Sunday, June 28, 2015


John A.N.Z. Tully, The Island Standard: The Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman Coinages of Paros. Numismatic Studies, 28. New York: American Numismatic Society, 2013. Pp. xiv, 206; 27 p. of plates. ISBN 9780897223294. $120.00.

Reviewed by Corey J. Ellithorpe, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (

Version at BMCR home site

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

Historical approaches to the Cycladic Islands have recently been subject to much reassessment. The argument goes that the Cyclades should not be understood as a unit, that concepts of their homogeneity are outdated and unsupported by the ever-growing epigraphic and numismatic corpus, and that interpretations of the Cyclades as continually subject to an external hegemon are distorted and inaccurate. John Tully not only provides a welcome contribution to this ongoing conversation, but also fills the last substantial lacuna in numismatic scholarship on the Cyclades by offering an assessment of Parian coinages. His book is an extension of research that he undertook in a seminar at the American Numismatic Society in 2010. It incorporates numerous elements from his 2012 Princeton dissertation, "Networks, Hegemony, and Multipolarity in the Hellenistic Cyclades." His over-arching thesis is that Paros and Naxos maintained a very close relationship, perhaps some form of sympoliteia (p. 5). Unlike elsewhere in the Cyclades, they did not adhere to the Rhodian weight standard of 3.4 g for their coinages, but had their own unique 'island standard' of 3.9 g. Hence, the extent of Parian political independence is a theme developed throughout the work.

Following a brief introduction (pp. 1-5), which largely summarizes Parian history, Tully's first (unnumbered) chapter (pp. 7-17) begins with an overview of the difficulties particular to Parian coinages, such as the ambiguous ethnic ΠΑΡΙ (Paros or Parium?) and the unoriginal use of a goat for its commonest type. Even so, the dry subsequent presentation of all types seems excessive and perhaps more appropriate for an appendix, given that it makes no contribution to his argument here. By contrast, a notable strength of the chapter is its excellent discussion of control marks. Tully demonstrates that, contrary to current consensus, the presence of a "star" control mark is indicative more of a "local numismatic habit" (p. 14) than Macedonian hegemony, in the way that the "rose" on other Cycladic coinages denotes Rhodian dominion. This is an essential component of Tully's broader argument, since a requisite for Paros and Naxos to have a unique weight standard is autonomy. Tully is able to show that, by the time these Parian coins were minted, Macedon no longer used the "star" on its issues nor did those states known to be under Macedonian hegemony (e.g. Cythnos and Andros). Tully therefore cogently proposes that the "star" control mark is instead an internally driven feature of Parian coinages, a pronounced statement of autonomy, not a mark of subjugation. While the "star" might "encode a reference" (p. 15) to Macedon, Tully is quite right to state that it would be "excessive" to interpret it as a "direct external influence" (p. 16). He seems appropriately aware that imitative coinage should not be taken to denote imposed coinage.

The detailed analysis of Classical and Hellenistic Parian coinages in the second chapter (pp. 19-31) is likely to become a standard reference for later investigations of both Parian coinages in particular and Cycladic ones in general, as it presents a vast amount of indispensable data previously not readily accessible, let alone collated. His overview of Classical and Hellenistic Parian silver production (table 1) highlights the stark incongruity between Parian coinages and those of the surrounding Greek world: 86% of the 186 known Parian specimens have a weight at or near an anomalous weight standard of c. 3.9 g. When one considers the sheer volume, the traditional assessment that these are "overweight" issues minted on the Rhodian standard of 3.4 g seems highly inadequate. Instead it seems clear that "the Parians deliberately maintained a monetary weight standard of c. 3.9g" (p. 21). With neighboring Naxos being the only other state in the Greek world to employ the 3.9 g standard, the argument for a collaborative "island standard" appears justifiable. Yet when the only states to mint silver in the late Classical period were Paros and Naxos, caution should be exercised in the absence of comparanda. It is admittedly difficult, however, to formulate an alternative hypothesis in light of the fresh evidence that Tully has presented.

The third chapter, "Archaeological and Hoard Evidence" (pp. 33-49), must have been specially challenging for Tully, given the general awareness that Parian silver specimens have yet to be unearthed in an archaeological context, that there is still no hoard evidence at all for its Classical silver issues, and that bronze finds are often poorly reported with minimal detail. Nonetheless Tully offers a strikingly compelling analysis here. One particularly intriguing argument is that the Parians restricted circulation of their silver within a "closed currency system" (p. 34), thereby explaining why Parian silver was not a part of the flight of silver to the East.

Tully discusses in rich detail each of the known Hellenistic hoards. Because the temptation to attribute deposition to any of the numerous wars of the early second century would complicate his thesis (which assumes minimal impact of external powers), he is quick to dismiss the possibility of a wartime motive for the deposits of these hoards (IGCH 210; IGCH 226; CH 8.517; Credit Suisse 3, lot 221). Even though he argues that the associated coins do not indicate rushed and hasty production typical of wartime issues, unfortunately he does not explore this claim further. One would have hoped for more discussion here and perhaps more numismatic evidence. Moreover, it is disturbing that Tully dismisses Livy's clear statement that by the early second century Paros and other Cyclades "were held by Macedonian garrisons" (praesidiis Macedonum tenebantur, 31.15.8). Tully sees this "thin reference in Livy" (p. 13) as untrustworthy due to a lack of archaeological evidence for garrisons. The conclusion that Tully implies by divorcing Hellenistic silver production and deposition from conflict is that external forces and developments had a minimal impact on Paros. If this be accepted, the case for Cycladic autonomy and subsequent numismatic independence is all the more justified.

