Coins and archaeology work together
Who is on the obverse of this coin?
19-18 mm. 4.76 grams.
Laureate head right/horseman right.
The reverse legend, beginning at 10:00 which is weak on this
says ΣEYΘOY, so we know this coin from Thrace was issued by
Seuthes who was King of the Odrysai, in Thrace. By various means, we
refers to the third of that name, Seuthes III, who ruled c. 324
BC, right at the time of Alexander the Great. But, who is portrayed on
In the fourth century BC when this coin was struck it was common to
have the Greek god Zeus on the obverse,
severe and bearded. The usual portrait of Zeus looks much like on this
coin, but with handsome classic
features that are more regular and with a neater mustache and beard.
The tribe and its coinage are obscure, so maybe this is
just a crude portrait of Zeus? Except for rare coins of Persian
Asia minor, it
was unheard of to have an actual portrait of a ruler this early, so
reference works, like the Catalog of
Greek Coins in the British Museum, described the obverse
portrait as "Head of Zeus, right, laureate." (BMC Thrace, page 203,
Seuthes III, #1-2, his only coin type).
However, the attribution changed when a spectacular bronze head was
discovered in what was presumed
to be his tomb in 2004 in Bulgaria. The head now belongs to the
Archaeological Museum in Sophia (and was exhibited in 2012 at the show
entitled "Bronze" at the
Royal Academy of Arts in London).
The wild mustache and beard looks a lot like they do on the coin. Now
we can identify the bust from the coin and the coin from the bust.
Together they confirm that the coin portrait is not a crudely engraved
rather Seuthes III himself on a remarkably early portrait coin.
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Roman and Greek Coins.