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Research Coins: Printed Auction


Antioch, Principal Roman Mint in the East

Triton XXII, Lot: 546. Estimate $300.
Sold for $550. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

SELEUCIS and PIERIA, Antioch. Aulus Gabinius. 57-55 BC. AR Tetradrachm (28mm, 15.40 g, 12h). In the name and types of Philip I Philadelphus. Diademed head right / [B]AΣIΛEΩ[Σ]/ΦΙΛΙΠΠOY to right, EΠIΦANOVΣ/[Φ]IΛAΔΕΛΦO[V] to left, Zeus Nicephorus enthroned left; thunderbolt above, monogram of Gabinius to lower inner left, monogram below throne; all within laurel wreath. Prieur 1 (this coin illustrated); McAlee 1; RPC I 4124; HGC 9, 1356. EF, toned.

From the Michel Prieur Collection.

FIRST PARAGRAPH TO COME BEFORE LOT DESCRIPTION Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch served as the three principal mints throughout much of the history of the Roman Empire. Production at the mint of Antioch, however, is by far the most complex. At various periods under Rome’s rule, Antioch struck aurei, denarii, antoniniani, tetradrachms and their fractions, and a variety of base metal denominations, with much of their “provincial” coinage functioning as regional issues rather than civic (i.e., they lack an ethnic and circulated widely throughout the region). Moreover, Antioch appears to have struck civic coins for other cities in the 3rd century, and other mints participated in the production of “Syrian” tetradrachms that are frequently designated Antiochene. Unraveling productivity at this mint is complex, to say the least, and scholarly advancement is ongoing. For the sake of simplicity, we have kept the following lots under their traditional attribution of Antioch, with commentary on alternative attributions accompanying the descriptions. PARAGRAPH TO COME AFTER LOT By the time Aulus Gabinius became tribune of the plebs in 67 BC, Cilician pirates had overrun the eastern Mediterranean as the major dynasties that had ruled over the territory since the death of Alexander the Great fell into decline. Although Rome saw steep inflation and even faced famine as a result, the Senate was reluctant to assign any one commander to deal with the issue as the senators feared this would grant too much power to a single individual. With unrest against the Senate reaching a tipping point, the tribune Aulus Gabinius was able to push through his Lex Gabinia de piratis persequendis, which authorized Pompey to wage war on the pirates, effectively placing the commander in control of the East.

Gabinius subsequently served as legate to Pompey and was integral in mediating in affairs in Mesopotamia and Judaea. He became pronconsul of Syria in 57 BC, during which time he reorganized Judaea and rebuilt a number of cities, while quashing revolts led by Aristobolus and Alexander Jannaeus and reinstating Hyrcanus II as high priest. In 55 BC, Pompey instructed Gabinius to lead his troops to Egypt to restore Ptolemy XII, an ally of the Romans, after the king was expelled and replaced by his sister Berenice. This move would prove fateful, as he left Syria for Egypt by order of Pompey but without the consent of the Senate. As a result, he was charged with treason, but was acquitted. The Senate did, however, find him guilty of extortion for his acceptance of 10,000 talents from Ptolemy as payment for restoring him to the Egyptian throne. Gabinius’ was sent into exile, but was recalled by Julius Caesar in 49 BC. He died of illness in circa 47 BC at Salona (modern Solin, Croatia, a short distance from Split).

In addition to being plated in Prieur’s book, this coin is also illustrated on the English Wikipedia page for Aulus Gabinius.