Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Version at BMCR home site
Dominique Gerin, Angelo Geissen, Michel Amandry (ed.), Aegyptiaca serta in Soheir Bakhoum memoriam: mélanges de numismatique, d'iconographie et d'histoire. Collezioni numismatiche 7. Milano: Edizioni Ennerre, 2008. Pp. 287; 397 ills. ISBN 9788887235644. €120.00.
Reviewed by Paul Edmund Stanwick, New York City

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This memorial volume celebrates Alexandrian-born scholar Soheir Bakhoum (d. 2003), a numismatist specializing in Roman Alexandria. Initially educated at Alexandria University and later at l'École des Hautes-Études, Ms. Bakhoum was at one time on the staff at the Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria, and later a researcher at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) in Paris. Her writings include many articles as well as the 1998 Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum catalogue of Alexandrian coins (Augustus to Trajan) in the collection of the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the 1999 book, Dieux égyptiens à Alexandrie sous les Antonins: recherches numismatiques et historiques.

Festschriften often provide an opportunity to publish articles around a theme. In this case, the theme is Alexandrian coinage, particularly of Roman Egypt, an apt choice which commemorates Ms. Bakhoum's interests and accomplishments. Roman emperors until Diocletian maintained Egypt as a closed currency system, and under them, the mint of Alexandria irregularly produced large quantities of partly silver coins (now called Alexandrian billon tetradrachms) that were periodically debased to cope with succeeding economic crises. Bronze coins were also made. Modern numismatic studies have concentrated on identifying and dating the coins, understanding their iconography, and analyzing ancient hoards discovered in the last two centuries. Extrapolating from the foregoing, some studies have also used coin hoards in particular to argue broader conclusions about ancient economic policies and events. This Festschrift touches on all of these areas, but one of its main strengths is the original publication (or re-publication with amplification) of coins from hoards, excavations and museum collections (particularly those in Egypt). This material comprises the bulk of the volume.

This seventh volume in the Collezioni Numismatiche series contains 22 articles by scholars from Europe, the U.K. and Egypt and a preface by Jean Leclant. Each article is self-contained with its own bibliography, illustrations and tabular format. The contributions are aimed at specialists. The articles are highly technical and they publish new material or add new arguments to the body of existing scholarship rather than provide an overview of numismatics in Roman Egypt or make more encompassing conclusions. New finds from the exciting archaeological work now underway at Alexandria and nearby Canopus are also selectively included. The numerous black and white illustrations are of good quality. A caveat from the editors at the front of the volume notes that the bibliography may be out of date for some articles completed in 2005 but not published until 2008 because of general delays in the receipt of articles and in their subsequent preparation for publication. This is a common challenge for many Festschriften that may be solved in the future through more strategic and innovative use of Web-based publishing.

The book is divided into five sections: personal tributes to Ms. Bakhoum, questions of identification, hoards and excavations, iconography, and historiography.

André and Étienne Bernand lead off the collection with separate remembrances of Ms. Bakhoum. As part of his dedication, André discusses a significant temple foundation plaque made of gold, discovered by Franck Goddio's team in 2003 in the bay of Aboukir to the east of Alexandria. The plaque records Ptolemy III's establishment of a Herakleion. Étienne overviews the history of publications on Alexandria and provides Soheir Bakhoum's full bibliography. A third dedicatory article, by Dominique Gerin, publishes Ms. Bakhoum's small collection of ancient coins, of which five examples are now kept in the Cabinet des médailles in Paris. Andrew Burnett identifies one of these as an unusual example belonging to an undated series of Alexandrian coins from the time of Augustus.

In the second section, three scholars explore selected problems of coin identification. Olivier Picard discusses some examples of Alexandrian pentadrachms that he believes are of a type that activated an ancient holy water dispenser described in Heron of Alexandria's Pneumatika. Andrew Burnett convincingly sorts through Alexandrian coins sometimes attributed to the reign of Caligula and he concludes that only one rare type can be securely assigned to this emperor. Barbara Lichocka publishes an unusual Roman numismatic find from the Kom el-Dikka area of Alexandria, which she speculates could have served as a small portable mirror.

Hoards and excavations are the themes of the third section, the longest in the book. In the lead article, Michel Amandry argues that 33 Alexandrian coins from the second half of the third century A.D., now in the Musée départemental d'art ancien et contemporain of Épinal, likely come from the same deposit. Rodolfo Martini publishes a group of 40 Alexandrian tetradrachms from the time of the Emperor Probus, which were inadvertently omitted from the third Aegyptus volume (Commodus-Galerius Caesar) of the Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum publication of the Civiche Raccolte Numismatiche in Milan. Mervat Seif el-Din, Mona Shahin, and Thomas Faucher write about a group of 80 early Ptolemaic bronze coins, which reportedly came from an undocumented find in the Nag Hammadi area in Upper Egypt and are now kept in the Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria. Because of the homogeneity of the group of coins, they reasonably conclude that the coins comprised an entire hoard, or part of one; they propose a burial date of around 205 B.C., coincident with the timing of an Upper Egyptian rebellion against Ptolemaic rule. Mervat Seif el-Din and Faiza el Maghrabi publish a group of 264 bronze coins, also reportedly found in Nag Hammadi and housed in the Graeco-Roman Museum, of which most date to the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth century A.D. Though most coins are from the Alexandrian mint, other mints including Rome and Ostia are represented as well. The authors conclude that the entire group of 264 did not comprise a hoard, but that the late Roman coins in the group may have been part of a hoard.

