Tetradrachms of Lysimachos
KINGS of THRACE. Lysimachos.
|Sale: Triton XIII, Lot: 1055. Estimate $750.
Closing Date: Monday, 4 January 2010.
Sold For $850. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.
305-281 BC. AR Tetradrachm (16.92 g, 11h). Lysimacheia mint. Struck circa 297/6-282/1 BC. Diademed head of the deified Alexander right, with horn of Ammon / Athena Nikephoros seated left, left arm resting on shield, spear behind; to inner left, lion head left above monogram; monogram in exergue. Thompson -; Müller -; Armenak -; Meydancikkale -; SNG Berry 400-1 var. (same obv. die, different position of monograms). Good VF, toned.
Lysimachos, a Macedonian of great physical strength and fortitude, rose to prominence as a σωματοφύλαξ, or “bodyguard” for Alexander the Great. When Alexander’s territories were parceled out during the settlement at Babylon in 323 BC, Lysimachos was given control of Thrace, the Chersonese, and the intervening Black Sea coast. Unfortunately, much of this territory was no longer under Macedonian control, but was claimed by various Thracian tribes. Although Lysimachos was involved to some extent in the early wars of the Diadochs, most of his early years as satrap were preoccupied with subduing the Thracian tribes, an endeavor that was largely unsuccessful. By the time he assumed the royal title in 306/5 BC, his kingdom consisted of little more than the southern portions of Thrace. While this territory included a few already active mints, such as Ainos and Byzantion, Lysimachos was forced to depend on his ally Kassander, the king of Macedon, for coinage, as the sources of bullion were under the control of his enemies.
This situation changed in 302 BC, when Lysimachos raised an army at the urging of Kassander and invaded Asia Minor, territory which Antigonos I Monophthalmos controlled, and whose son, Demetrios I Poliorketes, was threatening Kassander’s southern flank in Thessaly. Lysimachos quickly captured much of the Hellespont, and he penetrated as far as Lydia. This territory was rich with both bullion and mint cities, including Alexandria Troas, Ephesos, Lampsakos, Magnesia, and Sardis. Lysimachos used these mints to begin striking coinage on his behalf, while at the same time, he apparently sent bullion back to Thrace, where Lysimacheia and Sestos also began to produce coinage for him. These mints initially struck coins of Alexander type for Lysimachos, but later changed to the new Lysimachos type in 297 BC.
After Lysimachos and Seleukos I defeated the Antigonids at Ipsos in 301 BC, most of western Asia Minor passed to Lysimachos. He now held some of the most prosperous cities in the Aegean, and soon most of the well-established mints were striking coinage in his name. Many of these same mints were required to pay large sums of tribute in order to fund further campaigns of expansion. One such object of expansion was Macedon, the ultimate goal of all the Diodochs. Since the death of Kassander in 298 BC, it had fallen into chaos and was eventually captured by Demetrios, who was, in turn, driven out by the joint invasion of Lysimachos and Pyrrhos in 288 BC. Initially, Macedon was split between the two, with Lysimachos taking the eastern half and its mint of Amphipolis. By 285 BC, when Lysimachos also obtained the western half from Pyrrhos, Pella also began producing coinage for Lysimachos. His successes, however, were short-lived. Beginning in 284 BC with the murder of his stepsons, Lysimachos became involved in a treacherous game of political and dynastic intrigue. As a result, revolt broke out among the Asian cities under his control, and Seleukos I launched an invasion against him. At the battle of Korupedion in 281 BC, Lysimachos was killed, and his kingdom was subsumed into the Seleukid empire. Ptolemy Keraunos, however, seized Lysimachos’ European territories after he murdered Seleukos I later that year.
Edward T. Newell’s study of Lysimachos’ lifetime issues arranged them according to the territorial expansion of his kingdom. Unfortunately, Newell died before completing his study, and consequently many issues are missing from Margaret Thompson’s survey of his unfinished work. The many ‘unpublished’ coins that have appeared over the past two decades reveal how little is known about Lysimachos’ coinage. Although most catalogs list these unpublished coins as posthumous issues, this is unlikely, as most of his mint cities were taken over by other kingdoms following Lysimachos’ death. The cities that continued to issue his coins as a regular type, such as Byzantion, were mostly ones that regularly conducted trade with cities to the north of Thrace, whose economies were likely dominated by Lysimachos type coinage during his lifetime. A few cities, such as Tenedos, struck brief, sporadic issues of Lysimachos type coins long after his death, but these issues were likely struck for some specific purpose that required this type, and are not part of any regular series.
At the beginning of his reign, Lysimachos continued to use Alexander’s coinage types, later modifying them by replacing Alexander’s name with his own. In 297 BC, Lysimachos introduced a new type: the obverse was a portrait of Alexander; the reverse was Athena, Lysimachos’ patron goddess. G.K Jenkins noted the power of the Alexander portrait in his commentary on the Gulbenkian Collection: “The idealized portrait of Alexander introduced on the coinage of Lysimachos in 297 BC is characterized by the horn of Ammon which appears above the ear. The allusion is to Alexander’s famous visit to the oracle of Ammon at the Siwa Oasis in 331, when the god is supposed to have greeted Alexander as ‘My son’.... [T]he best of the Alexander heads on Lysimachos’ coinage...have a power and brilliance of effect that is irresistible. It [is speculated] that these Alexander heads may have derived from an original gem carved by Pyrgoteles, an engraver prominent among the artists of Alexander’s court....” Regardless of the inspiration for the new design, part of the remarkable attraction of this coinage is its artistic variety: each engraver created his own fresh and distinctive portrayal of the world’s greatest conqueror.