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Coin Typology of


Topography and History

Lemnos is the largest island in the Aegean Sea. On account of its advantageous geographical location opposite the entrace to the Hellespont, the island achieved both wealth and fame. During the Classical period, two demoi are known on Lemnos, namely those of Myrina and Hephaestia, which led to the island often being called Dipolis. It was occupied from time to time by various powers. In 512/511, the island fell to the Persians despite the resistance of its inhabitants. After the Persian Wars, Lemnos became a member of the Delian League. In the middle of the 5th century BC, it was settled by Athenian cleruchs and henceforth considered a territory of Athens. The sack of Lemnos by Philip II (354–352 BC) ended this control. By the time Septimius Severus (r. AD 193–211) granted the island its independence, it had passed through the hands of Alexander's successors, the Romans, and the Athenians once more.

State of Research

The state of research concerning the island's minting activity is rather sparse. To date, there is still no comprehensive study on the coinage and typology of Lemnos. There are only some coins listed in catalogues and SNG volumes. It was not until 2004 that Vassiliki Penna was able to present an overview of the island's coinage. Some years later, Hoover summarized the coinage of Myrina and Hephaestia in the Hellenistic period. The intensive excavation activity on Lemnos in recent years has helped specialists obtain important information on the island's history, as well as the chronology and longevity of some coin types.1

  1. Souchleris 2010. ↑

Minting System and Typology

In contrast to the other islands of the Aegean, Lemnos did not issue coins during the Archaic period. The island minted only a few bronze coins in its name. The earliest known coin type dates from the first half of the 4th century BC. 2 It bears on the obverse the head of a bearded man identified by some scholars as the first mythical king of Lemnos, Thoantas.3 The reverse depicts a ram and the legend ΛΗΜΝΙ within an incuse square.4 This rare coin emission is difficult to place within the historical context of the island. The mention of the name ΛΗΜΝΙ as the issuing authority is confirmed by epigraphic evidence dating to the second half of the 5th century and sets it apart from the coinage of the two cities on the island, Myrina and Hephaestia.5 Much later, during the early Augustan period, Athens minted coins in the name of Lemnos with the Athena/Hephaestus head types and common ethnics ΑΘΕ ΛΗΜΝΙ.6 The Artemis/deer type also belongs to the first century BC.7

The Coinage of Myrina

Myrina was located on the west coast of Lemnos and was considered to be the island's capital city. It had its own minting rights beginning in the early 4th century BC and put out some bronze emissions. Among the characteristic coin types are those with Athena on the obverse and the owl on the reverse. This motif is a clear indication of Athenian influence, under which the entire island fell.8 In Myrina, the so-called Athena/owl type can be divided into three groups, which consisted of two nominal levels.9 The first group depicts the head of Athena in profile, while the reverse shows an owl, facing, accompanied by various attributes (bow, olive branch, torch?).10. The second group depicts Athena's head in three-quarter view on the obverse and the owl standing, right, with its head facing on the reverse.11 The third group includes coins featuring the helmeted head of Athena, right, on the obverse and a large owl, right, on the reverse.12 All coins from Myrina bear an abbreviation of the city's name on the reverse, MYP or MYPI.

A rare Lemnian coin design comes from Myrina. The obverse depicts Artemis, the city's patron goddess, while the reverse features a bow and quiver.13 However, determining the dating of this type has proven problematic. A variant type appears in a cleruchic coin issue of Athens, in which the last mention of the mint is noted.14 On the obverse is the helmeted head of Athena, right, while the coin reverses bear the legend ΑΘΕ and feature motifs that were emblematic of the issuing city of Myrina: the bow and quiver of Artemis. This series was minted in 166 BC on behalf of the Athenians, likely after the restoration of the Athenian cleruchy on the island. An otherwise unpublished but still noteworthy coin type from Myrina shows the laureate head of Apollo, right, on the obverse and Artemis standing, right, with the legend MYPI on the reverse.15 It appears that Myrina's mint remained inactive between 166 BC and the third century AD.

