Ptolemy V Epiphanos, 205 – 180
Octodrachm, uncertain military mint in Phoenicia circa 202-200, AV 27.73 g. Diademed and draped bust r. Rev. BAΣIΛEΩΣ – ΠTOΛEMAIOY Eagle standing left on thunderbolt; in l. field, Θ and between legs, NI. Svoronos 1281 and pl. XLII, 14 (this obverse die and for Alexandria). Hunterian 19. SNG Lockett 3427 (this coin). Extremely rare, only four specimens listed by Svoronos. A very interesting and unusual portrait struck in high relief. Extremely fine / good extremely fine Ex Glendining’s 22 February 1961, Lockett, 2813 and M&M 25, 1962, 498 sales. From a Distinguished Swiss collection. The extreme youth of Ptolemy V and the unpopularity of his ministers meant that, as soon as he came to the throne, the vultures began to circle. In 203 BC, the Seleucid king Antiochos III made an agreement with Philip V of Macedonia to carve up the Ptolemaic kingdom between them and leave nothing but Egypt for the boy king. The Ptolemaic territories of Phoenicia and Coele Syria had been desired and fought over by the Seleucid kings since the time of Antiochos I (280-261 BC) and Philip V longed to restore Antigonid power over the Greek islands and parts of Thrace and Asia Minor that remained under Ptolemaic influence. With this agreement in hand, Antiochos III embarked on the Fifth Syrian War (202-196 BC), which ultimately resulted in the Seleucid conquest of Phoenicia and Coele Syria. These territories would never return to the Ptolemaic political orbit. The present octadrachm was struck at an uncertain mint in Phoenicia to finance the losing struggle against Antiochos III. By the time of the Fifth Syrian War it had become standard practice for mints along the Phoenician coast to be activated for coin production at the first sign of Seleucid aggression or on occasions when Ptolemaic kings sought to invade Syria. The coin is especially notable because unlike most Ptolemaic coinage, which monotonously repeated the images of Ptolemy I, and to a lesser extent Arsinoe II, long after they were dead, here we have a true portrait of the young reigning Ptolemaic king, Ptolemy V. His diadem is ornamented with a grain ear, which is perhaps intended to associate Ptolemy V with Osiris and Serapis, Egyptian and Graeco-Egyptian gods of the underworld associated with the fertility of the land.