by Robert M. Harlick

The word means crowned. Many of the coins have a wreath of oak, laurel or olive on the reverse. They are 2nd Cent. 4dr of Attic weight (16.50 - 17.00 gms.) of spread flans (abt. 30 mm.). They were struck by many autonomous city-states and bear the city ethnic on the reverse. Obviously this city identity was of great importance to the city. For example, in Magnesia (Fig. 1) the obverse bears the bust of Artemis and the reverse bears the figure of Apollo, who was especially revered in that city. Some coins, however bear all of the above criteria (weight, flan spread, similar obverses and reverses) but do not bear the wreaths on the reverse. Are they stephanophoroi?

Coins with wreaths come from the following cities:

Greece and the Agean: Athens (Fig. 2), Chalkis (Fig. 3), Eretria and Syros (Fig. 4).

Mysia & Troas: Kyzikos, Abydos (Fig. 6), Tenedos (Fig. 7).

Lesbos and Aeolis: Myteline, Myrina (Fig. 8), Aigai (Fig. 9), and Kyme (Fig. 10).

Ionia and Caria: Smyrna (Fig. 11), Lebedos (Fig. 12), Kolophon, Magnesia (Fig. 1), Herakleia (Fig. 13), and Myndos (Fig. 14).

One can exclude the following from Crete: Kydonia (Fig. 15) and Gortyna (Fig. 16) (wrong weight, too late end of 2nd cent.) Arados (Fig. 17), not of Attic weight, also the similar Laodikeia (Fig. 18) and later Aigai (Fig. 19).

What about-the non wreathed coins of proper-weight, flan and period? Are the Stephanophori?

About 11 cities followed this practice:

Mysia: Lampsakos (Fig. 20), Kos (Fig. 21)

Troas: Alexandreia Troas (Fig. 22), Ilion (Fig. 23), Knidos

Caria: Alabanda (Fig. 24), Melitos, Parion.

As the Hellenic kingdoms declined, there was a reassertion of independence of the Greek city-states, during the later Hellenistic period. At about the time of the victory of Rome over Philip V (Fig. 25) of Macedon and the proclamation of the victorious Romans "Freedom for the Greeks" at Corinth in 196 B.C., the new style 4dr of Athens (Fig. 2) made its appearance. This coin was struck on a broad flan, was of course of Attic weight, and contained a wreath on the reverse. This type coin was referred to in the Delphic inscriptions as Stephanophori. Comparable issues were at about that time (or shortly thereafter) struck in several Euboian cities, for example: Eretria (bust of Artemis and cow within a wreath) and Chalkis (Fig. 3), bust of Hera and Hera in a slow quadriga within a wreath. The striking of this type of coin spread to Asia Minor and proliferated.

These new-style 4dr were similar in style to the coins of the late Macedonian kings (Fig. 25, Fig. 26).

In the 3rd cent B.C. there was little opportunity for the cities which were under Hellenistic Kingdom domination to issue autonomous coins. On the occasion which they could, they would issue coins of the Alexander (Fig. 27, Fig. 28, Fig. 29) or Lysimichos (Fig. 30, Fig. 31) type with their own ethnic or symbol on the coin. With the breaking of the Hellenistic Kingdoms’ hold, the cities proudly and patriotically struck coins which were an independent badge of that city ... yet, the badges appear to be related.

Although different in style and fabric from the Classical coins, these Hellenistic 4drs are in their own way very handsome coins.

Because these coins are similar in style and fabric, there have been several theories raised as to these coins. C. Boehringer suggests that all of the stephanophori were put out at the same time as a result of a Stephanophoric Money or Munz Union geared to trade with the freeport at Delos. (About 20 cities). Rome gave Delos to Athens in 166 B.C. Jones has suggested that at least the issues from Magnesia were struck after that date. The theory of a stephanoric munz-Union based on the opening of a freeport at Delos seems to have problems. The references in the Delian inscriptions to "tetrachma stephanophora" are regarded by Bohringer not only as referring to the Athenian (Fig. 2) new style 4dr., but to all of them. Puzzling is the problem of the cities at the same time producing the unwreathed 4dr though not members of the "munz-union." These unwreathed coins are indistinguishable from the fabric of the so-called union cities except for the wreath.

