AMPHIPOLIS in MACEDONIA 148BC Rare R2 Ancient Greek Coin POSEIDON CLUB i61336

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Culture: Greek Coin Type: Ancient


Item: i61336

Authentic Ancient Coin of:

Greek city of Amphipolis in Macedonia
Bronze 18mm (6.90 grams) Struck circa 148-31 B.C.
Reference: HGC 3, 423 Rare R2
Diademed head of Poseidon right, wearing tainia.
ΑΜΦΙΠΟ / ΛΙΤΩΝ above and below club of Hercules right; all within oak-wreath.

Amphipolis, a town in Macedonia on the left or eastern bank of the river Strymon, just below its egress from the lake Cercinities, and about 3 miles from the sea. The Strymon flowed almost around the town, nearly forming a circle, whence its name Amphipolis. It was originally called "the Nine Ways" and belonged to the Edonians, a Thracian people. Aristagoras of Miletos first attempted to colonize it, but was cut off with his followers by the Edonians in B.C. 497. The Athenians made a next attempt with 10,000 colonists, but they were all destroyed by the Edonians in 465. In 437 the Athenians were more successful, and drove the Edonians out of the "Nine Ways," which was henceforth called Amphipolis. It was one of the most important of the Athenian possessions, being advantageously situated for trade on a navigable river in the midst of a fertile country, and near the gold mines of Mount Pangaeus. Hence the indignation of the Athenians when it fell in to the hands of Spartan general Brasidas (B.C. 424) and of Philip II of Macedon (B.C. 358). Under the Romans it was a free city, the capital of Macedonia prima: the Via Egnatia ran through it. The port of Amphipolis was Eion.

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Poseidon was one of the twelve Olympian deities of the pantheon in Greek mythology. His main domain was the ocean, and he is called the "God of the Sea". Additionally, he is referred to as "Earth-Shaker" due to his role in causing earthquakes, and has been called the "tamer of horses". He is usually depicted as an older male with curly hair and a beard.

The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology; both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon. Linear B tablets show that Poseidon was venerated at Pylos and Thebes in pre-Olympian Bronze Age Greece as a chief deity, but he was integrated into the Olympian gods as the brother of Zeus and Hades. According to some folklore, he was saved by his mother Rhea, who concealed him among a flock of lambs and pretended to have given birth to a colt, which was devoured by Cronus.

There is a Homeric hymn to Poseidon, who was the protector of many Hellenic cities, although he lost the contest for Athens to Athena. According to the references from Plato in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias, the island of Atlantis was the chosen domain of Poseidon.

Amphipolis is best known for the magnificent ancient Greek city (polis), and later Roman city, whose impressive remains can still be seen.

It is famous in history for events such as the battle between the Spartans and Athenians in 422 BC, and also as the place where Alexander the Great prepared for campaigns leading to his invasion of Asia. Alexander's three finest admirals, Nearchus, Androsthenes and Laomedon, resided in this city and it is also the place where, after Alexander's death, his wife Roxane and their small son Alexander IV were exiled and later murdered.

Excavations in and around the city have revealed important buildings, ancient walls and tombs. At the nearby vast Kasta burial mound, an important ancient Macedonian tomb has recently been revealed. The unique and beautiful "Lion of Amphipolis" monument nearby is a popular destination for visitors.

It is today a municipality in the Serres regional unit of Greece. The seat of the municipality is Rodolivos.

History Origins

Throughout the 5th century BC, Athens sought to consolidate its control over Thrace, which was strategically important because of its primary materials (the gold and silver of the Pangaion hills and the dense forests essential for naval construction), and the sea routes vital for Athens' supply of grain from Scythia. After a first unsuccessful attempt at colonisation in 497 BC by the Milesian Tyrant Histiaeus, the Athenians founded a first colony at Ennea-Hodoi ('Nine Ways') in 465, but these first ten thousand colonists were massacred by the Thracians. A second attempt took place in 437 BC on the same site under the guidance of Hagnon, son of Nicias, which was successful. The city and its first walls date from this time.

The new settlement took the name of Amphipolis (literally, "around the city"), a name which is the subject of much debate about its etymology. Thucydides claims the name comes from the fact that the Strymon flows "around the city" on two sides; however a note in the Suda (also given in the lexicon of Photius) offers a different explanation apparently given by Marsyas, son of Periander: that a large proportion of the population lived "around the city". However, a more probable explanation is the one given by Julius Pollux: that the name indicates the vicinity of an isthmus.

Amphipolis became the main power base of the Athenians in Thrace and, consequently, a target of choice for their Spartan adversaries. The Athenian population remained very much in the minority in the city. For this reason Amphipolis remained an independent city and an ally of the Athenians, rather than a colony or member of the confederacy. However, in 424 BC the Spartan general Brasidas easily took control of the city.

A rescue expedition led by the Athenian general, and later historian, Thucydides had to settle for securing Eion and could not retake Amphipolis, a failure for which Thucydides was sentenced to exile. A new Athenian force under the command of Cleon failed once more in 422 BC during the Battle of Amphipolis at which both Cleon and Brasidas lost their lives. Brasidas survived long enough to hear of the defeat of the Athenians and was buried at Amphipolis with impressive pomp. From then on he was regarded as the founder of the city and honored with yearly games and sacrifices.

