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Overview Hellenistic Coins References
These are the cities and kings and dynasts that have recognized the asylia of the sanctuary and the games held quadrennially for Hekate Soteira Epiphanes and for the goddess Roma Euergetis.
The existence of a city named Seleukeia on the Bay of Issos (Σελευκια η προς τοι Ισσικωι κολπωι) is attested by an inscription from the temple of Hekate at Lagina, near Stratonikeia in Caria (Asia Minor), and by two bronze coins with the ethnic ΣΕΛΕΥΚΕΩΝ ΤΩΝ ΠΡΟΣ ΤΟ ΙΣΣΙΚΩ ΚΟΛΠΩΙ. No other evidence is known.
The temple of Hekate was located in a fertile plain called Lagina, about seven kilometers north of Stratonikeia. A complex inscription on fragments of stone blocks was found here in the 19th century. It contains two letters of Lucius Cornelius Sulla to Stratonikeia, a decree of the Roman Senate about Stratonikeia, a draft of a civic decree about the inviolability of the temple and about the Panhellenic games of Hekate, and a list of cities which recognised the inviolability and the games.1 This list of cities records, among more than fifty other cities, a city called Σελευκια [η π]ρος τοι Ισσικω[ι κ]ολπωι, i.e. Seleukeia on the Bay of Issos.
The senate’s decree renews an earlier grant of autonomy to Stratonikeia and the inviolability of Hekate’s temple, and recognizes the arrangements Sulla had made concerning the city. This decree was proposed to the Senate by Sulla as dictator and it is dated late in March of 81 BC, so that the whole inscription was probably created later that year. It is thus possible that the list of recognizers was drawn up between 84 BC (reorganization of the province of Asia by Sulla) and 81 BC (confirmation of Stratonikeia’s privileges by the Senate).2
The whole preserved fragment containing the draft of the civic decree says:3
[Let (the magistrate in charge) inscribe the cities and kings and dynasts] and ethne, with the following heading:
“These are the cities and kings and dynasts that have recognized the asylia of the sanctuary and the games held quadrennially for Hekate Soteira Epiphanes and for the goddess Roma Euergetis.”
Likewise he (the magistrate) should inscribe the names of the ethne recognizing (the asylia and the games). As for the expense incurred by the inscription, the tamiai should take it from the funds of Hekate. Likewise, for those who recognize the fact (recognize asylia and games), (let it be seen to) that their names may be inscribed.
Herodes, son of Hippios of the deme Koraia, was elected.
The list of cities survives on three fragments. Seleukeia on the Bay of Issos is recorded on the third fragment which lists eleven cities in the following order (in two columns):
- Apameia on the Maeander (Phrygia),
- Patara, Xanthos, Pinara, Tlos, Limyra, Myra (all in Lycia),
- Alabanda (Caria),
- Demetrias (probably Damaskos in southern Syria, or Demetrias by the Sea in Phoenicia)4,
- Seleukeia on the Bay of Issos (Cilicia or northern Syria),
- Kelendris (Cilicia).
Cohen in The Hellenistic Settlements in Syria, the Red Sea Basin, and North Africa notes that because both Seleukeia on the Bay of Issos and Kelendris were costal cities (as for Seleukeia on the Bay of Issos, it follows from its name), it is possible that Demetrias was also a costal city and thus probably identical with Demetrias on the Sea in Phoenicia. According to Cohen, it would suggest that there was a geographic progression for the cities in the third fragment: from the interior of Asia Minor to the coast of Phoenicia and Syria and then back again to the Cilician coast.5
Two bronze coins with the city’s ethnic are known for the time being. These two coins are of different types and denominations. The larger coin was for the first time published by Peter Robert Franke in 1993, the smaller one by Ruprecht Ziegler in 2001. These coins can be dated from the 2nd half of the 2nd century to the 1st century BC. See the section Hellenistic Coins below for details.
Identification of the City
The bay of Issus, the modern Gulf of Iskenderun, forms the easternmost embayment of the Mediterranean Sea at the southern coast of Turkey near its border with Syria. The identification of this city is nevertheless problematic. It was traditionally assumed that the Seleukeia on the Bay of Issos recorded in the inscription from the Hekate temple near Stratonikeia was identical with Seleukeia in Pieria.6 However, this is very unlikely.7
Franke, Aufgaben und Möglichkeiten der Antiken Numismatik zur Erforschung des Antiken Kleinasien, and Sayar, Historical Development of urbanization in Cilicia in Hellenistic and Roman periods, do not suggest a specific identification.8 They suppose that Seleukeia on the Bay of Issos was one of the known cities in the area of the bay of Issos which was shortly renamed in honor of a Seleukid ruler, as was a frequent practice in the Hellenistic period.
