Type of the Month

October 2021: Athena and owl on Lemnian coins

The Type of this Month is presented by Georgia Bousia

Even though it is already October, let's go to the Greek islands once again and this time visit Lemnos! Our knowledge of the coinage on the island may be sparse so far, but the following type is of particular interest for the history of the island.

Lemnos is the largest island in the Aegean Sea. Between approximately 510 BC and 200 BC the island was under Athenian control. During this period, two demoi are known to have existed on Lemnos, namely that of Myrina and of Hephaistia, which is why Lemnos was often called Dipolis. These two important cities of the island had their own minting rights and issued bronze coins in the early 4th century BC.

The coin type of the month presented here is one of the characteristic motifs of the two mints. The obverse depicts the head of Athena and the reverse shows an owl. The abbreviation of the city's name ΜΥΡΙ (or ΗΦΑΙ for Hephastia) and the various symbols next to the owl served to distinguish the mint. On this specimen of Myrina, a bow is depicted in the right field. Often the owl is accompanied by a branch or torch.

The choice of an Athenian type on Lemnos should not surprise us and is likely due to Athenian influence on the island. It is believed that the Athena/owl coinage of Myrina and Hephaistia began between the restoration of the Athenian clerurchy on Lemnos in 386 B.C. A considerable variety of styles suggests a long period of mintage that lasted until the loss of Lemnos to Athena in 314 BC or even later until the restored clerurchy of 207-276/261 BC. Similar to Imbros and Hephaistia, the Athenian type of Myrina reflects the contemporary domination of Athens in the city. However, the local cult of Artemis at Myrina is advertised by the bow symbol on this larger denomination.

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