Wazeba, circa 340.
Chrysos (Gold, 19 mm, 2.14 g, 12 h). ወዘበነገሠአከሰመ-በአሰየዘ-ገለየ ('wzbngsʼksmb'syzgly' = 'Wazeba, king of Axum, man of Zgly' in Ge'ez) Draped half-length bust of Wazeba to right, wearing long garment, tiara and circular earring, holding branch and spear in his right hand and with bracelets on his right arm; to left and right, ears of barley; above, monogram of ወዘበ ('wzb') and crescent. Rev.
ወዘበነገሠአከሰ-መበአሰየዘገለየ ('wzbngsʼksmb'syzgly' = 'Wazeba, king of Axum, man of Zgly' in Ge'ez) Draped half-length bust of Wazeba to right within circular border, wearing long garment, tight-fitting head cloth and circular earring, holding poppy in his right hand; to left and right, ears of barley; above, monogram of ወዘበ ('wzb') and three pellets in crescent. Hahn, Aksumite, 15. Hahn & Keck, MAKS, 16, b) and p. 181, 3 (this coin
). Munro-Hay, AC, type 15. Of the highest rarity, the finest of just four known examples. A superb piece struck by the enigmatic king Wazeba. Slightly wavy flan, otherwise,
good extremely fine.
From the Dr. Stephan Coffman Collection.
This unusual chrysos was struck by a certain Wazeba, who may have been a usurper in the later years of Ousanas I. Crucially, his coinage saw the first use of the indigenous Ge'ez script on the Axumite coinage. This may reflect a conservative countermovement against foreign influence, but it would remain rare until the reign of Kaleb some 200 years later. Curiously, the branch normally held by the king on the reverse was moved to the obverse, while on the reverse, Wazeba is depicted holding a poppy, likely in reference to Meder, a chtonic fertility goddess. Prominently displayed above the king is his monogram, in the same place as the star on Ousanas' extremely rare 'star coinage' (see lot 280 above), perhaps as a direct political statement challenging the authority of Ousanas I. While we know nothing of his reign, the rarity of Wazeba's coinage today indicates that it was extremely short-lived, and perhaps that a successful withdrawal of his coins was carried out after his downfall.