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A Seleucid Coin From Karur

A Seleucid Coin From Karur

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Paper discussing the identification of the Seleucid coin of Antiochus found at Karur, it's relevance on the Pattanam at Muziris, and thus interpreting to attain the real meaning what Muziris denotes.
Paper discussing the identification of the Seleucid coin of Antiochus found at Karur, it's relevance on the Pattanam at Muziris, and thus interpreting to attain the real meaning what Muziris denotes.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Jee Francis Therattil on Jan 01, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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11/08/2014

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A SELEUCID COIN FROM KARUR
 Jee Francis TherattilThis coin was collected by my father Mr. T.G. Francis, about two decades ago from anumismatist in Dharmapuri who in turn collected it from Karūr. This was before the sporadicsurfacing of Sangam age coins from the Amarāvahti river bed at Karūr.This uncleaned round coin is made up of 6.0 g. bronze and is in a partially worn outcondition. Patina which is typical of what can be expected if the coin was submersed in muddy water for a long time can be seen. The peculiarity of the shape is that it is having a flat surface in one faceand a tapering in the curved surface area which gives it a peculiar appearance which is comparablewith that of the ‘cupped reverse’ type of coins. The remnant on the edge provides us the clear indication that the blank is made using mould-cast technique.Metal: Bronze.Weight: 6.0 g.Diameter: 18 mm.Obverse ReverseThe bust with radiating diadem [Greek headdress in the form of a band denoting victory; asymbol of kingship] to right, inside dotted circle, on the obverse and the closed-wing standing eaglefacing left and the broken script behind it
ΑΝΤΙ•Χ
on the reverse can be seen.Radiating diadem is typical of traditional Seleucid style, whereas the closed-wing standingeagle is typical of Ptolemaic Egypt, and this is what makes this coin peculiar and thus interesting.This confused me a lot in identifying this coin properly. The little bit of script which barely escapedfrom being worn out provided me the required breakthrough. The Greek script
ΑΝΤΙ•Χ
is part of 
ΑΝΤΙ•Χ•Υ
[ANTIOXOY] which represents Antiochus.
 
There is nobody by this name among Ptolemies; but 13 among the Seleucids! This anywayhelps us to confirm that this is an issue of a Seleucid. The Seleucid Empire
1
comprised of Mesopotamia, Armenia, Cappadocia, Persis, Parthia, Bactria, Arabia, Tapouria, Sogdia, Arachosia,Hyrcania, and other adjacent peoples that had been subdued by Alexander, as far as the river Indus.On a close observation, traces of 
 
epithet
ΕΠ ΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ [
EPIFANOUS meaning God’sManifest
]
can be seen at the left side of the standing eagle on the reverse. This confirms that this coinis an issue of an Antiochus having an epithet Epiphanes. We know about two rulers having the samename and the same epithet. One is Antiochus IV [175 – 164 BC.] and the other Antiochus VIII [125 –96 BC.]. Will the closed-wing standing
2
eagle in the reverse of the coin provide us some clue on whohas issued this coin?
 
When the guardians of King Ptolemy VI Philometor [180-164 BC, 163-145 BC] of Egyptdemanded the return of Coele - Syria in 170 BC, Antiochus IV launched a preemptive strike againstEgypt, conquering all but Alexandria and capturing Ptolemy. To avoid alarming Rome, Antiochusallowed Ptolemy to continue ruling as a Puppet-king. But the political developments in Egypt madeAntiochus march to Alexandria once again in 168 BC, but Antiochus was forced to leave Egypt evenbefore reaching Alexandria, due to an intervention of Rome.Antiochus VIII married the Ptolemaic princess Tryphaena [Cleopatra VI of Egypt] and ongrounds of this and on some studies on the mint marks, scholars are inclined to attribute this type of coins to Antiochus VIII.Several coins belonging to Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Macedonia, Crete, Rhodes and Thracedating back to 3
rd
century BC had been reported from Karūr 
3
. As those coins are in a highly worn-outcondition, it may most probably be a part of later imports for the sake of copper as metal. We knowthat copper was one among our imports
4
.Dio wrote that following the death of Caligula, the Senate demonetized his coinage, andordered that they be melted. The philosopher Epictetus wrote: “Whose image does this Sestertiuscarry? Trajan’s? Give it to me. Nero’s? Throw it away, it is unacceptable, it is rotten.” Thesestatements justify that even in those times, coins became obsolete after some period and then it willbe just as good as a piece of metal even if the condition of the coin is fine.Even though no coins could be recovered from excavations or as stray surface finds, we knowfrom literary references, that the Greek merchants were directly present at Muziris. Muziris, asobserved by the unknown author of the
Periplus Maris Erythraei 
, was then abundant with ships sentby the Greeks with cargoes from Arabia, and by the Greeks
5
. The Greeks had to use the ports in theRed Sea coast of Egypt to start sailing to the east.
 
