The Dating of the Coinage of Alexander the Great by Zoë Sophia Kontes 03

Zervos's theories were questioned by Martin Price, and the two scholars amicably published their views side by side in the Numismatic Chronicle of 1982. In examining the characteristics common to the Zeus of Tarsus and the Zeus of Macedonia, Price finds that each of them could have been introduced on the coinage independently in Macedonia. The styles used are not uniquely 'oriental,' and all have precedence in earlier Greek coinage. In particular, he argues that the outstretched hand is not an unnatural pose at all, but one proper for holding a bird. The hand is depicted in this manner at the main Macedonian mint during Alexander's lifetime, while at another significant mint the hand is rendered more 'classically,' or naturally. But, as Price argues, the 'unnatural' pose must have been acceptable to the classical aesthetic as well, and had been presumably prescribed by Alexander or the controller of his coinage, only changing after the king's death. Price also argues against the hoard evidence given by Zervos. He asserts that Zervos's interpretation of the evidence of wear in the Demanhur hoard to mean that 46% of the Tarsus coins were struck before 81% of the Macedonian coins is faulty. It merely indicates that the hoard contained a large number of late lifetime and early posthumous Alexanders. Price maintains that Alexander began minting his silver coins immediately upon becoming king. Three years later, in 333 B.C., he set up a new mint in Tarsus after his success in the Battle of Issus. Tarsus was an administrative center close to Issus, and his mint was established at the mint which had been used by the Persian satraps of Cilicia. At this point, as is accepted by scholars in general, eastern influence can be seen on the Alexander coins, since the die-engravers were the very same who had produced the coins for the satraps.

Price calls on the evidence of two separate factors: the chronology of the main mint of Macedonia, and the historical probability. At the main mint, the latest issues of Philip II are closely die-linked, as well as having the same symbols on the reverse (prow, etc.) These same symbols are found on the first Alexander coins of the mint, and are not found again on either, indicating that the two issues were contemporaneous. Price asserts that no group of Philips can be placed later than the first Alexanders, and believes that the Philips must have directly preceded the first Alexanders. Although this alone does not testify to a striking in 336 of Alexanders, Price notes that the silver issues of Philip were not minted again until after Alexander's death, perhaps indicting that Alexander was not interested in striking Philip's coinage during his reign. As every other of Alexander's actions was for the purpose of installing himself solidly as king and promoting himself among the Greeks, it is unlikely that in all of his preparations for war he would not have included his own coinage. In 1991, Price again upheld these theories in his large work on the coinage of Alexander, which began as a catalogue of the British Museum collection and evolved into a comprehensive study of the coinage in total. With regard to dating, his work essentially follows Newell.

In the same year, 1991, H.Troxell published an article entitled "Alexander's Earliest Macedonian Silver ," joining the great date debate. She takes up the theme of this article in her more recent publication of 1997, a detailed study of Alexander's coinage in Macedonia (the site of his most prolific mints, which used close to 750 obverse tetradrachm dies during the period of Alexander's lifetime and for the first decade after his death). She does not address the question of which mint might have been the main one (most likely Amphipolis or Pella). In this work she discusses Alexander's lifetime and posthumous issues, including both tetradrachms and the smaller issues. She also outlines the post-323 posthumous issues of Philip types which Le Rider did not address in his work of 1977. Troxell follows Newell with regard to most of the aspects of the Macedonian issues, with one major exception. She, like Zervos, believes that the Alexander coins did not begin to be minted until c. 332. Her argument adds to that of Zervos, and indeed has convinced many, including Le Rider, that the lower dates were correct. Like Price, Troxell is unconvinced by the five eastern elements which Zervos cites as evidence that the Tarsiote Zeus preceded the Macedonian Zeus. Only the bell-covers present on perhaps a few early Macedonian tetradrachms, she argues, are evidence of this eastern influence with no precedent in Greece. She also suggests that there are two additional elements from Tarsus coins found on the earliest coins of Macedonia, the so-called 'flowering scepter' and the footstool. First of all, she clarifies the identification of the initial issues. Two coins in Newell's group A established as the earliest group by their relationship to the latest Philips prove to be the earliest in the early group. Troxell uses two characteristics to identify them as such: first, the style of the Heracles' hair (a double row of locks which differs from the single row of curls found on most other early Alexanders of this mint and on coins of Philip's predecessors), and second, the prow symbol on the reverse facing right (rather than left, as it does on most others). Having identified these as the earliest coins, Troxell then points to other aspects of eastern influence. The reverse side of both coins show Zeus holding a flowering scepter, a type found on the earlier coins of Mazaeus. In addition, one of the coins seems to have the bell-covers on the throne legs. Three other coins with the reverse mark of a prow facing left are used with the obverse die on which the head of Heracles has the double row of locks. Two of these coins at least appear to have bell-covers. In addition, another coin from the same die (but with the prow facing right and reverse symbol of a fulmen) has a footstool clearly derived from the Tarsiote model, which consists of a line raised on one end by some sort of support. Citing a few other examples of bell-covers, footstools, and flowering scepters, Troxell concludes that these eastern elements are found only on very early issues from Amphipolis, and do not endure. While some of these elements had existed before in Greek art, they are the exact elements found on the coins of Tarsus and their presence must be explained by the fact that they were known in some way to the die cutters at Amphipolis. Therefore, the Amphipolis Zeus had to have been minted subsequent to the Tarsiote Zeus. The results of Troxell's findings struck another blow to the traditional dating system, and it seemed as though the series of lower dates would in fact hold court with most numismatists (excepting Price of course). Yet the battle was far from over.

