The Silver Coins of the Seleukid Syrian Empire

The Silver Coins of the Seleukid Syrian Empire

The Only Coin with Alexander the Great's Horse, Bucephalus Deified on The Reverse. 

A Complete Rundown of Major Rulers

alexander the greats horse on an ancient coin

Step back in time to an era of great empires and legendary leaders, and you'll find yourself drawn to the fascinating world of the Seleucid Empire. This realm, a successor to Alexander the Great's illustrious legacy, emerged as a formidable force under the visionary leadership of Seleukos I Nikator, one of Alexander's most trusted generals. In two remarkable periods, Seleukos I seized his portion of the vast empire, laying the foundations for what would be known as the Seleucid Empire. This article will summarize the most prominent leaders of the Syrian Seleukis era, and their accomplishments through the coins they minted.


The first Seleucid mint was located in Seleucia, by the modern-day Tigris river. Later, the famous Antioch mint was established, becoming crucial for the coinage of three major empires. After Rome conquered Syria, the Antioch mint became an important provincial mint striking a large number of Æ denominations. Subsequently, the eastern Byzantine Empire used their capital, Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), to strike the vast majority of Byzantine coins. Besides coins, Antioch was the setting for many important historical events, including Saint Paul's well-known mission trip to preach his beliefs. It is highly likely that he encountered a few Seleucid Tetradrachms during his journey. Despite Paul living in the early decades of a new era, old coinage continued to circulate until the time of Emperor Nero.


The second ruler of Syria, Antiochos I, son of Nikator, was the first Seleucid ruler to place his portrait on circulating coinage. In contrast, Nikator did not issue any coins featuring his portrait, and all other states used the classic Alexander design. In many regions, a prominent symbol commonly featured on this coinage was the anchor.


Regarding mints and weights, around seventeen mints circulated coinage in the western portion of the empire, and about ten mints circulated coinage in the eastern portion. Since the entirety of the Seleucid empire was divided into provinces, each province had its own mint. The main three mints that circulated coinage in all parts were Antioch, Seleucus, and Bactra. While coinage was necessary for the major cities in the provinces, rural towns, which comprised almost 3/4 of the empire and were surrounded by deserts and dunes, did not require coinage and relied on trade.


The Tetradrachms in the Seleucid Empire followed both the Attic standard (17.2 grams) and the Phoenician standard (14.2 grams). The mint in Ptolemais struck Tetradrachms using the Phoenician standard for circulation in the Ptolemaic Kingdom. Generally, coins using the Phoenician standard did not circulate in Seleucid territory, and if they did, they were often rejected and sent to Egypt or Phoenicia to be melted down.


The most significant downfall in silver occurred around 171 BC when the great Antiochos III was defeated by Rome, resulting in a debt of silver that had to be collected to pay off Rome. The Seleucids fell into an economic depression and never fully recovered. As a result, silver coins became scarce during that time, and bronze coins took their place.


Seleukos I Nikator ruled his large empire surprisingly well, despite having little experience in governing such a vast territory. He began his rule in 305 BC and extended it until 281 BC. He played a significant role in the great battle of Ipsus against Lysimachus and Antigonus. With an army of 17,000 soldiers, Nikator conquered much of the eastern Alexandrian empire, making it his own and establishing Seleucia as his new capital city.


One of his most famous encounters was the attempted occupation of the Mauryan empire in 305 BC, where Nikator campaigned against the Mauryan king, Chandragupta. However, the entire Mauryan war ended in failure, and the details of what happened are unclear. An exchange for peace took place, with Seleukos giving Chandragupta a large portion of the Seleucid empire in exchange for 500 war elephants, which played a key role in the upcoming battle of Ipsus and *future coinage. To commemorate his campaign rewards, Nikator struck a series of silver Staters with the head of Zeus on the obverse and an elephant on the reverse.


*According to my research, there are six confirmed Tetradrachm varieties, each with numerous types and monogram combinations. The Alexandrian types can be quite confusing, but I have done my best to simplify them down to the most common combinations.



Ruler I: Seleukos I

Herakles and Zeus


The earliest Seleucid coinage featured the classic Alexandrian design since Nikator was one of Alexander's generals. However, over time, the Seleucid empire adapted to change and distanced themselves from their association with the past.


The coin reads "King Selekou" (ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΣΕΛΕΥΚΟΥ). The legend can be shown on the sides of the coin or arranged vertically.


