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Armenian Coinage

For more information on coins from the Armenian culture (also, Islamic and Indian cultures), please visit Stephen Album's excellent site on the topic.


Armenian Kingdom, Tigranes II (95-56 BC), AR Tetradrachm, c.83-70 BC, Antioch mint
(No legend)
Bust of Tigranes right, wearing an Armenian tiara with five pyramidal points and adorned with a comet star between two eagles, in border of reeds
BAΣIΛEΩ_Σ | TIΓPANOY
Tyche of Antioch seated right on rocks, vertical palm in right hand, river-god Orontes swimming right below and looking back, all within laurel wreath
Monogram in right field, Tau-Rho symbol on rocks
25mm x 27mm, 15.03g
Depeyrot, Armenien 29; Bedoukian 20
Ex Midwest "Coins of Christianity" Collection; Ex Monnaies d'Antan, 2008

Notes and commentary from consignor:

Based on the overall style and monogram combinations, this coin was minted between 83-70 BC.

Tigranes was one of the most successful rulers of his time, a capable military leader, and skilled at negotiating treaties and providing sound economic directions. His territory included present-day Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Armenia and parts of southern Russia. He defeated armies of the Parthians, Syrians and Seleukids. Tigranes was eventually defeated by the Roman general Lucullus in 66 BC, but was able to negotiate his continued reign in Armenia.

There are many historical records of Judeans and Samaritans being deported to Armenia and as a large part of the Diaspora. Tigranes was also successful in getting many Samaritans to voluntarily come to Armenia, where they established a successful commercial center in the town of Vartkesavan. This wealth of Samaritan tradition appears to have played a big role in the use of Messianic symbols on coins.

The tau-rho monogram represents the suffering Messiah and was eventually used by Christian writers as a nomina sacro in ancient scriptures. This symbol is now better known (incorrectly) as the Christogram and this is the earliest use of the tau-rho (properly Staurogram) monogram I have found. The tau-rho has been incorrectly compared to the chi-rho for a long time. They are distinctly different symbols with the chi-rho being Greek shorthand for "Christ" and the tau-rho being shorthand for stauros or "cross" in Greek. 


Cilician Armenia, Levon I (1198-1219), Royal Period, AR Tram
(Armenian legend)
King seated facing on leonine throne, globus cruciger in right hand, lily in left, all in beaded inner circle
(Armenian legend)
Long cross flanked by rampant lions with reverted heads, all in beaded inner circle
22mm x 23mm, 2.95g
Nercessian 287


Cilician Armenia, Levon I (1198-1219), Royal Period, AR Tram
(Armenian legend) 'Levon, King of the Armenians'
King seated facing on leonine throne, wearing crown and royal mantle, cross in right hand, fleur-de-lys in left, feet not resting on footstool, all in beaded inner circle (semi-artistic)
(Armenian legend) 'By the Will of God'
Long cross between two rampant regardant lions, all in beaded inner circle (artistic)
23mm x 25mm, 2.77g
Bedoukian 498 (citing 8 specimens); cf. Nercessian 293 (legends)


Cilician Armenia, Levon I (1198-1219), Royal Period, AE Tank
(Armenian legend)
Crowned, bearded leonine head of king facing, turned right in inner circle
(Armenian legend)
Patriarchal cross flanked by two stars, all in inner circle
28mm, 8.61g
Bedoukian 696; Nercessian 300/13


Cilician Armenia, Hetoum I  and Zabel (1226-1271), AR Tram
(Armenian legend)
Hetoum I and Zabel standing facing each other, both holding long vertical cruciform scepter between them, partial beaded circle in fields
(Armenian legend)
Crowned lion standing right, facing forward, long vertical cruciform scepter in background, all breaking beaded inner circle
20mm x 21mm, 2.93g
Nercessian 345


Cilician Armenia, Hetoum I  and Zabel (1226-1271), AR Tram
(Armenian legend)
Hetoum I and Zabel standing facing each other, both holding long vertical cruciform scepter between them, partial beaded circle in fields
(Armenian legend)
Crowned lion standing right, facing forward, long vertical cruciform scepter in background, all breaking beaded inner circle
21mm, 2.95g
Nercessian 345


Cilician Armenia, Hetoum I  and Zabel (1226-1271), AR Tram
(Armenian legend)
Hetoum I and Zabel standing facing each other, both holding long vertical cruciform scepter between them, partial beaded circle in fields
(Armenian legend)
Crowned lion standing right, facing forward, long vertical cruciform scepter in background, all breaking beaded inner circle
21mm x 22mm, 2.76g
Nercessian 345


Cilician Armenia, Hetoum I (1226-1271), AE Kardez, Sis Mint
(Armenian legend)
King enthroned facing, lis in right hand, globus cruciger in left, star to left
(Armenian legend)
Cross in circle, crescent in upper-right quarter, wedge in others
20mm x 24mm, 6.10g
Bedoukian 1393/1394


Armenian ruler Hetoum I as vassal under the Rum Seljuq ruler Kaykhusraw II (1236-1245), type A-1221 in the "Checklist of Islamic Coins". The mint is Sis but not inscribed on this coin, the date is completely blundered, as is often the case on these coins. Attribution provided by Steve Album on December 10, 2004.