THE ANTIKYTHERA WRECK: A NUMISMATIC APPROACH
The paper examines the coins found inside the Antikythera wreck. The wreck of Antikythera was discovered by chance by some sponge fishermen in October 1900, in the northern part of the island of Antikythera. The archaeological excavation of the wreck has allowed the recovery of many finds in marble and bronze, with acquisitions of human skeletons related to the crew of the sunken ship, in addition to the famous “Antikythera mechanism”.
Various proposals have been made for the chronology of the shipwreck, as well as the port of departure of the ship, which have been based on literary sources or on the chronology of ceramic finds.
As far as coins are concerned, it should be remembered that thirty-six silver coins and some forty bronze coins were recovered in 1976, all corroded and covered by encrustations. The separate study of the two classes of materials, those Aegean and those Sicilian allows to deepen the history of the ship shipwrecked to Antikythera.
The treasury of silver coinage is composed of thirty-six silver cistophoric tetradrachms, 32 of which are attributable to the mint of Pergamon and 4 to that of Ephesus. From the chronological point of view, the coins minted in Pergamon have been attributed by scholars to the years from 104/98 B.C. to 76/67 B.C., the date that marks the end of the coinage until 59 B.C. The coins of Ephesus are easier to date because they report the year of issue, even if, in the specimens found, the only legible refers to the year 53, corresponding to our 77/76 B.C., if it is assumed as the beginning of the era of Ephesus its elevation to the capital of the province of Asia in 129 B.C., or 82/81 B.C., if we consider 134/133 B.C., the year of the creation of the Provincia Asiana.
As for the three legible bronzes, we note that there are a specimen of Cnidus and two of Ephesus. The coin of the city of Caria was dated by scholars in the second half of the third century B.C. The two bronzes of Ephesus are dated almost unanimously around the middle of the first century B.C., although this fundamental data was never considered for the dating of the shipwreck.
The remaining three legible bronzes from Asian mints, two from the Katane mint and one from the Panormos mint, belong to a completely different geographical context, such as Sicily, with its own circulation of coins. The two coins of Katane show a typology with a right-facing head of Dionysus with ivy crown, while on the reverse we find the figures of the Pii Fratres of Katane, Amphinomos and Anapias, with their parents on their shoulders.
The specimen of Panormos has on the front the graduated head of Zeus turned to the left, and on the verse the standing figure of a warrior with whole panoply, in the act of offering a libation, with on the left the monogram of the name of the mint.
As regards the series of Katane, usually dated to the second century B.C., it should be noted, as, moreover, had already noticed Michael Crawford, that there is an extraordinary similarity between the reverse of these bronzes and that of the issuance of silver denarii in the name of Sextus Pompey, that have on the front the head of the general, facing right, and towards the two brothers from Katane on the sides of a figure of Neptune with an aplustre in his right hand, and the foot resting on the bow of the ship, dated around 40 B.C., during the course of the Bellum siculum. We wonder how it is possible to justify the presence in a wreck of the half of the first century B.C. of two specimens of a very rare series of one hundred and fifty years before, but well known to the engravers of the coins of Sextus Pompey. The only possible answer is that Katane coins have been minted more recently than scholars have established.
For the coin series of Panormos, then, it must be kept in mind that there are three different variants of the same type of reverse, for which it is not possible to indicate a relative chronology. In one coin issue, the legend of the ethnic is written in Greek characters all around the warrior; in another coin we have a monogram that can be easily dissolved as an abbreviation of the name of the city of Panormos; in the third, in addition to the same monogram, we find the legend CATO, written in Latin characters. In our opinion, this legend must necessarily refer to the presence in Sicily of Marcus Porcius Cato of Utica, with the charge of propraetor in the year 49 B.C. Drawing the necessary consequences from the in-depth analysis, the data of the Sicilian coins seem to attest to their production towards the middle of the first century B.C., in line with what is obtained from the ceramic material found inside the shipwrecked ship, and from the dating of the coins of Ephesus.
The study of numismatic materials and a proposal of more precise dating allows to offer a new chronological data for the sinking of the ship. The presence of rare bronze coins of Sicilian mints suggests that the ship came from a port on the island, most likely from that of Katane.
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