A Collection of the Coins of Damascus

A Collection of the Coins of Damascus

Damascus

The ancient oasis city of Damascus straddled the primary commercial route from the Mediterranean Sea to the Middle East. The name of the city is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as Aram-Damascus and also appears the Egyptian Amarna Letters of the 1350s-1330s BC. The Bible reports that kings David, Solomon and Jeroboam occupied the city and in 732 BC it became the administrative centre of the Achaemenid province of 'Beyond-the River'. In 332 Damascus fell to Alexander the Great and after his death it became the site of a struggle between the Seleucid and Ptolemaic empires. The control of the city passed frequently from one empire to the other, but declined in importance from about 300 when Seleukos I made Antioch the capital of his vast empire.

No coinage has been attributed to Damascus during the Persian period, but an Alexander mint was established in about 330. Thereafter, no Seleukid coin issues can be assigned with certainty to Damascus until the reign of Antiochos VII. Mint production continued without significant interruption until the chaotic final period of Antiochos VIII and Alexander IX. In 97/6 Demetrius Ill, nephew of Demetrios II and son of Antiochos VIII, joined forces with his brother Philip to drive their cousin Antiochos X out of Syria. Demetrios Ill ruled as a rival king in the southern parts of the last remaining Seleucid realms, basically Damascus, now renamed Demetrias, and its surroundings. In 88/7 Antiochus XII succeeded his brother Demetrios Ill as ruler of Damascus and attacked his other brother Philip, ruler of Antioch, but in 85 he fell in battle against the Nabataean Arabs. Soon after their king, Aretas Ill Philhellenos, conquered Damascus and issued Hellenic style coinage with Greek legends. Nabataean rule of Damascus was interrupted in 72 by a successful siege led by the Armenian king Tigranes II. Armenian rule of the city ended in 69 when the forces of Tigranes were diverted to deal with a Roman attack on the Armenian capital, allowing Aretas to re-take the city.

In 64 Pompey annexed the western part of Syria to the Roman Empire, and Damascus was subsequently granted by Marcus Antonius to Cleopatra VII in about 37/6. It was re-annexed by Octavian in 30/29 BC, granted to the kingdom of Nabataea between AD 33/4 and 65/6, by which time it had been annexed again by Rome. Damascus became a metropolis by the beginning of the second century and in 222 it was upgraded to a colonia by Septimius Severus. With the coming of the Pax Romana, Damascus and the Roman province of Syria in general began to prosper as a caravan destination, with the trade routes from southern Arabia, Palmyra, Petra, and the silk road from China all converging on it.