By Steve Benner for CoinWeek …..
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
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This article is the third part of the series on the coinage of Troas (or Troad), the northeast district of Asia Minor (Anatolia). Like some of the cities in the first two parts, these places are not well known in history, with most of their history coming from their coins and a brief mention in an ancient source, such as the Delian League tribute list. The region has a rich history that includes interactions with the Hittite Empire, the Lydian Empire, the Persian Empire, mainland Greek city-states, the successors of Alexander, Pergamon, and Roman Republic, to name just a few. The cities of Troas also have a lengthy heritage of minting coins that, in some cases, goes back to the beginning of coinage.
This part covers the following cities in alphabetical order: Kebren, Lamponeia, Larisa-Ptolemais, Neandreia, Ophrynion, and Rhoeteion.
Kebren was located in the Scamander Valley east of Neandria. Its site has been located by archaeologists at the foothills of Mt. Ida, 7 km south of the Scamander River. By the end of the seventh century BCE (all dates are BCE unless otherwise noted), the city had been established by Greeks and indigenous people. The Greeks were probably from Aeolia since the Aeolian dialect has been found nearby.
Kebren was a member of the Delian League in the fifth century, from 454/3 down to 425/4, and paid four talents in tribute–except in 450/49 when it paid only 8,700 drachmas. After the Peloponnesian War, the city was ruled by Zenis, the tyrant of Dardanus, and his wife Mania on behalf of the Persians. The Spartan general, Dercylidas, captured the city in 399, but Persia soon recaptured it. Then the Greek mercenary Charidemus captured the city, only to have the Persian satrap Artabazos quickly recapture it. Around 306, Kebren was in included in the synoecism by Antigonos I that created Antigonia Troas, later Alexandra Troas, and ceased to be independent.
Kebren minted a variety of different types during its independent existence, so only the most representative will be covered. The first coin, shown in Figure 2, is one of the oldest, being minted in the late sixth or early fifth century. It has a ram’s head facing right on the obverse and an incuse square on the reverse. The ram is the most common image on Kebren coins. They also minted hemihektes of the same type.
Kebren also began issuing silver drachms and fractions in the late sixth century. The obols and hemidrachms are the same type as the EL hekte. In the fifth century, the diobols and triobols have an archaic female head on the obverse and the ram’s head was moved to the reverse (Figure 3). Variations on this type have the forepart of the ram or two rams’ heads back-to-back instead of just the head, and a medusa facing forward instead of the incuse.
Another hemidrachm type has a prancing horse and quadripartite incuse squares with the legend, KE-B-P-H (the city ethnic). In the fourth century, bronze coins were issued with the ram’s head obverse and the head of Apollo on the reverse or with a male head in a Persian tiara obverse and a Kebren monogram on the reverse (Figure 4).
Also in the fourth century, Kebren minted hemidrachms with a griffin on the obverse and a medusa facing forward on the reverse. As mentioned in Part 2, these coins are similar to those minted by Abydos and Gergis, implying there may have been a monetary alliance between the cities.
Lamponeia was located near the southern coast of Troas and was probably settled by Aeolian Greeks before the sixth century. It sat on a mountain ridge running SW-NE for 3 km overlooking the valley connecting Assos to the Scamander Valley. At 565 meters, it had an overview of the valley and the coast to the south, allowing it to control the trade into Troas. It was protected by a thick circuit wall built in the sixth century. In 512, it was captured by the Persian commander Otanes, and, in the fifth century, Lamponeia was a member of the Delian League, paying a 1,000-drachm tribute to Athens. Lamponeia disappeared from the historical record after the fourth century.
The city started minting silver coins in the fifth century. Mainly hemiobols (0.4 g.) with a bucranium (a facing head of bull) obverse and a quadripartite incuse square on the reverse (Figure 5). The bucranium was used on almost all the coins and was the symbol of the city. A trihemiobol with a lion’s head on the obverse and the bucranium on the reverse was also minted later in the century. In the fourth century, the city changed over to minting silver drachms (3.06 g.) and fractions with the head of Dionysus on the obverse and the bucranium on the reverse (Figure 6). The city ethnic of LAM can be seen on the reverse.
The city also minted bronze coins in the fourth century that were the same as that shown in Figure 6. The city stopped minted coins by the end of the fourth century.