There are many early monograms associated with this type, including KP, Helios, MI, MP, ΣE, KΡ, and EΠ, with dozens more monograms found on scarcer coins.


Some reverse dies feature Zeus Nikephoros, which is another version of the seated Zeus holding Nike instead of an eagle. It is believed that the original Nikephoros design came from another sculpture by Phidias called Zeus at Olympia. Unfortunately, the statue was lost sometime in the 5th century AD, presumably destroyed by the Imperial Roman Emperor Theodosius II. On Ptolemaic coins, the artist Phidias sculpted the Athena Promachos, a statue which was used on some Tetradrachms. Many of Phidias' works were celebrated on coinage throughout Greece. It is worth noting that another figure, Zeus Aetophoros, appears on almost all Alexandrian Tetradrachms. This common depiction of Zeus originates from Macedonia but is depicted all around Greece and even in the Indo kingdoms.

Zeus Aetophoros. Seleukos I Nikator. Tetradrachm of the Attic

Zeus Aetophoros. Seleukos I Nikator. Tetradrachm of the Attic Weight.

Courtesy of CNG


Horse and Elephant


The Horse and Elephant Tetradrachms struck by Seleukos are exceedingly rare and feature a magnificent portrait of a horse on the obverse and an elephant on the reverse. Only a few dies are recorded, and there are currently only 10 known examples in existence, making this issue one of the rarest Seleucid Tetradrachms.


The reverse side bears the inscription "King Selekou" (BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΣEΛEYKOY). Monograms such as HΡ and ΣI can be found in between the elephant’s legs on some specimens, while a few examples have no monograms but instead show a bee above the elephant. The majority of the varieties for this type have not been published or documented.


These coins were struck in Pergamon around 281 BC, following Seleukos' campaign against Chandragupta. The horse portrayed on this coin is believed to be Bucephalus, the famed horse of Alexander the Great. Interestingly, this coin may offer the only accurate depiction of Alexander's horse, as Seleukos likely had frequent encounters with Bucephalus, hence the portrayal on the coin. The horse is shown with horns, symbolizing deification and heroism, which is why it is associated with Bucephalus.


An exceptional example of this type achieved a record price of $300,000, and many other examples have the potential to surpass that value. Due to their extreme rarity, acquiring pictures of these coins for official use is nearly impossible, hence the utilization of a drawn depiction of the actual coin, which fetched such a high premium.

The famed- “Horned Horse”

The famed- “Horned Horse”

Plate Drawing by Colby J. Abele

Zeus and Quadriga


The Zeus/Quadriga issue is also a rarity and features the obverse portrait of Zeus, similar to those struck by Philip II of Macedon. However, the reverses of these coins depict Athena riding in a quadriga of elephants.


Numerous die varieties exist, but the most common ones include an anchor above the quadriga and the appearance of Athena Promachos brandishing her spear on some varieties. Additionally, the elephants in the quadriga can be depicted as either horned or not, and the number of elephants varies from three to four. Some varieties lack control marks, making them challenging to attribute properly.


An intriguing aspect of this variety revolves around the elephants. While the reverse shows only three or four animals, there are *numerous legs in the background suggesting the presence of more elephants. Some coins even depict up to twenty legs, indicating that the quadriga might be carried by five or more elephants. This raises questions about the practicality of such a setup, considering the size of the quadriga and the strength of an elephant.


With so many varieties, various monograms and control marks are present. Attributing a single example properly can prove difficult. Unfortunately, many varieties remain undocumented despite ongoing research. However, common varieties typically include similar control marks such as PS, Π>, ΣΩ, AN, IΣ, Π, and AP. Monograms, on the other hand, are relatively easier to identify, as they often feature an anchor or a lettered pattern.


Most of these coins were minted in the Seleucia Tigris I or II mints. However, due to the presence of oddball types, it is possible that other mints also struck this variety. According to Ludwig Muller’s catalog on Seleucid coinage, the curved and cupped character of the flans on these coins, along with some dies having misspellings in the legends, suggests a mint in the Seleucid east, which could explain the inconsistencies, especially with the portrayal of elephants.


*Since there are limited documented instances of this issue, I believe they will become much more valuable in the future.

