with either a cornucopiae or a shield could allude to the early Ptolemaic court myth that the infant Ptolemy was exposed on a shield and nourished by an eagle sent by Zeus. MEYBOOM [150] forges a chain of equivalences involving the benu bird, the phoenix, and Osiris to support a theory that the eagle on Ptolemaic coins symbolizes the king as Lord of the Flood and thus the source of Egypt’s prosperity and well being. This significance is especially clear, he alleges, when the eagle is accompanied by a cornucopiae or lotus bud symbol. The prominent association of cornucopiae and eagle on tetradrachms and bronze coins of Ptolemy III may lend a kind of support to Meyboom’s idea that the eagle might allude to the phoenix that appeared at Heliopolis in 238, announcing the beginning of a new Sothis cycle. This connection cannot be valid in general, however, because the Ptolemaic eagle was introduced to the coinage during the satrapy of Ptolemy I, some eighty years before the appearance of the phoenix. Similarly the significance attributed to the lotus blossom is a little suspect, as it is now recognized as a mintmark of Cyprus (LORBER, “The Lotus of Aphrodite on Ptolemaic Bronzes,” SNR 80 (2001), pp. 39–52). PINCOCK [157] defends the old theory that Ptolemaic reverse types depicting two eagles signify coregencies.

As always, coins serve as important comparanda in the study of Ptolemaic portraits in other media. LARONDE [146] identifies a portrait head of Ptolemy III from Apollonia in Cyrenaica, citing that king’s bronze portrait coins and the tetradrachm Svoronos 996 from the Sophikon hoard. This identification must be treated with caution because of the perfunctory artistic quality of the bronze coins cited and especially because the Sophikon tetradrachm may well represent Ptolemy II rather than Ptolemy III, based on its iconographic similarity to the Tarsian tetradrachms reattributed from Euergetes to Philadelphus by DAVESNE (“La Deuxième Guerre de Syrie (ca. 261–255 avant J.C.) et les témoignages numismatiques,” in M. Amandry and S. Hurter, eds., Travaux de numismatique grecque offerts à Georges Le Rider (London, 1999), pp. 129–131). PALAGIA [153] identifies a marble head with wings in the Sparta Museum as a portrait of Ptolemy III assimilated to Hermes. As supporting evidence she mentions, inter alia, bronze coins of Abdera that may portray the winged head of a Ptolemy and second-century bronze coins of Marathus allegedly showing Ptolemy III with a caduceus over his shoulder. That the Abderite coins portray a Ptolemy has been questioned most recently by CHRYSSANTHAKI [217], who asserts that Abdera lay outside the area of Ptolemaic control, identifies the winged head as Perseus, and dates the coins to the time of Philip V. The evidentiary value of the Marathus bronzes is also dubious. In her monographic study of Aradus and its peraia [266], DUYRAT emphasizes the strong ties of loyalty to the Seleucids despite formal autonomy, and elsewhere she has described the Marathian coin type simply as Hermes (“Les ateliers monétaires de Phénicie du Nord à l’époque hellénistique,” in C. Augé and F. Duyrat, eds., Les monnayages syriens: Quel apport pour l’histoire du Proche-Orient hellénistique et romain? (Beirut, 2002), pp. 30, 32). In a separate study identifying portrait heads of Berenice II [154], PALAGIA takes a critical view of numismatic evidence, arguing that coin portraits showing the queen with the melon coiffure do not preclude other hairstyles in sculpture, especially if Berenice is portrayed in the guise of a goddess such as Isis or Aphrodite. ASHTON [151] briefly mentions the coin portraits of Ptolemy VI in connection with the possibility of shared sources for statues of Ptolemy VI in Egyptian and Greek style. JOHANSEN [141] emphasizes the value of coins as a source for the iconography of Cleopatra VII and contrasts the style of her portraits on denarii and tetradrachms (where Antony is described, wrongly, as occupying the obverse). FERROUKHI [137] uses coins of Cleopatra VII and Cleopatra Selene as comparanda in identifying portraits in the round but submits that sculptural style trumps comparisons with numismatic iconography, concluding that one of the Cherchell heads found at Caesarea, Mauretania, must depict Cleopatra Selene rather than Cleopatra VII.

Several studies treat royal titles and coin legends, another aspect of Lagid self-representation. JOHNSON [143] argues that OGIS 98, a dedication of Ptolemy V and Cleopatra I to Asclepius from Philae, is the first use of a divine epiklesis in an official Ptolemaic document. He asserts that the first four Ptolemies consistently avoided the use of divine titles in papyri, inscriptions, and coin legends. The epithet Thea Neotera, which appears on coinage of Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony, is the subject of a study by MUCCIOLI [151], who dates its introduction c. 43/2 and relates it to the identification of Cleopatra with Aphrodite. WILLIAMS [153] also gives considerable attention to the legends of Cleopatra and Antony’s coinage in a study that analyzes the mix of Hellenistic and Roman aspects of that coinage.


Acknowledgement: For help with sources, the author thanks Donald Tzvi Ariel, Wolfgang Fischer-Bossert, Haim Gitler, Oliver D. Hoover, and Barbara Lichocka.

Titles Cited

ISAW Papers (ISSN 2164-1471) is a publication of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University. This article was anonymously reviewed prior to publication.