Levante, Greek Imperial Coinage of Cilicia, suggests Aigeai, Rhosos (Arsuz-Uluçinar), the ruins of a port located at about 2 kilometers from Myriandros,9 the ruins of Cevlik (Sütünlar limani) between Rhosos and Domuz Burnu (Capo Porco), and the ruins of a port in the vicinity of Issos (Turunçgiller near Erzin).
Ziegler, Seleukeia am Golf von Issos, came to conclusion that Seleukeia on the Bay of Issos was identical with Rhosos, even if he also did not exclude Myriandros as a potential candidate. Nollé, Seleukeia am Issischen Golf, disagrees with the identification of Seleukeia with Rhosos. According to him, Seleukeia on the Bay of Issos was a small port town which either ceased to exist during the reign of Tigranes the Great or was subordinated to a larger city by Pompey the Great.
As Cohen explains in The Hellenistic Settlements in Syria, the Red Sea Basin, and North Africa, pp. 138-139, the term “Bay of Issos” could be used in both a narrow and a wider sense by ancient geographers. So, the city might be situated in a wide area from the western coastal areas of Cilicia to the coastal areas of north Syria.
A city named Seleukeia on the Bay of Issos existed at least in the late 80s BC. Moreover, it minted its own bronze coins which can be dated sometime between the 2nd half of the 2nd century BC and the end of the 1st century BC. The city’s name of Seleukeia on the Bay of Issos indicates that the city was situated on the coast or near the coast of Cilicia or northern Syria. However, its specific identity remains unknown.
The city was nearly surely named after a Seleukid king Seleukos but the identity of this Seleukos is not known. All Seleukid kings of this name (from Seleukos I to Seleukos VI) controlled Cilicia and northern Syria for at least a part of their reign, so that all of them come into consideration with the exception of the ephemeral Seleukos V. It is possible that the city resulted from the refounding or renaming of an older settlement or city. It seems very likely that, sometime between the year 81 BC and the turn of the millennium, the city either ceased to exist or was renamed or returned to its original name. In any case, Strabo in his Geography (a first edition published in 7 BC and a final edition no later than 23 AD) mentions no city of this name.10
Two unique coins of two denominations are known. Both are undated, and both bear no symbols or monograms.
Several authors date these coin to the 2nd century BC.11 According to my opinion, their style does not exclude the 1st century BC dating. In any case, Cilicia and northern Syria were controlled by Seleukid kings to at least early 1st century BC. First municipal coins (with the only exception of municipal issues of Seleukeia on Pieria at the beginning of the 3rd century BC) occur in the Seleukid Empire during the reign of Alexander I (150-145 BC). Thus, the year 150 BC is the terminus post quem for these coins.
|Obverse:||Laureate head of Zeus r.; dotted border.|
|Reverse:||‘ΣΕΛΕΥΚΕΩΝ ΤΩΝ ΠΡΟΣ ΤΟ’ r., ‘ΙΣΣΙΚΩ ΚΟΛΠΩΙ’ l. (“of the Seleukeians on the Bay of Issos”). Thyrsos bound with tainia.12 Laurel wreath border.|
|Denomination:||AE Double Unit|
|Metrology:||19 mm, 5.57 g|
|Period:||2nd half of the 2nd century - 1st century BC|
|References:||Petr Veselý Coll., MSI-AE-01|
|Notes:||i.||This coin was originally presented by Peter Robert Franke in the symposium “Die epigraphische und altertumskundliche Erforschung Kleinasiens: Hundert Jahre Kleinasiatische Kommission der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften” held by the Austrian Academy of Sciences in 1990, and first published in the conference proceedings in 1993 (Franke, Aufgaben und Möglichkeiten der Antiken Numismatik zur Erforschung des Antiken Kleinasien, p. 183 and Plate XIV, 5).|
|ii.||Nollé, Seleukeia am Issischen Golf, p. 79, remarks that the obverse might, in fact, depict bearded Dionysos or even Herakles. The surface of the coin is corroded but it seems that the head on the obverse wears a laurel wreath and not a Dionysiac ivy wreath. The portrait is also fully compatible with the portrayal of Zeus on Syrian and Cilician coins of the 2nd-1st century BC. For these reasons, I think that it is almost certain that the obverse represents the head of Zeus.|
