George MacDonald.

The silver coinage of Crete, a metrological note online

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usually described as drachms of the reduced Attic standard. Of
the first set, 4 which have on the reverse a naked male figure,
seated on a rock, 28 examples are recorded, and of these as
many as 21 lie between 3-30 and 2-80 grammes, while 4 are
heavier and 3 lighter. My list of the second set, 5 the reverse
type of which is a naked male figure possibly the founder
Gortys advancing with spear and shield, includes 21 specimens,
12 of which lie between the limits indicated, while 5 are
heavier and 4 lighter. Taken by themselves, these figures
would be fairly convincing. But their significance is substan-
tially increased by the fact that three or four of the first set
bear the name of OIBOE. This was the magistrate who was
responsible for striking the much larger pieces that have a head
of Zeus on the obverse and a standing figure of Athena on the

1 Svoronos, op. cit., p. 107, Nos. 59 f.

2 See supra,j). 11, footnote 2. All these pieces read KYAQNIATAN, which
points to their being contemporary with the Aeginetic hemidrachms having the
same legend.

8 H. N. 2 , p. 467, and Svoronos, op. cit., pp. 170 f., Nos. 104 ff.

4 Svoronos, op. cit., pp. 177 ff., Nos. 157 ff.

5 Svoronos, op. cit., pp. 175 ff., Nos. 143 ff.


reverse. The latter are very rare. Svoronos l speaks of only two
examples, and I have not been able to add to his list. They
weigh 15-25 and 14-36 grammes respectively, and would thus
appear to be Rhodian tetradrachms. If that be so, the smaller
pieces must obviously be Rhodian drachms. Those* with the
name of OIBOZ are among the heaviest. 2 The lightest of all
weighs but 2-5 grammes.

As compared with the drachms of Hierapytna, then, the group
just mentioned exhibits a marked declension from the original
Rhodian standard. Yet at one time a lower point still was
touched, showing that at Gortyna the standard was occasionally
subject to vicissitudes as marked as those which it underwent in
Rhodes itself. Proof of this is afforded by another group, 3 the
weights of the eight members of which are as follows : 2-50, 2-37,
213, 213, 208, 2-04, 1-95, and 1-91 grammes. Although there
are many drachms of Rhodes as light or lighter than any of these, 4
one might have hesitated about their classification, 6 were it not
for a curious piece of confirmatory evidence, the significance of
which has hitherto remained unobserved. The obverse type is
a facing head of Helios, exactly resembling that on the ordinary
Rhodian coins. 6 Again, while the type of the reverse, an eagle
with a serpent in its talons, has nothing in common with the
Rhodian Trapdarjiiov, the abbreviated inscription V O, which
occurs on no other issue of Gortyna, 7 is a palpable imitation
of the P O of the drachms of Rhodes.

One might at first sight be tempted to associate with the
Rhodian system the tetradrachms having as types the head of
Roma and the statue of Artemis Ephesia. On second thoughts,
however, this idea must be set aside as inadmissible. They bear the
crest of Q. Caecilius Metellus, the conqueror of Crete, and were
doubtless minted circa 66 b. c. Svoronos mentions a specimen at

1 Op. eft., p. 177, No. 156.

2 The three on my list weigh 3*77 5 3*65, and 3*47 grammes.

3 Svoronos, op. cit., p. 174, Nos. 132 ff.

4 See B. M. C. Carta, S$c. , passim.

5 In H. iV. 2 , p. 467., they are described as Attic hemidrachms.

6 See Plate, Fig. 10, and the Rhodian drachm (Fig. 11) which is placed along-
side for comparison. Svoronos (I.e.) describes the facing head on the Gortyna
coins as that of Medusa. Wroth's view that it is the head of Helios (B.M. C,
Crete, $$c., p. 44) is far more probable, and is adopted in E. N. 2 . Even if
Svoronos's description be correct, however, it does not weaken the general

