2241RE: Secession of Commagene - 163/2 or 150 BC?
- Nov 23, 2013
Looking through the archive on this group, I realised that this post about the independence of Commagene resulted in an article in the Journal of the Oriental Numismatic Society, issue 215 this spring. It was called
Numismatic evidence for dating the independence of Commagene to 150 BC?
This dating is based on a reinterpretation of the numismatic evidence: The first Demetrius imitations were struck at the same time as Alexander Balas invaded the neighbouring province of Cilicia, and so were probably issued in support of Demetrius I in a makeshift mint. After Demetrius died, the coins were still struck in 149/8 BC, which suggests that Ptolemy of Commagene was a supporter of Demetrius, but did not recognise Balas. The original study of these Demetrius imitations was Oliver Hoover's
'Notes on Some Imitation Drachms of Demetrius I Soter from Commagene', American Journal of Numismatics 1998, pp.71-94
---In email@example.com, <jens.jakobsson@...> wrote:Dear group,
another observation based on Seleucid Coins II, which I am studying
thoroughly. The book is a cornucopia for further Seleucid studies,
especially as the text seldom strays from its subject, the coins. If
there is another conference on Seleucid history, I'd like to suggest
that its theme would be new political etc. advances based on the
findings in SC.
The secession of Commagene is treated on p.207 in SC II:vol 1, based on
one of Oliver D. Hoover's articles. An 'unofficial' Commagenean mint
started issuing drachms of Demetrius I, with dies imitating those from
Antioch and monograms based on, but sligthly different from, that mint.
These coins are attributed to Ptolemy, the first governor of Commagene.
Ptolemy is known from an fragment by Diodorus Siculus, 31.19a.
"Ptolemaeus, the governor of Commagenê, who even before had shown
little respect for the Syrian kings, now asserted his independence, and
because they were busy with their own affairs, established himself
without interference in control of the country, being chiefly emboldened
by its natural advantages for defence."
This fragment appears before an account (31.19) of the Cappadocian
dynasty; I suppose the Syrian kings who were busy with their own affairs
would be either Antiochus V & Demetrius I or Demetrius I and Alexander
Ptolemy is also known from the Nemrud Dag inscription of the ancestors
of Antiochus I of Commagene; he is listed on the left pedestal among the
Persians-Armenians rather than the right with Greeks-Macedonians. Nemrud
Dag ancestor inscription <http://www.nemrud.nl/en/tr_tekst5.php> But
possibly this is because the right pedestal is in fact devoted to the
Seleucid dynasty (and Alexander the Great).
SC II takes the view that Ptolemy broke away from the Seleucid Empire in
163/2 BCE, i.e. the first of the two periods mentioned above. To some
extent I can agree with this; the coins are imitations rather than
issues of an official Seleucid administration. But my view is that if
Ptolemy imitated the coins of Demetrius I, while the latter was king, he
had not seceded completely. I see these coins as semi-official, so that
Ptolemy and Demetrius I had some sort of agreement. Apparently, if
Ptolemy had made himself independent, he would have been concerned with
an attack from Demetrius. The loyalty of Ptolemy's troops during such an
attack would hardly have improved if they were paid with coins naming
Demetrius as their legitimate king. (A similar reason is one of many
arguments why Diodotus I of Bactria did not issue his first coins in the
name of the Seleucid king Antiochus II. See my article "Antiochus
Nicator, a third Bactrian king?", NC 2010. Though in Diodotus' case,
numismatic evidence supports the view that the 'Antiochus coins' are
The first Commagenean imitations, in good style, use Demetrius' regnal
years: one example is given for SE (160 - 153/2 BC). But when Balas came
to power in 150 BC, the Commagenean mint continued for some years to
strike Demetrius coins, for instance in SE 164 (149/8 BC). So Ptolemy
did not support Balas. In my view, he could have declared himself
completely independent because the Seleucid dynasty had expired, the
full independence of Commagene then beginning in 150 BC.
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