Addendum: A further 3 examples were added to the corpus on 05/01/2024 and are included in the table of examples and are plated separately. The text of this article will otherwise remain unchanged.

Seleukos I Nikator’s association with the anchor is well-known and the symbol can be found as a control mark across much of his royal coinage. While it has previously been thought that the anchor was merely a control mark, the timing of its appearance on Alexandrine and Seleucid coinage, as well as its presence at multiple mints, strongly suggests it was seen as a personal symbol of Seleukos himself. Later historians of the Roman era would recount stories that tie Seleukos’ destiny directly to the anchor. However, it’s difficult to say when these stories originated and whether they came before or after his ascension to the throne. One of the first coins issued under Seleukos’ authority with the anchor symbol was a silver stater or double-shekel belonging to the “lion stater” series minted in Babylon between 331 and 304 BC.

This rare type is particularly interesting not only because it is perhaps the first coin of Seleukos’ with the anchor, but also because the anchor on the lion’s haunch directly links it to the mythology first linking Seleukos with anchors. There are several such stories that explain this connection, the first two are recounted by second century historians and are likely the product of decades of Seleucid mythologising. A third, more modern interpretation, seeks to find a more reasonable explanation based on Seleukos’ time as a naval commander under Ptolemy. Whether one of these stories is true or not is not too important to the topic at hand. The uniqueness of these anchor-on-haunch lion staters lies in the placement of the symbol. Across dozens of coin types featuring anchors that were struck under Seleukos authority, only this issue has the anchor placed on the lion’s haunch. Recounting the stories of Seleukos’ anchor may help us understand why they were placed there.

The Mythology

The first of the myths, repeated by the historian Appian, describes how Seleukos’ mother had a dream about finding a ring that she then felt compelled to give to Seleukos. Upon waking in the morning, she found such a ring with an anchor signet. His mother’s dream also suggested that Seleukos would later lose the ring and in the place where he lost it he would become king. Likely sometime during his first satrapy in Babylon, or subsequent flee to Egypt, Seleukos supposedly lost the ring near the Euphrates. Several years later, on his return to reconquer the city, he stumbled upon a rock near Babylon and beneath that rock he would discover an anchor. Ptolemy would convince him that this was a positive portent, not a negative one as his soothsayers believed. Seleukos would be successful in retaking Babylon during the Babylonian War and crown himself king several years later.

The second story, recounted by the historian Justin, has Seleukos being born with an anchor-shaped birthmark on his inner thigh and portends that the same birthmark would be passed down through his descendants as a sign of paternity. He was destined to become king and all subsequent, legitimate, kings of his empire would carry the same anchor birthmark. The immediate question that comes to mind is whether the anchor symbol that appears on the lion’s haunch of the stater above be a representation of this birthmark?

Before jumping ahead, let’s briefly consider a more modern interpretation, which is that the anchor was a symbol Seleukos adopted while serving as navarchos, or admiral, for Ptolemy I prior to his return to Babylon. The first story recounting the anchor signet ring may be explained by this interpretation. Writing in The Susa wreath group Alexanders, Lloyd Taylor suggests that such a signet ring would be consistent with Seleukos’ position as navarchos, and that this may have lead to mythologising the reason for wearing the ring – particularly during his recapture of Babylon and later crowning as king. Would we then expect to see some ring-like representation of an anchor on his later coinage? Perhaps not, likely the anchor itself was enough. But it’s worth keeping in mind that the validity of this explanation doesn’t mean that the stories recounted by Appian and Justin were not circulated at the time of Seleukos’ second satrapy, in fact all three explanations could co-exist.

The story of the birthmark in particular calls to mind the coin that is the topic of this post. Between 331 BC and 304 BC, mints at Babylon struck such “lion staters” on a local standard weighing as much as an Attic tetradrachm. These staters featured a seated Baal on the obverse and a walking lion on the reverse, both typically facing left. The coins were first struck under the satrapy of Mazaios, formerly the Persian satrap of Cilicia, and borrowed the iconography of Persic-weight staters minted at Tarsos during his rule. Upon Mazaios’ death in 328 BC, these Babylonian staters continued to be produced, even after Alexander the Great’s own death in Babylon five years later. It seems likely they also out-lived Alexander’s half-brother, Philip III, and were probably struck right up until Seleukos fled Babylon circa 316/15 BC.

