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Research Coins: Feature Auction



Triton XV, Lot: 996. Estimate $150.
Sold for $1100. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Elimiotis (IACP -)

Located along the Haliakmon River and bordered by the regions of Eordaia and Orestis to the north and Perrhaiboia to the east, Elimiotis was one of several autonomous tribal regions in Upper Macedonia. At the time of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides (2.99.2) says that while the Elimiotai (along with their regional neighbors) were military allies with the Macedonians and relied on them for advice, they were ruled by their own kings. Even after the region was brought under Macedonian control by Philip II between 358 and 356 BC, this old tribal arrangement continued and remained in existence until Roman times. The cities of Elimiotis, which were affluent and possessed a highly sophisticated urban culture, are known from the ancient sources (e.g. Thuc. 2.99.2), as well as archaeological exploration of two of them – Aiane and Kaisareia.

At least two kings of Elimiotis were called Derdas. The first historical Derdas lived and was active during the time of Perdikkas II (454-413 BC). Derdas was the son of Arrhidaios, an Elimiote, and may have had close connections with the Macedonian royal family. He supported (along with the Athenians) a Macedonian pretender, Philip, who was the brother of Alexander I. This move forced Perdikkas to ally himself with Sparta until 431 BC, when a new alliance was made between Perdikkas and Athens, who now together threw out Philip and Derdas (Thuc. 1.57, 59). By 422 BC, Derdas had again come to power, when he signed an agreement between Macedon and Athens (IG I(2), 71.86). Thucydides (1.59.2) indicates that Derdas had brothers, though he never mentions how many. A Pausanias is mentioned later on as a brother (Thuc. 1.61.4), although the scholiast on this passage claims Pausanias as a son of Derdas. Aristotle (Pol. 5.1311b) implicates a Derdas in the murder in 390 BC of Amyntas "the small" (ὁ μικρός), himself an otherwise unknown member of the Macedonian royal family.

Another Derdas, whom Xenophon (Hell. 5.2.38) says was "the leader of Elimia" (τὸν Ἐλιμίας ἄρχοντα) and who brought his Elimiote cavalry to bear in the war against the Chalkidian League in 382 BC, may possibly also be Derdas I, though by then he would have been in his 70s. This aforementioned Derdas may more likely have been the Derdas whom scholars know as Derdas II. He was a contemporary of Amyntas III of Macedon (393/392-370 BC), who strengthened his ties with the Elimiote ruler. If so, then it was Derdas II who distinguished himself in the campaign against the Chalkidian League as an ally of Amyntas III (Xen. Hell. 5.2-3). Otherwise, there is no other mention of this Derdas except in some later sources that ascribe to him a daughter, Phila, who was married to Philip II (Ath. 10.436c-d), a son, also named Derdas, who may have accompanied Alexander III of Macedon to the East (Curt. 7.6.12), and another son, Machatas, who was the father of Harpalos, the boyhood friend of Alexander III of Macedon. Machatas was also the father of Philip, who was made satrap of Sogdiana in 327 BC (Diod. Sic. 18.3.39).

The coinage of Derdas has been studied by Katerini Liampi ("The Coinage of King Derdas and the history of the Elimiote Dynasty," in Essays Hersh, pp. 5-11).

Apparently no Derdas bronzes have been found in the extensive Aiani (or Aiane) excavations that have been going on since 1983. So perhaps the capital of Elimiotis was not the headquarters of Derdas II and certainly not the minting location for his coins.

For this collector, the close resemblance of these very interesting and rare coins to Thessalian issues, especially Skotussa, located in southern Thessaly, meant much more than the mere fact that an itinerant master die cutter may have been involved in their minting. Collecting them never seemed different from collecting Thessalian coins. Perhaps one day the common denominator of Skotussa, Philotas and Derdas will be laid out for all to see in a new publication.

KINGS of ELIMIOTIS. Derdas II. Circa 380 BC. Æ Dichalkon (18mm, 6.49 g, 5h). Horseman, wearing petasos and chlamys, right hand on neck of horse prancing right / ΔEP-ΔA, club and spearhead right. Liampi, Derdas 4a (O1/R4 – this coin). Near VF, green patina. Extremely rare.