Sunday, June 16, 2013


Sergei A. Kovalenko, Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum: State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. Coins of the Black Sea Region, Part I: Ancient Coins from the Northern Black Sea Littoral. Colloquia antiqua, 3. Leuven; Paris; Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2011. Pp. xvi, 192. ISBN 9789042921375. €87.00.

Reviewed by Edward Dandrow, University of Central Florida (

Version at BMCR home site

I begin by apologizing to the author, the editors of BMCR and its readers for the lateness of this review. Kovalenko's catalogue of the coinage of the northern littoral of the Black Sea in the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts is an excellent addition to the quickly growing corpus of the Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum and is its first publication in SNG format. The author selected this less well-known museum rather than the State Hermitage or Historical museums to make the collection known to western scholars. In his preface he writes, "If this sylloge can even partially remedy this situation, I will consider my task fulfilled." I consider his task fulfilled.

Two short prefaces, one from the series editor and another from the author, begin the publication. Following these is an interesting introduction that addresses the history of the museum and its coin collection (ix-xiii). Its history is tied to Moscow University. The origins of the collection began in the eighteenth century, but in 1818 it was housed in a distinct M├╝nzkabinett. The coin collection would eventually be housed in the museum, which was the brainchild of P.M. Leont'ev and was founded in 1851. Archaeological excavations in the 1850s and 60s added significantly to the collection. Beginning in 1889, I.V. Tsvetaev began organizing a new phase in the history of the museum—namely converting it into an independent public museum, the foundations of which were laid in 1898 and opened to the public in 1912. The coinage of the northern Black Sea littoral dramatically increased both with expanded archaeological projects in the 1920s and 30s and when A.G. Golikov bequeathed his collection to the museum in 1940/41. It wasn't until 1945 that a Numismatics Department was created and the coinage in the museum was made available to the public.

Following the author's introduction is a list of abbreviations, in which the author has translated Russian works into English. All the standard works on coinage in the Black Sea region are represented. The catalogue consists of 1,870 coins dating from the sixth century BC to the fourth century AD and presented on 90 plates. Poorly preserved specimens and those housed in the Department of the History and Culture of the Ancient World are excluded from the catalogue. The division of the coinage is based on city and rulers and consists of the following: Tyra (11 coins), Olbia (583), Cercinitis (7), Chersonesus (147), Theodosia (5), Nymphaeum (1), Panticapaeum (481), Panticapaeum as Caesarea (16), Phanagoria (59), Phanagoria as Agrippa (14), Gorgippia (6), the Sindi (2), and the Kingdom of the Bosporus consisting of Leucon (10), Paerisades (2), Mithradates Eupator (21), Asander (11), unknown kings from 17/16 BC to AD 13 (19), Aspurgus (25), Gepaepyris (13), Mithradates III (13), Cotys I (36), Rhescuporis II (17), Sauromates I (71), Cotys II (15), Rhoemetalces (24), Eupator (11), Sauromates II (29), Rhescuporis III (41), Cotys III (11), Sauromates III (2), Inthimeus (15), Rhescuporis V (28), Pharzanos (2), Sauromates IV (3), Teiranos (3), Thothorses (38), Rademsades (11) and Rhescuporis VI (67). Overall, the number of specimens is representative of the commonness or rarity of the coinage of certain cities and kings. The total numbers, however, obscure rare or unique issues in the collection, such as a bronze coin from Theodosia (no. 753), a Bosporan stater dating from 3/2 BC and found at Phanagoria (no. 1391), and the staters of Aspurgus from AD 32/33 (no. 1394) and King Pharzoios from the mid-late first century AD (no. 460). Concluding the catalogue is a series of excellent indexes that are divided into the following subjects: (1) Cites and Kingdoms; (2) Kings, Dynasts and Chieftains; (3) Obverse and Reverse types; (4) Names of Magistrates; (5) Additional Symbols; (6) Countermarks; and (7) Overstrikes.

The catalogue's pictures are clear and the information is presented in the standard SNG format. Moreover, the paper and binding are excellent. There are a few minor criticisms that some will consider quibbling. The first is the SNG format itself, which records the weights and die orientations for the coins, but does not include their sizes. As usual, readers should have their rulers or calipers readily available. The second is the bibliographic citations in the Abbreviations section of the book. This reviewer certain welcomes the translation of Russian titles into English, but they should have also been presented in their original language for those scholars interested in full bibliographic citation. Finally, there is an editorial inconsistency to indicate whether this catalogue is part of a series—the title page includes "Part I", but the cover lacks "Part I". Despite these minor criticisms the catalogue is an excellent addition to the SNG series and a valuable resource for scholars interested in the northern littoral of the Black Sea. The reviewer looks forward to future publications of the ancient coin collection at the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.

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