Across the entire series, no symbols except for the anchor from this rare issue discussed here ever featured on the lion itself. Various symbols, monograms, and letters were employed over the years but they were all to be found either above or below the lion on the reverse or in the left field of the obverse. Following this short-lived issue with the anchor on the lion’s haunch, the anchor would be placed above the lion on all subsequent types. What could be the reasons for placing the anchor on the lion’s haunch except as a call-back to the story of Seleukos’ birthmark?

It seems implausible that the anchor being placed on the lion’s haunch could be an artistic decision made by a single engraver. Doing so makes the symbol more obscure, when there is no reason for it to be given that the previous types of this series, as well as all Alexandrine coinage in general, had no problem with placing control marks in the fields. If the goal was to make it somewhat obscure so as to hide Seleukos’ ambitions, placing it in the very spot that he supposedly has a birthmark would only exacerbate the issue. Whether the birthmark actually existed or not wouldn’t be a barrier to its usefulness as a symbol that signifies the return of Seleukos upon his regaining control of Babylon – assuming the story was widely known at the time, of course.

This still leaves us with the question of why the subsequent types moved the anchor to the fields above the lion. To better understand these changes, it would help to have a complete overview of the entire “lion stater” series to see how its iconography changed throughout the years and under different authorities. This would be a fairly substantial topic that I won’t dwell on in this post. However, I will cover everything we know about the anchor-on-haunch types such as the known examples, how they differ compared to the preceding and succeeding types, and where they fit into the chronology of both the Babylon mint and Seleukos’ satrapies and kingship.

The Coins

Newell first catalogued the anchor-on-haunch types in his 1938 work The Coinage of the Eastern Seleucid Mints (ESM), where the type with the letter Zeta (Phoenician Zayin) above the lion is known as ESM 261, and the type without the letter is ESM 262. At the time, Newell only had one example of each and he concluded that they must be the first stater types that Seleukos minted on his return, later followed by the much more common types that have the anchor placed in the fields above the lion (ESM 263-282). Since then, ESM 261 and 262 have been rarely mentioned in the literature and no further examples studied to my knowledge.

Other than two known by Newell, the first example since then to be correctly identified appears to be the one sold by Numismatik Lanz in 2003 (fig. 1). Its rarity and significance largely went unmentioned. After a 15 year wait, a fourth example appeared at Triskeles Auctions in 2018 where a great deal was written about it and the fact that only one example had appeared on the market until that point (the example sold by Lanz). Unbeknownst to Triskeles, Roma Numismatics had actually sold an example in 2016 that they had misidentified as another Babylon stater type. Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger would also repeat this mistake in 2019, though they can be forgiven due to the anchor barely being visible on the lion’s haunch.

Fig. 1 – The first anchor-on-haunch type sold at Numismatik Lanz in 2003

In 2022, six examples appeared at auction. Two examples sold in a Leu Numismatik auction in February, and two sold at a Roma Numismatic auction in November. Roma misidentified both, even believing the anchor to be a remnant of an undertype for one of the coins, while Leu correctly identified both of theirs. Pars sold the fifth example on VAuctions in September, correctly identifying the type, and the sixth example, which I bought, was listed in Nomos’ Obolos auction in December. Again, the type was misidentified and the anchor not even mentioned.

After trawling through the American Numismatic Society’s SCO and MANTIS online database, I discovered a third example from Newell, which had also not been correctly identified. A final three examples were found in the sales archives of VCoins, where two had been sold by Pars Coins and one by Zurqieh. This brings the total known examples to 16: the original two from Newell, one from Lanz, three from Roma, one from Triskeles, one from Hirsch, two from Leu, three from Pars Coins, one from Nomos, one from Zurqieh, and the unidentified example from Newell. Of these 16, four are ESM 261 with the Zeta above the lion, and 11 are ESM 262 without the letter (table 1).

