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Coin Typology of

Selymbria *

Topography and History

Selymbria (modern Silivri), situated on the northern Propontis between Byzantium and Perinthos, shares stages of its history with other Thracian coastal towns. It was conquered during the Ionian uprising in 493 BC and, as a member of the Delian League, was obliged to make considerable payments towards the middle of the 5th century BC, including to Athens itself. During the Peloponnesian War, Selymbria bought its independence at times by paying tributes to Athens, but it was also temporarily under direct Athenian control. 1 

  1. Generally: Schönert-Geiss 1975, 37 f.; Isaac 1986, 208–211; Schönert-Geiss 1999, 1111.

State of Research

The coinage of Selymbria is clear; it is remarkable that in the 5th century BC––in contrast to various other neighbouring Thracian cities––the city mined silver at all. In 1975, E. Schönert-Geiss provided an overview of the city’s coinage in a corpus volume. 1  An iconographic feature of all the locally-circulating coinage, which was probably intended only for local use, is the rooster as an obverse motif; the reverse initially shows a quadratum incusum and, later, an ear of corn. The ethnikon, abbreviated to ΣΑ or ΣΑΛΥ, is located on the obverse or reverse but can also be missing entirely. T. Gökyɪlɪrɪm reworked the chronological classification of the coinage on the occasion of a hoard discovery in 1998. 2 

Due to the common motif of the rooster, which also appears in Dikaia, coins from Selymbria are often found in catalogues and other publications listed under Dikaia and vice versa.

  1. Price (1977, 237 f.) agrees with their results.
  2. Gökyɪldɪrɪm 1998.

Minting System and Typology

E. Schönert-Geiss defines the monetary standard as “for the most part” 1  belonging to the Thraco-Macedonian standard (second weight series), contrary to older assignments to the Persian (Emission 1) or Attic (Emission 2) standards. 2  S. Psoma’s doubts about the validity of speaking about a Thraco-Macedonian standard 3  may also apply to Selymbria. The weights of the coins from this mint are such that they can either fall under the Attic or reduced Persian monetary standard.

There are no surviving written sources that attest to the choice of the rooster as the primary image motif of Selymbria, and neither economic nor mythological reasons are discernable. The only discussion in this respect stems from Gökyɪldɪrɪm; 4  he stated that, in his view, there could be a relation to the Thracian god Ares. As the myth goes, Ares turned a youth called Alektryon into a rooster after failing to act as a watchman during the god’s tryst with Aphrodite; he fell asleep, and thus the lovers were caught by Hephaestus. As a rooster (Άλεκτρυών in Greek), the young man would thus never forget to announce the approaching morning. The question of whether this myth should serve as the basis for choosing the rooster as the primary motif is best left open; however, it is certain that other cities such as Himera on Sicily, Karystos in Euboea, Dardanos in the Troad, Dikaia in Macedonia, as well the Thracian Dikaia all used this motif in their coinage. It would be worth considering whether Selymbria wanted to express relations with one of these cities through the use of this iconography. However, since Selymbria was colonized by the Doric Megara (or by Chalcedon), 5  it appears at first that there are no indications of this.

  1. Schönert-Geiss 1975, 42.
  2. Evidence in Schönert-Geiss 1975, Note 1, Erxleben 1965: "Drachmas of Attic currency".
  3. See Psoma 2015.
  4. Gökyɪldɪrɪm 1998, 282 f.
  5. Isaac 1986, 210.

The Coinage of the Late Classical and Hellenistics Periods

The minting system of Selymbria is quite clearly structured. It consists of two periods and different nominal values. During the first early Classical period six values were produced, while three values were produced during the middle Classical period.

While the older first emission bears a quadratum incusum on its reverse, the second, more recent emission features ears of corn or simply a kernel. E. Schönert-Geiss dates the two groups on the basis of stylistic considerations, which are in turn based on dates that J.M.F. May had worked out for the coinage of Abdera. 1  Furthermore, she agrees with E. Erxleben’s assumption that there was a break between the two issues as a result of a minting law. 2  Thus, she dates the first phase––consisting of octobols, tetrobols, triobols, diobols, obols, and hemiobols––to 492/90–473/70 BC. She dates the second phase––consisting of octobols, triobols, and obols––to ca. 425/20–411/10 BC. Both are assigned to the Thraco-Macedonian monetary standard in the second weight series, but she considers whether the smallest nominal of the first phase––the hemioboles––can be assigned to a Persian standard.