At the very end of the 20th century, in fact just this past December, 1999, Patrick Marchetti published an article which attempts to once again establish the accuracy of Newell's traditional chronology. His argument has nothing to do with the tetradrachms of Tarsus, rather it is based on the epigraphical evidence recording the money of the Amphictionic league. After the earthquake at Delphi in 373 B.C., the Amphictionic council set up a group called the naiopoioi to oversee the reconstruction of the temple of Apollo and be responsible for the collection of dues from the members of the Amphictionic League. Their work was interrupted by the Third Sacred War in the years 356-346 B.C., when the Phocians took over the treasury and used the money stored there to pay their mercenaries. After their defeat at the hands of Philip, they were required to pay an indemnity of 60 talents a year. In addition, and significantly, their seats on the Amphictionic council were taken over by two representatives of Philip. The amount of money which the Phocians paid to the Amphictionic council was recorded each year, and the epigraphical evidence shows that the amount was reduced first to thirty talents, then to ten talents by the year 335 or 334. The payments were suspended for two years between 343 and 334, most likely at the time of the Fourth Sacred War in 338. In this war Philip put down the resistance of the Thebans and Athenians at Chaironeia and as a result secured his place as the hegemon of Greece. It is directly after this success that a new Amphictionic coinage was instituted. The new money was based, like previous Delphic money, on the Aeginetan standard. It had an obverse with a head of Demeter with a reverse of Apollo seated on the omphalos with the inscription AMPHICTIONON. Treasurers were appointed to manage the money at Delphi, and their accounts dated with the name of the archon were inscribed twice a year, in spring and fall. One of these accounts is particularly important. It has four columns: the first, the name of a mint; the second, the amount of each denomination; the third, the apousia; the fourth, the remainder. The apousia was the difference between the theoretical total weight of the coins of each denomination taken in, and the actual weight of the metal when melted down. The actual weight would then be the amount of metal restruck in the new Amphictionic type. The result was less than what would have been expected if the old coins weighed their face value. This account was inscribed during the archonship of Dion at the fall meeting of the treasurers in 336, and so the institution of the new money must have taken place under his predecessor, Palaios, in 337.

A second fragment refers to the 335 B.C. spring meeting under Dion. It records that forty-four talents of Amphictionic money was posted as forty-five talents of Attic money. However, this conversion does not make any sense based on the rate of exchange between the two standards (seven Aeginetan drachmae to ten Attic drachmae). What then, is going on here? According to Marchetti, we must reevaluate what is meant by the apousia in this situation. Marchetti defines the apousia as discussed above: ". . .l'écart entre le poids théorique des exemplaires dénombrés et le poids réel que devront peser les futures monnaies amphictioniques."In this situation, however, the apousia is not the actual result of the recoining but an estimate of the same:

Il n'est à a mon sens qu'une manière d'interpréter le passage: là oú les trésoriers auraient dû inscrire l'équivalent de 44 Talents . . .amphictioniques, résultant de l'estimation préalable à la frappe suite au décompte "arithmo" de l'apousia, ils n'ont pu que transcrire, après décompte (arithmo), donc après avoir dénombré les pièces, 45 talents . . .attiques. Ce qui vient à dire que l'on a recompté en monnaies attiques (attikou arithmo) une somme qui avait été évaluée précédemment (amphictionikou arithmo), comme devant fournir le métal indispensable à la frappe de 44 Talents, 18 Mines . . . d'amphictionique, après soustraction de l'apousia. Le fait de retrouver le terme "arithmo" joint à "amphictionikou" et à "attikou" dans le compte 76 nous place logiquement dans une situation comparable à celle du début de la session-automne, soit avant la frappe des monnaies amphictioniques. Ce qui nous mène à la conclusion que la frappe du nouvel amphictionique a dû être interrompue avant la refonte des monnaies attiques qui constituaient une partie du stock remis à Dexios. Et l'on aurait alors compté à nouveau, pièce par pièce, à raison de 6.000 drachmes par talent, les espèces « anciennes » d'étalon attique qui avaient été précédemment estimées, pour leur poids réel, à 44 Talents, 18 Mines . . . amphictioniques.