|iii.||The thyrsos bound with a tainia was employed as the reverse type on three bronze series of Syrian Apameia struck in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. For the first time, it was used on two posthumous issues in the name of Antiochos IV struck at Apameia in 151/0 BC (obverse designs: head of Dionysos wreathed with ivy; head of Antiochos IV, diademed and wreathed with ivy), see Houghton, Lorber and Hoover, SC II, 1883 and 1884. For the second time, it was employed on a bronze municipal series struck in the period 30/29 - 18/7 BC (obverse design: head of Dionysos wreathed with ivy), see Hoover, HGC 9, 1425.|
|iv.||The diameter of this coin is incorrectly stated as 24 mm in Ziegler, Seleukeia am Golf von Issos, and in Nollé, Seleukeia am Issischen Golf.|
|Obverse:||Veiled and turreted bust of Tyche r.; dotted border. Round countermark partly on Tyche’s neck and head: eagle standing r.|
|Reverse:||‘ΣΕΛΕΥΚ[ΕΩΝ] ΤΩΝ ΠΡ[ΟΣ ΤΟ]’ r., ‘ΙΣΣΙΚΩ ΚΟΛΠΩΙ’ l. (“of the Seleukeians on the Bay of Issos”). Two ears of grain. Dotted border.|
|Metrology:||16 mm, 3.25 g|
|Period:||2nd half of the 2nd century - 1st century BC|
|References:||Ziegler, Seleukeia am Golf von Issos, pp. 95-96|
|Notes:||i.||This coin was published by Ruprecht Ziegler in 2001. At this time, it was located in a private collection in Düsseldorf, Germany. Its current location is not known to me.|
There is a unique Seleukid coin with a similar design:
|The diameter and weight of this coin are 15 mm and 2.1 g, respectively. Its general appearance and provenance (Israel) points to a later 2nd or early 1st century BC date at a mint in the southern part of the Seleukid kingdom. The coin is located in MNL collection, San Rafael, California, USA.|
One or more ears of grain were also employed on the following Syrian and Phoenician coins of the 1st century BC:
1 See Rigsby, Asylia, pp. 420-422. For the Greek text of the civic decree, see Şahin, I. Stratonikeia, 507, or Dittenberger, OGIS, 441 (lines 130-142 on pp. 23-24).
2 Rigsby, Asylia, p. 422.
3 My warmest thanks to Panagiotis P. Iossif for the translation of the original Greek text into English.
4 For the identification of this city, see Cohen, The Hellenistic Settlements in Syria, the Red Sea Basin, and North Africa, note 4 on pp. 137-138, note 1 on p. 202 and note 3 on p. 244.
5 Cohen, The Hellenistic Settlements in Syria, the Red Sea Basin, and North Africa, note 4 on pp. 137-138.
6 See, e.g., Dittenberger, OGIS, note 103 on p. 26.
7 See Cohen, The Hellenistic Settlements in Syria, the Red Sea Basin, and North Africa, note 4 on pp. 137-138, for an analysis of the pros and cons of this potential identification. Nollé, Seleukeia am Issischen Golf, pp. 86-87, also fundamentally rejects this conjecture. The main argument for the rejection of this identification is based on the fact that the name of Seleukeia in Pieria is always stated either as Seleukeia or as Seleukia in Pieria on municipal and quasi-municipal coins of this city, and there was no practice to change geographic indications on coins. Moreover, the symbolism of the two known coins of Seleukeia on the Bay of Issos is not compatible with the coinage of Seleukeia in Pieria: neither Dionysos or his attributes, nor ears of grain can be found on coins of this city (for coins struck before 64 BC, see the section ‘Historical and Numismatic Information / Major Cities of Seleukid Syria / Seleukeia in Pieria’; for coins struck after 64 BC, see Butcher, CRS, p. 414 ff).
8 Franke, ibid, p. 183, just mentions that Aigeai, Issos and other places would be suitable. Sayar, ibid, p. 252, laconically notes that the location of Seleukeia on the Gulf of Issos has not yet been identified.
9 Levante, ibid, p. 44, notes that the location used to be called “Jardin Catoni” until recent times and is presently located about 3 kilometers from the sea and partly covered by a Shell gas station.
10 Strabo, Geography, 14.5.18-20:
Mallus is followed by Ægææ, a small town1 with a shelter for vessels; then the Amanides Gates, (Gates of Amanus,) with a shelter for vessels. At these gates terminates the mountain Amanus, which extends from the Taurus, and lies above Cilicia towards the east. It was successively in the possession of several tyrants, who had strongholds; but, in our time, Tarcondimotus, who was a man of merit, became master of all; for his good conduct and bravery, he received from the Romans the title of King, and transmitted the succession to his posterity.
