The coinage of Apollonia and Dyrrhachium:

The Apollo denars and fractions

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Contents of this page

  1. Introduction
  2. The Roman monetary reform by Augustus
  3. The Apollo denar
  4. Half denar
  5. Quarter denar
  6. Dupondius
  7. Smaller bronze coins of the series

1. Introduction

The civil war ended the cow/calf type Hellenistic coin production in Illyria; Dyrrhachium did not produce coins any more. The next coinage from Apollonia, the Apollo denar series, took its name from the head of Apollo on the obverse of the denar. Its weight was around 4 g silver, and just as the name AVGVSTVS on his denarii, the name on the obverse of the Apollo denars were carved the same way: in front of face, anticlockwise.

These show a step forward to the full integration of the Apolloniate coinage in the Roman republican monetary system. The knowledge on this may help dating the Apollo denar.

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2. The Roman monetary reform by Augustus

The early Roman Republican coin names expressed the value in relation to the bronze unit called as (aes = bronze); hence denarius = 10, quinarius = 5, sestertius ("the third is half") = 2.5, dupondius ("double weight") = 2, semis = half, quadrans = quarter as. During the struggle for power in the second half of the 1st c BC, different debased silver coins were struck by the different parties. Bronze coins had not been produced for long, except some during the war between Caesar and Pompey. Gaining power, Augustus ended this monetary chaos by creating a long-lasting system in 23 BC. The weight of the silver denarius was stabilized at 4 g. It was tariffed at 16 asses, quinar 8, sestertius 4, dupondius 2 asses; and also semis and quadrans were produced; thus some of the coin names lost their original meaning.

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2. The Apollo denar

A systematic study of these coins with a full catalogue is still pending and no publication lists all varieties. A chapter in a book dealing with the archaeology and history of Apollonia deals with the coinage1 including he Apollo denar series; from which I found some useful information, mainly on the bronze fractions (I did not mention this source for the earlier Illyrian coins since I sharply disagree with the chronology frame and calssification of the drachma series, see my criticism in Further reading).

The richest collection is (similarly to the drachms) the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, closely followed by the so far unpublished collection of the Berlin Museum; several pieces are in the Bibliotheque National (Paris, unpublished) and in the British Museum. Of the fully illustrated museum collections in the Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum series, Tubingen has five examples; some other SNGs also have one or two. The silver fractions and bronzes are even rarer.

According to hoard evidence, the Apollo denars and fractions were not circulating beyond the borders of the Apolloniate civic administration. The representation of the denars in hoards are scarce, only the Dimalla hoard2 contains 27 denars, a half denar, a fire/pedum half drachma, and many Apolloniate bronze issues which can be regarded as the small change of the series.

The number of name combinations recorded by me is around 40; these were produced during approximately 35 if I am right calculating this number from the names on the obverse, regarding them as the yearly elected eponymous magistrates. The sequence (relative chronology) of these issues is still unknown. Those in the Dimalla hoard are probably the earliest ones, but many more hoards are required to establish their relative chronology.

The production of this series ended by the full territorial and political integration of the area in the Roman empire around early 1st c AD. Occasional provincial bronze coins were produced under few Roman emperors (see in next chapter: "Roman provincial coins minted in Apollonia").

The series got its name from the obverse: Head of Apollo, (facing left or right). There is one or two names in field left, anticlockwise; 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 reverse, where there can be two of them.

The table below shows my temporary grouping the different Apollo denar emissions based on recognisable style differences. This may not mean a real chronological relationship, it would require the contents of many more hoards.

Group 1. Apollo facing left. Three nymphs dancing to left, outer nymphs holding torches; fire between 1st and 2nd nymph.

Group 1. Apollo facing left. The outer nymphs holding torches; fire between 2nd and 3th nymph.

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 second and third; outer ones holding torches. [Z]ΩIΛOΣ (Zoilos) in the exergue. 3.97 g, 18.8 mm. SNG Tubingen 1322.

Group 1 Apollo denars
Year B.C. Obverse name(s) Reverse names Reference
? ? ? ? ?

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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 embraced by the two parts of a name in the nominative case, ΑΠΟΛΛΩ/NIATAN.

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 (sestertius = 2 1/2 as, "the third is a half") 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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4. Dupondius

Dupondius is a large bronze coin in the Roman coinage, worth of two asses (one fifth of the denarius). I found a single type; the names and devices on this coin resemble to the ΛΥΣΩΝ - ΔΙΟΝΥΣΟ/ΔΩΡΟΣ Apollo denar; see this in the table.

Lyson/D..dorosLyson/Basileos Dupondius. Obv. Laureate head of Apollo facing left. ΛΥΣΩΝ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ (Lyson of Basileus) anticlockwise. Rev. Three nymphs hand in hand dancing, fire between the first and second nymph; outer ones holding torches. Α-Π-Ο-Λ between nymphs, ΔΥΟΝΥΣΟ/ΔΟΡΟΣ in exergue. 25.4 g, 33.4 mm.

A similar coin description can be found in an old cataloge from Naples (1870, no. 6721) with no pictue as "ar 35"; probable a misprint instead of "ae".?I am in negotiation with the curator to clarify details. I have not found another source of this coin type.

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5. Smaller bronze coins of the series

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