Based on the hoard from Örcünlü, T. Gökyɪlɪrɪm proposed in 1998 a division of the coinage into three periods, contrasting Schönert-Geiss. The first phase, dating to 492/90–473/70 BC, is analogous to May’s Period III 3 ; the second, dating to ca. 470–449 BC, corresponds with May’s Period IV 4 ; and the third, dating from ca. 439–420, matches May’s Period V. 5  The hoard also contained octobols from Selymbria. Gökyɪlɪrɪm reversed the sequence laid out by Schönert-Geiss and assumed a gap between issues. Furthermore, he points out that his No. 66  6  neither bears the windmill pattern postulated by E. Schönert-Geiss nor does it fit into its group in terms of weight. If one concludes from the degree of wear and tear of his No. 66 that it has a was in use for a long period of time, it is likely to belong chronologically to the first emission series. Gökyɪlɪrɪm’s coins 67–71  7  differ from his No. 66 in style, weight, and wear and therefore––in his opinion––form a subsequent group. The third issue is in turn based on an even lower degree of wear and tear, with J.M.F. May dating his Abdera Period V to 410 BC, while Gökyɪlɪrɪm prefers an end date of around 420 BC. In our opinion, Gökyɪlɪrɪm‘s grouping is not compelling and is based on too little material evidence.

Our type catalogue represents the state of research from August 2019 and does not take into consideration any coin types that have become known later. Further information, especially about new types, is always welcome.

  1. May 1965, Plates 5-8.
  2. Erxleben 1965, 100; Schönert-Geiss 1975, 44. Older research had scheduled the second emission much earlier (before or around 450 BC).
  3. CN_Type303.
  4. CN_Type301.
  5. CN_Type319.
  6. CN_Type303.
  7. CN_Type301.

Bibliography

  • Erxleben 1965 = E. Erxleben, Das Münzgesetz des delisch-attischen Seebundes (Dissertation).
  • Gökyilirim 1998 = T. Gökyɪlɪrɪm, Vth c. B.C. Coin Hoard from Thrace - Örcünlü, in: U. Peter (Hg.), Stephanos numismatikos. Edith Schönert-Geiss zum 65. Geburtstag (Berlin 1998), 279–293.
  • Hoover 2017 = O.D. Hoover, Handbook of Coins of Macedon and Its Neighbors. Part II: Thrace, Skythia, and Taurike, Sixth to First Centuries BC, The Handbook of Greek Coinage Series, Volume 3 (Leiden/Lancaster 2017), S.164–167.
  • Isaac 1986 = B. Isaac, The Greek Settlements in Thrace Until the Macedonian Conquest (Leiden 1986).
  • May 1965 = J.M.F. May, The Coinage of Abdera (540–345 B.C.). Royal Numismatic Society Special Publication No. 3. (London 1965).
  • Price 1977 = M.J. Price, Rezension zu: E. Schönert-Geiss, Die Münzprägung von Bisanthe – Dikaia – Selymbria. Schriften zur Geschichte und Kultur der Antike 13 (Berlin 1975), in: Numismatic Chronicle, 237 f.
  • Psoma 2015 = S. Psoma. Did the So-Called Thraco-Macedonian Standard Exist?, in: U. Wartenberg – M. Amandry (Hrsg.), ΚΑΙΡΟΣ: Contributions to Numismatics in Honor of Basil Demetriadi (New York 2015), 167–190.
  • Schönert-Geiss 1975 = E. Schönert-Geiss, Die Münzprägung von Bisanthe – Dikaia – Selymbria. Schriften zur Geschichte und Kultur der Antike 13 (Berlin 1975).
  • Schönert-Geiss 1999 = E. Schönert-Geiss, Bibliographie zur antiken Numismatik Thrakiens und Mösiens (Berlin 1999).

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