Three elephants, four trunks, fifteen legs

Abele Type A; Three elephants, four trunks, fifteen legs

 Four horned elephants, four trunks, sixteen legs

Abele Type B; Four horned elephants, four trunks, sixteen legs

Six horned elephants, six trunks, seventeen legs


Abele Type C; Six horned elephants, six trunks, seventeen legs

Panther Skin


The Panther Skin type of Seleucid Tetradrachms and Drachms (with other fractional denominations being issued as well as Bronze) is widely believed to depict the obverse portrait as Alexander the Great. However, recent research has suggested that the portrait might actually represent Seleukos himself, contradicting the notion that he never put his own image on his coins. Alternatively, some researchers propose that the portrait represents Dionysus, but there might be no definitive answer. Both Dionysus and Alexander are known as conquerors, with Dionysus being associated with the conquest of the Indus, followed by Alexander's conquest and then Seleukos taking control of the region and beyond.


As a common theme on Seleucid Tetradrachms, the reverse side features Nike, once again shown crowning a trophy of armor. This might indicate that the coin was struck to commemorate a military achievement. Historical documents indicate that around 305 BC, Seleukos launched the Seleucid-Mauryan war against Chandragupta, which aligns with the possible timeframe of this coin. However, the type could also serve as a commemoration of the Battle of Ipsus, which would place the coin's date later in Seleukos' rule. A recent analysis of the iconography on the suit of armor suggests that it resembles Macedonian armor, with a faint star on the shield thought to represent the defeated Antigonus who fell at Ipsus.


There are two distinct varieties of this type, both struck at the Susa mint in Iran. Variety A depicts the obverse of Alexander with a panther skin helmet and another skin around his neck. On the other hand, Variety B features the same panther skin helmet on Alexander, but instead of the panther skin around his neck, there are horns resembling those of a bull protruding from the helmet. The reverse remains the same for both varieties.


Additionally, there is one type that was struck in silver-plated bronze. In areas where there was a shortage of silver, Tetradrachms were made using an alloy of bronze and copper, which was then plated in silver. These coins bear the name "SUBARAETUM," which translates to "cupreous" in Latin, meaning of or like copper.

Panther Skin

Panther Skin

Courtesy of CNG



The Younghead variety of Seleucid Tetradrachms is often categorized under the classic Alexandrian varieties. However, upon closer examination, this specific type exhibits several unique features that set it apart from others of its kind.


As previously mentioned, the obverse of these coins features the depiction of Herakles, while Zeus appears on the reverse. The Younghead type was minted between 300-281 BC, which overlaps significantly with the period when the classic varieties ceased production around 285 BC.


What distinguishes the Herakles on this variety is his noticeably younger appearance. It appears that Nikator might have intentionally portrayed Herakles to resemble a young Alexander the Great, perhaps as a tribute to the great demigod. While there is no concrete evidence to confirm this theory, coins of this type are often referred to as Young-heads due to the resemblance to a youthful Alexander. The first appearances of these Young-head Tetradrachms date back to the 290 BC.


A significant event in 294 BC was the marriage of Stratonice, daughter of Demitrios Poliorketes and wife of Seleukos, to her stepson Antiochos, who would later become Seleukos' successor. These coins might have been struck to commemorate this union and pay homage to both Poliorketes and Seleukos, who were connected to Alexander the Great in various ways. Additionally, it's worth noting that the Antigonid dynasty, to which Demitrios Poliorketes belonged, was the least respected among the Diadochi empires.


To further identify these coins, some examples of the Younghead type feature the god Helios as a monogram. All coins struck in 295 BC bear Helios as a monogram, and in other years, specific die pairings also feature this symbol. For most Tetradrachms with Helios, it appears that only one die was used.


For clarification and reference, both varieties of Younghead and classic types can be found in the MJ Price catalog of Alexander coinage.

Young-Head, signet of Sekeukos in the form of a reverse monogram

Young-Head, signet of Sekeukos in the form of a reverse monogram (290 BC)

Courtesy of CNG

Alexander and Bucephalus


The Tetradrachm struck by Nikator in 295 BC, featuring Alexander and Bucephalus, is the most thrilling and exceedingly rare piece in his coinage. There are other denominations with the same design, but only four Tetradrachms of this type are known to exist. The extreme rarity of this coin drives its market value to tens of thousands of dollars, and whenever one appears for sale, it generates significant excitement among numismatic enthusiasts. The image below shows the newest example discovered, making it the fourth known coin of this type.


The history and debate surrounding this coin's reverse design are captivating. Many numismatists argue that the figure portrayed on the reverse is Alexander the Great, which seems logical. The saddle cloth on the horse appears to be made from animal skin, possibly from a panther, which would strongly indicate Alexander. Moreover, both the rider and the horse are depicted with horns, a characteristic that symbolizes deification.