# Dies Weight Source Notes
Anchor on lion's haunch, ⌶ above (ESM 261; SC 88.1b)
1 O1/R1 17.14 Roma Numismatics E-Sale 103, 582 Uncrossed legs, hand on throne
2 O2/R2 17.23 Nomos Obolos Web Auction 26, 325
3 O2/R2 16.35 ANS 1944.100.72094
4 O2/R3 17.19 Leu Numismatik Web Auction 19, 1635
Anchor on lion's haunch (ESM 262; SC 88.1a)
5 O3/R4 15.09 ANS 1944.100.72095
6 O3/R5 17.15 Pars Coins Sale 30, 25
7 O4/R6 16.70 Pars, Coins VCoins listing #PCW-G4182
8 O5/R7 16.98 Zurqieh, VCoins listing #iu490
9 O6/R8 17.05 ANS 1944.100.72087 Only anchor ring visible
10 O6/R9 17.16 Triskeles Auctions Sale 23, 178
11 O7/R9 16.95 Numismatik Lanz Auction 114, 191
12 O7/R10 17.09 Roma Numismatics E-Sale 23, 243
13 O7/R11 17.12 Gerhard Hirsch Auction 352, 2497 Partial anchor visible
14 O8/R12 17.00 NBJ Numismatics, VCoins listing #skug1 Anchor ring and arm visible
15 O8/R13 17.11 Roma Numismatic E-Sale 103, 581 Anchor ring and shank visible
16 O8/R14 17.05 Leu Numismatic Web Auction 19, 1634
Addendum (added to corpus 05/01/2024)
17 06?/R9? 16.35 Florange & Ciani Allotte de la Fuÿe, 651 Obverse and reverse dies uncertain but close to O6 and R9. Anchor recorded in auction description
18 09/R15 17.21 Heritage Auctions 3042, 32115
19 09/R16 16.25 Florange & Ciani Allotte de la Fuÿe, 652

Table 1 – List of known anchor-on-haunch examples

The Dies

The 16 examples documented here represent 8 obverse dies and 14 reverse dies for a ratio of only 1.75 reverse dies for every obverse die, lower than is usually found. Some of the die matching is complicated by the significant die wear, flat striking, and off-centredness as well as wear to the coins themselves. This makes some of the die identifications and matches less than certain. Some of the obverse dies in particular form quite certain matches, such as obverse dies O2, O7, and O8, which account for 9 of the 16 coins.

No die matches were found between the two types, ESM 261 and 262. The obverses of O2, O3, and O4 are all quite close but not exact matches. It seems likely they were either engraved at the same time or in succession. Additionally, the style of the anchor as seen on the reverse of ESM 261 R2 and R3 is quite similar to the anchor of ESM 262 R4-R6. Later in the series, the anchor becomes broader with flared arms and with a more prominent anchor ring. On the obverse die O8, the staff of Baal and the cross-struts of his throne appear to be formed from solid lines rather than the usual dots. All other obverse dies in the series have dots for both of these.

I was also unable to find die matches between either ESM 261 or 262 with preceding or succeeding lion stater types. Since the last type of the preceding series of staters is not known for certain, it is more difficult to identify a likely candidate for inspection but none were immediately found. A linking feature is the double cross-struts of the throne, which are only found on Nicolet-Pierre 18 and 19 (fig. 3c). The style is however too different on the known examples of these types to match with either ESM 261 or 262. Similarly, comparisons with the types thought to succeed ESM 261 and 262 were fruitless in finding any die matches. This further suggests that these types may have been struck after a break with the earlier types thought to belong to Seleukos’ first satrapy but before the anchor-above-lion types that followed.

Without die matches to other types in the lion stater series, it is more difficult to suggest whether ESM 261 predates 262 or vice versa. Newell suggested 261 is likely first as it carried over the tradition of placing a control mark above the lion, yet it seems also strange for that decision to have been made only to remove it a short time later. The argument in favour of ESM 262 coming first is that additional control marks often come later when it is necessary to further distinguish a type from those that preceded it. The example of ESM 261 with the earlier-styled obverse does add more weight in favour of this type coming first and this is where I have placed it.

Lastly, we can estimate the original number of dies that were used to strike coins of both types. Carter (1983) provides a formula for estimating this when the obverse:reverse die ratio is below 2. The equation is as follows where n is the number of coins and d the number of obverse dies.

This results in an estimated total of 13 obverse dies for the ESM 261-262 types. It would be particularly interesting if one of the obverse dies provides a link to the preceding or succeeding series as this would help establish the sequence of ESM types 261 and 262, as well as reinforce their dating.

