• Tesserae of Corinth

        Tesserae from the famous Greek city of Corinth usually take the form of amid-sized piece struck in bronze. Although sharing similar types with the circulating coins, the crude nature of these uniface pieces haslead most authors to exclude them from the catalogs of the 'official'issues of the city. I will avoid delving too deep into the question of who issued these and why. Such a line of inquiry will undoubtedly lead to questioning the nature of coins themselves, and this is probably not the place for arguments of semantics!

        The first issue of tokens features the traditional civic badge of Corinth: the mythical Pegasos in flight, with the ethnic COR below.This is the most common type, with eleven found in excavations between 1896 and 1929 and more in subsequent digs. Specimens in the BCD collection exhibit a weight variation of 3.76 to 6.49 grams, indicating that they were not struck to any specific standard,thereby supporting an identification as a token issue. Chronological information is provided by a specimen published by MacIsaac (“Corinth: Coins,1925-1926 the Theater District and the Roman Villa” in Hesperia vol. 56, issue 2, 1987, p. 97-157). The piece was overstruck on an Augustan of the various duoviri, made from 27 BC to around 2 BC, and bears on the obverse a portrait of the emperor.

        CORINTHIA, Corinth
        Ć Tessera (14mm, 3.65 g)
        Struck in the mid-1st century AD
        Pegasos flying right; COR below
        Edwards, Corinth: Results of Excavations Conducted by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Vol. VI: Coins, 1896-1929. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1933), p. 9, 231 ; BCD Corinth 519-23; Amandry 1

        Asecond series continues the type of Pegasos. However, the ethnic has been replaced with the letters D D for decretio decurionum. This construct in the Latin ablative absolute translates roughly to, “by the decree of the decurions,” important local magistrates roughly equivalent to a modern town councilor.

        The third series continues the legend D D, replacing the civic badge witha small figure of Melikertes (Palaemon) riding a dolphin. A variety also exists with a pine tree above. Melikertes, the son of the Boeotian prince Athamas and Ino, was revered as a guardian of ships and harbors. After being driven mad by Hera, Athanas killed another of his sons and gave chase to Ino, who jumped from a sea cliff with Melikertes to save him from her husband's wrath. The boy's body was carried by a dolphin to the isthmus of Corinth, where his uncle Sisyphus discovered it. The Isthmian Games were established in theboy's honor.

        To these may be added a unique lead specimen, showing Pegasos leaping left with an indistinct legend around, published in the BCD collection. While no other specimens were recovered in the American excavations, the collector was notorious for his precise notes andattributions. The ticket has regrettably been lost for this coin. Nevertheless, if BCD felt the coin belonged to Corinth, rather than the myriad of other cities who used the pegasos, he likely had find-spot information to indicate such.

        CORINTHIA, Corinth
        PB Tessera (15mm, 3.37 g)
        Pegasos flying left; [COR?] below
        BCD Corinth 529 (this coin)

        Ex BCD Collection (Lanz 105, 26 November 2001), lot 529