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Reconsidering the Interpretation and Dating of Ancient Coins: the case of Bronze Coins from Dodona in the Name of Menedemos Argeades

Atalante Betsiou

Abstract


In the sanctuary of Dodona a series of bronze coins were minted in the name of ΜΕΝΕΔΗΜΟΣ ΑΡΓΕΑΔΗΣ ΙΕΡΕΥΣ (PRIEST MENEDEMOS ARGEADES). The iconography of this substantial coinage follows the traditional types struck by the Epirote mints, such as Dodonaios Zeus and his eagle, Artemis and her attributes (arrow and quiver). Franke, the first scholar who studied them, from historical events proposed a date in the period 168-148 B.C.

In this paper a new chronological date for these coins is proposed, from style, epigraphic and the metrological observations, combined with the ancient sources. Specifically, the style of these issues echoes the types of silver denarii minted during the late republican period. The bust of Dodonaios Zeus bears a resemblance to the relevant type of Roman denarii of Lucius Staius Murcus (42-41 B.C.) and the hairstyle of Artemis to Dianaʼs as the latter is depicted on the silver coins of Gaius Hosidius Geta (68 B.C.), and mainly of Caesar’s followers, Gaius Antius Restio (47 B.C.) and Titus Carisius (46 B.C). In the Augustan era, this hairstyle for Diana is abandoned.

For research, a puzzling issue concerns the denominational system of the heavy bronze coins, which were applied to the Greek mints, as the type C of the series of Dodona. Burnett observed the distribution of this practice during the Second Civil War, which he attributed to the Roman officers of Marcus Junius Brutus, Marcus Antonius and Gaius Octavius. Nevertheless, Kremydi-Sicilianou concluded, by examining the monetary production of Dion, that Julius Caesar was the mastermind behind the foundation of the Roman colony (Colonia Felix Diensis), although it was established after his assassination. Another colony founded by Julius Caesar, was Colonia Iulia Felix Sinope, where this new monetary system was also applied.

The omission of the ethnikon on Dodona’s bronze coins is unique in Greek numismatics. Franke first linked the name Argeades to the royal dynasty of Macedonia. The extent of the inscription is reminiscent of those on the coins of the Macedonian kings from the time of Alexander the Great and his successors. The mysterious identity of Menedemos Argeades seems to unfold through lines in Caesar’s Civil War and Ciceroʼs in correspondence. In a passage in the Civil Wars, Caesar made a reference to Menedemos, princeps of Macedonia libera, as an ally of his. However, Cicero provided crucial data related to Menedemos and Petraeosʼ activity in political strife. According to his narration, both became intimate followers of Caesar and both were granted the privilege of Roman citizenship. During Caesar’s autocracy, the Thessalian league minted silver and bronze coins in the name of (strategos) Petraeos, while Menedemos contributed financially to the sanctuary of Dodona for the emission of these bronze issues. He proudly presented himself as priest of Dodonaios Zeus and descent of the royal branch of Argeades reflecting the morale of his era.

His political activity did not continue for long. A year after the brutal assassination of Caesar, he was executed together with Petraeos by Marcus Junius Brutus

 


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