Antiochia on the Orontes (autonomous city in Roman Syria), Bronze Unit (large denomination), 64-49 BCE
weight: 8.3g; width: 1.94cm; die axis: 2h
OBV.: In dotted circle, laureate head of bearded Zeus right.
REV.: Enthroned Zeus Nikephoros, i.e., Zeus holding a winged Nike in his right hand, in his left a sceptre. Off-centered so that the right inscription (ANTIOXEWN THS) is missing; inscription left: (M)HTROPOL(EWS) (= Antiocheon tes metropoleos, "of the metropolis of the Antiocheans"). In left field next to leg: cornucopiae. Pompeian Era date in exergue off the flan.
HFMA nr. 2006.010.029. Ref.: RPC 4201-15, cf. image RPC 4212 (but w/o cornucopiae); BMC Syria p. 155, nr. 32 [cf. image BMC 34, plate xix.1].
Antiochia on the river Orontes, today Antakya in Turkey, was founded by Seleucus I Nicator in honor of his father Antiochus. It became the capital of the western part of the Seleucid empire and one of its premier mints. During its peak, Antioch reached a population of 500,000 and was the third-largest city in the Roman empire.
When Pompey reorganized the Near-East and created the Roman province of Syria in 64 BCE, Antioch, which had rebelled against the last Seleucid king, Antiochus XIII, became a free city and continued to issue its own coins.
Both sides of this coin serve as a reminder of the city's Seleucid heritage. A head of Zeus appears already on the obverse of a tetradrachm of Seleucus I (312-280 BCE). A representation of Zeus Nikephoros ("Bearer of Victory") was introduced on the reverse of Seleucid coins by Antiochus IV (175-164 BCE) when he installed a copy of the famous chryselephantine statue of the Zeus of Olympia in the temple of Apollo in Daphne, a suburb of Antioch, in celebration of his victory over Egypt in 167 BCE.
In addition, the image of Zeus alludes to the special circumstances surrounding the city's foundation. According to legend, Seleucus founded the city at the site where an eagle, the bird of Zeus, dropped a piece of sacrificial meat.
Burnett, Andrew M., Amandry, Michel, and Ripollès, Pere Paul, Roman Provincial Coinage Volume I. From the death of Caesar to the death of Vitellius. London: British Museum Press, 1998.
Butcher, Kevin. Coinage in Roman Syria: northern Syria, 64 BC - AD 253. London: Royal Numismatic Society, 2004.