The Chronology

There are two important questions to ask in regards to these types: when were they minted, and where are they placed relative to other Babylon stater types. The first question appears the easiest: they have an anchor control mark so are likely related to other types issued by Seleukos with that control mark. There’s currently no evidence suggesting that Seleukos used this control mark during his first satrapy, and it’s almost certain that he was using it before he declared himself king (Taylor, 2022), so we end up with a fairly limited date range of approximately 311-304 BC. There’s also no reason to suspect Antigonos would have begun using the anchor symbol first, during Seleukos’ exile in Ptolemaic Egypt, as it would seem most unlikely that Seleukos would continue to use that symbol after retaking the city and associate himself so closely with it.

The second question of where this type is placed relative to the other lion staters may seem difficult at first to those familiar with this series. The lion staters have been studied by various numismatists for over 100 years but the exact sequence of the different types is yet to reach a general consensus. George Hill was perhaps first to attempt this in BMC Parthia (1922) by cataloguing the main types and arranging them in an order that is largely consistent with most subsequent efforts. Edward Newell then tackled the anchor types of Seleucid’s second satrapy in ESM (1938). Martin Price tweaked the order again in his 1991 description of the 1973 Iraq Hoard, and Nicolet-Pierre published perhaps the most comprehensive work on these types in 1999. Yet, still, after all this time the exact sequence is uncertain and many assumptions remain. Since then Iossif and Lorber (2007) found disagreements with both Price’s and Nicolet-Pierre’s ordering of the types.

Fig. 2 – Variation in the style and control marks on the reverses of lion staters: (a) Mazaios, NP M1; (b) Alexander III, NP 2; (c) Philip III, NP 5; (d) Philip III, NP 7; (e) Seleukos’ second satrapy, ESM 262.

Newell was the first to suggest that ESM 261/2 were the first two types of this series to be struck during his second satrapy. His reasoning was based on the letter Zeta above the lion, which is similar to the control symbols and letters used for the previous issues during Seleukos’ first satrapy, and likely even earlier than this. In the large issues that followed the rare anchor-on-haunch types, the anchor would take the place of the letter in the top field and any letters or monograms would be relegated to below the lion, or below the throne on the obverse.

Writing in Marduk and the Lion, Iossif and Lorber further reinforce Newell’s chronology by linking these types to the last pre-Seleucid issues based on the position of the lion’s tail (fig. 2), and to the earliest Seleucid-era issues by way of the double strut on Baal’s throne (fig. 3). Both of these arguments have some merit, even if they appear weak initially. In the earliest types, either attributable to Mazaios due to the legend in his name, or Alexander’s lifetime due to the uncrossed legs of Baal, the lion’s tail waves behind its body (fig. 2a-b). Then on subsequent types that share control marks with late lifetime / early posthumous tetradrachms of Alexander, the tail curls under the lion’s body (fig. 2c) and, eventually, straightens out to point towards the ground under the lion (fig. 2d). This tail style is then carried over to the ESM 261/2 staters (fig. 2e).

A similar story can be found with the cross-struts of the throne. Virtually all types preceding Seleukos’ second satrapy have a single cross-strut joining the two legs of the throne together (fig. 3a-b). It is perhaps only on the last one or two types preceding Seleukos’ flee from Babylon that a double cross-strut is first depicted (fig. 3c). We again see this carried over to Seleukos’ second satrapy where both ESM 261 and 262 have double cross-struts on Baal’s throne (fig. 3e), with a sole exception (fig. 3d). This would then later change back to one cross-strut on some of the later anchor types, helping to establish the chronology of the anchor-on-haunch types as the first of Seleukos’ second satrapy. ESM 261 would perhaps come first, or be struck concurrently with 262, due to the positioning of the secondary control mark in the upper field of the reverse, as found on nearly all preceding types.

Fig. 3 – Variation in the style of Baal on the obverses of lion staters: (a) Mazaios, NP M1; (b) Philip III, NP 5; (c) Seleukos’ first satrapy, NP 18;  (d) Seleukos’ second satrapy, ESM 261; (e) Seleukos’ second satrapy, ESM 262.

It therefore seems difficult to find any reason to place these anchor-on-haunch types any earlier in the sequence of Babylonian staters than at the beginning of Seleukos’ second satrapy. The anchor became a symbol so entrenched in Seleukos’ symbolism, that it would be anachronistic for him to have been using this symbol during his first satrapy under Philip III’s rule, especially if we are to assume the stories linking his fate to the anchor are true. Similarly, it would be equally difficult to suggest that the anchor-on-haunch types would be a short-lived experiment midway through the anchor-above-lion types. Or that if these later anchor types, that revert back to one cross-strut on the throne, could come before the anchor-on-haunch type as it would suggest the engravers went from a single cross strut, to two cross struts, back to one cross strut, and then again back to two cross struts – each style having to last at least several types and dozens of dies before being reverted.