Macedonian rule

The city itself kept its independence until the reign of king Philip II (r. 359-336 BC) despite several Athenian attacks, notably because of the government of Callistratus of Aphidnae. In 357 BC, Philip succeeded where the Athenians had failed and conquered the city, thereby removing the obstacle which Amphipolis presented to Macedonian control over Thrace. According to the historian Theopompus, this conquest came to be the object of a secret accord between Athens and Philip II, who would return the city in exchange for the fortified town of Pydna, but the Macedonian king betrayed the accord, refusing to cede Amphipolis and laying siege to Pydna as well.

The city was not immediately incorporated into the Macedonian kingdom, and for some time preserved its institutions and a certain degree of autonomy. The border of Macedonia was not moved further east; however, Philip sent a number of Macedonian governors to Amphipolis, and in many respects the city was effectively "Macedonianized". Nomenclature, the calendar and the currency (the gold stater, created by Philip to capitalise on the gold reserves of the Pangaion hills, replaced the Amphipolitan drachma) were all replaced by Macedonian equivalents. In the reign of Alexander the Great, Amphipolis was an important naval base, and the birthplace of three of the most famous Macedonian admirals: Nearchus, Androsthenes and Laomedon, whose burial place is most likely marked by the famous lion of Amphipolis.

The importance of the city in this period is shown by Alexander the Great's decision that it was one of the six cities at which large luxurious temples costing 1500 talents were built. Alexander prepared for campaigns here against Thrace in 335BC and the his army and fleet assembled near the port before the invasion of Asia. The port was also used as naval base during his campaigns in Asia. After Alexander's death, his wife Roxane and their small son Alexander IV were exiled by Cassander and later murdered here.

Throughout Macedonian sovereignty Amphipolis was a strong fortress of great strategic and economic importance, as shown by inscriptions. Amphipolis became one of the main stops on the Macedonian royal road (as testified by a border stone found between Philippi and Amphipolis giving the distance to the latter), and later on the Via Egnatia, the principal Roman road which crossed the southern Balkans. Apart from the ramparts of the lower town, the gymnasium and a set of well-preserved frescoes from a wealthy villa are the only artifacts from this period that remain visible. Though little is known of the layout of the town, modern knowledge of its institutions is in considerably better shape thanks to a rich epigraphic documentation, including a military ordinance of Philip V and an ephebarchic law from the gymnasium.

Conquest by the Romans

After the final victory of Rome over Macedonia in a battle in 168 BC, Amphipolis became the capital one of the four mini-republics, or merides, which were created by the Romans out of the kingdom of the Antigonids which succeeded Alexander's empire in Macedon. These merides were gradually incorporated into the Roman client state, and later province, of Thracia. According to the Acts of the Apostles, the apostles Paul and Silas passed through Amphipolis in the early 50s AD, on their journey between Philippi and Thessalonica.

Revival in Late Antiquity

During the period of Late Antiquity, Amphipolis benefited from the increasing economic prosperity of Macedonia, as is evidenced by the large number of Christian churches that were built. Significantly however, these churches were built within a restricted area of the town, sheltered by the walls of the acropolis. This has been taken as evidence that the large fortified perimeter of the ancient town was no longer defendable, and that the population of the city had considerably diminished.

Nevertheless, the number, size and quality of the churches constructed between the fifth and sixth centuries are impressive. Four basilicas adorned with rich mosaic floors and elaborate architectural sculptures (such as the ram-headed column capitals - see picture) have been excavated, as well as a church with a hexagonal central plan which evokes that of the basilica of St. Vitalis in Ravenna. It is difficult to find reasons for such municipal extravagance in such a small town. One possible explanation provided by the historian André Boulanger is that an increasing 'willingness' on the part of the wealthy upper classes in the late Roman period to spend money on local gentrification projects (which he terms euergetism, from the Greek verb εύεργετέω, (meaning 'I do good') was exploited by the local church to its advantage, which led to a mass gentrification of the urban centre and of the agricultural riches of the city's territory. Amphipolis was also a diocese under the metropolitan see of Thessalonica - the Bishop of Amphipolis is first mentioned in 533. The bishopric is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.

Final decline of the city

The Slavic invasions of the late 6th century gradually encroached on the back-country Amphipolitan lifestyle and led to the decline of the town, during which period its inhabitants retreated to the area around the acropolis. The ramparts were maintained to a certain extent, thanks to materials plundered from the monuments of the lower city, and the large unused cisterns of the upper city were occupied by small houses and the workshops of artisans. Around the middle of the 7th century AD, a further reduction of the inhabited area of the city was followed by an increase in the fortification of the town, with the construction of a new rampart with pentagonal towers cutting through the middle of the remaining monuments. The acropolis, the Roman baths, and especially the episcopal basilica were crossed by this wall.

The city was probably abandoned in the eighth century, as the last bishop was attested in 787. Its inhabitants probably moved to the neighbouring site of ancient Eion, port of Amphipolis, which had been rebuilt and refortified in the Byzantine period under the name "Chrysopolis". This small port continued to enjoy some prosperity, before being abandoned during the Ottoman period. The last recorded sign of activity in the region of Amphipolis was the construction of a fortified tower to the north in 1367 by the megas primikerios John and the stratopedarches Alexios to protect the land that they had given to the monastery of Pantokrator on Mount Athos.

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