Next to Ægææ is Issus, a small town with a shelter for vessels, and a river, the Pinarus. At Issus the battle was fought between Alexander and Darius. The bay is called the Issic Bay. The city Rhosus is situated upon it, as also the city Myriandrus, Alexandreia, Nicopolis, Mopsuestia, and the Gates, as they are called, which are the boundary between Cilicia and Syria. In Cilicia are the temple of the Sarpedonian Artemis and an oracle. Persons possessed with divine inspiration deliver the oracles.
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.
11 Franke, Aufgaben und Möglichkeiten der Antiken Numismatik zur Erforschung des Antiken Kleinasien, p. 183; Ziegler, Seleukeia am Golf von Issos, pp. 95-96.
Nevertheless, note that according to Levante, Greek Imperial Coinage of Cilicia, p. 44, the first coin (Type 1) seems to be from the 3rd century BC. The second coin (Type 2) was not known in the time of the publication of Levante's paper.
12 Thyrsos is one of the most common emblems of Dionysos and his followers. It was a staff topped with a pine cone. Tainia was a ribbon worn as the headband at Greek festivals and also used for decoration of cult images, trees, animal sacrifices and so on.
- Butcher, Kevin:Coinage in Roman Syria: Northern Syria, 64 BC - AD 253. Royal Numismatic Society Special Publication No. 34, London, 2004. (abbr. CRS)
- 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.
- Dittenberger, Wilhelm: Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones Selectae. Supplementum Sylloges inscriptionum graecarum. Vol. II. Apud S. Hirzel, Leipzig, 1905. (abbr. OGIS)
- Franke, Peter Robert: Aufgaben und Möglichkeiten der Antiken Numismatik zur Erforschung des Antiken Kleinasien. In Gerhard Dobesch - Georg Rehrenböck (eds.), Die epigraphische und altertumskundliche Erforschung Kleinasiens: Hundert Jahre Kleinasiatische Kommission der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (acts of the symposium, 23-25 October 1990), pp. 177-188. Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna, 1993.
- Hoover, Oliver D.:The Handbook of Syrian Coins: Royal and Civic Issues, Fourth to First Centuries BC. The Handbook of Greek Coinage Series, Vol. 9. Classical Numismatic Group, Inc., Lancaster / Pennsylvania - London / England, 2009. (abbr. HGC 9)
- Hoover, Oliver D.:Handbook of Coins of the Southern Levant: Phoenicia, Southern Koile Syria (Including Judaea), and Arabia, Fifth to First Centuries BC. The Handbook of Greek Coinage Series, Vol. 10. Classical Numismatic Group, Inc., Lancaster / Pennsylvania - London / England, 2010. (abbr. HGC 10)
- Houghton, Arthur; Lorber, Catharine; Hoover, Oliver:Seleucid Coins, A Comprehensive Catalogue. Part II, Volumes 1 and 2. The American Numismatic Society, New York, in association with Classical Numismatic Group, Inc., Lancaster/London, 2008. (abbr. SC II)
- Levante, Edoardo: Greek Imperial Coinage of Cilicia. Work in Progress, Problems and Aims of Research. In Johannes Nollé - Bernhard Overback - Peter Weiss (eds.), Nomismata I: Internationales Kolloquium zur kaiserzeitlichen Münzprägung Kleinasiens (Staatlichen Münzsammlung München, 27-30 April 1994), pp. 43-47. Ennerre, Milan, 1997.
- Nollé, Johannes: Seleukeia am Issischen Golf. Chiron 33 (2003), pp. 79-92.
- Rigsby, Kent J.: Asylia. Territorial Inviolability in the Hellenistic World. University of California Press, Berkeley - Los Angeles - London, 1996.
- Sayar, Mustafa Hamdi: Historical Development of urbanization in Cilicia in Hellenistic and Roman periods. In Gianpaolo Urso (ed.), Tra Oriente e Occidente. Indigeni, Greci e Romani in Asia Minore (proceedings of the international conference in Cividale del Friuli, 28-30 September 2006), pp. 247-258. ETS, Pisa, 2007.
- Şahin, Mehmet Çetin: Die Inschriften von Stratonikeia. Vol. II, Part 1: Lagina, Stratonikeia und Umgebung. Habelt, Bonn 1990. (abbr. I. Stratonikeia)
- Strabo:Geography. Translated and ed. by H. C. Hamilton and W. Falconer. Henry G. Bohn, London, 1854 - 1857.
- Ziegler, Ruprecht: Seleukeia am Golf von Issos. Epigraphica Anatolica 33 (2001), pp. 95 - 103.