PHRYGIA. Apameia. Philip I, 244-249. Pentassarion (Orichalcum, 34 mm, 18.56 g, 7 h), Aur. Alexander, archon for the second time. •AYT•K•IOYΛ•ΦIΛIΠΠOC•AVΓ• Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Philip I to right, seen from behind. Rev. ЄΠ M AYP AΛЄΞANΔP//OY B APXI AΠ/AMЄΩN The story of Noah: on the right, half-length figures of Noah and his wife, in tunic and stola, standing left in square chest representing the Ark, inscribed NΩЄ and floating on waves; above to right, a seated bird; on the left, Noah and his wife standing left upon dry land, raising hands in supplication; above, a bird returning from land with olive branch in its talons. BMC 182. SNG von Aulock 3510 (same dies). Extremely rare, one of a very few known examples. Rough but with very clear details. Patina stripped and with some smoothing on the reverse, otherwise, very fine.
Apameia was founded by the Seleukid King Antiochos I (281-261 BC) in honor of his mother Apame, the daughter of the Baktrian rebel Spitamenes and wife of Seleukos I. The city was home to a Jewish community, the ancestors of which were probably settled in the area by the Seleukid general Zeuxis, who deported 2000 Jewish families from Babylon to Asia Minor at the behest of Antiochos III 'the Great' (223-187 BC) (Jos. Ant. XII, 3.4). It has long been believed that the astonishing emergence of the story of Noah on 3rd century AD coins of the Phrygian Apameia grew out of a supposed Jewish character of the city, but the literary sources are extremely sparse, and the fact that no Jewish names and only a single Jewish inscription are known from the local necropolis urges caution. On the other hand, sources attesting a large early Christian community in Apameia are abundant: not only are Christian epitaphs numerous, but the bishop Julian of Apameia attested by Eusebios (Euseb. HE 5.16.17) proves that Christianity had gained a strong foothold in the city as early as the late 2nd century. The sudden appearance of Noah's Ark on the civic coinage of Apameia at a time when all sources point towards a growing influence of the Christian community in the area must thus, despite cultural overlapping, reflect the increasing importance of Christian traditions to a greater degree than those of a century-old local Jewish community. Apameia differentiated itself from other cities of the same name by its epithet ή Kίβωtός , literally 'the chest', a reference to its importance as a trading post. The fact that Noah's Ark was also known in Greek as Kίβωtός hence apparently led to a pseudo-etymological local myth, which proclaimed that the mountain behind the city was the true Mount Ararat, on which Noah's Ark landed after the flood. Our coin thus shows, on the right, Noah and his wife in the Ark - in the form of the locally enrooted ή Kίβωtός - and once more on the left, after the landing of the Ark on the Mount Ararat, with the land-seeking bird above holding an olive branch in its talons. It is the only Graeco-Roman coin type to show a scene from the bible and a most important testimony to the history of the early Judeo-Christian communities in Asia Minor.