However, other numismatic authors, such as Hughton and Stewart, present compelling arguments suggesting that the figure might be Seleukos himself rather than Alexander. They propose that the horse depicted is not Bucephalus but the ‘swift horse’ that carried Seleukos from Babylon in 315 BC. In this interpretation, the horns could signify something different, possibly serving to distinguish Seleukos as the rider on the coin rather than an anonymous hero. With evidence presented from both sides, the conclusion ultimately depends on the interpreter's perspective. There is no definitive right or wrong answer, and the truth about the identity of the figure on the reverse of this peculiar and unique coin may never be conclusively known.

Alexander the great on his horse coin

Alexander on his horse

Courtesy of CNG

Ruler II: Antiochos I Soter


Antiochos I Soter spent his first 10 years of his reign as joint-ruler with his father Seleukos I Nikator. After his father died, he reigned from 281-261 BC. As previously mentioned, he married Demitrios Poliorketes’ daughter Stratonice.


On the assassination of his father, keeping together the huge empire he had built proved to be a challenging task. The Goths, seeing a weakness in the Seleucid empire, attempted to invade Anatolia. Antiochos stepped in with the famous Seleucid war elephants acquired by his father. Thankfully, with the destruction of the invaders, Antiochos bore the title of Soter or “Savior”.


During his reign, Antiochos struck four Drachm varieties and more than seven Tetradrachm varieties. Fractional coinage was almost nonexistent,and was really issued in Obols or Hemidrachm for use as change in eastern mints. The majority of coins struck featured the middle aged portrait of Antiochos and Apollo on the reverse. Prices for Drachms especially tend to be on the higher side.


Antiochos and Apollo


With this type being the most famous and most abundant coin from Antiochos’ reign, there are a lot of unique features that come with this coin.


These coins started being struck in 281 BC, but it is possible that the design could have been planned before the death of Nikator. Since Antiochos was in his late 30s when Nikator died, the obverse portrait of this design features an accurate representation. For much of his reign, the portrait of Antiochos on the obverse of his coins were realistic and portrayed what he looked like each year. When branch mints began minting his coins, a more artistic representation replaced the obverse portrait. He was later represented as a youthful ruler, where he looked more divine than human.


The reverses are also quite unique. It shows the god Apollo presenting his famous symbol: the bow and arrow. He is also seated on an omphalos. An omphalos (meaning “navel” in Greek) is an oval stone that represents the center of the earth in Greek mythology.

        This design has a few major types for the obverse and the reverse. It can get confusing, since sometimes these types tend to overlap (ex. A type A obverse and type B reverse). These apply for both the Drachm and Tetradrachm denominations.


Abele Types: Variety Types/Pairings

  • Type A obverse shows the middle aged head of Antiochos.
  • Type A reverse shows Apollo holding three arrows in his right hand and a bow in his left hand.
  • Type B obverse shows the younger, deified head of Antiochos.
  • *Type B reverse shows Apollo holding the bow in his right hand while his left hand is resting on the omphalos.
  • Type C obverse shows the horned and diademed portrait of Seleukos I Nikator.
  • Type C reverse shows Apollo holding one arrow in his right hand and a bow in his left hand.

*Type C obverse will almost always pair with Type B reverse.

Type B obverse, Type A reverse

Type A obverse, Type C reverse

Type C obverse, Type B reverse



(Similar to the previous type, there are many variations in the obverse portrait of Antiochos).


Many of the obverse dies on this type seem to match different reverses. Since the reverses feature Herakles, the obverse design remains stagnant.


On type A reverse design, the legend reads king Antiochos (BAΣIΛEΩΣ ANTIOXOY) and shows Herakles sitting on a rock, holding his club to the ground. Each monogram is small and placed beneath the figure. This is the most common variety.


Type B reads the same legend, and has the same Herakles in his position. However, the monograms are placed to the far left instead of beneath the figures. Notice (0042) for comparison.  It is important to recognize the monograms and control marks on this design. Type A has monograms including HP, and OE. Type B has ΠO, MAT, one-handed cup, and IΩ.

Type A

Type B

Herakles and Zeus


The coin of Antiochos I Soter closely follows the Alexandrian design, making it challenging to distinguish it as belonging to his reign. However, there are key elements, such as monograms and legends, that can help identify this type.