Hans-Christoph Noeske republishes a hoard of 233 Alexandrian billon tetradrachms, found in Abu al-Gud and now in the Graeco-Roman Museum, and uses it as stepping stone to address some broader questions of hoarding behavior in Egypt. Mona Shahin discusses a hoard of 1005 Alexandrian billon tetradrachms, which date from the early to mid-first century A.D. (Tiberius, Claudius, Nero), were found in Kom Aushim, and are now kept at the site's museum. Anna Rita Parente comments on 122 coins discovered during the 2003-2007 excavation seasons at Bakchias in the Fayoum, which range in date from Ptolemaic through Byzantine periods. Finally, Marie-Christine Marcellesi publishes six late Roman coins found in recent excavations in Alexandria, which show a bust of Serapis on one face and a reclining figure of the Nile on the other face, and compares them to issues of Antioch showing Tyche and Apollo and of Nicomedia showing Ceres and Tyche.

The fourth section contains six articles on a variety of iconographic subjects. The first article explores the origins of the known portraits of Cleopatra the Great, particularly focusing on a well-known marble female head found in the House of the Diadoumenos on Delos. François Queyrel dates the latter head prior to 69 B.C., i.e., before the time of Cleopatra, and concludes that the queen's portraits must reference a style prevalent in the late Hellenistic Period that emphasized severity and gravity. Laurent Bricault and Richard Veymiers publish a gem showing a draped, laureate male bust and sistrum that they attribute to Nero based on comparisons to the emperor's known portraits. Absent explicit evidence of a connection between Isis and Nero, they suggest that the sistrum is indicative of Egyptian manufacture or the original gem owner's beliefs, rather than a reference to an explicit connection between the emperor and the Egyptian goddess. Angelo Geissen clarifies some points on the Alexandrian coinage of the Empress Sabina in a short article. Giovanni Maria Staffieri and Mario Tosi write about depictions of the sacred bark on Alexandrian coinage. Fatma Barakat gathers together representations of the god Agathos Daimon now in the Graeco-Roman Museum of Alexandria. Manfred Weber presents interesting new interpretations of two numismatic details: a ram's head on the reverse of some coins of Alexander the Great as a reference to the god Amun of the Siwa Oasis; and a structure on the reverse of some coins of Trajan as a representation of the tomb of the god Osiris.

The final section has two articles on the history of Alexandrian studies, focusing particularly on the work of Giovanni Dattari, a major Italian collector of Alexandrian coins in the early 20th century. Erik Christiansen carefully reconstructs the history of several hoards initially owned by Dattari and eventually acquired by the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford or the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Adriano Savio assesses Dattari's scholarly contributions.

This review only briefly touches on all of the ideas expressed in this collection of articles. Numismatists specializing in Roman Egypt will definitely want to consult this volume and there are some papers which will have interest for the scholars of Greek and Roman Egypt in general. The book is a fitting recognition of Soheir Bakhoum in that it both acknowledges and extends her work.

Table of contents

Jean Leclant, Soheir Bakhoum, p. 9

André Bernand, Une grande perte pour la numismatique, p. 13
Étienne Bernand, Aperçu sur l'antique Alexandrie, p. 15
Dominique Gerin, La petite collection alexandrine de Soheir Bakhoum, pp. 21-31

Questions d'identification
Olivier Picard, À la recherche du pentadrachme d'Héron d'Alexandrie, pp. 39-43
Andrew Burnett, The Alexandrian Coinage of Caligula, pp. 45-47
Barbara Lichocka, Un tétradrachme de Néron, dit "miroir de Néron", trouvé, à Kôm el-Dikka à Alexandrie, pp. 49-58

Trésors et fouilles
Michel Amandry, Un dépôt de monnaies alexandrines au Musée départemental d'Art ancien et contemporain d'Épinal, pp. 61-70
Ridolfo Martini, Un nucleo di tetradracmi alessandrini di Probus della collezione Laffranchi, nelle Civiche Raccolte Numismatiche di Milano di "acq(uisto) Dattari", pp. 71-77
Mervat Seif el Din, Mona Shahin, Thomas Faucher, Un trésor de monnaies ptolémaïques en bronze au Musée gréco-romain, d'Alexandrie: le trésor de Nag Hammadi 1937, pp. 79-94
Mervat Seif el Din, Faiza El Maghrabi, Coins from Nag Hammadi in the Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria, pp. 95-112
Hans-Christoph Noeske, Der Münzschatz von Abu al-Gud und einige Überlegungen, zum Hortungsverhalten im kaiserzeitlichen Ägypten, pp. 113-153
Mona Shahin, A Hoard of Alexandrian Billon Tetradrachms found in 1967 in Kom Aushim, pp. 155-164
Anna Rita Parente, Monete da Bakchias. Campagne di scavo 2003-2007, pp. 161-184
Marie-Christine Marcellesi, La série romaine tardive d'Alexandrie aux types de Sarapis et du Nil, pp. 185-195

François Queyrel, La Pseudo-Cléopâtre de la Maison du Diadumène à Délos, pp. 199-210
Laurent Bricault, Richard Veymiers, Un portrait de Néron doté du sistre isiaque, pp. 211-219
Angelo Geissen, Sabina-Demeter-Isis. Eine Klarstellung, pp. 221-228
Giovanni Maria Staffieri, Mario Tosi, La barca sacra di Osiris nella monetazione alessandrina, pp. 229-235
Fatma Barakat, Zu Agathos Daimon und seinen Darstellungen in der alexandrinischen Kunst, pp. 237-242
Manfred Weber, Aegyptus in nummis, pp. 243-250

Histoire des études Alexandrines
Erik Christiansen, Dattari, Milne, Curelly and 30-40,000 Alexandrian Coins, pp. 253-274
Adriano Savio, Giovanni Dattari "egittologo", pp. 275-284.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.