7 The usual abbreviations are TOPTY and TOP.


Berlin, and another, in poor preservation, at Paris ; the former
weighs 15-99 grammes 1 and the latter 14-40. The British
Museum now possesses a third, with a weight of 15-09 grammes.
The heaviest of these rules the Rhodian standard out. On the
other hand, the weight of the remaining two, though relatively
low, is in no way inconsistent with the current view that all
three are Attic tetradrachms. 2

Lappa During the fourth century b. c. Lappa struck a few coins
on the Aeginetic standard. Subsequently it was, as we have
seen, one of the mints that produced tetradrachms with Athenian
types. At a still later period there was a fairly abundant issue
of pieces that are shown by their weight to be Rhodian drachms. 3
They have a head of Apollo on the obverse and a full-length
figure of the same god on the reverse. All of them bear the
name of the magistrate ZYAHKOZ, so that the issue, if plenti-
ful, must have been short-lived. Of the 17 specimens whose
weights I have been able to ascertain, as many as 13 lie between
the limits of 3-30 and 2-90 grammes, while the remainder come
very close to them (3-47, 3-40, 338, 275, and 2-65).

Lyttus It is generally considered that the whole of the coins of
Lyttus are of Aeginetic weight, and that they were struck before
the city was destroyed circa 220 b. c. But there is a small
group whose style does not preclude the possibility of their being
subsequent to its restoration. In Svoronos's list, 4 which I have
not been able to add to, it is represented by three examples.
They have on the obverse a boar's head and on the reverse an
eagle with outspread wings and the inscription AYTTIHN,
while they weigh 3-59, 3-52, and 3-18 grammes respectively.
They seem clearly to be drachms of the Rhodian system. 6

1 Reference to Z. f. N. x, p. 119, shows that the ' 11,99' of Svoronos, op. cit. 9
p. 181, is a misprint. It may be added that the specimen in the Photiades Pacha
Sale-Catalogue (No. 1280, PI. VI), which weighed 16*50 grammes, was acknow-
ledged to be false, and was withdrawn without being put to the hammer.

2 Svoronos, op. cit., p. 165, includes under No. 66 a Berlin coin, restruck on
a stater of Cnossus, which is said to weigh 16*62 grammes. The other examples
of No. 66 are all of Aeginetic weight, and it is hardly doubtful that e 16,62 ' is
a misprint for f 11,62 '.

3 Svoronos, op. cit., p. 213 f., Nos. 22 f.

4 Op. cit., p. 238, No. 85.

5 The two small coins published by Mr. G. F. Hill and Captain Cameron in
Num. Chron., 1913 (p. 385, PL XV, Nos. 18 f.), are also late. Metrologically
they are difficult to place (2*22 and 1*98 grammes). But it is possible that they
are light Rhodian drachms. Many of the later drachms of Rhodes with the
facing head of Helios are even lighter.


Polyrhenium Besides coins of Aeginetic standard and tetra-
drachms with Athenian types, Polyrhenium issued a small series
of what appear to be Rhodian tetradrachms. They have on the
obverse a whiskered head, bound with a taenia, which is possibly
that of Philip V of Macedon as Apollo, and on the reverse
a seated female figure holding a small statue of Nike. 1 They
are later than circa 200 b. c. and three of the four recorded
examples bear magistrates' names. The weights are as follows :
15*56, 15-51, 14*70, and 14-02. Along with these may be classed
a more numerous set of smaller pieces, 2 which have as types
a facing head of Dictynna and a figure of Apollo advancing
with his bow. One exceptional specimen is as heavy as 2*11
grammes. Thirteen others, however, are known. The heaviest
of these weighs 1*97, and, if all are taken together, the resulting
average is 1-80. Probably, therefore, they are Rhodian hemi-
drachms, for a hemidrachm of 1-80 grammes would yield a
tetradrachm of 14-40.

