Alexander II

Founded 18-Aug-2009
Last update 7-Dec-2013

Silver coin Bronze coins References

Identification Number AX2-AR-01

Mint: Antioch on the Orontes1
Period: 128 - 123/2 BC
Denomination: AR Tetradrachm
Weight: 16.04 g
Diameter: 27 - 28 mm
Obverse: Diademed head of Alexander II right; fillet border
Reverse: ‘ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ’ right, ‘ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ’ left (“of King Alexander”); Zeus Nikephoros (“carrying victory”) seated to left on throne, resting left hand on long scepter, extending right hand beyond legend and holding Nike facing left, extending wreath toward edge of coin; monogram in outer left field and ‘&Delta’ under throne
Die axis:
References: Houghton, Lorber and Hoover, SC II, 2219.3a; Houghton, CSE, 305; Newell, SMA, 332; BMC 4, p. 81, No. 4 (Plate XXII, 2); Hunterian Coll. III, p. 92, No. 4



Identification Number AX2-AE-02

Mint: Antioch on the Orontes1
Period: c. 125 - 122 BC2
Denomination: AE Unit
Weight: 6.94 g
Diameter: 19 - 20 mm
Obverse: Diademed, radiate head of Alexander II right; dotted border
Reverse: ‘[Β]ΑΣΙΛ[ΕΩΣ]’ right, ‘ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ’ left (“of King Alexander”); filleted double cornucopiae3 oriented to right; ‘Α’ above palm branch in inner left field and ‘Π’ in inner right field
Die axis:
References: Houghton, Lorber and Hoover, SC II, 2237.1e; SNG Spaer, 2337-2338



Identification Number AX2-AE-01

Mint: Antioch on the Orontes1
Period: 129/8 BC
Denomination: AE Unit
Weight: 6.88 g
Diameter: 19 - 20 mm
Obverse: Diademed head of Alexander II right; dotted border
Reverse: ‘ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩ[Σ]’ right, ‘ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ’ left (“of King Alexander”); Dionysos standing left, holding kantharos4 in outstretched right hand and thyrsos5 with left hand; Seleukid date ΔΠΡ (year 184 of the Seleukid Era, i.e. 129/8 BC)6 in inner left field; ‘Σ’ in outer left field
Die axis:
References: Houghton, Lorber and Hoover, SC II, 2229.2; Houghton, CSE, 299 (outer left field off flan); BMC 4, p. 82, Nos. 12-15 var. (different control marks); SNG Spaer, 2375-2381 var. (different control marks); Hunterian Coll. III, p. 93, Nos. 13-22 var. (different control marks)



Identification Number AX2-AE-04

Mint: perhaps Apameia on the Axios7
Period: 128 - 123/2 BC
Denomination: AE Unit
Weight: 5.61 g
Diameter: 17 - 18 mm
Obverse: Head of young Dionysos right, wreathed with ivy; dotted border
Reverse: ‘ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩ[Σ]’ right, ‘[Α]ΛΕΞΑΝΔ[ΡΟΥ]’ left (“of King Alexander”); winged Tyche standing left, kalathos8 on head, holding ship’s tiller and cornucopiae3; control marks in outer left field, if any, off flan9
Die axis:
References: Houghton, Lorber and Hoover, SC II, 2242; Houghton, CSE, 199 (listed under Alexander I); SNG Spaer, 2357-2371; BMC 4, p. 84, Nos. 32-34 (Plate XXII, 15); Hunterian Coll. III, pp. 95-96, Nos. 48-53 (Plate LXIX, 13)
Note: The serrate fabric is more typical for Alexander I but the attribution to Alexander II seems to be reliable because monograms and symbols on these Dionysiac coins provide links to Antiochene coinage of Demetrios II and Alexander II. The mint attribution is uncertain. For a detailed discussion, see Houghton, Lorber and Hoover, SC II, pp. 458-459.