Another theory is advanced by Giovannini is that the wreathed issues were issued on demand of the Roman victors as an indication of Greek submission to the new Roman order; that they were designed to carry out a political message to the Greek world showing the loyalty of the participating states to their Roman masters. Giovannini suggests, then, these coins are tied into the defeat of Perseus at Pydna by Aemillius Paullus. The wreath design (victory) and the abolition of the king’s head reflected the Roman desire to abolish a remnant of the Macedonian monarchy. Thus the monetary reform suited Roman purposes. However if the Romans were trying to stamp out the remnant of the Macedonian coin reference, why would Rome insist on the use of the wreath which was first used on the second coinage of Philip V (Fig. 25) and also by Perseus (Fig. 26), the last two Macedonian kings? Why would the Romans themselves use the wreath after the fall of the Macedonian (Fig. 38, Fig. 39) monarchy. Finally if the Romans were supressing things Macedonian, why would Abydos (Fig. 6) use the same style eagle as had Perseus (Fig. 26), the last Macedonian king?

One thesis of Boenringer that the Delian inscription refers to all of the wreathes 4dr. However the Delian inscription refers to the wreathed 4dr from Eretria as "bull-bearers". It would seem that the Delian references to wreathed 4drs refer to the new style Athens 4dr only. The Delian records seem to make no distinction between wreathed and non-wreathed coins. Boehringer has not and cannot show a territorial, chronological or any other correlation which might permit a distinction. Why for example are Kos (Fig. 21) and Lampsakos (Fig. 20) excluded from the "munz-union" but their neighbors, Herakleia and Abydos (Fig. 6) are included? Jones postulates another possibility: Asian autonomous silver (both wreathed and unwreathed) initially arose as a reaction to the introduction of the Pergamene cistophorus. The Cistophorus (Fig. 32) departed from the Attic weight standard. While it also abandoned the Philetarios royal portrait in favor of the cista mystica, notwithstanding the lack of the portrait, the cistophorus was the "King's" money and in reaction, the autonomous city-states continued to use the old Alexanders (Fig. 27, Fig. 28, Fig. 29) and Lychimachos (Fig. 30, Fig. 31). Under these circumstances the free cities might have been provoked into issuing new types which were struck on the Attic standard. The weight of the cistophorus (c. 12 gms.) were compatible with the denarius and the Attic 4dr. The cistophorus does not appear to be found in hoards outside the boundaries of the Attalid kingdom; and foreign currencies seem to be absent from these hoards. If this is true the trade between the Attalid kingdom and the free cities would have been disrupted.

Thus, it appers that foreign currencies were undervalued in the Pergamene territory territory or the Pergamene was overvalued. If the foreign cities had to look elsewhere for trade, the foreign cities would have needed increased amounts of currency. Jones’ hypothesis does not assume that the free city-states operated in concert, as Magnesia Kyme, Myrina Aigai seem to have commenced striking of their wreathed coins as much as 20 years after the inception of these coins in some of the other cities.

Morkholm in his 1980 article sums up his thoughts as follows: The wreath coinage cannot be lumped together as a uniform mass of material. They fall within separate groups: Athens, Chalkis and Eretria started before 170 B.C. Kizika, Abydos and Tenedos may also have started before 170 B.C. There is no way yet to date Myteline, Colophon and Myndos. Heraklei and Myndos may have begun after 165 B.C. Indeed, Jones would have Magnesia start later.

For a Munzunion theory to be possible, all of the wreathed coins would have to be dated after Pydna (c.168) and some of the wreathed coins can be dated before that date (Fig. 33, Fig. 34, Fig. 35, Fig. 36, Fig. 37).