The foregoing resume of the statistical evidence provides, I think,
all the categories that are necessary for the proper classification, on
metrological principles, of the autonomous silver issues of Crete. It
may be convenient to recapitulate them briefly, (a) The dominating
standard was the Aeginetic. It was the first to be introduced, and
to it the great majority of Cretan coins belong. Care must, however,
be taken to discriminate between two norms a heavier, which was
in use at Gortyna and at Phaestus, and a lighter, which was charac-
teristic of Cnossus .and of Cydonia. The difference between these
two can be explained on grounds that are readily intelligible, (b) It is
far more difficult to account for the appearance, at a few towns in
the north-west of the island, of what appear to be Aeginetic staters
and drachms of decidedly debased weight, minted in some cases side
by side with pieces that are in no way abnormal, (c) Next to the Aegi-
netic standard the most important was the Rhodian. Its occurrence
at Itanus circa 400 b. c. is noteworthy. But neither then nor when
it came into use elsewhere two hundred years later, did it always
secure a monopoly at the cities by which it was adopted. Hierapytna
was the most conspicuous exception. This suggests that, wherever
we find it, the phenomenon should be connected with particular
developments of trade, (d) The same may be said of the Attic standard,

1 Svoronos, op. cit., pp. 281 f., Nos. 40 ff.

2 Svoronos., op. cit, p. 282., No. 43.


although there, in so far as the tetradraehms with Athenian types
are to be regarded as a federal issue, the influence of political motives
can hardly be entirely ignored. Apart from these tetradraehms, it
was only at Cnossus and, to a much more limited extent, under
Roman domination at Gortyna that the Attic system obtained any
footing at all.

In the course of the inquiry one or two features of general interest
have emerged. The apparent indifference of the official mind to
scrupulous exactness of weight was well illustrated by the fact that
the coins of Cnossus, despite their somewhat lighter norm, were freely
used as flans at Phaestus and Gortyna. This is a clear warning
against the too strict application of modern canons to the solution of
questions of ancient metrology. Not less significant is the evidence for
the simultaneous employment of two (or even three) different standards
at one and the same town. It has, of course, long been known that such
a practice was not uncommon. Under the later Seleucid kings, for
instance, some of the great cities of the Syrian coast, to meet the
needs of different streams of trade, issued two parallel series of tetra-
draehms, one of which followed the Attic system and the other the
Phoenician. There, however, all risk of confusion was obviated by
using characteristic obverse and reverse types for each series. The
surprising thing is that in Crete so simple a precaution was not
always felt to be necessary. Thus, at Itanus it would be impossible
to distinguish the Rhodian tetradrachm- from the Aeginetic staters
by the help of the eye alone. Mr. E. S. G. Robinson has drawn
attention to an analogous difficulty at Cyrene. 1 He points out that
the more highly developed instinct of the Greek trader would enable
him to surmount it with an ease that it is hard for us to appreciate.
That is doubtless true. But it is probably also true that the custom
of appealing to the balances in private transactions enjoyed a much
longer life than one is sometimes disposed to credit it with. 2 How-
ever that may be, the central fact remains, and the example of Itanus
may sometimes be helpful to numismatists who find themselves baffled
by seemingly abrupt and unaccountable changes of standard. To
take a familiar crux? is it quite certain that at Abdera each variety
of weight -system must necessarily be associated with a period of
its own ?

