ARABIA, Northern. Kingdom of Hagar. Dumat Al-Jandal (?). Series in the name of Abyatha, circa 220-205/4 BCE. Tetradrachm (Silver, 29 mm, 16.61 g, 6 h), imitating Alexander 'the Great' (336-323 BCE). Head of Herakles to right, wearing lion skin headdress. Rev. 𐩱𐩨𐩺𐩻𐩲 (''byt'' in South Arabian) Beardless male figure with long hair seated left on low throne with back, legs crossed and resting on footstool, holding long dotted scepter in his left hand and reed or pipe from which he seems to smoke in his right; to left, 𐩱 ('a' in South Arabian); to right, dotted vertical line. Arnold-Biucchi 7-8. BMC pl. L, 5 (same obverse die). CCK 115 (this coin). Huth/Potts fog. 5 (this coin). Potts 1. Of exceptional historical interest and extremely rare, the finest of just eleven known examples. A splendid piece of wonderful early native style, illustrated, as the only coin, in the Louvre’s lavish 'Roads of Arabia' exhibition catalogue of 2010 (p. 380). A few light marks, otherwise, very fine.
From the collection of Ambassador Martin Huth, ex Spink, 11-12 December 2000, 492.
Robin (1974) identified Abyatha as a ruler of Hagar, a North Arabian Kingdom, possibly situated in the region of Dumat Al-Jandal on a caravan route linking the Mediterranean, via Nabataea, with the Gulf. Since the first publication of the Aberdeen coin by Head in 1880 (labelled incorrectly as 'Minaean'!), the gesture of the reverse figure has defied all efforts at interpretation. This figure is certainly not smoking since tobacco arrived only in about the 1600s in this region. A flute (possibly played with one hand only) also comes to mind, but there are no known parallels. The other unique element present is the footstool and a throne with a back only occurs on the rarest of the full Shams tetradrachms (see lot 2223 above). The obverse style of Abyatha’s coinage is very peculiar and appears to have been imitated by some of the coins in the name of Abi’el, daughter of Baglan (see lot 2237 below), and in particular on issues in the name of Abi’el, daughter of Labash (see lot 2240 below).
Huth/Potts (pp. 77-79) demonstrate how the Arabian and non-Arabian findspots of coins in the name of Abyatha match the route Antiochos III took after his visit to Gerrha, i.e. to Tylos/Bahrain, Ikaros/Failaka, Seleukeia, and onwards to Syria and Asia Minor, and how this provides circumstantial evidence that the 500 talents of silver received from the Gerrhaeans may in fact have been offered in coin (see lot 2229 above).