Also, how are the unwreathed coins of similar fabric and weight explained? To suggest that Smyrna (Fig. 11) and Magnesia (Fig. 1) obediently submitted to Rome, but Miletos and Samos did not, or that Kyzikos and Abydos belonged to a munzunion under Athenian leadership and Parion and Lampsakos did not would be unreasonable. Further, Illion (Troy) the city most favored by the Romans in Asia Minor did not use the wreath.

Morkholm concludes that the only consistent explanation is fashion. When political power system was altered by the Roman victors in the third Macedonian war and the Syrian wars, the number of free and independent cities greatly increased. While many free cities continued to use or started to use the posthumous Alexanders and Lysimachi, which were the preferred 3rd cent international coinage, at certain periods which were different times for different cities, truly autonomous coinages were introduced, some with wreaths and some without. The fashion was set by the late Macedonian kings, (the first wreathed coins being the second issue of Philip V). From northern Greece, the fashion spread to Chalkis, Eretrea and Athens, then eastward.

Attempts to read economic or political significance into the use of the wreath would appear to be an exercise in futility.


British Museum Catalogs (Various), Forni, Italy
Jenkins, G.K., Ancient Greek Coins, 1972 London
Jones, Nicholas F., The Autonomous Wreathed Tetradrachms of Magnesia on Maeander, 1979 24 ANSMN 63
Morkholm, Otto, Chronology and Meaning of the 2nd Century B.C., 1980 Vol IX Numismatica E Antichita Classiche, Lugano 145
Oakley, John N., The Autonomous Wreathed Tetradrachms of Kyme, Aeolis, 1982 27 ANSMN 1
Sachs, Kenneth S., The Wreathed Coins of Aeolian Myrina, 1985 30 ANSMN 1
Sear, David, Greek Coins and Their Values, 1979 Vol 2
Sale Catalogs (various)

Figure 1: Magnesia 16.69 gms.

Figure 2: Athens 16.48 gms.

Figure 3: Chalkis 16.46 gms.

Figure 4: Syros 15.94 gms.

Figure 5: Kyzikos 16.80 gms.

Figure 6: Abydos 16.30 gms.

Figure 7: Tenedos 16.70 gms.

Figure 8: Myrina 16.82 gms.

Figure 9: Aigai 16.64 gms.

Figure10: Kyme 16.77 gms.

Figure 11: Smyrna 16.85 gms.

Figure 12: Lebedos 16.23 gms.

Figure 13: Herakleia 16.65 gms.

Figure 14: Myndos 17.04 gms.

Figure 15: Kydonia 14.90 gms.

Figure 16: Gortyna 15.23 gms.

Figure 17: Arados 14.70 gms.

Figure 18: Laodikeia 15.08 gms.

Figure 19: Aigai 14.28 gms.

Figure 20: Lampsakos 16.8 gms.

Figure 21: Kos 16.53 gms.

Figure 22: Alexandria Troas 16.75 gms.

Figure 23: Ilion 16.60 gms.

Figure 24: Alabanda 16.96 gms.

Figure 25: Philip V of Macedonia 17.00 gms.

Figure 26: Perseus of Macedonia 17.00 gms.

Figure 27: Alexander III – lifetime 17.20 gms.

Figure 28: Alexander III – 3rd c. 16.38 gms.

Figure 29: Alexander III – 2nd cent. 16.07 gms.

Figure 30: Lysimachos – lifetime 16.92 gms.

Figure 31: Lysimachos – c. 190 B.C. 17.12 gms.

Figure 32: Pergamon 12.56 gms.

Figure 33: Pergamon - Eumenes II 15.24 gms.

Figure 34: Syria – Antiochos IV 

Figure 35: Alexander III 

Figure 36: Alexander III 

Figure 37: Alexander III 

Figure 38: Macedonia – Aesillas 90-75 B.C.

Figure 39: Macedonia – Roman Provence 148-147 B.C.