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Coins of the Dorian Cities of Rhodes

Coins of the Dorian Cities of Rhodes

By Dr. Steve Benner for CoinWeek …..
Doris was a small region on the southwest coast of Asia Minor (see Figure 1), which later became a part of Caria. It was settled by the Dorians at the end of the Bronze Age (3300-1200 BCE) and was probably part of the Sea Peoples’ invasions of the Middle East and Greece. Ancient Greeks, such as the Spartans, believed this area was the home of the original Dorian invaders of the Peloponnese; this invasion led to the proliferation of the Doric dialect.

Established after 1100 BCE (all dates are BCE unless otherwise noted), the Dorian Hexapolis was a federation of six cites: Kos on the island of the same name; Knidos on the Triopian promontory; Halikarnassos on the mainland; and Lindos, Ialysos, and Kamiros – all on the island of Rhodes. The cities of the federation became prosperous around 700 and were known for their seamanship. The cities would celebrate a festival with games near Knidos in honor of the Triopian Apollo. The prize in the games was a brazen tripod that was to be dedicated to the temple of Apollo. Halikarnassos was later expelled from the federation after a certain Agasicles improperly handled the tripod after winning it, thus the hexapolis became a pentapolis. The federation was dissolved around 560.

This article will cover the cities located on Rhodes; a future separate article will cover the other three cities.

Map of the Aegean Sea and its surrounding cities, circa 7th-5th centuries BCE.
Map of the Aegean Sea and its surrounding cities, circa 7th-5th centuries BCE.


Ialysos was settled by Dorian Greeks in the 10th century, possibly by colonists from Argos. The city controlled harbors and an agricultural area that included independent cities like Brikindera, Phagai, and Syra. Ialysos was defended by an acropolis called Orychoma or Achaia, which included temples to Athena Polias and Zeus Polieos. The city was part of the conquests of Polykrates, tyrant of Samos (ruled approx. 538-522), and, in the fifth century, was ruled by an oligarchy dominated by the Diagorid family, established by the Olympic victor, Diagoras.

After the defeat of the Persians at Mykale in 478, Ialysos, along with other Rhodian cities, became founding members of the Delian League. The Delian League developed into an Athenian empire during the rest of the century. Ialysos remained in the League until 412/1 when they seceded at the urging of Dorieus, a Diagorid, and joined the Spartan side of the Peloponnesian War. They later defeated an effort by the Athenians to bring the city back into the League. Dorieus was expelled by a democratic revolution in 395/4. In 408/7, Ialysos, Kamiros, and Lindos formed a federal state with a new capital called Rhodes. With part of the city’s population moving to the new capital and Rhodes’ success, Ialysos soon fell into decline.

Around 540, Ialysos may have produced anepigraphic (“without inscription”) silver staters struck to a local standard (Ialysian) of 14.8 grams. The obverse had a palmette (fan-shaped leaves of a palm tree), and the reverse has incuse rectangles separated by a broad band, which was a common reverse for coins of Rhodes. Silver fractions of the same type were also struck (see Figure 2).

In the late sixth and early fifth century, the palmette type was replaced by a winged boar obverse and the head of an eagle reverse along with the name of the city, IALUSION (see Figure 3). The reverse incuse could contain a small palmette, astragalos (knucklebone), or helmet symbol. The winged boar is probably Khrysaor, a son of the Gorgon Medusa and Neptune. Khrysaor, together with his twin-brother, Pegasos, was born from the blood of his beheaded mother. Khrysaor’s name means “golden-blade”, which could be a sword, his tusks, or a golden blade of wheat.

The winged boar/eagle stater was supplemented by silver and electrum stater fractions of the same type.

AR Diobol of Ialysos Circa 540-530 BCE
Figure 2: Ialysos, Rhodes. AR Diobol. Circa 540-530 BCE. Palmette / rough incuse, 9mm,1.02g., HGC 9, 1368. (Roma Numismatics 4, Lot: 377, $2,422, 9/30/2012).)
AR Stater of Ialysos 510-480 BCE
Figure 3: Ialysos, Rhodes. c. 510-480 BCE, AR Stater. Forepart of a winged boar flying to left. Rev. Head of an eagle to right; above right, floral palmette; all within dotted border within incuse square, IALUSION. 13.77 g., HGC 6 1363, 13 (this coin). (Leu Numismatik AG 81, Lot: 292, 5/16/01).

