The coinage of Apollonia and Dyrrhachium:

The Apollo denars and beyond

Substantial revision: 21 January 2017

Contents of this page

  1. Introduction
  2. The Apollo denar
  3. Half denar
  4. Quarter denar
  5. Later Roman provincial issues

1. Introduction

The civil war ended the Hellenistic coin production in Illyria. Only Apollonia continued working during Imperatorial times. Most probably from the early years of Caesar's sole rule, a new silver coin series appeared in the weight of the Roman republican denarius (around 4 g); pointing at a closer integration in the imperial monetary system. Head of Apollo is on the obverse and three nymphs dancing around the fire of the Nymphaeum on the reverse. The legends on both sides are in Greek. Half and quarter units of the Apollo denars display different other devices, see below.

The production of the denars and fractions was most probably abandoned by the full territorial and political integration of the area in the Roman empire in the last decades of the 1st c BC. The regular coin production stopped, only occasional imperial bronze coins were produced under few Roman emperors for a while.

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2. The Apollo denar

The series got its name from the obverse: Head of Apollo, facing left. There is one or two names in field left, antoclockwise; in the genitive case. The reverse shows three nymphs dancing around the fire of the Nymphaeum, the outer ones may hold torches. Ethnic attribute Α-Π-Ο-Λ is between the dancers. Two positions of the fire can be seen: between the 1st and 2nd, or between the 2nd and 3rd. There can be one, two, or even three names in the exergue. The first is always in the nominative case; the third is usually in the genitive. It appears that the second and third name is the two names of the same person; the occasional presence of the masculine definite article in the genitive case (TOY) between them suggests this. Thus, in this coin series, the eponymous person's name is on the obverse; the moneyer' name is on the rverse, where there can be two of them.

Bionos-ZoilosBionos-Zoilos Apollo denar. Obv. Laureate head of Apollo facing left. BIΩNOΣ (Bionos, 'of Bion') left in field anticlockwise. Rev. Three nymphs hand in hand dancing, fire between the first and second; the outer ones holding torches. [Z]ΩIΛOΣ (Zoilos) in the exergue. 3.97 g, 18.8 mm. SNG Tubingen 1322.

A systematic study of these coins with a full catalogue is still pending. No collection contains all varieties. The richest is (similarly to the drachms) the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, closely followed by the so far unpublished collection of the Berlin Museum. Several specimens are in Paris (Bibliotheque National) and also in the British Museum. Of the fully illustrated museum collections in the Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum series, Tubingen has five examples; some others also have one or two.

According to hoard evidence, the Apollo denar series was not circulating beyond the borders of the Apolloniate civic administration. The representation of the denars in hoards are scarce, only the Dimalla hoard contains several denars, a half denar, a fire/pedum half drachma, and (most probably contemporary) Apolloniate bronze issues.

The number of the name combinations is around forty; which were produced during at least 35 years, according to the number of the eponymous names on the obverse. For the time being, I couldn't establish the sequence (relative chronology) of these issues.

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3. Half denar (quinar)

The obverse of the half denar shows head of Pallas Athena in Corinthian helmet facing left, and a magistrate name in the genitive case on the obverse. Reverse: obelisk between the first and second parts of the ethnic attribute ΑΠΟΛΛΩ/ΝΙΑΤΑΝ embraced by the two parts of a name in the nominative case.

Two name combinations have been known: ΑΝΔΡΩΝΟΣ-ΤΙ/ΜΗΝ, and ΦΙΛΟΝΙΔΑ-ΑΡΙΣΤΟ/ΛΟΧΟΣ. The former is known also from the Dimalla hoard, which contains several Apollo denars.

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4. Quarter denar (sestertius)

The quarter denar displays lyre on the obverse and obelisk left in field; the other features correspond with those on the half denar. One name combination is known, which is one of the two in the half denars:

Lira-obeliskΦΙΛΟΝΙΔΑ-ΑΡΙΣΤΟ/ΛΟΧΟΣ quarter denar. 0.91 g, 11.4 mm. SNG Tubingen 1375.

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5. Later Roman provincial issues

Apollonia issued bronze coins under several Roman emperors. The obverse shows the emperor, the reverses vary; but the ethnic attribute is always ΑΠΟΛΛΩΝΙΑΤΑΝ, (and not -ΤΩΝ); this feature discriminates Illyrian Apollonia from several other places of the same name elswhere in the empire. The size of the coins is around 25-30 mm. No silver denominations are known.

Provincial issues minted in Apollonia are known from these Roman emperors: