Classical Numismatic Group > Auction 120Auction date: 11 May 2022
Lot number: 504

Price realized: 17,000 USD   (Approx. 16,118 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
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Lot description:

PTOLEMAIC KINGS of EGYPT. Berenike II, wife of Ptolemy III. Circa 244/3-221 BC. AR Pentakaidekadrachm (41.5mm, 49.89 g, 12h). Alexandreia mint(?). Struck under Ptolemy III, 245 BC. Veiled and draped bust right / BAΣIΛIΣΣHΣ BEPENIKHΣ, cornucopia, bound with fillet, between two laureate pileoi. CPE 734; Svoronos 988; D. Vagi, "The Ptolemaic Pentakaidekadrachm" in SAN XX.1 (1997), pp. 5-10; H.A. Hazard, Ptolemaic Coins (Toronto, 1995), c1052 (dodecadrachm); SNG Copenhagen –; BMC –. Toned, flan crack, area of roughness, scratches, some smoothing on obverse. VF. Very rare.

This series raises a number of important questions: upon which weight standard were the coins struck, which Berenike does the series commemorate, and for what purpose were the coins issued? Beginning circa 310 BC, Ptolemy went off the Attic standard, reducing the weight of the tetradrachm from 17.2 g, first to about 15.7 g and then circa 290 BC to about 14.4-14.2 g. Called the Ptolemaic standard by modern numismatists, this standard remained in effect until the first century BC. The Ptolemies thereby apparently established a separate circulation area, driving out Attic standard coins and forming a closed economy. The coins of Berenike present a possible anomaly in this system, since the series appears to have been divided between the Ptolemaic and Attic weight standards. While no one has seriously denied that the smaller coin in this series is an Attic standard pentadrachm, the larger coin has caused more difficulty. Based on a single known incomplete specimen, Svoronos proposed that it was struck on the Attic weight standard and called it a dodekadrachm, a view Mørkholm (with reservations) and Hazard accepted. Vagi, however, examining the weights of a number of newly discovered specimens, argued that the coin was struck on the Ptolemaic standard, calling it a pentakaidekadrachm (which was actually first proposed by L. Naville in 1951), a conclusion that has been subsequently accepted by numismatic scholars.

The series has traditionally been attributed to Berenike II, the daughter of Magas of Kyrene, and wife of Ptolemy III Euergetes. Hazard had proposed instead that it honored Berenike Syra, the sister of Ptolemy III and widow of the Seleukid king, Antiochos II Theos. He argued that the coins were struck in Syria from locally-acquired silver to pay the Ptolemaic army deployed there to press the claim of Berenike's child to the Seleukid throne, though the two had been murdered in the interim, and that these coins were carried back to Egypt by the soldiers as pay. However, his argument was contingent upon the recognition that these were struck on the Attic standard, which is now not accepted. As noted in CPE this issue actually was a silver companion to a massive gold double mnaieion (double oktadrachm), that together represented a ceremonial coinage at Alexandreia whose types suggested they were associated with the Third Syrian War. If so, they presumably were issued to celebrate the successful return of Ptolemy III to Egypt from the battlefield.

Estimate: 5000 USD