 
Καπελοισ [
kapelois 
] is the word for traders in ancient Greek. Parallels in Dravidianetymology represent ship
6
. Imagine a person somewhere in the
Damirican 
coast shouting
“kappal...kappal...
” on seeing a ship in the vicinity, some 2000 years back. What might have he meant for 
kappal 
in those times - the ship or the
kapelois 
in it? The people who came by ship might haveintroduced themselves as
kapelois 
in the language they knew. Does the transformation of the thingdenoted by
kappal 
seems too unjustifiable? When tapioca arrived in ship, much later, it came to beknown among the natives by the name
kappa 
 
7
!The Ptolemaic Empire reached its greatest extent during Ptolemy II Philadelphos’s [285-246BC.] reign. Building activity was concentrated on Alexandria; the lighthouse, one of the SevenWonders of the World was finished during his reign, and he, rather than Ptolemy I Soter I [305-282BC.], might have been the patron behind the establishment of the
Μουσειον
 
[
Mouseion 
] and itslibrary. The king founded a chain of harbour towns along the Red Sea coast, supporting trade withIndia and Arabia
8
.The port at Berenike was founded by Ptolemy II, who named it after his mother. He tried tobring trade through the canal of Sesostris connecting the Gulf of Suez with the Nile and founded theport of Arsinoe [Suez] at its outlet to the sea. But this had to be abandoned owing to the difficultnavigation through the Heropoolite Gulf 
9
, which caused merchants to prefer Leuke Kome or Aelana,both linked with Petra and not with the Nile valley. Then he founded Berenike, which is linked withCoptos on the Nile. In 247BC he founded Myos Hormos, 180 miles north of Berenike, with safer harbour and a shorter journey to Coptos. But the Red Sea also had its difficulties as it was infestedwith pirates until Ptolemy III Euergetes [246 - 221 BC.] stationed a fleet there to put down piracy
10
.At the south-east corner of the Berenike site a deep trench [no. 5], excavated over threeseasons, conducted by University of Delaware - Leiden University showed that this part of the sitewas used over a long period. It was here that clear indications of trade with India were found, such aslarge quantities of peppercorns and Indian ceramics
11
. The trench no.10 yielded a storage vessel withthe largest amount of pepper found in an archaeological context anywhere in the ancient world. Anamphora shred found in a trench [BE95-4] bore on it a Tamil-Brahmi graffito
korapuman 
among alocus dated c.60-70AD
12
. Red Sea coast [Quseir al-Qadim] earlier provided two shreds having names
kanan 
and
catan 
recorded on them using Tamil-Brahmi script, which is now datable to as of firstcentury AD
13
.The archaeologists from UCLA and the University of Delaware uncovered from Berenike, thelargest array of ancient Indian goods ever found along the Red Sea, including the largest single cacheof black pepper from antiquity - 16 pounds - ever excavated in the former Roman Empire. The teamdates these peppercorns to the first century AD
14
. These prove beyond doubt that these Egyptianports continued its trade relation with Tamilakam for centuries to come.

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Jee Francis Therattil added this note
In my specimen it appears to be an eagle facing left rather than an owl.
Jee Francis Therattil added this note
Note # 2. 'On clear specimens we can see a thunderbolt on which the eagle is standing.' The specimen in the link below displays jar and not thunderbolt.
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Kallidai Ram liked this
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Kala Ramachandran added this note
Dear Mr.Jee Francis Therattil, Hi, How are you. Dr.R.Krishnamurthy has seen your article on Seleucid Coin from Karur in the face book and he is having a doubt in your reading. Hence please send a clear eye copy of the reverse side of the coin. If it is fully covered with dust clean it and send a clear picture. Please give your e-mail id also. Please send your reply to kala@dinamalar.in.

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