Roma Numismatics Ltd > Auction XXVAuction date: 22 September 2022
Lot number: 485

Price realized: 6,500 GBP   (Approx. 7,322 USD / 7,459 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
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Lot description:


Arabia, Mleiha. Abi'el AR Tetradrachm. In the types of Alexander III of Macedon. 3rd - 2nd centuries BC. Head of Herakles to right, wearing lion skin headdress / Male figure seated to left, holding sceptre and horse protome in outstretched hand; palm tree and alif in Aramaic to left, 'b'l brt lbš ('Abi'el daughter of Labaš) in Aramaic and vertical row of dots to right. MacDonald, 'Abiel', Group A.3.1, pl. 5; Van Alfen, Die, 8-11 (O-/R-); Huth 11; Potts 1991, Class II, 4-5; Arnold-Biucchi pl. 19, 11 var. (no alif below palm tree); HGC 10, 686. 16.57g, 28mm, 8h.

Good Very Fine. Extremely Rare; reverse die unknown to MacDonald.

There is no historical evidence about the society or form of government who issued this remarkable tetradrachm in the region we now call the Oman Peninsula. The coinage types are obviously derived from the Herakles - Zeus Aëtophoros types of Alexander the Great and the Seleukid successor issues which circulated throughout the Gulf region after the Greek invasion of the Persian Empire in the late 4th century BC. In about 205/4 BC, Antiochos III even threatened to conquer nearby Gerrha, but resisted when offered a ransom of 500 talents of silver, 1000 talents of frankincense and 200 talents of myrrh.

The inscriptions on the coinage are in Aramaic, the international language of the Achaemenid and Parthian administration, as well as some dynasts nominally under Seleucid rule in the East. The intriguing Aramaic legend 'by'l brt lbš is also a mystery; it literally means 'Abi'el son/daughter of Lab', but we do not know if Abi'el was a man or a woman, king or queen. Setting aside the story of the Queen of Sheba in what is now Yemen, Eastern Arabia is remarkable for its succession of priestess-queens, known as the 'queens of the Arabs' in Assyrian records of the 8th to 7th centuries BC. After this, there are no more references to queens in Arabia until the 'sister-queens' that appear on the neighbouring Nabataean coinage of Obodas III from about 30 BC. The Assyrian records and Nabataean numismatic evidence indicates that, in contrast to the rest of the ancient Near East, the concept of ruling queens existed in northern Arabia from a very early date and lasted until recorded historical times.

Estimate: 10000 GBP