The Stephanophoroi of Kyme and Myrina
First Obverse Die in Kyme Series
|CNG 88, Lot: 306. Estimate $1000.
Sold for $2300. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.
Circa 165-140 BC. AR Tetradrachm (30mm, 16.58 g, 12h). Stephanophoric type. Metrophanes, magistrate. Head of the Amazon Kyme right, wearing tainia / Horse prancing right; one-handled cup below raised foreleg, MHTPOΦANHΣ below; all within wreath. Oakley dies 1/t; SNG Copenhagen 104 (same dies); SNG von Aulock -. EF, a hint of die wear on obverse. Struck from the first obverse die in this extensive series.
With the collapse of Seleukid authority in Asia Minor in 189 BC, many communities of northwestern Asia Minor celebrated their liberation from regal authority by issuing series of large and impressive tetradrachms. All of these coins were struck on the reduced Attic standard, and were struck on broad, thin flans that were influenced by the Athenian New Style coinage. These series also copied a feature on their reverses, a large laurel wreath that formed the border encompassing the entire reverse type. We know from the Delos inventory lists that these coins were referred to as stephanophoroi, attesting to the ubiquity of these series. The types appearing on the coins clearly indicated their civic nature, depicting the city's patron deity on the obverse and various aspects of the city's culture on the reverse.
At Kyme, the obverse type is a wreathed female head, thought to represent the Amazon Kyme. Although this identification is not certain, Sacks notes that the lack of jewelry and subsidiary attributes, as well as the simple hair band she wears, suggests the portrait is not of a goddess. The reverse of the coins features a horse standing right and a one-handled cup under its raised foreleg, while the city ethnic is on the right and a magistrate’s name is present in the exergue. Both the horse and cup are common types on many of the city’s issues from its earliest coinage, but their specific relation to Kyme is unknown. At Myrina, the obverse features the laureate head of Apollo, who also is the primary feature of the reverse, where he stands in full figure facing right, holding a branch, two fillets, and a phiale. At Apollo’s feet are an amphora, the traditional emblem of the city, and and ompholos, while the city ethnic runs downward behind him. The appearance of Apollo on the coinage reflects his importance to the city, which was primarily known for its proximity to the temple of Apollo at Gryneion (Pliny, HN 22), a place that was under the influence of Myrina for most of the Hellenistic period. The stephanophoroi at Myrina differed from the issues of most other cities in that rather than featuring magistrates’ names on the reverse, the coins have various complex monograms. Whether these monograms indicate magistrates’ names has yet to be determined.
Regardless of the particular city of issue, the stephanophoric coinage is regarded among the more artistic of the Hellenistic period. This is no surprise as nearly all of the issuing cities were located in western Asia Minor, an area whose numismatic artistry is well attested in the preceding Classical period. While the stephanophoroi represent a benchmark in coin design, the reason for their introduction is not certain, and there is little consensus among numismatists. On one extreme, C. Boehringer argued that their appearance and consistency represented an “Aegean Münzunion” (Boehringer, Chron., pp. 38-9), while at the other O. Mørkholm argued that the wreaths were not indicative of any political or economic significance, but merely the result of a design that gained popularity throughout the northern Aegean ("Chronology and Meaning of the Wreath Coinages of the early 2nd. Cent. B.C.," QT 9 , pp. 145-54).