At Itanus the difference between the Aeginetic stater and the
Rhodian tetradrachm of similar types, which circulated side by side,

1 See Num. Chron., 1915, p. 262.

2 Cf. English Historical Review, 1919, pp. 91 f.

3 See H. N.*, pp. 263 ff., and Gardner, Hist, of Ancient Coinage, pp. 276 ff.


was as much as three grammes. The two classes of Aeginetic stater
at Cydonia were separated by an interval of about half that weight.
It is of interest to note that at the latter city the awkward possibilities
were at least partially recognized. The use of similar types for the
drachms was avoided, while even on the staters an endeavour was at
one time made to mark the distinction by the presence or absence of
Kydon's dog. So again at Cnossus the Rhodian tetradrachms with
the name of TTOAXOZ have a head of Apollo on the obverse and
a circular labyrinth on the reverse, whereas the presumably con-
temporary tetradrachms of Attic weight have a head of Zeus on one
side and a square labyrinth on the other. Finally, it would seem that
after circa 200 b. c. the weights of the lower denominations of the
Rhodian and Aeginetic systems sometimes approximated so closely
that the Rhodian drachm was regarded as virtually equivalent to the
Aeginetic hemidrachm. We have already seen that a drachm of
Rhodes was actually so restruck at Cnossus. 1 Similar evidence comes
from Gortyna. At one period there was issued there a series of
what must be Aeginetic drachms, having as types a head of Zeus
and Europa seated on a bull. Svoronos records eight examples, 2 and
I have noted seven others. The weights 3 are conclusive as to the
system to which they belong ; all save one are much too heavy to be
Attic drachms. The corresponding halves must, therefore, be Aegi-
netic hemidrachms. The obverse type is the same as that of the
drachms, but the reverse has a bull without Europa. I know of only
two examples. 4 Two others, however, were used as flans for the later
series of Rhodian drachms with the facing head of Helios and TO. 5
That is, the process that was noted at Cnossus is reversed at Gortyna.
The proof of interchangeability could not well be stronger.

Postscript : Cretan Silver Coinage under the Romans.

In its original intention the scope of this inquiry was limited to
the period of autonomous coinage. But it may be convenient, for
the sake of completeness, to bring together by way of a postscript
the few facts that can be ascertained regarding the silver that was

1 See supra, p. 16, and cf. the two hemidrachms of Rhodes restruck as
Aeginetic trihemiobols at Cydonia (Svoronos, op. cit., p. 102, No. 18).

2 Op. cit., p. 172, Nos. 114 ff. In two cases, however, the weight is not

3 5-12, 5*01, 4-97, 4-94, 4'90, 4*88, 4*88, 4*88, 485, 4'65, 4'65, 4*53, and 3*49

4 Svoronos, op. cit., p. 173, No. 119. The weights are 2*05 and 2*01 grammes.

5 See ibid., p. 174, No. 133 f., and cf. supra, p. 20.


issued while the island was under the dominion of the Romans.
Reference has been made above to the Attic tetradrachms struck at
Gortyna with the authority of Q. Caecilius Metellus. Imhoof-Blumer
is doubtless right in attributing to the same town the cistophorus
with the name of KYAAZ KPHTAPXHS, the only coin of its class
minted beyond the boundaries of Asia Minor. Imhoof gives good
reasons for dating it between 66 and 31 B. c. 1 The weight of the
Paris specimen is 11-27 grammes, so that the cistophoric standard in
its Cretan form was very much the same as the Aeginetic standard in
the guise it had worn in Crete four or five centuries earlier. It seems
to have been subsequently reduced, probably not as an act of
deliberate policy but rather as the result of official indifference, for
there can be little doubt but that the highest of the three denomina-
tions of the silver of early imperial times is the cistophoric tetra-
drachm. 2 The weights of the recorded specimens are notoriously
irregular, ranging between 10-47 and 7-65 grammes. The other two
denominations will then be the tridrachm (8-36-6-60) and the drachm