Although the first and second questions proposed earlier appear to be settled, there remain some inconsistencies that have implications for not only when these coins were supposedly struck but also where they should be placed relative to the earlier lion staters. The two inconsisted relate to the average weight of the anchor-on-haunch series and a curious specimen that shares unexpected attributes with the earliest lion staters.

The Odd One Out

The following example of ESM 261 (Plate 1.1; O1/R1) is, stylistically, a massive departure from the lion staters that came before it and those that followed it. Starting on the obverse, Baal is seated with his legs uncrossed, or parallel, to one another. This is an attribute of only the earliest lion staters that are either struck in the name of Mazaios (circa 331-328 BC) or were likely minted soon after his death. This encompasses Nicolet-Pierre types M1 to M7 and 1 to 4, though I have since identified a further 3 types, all rare, that depict Baal with parallel legs. These additional 3 types are stylistically similar to the early lion staters following Mazaios (i.e. types 1 to 4) so are likely of a similar period. Type 3 is of questionable attribution but I will address that type shortly. Importantly, following Nicolet-Pierre’s type 4, no lion stater type portrays Baal with parallel legs so it is extremely unusual to see this on an example struck more than a decade after the last parallel leg type.

Fig. 4 – An example of ESM 261 (Plate 1.1) showing an unusual combination of styles for Baal where his legs are parallel and his left hand is on the throne

Another confounding stylistic feature of this example is the placement of Baal’s left hand. On the aforementioned Mazaios and early Alexander lion staters with parallel legs (Fig. 3a), Baal’s left hand is placed behind his back and out of sight. Then, from the first time we see Baal with his legs crossed, his left hand is to be found resting on the back of the throne, or diphros. Unusually, in this example of ESM 261 above, Baal’s left hand is placed on the throne even though his legs are parallel – an almost unique combination. The only other examples of this I have found are on two examples of Nicolet-Pierre type 3 (Fig. 5). One difference between these two examples of type 3 and the example of ESM 261 is that the lion’s tail waves behind its body on the type 3 specimens. This is another characteristic of early lion staters and is probably an additional reason that Nicolet-Pierre classified them so early in the chronology of the series.

Fig. 5 – A coin of Nicolet-Pierre type 3 that displays the same unusual features as the coin in Plate 1.1. Source: ANS 1944.100.72086

A difficulty with placing type 3 so early is that there are at least two other specimens known, with the same torch and HP controls on the reverse, that depict Baal with crossed legs in the typical style of mid-320s lion staters. These could be dated to perhaps 325-320 BC due to the lion’s tail on these examples either being behind the lion completely or obscured by its leg, in comparison to the later types the date to the era of Philip III that have the tail curl under its body (see: Fig. 2b-d). There is also another type, Nicolet-Pierre 18, which shares the torch control mark on the reverse with a ΠP monogram. This example has Baal with crossed legs and the lion with its tail underneath it. One would be tempted to place the type 3 examples with this type 18 due to the similarities, though type 18 almost surely dates quite late in the sequence.

Whether Nicolet-Pierre 3 and 18 date early or late in the sequence, this still doesn’t help to explain the curious example of ESM 261. Why did the style revert back to that not seen for 10-15 years, while also mixing later stylistic attributes like the hand positioned on the throne and the tail beneath the lion? One explanation could be that the engravers used existing specimens from this early period for inspiration. There is some evidence that backs this up too. Another anchor-on-haunch example, this time ESM 262 (Plate 1.14; fig. 6), shows signs of being overstruck on a Mazaios-era lion stater. On the obverse, a dotted-staff line can be found angled in front of Baal’s crossed legs. This part of the staff is normally only visible on parallel leg types of lion staters, where the staff is grounded far forward of the feet, rather than hiding behind the legs. There are also faint signs of a legend behind Baal on the obverse, and a legend above the lion on the reverse. This would indicate it was overstruck on a Nicolet-Pierre M1-M7 type, originally minted during the time of Mazaios’ satrapy.