Identification Number AX2-AE-03

Mint: Seleukeia in Pieria10
Period: c. 126/5 BC11
Denomination: AE Unit
Weight: 4.61 g
Diameter: 18 - 19 mm
Obverse: Laureate head of Zeus right; dotted border
Reverse: ‘ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ [ΑΛ]ΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ’ right, ‘[ΕΠΙΦ]ΑΝΟΥΣ ΝΙΚΗΦΟΡΟΥ’ left (“of King Alexander, [God] Manifest, Bearer of Victory”); vertical thunderbolt12; laurel wreath border
Die axis:
References: Houghton, Lorber and Hoover, SC II, 2239; Houghton, CSE, 413; SNG Spaer, 2411 var. (‘Ν’ in outer right field)
Note: Alexander II’s epithets Theos Epiphanes Nikephoros (“God Manifest, Bearer of Victory”) appear only on a unique gold stater (Houghton, Lorber and Hoover, SC II, 2215). The abbreviated version Epiphanes Nikephoros is known from three series of bronze coins: SC II, 2239 (Seleukeia in Pieria mint, this coin) and SC II, 2240-2241 (probably Seleukeia in Pieria mint, see the coin AX2-AE-05 below). All these coins were presumably issued after the defeat of Demetrios II.



Identification Number AX2-AE-05

Mint: perhaps Seleukeia in Pieria13
Period: c. 126/5 BC14
Denomination: AE Half Unit
Weight: 2.64 g
Diameter: 14 - 15 mm
Obverse: Laureate head of Apollo right; dotted border
Reverse: ‘[Β]ΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ [ΑΛ]ΕΞΑΝΔΡ[ΟΥ]’ right, ‘[Ε]ΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ [Ν]ΙΚΗΦΟΡΟ[Υ]’ left (“of King Alexander, [God] Manifest, Bearer of Victory”); tripod; dotted border
Die axis:
References: Houghton, Lorber and Hoover, SC II, 2241; Houghton, CSE, 315
Note: For the epithets, see the note attached to the coin AX2-AE-03 above.



1 Antioch was founded about 300 BC by Seleukos I Nikator, the founder of the Seleukid Dynasty, and it became the principal capital of the Seleukid Empire. The city was named after a family name Antiochos, passed from his father to his son (Antiochos I Soter). There were a number of other cities by the same name and this Antioch was known as Antioch on the Orontes (i.e. the Orontes River, along which it was located).

2 Houghton, Lorber and Hoover, SC II, Vol. 1, p. 456

3 The horn of plenty signifying prosperity and unlimited abundance. Its origin is connected with the events surrounding the birth of Zeus. According to ancient authors, Zeus was cared for by nymphs who fed him milk and honey. A nymph named Amaltheia owned a bull’s horn that could magically produce food or drink in limitless supply. According to another version of the myth, her goat named Aix (whose milk she fed the infant Zeus) accidentally broke off one of its horns and this became the cornucopiae. According to yet another version, Amaltheia was the goat from whom Zeus suckled milk and one of Amaltheia’s horns flowed with nectar and the other with ambrosia. After Zeus had matured, he honored Amaltheia by placing her in the sky as a constellation. In gratitude to the nymphs who had nurtured him, he presented them with a horn from Amaltheia that had the power to provide food and drink in limitless supply. (Bitner, The Cornucopia - A Horn of Plenty)

The cornucopiae is usually depicted overflowing with fruits and other agricultural produces. The depicted horns belonged to an ancient breed of wild goats known for their large horns. The word cornucopiae (plural cornuacopiae) is a combination of two Latin words, cornu (horn) and copiae (plenty). (Bitner, The Cornucopia - A Horn of Plenty)

4 A drinking-cup, furnished with handles. It was sacred to Dionysos, who is frequently represented on ancient vases holding it in his hand. (Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities)

5 A staff (originally a spear) carried by Dionysos and his attendants, and wreathed with ivy and vine-leaves, terminating at the top in a pine-cone. (Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities)

6 The Seleukid Era is based on a lunar calendar, beginning with the autumn of 312 BC. It means that if x is a Seleukid year (and x<312) then the corresponding BC time interval is from 313–x to 312–x.

