Very rare and a pleasant specimen of this important and desirable issue. Queen Berenice II ruled in Egypt during the period of 246 to 221 BCE as the wife of Ptolemy III. She fit well into the Hellenistic period, which is known for familial infighting, extravagance, and outspoken female figures. From murdering her first husband, to participating in chariot races, eating her dinner with a pet lion, and finally being murdered by her own scheming son, she is an excellent example of all the drama the Hellenistic period could produce. She is perhaps most well-known from the poem by Callimachus, as retold by Catullus, which described the dedication of a lock of her hair at the temple of Arsinoe-Aphrodite and its subsequent catasterism. But, while these details of her life are dramatic and interesting, the most intriguing aspect of this queen is the coinage which was produced in her name.
The coinage of Berenice was minted in seven gold denominations and five silver. Some of them are exceptionally large; for instance, the silver dodecadrachms (also called pentekaidecadrachms) are some of the largest coins minted in a Hellenistic kingdom, second only to the 20-drachm pieces issued by King Amyntas of Bactria. These coins, and the other large and unusually weighted denominations of Berenice, do not seem to fit into the economic structure of the period. Egypt had a closed monetary system, and in 310 BCE Ptolemy I abandoned the Attic standard (with a silver drachm of 4.3 g) in favor of the Phoenician or Ptolemaic standard (with a silver drachm of 3.575 g). Thus, when Svoronos catalogued the Berenice coins in his 1904 work Ta Nomismata Tou Kratous Ton Ptolemaion and listed them as returning to the Attic standard, they quickly became a subject of contention for numismatists. This has caused historians and numismatist to question if the production of these coins had something to do with the Third Syrian War, or if, perhaps, they were minted outside of Egypt.
The large and complex series of coins issued by Ptolemy III (246-222 B.C.) for a certain Berenice has been intensively studied in recent years. The most distinctive issue is a large silver coin traditionally described as an Attic-weight dodekadrachm (12 drachms), and more recently as a Ptolemaic-weight pentekaidekadrachm (15 drachms). There is no question that weights of these coins favour their classification as pentekaidekadrachms, as they are perfect for 15 Ptolemaic drachms, yet they are roughly equal to 12.5 Attic drachms – a significant overage in weight that is hard to explain. Yet, concerns linger as to why the Ptolemaic weight standard would have been employed at this time in Alexandria (the presumed mint of this issue) since that standard had not been in use there since the reign of Ptolemy I (305-282 B.C.). The answer may lie in the innovative nature of the Berenice series, which appears to include coins struck both to the Ptolemaic and the Attic weight standards. Another question raised in recent years is which Berenice is honoured: Berenice II, the wife of Ptolemy III, or Berenice Syra, the king’s sister? The traditional view is that the king’s wife is honoured, but Hazzard has suggested it may be his sister. He sees the coins as products of the Third Syrian War (Laodicean War), which began not long after the death of the Seleucid King Antiochus II in 246 under mysterious circumstances. His death caused a dynastic crisis, for Antiochus II had two wives, the Seleucid Laodice and the Ptolemaic Berenice Syra, both of whom had borne him children who were considered legitimate heirs to the Seleucid throne. However, when Berenice Syra and her son were murdered in 246, Ptolemaic claims to the Seleucid throne were eliminated and Ptolemy III responded by invading Seleucid territories. His campaign was successful, but ground to a halt when domestic crises forced him to return to Egypt. In 241, Ptolemy III made peace with Seleucus II, who in the meantime had become the new Seleucid king. As laudable as Hazzard’s suggestion may be, the case for Berenice II, a queen in her own right, is perhaps stronger. She had married Ptolemy III in about 246, the eventful year of Berenice Syra’s death, and throughout the Third Syrian War she ruled Egypt in his absence. Perhaps more important, Berenice’s portrait bears no symbols to suggest she was deceased. On the earlier coinage for the deceased Arsinoe II, the bust is adorned with the divine attributes of a ram’s horn and a lotus sceptre. Neither is present on the Berenice coinage, and though Berenice II was alive throughout her husband’s reign, Berenice Syra was deceased.
Veiled and draped bust right
Cornucopia filled with fruit and grape bunches, and bound with fillets between laureate caps of the dioscuri; amphora with high handles in right field
A perfect choice for Numismatists, Historians, Military Veterans, Collectors.