The prototype of the Apamean series showing Noah's Ark
Lot 189
PHRYGIA. Apameia. Septimius Severus, 193-211. Pentassarion (Bronze, 38 mm, 23.74 g, 6 h), Artemas III, agonothetes, 202-205. AYT K Λ CЄΠT CЄOYHPOC ΠЄP-TI Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Septimius Severus to right, seen from behind. Rev. ЄΠI AΓΩNOΘЄTOY APTЄMA Γ // AΠAMЄΩ/N 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. Head HN p. 667, fig. 313 (same dies). Leu Web Auction 5 (2018), 501 (same dies). Mairat, Apamée 5 (same dies). Extremely rare, apparently the sixth known example of this tremendously important issue. A highly interesting example with some contemporary silvering, a defaced imperial portrait on the obverse, and an attractive rendering of Noah's Ark on the reverse. The portrait of the emperor scraped off, otherwise, very fine.

From a European collection, formed before 2005.

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 reportedly deported 2,000 Jewish families from Babylon to Asia Minor at the behest of Antiochos III 'the Great' (222-187 BC) (Jos. Ant. XII, 3.4). It was long 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 ἡ Kιβωtός, literally 'the chest', a reference to its importance as a trading post. The fact that Noah's Ark was also known in Greek as Kιβωtός 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. The identification of the Ark with a chest is also evident in a striking 5th-century mosaic from the Cilician city of Mopsuestia. In its center, the mosaic displays a chest with the inscription KIBⲰTOC NⲰEP, surrounded by a variety of animals. Similarly, on our coin, Noah and his wife are depicted within the Ark on the right side, symbolized as a chest inscribed NΩЄ. On the left side, they are portrayed after the Ark has landed on Mount Ararat, accompanied by a land-seeking bird holding an olive branch in its talons. It is the only Graeco-Roman coin type to show a scene from the Βible and an incredibly important testimony to the history of the early Judeo-Christian communities in Asia Minor.

The coins from Apamea featuring Noah's Ark were minted within about fifty years, namely under Septimius Severus, Macrinus, Severus Alexander, Gordian III, Philip I, and Trebonianus Gallus. Hence, our issue is the earliest, serving as the prototype for the entire series, with its highly important early Judeo-Christian iconography imbuiging it with profound cultural significance. Interestingly, the portrait of the emperor on our example has been scraped off - it takes little imagination to recognize this as the act of an enraged Jew or Christian expressing his discontent over the recurring persecutions of his faith by Roman authorities throughout the 3rd century.
20000 CHF
Starting price:
16000 CHF
Hammer price:
22000 CHF
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