Silver tetradrachm of Augustus

Roman, around 5 BC
From the mint of Antioch, Syria

Roman monetary policy in the East

Considerations of profit apart, the ancient Romans tended not to introduce Roman coinage automatically in newly conquered areas, preferring instead to rely on existing forms of coinage. Thus in the province of Asia they continued the production of local cistophori, while in Syria the mint of the city of Antioch served to produce coinage for use further east.

Initially at Antioch the Romans' reluctance to innovate can be seen in its most extreme form. They simply continued to issue coin in the name and types of the Seleucid king Philip Philadelphus, with the portrait of Philip on one side and a seated figure of Zeus on the other. In 5 BC, however, in the reign of the emperor Augustus (31 BC–AD 14), this new silver coin design was introduced. The portrait of Augustus that appears on the obverse (front) now took the place the head of Philip. The design on the reverse of the coin was also changed to the one we see here: the seated figure of the city-goddess of Antioch facing the local river god Orontes. This nonetheless still represented a considerable concession to local sensibilities.

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More information


T. Cornell and J. Matthews, Atlas of the Roman world (Phaidon, 1987)

K. Butcher, Roman provincial coins: an int (London, Seaby, 1988)

A. Burnett, M. Amandry and P.P. Ripollès, Roman provincial coinage, vol. 1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)

A.M. Burnett, Coinage in the Roman world (London, Seaby, 1987)


Weight: 15.325 g
Diameter: 24.000 mm

Museum number

CM BMC Antioch 149



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