The earliest treatments
The earliest treatments1 of the coins that were tentatively attributed to Cyprus were published before the Cypriote-syllabic script was studied and deciphered by Brandis in 1873,2 and also before the exact meanings of the letters of the Phoenician alphabet were well known.3
In 1836, Borrell4 noted Cypriote coins with legends in Greek alphabetic script. All of these are 4th century BC coins which he attributed to Salamis and Paphos, though some of them are in fact from Soloi. His review was based on the names of the kings that were then known through literary texts, but his attribution of coins to each of the kings was precarious due to the repetition of royal names - among other things - such as that of Evagoras at Salamis. In 1852, de Luynes5 included in his account coins bearing Cypriote syllabic characters – though much later it became clear that some of these characters are actually Carian.6 Without a complete understanding of the script, many of his mint identifications and attributions were erroneous. Thus, the 5th century BC coins bearing a recumbent ram, characteristic for Salamis, were at that time attributed to Amathous [Fig. 1]; those of Amathous depicting a lion, to Paphos; and those of Paphos showing a bull, to Salamis. De Luynes attributed to Salamis 4th century BC coins of Marion, and to Marion he attributed some coins that were struck at Mallοs in Cilicia. At that time, the coins were illustrated with a drawing and not yet with a photograph.
Yet it was also de Luynes who, in 1846,7 attributed for the first time coins with Phoenician inscriptions to Cyprus, notably to Kition, instead of Phoenicia, Syria or Cilicia. De Vogüé’s study in 1867 improved upon de Luynes’ by including - among other arguments - discussion of the places where coins had been found and of their weight system. In this way he distinguished the coins of Oziba’al, king of Kition, from those of another Oziba’al, king of Byblos (Phoenicia).
The first systematic treatise on the coins struck in Cyprus during the period of the kingdoms must be ascribed to Blau,8 in an article of 25 pages published in 1875. With a much better reading of the Cypriote-Syllabic legends and also of the Phoenician characters, Blau identified the coins more accurately than was possible for de Luynes in 1852.
Further adjustments were soon made thanks to increasing knowledge of the scripts and the establishment of royal genealogies in Salamis and Kition with the help of literary texts and inscriptions. Regarding Kition in particular, epigraphic publications relating to the dedicatory inscriptions of Idalion and Kition refer to the succession of its kings. The kings of the 4th century BC were discussed in the Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum, 1881,9 and those of the 5th century BC in an article of E. Berger of 1887.10 In 1883, J.P. Six published a systematic repertory of coins by mint, describing the types and inscriptions.11 Many parts of his work are still valid, as are also the catalogues of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France published by E. Babelon in 1893,12 the British Museum Catalogue written in 1904 by G.F. Hill,13 and the treatise of E. Babelon published in 1907 and 1910.14
The 20th century: specialised studies
In the 20th century numerous details of the coins have been studied and corrected. These new proposals have been published in numerous articles15 and some of them have been included in general numismatic treatises, such as those of Kraay16 and Nicolet-Pierre.17
Specialised studies have reconsidered the attributions and the dates of several coins. For many, the mint has been correctly identified through the proper reading of the legends on better preserved coins (e.g. Lapethos,18 [Fig. 2] Marion19) and through the knowledge of the find-spots of the coins (e.g. Amathous,20 Kition,21 Kourion [Fig. 3],22 Marion,23 Soloi24). The understanding of the dates of some coins has improved through the study of overstruck coins (e.g. Salamis25) and through the establishment of coin sequences by die-studies (e.g. Paphos,26 Salamis,27 the gold coins of all of the kings of Cyprus28).
Entirely new coins with hitherto unknown types and legends have been discovered in excavations, numismatic collections, and sale catalogues. This new material has filled in several lacunae in numismatic data and historical information about the island in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. Some important facts about the kings of the Cypriote kingdoms, who are poorly documented in ancient sources, are provided only by numismatic evidence, as in the case of King Wroikos of Amathous,29 Kings Baalzakor and Demonikos of Lapethos,30 King Sasmâs of Marion,31 Kings Mineus, Zowalios, and Pnytos of Paphos,32 and King Phausis of Salamis.33 The iconography on the coins has been a fruitful area for research (the flower-like motif on Idalion coins,34 the war-like types on Marion coins [Fig. 4]35 and the earring on 4th century Salamis coins36 [Fig. 5]).
Recent developments: expansion of research fields
More recently, the topics of Cypriote numismatic research have paralleled those applied to the coins of other regions. Fields of research have expanded: much more attention is now paid to coinage in metals other than silver and gold. Coinage in bronze has been studied at Kition37 [Fig. 6], Marion,38 Paphos,39 and Soloi.40 Some coins have been submitted to metal analyses (especially gold coins from different mints).41 Progress has been made in the understanding of weight systems and denominations of the coins.42 Attention is also paid to the circulation of the coins of Cypriote kingdoms in Cyprus and abroad, not only of those found in hoards but also of isolated coins, especially relevant to the island itself.43 The Kyprios Character website will ensure that research in Cypriote numismatics expands further.