The legend on this coin may read either "BAΣIΛEΩΣ ANTIOXOY" or "BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΣEΛEYKOY." It's important to note that even if the legend reads "ΣEΛEYKOY," it doesn't necessarily mean it belongs to the reign of Seleukos, as it could actually belong to Antiochos. To differentiate, look for the Athena monogram toward the left of the reverse. If the coin has the "ΣEΛEYKOY" legend and features the Athena monogram, then it belongs to Antiochos' reign.


On the other hand, if the legend reads "BAΣIΛEΩΣ ANTIOXOY," look for Zeus Nikephoros on the reverse. And if the coin is in the name of Alexander (AΛEΞANΔΡOY), once again, check for the presence of the Athena monogram as an identifier.


If you don't find Athena on the coin, refer to the common monograms and control marks found in the Price catalog for further reference and identification. These monograms and marks can provide valuable clues to help attribute the coin to the correct ruler and period.


Alexander Type of Antiochos I

Courtesy of CNG


Horned Horse


The coin struck by Antiochos in 280 BC features a horned horse on the reverse, a motif that has appeared on Seleucid coins before. This extremely rare issue could be a commemoration of an unknown victory or accomplishment, or it may simply be a design celebrating Alexander the Great.


On the obverse, there is the classic diadem portrait of Antiochos, while the reverse displays the horned and bridled portrait of a horse, likely representing Bucephalus.


The legend "BAΣIΛEΩΣ ANTIOXOY" can be found on the reverse, along with identification monograms Δ, Λ, and ΔI situated to the right and below the horse.


This coin type is not widely published in most guides, and it is rarely seen on the market. It is estimated that fewer than 30 examples of this issue have survived.


Regarding the mint location, these coins were most likely struck either at the Ai Khanoum mint or the Baktra mint.

 Bucephalus Coin - Βουκεφάλας

Horned Horse

Courtesy of VCD Auctions


Ruler III: Antiochos III


Antiochos III the Great, the sixth ruler of the Seleucid Empire, reigned from 222-187 BC and had a prosperous reign marked by both conflict and periods of peace. He ruled over a vast kingdom that included the Seleucid Empire, Baktria, and Parthia.


In his earlier campaigns, Antiochos ventured through the Middle East, connecting with the Ptolemaic kingdom. During this Hellenistic campaign, he recaptured parts of Asia Minor and reclaimed the outlier provinces in the northeast. From 219-209 BC, Antiochos expanded his newly formed empire, keeping local rulers in line and crushing any revolts against his rule.


However, in 209 BC, right after his campaign ended, king Euthydemos I of Baktria revolted. He was soon defeated by Antiochos and his forces, leading to a truce with the Seleucid empire.


Despite many other wars, the Fifth Syrian war was the most game-changing for Antiochos. By 205 BC, he seemed to have restored the Seleucid empire to its former glory and envisioned himself as a new Alexander, deciding to expand further by attacking Ptolemaic provinces and Phoenicia to add to his empire. By 199 BC, it seemed as if he had achieved his goals. Furious with the loss of territory, Ptolemy sent his best general, Scopas, to recover the land, but he was swiftly defeated by Antiochos.


As if that wasn't enough, Antiochos decided to invade Asia Minor once more to acquire more land for his massive empire. He dominated small Greek cities and pillaged villages, which drew the attention of the Romans, an unfavorable development. By 188 BC, Antiochos signed a treaty pushing his empire back into Asia Minor. Most of the provinces captured by Antiochos regained their independence, isolating themselves from Seleucid rule. Unfortunately, as a last effort, Antiochos invaded Luristan, but he died shortly into the campaign while pillaging a small temple in 187 BC.


Throughout his rule, Antiochos did not commemorate his victories on his coinage. He struck only two varieties, but the monograms and dating can trace his military history.



Antiochos and Apollo 

The Antiochos and Apollo type of coins is similar to those struck during the reign of Antiochos I, as the variety is identical. Although only one type was minted, it was produced at over a dozen mints. These coins were crafted in the Stephanophoric style of Aeolis, hinting at possible trade dealings between the Seleucid empire, led by Antiochos III, and minor empires and trade confederations like Aeolis.


One particular type of this coin was struck in Ectabana and bears a regnal number. The coin features the possible mint number IΔ, which translates to 11. This numbering system follows the same algorithm used for regnal years.


Additionally, there are "rose" examples of this coin type. These coins display a rose monogram on the left side of the coin, which some numismatists speculate could be a mintmark. The prevailing theory suggests that this variety was likely minted in a location somewhere in Edessa, situated in Mesopotamia.