The Coinage of Hephaestia

The coinage of Hephaestia is characterized by a great variety of types and seems to have had a greater longevity than that of Myrina. Bronze coins were minted in three nominal levels.16 The city's early bronze coinage includes two types that probably date to the 4th century BC. The first depicts the head of Athena on the obverse, while the reverse depicts an owl accompanied by various symbols (the olive branch, burning torch, or tongs).17 A similar type is found on coins from Myrina, as presented above. This similarity indicates that the two coin issues were contemporary. Only the abbreviation of the city ethnic ΗΦΑΙ(ΣΤΙ) for Hephaestia and the different accompanying symbols distinguish the two mints. In addition to the "Athenian" coin type, there is a second group in the city that remains faithful to its local roots and replaces the owl with a ram, combined with the same symbols.18 The depiction of a ram is not only associated with the local Hermes cult as a protector of shepherds, but it also indicates that were engaged in animal husbandry.19 Of particular interest in this coin type is the appearance of the monogram Δ in exergue on the reverse.20 The Δ has not been found on any previous issues of Hephaestia and probably indicates the value of the coins (4 chalkoi).21

280 BC, the date of the island's occupation by Seleucus, is a fixed point for the secure chronological classification of several coin types of Hephaestia. As a sign of their gratitude for the island's liberation from the regime of Lysimachus, the inhabitants of Lemnos built temples and established a cult in honor of Seleucus and his successor, Antiochus. Quite clearly connected to these events are coin emissions depicting a royal male portrait (probably of Seleucus, Antiochus I, or Antiochus III) on the obverse and a ram or torch between two Dioscuri hats on the reverse.22 The Hellenistic coins of Hephaestia primarily depict religious or cultic motifs influenced by the cults of local gods such as Hephaestus or the Cabeiri. However, the chronological classification of these types is difficult to determine. They are usually dated to the period of 280–190 BC. Other iconographic themes include the head of Dionysus and his associated attributes, the grape 23 or cornucopia24; the radiate head of the sun god, Helios25; and the six-pointed star or Dioscuri hats, symbols of the latter. The representation of the head of Dionysus or Heracles on the obverse is also combined with two burning torches on the reverse.26 The depiction of a bunch of grapes may also refer to the cult of Dionysus and the extensive production of wine on the island. The torches likely allude to cultic acts in honour of Hephaestus. Furthermore, the Athenian cleruchs who settled on the island also included their own coins with the legend AΘΕ.27

There are some peculiarities associated with the coinage of Lemnos during the Roman period. It is known that in 166 BC, after the Roman defeat of the Macedonian king Perseus, Lemnos, then under Roman control, was returned to the Athenians. In the period from 166 BC to the 3rd century AD, when the mint of Myrina was inactive, Hephaestia remained in the fore and was represented by interesting emissions featuring the god Hephaestus.28 The city minted few pseudo-autonomous coins, such as the type depicting Tyche with a mural-crown and the legend ΛΗΜΝΟϹ on the obverse and a burning torch with the legend ΗΦΑΙϹΤΙЄΩΝ on the reverse.29 This type is further evidence for the sole rule of the city during this period, though the exact chronology of these pseudo-autonomous issues is difficult to determine. It is likely that the minting activity was related to the final termination of Athenian rule on the island, which was achieved when Lemnos gained independence under the Roman emperor Septimius Severus.

