The coinage of Apollonia and Dyrrhachium

Half drachms

23 February 2021

Contents of this page

  1. Introduction
  2. Half cow / double stellate pattern type hemidrachms
  3. Fire/pedum type hemidrachms


Half units of the cow/calf type drachms (half drachms, hemidrachms) were also issued from time to time, with the same name combination for the given year, as the drachms. In Dyrrhachium, half drachms are known from all chronological classes, but in Apollonia, only from the first three (earliest) chronological classes; and probably one, close to the end of the drachma production. The mean weight is between 1.1-1.5 g, which is lower than the half weight of the drachms (the production cost was deducted from the real value of the smaller coins).

ΑΠΟΛ-ΔΥΡ half drachms were produced for local use, their presence outside the economic borders of the towns is exceptional: some late Dyrrhachian half drachms were found in a temple urn among hundreds of bronze coins (including Dyrrhachian Zeus/tripod type ones) published as the Elbasan hoard; and very few in those numerous, occasionally very huge hoards of cow/calf type drachms in the North-East Balkan area.

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Half cow / double stellate pattern hemidrachms

Half drachma - half cow: the obverse device is the fore part of a cow, without calf. The name above the cow is abbreviated in many cases even in the later periods when the drachms display the name in full.

The reverse shows some development from the earliest emissions. The double stellate pattern of the first hemidrachms has the same arrangement as the Corcyrean half stater series: two separate squares, each with one stellate pattern, placed upon each other:

Corcyrean half staterCorcyrean half stater. Obv. Forepart of cow, KOP-KY-PAI around. Rev. Vertically arranged double stellate pattern within line circle; bunch of grapes and K left, kantharos and I right in field. 4.91 g, 18 mm. BMC 193, SNG Cop 170; Kreshpan hoard 19-26.

The next figure shows one of the very early Dyrrhachian half drachms, with the similar arrangement of the two stellate patterns on the reverse:

Er-Aristenos hemidrachmaEP - ARIΣTHNOΣ Dyrrhachian hemidrachma. Obv. Forepart of cow. Rev. Vertically arranged double stellate pattern in line circle. ΔYP above, ARIΣ-club-THNOΣ around. 1.48 g, 13.1 mm. Ceka 152, Meta Ι/3 = Osijek 55.

Its full drachma pair EP-APIΣTHNOΣ is a Class D1a drachma (SNG Cop 444 = Meta I/3) has the usual reverse pattern.

On the later hemidrachms, the reverse is similar to that of the drachms. The pictures below show such drachma - hemidrachma pair:

Alkaios-Parmeniskou drachmaAΛKAIOΣ-ΠAPMENIΣKOY Class D3 drachma. 2.82 g, 18.5 mm. Ceka 43, Meta III/20. Obv. symbols: vine branch with grapes and leaf in the exergue.

Al-Parmeniskou demidrachmaAΛ-ΠAPMENIΣKOY Class D3 hemidrachma. 1.57 g, 14.5 mm. Ceka -, Meta -; unpublished. The symbols on the obverse and the whole reverse device match those on the whole drachma above.

Divergences from the rule: the arrangement of the obverse devices on the half drachmas is a bit different from their drachma counterpart.

In Class 4 drachmas-hemidrachmas, where there are multiple symbols on the obverse: sometimes there is only one of the symbols shown on the hemidrachma, usually right in field.

We know few half drachms, which have no full drachma pair. Probably it is just a matter of time to find the missing counterparts.

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Fire/pedum type hemidrachms

There is an enigmatic type in the weight of the half drachms, from Apollonia; displaying a fire (of the Nymphaeum) on the obverse with name AINEA or even more rarely, ΔAMOΦΩN (Damofon); and pedum (the shepherd's crook) on the reverse with ethnic attribute AΠOΛΛΩ/NIATAN (Apolloniatan).

Fire/pedum half drachma

Maier catalogued this as the half unit of the Aibatios-Hairenos drachma with the unusual, fire and pedum reverse, instead of the universal stellate pattern (see in the previous chapter). Well, is the fire/pedum half drachma the half unit of that?

We don't know Apolloniate half cow / double stellate pattern type half drachms from the left-standing cow period, and the fire/pedum half drachma has not been found in hoards made up from cow/calf drachms of that period. Apart from museum and auction catalogue pieces (of which, unfortunately, the provenance is unknown), there is a single, rather worn piece in the Dimalla hoard, which contain later Apollo denars and fractions, and late Apolloniate bronze pieces.

The two names, Ainea and Damofon are known from the very end of the Apolloniate cow/calf drachma production, APIΣTHN-AINEA and TIMHN-ΔAMOΦΩNTOΣ emissions; just before the Apollo denar series. My temporary conclusion is that the fire/pedum half drachma (but not the drachma) indeed comes from the very end of the Apolloniate drachma production; a small-volume issue, with some religious meaning; and some escaped re-melting when the new (denar) series was introduced. Another peculiarity with these names: Ainea is in the genitive case (of Aineas); Damofon is in the nominative case (otherwise it would be Damofontos). I have no clue for this.

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