The boar/eagle stater was discontinued near the beginning of the fifth century, and new type silver diobols and obols were minted almost to the end of the century. These anepigraphic coins depicted a winged boar on the obverse and the head of Athena wearing a Corinthian helmet on the reverse (Figure 4). The standard of the coins is uncertain, being about 1.4 grams to the diobol, but, since this was during the time of Athenian dominance, it may be related to the Athenian standard of 1.42 grams. Struck between 412 to 408, some obols and hemiobols have the forepart of a horse or Pegasos on the obverse and a reverse with the Rhodian “rose”. Since Kamiros and Lindos also issued these horse types, it is thought that Ialysos issued these just prior to unification of the island.

The city stopped minting coins by the end of the fifth century.

Silver Diobol of Rhodes
Figure 4: lalysos, Rhodes. c. 480-412 BCE. AR Diobol. Forepart of a winged boar flying to right. Rev. Head of Athena to right, wearing Corinthian helmet all within incuse square, 10.5mm, 1.44 g. HGC 6 1375. (Nomos 26, Lot: 466, $2200, 5/21/23).


Rhodian Kamiros’ history is almost identical to that of Ialysos.

It was settled by Dorian colonists in the 10th century on top of an earlier Mycenean site, which shows that the Achaeans were the first to inhabit the area. Kamiros controlled an agricultural hinterland and several islands off the coast of Rhodes. It produced oil, wine, and figs and was a leading commercial center for vigorous craft industries, such as ceramics, ivory, goldsmithing, faience, and metalworking, among others. The city traded these goods with mainland Greece, Asia Minor and the southeastern Mediterranean. Kamiros was built on three terraces: the first and highest was the acropolis, which held temples to Athena Polias and Zeus Polieus; the second terrace housed the residential area; and the lowest was where the public buildings, such as the agora, fountains, baths, and a temple to Apollo Pythios, were located. In the seventh century, Kamiros was also the home of the epic poet Peisander.

In the fifth century, Kamiros was a founding member of the Delian League, turning against the League in 412/1 and supporting the Spartans for the rest of the war. It joined with Ialysos and Lindos to unify the island under a new capital at Rhodes in 408/7. Kamiros was partial destroyed by the earthquake of 267/6, but by that time, the city–as had happened with Ialysos–had long experienced a decline of fortunes ever since unification.

Kamiros was the first Rhodian city to mint coins. It began striking coinage at the end of the sixth century, with staters struck to the Aiginetic standard of 12.2 grams. The obverse has a fig leaf on it (one of its main exports), and the reverse has two rectangular incuses separated by a band (see Figure 5). These coins are usually anepigraphic, but some do have K-A or A-K on the obverse. Some fractions were also produced – for example, an electrum 1/24th starter (0.52 g) with a fig leaf obverse and incuse reverse. This same type was used for a drachm, a trihemiobol, a tritemoria, and a hemiobol.

Fig Leaf Silver Stater of Rhodes
Figure 5: Kamiros Rhodes. Circa 500-480 BCE. AR Stater. Fig leaf / Rectangular incuse divided lengthwise by a thick band,18mm, 12.22 g., HGC 6, 1382. (Triton XXIV, Lot: 721, $2500, 1/20/21).

By about 460, the reverse was changed by putting the city’s name, KAM-REWN, within the two incuse rectangles (see Figure 6). Also, an obol with the fig leaf/incuse was added to the denominations. The trihemiobol was changed to a rose/griffin head; the hemiobol to have a griffin head/double incuse; and the tetartemorion to a head of the sun god Helios/griffin head.

Silver Stater of Rhodes, circa 460 BCE
Figure 6: Kamiros, Rhodes. Circa 460 BCE. AR Stater. Fig leaf / KAMI-REWN, legend in two lines divided by horizontal bar, 11.81 g., HGS 6 1384. (Triton VIII, Lot: 475, $5000, 1/10/05).

In 412, a tritemoria was minted that had a horse head obverse and a fig leaf reverse, with K-A/M-I within an incuse. About the same time, the city minted a bronze coin about 10.5 mm in diameter and weighing about 1.2 grams which featured a fig leaf obverse and four-spoked wheel reverse, along with the legend K-A (see Figure 7). The city stopped minting coins by the end of the fifth century.

Bronze Coin of Rhodes with Fig Leaf
Figure 7: Rhodes. Kamiros. Circa 425-408 BCE. AE 10. Fig leaf / Wheel of four spokes, K-A, 10mm, 1.48 g., HGC 6. 1395. (CNG E-546, Lot: 131, $130, 9/13/23).


