about ancient nomos

Ancient Nomos Art is a museum of galleries exhibiting ancient coins and ancient mint maps. The coin gallery displays the diverse art and history of hand-crafted ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Persian and Medieval coinage. The ancient mints mapping gallery features Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Asia Minor and Medieval mint city regions and territories. Visitor's are welcome to explore, study and enjoy Ancient Nomos Art.


Provincial, Roman – 244 AD

Philippus I

From Ancient Galleries

Obverse: Laureate and cuirassed bust of Emperor Philip I facing right with button over left shoulder.
Reverse: Laureate bust of Hellenic God Zeus facing right wearing slight drapery over left shoulder.

Obv: Α Κ Μ ΙΟΥ ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟC ΕΥCEY CΕΒ, legend in Greek. Laureate and cuirassed bust of Emperor Philip I facing right. Rev: Laureate bust of Zeus facing right, slight drapery; legend L A (date) across left-right fields.

The above coin is a marvelous example of Roman provincial coinage minted in the city of Alexandria, known today as part of Egypt. Ancient Egypt became an official provincial territory of the Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus in 30 BC. Augustus decreed that the monetary system of the Empire would become centrally administered by Rome and was also to include the coinage production in the provinces held under the empires authority. This elaborate Imperial monetary system was to become even more complicated in the provinces, where the existing Greek Hellenistic weight standards were allowed to be maintained by the various mints producing silver and bronze coins. This system enable the existing local Greek populations to view the Roman coinage as similar and easily recognizable to what they were using previously. The different provincial and empire coin denominations complemented each other according to a system of bullion (gold and silver) exchange rates as set forth by Rome. In the province of Egypt, these coins were primarily minted in Alexandria and initially employed the Ptolemaic coinage standards. This was primarily a reduced grade of silver tetradrachm (four drachma pieces), tariffed at 1.5 denarii, along with an occasional issue of bronze obols and drachmas. This system began one of the most impressive series of provincial Roman ancient coins issued by the empire, which would then be continuously struck regularly for the next 275 years. The province of Egypt would soon become one of Rome’s greatest production mints, primarily due to its prosperous trade, valued commodities, and enormous grain harvests that supplied a source of food to the city of Rome. The initial reduced silver Alexandria coinage was subsequently debased again to include a new type tetradrachm, minted from an alloy of between 20 – 25% pure silver. This new tetradrachm was called a “billon” (equal to 1 imperial silver denarius by weight), and was issued during the reign of Emperor Claudius in 41 AD. The new billon coins allowed the weight of an Alexandria tetradrachm to equal the weight of a denarius from Rome. This was an important change since Rome required the monetary exchange of tetradrachms for denarii at the trade ports, thus keeping the two different currencies within the respective territories. There was no Alexandria coinage made of gold or pure silver and the import of the gold aureus or silver denarius coins was prohibited. Within the territory of Egypt, the only valid coinage allowed for use and circulation was the billon struck at Alexandria. Moreover, it was forbidden to export it from the province. The above coin is a splendid example of the billon coinage in circulation during the first three centuries AD. Alexandria, like other Roman provincial coinages of the empire, shared the same basic design consisting of the emperor’s portrait on the obverse. However, the reverse design was altogether different. The billon reverse featured a composite reverse that generally depicted a Hellenistic deity and or an Egyptian god. The reverse often included images such as Athena, Canopus, Eirene, Elpis, Homonia, Isis, Nike and Zeus. In addition, Rome understood how to foster an empire wide economy and thus authorized legends to be engraved in the native language, Greek. This also offered Rome an opportunity to reflect a sensibility toward the historic and cultural past influences in Alexandria. The above coin obverse depicts the laureate and cuirassed bust of Emperor Philip I (see: Philip I Antoninianus) facing right with surrounding legends in Greek. The twenty-two letter obverse Greek legend ending – ΕΥCEY CΕΒ – is an extremely rare variant. See note below. The coins reverse features the laureate bust of Zeus (see: Greek Zeus Prototype) facing right with a slight portion of drapery visible over his left shoulder. Across the reverse fields appears the legend letters L A in Greek to signify a date. The letter L is an abbreviation for the word “year” in Greek. The corresponding letter in the right field A is the abbreviation for the Greek number alpha, and is the number signifying an emperor’s regnal year of reign. If one knows the time period when the Emperor ruled, it is then possible to deduce the year in which the coin was minted. Showing the actual year of mintage was unique only to the Roman provincial coinage. By the time prior to Diocletian, the provincial billon tetradrachms had dropped in weight by nearly half and their silver content was reduced to less than 2 percent silver. Following the monetary reforms for the entire Roman coinage system by Diocletian in 296 AD, these very unique and interesting ancient provincial coins all but completely disappeared from circulation.

This is a very rare provincial tetradrachm to be engraved with a 22 letter obverse Greek legend ending with – EYCEYCEB. The complete Greek legend, Α Κ Μ ΙΟΥ ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟC ΕΥCEY CΕΒ, abbreviations translate to mean the following: A (Autocrator = Imperator) K (Kaicap = Caesar) M (Marcus) IOY (Julius) ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟC (Philippus) EYCEY (Eusebes = Pius) CEB (Cebaste = Augustus).

Value: Tetradrachm. Metal: BI Billon. Weight: 15.01 grams (heavy standard). Mint: Alexandria, Egypt. Date: Regnal Year 1 = 244 AD.
Attribution: Köln 2703; Dattari (Savio) 4926; Kampm G 74.15; Emmett 3517.1; Milne 3745 (var). Photo Courtesy CNG.

Legend, Documentation and Attribution