Antiochos and Apollo

Antiochos and Apollo

“Rose” mint (Edessa?), *Rare

Courtesy of CNG


Elephant Commemorative


This extremely rare variety was most likely a ceremonial piece rather than a circulation issue. With only a few dozen in existence, it is rarely documented or referenced.


In most cases, it is overlooked as a posthumous issue from the Seleucid provinces since it was minted in western Asia Minor. The reverse shows the famous Seleucid elephant with a set of monograms as an identification piece to Antiochos.


Elephant Commemorative

Courtesy of CNG


Ruler IV: Antiochos VII Eurgetes Sidetes


To conclude the Seleucid dynasty, it is important to include a later king. Antiochos VII ruled from 138-129 BC, and his Tetradrachms are the most commonly collected and abundant among Seleucid coins.


Not much is known about his reign, but historical records indicate that during his time, the Seleucid empire faced significant challenges. Invading Parthians and Eastern barbarians posed constant threats, leading to a gradual collapse of the empire with major territorial losses each year.


Despite the limited information about his rule, there are many varieties of Tetradrachms that were struck during his reign. Interestingly, the concept of regnal dates was introduced around this time as well, with the Seleucids adopting the Ptolemaic form of dating using only Greek letters without the letter L.



Athena at Magarsos


The ancient Greek city of Magarsos has been unearthed during archaeological excavations in the southern Turkish province of Adana. According to the ancient geographer Arianos, when Alexander the Great visited the region, he first paid a visit to the Temple of Athena Magarsia, located about 200 meters away from the ancient theater, before proceeding to Mallos.


The Temple of Athena Magarsia housed a magnificent statue, known as Athena Magarsia, which was adopted by the Seleucids around 300 BC. Alexander the Great himself is believed to have identified the statue as Athena and even made a sacrifice at the temple just prior to the Battle of Issos in 333 BC.


In 138 BC, during the reign of Antiochos VII Sidetes Euergetes, a ceremonial Tetradrachm was struck, featuring the depiction of Athena Magarsia on the reverse. Today, only a handful of these coins are known to exist.


The fate of the original statue remains uncertain. However, during the early 3rd century AD, provincial coins of Mallos still depicted the Magarsos on their coins, hinting at the possibility that the statue might have survived for some time. Nevertheless, if it indeed survived, it would likely have deteriorated beyond recognition over the centuries. Alternatively, the statue might have been moved to Rome, Constantinople, or another major city and subsequently destroyed, possibly by fire or the actions of Christian iconoclasts.


Cult Statue of Athena

Cult Statue of Athena

Courtesy of CNG






Indeed, the variety of mints striking coins of Antiochos VII Euergetes Sidetes results in numerous monograms and control marks on these Tetradrachms. As you have personally documented 31 varieties, it is highly likely that there are even more unlisted varieties awaiting discovery.


The placement of the monograms and control marks on this type can be a bit hidden, typically located on the bottom right of Athena near her shield and on the bottom left. Most types will feature three marks, but the number may vary to four depending on the specific mint or timing of the coin's striking.


For coins struck at the Phoenician mints, they will bear regnal dates. Similar to the dating system of the Ptolemaic kingdom, these dates will represent specific years within Antiochos' reign. Instead of a numerical date marker, a set of Greek letters will be found below the figure of Athena at her feet. This dating system counts the years of the Seleucid empire (in the form of a CY) since its foundation in 312 BC.


Athena Holding Nike

Athena Holding Nike

Courtesy of CNG


Eagle on Thunderbolt


The overlapping of types between the Seleucid and Ptolemaic mints is a fascinating aspect of ancient coinage. The Eagle on Thunderbolt type is particularly interesting as it is of Ptolemaic weight (14.2 grams) but circulated within the Seleucid empire.


One significant characteristic of this type is that every coin with this design features a regnal year. As you mentioned, the regnal year on the coin in the bottom example is ZOP, which translates to SE 177 years. By subtracting 177 from 312, we arrive at the date 135 BC.


Another intriguing aspect of this type is the different portraits used. Unlike previous types where the portrait is a head with minimal detail, the bust on this coin appears more styled and realistic. The reverse side, with the well-struck eagle on a well-centered flan, further contributes to the coin's overall quality. Some might speculate about the reasons behind these differences, but it could simply be a coincidence, or perhaps it could be attributed to the skill of the Phoenician mints in producing better coins during that time.


Dating: ZOP below=SE 177 years since Nikator

Courtesy of CNG


Article by: Colby Abele


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