As with the previous cities, Lindos was settled by Dorians in the 10th century on the site of a Mycenean settlement. It is on the eastern coast of Rhodes, 40 km south of Rhodes. Lindos had good harbors and an agricultural hinterland that included the cities of Oiai and Pedieis. By the eighth century, the city was a major trading center for both the Greeks and the Phoenicians. On a fortified acropolis, Lindos had a famous temple to Athena Lindia, which was an important pan-Rhodian sanctuary that also received donations from Kamiros and Ialysos. The walls of the temple were inscribed with state documents and the Lindian chronicle, dedications to Athena and the epiphanies of the goddess. Lindos also had a theater with a capacity of 2,000 people.

In the sixth century, Lindos was ruled by the philosopher-tyrant Kleoboulos, who was counted as one of the “Seven Sages of Ancient Greece”. By the fifth century, however, the city was a democracy. It was unsuccessfully besieged by the Persians in 490, which led to a rapprochement with Persia. Nevertheless, the city helped found the Delian League in 478.

Like the previous two Rhodian cities, Lindos left the League in 412/1 and joined the Spartan side. In 408/7, Lindos joined Kamiros and Ialysos to unify the island with a new capital at Rhodes. The city did decline somewhat after this, but the popularity of the temple of Athena helped Lindos retain some of its importance. Today it is a popular tourist site.

In the late sixth and early fifth centuries, Lindos began minting staters with a lion head obverse and the typical Rhodian two-rectangular incuse reverse separated by a band (see Figure 8) to the Milesian standard of 13.8 grams. Sometimes the band had the name of the city (LINDION) inscribed on it. The staters were accompanied by silver diobols, obols, and hemiobols of the same type. A quarter stater made of electrum-coated bronze of the same type may have been also minted.

AR Stater of Rhodes with Lion Head
Figure 8: Lindos, Rhodes. c. 515-475 BCE. AR Stater. Head of roaring lion right / Incuse square formed of two sunken rectangles with irregular surfaces divided by horizontal band faintly inscribed with LINDION, 13.93 g., HGC 6 1397. (Fritz Rudolf Künker 326, Lot: 872, $20,000, 10/7/19).

About 460, the stater design was changed to have a dolphin on the reverse surrounded by the city name (see Figure 9). The city minted new tetrobols, obols, and hemibols with a new design having the forepart of a horse on the obverse and a lion head on the reverse (see Figure 10). This same design was issued by both Ialysos and Kamiros, so it may have come just before the unification of the island.

Silver Stater of Rhodes, 460 BCE
Figure 9: Lindos, Rhodes. c. 460 BCE. AR Stater. Head of roaring lion right / Dolphin leaping right; LIN above & NOID below, 12.67g., HGC 6 1399. (Gorny & Mosch Giessener Münzhandlung 240, Lot: 241, est. $12,600, 1/10/16).
AR Tetrobol of Lindos Rhodes
Figure 10: Lindos, Rhodes. 450-408 BCE. AR Tetrobol. Forepart of horse galloping LINDI / Lion head left within incuse square with dotted border, 2.15g., HGC 6 1400. (Numismatik Lanz Munchen 131, Lot: 387, $1,378, 11/27/06).

Another coin that was discovered recently is a unique tetradrachm having the forepart of a horse on the obverse and a lion’s head on the reverse (see Figure 11), similar to that for the silver fractions. The coin was struck to either the Chian or Attic standard. As may be expected, there is doubt as to its true attribution.

Cut Stater Silver Coin of Rhodes
Figure 11: Lindos, Rhodes. Circa 450 BCE. AR Cut Stater. Forepart of bridled horse right, / Lion’s head within incuse square, 14.82 g., HGC 6 1407. (CNG 69, Lot: 459, $270, 6/8/05).


Besides having similar histories, Ialysos, Kamiros, and Lindos also minted coins that tend to be very rare and, as a result, can be very pricey, especially compared to coins of similar quality. For example, there are only two known examples of the Ialysian tetrobol in Figure 2, and only one of the Lindian tetradrachm in Figure 11. This is true of almost all the coins in this article; this is consistent with their price tags in the thousands of dollars.

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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)

Hoover, Oliver. Handbook of Coins of the Islands, Vol 6. Lancaster/London: Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. (2010)

Hornblower, Simon, and Antony Spawforth, ed. The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd edition. Oxford (1996)

Sear, David. Greek Coins and Their Values, Vol 2: Asia. B.A. Seaby Ltd. (1979)

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Steve Benner
Steve Benner
Steve M. Benner earned his Ph.D. in engineering from Ohio State University in 1979 and went to teach at Drexel University for five years. After he left Drexel, he joined NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, and retired from there after 28 years. Dr. Benner has been an ancient coin collector for over 50 years and is a member of the ANS, the ANA, the ACCG, and the Ancient Numismatic Society of Washington, D.C. (ANSW). Dr. Benner has written over 50 articles and two books on ancient Greek and Roman coins.

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