There is, in my opinion, only one way to interpret the passage: there where the treasurers should have had to list the equivalent of 44 (in round numbers) Amphictionic talents, resulting from the estimate before striking following the subtraction (arithmo) of the "apousia" based on the number of coins, they could not transcribe, after the subtraction (arithmo), thus after having counted the coins, 45 Attic talents (in round numbers). This is to say that one recounted in Attic money (attikou arithmo) a sum which had been estimated previously (amphictionikou arithmo) as providing the metal needed to strike 44 talents, 18 mines, (in round numbers) of Amphictionic money, after the subtraction of the "apousia." The fact that the term "arithmo" is joined to "amphictionikou" and to "attikou" in Account Number 76 places us logically in a situation comparable to that of the beginning of the autumn session of the treasurers, before the striking of Amphictionic money. This leads us to conclude that the striking of new Amphictionic money must have been interrupted before the reissue of the Attic money which constituted a part of the stock handed over to Dexios. And one would therefore have counted again, piece by piece, on the scale of 6,000 drachmas per talent, the old coins of the Attic standard which were previously estimated, according to their real weight, to 44 talents, 18 mines, (in round numbers) of Amphictionic money.

As this passage indicates, the treasurers recounted in Attic values the group of coins that had already been figured in Amphictionic value, but not yet minted as such. So the apousia then is an estimate of what would have been the difference had the coins actually been restruck. The decision to coin new money on an Attic standard was an unexpected one, and the Amphictionic money was only struck for one year, between the fall of 336 and the spring of 335. This fundamental change in the coinage is supported by another inscription, the epikatalage, which stated that a new exchange rate would be followed between the two standards. Instead of a ratio of 7 Aeginetan drachmae to 10 Attic drachmae, it was now 7.5 to 10, benefiting the Attic standard.

Realizing the importance of the Amphictionic League and Delphi to a ruler trying to establish himself as hegemon of Greece, we can understand the importance of these inscriptions. The new Amphictionic money was set up under Palaios, the last archon during the reign of Philip. The decisive battle of the Chaironeia essentially united all of Greece under Philip. It is not hard to imagine then that the striking of a new Amphictionic coinage would be at the behest of Philip, identifying himself as the hegemon. Following that then, as Marchetti argues, Alexander would have wanted to establish himself at Delphi as soon as possible upon his accession to the throne. The abrupt cessation of the newly created Amphictionic money must have been ordered by Alexander. If this money was stopped before the recasting of money on an Attic standard, as Marchetti has shown, then the use of the Attic standard cannot be separated from Alexander's use of the Attic standard for his own coinage. Therefore, Alexander's coinage must have already been in effect.

The scholarship of the Alexander coinage has advanced greatly since Newell's first works in the early part of the twentieth century. But his work has been the basis for all advancement in the field, and will continue to be the foundation of future study. Is it possible that his assumption that Alexander began minting his coins at the beginning of his reign is incorrect? This question has not been answered fully. While Zervos, adding to the work of Kleiner, seems to give valid reasons for the lower dates, Price has just as much proof to support the higher dates. Troxell, on the other hand, adds sufficient evidence to Zervos's argument, which indicates that in fact Price's dating scheme (following Newell) may not be valid. It remains to be seen how other scholars will respond to Marchetti's arguments; whether or not they will accept that the striking of new money in Delphi on the Attic standard was necessarily at the behest of Alexander. If so, then the traditional chronology set up by Newell will once again hold sway. Regardless, the date debate will no doubt continue, as Marchetti's evidence is, in the last analysis, indirect. We will have to look forward to when and if new numismatic evidence becomes available for an answer to this intriguing question.

This paper was originally written for a graduate seminar entitled "Value and Exchange," given by Professor R. Ross Holloway in the Spring of 2000 at the Center for Old World Archaeology and Art at Brown University. I would like to thank Professor Holloway for dedicating his time and energy to this project, and for his steady guidance and support, without which this paper would not have been possible.


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