Fig. 6 – An example of ESM 262 that may have been overstruck on an early Mazaios-era lion stater (Plate 1.14)

The overstrike demonstrates that it was possible, or even probable, that the engravers responsible for the anchor-on-haunch types had access to and knowledge of the earlier lion staters. In which case it may be that they were inspired by the designs and inadvertently engraved an obverse die in the “old” style, not knowing that it had long been updated. Under this scenario, I would also suggest that Nicolet-Pierre type 3 was struck much later than has been suggested. The fact that it shares the unique attribute of parallel legs with the hand on the throne cannot be easily ignored. It may be that this type was either struck shortly before Seleukos fled Babylon, while he was in Egypt under Ptolemy, or shortly upon his recapture of Babylon. I would suggest the first and third options seem most likely. If struck shortly before the end of his first satrapy it may even be the type that inspired the engraver of the O1/R1 dies, perhaps due to it being the most recent example the engravers had available.

The existence of the Plate 1.1 example is, however, not enough to warrant an earlier dating of the type. Its stylistic uniqueness would be better explained by imitation rather than contemporaneity. Though it certainly presents a troubling inconsistency, along with the higher average weight, for the ESM 261-2 types. A comprehensive die study of the entire series would surely illuminate some of the uncertainty that exists across the lion stater series. For this text, a study of just the dies for ESM 261-2 is possible. However, it is worth examining the weight of ESM 261 and 262, and the types that preceded and succeeded, it to see if this may give us some clues as more precisely when they could have been struck.

The Weight

The weights of the lion stater series are notoriously inconsistent, varying from as much as 17.2g all the way down to 15g, and perhaps even lower. When looking at the series as a whole, it can be difficult to know whether a certain example is within the expected range or not. However, treating the staters from Mazaios to Seleuko’s first satrapy as separate from the staters of Seleukos’ second satrapy, the weights are much more consistent (fig. 7). The heaviest types are found in this first series, particularly during the satrapy of Mazaios and those struck during Alexander’s lifetime. These coins consistently reach between 16.8g to 17.2g. By the time of Alexander’s death, and Seleukos’ first satrapy, the weights start to drop to the lower-mid 16g range. As of Seleukos’ second satrapy, they regularly drop well below 16g. This is not explainable solely by wear as the early types are typically the more worn examples.

Fig. 7 – Average weight by type for the lion stater series. Types up until SC 88.1a are from Nicolet-Pierre (1999). The subsequent types are from Seleucid Coins (2002). ESM 261 is equal to SC 88.1b and ESM 262 is equal to SC 88.1a

Iosiff and Lorber (2007) documented this weight reduction in their study of the 2001 Commerce Hoard. The table below shows the weight distribution of “lion staters”, grouped by whether they are pre-Seleucid types or types struck during Seleukos’ second satrapy. The mean difference between the pre-Seleucid and Seleucid types is 0.44g, a fairly significant difference. The pre-Seleucid types represented in this hoard are all relatively late types, dating around the end of Alexander’s life or even possibly after his death. If more of the earlier types were included, this difference would be even larger. This is not immediately evident by looking at average weights across the Nicolet-Pierre and Seleucid Coins types (fig. 8) as some, such as the star (16) and bee (17) types, likely were struck before types 7 and 8 (Iossif and Lorber, 2007), which have some of the lowest average weights of this first series.

Taylor (2015) noticed a similar weight reduction in Alexander type tetradrachms minted under Seleukos between his first and second satrapies. The difference here was more subtle, less than 0.2g, but these types also display much less variability in weight than the lion staters. It seems likely that there was an intention to reduce the weight of coins struck under Seleukos during his second satrapy, though when this decision was made is not clear. The anchor-on-haunch types may be key to answering this question.

Fig. 8 – Distribution of weights recorded by Iossif & Lorber (2007) from the 2001 Commerce Hoard

The weights of the Seleucid lion staters documented by Iossif and Lorber (2007), and the corresponding evidence from Taylor (2015) of a similar weight reduction, complicates our chronology of the anchor-on-haunch staters. Of the 16 examples that I have been able to identify, 80% of them weigh more than the upper weight value (16.8g) in the distribution of staters from the 2001 Commerce Hoard (fig. 8). Only one coin falls between the most common range of weights for these Seleucid-era staters, of between 15.0g to 15.6g. It seems highly unusual that a type which is meant to predate those found in the 2001 Commerce Hoard by only a year or two would weigh, on average, 1.42g more (16.89g). Additionally, the anchor-on-haunch type is 0.93g heavier than the Pre-Seleucid types from the same hoard. It is closest in average weight to some of the earliest lion staters struck, those under Mazaios (M1-M7) and the early staters under Alexander (1-3).