The imperial silver of Crete has few attractions for collectors, and
consequently our information regarding it is more scanty than it
might otherwise have been. Not a little of it is derived from the
older numismatists, whose descriptions are not always reliable, and
who do not give weights. But its issue would appear to have been
inaugurated under Tiberius during the governorship of Cornelius
Lupus, who was pro-consul of Crete and Cyrene, and whose con-
demnation and death in the reign of Claudius was afterwards one of
the indictments brought against Suillius Rufus. 3 The majority of
the surviving specimens bear his name. 4 The tetradrachms have on
the obverse the head of the deified Augustus and on the reverse the
head of the Cretan Zeus (TAN KPHTATENHZ), and examples struck
at Hierapytna and at Polyrhenium are known. Tridrachms of Axus
and of Cydonia are recorded, the types being the laureate head of
Tiberius and the head of the Senate, bearded and veiled. Lastly
there are drachms of Cydonia, of Eleutherna, of Gortyna, and of
Hierapytna, with the head of Tiberius on the obverse and that of

1 Mommies grecques, p. 210.

2 So Imhoof-Blumer, Griechische Miinzen, p. 164, footnote 2 . Head, who calls
it a didrachm, apparently preferred to regard it as belonging to the Aeginetic

3 Tacitus, Annals, xiii. 43. For other details of the career of Cornelius Lupus
see Klebs, Prosopographia, i. 457, No. 1145.

4 The others bear the name of Laches : see infra. A drachm of Lappa is
doubtful, as the magistrate's name is off the fan (Svoronos, op. cit. } PL XX. 13).


the deified Augustus on the reverse. The form of the inscription
varies, being sometimes in the nominative and sometimes in the
dative, and so indicating more than one issue.

The only other magistrate whom we can associate with the Cretan
silver of Tiberius is Laches, whose name occurs on tridrachms of
Cydonia and on drachms of Hierapytna. History tells us nothing
regarding him, but we know that he must have been the successor
and not the forerunner of Cornelius Lupus, since his term of office
extended into the reign of Caligula. The evidence for this is supplied
by the appearance of his name on a unique drachm of Axus, which
has as types the head of the latter emperor and of Germanicus. 1 It
is unique, not merely in the sense that only a single specimen is
recorded, but also in the sense that Axus is the one Cretan town to
whose particular credit any silver of Caligula can yet be placed. It
is true that the second edition of the Historia Numorum, 2 on the
authority of Svoronos, cites *M coins of Caligula", under Lyttus.
Reference to the source, however, reveals serious grounds for doubting
the accuracy of the original statement. 3 The whole description, and
notably the use of the accusative case in the legends, is unlike that of
any other silver pieces of Crete, whereas it corresponds exactly to the
description of certain bronze coins of Gortyna and Polyrhenium,
most of which are signed by a magistrate Augurinus. 4 The suspicion
that the ' M ' of Svoronos's list is a misprint for ' M * arises at once,
and it is fully confirmed by an appeal to Mionnet, who is in his turn
the authority from whom Svoronos quotes one of the two examples
which he registers, the other being in the Berlin Museum. Mionnet
explicitly states that the coin of which he speaks is of bronze. 5

The uniqueness of the drachm of Axus indicates that the system
organized under Tiberius survived for only a short time under his
successor. The system that replaced it was possibly instituted by
Augurinus, whose name figures on contemporary bronze pieces of
Gortyna, Hierapytna, 6 and Polyrhenium. It was a provincial issue,
minted perhaps at Gortyna, but having neither legend nor symbol
to mark the city of origin. The denominations, with their weights,
are those introduced by Cornelius Lupus. On all three the obverse is
occupied by a head of Caligula with his name and titles. The

1 Hirsch, Auktions-Katalog , xiii, No. 2912 (PI. XXXI).

2 p. 472.

