The coinage of Apollonia and Dyrrhachium:
The cow-calf type staters
27 March 2020
Contents of this page
The stater is a two-drachma (didrachma) silver coin denomination. The Illyrian staters belong to the classical Greek coinage of the early Hellenistic era with beautiful devices in high relief. They are similar and are contemporary with their Corcyrean prototypes (or at least this is a terminus post quem their production started); when their original reverse consisting of two separate oblong stellate patterns had become a single device within a square. The weight standard was also similar, between 10 - 11 g. For a while the Illyrian king Monounios ruled in Dyrrhachium and produced similar staters showing his name.
Several pieces are published in museum collections and auction catalogues; but we know only the Kreshpan hoard, which contains large numbers of Corcyrean staters and halves, Illyrian cow/calf type staters, including those with the name of Monounios, and Heracles/Pegasus type Dyrrhachian drachms (quarter staters?). This hoard doesn't contain Illyrian cow/calf type drachms, therefore - according to my opinion - it was concealed before Apollonia and Dyrrhachium came under Roman protectorate status in 229 BC.
Albana Meta's book on the Dyrrhachian silver coins (see in the Further reading page) uses a rather complicated system for the classification of the coin types, which is difficult for quick coin identification and referencing: One must find the relevant type first, then the obverse-reverse die number combination, plus the plate number where that combination can be found. I show these only in cases when I am referring to a particular piece in the book.
2. Details to observe
There is no border on the obverse; the main device is the cow with suckling calf. Small symbols or monograms may appear on the obverse. The main device of the reverse is the double stellate pattern within single or double sided square, surrounded by line border.
- Cow: standing to left (L) or
About equal numbers of emissions are with cow to left or right both in Apollonia and in Dyrrhachium.
- Symbols or monograms
Symbols do not appear on the staters from Apollonia. The Dyrrhachian staters may be without symbols on the obverse, or with a letter, a monogram, or a symbol, usually above or sometimes on the flank of the cow. The system of the symbols has not been established yet; the deciphering of the monograms has also been unsuccessful.
- Cow: standing to left (L) or right (R)
- Ethnic attribute
This feature tells which town the coin comes from. Greek letters and/or symbols can be found in the segments between the line border and the square. The letters are the abbreviation of the ethnic attribute AΠOΛΛΩNIATAN (Apolloniatan) or ΔYPPAXINΩN (Dyrrhachinon). The legend can be clockwise or anticlockwise (retrograde); sometimes also upside down and anticlockwise (outward legend).
- Apollonia: A Π (A P) or A Π o Λ (A P o L).
- Dyrrhachium: Δ Y P (D Y R) or Δ Y P A (D Y R A)
- Additional symbols in the segments
- Apollonia: Sometimes a bow or a club or both may appear in one of the segments not occupied by the letters of the ethnic attribute.
- Dyrrhachium: The club, the usual attribute of Hercules, patron of Dyrrhachium, is rarely missing from the reverse of the Dyrrhachian staters. For easier comparison and identification, view the reverse of the Dyrrhachian staters so that the club is in the bottom segment. The club may point to left or right. In addition, sometimes another tiny device appears in one of the other segments: mosquito, lizard, crab, or cicada.
- Position of the central device: rays vertical
There is no question that the original Corcyrean stellate pattern was in the vertical position but the meaning of this representation (the twin stars of the Dioscuri) must have been forgotten by this time. In Dyrrhachium (with club in the bottom segment), the position of the rays can be vertical or horizontal.
- Form of the rays
The shape of the rays can be: tear drop, drumstick, tadpole, petal, etc. From the Corcyrean analogy, the tear drop form seems to precede the others.
- Number of the separation lines dividing the
On some coins it is missing. There is usually one, sometimes two lines separating the two halves of the double stellate pattern.
- Line border: yes = 1, no = 0
It can be missing in certain emissions
- Ethnic attribute
- Both sides
- Letter forms
Few letters occur on the staters (see Ethnic attribute). Π (Pi in AP) is usually in an archaic form; with shorter right leg.
- Any other divergence from the main type
It is advisable to notice and describe unusual features. Sometimes contemporary fakes can only be detected by style degradation or unusual letter forms.
- Weight in grams with two decimal places
- Diameter means the vertical diameter of the obverse in mm with one decimal place.
- Letter forms
1. Obv. Cow to right. Rev. Club pointing to L. Vertical, teardrop shaped rays. D-Y-R anticlockwise, starting in the upper segment. 10.93 g, 21.6 mm. BMC 6, Maier 2.
2. Obv. Cow to L. Rev. Club pointing to left. Vertical, teardrop shaped rays. DY-R outward-anticlockwise; starting from the R segment. 10.24 g, 21.7 mm. Maier 10?
3. Obv. Cow to right, monogram above. Rev. Club pointing to R. Vertical, teardrop shaped rays. D-Y-R anticlockwise, starting in the R segment. 10.93 g, 20.4 mm. BMC 28.
Apolloniate staters have a similar design but the legend is different, and there is no club on their reverse.