The beginning of the Seleukid Era was set as follows: In 311 BC, shortly after capturing Babylon, Seleukos I Nikator began the enumeration of his satrapal years there. However, after his decisive victory over Antigonos Monophthalmos in 307/6 BC, he backdated his “fictitious” first regnal year to coincide with Nisanu 1, 311 BC (New Year’s Day in the Babylonian calendar). This marked the antedated epoch of the Seleukid calendar according to the Babylonian reckoning. Later in 305/4 BC, when Seleukos I took the diadem and assumed the royal title “King”, he retained the numbering of his regnal years in Babylon but employed the Makedonian calendar and thus pushed his accession year back to Dios, 312 BC (Dios was the first month of the Makedonian calendar; it corresponds to October-November). This became the antedated epoch of the Seleukid era on the Macedonian calendar. (Assar, Recent Studies in Parthian History, Part I, p. 6)

The Seleukid Era was used at least until the first century AD in some Eastern countries.

7 It is also common to refer to this city as Apameia on the Orontes. However, the city is called Apameia of Syria or simply Apameia in the ancient written sources, and Apameia or Apameia on the Axios (ΑΠΑΜΕΩΝ ΤΩΝ ΠΡΟΣ ΤΩΙ ΑΞΙΩΙ) on quasi-municipal and municipal coins. Axios was the Makedonian name given to the Orontes River by the Greco-Macedonian settlers at Apameia. See Cohen, The Hellenistic Settlements in Syria, the Red Sea Basin, and North Africa, p. 96 and n. 12 on pp. 99-100.

8 A sacred basket with a narrow base and wide top, a symbol of fertility.

9 These coins have one or two control marks in outer left field, see Houghton, Lorber and Hoover, SC II, 2242.

10History. Seleukeia in Pieria was founded by Seleukos I Nikator and named for himself. It was a very important Seleukid port and one of four primary Syrian cities founded more or less simultaneously which formed the Syrian Tetrapolis (Seleukeia in Pieria, Antioch on the Orontes, Apamea and Laodikeia ad Mare). Seleukos I was burried here. Seleukeia in Pieria was to be the capital of the Seleukid Empire, but it was captured by Ptolemy III in 246 BC. By the time it was recaptured by Antiochos III in 219 BC, Antioch became one of the capital cities of the Seleukid Empire. Seleukeia in Pieria received the title ‘holy’ (ιερα) in the 140s BC, and was given the right to call itself ‘inviolable’ (ασυλος) by 138 BC (the towns which enjoyed the right of inviolability, ασυλια, claimed to be under the divine protection of the gods whose temples stood within their territories). Its autonomy was recognized by Antiochos VIII (or, less probably, by Antiochos IX) in 109 BC. In 64 BC, it was made a free city by Pompeius. (Grainger, A Seleukid Prosopography and Gazetteer, p. 683 - Antiocheia-in-Syria, p. 775 - Seleukeia-in-Pieria; the titles ‘holy and inviolable’: Welles, Royal Correspondence in the Hellenistic Period, p. 292 and footnote 3; the note about the right of inviolability: Head, Historia Numorum, A Manual of Greek Numismatics, Introduction - § XIII, p. lxxx)

Pieria region. Pieria was a district on the northern coast of Syria, so called from the mountain Pieria, a branch of the Amanus, a name given it by the Macedonians. The Macedonian Pieria was a narrow strip of country on the southeastern coast of Macedonia, extending from the mouth of the Peneus in Thessaly to the Haliacmon, and bounded on the west by Mount Olympus and its offshoots. A portion of these mountains was called by the ancient writers Pierus, or the Pierian Mountain. The inhabitants of this country, the Pieres, were a Thracian people, and are celebrated in the early history of Greek poetry and music, since their country was one of the earliest seats of the worship of the Muses, hence called Pierides, and Orpheus is said to have been buried there. After the establishment of the Macedonian kingdom in Emathia in the seventh century BC Pieria was conquered by the Macedonians, and the inhabitants were driven out of the country. See Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities - Pieria (1), (3).