3 Svoronos, op. cit. , p. 239, Nos. 88 f.

4 Ibid., pp. 181 f., and 284.

6 Descr. de medailles antiques, Suppl. iv, p. 329, No. 214. So too Sestini, to
whom Svoronos (I.e.) also refers.

6 Svoronos, op. cit., p. 195, Nos. 49 f.


reverse types are (a) for the tetradrachm a figure of Augustus,
clad in a toga and holding a patera and sceptre, enthroned in
a quadriga drawn by elephants; 1 (b) for the tridrachm the same
figure seated on a curule chair ; and (c) for the drachm a head of
Augustus radiate, as it is also on the larger pieces. In each of the
three cases there are seven stars in the field of the reverse. As these
stars reappear later in conjunction with an entirely different type,
they may be symbolical in some obscure way of the whole province
of Crete. The issue must have been an abundant one, for all three
denominations are well represented in our collections, more especially
the tridrachms and the drachms. Claudius continued it, substituting
his own image and superscription for those of Caligula on the
obverse, but with him the most common denomination is the

The rarity of the drachms of Claudius with the radiate head of
Augustus is no doubt partly to be explained by the occurrence
of drachms with other types two Korybantes dancing, Artemis
holding torch or bow, a figure of Hope. 2 And it is probably to his
reign that we should assign what seems to be a hemidrachm it
weighs only 1-23 grammes having on the obverse the bust and name
of Agrippina, 3 and on the reverse a quiver, arrow, bow, and club.
In any event the tendency to break away from the old conventions
becomes quite pronounced under Nero. His Cretan silver coins are
rare. The least uncommon are tetradrachms of the old system of
weight, at least six specimens of which have survived. The reverse
has for its type a standing figure of Zeus, surrounded by seven stars
in lieu of an inscription. There seem to have been two issues, which
are distinguished by the presence or absence of an eagle beside
the god. The group with the eagle is the lighter, the three known
specimens weighing 9-40, 8-72, and 8-40 grammes, as against 10-20,
9-98, and 9*46 for the remainder.

It has been suggested that Nero was responsible for something
more important than a change of type, and that he introduced a new
system of weight. The coins that are supposed to testify to this
are very rare. They have on the obverse a head of the emperor,
with his name and titles in Latin, and on the reverse a head of
Claudius or of Agrippina, accompanied by a mark of value, the whole

1 The quadriga may perhaps be interpreted as confirming the view that the
coin is a tetradrachm rather than a didrachm ; see supra, p. 25, footnote 2.

2 Svoronos, op. cit., p. 336, Nos. 9 if.

3 Svoronos {op. tit., p. 339, No. 30) calls her Agrippina Senior. The use of
the title C6BACTH, however, proves that it is the daughter, not the mother.


within a laurel-wreath. There are two denominations, the mark of

Ac Ac

value on the higher being KA and that on the lower IB.

The two published specimens of the former (Plate, Fig. 12) weigh
5*47 and 5-40 grammes respectively. The solitary published example
of the latter (Plate, Fig. 13) weighs 2*37 grammes. All three are in
London. Head, who was inclined to accept their conjectural attribution
to Crete, proposed to interpret the value-marks as ' da-ad pia 'IraXifcd
24' and * da-a-dpia 'IraXiKa 12V Imhoof-Blumer, in adopting Head's
conclusions, pointed out that an explanation of the change of system
should be looked for in some far-reaching reform of the Roman
currency, and he found it in Nero's reduction of the weight of the
denarius from % to % of the Roman pound. 2 He inferred that
advantage was taken ot the reduction to try and steady the swaying
weights of the provincial silver, the real value of each piece being
indicated upon its face.

Much as one must hesitate to differ from two such authorities as
Head and Imhoof, I do not feel satisfied that the coins with marks of
value are of Cretan origin at all. Mr. E. S. G. Robinson, who has
recently been studying the provincial silver of early imperial times,
has drawn my attention to the close resemblance which the pieces in
question bear to the contemporary silver of Cappadocia. He further
tells me that the late Mr. Warwick Wroth left a manuscript note in
which he recorded the finding of one or two examples in Paphlagonia,
a provenance which considerably strengthens the Cappadocian analogy.
On the other hand, Mr. Robinson believes that there is some ground
for attributing Plate, Fig. 14 to Crete. It has on the obverse the
heads of Nero and Poppaea face to face, and on the reverse the radiate

1 3

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