  1. For more on the chronology, see Souchleris 2010, 66 (2nd half of the 4th century BC) and Penna 1994, 38–40 (late 5th or early 4th century BC) ↑

  2. Penna 1994, 39. ↑

  3. CN_Type19858. ↑

  4. Penna 1994, footnotes 7, 8. ↑

  5. CN_Type19972. Kroll 1993, 111, no. 159A. ↑

  6. CN_Type20006. Kroll 1993, 110, no. 159. ↑

  7. The Athena/owl type is said to have been minted after the restoration of the Athenian cleruchy on Lemnos in 386 BC. ↑

  8. Hoover 2010, 67–68, Denomination C and D. ↑

  9. CN_Type19860; CN_Type19866; CN_Type19867; CN_Type12890. The local cult of Artemis in Myrina is advertised by the symbol of the bow on this larger denomination ↑

  10. CN_Type19877; CN_Type19876; CN_Type19875; CN_Type19873. ↑

  11. CN_Type19877; CN_Type19876; CN_Type19875; CN_Type19873. ↑

  12. CN_Type19870; CN_Type19871. ↑

  13. CN_Type20027. ↑

  14. CN_Type19868. ↑

  15. Hoover 2010, 59. ↑

  16. CN_Type19891; CN_Type19892; CN_Type19893; CN_Type19895; CN_Type19900; CN_Type19988; CN_Type19895; CN_Type19890; CN_Type19889; CN_Type19987; CN_Type19902; CN_Type20007. ↑

  17. CN_Type19881; CN_Type19882; CN_Type19883; CN_Type19884; CN_Type19894; CN_Type12888; CN_Type20029. ↑

  18. Penna 1994, 42. ↑

  19. CN_Type19885. ↑

  20. Souchleris 2006, 72. ↑

  21. CN_Type198797; CN_Type19898; CN_Type19899; CN_Type19909; CN_Type19910; CN_Type19914. ↑

  22. CN_Type19912. ↑

  23. CN_Type19901. ↑

  24. CN_Type19901. ↑

  25. CN_Type19907. ↑

  26. CN_Type19952. ↑

  27. CN_Type19954; CN_Type19955; CN_Type19956; CN_Type19967. ↑

  28. CN_Type19953. ↑


  • Bloesch 1987 = H. Bloesch, Griechische Münzen in Winterthur (Winterthur 1987).
  • Borrell 1841 = H.P. Borrell, Unedited Autonomous and Imperial Greek Coins in: NC 1841, 1–11.
  • Forrer 1975 = L. Forrer, The Weber Collection, Vol. II: Greek Coins (London 1924, reprint New York 1975).
  • Hoover 2010 = O. D. Hoover, Handbook of Coins of the Islands, The Handbook of Greek Coinage Series Vol. 6, 2010, 59–68.
  • Kroll 1993 = J. H. Kroll, The Athenian Agora. Results of Excavations Conducted by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Vol. XXVI: The Greek Coins (With Contributions by Alan S. Walker), Princeton (New Jersey 1993).
  • Penna 1994 = The Mintage of Lemnos, in Archaiologia 50, 1994, 38–43.
  • SNG Dänemark = Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum: The Royal Collection of Coins and Medals, Danish National Museum. Thrace 2: Odessus - Sestos. Islands. Kings and Dynasts (Kopenhagen 1943).
  • SNG Deutschland = Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum: Münzsammlung der Universität Tübingen, 2. Heft: Taurische Chersones-Korkyra, edited by Dietrich Mannsperger (Berlin 1982).
  • SNG Greece 7 = Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum: The Kikpe Collection of Bronze Coins. Volume 1, edited by Vassiliki Penna and Yannis Stoyas, Academy of Athens (Athens 2012).
  • SNG Great Britain = Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum: Vol. IV, Fitzwilliam Museum: Leake and General Collections, Part II: Sicily-Thrace (Oxford 1947, reprint. London 1972).
  • Souchleris 2010 = L. Souchleris, Numismatic Testimonies for the City of Hephaistia, Lemnos. New Coin Finds from the Theatre Excavations, in: Ovolos 9 Vol. I., Coins in the Aegean Islands: Proceedings of the Fifth Scientific Meeting, Mytilene, 16–19 September 2006 (Athens 2010), 59–82.

Map with Mints of typology