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Apollonia, Cyrenaica (Magas in Revolt)


[B]Apollonia, Cyrenaica (Magas in Revolt; 281-265 BC.) AE 19[/B] [u]Obv[/u]: Diademed head of Zeus Ammon, hair in shaggy locks covering the neck, short beard; facing right. [u]Rev[/u]: Palm tree with fruit; K-Y in upper field flanking the tree, while PA is noted in the lower left field and a silphium plant and crab are located in the lower right field. [u]Attribution[/u]: SNG Copenhagen 1259 v.; Sear 6351 v.; BMC Cyrenaica 297-8 (Pl. XXVI,3) v. [u]Provenance[/u]: ex.Colosseum Coin Ex. Auction 1 (#18), 2.5.08; ex.NYC Coin Gall. Mail Bid (#88) [u]Weight[/u]: 6.65 gm. [u]Maximal Diameter[/u]: 19.10 mm. [u]Axis[/u]: 12 [u]Note[/u]: Ammon-palm tree type = 3rd stage of Fourth Period (Magas Reign, 308-277 BC.) bronze coinage (BMC nomenclature). A heavy example relative to most similar die examples (BMC Cyrenaica 297-8, Pl. XXVI, 3), which weigh in the 4.70 gm range. However, an example with KY-PA legend in the left and right fields weighs comparably at 6.69 gm (BMC Cyrenaica 295). Robinson (BMC) writes, "there are two varieties with the crab (symbol), distinguished by the distribution of the legend (nos. 293-6, Pl. XXVI, 2, and nos. 297-300, Pl. XXVI, 3)...the crab...as a symbol covers perhaps a quarter of a century, and it is found from time to time with various monograms, and in all metals both in the autonomous and the regal coinage. No Cyrenaic moneyer's mark has anything like such currency. It occurs far too frequently and with too great a variety of types to be a mere adjunct, like the occasional jerboa of an earlier period and it is not found like other adjuncts on the coins of other Cyrenaic cities. We are therefore driven to follow Muller in reading into it a local significance. Apollonia satisfied all the necessary conditions. The crab, as he remarks (i, p.93), is especially appropriate to, and in its claws symbolical of, a port." BMC Cyrenaica, pg. cxcix-cc GK277

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North Africa - Cyrenaica

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The Zeus Ammon on this coin bears a remarkable resemblance to the Ptolemy I portrait from the Ptolemy I obv /Eagle rev series of tetradrachms (without the horn).


Is this coincidence?

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That's a good question, for which I suspect there's no easy answer.


Do you have a good picture of the coin you're talking about?


These issues were minted during Magas' reign, when he was actively in revolt against Ptolemaic rule, so it would be odd to pay homage to a ruling structure that he was campaigning against. However, the issue above in particular represents the last bit of independent coinage before his reconcilliation with Ptolemy II, so maybe it was a tip-of-the-hat by the celator to the pending resolution.


This being said, I've often wondered if the scruffy and arguably unflattering (and maybe realistic) characterization of Zeus Ammon reflects that of Magas himself. There are no known representations of Magas on the coinage of Cyrenaica, but this unusual issue with its less than idealized form may provide a point of speculation. Robinson (BMC) comments upon the usual facial/neck hair, not to wonder if this may be a physical attribute of the upstart Magas, but to connect the physical features with that of a goat or ram. To Robinson the use of these physical features was symbolic rather than reflective. I don't think his argument rests on any more evidence than my speculation that it might be Magas himself.



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Here is one representation. They vary, but most have this bony, angular image, droopy eyes, with a very similar profile and the tossled hair. Am I the only person who sees a strong similarity?



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I see what you are saying. The tossled hair with diadem is certainly similar, though somewhat ubiqitous to Ptolemaic issues. The strong nose is a more salient point of comparison and the recessed, but strong, chin is also similar, but less convincing.


The commonality to practically all of the very rare Zeus Ammon / Palm Tree AE issues minted during Magas' Revolt is the decidely scruffy look of Zeus Ammon with prominent facial hair along the neck. This holds even when the physical similarites are rendered differently on other dies used for the series, which leads me to suspect that the unusual facial hair is more representative than symbolic and that the differences in physical characteristics are just interpretative renderings of the same person by different celators.

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Here are two additional AEs from the Magas' Revolt - Zeus Ammon / Palm Tree series. The first carries the crab symbol, suggesting a minting origin at Apollonia, while the latter is hypothesized to be minted in response to Ophellas' campaign. In both instances, you will see that the physical attributes are different, but the scruffy facial hair and less than idealized representation remain.


Here's what Robinson says about the facial hair, which I find to be an unsatisfying explanation for the unusual departure from typical Zeus Ammon representations:


Ammon-palm tree type = 3rd stage of Fourth Period (Magas Reign, 308-277 BC.) bronze coinage (BMC nomenclature). The Ammon-palm tree coins fall into two groups, the one marked by twelve sequence letters, A-M, the other by a changing symbol (accompanied in one case by letters)...what this A-M sequence consists is uncertain. It can hardly be of regnal years, for the coins are too late for Ptolemy I, the district was independent for too long under Ptolemy II, and it is doubtful whether Magas ever definitely assumed the royal title. The head of Ammon, always with the diadem and uraeus-like ornament, is remarkable for its more animal treatment, the beard being very short and patterned in such a way over cheek and throat as to suggest the neck of a ram. The combination of certain Ptolemaic traits with the beast-like type produces a curious effect. The palm tree without silphium as adjunct only appears on one issue (no. 302, Pl. XXVI 6), has been used as a type once before on silver and bronze, which (Robinson) relates to Ophellas' Carthaginian adventure. The palm tree of course is common enough in Libya, but what decided its choice in this instance is hard to imagine in view of the special interest of Carthage in the type (Robinson, BMC Cyrenaica, pgs. cxxxi-cxxxii).

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