The coinage of Apollonia and Dyrrhachium:
Corinthian type coins
27 November 2020
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The earliest Corinthian "Pegasi" had flying Pegasus on the obverse with letter qoppa (the archaic Greek letter Q) for Corinth; and the reverse, quadripartite incuse impression with swastika1. Later, this side was changed and displayed head of Athena wearing Corinthian helmet over a leather cap1. Despite the Athena-side of these Pegasi has a higher relief than the Pegasus side, traditionally the latter is called obverse for the Corinthian type staters.
During Timoleon's campaign against Syracuse in 338 BC, similar staters were minted in many city states with traditional ties to Corinth in the South-West Balkan area for several years, attributable to the following places by the small symbols on the coins:
- Illyria: Apollonia and Dyrrhachium
- Epirus: Ambracia
- Acarnania: Acarnanians, Alyzia, Anactorium, Argos, Astacus, Coronta, Leucas, Medeon, Metropolis, Tyrrhenium.
2. Illyrian Pegasi staters
In contrast to the tradition of the Corinthian pieces, let me regard the Athena side of these coins the obverse and the Pegasus the reverse; as usual in ancient coinage: the "natural" obverse of the coins is that of the higher relief, since the coin can "rest" naturally on the flatter side, the reverse.
One can find various combinations of attributes on the Dyrrhachian Pegasi. The club of Hercules is usually behind the neck of Athena; an archaic letter form E occurs frequently with the club; a dolphin above the helmet is also frequent, too. Δ (delta) can also be seen below the horse on the reverse. On many staters, ΔΥΡΡΑΧΙΝΩΝ (of the Dyrrhachians) is in front of Athena's face on the obverse.
Probably Apollonia produced a single series of the Corinthian type, with ΑΠΟΛ (Apol) in front of Athena's face and lyre behind neck.
Corinthian style Apolloniate stater. Obv. Head of Athena r., wearing Corinthian helmet without crest over leather cap. ΔΥΡ R, lyre L in field. Rev. Pegasus with pointed wing, flying R. BMC 1, 8.4 g, 20 mm. Photo: courtesy of Michael Freeman
3. Drachms or quarter staters?
In Dyrrhachium, a smaller denomination was also minted with head of Hercules wearing lion skin on the obverse and flying Pegasus on the reverse, somewhere between 280 and 229 BC; that is, nearly one hundred years after the Pegasi staters, between the two Illyrian cow/calf series (staters and drachms). The weight is around 2.5 g therefore some call these quarter staters; despite they are not found together with the Corinthian type staters. Hercules was the patron of Dyrrhachium, but the presence of Pegasus on the coin is unexplained in the mid- 3th c BC environment.
The inscriptions on the reverse vary, ΔΥΡΡΑΧΙΝΩΝ (Dyrrhachinon), or the letters Δ-Υ-Ρ (D-Y-R) between the legs of the animal (clockwise or anticlockwise); or simply a tiny delta.
4. Reference works to the Corinthian type coins
Albana Meta's book on the silver coinage of Dyrrhachium has been the most complete also in the Dyrrhachian Pegasi staters and the later Hercules/Pegasus drachms; see in the Further reading chapter.
The traditional reference works of the Corinthian type coins are often cited as "Ravel"2 and the more recent one as "Pegasi"3.
- Kampmann, U. The Colts of Corinth. https://www.coinsweekly.com/en/Archive/The-Colts-of-Corinth/8?&id=7&type=a Viewed 17.02.2017
- Ravel, O. E. Les "poulains" de Corinthe. Vols. I-II. Basel 1936. Also in reprint: Spink & Sons, London 1948
- Calciati, R. Pegasi. Vols. I-II. Mortora 1990