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Kyrene, Cyrenaica (Revolt Against Ptolemy I)


[B]Kyrene, Cyrenaica (Popular Revolt Against Ptolemy I; 313-312 BC.) AE Unit[/B] [u]Obv[/u]: Head of Zeus Ammon (Battus?), facing right; dotted circular border; possible overstriking signs in dotted border irregularities. [u]Rev[/u]: Tomb of Battus (a cone surmounted by a column, on top of which is situated a vase); slightly depressed square field. [u]Attribution[/u]: Mueller 234, BMC 187c-d; SNG Cop 1218; Buttery 154 [u]Provenance[/u]: ex. Colosseum Coin 142 (#173), 11.13.07; HJB Mail/Bid (#881), 6.16.97 [u]Weight[/u]: 12.98 gm. [u]Maximal Diameter[/u]: 23 mm [u]Axis[/u]: 12 [u]Note[/u]: Robinson knew only 4 examples, 2 in Paris, 1 Copenhagen, 1 private (BMC 187c-e; NumChron 1944 p.107). Add now 1 found by Buttrey at Cyrene. They're all rather battered, but this example has a remarkably fine obverse, not the same die as either of the pieces illustrated by Robinson in BMC and NC. Buttery (Cyrene Final Reports: Vol. VI, pg. 36) attributes this extremely rare AE unit to a single year of minting (313-312 BC.), during a popular revolt of the citizenry of Kyrene against Ptolemaic rule. While speculative, it is possible that this very limited issue with its references to the legendary founder of Kyrene, Battus, was a patriotic homage for the citizens during the time of strife. When Ptolemy I took control of Kyrenaica, he was not prepared to allow Kyrene more than a pretense of internal autonomy, and he instituted provisions for the direct nomination of the Kyrenaican senate and his appointment as one of the five generals (strategoi) of the Kyrenaican army. The Kyrenaicans were not easily reconciled to the loss of their previously strong governmental and regional independence. The 313-312 BC. popular revolt started as Ptolemy's garrison being besieged in the citadel of Kyrene by the citizenry, but Ptolemy sent reinforcements to suppress the revolt. Shortly after the revolt, Ophellas appears to have joined forces with the Kyrenaican nationalists, and declared himself independent of Ptolemy. However, the rule of Ophellas at Kyrene came to an end when in 308 BC. he marched west to join Agathokles of Syracuse in his attack on Carthage, only to be treacherously murdered by Agathokles. Ptolemy was then able to reassert his control over Kyrene, appointing his own stepson Magas as its governor. Regarding this revolt coinage, Buttery writes, "the unusual reverse type, Tomb of Battus, recalls the foundation of the autonomous city and is appropriate to the revolt of 313-312 BC...The weights (of this issue) are unreliable, as all known (5 coins, counting this coin) are both overstruck and badly worn. Ammon/wheel and horse's head/wheel occur as undertypes." Robinson (BMC Cyrenaica) references three coins of this type, one of which is now in SNG Copenhagen (SNG Cop. 1218). The other two examples (187c-d; Pl. XIX, 4-5) are pedigreed to the early 1900s, and as with the SNG Copenhagen and this example, are overstruck. The coin above with the dotted border on the Zeus Ammon obverse differentiates this coin from the other known examples, which do not feature a border of any sort. However, it is unclear whether the dotted border is an artifact of the overstriking process endemic to these exceedingly rare issues. ---------------------------------- "The Tomb of Battus, which, according to Pindar was situated 'at the further end of the agora' in Cyrene, and which also is mentioned in a certain local inscription of the time of Alexander the Great as having an oracle, this, of course, is usually identified with the larger of two round structures now existing at the north-west side of the agora. Chamoux briefly describes this structure, according to its restoration by the Italian archaeologists, as a 'tholos open to the sky,' and he suggests that it might possibly date from an early epoch. Actually, however, it consists of a rather tall cylindrical superstructure (chapel) of courses of horizontal masonry built over an underground circular stairway, the lower part of which is now blocked up with debris." "According to investigations I have made on the spot the tomb, in this form, cannot have been contemporary with the round tombs of the early Greek period in Cyrene, which are merely rather low circles of stone enclosing a conical mound of earth covering burial cists of stone at ground level. It would appear perhaps to be a Hadrianic reconstruction of an earlier tomb probably destroyed during the Jewish insurrection under Trajan. Parallels to the circular structure exist at Rome, as for instance those surrounding the burials of Caecilia Metella, M. Valerius Messala Corvinus, and others. These particular tombs were roofed, and it seems not unlikely that the "Battus" tomb also had a conical roof, in this case of wood. There is, of course, nothing against the theory that the so-called 'Tomb of Battus,' and its probably slightly earlier predecessor, were actually built over the site of the original sepulchre, archaic in form, of the founder of Kyrene." -- Alan Rowe (1955). Cyrène sous la Monarchie des Battiades by F. Chamoux. The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 75, 187-188. ----------------------------------- Rowe's speculation above about the elongated, tall tomb structure being a revision by Hadrian of an earlier tomb destroyed by Trajan does not appear to be correct. The bronze unit above predates Jewish occupation and Roman provincial rule of Kyrene by 300 years and the tomb depicted on the coin's reverse clearly meets the tomb characteristics as described by Chamoux. Robinson (BMC) writes the following about the tomb, "similar representations of grave mounds are to be found on vases of various periods. The pillar topped by an urn is represented on Attic gravestones, but the best parallel is that afforded by a sarcophagus from Clazomenae in the British Museum which must have been made around the same time as the tomb of Battus was erected." GK271

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North Africa - Cyrenaica

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