Roma Numismatics Ltd.   |   Auction XVII   |   28 March 2019 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
Online bidding ends:  28 March 2019 10:00 CET

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Lot 566

Estimate: 30'000 GBP   |   Starting price: 24'000 GBP
Seleukid Empire, Antiochos I Soter AV Stater. Aï Khanoum, circa 266-261 BC. Diademed head of Antiochos I to right, with rejuvenated and idealised features / Apollo Delphios, nude, seated to left on omphalos, testing arrow in his right hand, left hand holding tip of bow set on ground to right; BAΣIΛEΩΣ to right, ANTIOXOY to left, ∆ within circle to inner left. SC 436.6; ESM 704. 8.42g, 20mm, 6h.

Mint State. Extremely Rare.

From a private English collection.

Excavations at Aï Khanoum revealed many coins there of the type previously assigned by Newell (The Coinage of the Eastern Seleucid Mints from Seleucus I to Antiochus III) to Baktra, the capital of Baktria. The excavations further confirmed the likelihood of Aï Khanoum as a location of an active mint due to the discovery of a large palace complex including a treasury, gymnasium, administrative offices and unstruck bronze flans. This led to a reassignment of the entire series to the mint at Aï Khanoum (see Kritt, Seleucid Coins of Bactria, pp. 27-30). The importance of the mint is emphasised by Houghton and Lorber (Seleucid Coins, p. 151) who note that this city's monetary output grew in importance during Antiochos' sole reign, producing distinctive new types during the early reign and then adopting the Apollo on omphalos type most likely at a later date than other major mints. It is also likely that Antiochos I himself was in residence at Aï Khanoum during the last years of the co-regency.

The Apollo on omphalos type added to the Apolline imagery already introduced on the coinage of Seleukos I, tapping into the myth that Apollo was the ancestor of the Seleukid line (see The Cult of Helios in the Seleucid East by Catharine Lorber and Panagiotis Iossif (2009), p. 31). This claim was possibly established at this early point of the Seleukids, perhaps with Seleukos I (cf. OGIS 212) or possibly with Antiochos I (cf. OGIS 219), unfortunately the identity of the rulers in these inscriptions are not definite. Antiochos I’s most significant innovation was the introduction of his own portrait to his precious metal coinage, establishing a tradition followed by all his successors. Coins from Bactria which are suggested to be his earliest portraits depict an elderly man, perhaps attempting to reflect the king’s actual appearance, although since he was forty-four at his father’s death, they perhaps exaggerate his features. The portrait of Antiochos was taken up at other major mints across the empire, however there does not appear to be a consensus in how they chose to represent him. For example, Antioch and Tarsos display Antiochos as a man of middle-age with a full head of hair, very different to both the elderly man at Bactria and to the portrait used at the mint of Aï Khanoum. At this mint Antiochos is rejuvenated and idealised, as demonstrated on this excellent example, perhaps attempting to present Antiochos in the style of the divine.

It has been argued that the numismatic history of the region ruled by the Seleukids was part of the inspiration for the choice of Apollo with a bow and arrow as the characteristic iconography of their precious metal coinage. Panagiotis Iossif in his article “Apollo Toxotes And the Seleukids: Comme Un Air De Famille” (More than Men, Less than Gods, 2007) examines the Mesopotamian–Iranian origin of the archer type in art and concludes that “in a Near Eastern context the figure of the archer is closely related to the figure of the king (Akkadian, Assyrian and Achaemenid) or, more precisely, to a form of divine kingship.” With this tradition in mind, it is not unrealistic to consider that Antiochos, would be aware of this type’s powerful connotations.

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