Coins of Roman Egypt
Greek Dates



Besides the money struck for Alexandria, the Imperial Coinage of Egypt comprises bronze pieces struck for the Nomes and a very few cities, a class usually called the Coinage of the Nomes. It will be necessary to discuss the main features of the series. A full examination is as yet impossible. No cabinet contains a good representative series, nor can such a series be made of the specimens of different cabinets. The difficulties of description are very great, since we are frequently uncertain as to the personage represented. This is explained by the fact that the selection is Alexandrian, not local.

Dates of Coins.


The dates borne by this coinage are Domitian, year 11; Trajan, years 12, 13, 14, 15; Hadrian, year 11; Antoninus Pius, year 8; and Marcus Aurelius Caesar, the same date. The coins of Domitian are extremely rare, and those of Marcus Aurelius are rare. The dates on the coins do not seem to have any special significance, either as connected with an Egyptian cycle, or with the reigns of the Emperors.

Place of striking.

Struck at Alexandria.

A short examination of these coins is enough to show that all of the regular series were struck at Alexandria. There are a few pieces of what may he called token-money, such as the leaden coins of Memphis, and the late bronze coin of Panopolis.


The series presents specimens of the four chief denominations of Egyptian provincial money. Domitian struck of the second size, Trajan of the first, Hadrian of the third and fourth, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius Caesar of the first. It is thus obvious that each series was independent of the next following it.


The obverse inscriptions are the same as those on the coins of Alexandria. As on that series such inscriptions are wanting on the smallest size. The reverse inscriptions present the name of the Nome or City for which a coin was struck, and the date. On the largest coins the name is written in full, and in very rare instances of Nome coins is preceded or followed by the word ΝΟΜΟC: this use is found on the coins of Domitian (infra, p. 354, no. 56; Berliner Blätter, iv. 29, seqq.; pl. xviii. 1, 2, 3). The smaller coins of Hadrian present the name of the Nome in an abbreviated form, which could sometimes be that of the capital. Even when there are no other coins giving the full inscription, the great rarity of such coins as are undoubtedly civic, justifies our classing the pieces just mentioned as Nome-coins, except those of Naukratis, which intervene with the short inscription between those with the full inscription of the city name.


There is a general similarity between the coins of the Nomes and those of Alexandria, and at the same time there are essential differences. The similarity is principally seen in the relation of the types to the sizes of the coins.

The differences are seen in the exact character of this relation, in the usual definiteness of the types and in the omission in the fourth size of the types of the larger coins. This omission may be excluded from consideration as due to the issue under Hadrian of small coins only. The difference in the character of the types is that the large Nome coins show the type of the smallest held in the hand of the divinity, whereas this is not the case in the Alexandrian series, in which there is no distinct connection in type between the larger and the smaller coins.

An important question now arises, are the Nome coins of any authority? In other words, was the selection by Alexandria of the weight that the selection by local capitals would have had? A striking instance seems sufficient of itself to decide the question on the negative side. In subjects relating to Alexandrian worship, or struck for Nomes near Alexandria, we have a right to expect accurate selection of types. And we must expect that the sacred animals are correct. But in remote parts of Egypt we may well doubt whether this was the case. The coins of the Thinite Nome, unconnected in their types with the worship of Alexandria and far distant, we find a remarkable selection of type. These coins present a figure of Elpis or Spes, hold by the Nome divinity in the large bronze, and as the sole type in the smallest size. M. Jacques de Rouge is naturally unwilling to admit the presence of a Greek type in a Graeco-Roman form, and proposes an Egyptian attribution, (Rev. Num. N. S. xv. pp. 15-17.) The type is however perfectly clear. It is directly repugnant to Egyptian local worship. It belongs to a class of Alexandrian types due to Graeco-Roman association. This suggests that the local types emanating from Alexandria were really Alexandrian and are not necessarily of any local value. This view is confirmed by the examination of other Nome coins not connected with the Alexandrian Triad, and of Nomes remote from Alexandria. If we do this we find instances where the type changes, and also where it is not to be connected with the leading Nome divinity. For example, the coinage of the Diopolite Nome presents a figure of Amon, and another of Helios. These instances cover both characteristics. It would thus seem certain that the Nome types were not only selected at Alexandria, but that the selection was independent of local worship unconnected with Alexandria. Consequently the study of the Nome series illustrates rather the worship of the capital and its local varieties, than the worship of the Nomes unconnected with Alexandria. Thus the series loses much of its interest as its mythological value is small and uncertain. The Egyptian subjects of the Alexandrian cycle belong to the best known section of Graeco-Egyptian mythology, the cycle of Sarapis. So far as this cycle touches the cycles of the Nomes, that is to say in the cases of Sarapis, Isis, and Harpocrates, identification is easy, for the Alexandrian notion is applicable to the Nomes. When, however, we find types having no traceable relation to this cycle it is safest to attempt no identification. Consequently I have adopted an entirely different system in the Alexandrian Coins and those struck for the Nomes. I have not attempted a full treatment of the subject which would have greatly increased the volume without presenting any definite result.



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