In the final chapter (pp. 51-66) Tully makes his definitive case for the 'island standard,' arguing that the collaborative choice to mint on the "discrete, unique standard" (p. 52) was internal. He suggests an interesting proposition for this Parian-Naxian initiative: state profit. By restricting the circulation of their silver, the two islands together could profit from their decision to produce such coinage. For them to profit in consequence of its production was not the only potential economic advantage, because it would logically follow that they could profit also from currency exchange. In any event, we can surely imagine a marked economic boost for Paros and Naxos, and conceivably even some form of sympoliteia.

Furthermore, a Parian-Naxian arbitration agreement of the early second century (IG XII.5 128; IG XI.4 1065) banning inter-island lawsuits can now be interpreted as part of a "broader structural relationship" (p. 5). Tully demonstrates that his vision of "Paros and Naxos as two nodes connected by a tie in a small numismatic network" (p. 53) is reinforced elsewhere in the Cyclades. Tenos and Andros, for example, did not adhere to the "island standard" of 3.9 g, nor did they mint on the Attic standard of 4.32 g used by other Cyclades; instead they concurrently minted on a standard of 3.6 g. The overall picture is one in which the Cyclades appear rather impervious to external powers, at least from a numismatic perspective. In short, Tully successfully demonstrates that the standard on which Paros and Naxos minted for an extended time was not only distinct within the Cyclades but also within the wider Greek world. From the example of Tenos and Andros, a striking amount of numismatic autonomy can be witnessed for the Cyclades, thereby suggesting "a continuity and independence of political and economic judgment which is at odds with the externally- determined hegemonic frame of our standard political narratives for the islands at this time" (pp. 60-61).

Following his reassessment of Parian coinages, Tully presents a die study of all known silver and bronze issues. Rendering the book all the more useful, he provides a comprehensive catalog of all known Parian coinage with a painstakingly detailed commentary, as well as five valuable appendices. The work contains 54 tables, 8 figures and graphs, 8 die-link diagrams, and 47 full-page plates of all known Parian coins (including ancient and modern forgeries). However, the expectation from the title of the book that the Roman coinages will receive due attention is never fulfilled: ten sentences comprise the entire assessment of Roman issues. In addition, while Tully is to be commended for providing lucid images of all Parian coinages, it is unfortunate that his numbering system makes it very laborious to follow his references. Rather than adopting the standard practice of sequential numbering, he uses a quixotic system (DiO2.3a and Di2.A.11d instead of 11 and 43).

Tully's work is not without problems. In particular, he minimizes Rome's impact on the Cyclades. Its absence strengthens Tully's case, but is unconvincing. While scholars are divided over which Roman province incorporated the Cyclades (Asia in 188, Macedon in 148, or Achaea in 146), Tully evades the entire issue, citing a "continuing custom of competitive display on Delos" (p. 3) as the only evidence to counter traditional assessments of second-century incorporation; he offers only a terminus ante quem of 42 BC. Consequently, he does not see Roman involvement as a potential stimulus for increased silver production in the early-to-mid second century, even though Rome's declaration of Delos as a free port in 168 has long been understood as a move to enhance Roman commercial interests in the Aegean while depriving Rhodes of its commercial supremacy.

While overall Tully's analysis of the evidence deserves praise, some doubts remain. The first concerns his remark that numismatic evidence can provide a deeper context for Diodorus Siculus' account of a Parian colony on Pharos (15.13.4) because of the "specimens of Paros that were found there" (p. 4). His own footnote, however, invalidates this claim, when it states that of the two coins in question "neither was found in an archeological context," but were modern purchases from a numismatic dealer, and therefore "cannot…support Diodorus" (p. 4, n. 9). Second, since some Parian issues have a moneyer identified as ΚΤΗ and Naxians have a ΚΤΗΣΙΦ, Tully argues that this is the same moneyer. Trying to connect them, however, is especially problematic, as LGPN lists 68 names that 'ΚΤΗ' could abbreviate. Third, given that Parian tetradrachms have been found while Naxian variants have not, Tully proposes an imaginative interpretation for an inscription (IG XI.2 199.B.44) that refers to Naxian tetradrachms. Rather than interpreting the inscription as verification that Naxian tetradrachms were minted along with known issues of drachms and didrachms, Tully proposes that it be read as proof that Parian coinages were referred to as Naxian.

Altogether Tully's work is an outstanding example of numismatic scholarship and erudition, which substantially advances the ongoing discussion of how to interpret the Cyclades within the Greek world. In particular, his handsomely produced book now becomes the definitive starting-point for all future examinations of Parian coinages.

Table of Contents

Preface, iii-iv.
Abbreviations and Other Conventions, v-xi.
List of Figures, Maps and Tables, xii-xiv.
Introduction, 1-5.
Ascription, Types, and Iconography, 7-17.
Overview, Metrology, and Quantification, 19-31.
Archaeological and Hoard Evidence, 33-49.
Paros, Naxos and the Numismatic Context, 51-66.
Catalogue, 67-132.
Commentary, 133-163.
Appendix 1: Non-Parian Issues, 165-171.
Appendix 2: Ancient Imitative Coinage, 173.
Appendix 3: Modern Parian Forgeries, 175-182.
Appendix 4: Weight and Frequency Distribution, 183-187.
Appendix 5: Naxian and Parian Comparanda, 189-190.
Bibliography, 191-202.
Indices, 203-206.

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