Primary sources.1. The burial of Seleukos I Nikator:
Appian, Syriake, 10.63: Philetaerus (Philetairos, the founder of the Attalid dynasty), the prince of Pergamum, bought the body of Seleucus (Seleukos I) from Keraunos (Ptolemy Keraunos, son of Ptolemy I) for a large sum of money, burned it, and sent the ashes to his son Antiochus (Antiochos I). The latter deposited them at Seleucia-by-the-Sea (Seleukeia in Pieria), where he erected a temple to his father on consecrated ground, to which ground he gave the name of Nicatoreum.

2. Polybios’ description of the city (2nd century BC):
Polybios, Histories, 5.59: The situation of Seleucia (Seleukeia in Pieria) and the natural features of the surrounding country are of this kind. The city stands on the sea coast between Cilicia and Phoenicia; and has close to it a very great mountain called Coryphaeus, which on the west is washed by the last waves of the sea which lies between Cyprus and Phoenicia; while its eastern slopes overlook the territories of Antioch (Antioch on the Orontes) and Seleucia. It is on the southern skirt of this mountain that the town of Seleucia lies, separated from it by a deep and difficult ravine. The town extends down to the sea in a straggling line broken by irregularities of the soil, and is surrounded on most parts by cliffs and precipitous rocks. On the side facing the sea, where the ground is level, stand the market-places, and the lower town strongly walled. Similarly the whole of the main town has been fortified by walls of a costly construction, and splendidly decorated with temples and other elaborate buildings. There is only one approach to it on the seaward side, which is an artificial ascent cut in the form of a stair, interrupted by frequently occurring drops and awkward places. Not far from the town is the mouth of the river Orontes, which rises in the district of Libanus and Anti-Libanus, and after traversing the plain of Amyca reaches Antioch; through which it flows, and carrying off by the force of its current all the sewage of that town, finally discharges itself into this sea not far from Seleucia.

3. Strabo’s description of the region and of the city (1st century BC/1st century AD):

Strabo, Geography, 14.5.20: After Cilicia, the first Syrian city is Seleucia-in-Pieria; near it the river Orontes empties itself. From Seleucia to Soli is a voyage in a straight line of nearly 1000 stadia.

Strabo, Geography, 16.2.2: Beginning from Cilicia and Mount Amanus, we set down as parts of Syria, Commagene, and the Seleucis of Syria, as it is called, then Coele-Syria, lastly, on the coast, Phoenicia, and in the interior, Judaea. Some writers divide the whole of Syria into Coelo-Syrians, Syrians, and Phoenicians, and say that there are intermixed with these four other nations, Jews, Idumaeans, Gazaeans, and Azotii, some of whom are husbandmen, as the Syrians and Coelo-Syrians, and others merchants, as the Phoenicians.

Strabo, Geography, 16.2.4: Seleucis is the best of the above-mentioned portions of Syria. It is called and is a Tetrapolis, and derives its name from the four distinguished cities which it contains; for there are more than four cities, but the four largest are Antioch Epidaphne (Antioch on the Orontes), Seleuceia in Pieria, Apameia, and Laodiceia (Laodikeia ad Mare). They were called Sisters from the concord which existed between them. They were founded by Seleucus Nicator (Seleukos I). The largest bore the name of his father, and the strongest his own. Of the others, Apameia had its name from his wife Apama, and Laodiceia from his mother.

Strabo, Geography, 16.2.8: ... After these places, near the sea, are Seleuceia and Pieria, a mountain continuous with the Amanus and Rhosus, situated between Issus and Seleuceia. Seleuceia formerly had the name of Hydatopotami (rivers of water). It is a considerable fortress, and may defy all attacks; wherefore Pompey, having excluded from it Tigranes, declared it a free city.

