73 - Cholchis Imitation of Lysimachus

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Unique ID: 73

Technical details






Black Sea



Issuing Authority

Celto-Scythian Bastarnae








Common (101-200)


66 BC to 25 AD (see note about dating)

Obverse Legend

No Legend

Reverse Legend

No Legend

Obverse Description

An abstract rendering of the head of the deified Alexander facing right, with a horn of Ammon composed from pellets. The hair is jumbled and upright. The cheek and jaw are formed by a rough raised lump of metal and the forehead and nose are formed by an angular line. The eye is a ringed pellet. These coins are typically described showing an abstract head of Herakles but it’s not clear why, as they were imitations of a stater showing the deified Alexander.

Reverse Description

An abstract rendering of a seated Athena holding Victory. She faces left also holds a spear. Below her seat is a trident (worn on this coin). A monogram sits between her arm and her knees. It’s assumed that the monogram is a meaningless corruption of a mintmark from one of the original coins, but perhaps it had meaning to the engravers. The ladders to each side are the remains of the legend on the original Lysymachus stater.


Arslan Group I. Group I

Lysimachus was a bodyguard to Alexander III, and became ruler of Thrace after Alexander’s death. He eventually became king of most of Asia Minor. One of the coins he minted, his gold stater, became the standard currency in the Black Sea area, and was still being minted by other kings over a century after his death. His staters featured the head of Alexander on the obverse, and Athena Nikephoros (Athena carrying victory) on the reverse.

The Celtic imitations became increasingly abstract. Alexander’s head became cartoon like, with the hair becoming wild (as on this coin), and then turning into a row of birds. The reverse became equally cartoonish. Note that although these coins are almost certainly common (101 to 200 coins), the 94 coins that I know of are all different, and are individually unique.

Brendan Mac Gonagle suggests that their geographical distribution “strongly indicates a connection to the Celto-Scythian Bastarnae tribes” who were close allies of the Pontic king Mithridates VI. Mithridates minted posthumous copies of Lysimachus staters, and when he was defeated by Rome in 66 BC, production of those staters stopped and the local tribes started minting their own to fill the vacuum. It is thought they continued until the early first century AD.

Celtic imitations of Lysimachus staters have been found in many places, including northern Italy, the Balkans, and the Baltic, leading to some debate about where they were actually minted. Originally thought to come from Transylvania, it is now thought that they came from Colchis in modern day Georgia. This doesn’t quite tie in with Mac Gonagle’s suggestion that it was the Bastarnae who minted them, as they seem to have lived on the opposite side of the Black Sea. It’s possible that they were minted by multiple tribes (or smaller authorities) all around the Black Sea area, and Colchis is just one area where they were produced.