The coinage of Apollonia and Dyrrhachium

Drachms: Chronological classes

9 December 2016

Contents of this page

  1. Introduction
  2. Dyrrhachium
  3. Apollonia
  4. Explanation and discussion
  5. A unique reverse: fire and pedum
  6. Conclusions

1. Introduction

The following two tables show the relative chronological classification of the drachms with the tentative absolute chronological frame of the classes. The most recent addition is the division of the first Apolloniate class into three subclasses based on style matters. I am going to test this suggestion comparing the contents of those few hoards, which contain early Apolloniate coins.

The actual diameter of the drachms is around 18 mm.

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2. Dyrrhachium

Class D1

210-176 BC
Obverse name abbreviated
1a Abstract style So-Agionos
1b Classic style Ag-Bionos
Class D2

175-145 BC
Full obverse name. No symbols Mnasen-Obrimou
Class D3

144-93 BC
Symbol in the exergue Alexandros-Lysionos
Class D4

92-60 BC
Multiple symbols. Perigenes-Damenos
Class D5

59-48 BC
As in Class 4 but only one or two obverse names with the same reverse Xenon-Fillia

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3. Apollonia

Class A1R1

166-147 BC
Obverse name abbreviated
A1R1a No exergue Fi-Psyllou
A1R1b The animals stand on an invisible exergue line Da-Noumeniou
A1R1c The animals stand on the exergue line Kle-Lysonos
Class A2R2

146-95 BC
Full obverse name. No symbols Parmen-Lysonos
Class A3R3

94-86 BC
Symbols or monograms appear Sosilohos-Timoxenou
Class A4Ls

85-82 BC
Straight sides of square Lysanias-Nikoteleos
Lc Concave sides of square
Class A5Lc1

81-60 BC
Symbols on the obverse. V-type alpha Soteles-Xenofantou
Lc2 No symbols. A-type alpha
Class A6Lc2a

59-54 BC
Drumstick-shape rays Maarkos-Lysania
Class A7Lc2b

53-48 BC
Petal-shape rays Agias-Epikadou

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3. Explanation and discussion

Dyrrhachium. The classification is simple: it is based on the features visible on the obverse; and the cow is always to right (with few exceptions). Almost throughout, there were several obverse names coupled with the same reverse name, that is, different name combinations (emissions) appeared within the year issues. The last class, D5 differs from D4 only in this respect: the number of obverse names coupled with the same name on the reverse is diminished to one. Two different obverse names within the year occur only in two cases. Hoard evidence suggests that in both years a new person replaced the earlier one during the year, and then continued working with a new eponymous name on the reverse during the following year(s).

The earliest pieces in Dyrrhachium (D1a) have a bizarre (abstract) style of the cow-calf complex; and can be distinguished from those in D1b by the following features:

These differences between D1a and D1b subclasses are minimal; probably there was a continuous development from D1a towards D1b.

On Class D1a-b coins, the name on the obverse is abbreviated or monogramatic; and there is no border of dots on the obverse, and there is no exergue line. In D2, the name on the obverse is spelt out in full; a border of dots and the exergue line appear on the obverse. Class D3 is characterized by the appearance of a small symbol or monogram in the exergue. In Class D4, one symbol can be above the cow, or a combination of two or three symbols in different places. The symbols are always coupled with the name on the reverse. The appearance of Class D5 coins is the same as in D4; the difference is in the reduced number of obverse names as discussed above.

Class D3 is the most beautiful series of the Dyrrhachian drachms with carefully executed, well centred pieces reflecting a quiet minting period. The most frequent name on the obverse is Alkaios, serving under more than 20 eponymous persons. Interestingly, despite their nice look, many coins are of a bit lower weight, without the suspicion for being out-of-mint products. The reason is unknown; the lighter weight may come from a debased alloy or careful plating.

Apollonia. On the drachms from the first half of production, the cow stands to right (R) as in Dyrrhachium. The first three classes are similar to those in Dyrrhachium (1, abbreviated name on the obverse; 2, - full name; 3, one symbol appears). However, Class A1R1 (abbreviated name on the obverse) can be divided into three subclasses: A1R1a shows the "no exergue" feature like in Subclass D1a: the hooves of the animals are not in a straight line; although the whole device is not abstract but classic as the later ones. In A1R1b, the hooves of the animals, like in D1b, "stand" on an invisible horizontal line; and on A1R1c coins, the exergue line appears that comes in Dyrrhachium in Class D3 only.

These slight style differences between the Apolloniate and Dyrrhachian drachms in the first three main chronological classes combined with hoard evidence point at a much later start of minting in Apollonia. A probable date is 167 BC, after the Third Macedonian War. I have not checked yet how my new observation on the subdivisions of Class A1R1 influences the relative sequence of the issues within the earliest hoards.

After the first three chronological classes, Apollonia changed the common type by turning the cow to left (L). This is where my classification is completely different from those of my predecessors; and is based on discriminative features easily observable on both sides of the coins.

Class A4Ls. Four issues with cow to left retained the shape of the central device on the reverse as before: the sides of the square are straight (s). These are not represented in the usual late Apolloniate hoards therefore they must precede them, forming Class A4Ls.

All the later drachms have concave sides of the stellate pattern (c). Concave sided squares are exceptional in Dyrrhachium. The first part of the concaved sided drachms has a symbol in the exergue and the letter alpha has a v-like connection between the legs of this letter (V-alpha); these form Class 5ALc1. All following issues have alpha with a horizontal connection (A-alpha); and there is no symbol in the exergue but sometimes a monogram. These 12 issues are again subdivided in two separable classes, based on the shape of the rays in the stellate pattern. A6Lc2a drachms display drumstick-form rays (as all late Dyrrhachian drachms); and in the last Apolloniate coin class, A7Lc2b, the rays are similar to petals.

The majority of coins found in the N-E Balkan area belong to the later phase of drachma production (D4-D5 and A6-A7); these coins can be differentiated by a glimpse: cow to left = Apollonia, cow to right = Dyrrhachium.

Many drachms in the last periods show signs of a blown up, hasty coin production: irregular flans, flat struck or grossly off-centre pieces; only parts of the legends are visible. Such coins could only be identified from a proper catalogue but for Apollonia, so far none has been published. If time allows, more and more information will be added to this page on the different coin emissions and their characteristics.

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A unique reverse: fire and pedum


The reverse of the Aibatios/Hairenos issue from Apollonia (Ceka 8, W 61, BMC 41, SNG Tb 1318, SNG Cop 398) is different from all the other drachms: instead of the usual double stellate pattern it shows the fire of the Nymphaeum with a shepherd's crook below.

Maier thought that this issue was a transition to the Apollo denarius series (√úbergangsviktoriat). However, it belongs to Class A5Lc1 drachms by style characteristics: cow to left, symbol on the obverse, V-type alpha; also supported by hoard evidence and weight. This drachma may represent some important festivity related to the Nymphaeum: a challenge to be verified by historians. The emissions in the following years continued with the usual reverse.

The piece shown is 3.22 g, vertical diameter of the obverse 16.7 mm.

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This chronology is still tentative; the beginning depends on the number of known issues, and may change by the discovery of so far unknown issues, or, in the opposite direction, by the exclusion of erroneously identified issues. However, several coincidences in the suggested chronology with historical facts during the later classes point at the validity of the proposed chronology based on the compact model hypothesis; and help date other coins and archaeological objects found together with the drachms.

Most probable points of the proposed chronology:

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