4. Royal letter announcing the autonomy:
Welles, Royal Correspondence in the Hellenistic Period, pp. 289-290, Letter 71: King Antiochus (probably Antiochos VIII) to king Ptolemy (Ptolemy X Alexander I Philometor), also called Alexander, his brother, greeting. If you were well it would be as we wish; we ourselves were well and were remembering you with love. The people of Seleucia in Pieria, the city holy and inviolable, [from of old] supported our father and throughout maintained steadfast their good-will toward him. They have been constant in their love toward us and have shown it [through many] fine deeds especially in the most desperate times we have experienced. We have therefore hitherto furthered their interests generously as they deserve and have brought them into [more conspicuous] honor. Now, being anxious to reward them fittingly with the first [and greatest] benefaction, [we have decided that they be] for all time free, [and we have entered them in the treaties] which we have mutually concluded, [thinking] that thus [our piety and generosity] toward our ancestral city will be more apparent. [So that you also may] know [these concessions, it seemed] best [to write you]. Farewell. Year 203, Gorpiaeus 29 (September 109 BC). (Note: Ptolemy X is numbered as Ptolemy IX by Welles. For the numbering see Bennett, Egyptian Royal Genealogy: Ptolemy X.)

5. Myth about Pierus:
Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.29.3-4: But they say that afterwards Pierus, a Macedonian, after whom the mountain in Macedonia was named, came to Thespiae and established nine Muses, changing their names to the present ones. Pierus was of this opinion either because it seemed to him wiser, or because an oracle so ordered, or having so learned from one of the Thracians. For the Thracians had the reputation of old of being more clever than the Macedonians, and in particular of being not so careless in religious matters. There are some who say that Pierus himself had nine daughters, that their names were the same as those of the goddesses, and that those whom the Greeks called the children of the Muses were sons of the daughters of Pierus. Mimnermus, who composed elegiac verses about the battle between the Smyrnaeans and the Lydians under Gyges, says in the preface that the elder Muses are daughters of Uranus, and that there are other and younger Muses, children of Zeus.

11 Alexander II took control of Seleukeia in Pieria after Demetrios II’s defeat in 126/5 BC. According to Houghton, Lorber and Hoover, SC II, Vol. 1, p. 442, the epithets in the coin legend strongly suggest that these bronzes were issued in the immediate aftermath of Demetrios’s defeat and death.

12 The thunderbolt was a frequent symbol on coins of Seleukeia in Pieria. The thunderbolt was a cultus-object of Zeus Keraunos (“Zeus of the Thunderbolt”) and, according to Appian, Syriake, 9.58, it was connected with the foundation of the city: They say that when he (Seleukos I) was about to build the two Seleucias (Seleukeia in Pieria and Seleukeia on the Tigris) a portent of thunder preceded the foundation of the one by the sea, for which reason he consecrated thunder as a divinity of the place. Accordingly the inhabitants worship thunder and sing its praises to this day.

13 See Houghton, Lorber and Hoover, SC II, p. 458.

14 Based on the assumption that the attribution of the mint is correct (see footnote 11).


Appian:Roman History, Book XI - The Syrian Wars. Translated by Horace White. Macmillan and Co., New York, 1899. (The Perseus Digital Library,;,
Assar, Gholamreza F.:Recent Studies in Parthian History, Part I. The Celator, Vol. 14, No. 12 (December 2000), pp. 6-22.
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Bitner, John W.:The Cornucopia - A Horn of Plenty. The Celator, Vol. 14, No. 11 (November 2000), pp. 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16.
Cohen, Getzel M.:The Hellenistic Settlements in Syria, the Red Sea Basin, and North Africa. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles / California - London / England, 2006.
Gardner, Percy:Catalogue of the Greek coins in the British Museum, Volume 4: The Seleucid Kings of Syria. London, 1878 (reprint, Arnaldo Forni, Bologna, 1963). (abbr. BMC 4)
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Houghton, Arthur; Spaer, Arnold (with the assistance of Catharine Lorber):Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum. Israel I. The Arnold Spaer Collection of Seleucid Coins. Italo Vecchi Ltd., London, 1998. (abbr. SNG Spaer)
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Newell, Edward T.:The Seleucid Mint of Antioch. Chicago, 1978 (Obol International reprint of the New York 1918 original edition). (abbr. SMA)
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