Author Topic: A small selection of Seleucid portraiture  (Read 1552 times)

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Offline THCoins

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A small selection of Seleucid portraiture
« on: May 15, 2013, 07:47:33 PM »
What i believe was the summit of ancient numismatic portraiture were the earlier decades of the Seleucid empire.
The Seleucids ruled the eastern part of the Alexandrean Empire, including Bactria, when the empire was divided after the death of Alexander the Great.

I specifically chose some of the smaller coinage, and not the more magnificent tetradrachms, as the small coins for me show an even more elaborate craftsmanship. I am not going to tell much about de backgrounds of the rulers portrayed, i hope the pictures speak for themselves.

1- AE 16 3.3 gr. Antiochus I Soter  280-61 BC. Rev: Apollo on omphalos with bow and arrow.
2- AR 18 4.1 gr. Antiochus V         164-162 BC. Rev: Apollo on omphalos with bow and arrow.
3- AR 18 4.2 gr. Demetrios I Soter 162-150 BC (Dated 153/2 BC) Rev: cornucopia.


 

akona20

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Re: A small selection of Seleucid portraiture
« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2013, 09:45:59 PM »
These coins show the absolute skills of the die cutters from the east.

Offline THCoins

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Re: A small selection of Seleucid portraiture
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2013, 09:58:46 AM »
Which always makes me wonder: How did they accomplish this with relatively primitive tools and illumination and without optical magnification ?
(Magnifying glasses may have been used in Roman times. For the Greek era i have seen no conclusive evidence of this. Some references suggest that some Greek coin workshops were run by families of slaves with a hereditary severe myopia (nearsightedness). )

akona20

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Re: A small selection of Seleucid portraiture
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2013, 05:35:25 AM »
There are two possible explanations for such high class work.

1. Hubbing. This could explain the repeatability of the central figure where it was the portion hubbd and the rest was engraved. I have not seen any physical evidence that this was used at this time.

2. Die patterns used for casting the dies. There is some evidence for this certainly in Greek times.

The rather appalling images produced in the Byzantine Empire and throughout the west for much of history certainly contrasts with some of the fabulous portraits and calligraphy that appear on many coins from the east.

Offline THCoins

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Re: A small selection of Seleucid portraiture
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2013, 09:49:10 AM »
When you mention "fabulous portraits and calligraphy" in one line, that again leaves some other unanswered questions ? I have the impression that especially in the seleucid coins there is often a discrepancy between the quality of the portrait and that of the lettering. It seems likely that these were produced by different individuals and also different techniques. The typical "follow the dots" technique for the lettering (clearly seen in the Demetrios specimen) is very suggestive that the original die is engraved. It would not surprise me if the obverse was generally based on a positive original and the reverse text on a negative original. This would also explain why there is usually no lettering on the portrait side (Which estetically i like better than the way the portrait side is usually cluttered with edge texts in Roman coins.)

And although technically less advanced, we should ofcourse not underestimate the ingenuity of the ancients in seeking solutions for practical problems !

akona20

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Re: A small selection of Seleucid portraiture
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2013, 10:09:48 AM »
well the suggestion is that the portraits were done by the high quality system, hubbing etc and the letters done by another process.
I will do some reading on your positive and negative theory. My thoughts don't agree but your thoughts are interesting.