Larisa-Ptolemais was located in the southwest corner of Troas on a small rise by the coast now known as Limantepe. It is in the modern Ayvacık district of Çanakkale province, Turkey. The area around the city, referred by the Greeks as Larisaia, was occupied in the early Bronze Age (c. 2700 – c. 2200) by pre-Greeks and was mentioned in the Iliad as a Trojan ally. It was thought Larisa was settled by Mytileneans and became one of the Actaean cities given up to Athens by Mytilene when they lost their revolt in 427. Larisa was in the Delian League tribute list in 425/424 for three talents and again in 422/421. The large tribute would indicate that the city was prosperous due its fertile land between the Acheloos and Satnioeis rivers and its access to a good harbor. Also, it may have controlled the lucrative salt pans at Tragasai for a time. Kolonian territory lay just across the Acheloos River from Larisa, and the two cities may have developed a semi-dependent relationship.
Larisa was retaken by the Persians in 399 and then freed by a Spartan general in 398. The city took an economic and political hit from the establishment of Alexandria Troas in c. 306. Some historians think that the city was refounded by the Ptolemies as Ptolemais, but this is not universally accepted. Larisa was abandoned by the beginning of the Roman Republican period.
Larisa began minting silver coins possibly in the late fifth century and only silver fractions, like tetrobols (2 g.), diobols, obols, etc. are known. There are not very many extant examples, and some of those can be attributed to either Larissa, Neandria, or just Western Asia Minor. I will only cover those that are attributable to Larisa. The main type of image used on the Larisa coins is the amphora reverse (Figure 7). This coin is a tetrobol from the fourth century with a female head obverse and an incuse amphora on the reverse. The city ethnic of LARISAI is around the amphora. The only other type is with a bearded male head on the obverse.
The bronze coins were minted in the fourth century and followed the silver types. Larisa stopped minting coins around the end of the fourth century.
Neandreia was located in southwest Troas about 9 km east of Alexandria Troas and on a granite mountain 520 m. high. Its settlement history is unknown. Neandreia had a good view of the coast and along the Scamander Valley and had fertile land in the plain of Samonion in that valley. Archaeological artifacts at the site have been dated to the sixth century, and inscriptions have been found in the Aeolian dialect. Also, a stoa, a temple (probably to Apollo), an agora, and fortifications have been found. It is listed in the Delian Tribute list from 454/3 to 410/9. After the defeat of Athens in 404, the city was controlled by Zenis, the dynast of Dardanus, who in turn was controlled by the Persians. The city was freed by the Spartan commander Dercylidas in 399. In c. 306, Neandreia was incorporated into Antigonia (later Alexandria) Troas and lost its independent political existence.
Neandreia began minting silver drachms (3.4 g.) and fractions, along with bronze coins, in the fourth century. One coin with a Corinthian helmet on the obverse and an incuse square on the reverse attributed to the city is dated to the sixth century, but this is highly questionable.
The main images on Neandreian coins are the grazing horse and the standing ram, though these are not exclusive. Figure 8 shows a hemidrachm with the Apollo profile obverse and grazing horse reverse. The city ethnic of NEAN is shown above the horse. The drachms and hemidrachms used the grazing horse reverse, and the obols replaced the horse with the ram. The other silver fractions used a Corinthian helmet on the obverse and either a barley corn, an amphora in a dotted square, or an altar with a laurel tree behind it was used for their reverses. The bronze coins used the same types.
Neandreia stopped minting coins after c. 306, but the earliest coins of Alexandria Troas adopted the Neandreian types.
Ophryneion’s claim to fame was that it was the reputed burial place of the Trojan hero Hector, and this is reflected in the city’s coinage. The city was on the coast between Rhoiteion and Dardanus and on a hill overlooking the Dardanelles. The city gets its name from ophrus, meaning ‘brow of a hill’.
The site was occupied no earlier than the sixth century. Ophryneion was rarely mentioned in extant sources, and its history is similar to the other cities in the Troas. Xerxes came through the city on his way to Greece, and it was one of the Actaean cities that Mytilene lost to Athens after its failed revolt in 427. There is an inscription in Athens from 413/412 that describes a legal action against an Axiochus, who earned revenues from Ophryneion. In 399, Xenophon and his Ten Thousand stopped here to offer sacrifice on their way home, and in 316, the bones of Hector were moved from Ophryneion to Thebes in response to an oracle. Later, Ophryneion was under the influence of Dardanus, but, in 188, it was transferred to Ilium’s control. The city was abandoned during the Byzantine period.