The most plausible explanation would have Seleukos authorising a reduction in weight of the staters, as well as his tetradrachms in the name of Alexander, shortly after the striking of the anchor-on-haunch types. A short break between the minting of these types and the subsequent anchor-above-lion types may also explain the rapid shift in control mark placement as well as a general deterioration of style, particularly apparent in the lion. While Seleukos recaptured Babylon sometime in 311 BC, in late 310 BC it was taken from him again by Demetrios, son of Antigonos, while he was campaigning out East. Seleukos may not have regained control of Babylon until 309 BC.

The temporary seizure of Babylon may have necessitated a pause in the minting of lion staters between the anchor-on-haunch types and the anchor-above-lion types. This explanation would require that Seleukos had immediately begun minting the lion staters upon first regaining control of Babylon in 311 BC as he lost it merely a year later. Later, returning from his campaigns and seeking to re-establish his authority, there may have been a need for additional coinage, particularly to fund the founding of his new city Seleucia. As part of this push for coinage, a slight reduction in the weight standard may have been necessary. The only alternative explanations would be to place ESM 261/2 nearer to the end of the first series of lion staters, prior to Seleukos’ flee from Babylon or down-date the last lion staters of the previous series well into Antigonos’ rule of Babylon. Neither explanations seem convincing at this time, though the last lion staters of the first series are not robustly dated.


The lion staters of Babylon are a fascinating series of coins that are still not yet well understood. Part of the issue is just how many other series of coinage these types relate to. The first types, struck under Mazaios, are linked to his preceding types struck while Satarap of Tarsos. The types under Alexander III and Philip III then seemingly link with the control marks of many tetradrachm types struck at Babylon. Under Seleukos’ first satrapy, this link appears to break and it becomes increasingly difficult to determine either their order or dating. Finally, the anchor-on-haunch types that emerge during Seleukos’ second satrapy are perhaps among the most interesting of the entire series and may link with the Alexandrine anchor tetradrachms previously attributed to Arados and Marathus but now are thought to belong to Babylon.

It is generally rare to find a control mark integrated with the other features of the coin in this fashion. Though it could be argued that for this brief series, the anchor was not so much a control mark but a symbol that aids identification of a subject. Similar to how Zeus might be paired with a thunderbolt, eagle, or Nike – or Artemis with her bow – the anchor placed on the lion was perhaps used to clearly communicate who the figure is meant to represent rather than a control for that particular mint. Thus the anchor was placed on the lion’s haunch to signal that this is a coin of Seleukos, during a time when it would have been inappropriate for him to add his name to the coin’s legend.

This explanation only works if it is widely known that Seleukos was associated with the anchor symbol in some fashion. Any of the three explanations discussed all seem plausible, even if the first two are likely myths. It may even be that more than one, or all three, are correct in some fashion. However, only the second explanation would explain why the anchor was placed on the lion’s haunch rather than elsewhere on the coin. Recalling the story, Seleukos’ anchor birthmark was placed on his inner thigh and it is on the lion’s thigh, or haunch, that we find the anchor.

It hasn’t been possible to further refine the estimated date range for the anchor-on-haunch type but the 16 examples studied here do continue to support a date between 311-308 BC. Even with the single anomaly specimen that has anachronistic features, it does not seem feasible to date them any earlier than Seleukos’ return to Babylon unless subsequent evidence comes to light demonstrating that he was associated with the anchor symbol during his first satrapy. A date later than 308 BC may be possible but seems unlikely given the large issues of anchor-above-lion types that followed and must have been struck prior to Seleukos designating himself king.

Discovery of more examples of the anchor-on-haunch type could help secure both its dating and chronology if they can be die matched to preceding or succeeding types. Additionally, a comprehensive die study of the preceding types, starting from Mazaios’ types, may also help in this regard. The end of the first series of lion staters, when Seleukos fled to Egypt, is particularly difficult to untangle and would benefit from another study to update Nicolet-Pierre’s ordering, which likely has some earlier types mixed with clearly later types. Until then, there is still much to learn from the anchor-on-haunch types themselves and how they fit into Seleukos’ narrative upon his return to Babylon.


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