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Research Coins: Feature Auction


A Portrait of Timotheos?

Triton XV, Lot: 1202. Estimate $50000.
Sold for $50000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

MYSIA, Kyzikos. Early-mid 4th century BC. EL Stater (16mm, 16.05 g). Von Fritze I 199 var. (laureate); SNG France -; Hurter & Liewald I 23a = Prinkipo 84 (same dies). Good VF, a few light deposits. Very rare and historically interesting.

Before one can identify the portrait on this stater, it is important to first secure a date for the coin's issue. The original chronology for this issue is based on the 1930 Prinkipo Hoard (IGCH 1239). Consisting for the most part of electrum staters of Kyzikos (as well as some staters of Pantikapaion and Lampsakos), the presence of 27 staters of Philip II led Regling in his study of the hoard (ZfN 1931) to date it to 335/4 BC. Subsequently, most studies of this coinage employed this chronology (see Hurter and Liewald I, 21-23). In 1974, however, the Philip staters were discovered to be a separate hoard (CH II, 41). This emendation of the contents of the hoard would revise significantly the chronology the hoard upwards to the middle of the 4th century BC for its burial.

J.P. Six (NC 1898, pp. 197-198) suggested that the portrait was that of the Athenian general Timotheos (d. 354 BC), who had raised the siege of Kyzikos in 363 BC (Diod. Sic. 15.81.6). Noting a similarity between that coin and a marble portrait in the Capitoline Museum (no. 46), he concluded that this too might represent Timotheos. Von Fritze (Nomisma VII [1912], p. 32), however, doubted the claims of Six, since his conclusion was based on a single example with the portrait to the right (more had appeared since, with the portrait to the left). Von Fritze went so far as to doubt that they even were portraits of historical persons, although he left open the possibility that the portraits could be of important local citizens. Regling (Die Münze als Kunstwerk, p. 82) thought it impossible that the portrait could be of a living person, but was someone long dead who had been connected with Kyzikos. Hill (NC 1925, pp. 11-12), while essentially agreeing with Six's hypothesis, also doubted that it was Timotheos. Instead, he suggested that, because the electrum coinage of Kyzikos was intended for international circulation, the portrait should therefore represent a person of international reputation. Given Six's earlier attributions of both the stater and the marble portrait, Hill concluded that the portrait on the coin was a copy of an Athenian portrait statue. Similar realistic portraits appear elsewhere on the coinage of Kyzikos during this period.

In her specialized study on the coinage ("Philipp II. und Kyzikos," SNR 63 [1984], pp. 27-54), M.R. Kaiser-Raiss suggested that the portrait was that of Philip II of Macedon, linking the portrait on von Fritze type 199 to particular sculptures thought to represent the Macedonian king. The most obvious problem with her interpretation is that the portrait on this coin shows a clearly bald-headed man - something that Philip II was not. While the coins she illustrates seem to show an individual with a full head of hair, the hair on the crown of the head seems to be a later addition to the die. One example (her number 4), shows the baldness quite clearly. A second problem is that Kyzikos had no reason to depict Philip II on this issue when the Macedonian king was still in the preliminary stages of planning his invasion of Persia in 336 BC.

In an article on Kyzikene numismatics ("The Cyzicenes: A Reappraisal," AJN 5-6 [1993-1994], pp. 9-11), Mildenberg suggests a return to Six's hypothesis, which remains the most likely solution. He notes that Kyzikos was under Persian control from 540 BC until 445 BC, and then from 387 BC until the end of the Achaemenid Empire. During the almost sixty year interval, Kyzikos was allied with Athens as a member of the Delian League. Kyzikos, however, was not banned from continuing to strike electrum staters (per League rules), because Athens saw the coinage as a valuable means of payment and in its best interest. This special arrangement between Athens and Kyzikos was apparently well-regarded, even after Kyzikos had reverted to Persian control, since Kyzikos continued to employ Athenian-inspired coin types. Thus, when Athenian forces under the command of Timotheos successfully raised the Persian siege of Kyzikos in 363 BC (Diod. Sic. 15.81.6), the citizens placed the portrait of the victorious general, complete with laurel wreath, on this issue of staters to show their appreciation of his services and subtly honor him in an already-accepted Athenian associated context.

Timotheos was the son of Konon and an otherwise unknown Thracian mother (Ath. 13.577a). Between 378 BC and 356 BC he frequently served as strategos, in which capacity he was able to secure an Athenian alliance with Kephallenia, and friendship with the Akarnanians and the Molossians. In 373 BC he was assigned command of a fleet to relieve Korkyra from Spartan control. Because the expedition was underfunded, the relief was delayed, prompting Timotheos to be brought to trial. Through the intervention of his allies – including Jason, the ruler of Pherai and the tagos (ταγός) of the Thessalian League, Timotheos was acquitted. Following his acquittal, and with the assistance of Amyntas III of Macedon, Timotheos took Korkyra (Diod. Sic. 15.47). For this, a statue was raised in his honor in Athens (Aeschin. In Ctes. 243). In 363 BC, Timotheos raised the siege of Kyzikos, for which this stater may have been issued (Diod. Sic. 15.81.6). In 366 BC, Timotheos was sent to aid Ariobarzanes, the satrap of Phrygia, but when he discovered that the satrap was in revolt against the Great King, Timotheos turned his attention to the northern Aegean. There, he captured Samos after a siege of 10 months, followed by similar conquests along the Thraco-Macedonian coast. A legal action brought against him by Apollodoros (the speech of which is attributed to Demosthenes), is noteworthy for illustrating the reversal of fortune of the once-great and honored general. Timotheos was once again in command during the Social War (357-355 BC), but competing personalities among the leadership again brought Timotheos to trial. Found guilty and unable to pay the heavy fine imposed on him, Timotheos retreated to Chalkis in Euboia, where he died. In remorse for their treatment of the once-favored general, the Athenians forgave a greater part of the debt that had passed on to his son, Konon. They also brought his ashes back to Athens, burying them in the Keramikos and erecting statues to him in the Agora and on the Akropolis.

Timotheos was an associate of both the philosopher Plato and the Athenian orator Isokrates.