In the late fourth century, Ophryneion apparently minted its only silver coin: an hemidrachm with the head of Hector facing forward on the obverse and a young boy riding a prancing horse (the same type as the Philip II tetradrachm) on the reverse (Figure 9). There are only three of these coins in existence, so they were either commemorative or there are a lot of these silver coins yet to be found. The city name of OFRUNEWN is above on the reverse.
The rest of the city’s issue were bronze coins minted in the latter half of the fourth century. There were only two types. The first was by far the most common and had Hector facing three-quarters forward on the reverse and baby Dionysos holding a cluster of grapes on the reverse (Figure 10). The city ethnic of OFRU is to the left of the baby. The second type has the laureate head of Zeus on the obverse and a warrior, wearing a crested helmet, crouching left and holding shield and spear on the reverse. The minting of coins ceased by the end of the century.
Rhoeteion is located on the coast of the Dardanelles, west of Ophryneion and bounded on the south and west by the Simoeis River. It was known as the burial place of Telamonian Ajax, who died at the end of the Trojan War. The city’s site was occupied by Greeks from at least the late eighth century.
Its history is very much like that of Ophryneion. Xerxes passed through the city in 480, and it was an Actaean city that went to Athens after the unsuccessful Mytilenean revolt in 427. Rhoeteion was captured by Mytileneans in 424 and had to be ransomed by Athens for 2,000 Phokaian staters. It had a good coast for harboring ships and many Achaeans beached their ships along its coast, including the Peloponnesian fleet in 411 and the Athenian fleet in 409. In 335, one of the Macedonian commanders, Calas, was driven back by the Persians and took refuge in Rhoeteion. Livius took the city from the Macedonians in 190, and in 188, the city became part of the Pergamon Kingdom. Rhoeteion may have moved 1.8 km to the south-west early in the Hellenistic Period. The city lasted through the Roman period.
There is only one known coin issued by the city, and this is in the Waddington Collection (Figure 11). It is a silver tetrobol (3.11 g.) minted in the late half of the fourth century. The only photo I could get of it was from the collection’s photo plate, which is why the photo is not up to my usual standard. It has an obverse with Apollo’s head and a reverse with three crescents in the form of a triskeles. The city ethnic of POITEI is shown between the crescents. As with the tetrobol of Ophryneion, the scarcity of this coin may indicate it was only commemorative, or more likely, there are a lot more out there to find.
In the third part, most of the cities were not large or significant. Kebren might be considered the most important, but it was incorporated into Alexandria Troas along with Neandreia at the end of the fourth century. Only Kebren minted electrum coins, which are slightly expensive (Figure 2), and most of the silver coins are expensive due to their rarity (Figures 4, 7, 8, and 9). Fortunately, the silver coins of Lamponeia (Figure 6) are less pricey. Of course, the bronze coins are available for most of these cities and can be obtained at reasonable prices (Figures 4 and 10).
Lastly, I would not recommend putting a silver tetrobol from Ophryneion or Rhoeteion on your wish list.
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Classical Numismatic Group (CNG)
Grant, Michael. A Guide to the Ancient World: A Dictionary of Classical Place Names. Barnes and Noble. (1986)
Head, Barclay V. Historia Numorum: A Manual of Greek Numismatics. Oxford. (1887)
Sear, David. Greek Coins and Their Values, Vol 2: Asia. B.A. Seaby Ltd. (1979)
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About the Author
Steve M. Benner has a Ph.D. in engineering from the Ohio State University and worked for NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for almost three decades before retiring in 2016. He has been an ancient coin collector since the early 1970s and is a member of the ANS, the ANA, and the ACCG. He specializes in coins of the ancient Greek leagues and in Roman Imperial bronzes. Dr. Benner has published over 30 ancient coin articles in various publications and is the author of Achaian League Coinage of the 3rd through 1st Centuries B.C.E. (2008) and History and Coinage of the Ancient Greek Leagues, 5th through 1st Centuries B.C.E. (2018).