On The Question Of Attribution Of North Pontic Coins With Letter Combination Σαυ On The Reverse

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Mikhael Choref


Our attention was drawn to antique coins from the Northern Black Sea region with the letter combination ΣΑΥ on the reverse. On the obverse of these artifacts, a bust of Helios is imprinted in profile or full face, and on the reverse is the head of a bull to the right, a pomegranate flower or winged lightning. The debate on their attribution is still ongoing. These coins are attributed to the minting of Saumakos or Saulakos.

Indeed, the second point of view looks quite convincing. After all, most of these artifacts were found on the territory of Colchis. However, we believe that there are no grounds for attributing them to the issues of local dynasties. Indeed, in Colchis at that time only golden imitations of staters were minted.

We believe that the coins with the letter combination ΣΑΥ on the reverse were minted at the Bosporan mints during the Saumakos uprising. They could enter Colchis both during his time and after his defeat. The fact is that the inhabitants of the outskirts of the ancient world preferred their usual coins, even if they fell out of circulation in the territories of the issuing states.

As for the possibility of their release on behalf of Saulakos, who allegedly ruled in Colchis in the second half of the 2nd century or in the third quarter of the 1st century BCE, there is no information about him in written sources. Let us take into account that Saulakos, known from the “Naturalis Historia” by G. Plinus Secundus, was a contemporary and opponent of a certain pharaoh Sesostris. And the rulers of Colchis were no longer named in his honor, at least until the 2nd century BCE. We insist that his name was not honored even later. The fact is that we know about the Caucasian dynasts who resisted Pompey during his campaign against the Bosporus. And we do not know anything about the sovereign named Saulakos.

In the process of substantiating this thesis, we studied the so-called Saulakos coin, found in recent years near Feodosia, on the territory of the village of Kuru Bash. We believe that there is no reason to unite it into one group with the Saumakos releases. We judge by the fact that not the head of Helios is imprinted on its obverse, but a bust of Athena in a Corinthian helmet, and the image of a bird is placed on the reverse.

In addition, we have good reason to doubt the authenticity of this coin of Saulakos. After all, the inscription on its reverse, judging by the style, could not have been designed in the era of antiquity. Judging by the fact that the lines of its letters do not end with dots.

We assume that the so-called Saulakos coin, on the territory of the Kuru Bash settlement, is not a genuine artifact. Most likely, this is a skillfully aged remake, made to deceive unlucky collectors.

Published: Aug 25, 2021

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