Phanes (coin issuer)

This article is about a coin issuer. For other uses, see Phanes (disambiguation).
Electrum coin from Ephesus, 620-600 BC. Obverse: Stag grazing right, ΦΑΝΕΩΣ (retrograde). Reverse: Two incuse punches, each with raised intersecting lines.

Phanes name is attested on a series of early electrum coins, the most ancient inscribed coin series at present known, of Caria, Asia Minor. This group of coins has a Greek legend reading "Phaneōs eimi sēma" (Φάνεως ειμί σήμα)[1] which can be translated either as "I am the badge of Phanes" or as "I am the sign of light" [2] or maybe "I am the tomb of light" or "I am the tomb of Phanes". The celebrated coins of Phanes are known to be amongst the earliest of Greek coins, a hemihekte of the issue was found in the foundation deposit of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (this deposit is considered the oldest deposit of electrum coins discovered).

Possible Identifications for "Phanes"

No further certain information exists as to the identity of the Phanes named on these coins. One possibility is that Phanes was a wealthy merchant, another that the coins bearing the name are to be associated with Apollo-Phanes and, due to the Deer, with Artemis (twin sister of the god of light Apollo-Phaneos). Although only seven Phanes type coins were discovered, it is also notable that 20% of all early electrum coins also have the Lion (symbol of Artemis-Potnia Theron) and the sun burst (symbol of Apollo-Phaneos). Alternatively it is stated [3] that the inscribed Phanes maybe was the Halicarnassian mercenary of Amasis, mentioned by Herodotus,[4] who escaped to the court of Cambyses, and became his guide in the invasion of Egypt in the year B.C. 527 or 525. According to Herodotus, this Phanes was buried alive by a sandstorm, together with 50000 Persian soldiers, while trying to conquer the temple of AmunZeus in Egypt.[5] The fact that the Greek word "Phanes" also means light (or lamp), and the word "sema" also means tomb,[6] makes the coins issued in the name of Phanes famous and controversial.[7]

Religious interpretation - prophecy

Phanes coin originates from Caria, where Meander river flows . Meander is considered one of the most common Greek archetypal symbols, also known as Greek key. The coin is probably among the first coins and certainely the first inscribed one. It was buried in the very foundation of the temple of Ephesus by the priests of the Mother Goddess Potnia Theron. The statement "I am the tomb of light" is very important and may be considered as a prophecy of the role of money, a prophecy strongly associated also with the Thirty pieces of silver which were the cause of the death of Jesus, whose death and resurrection may also be associated with the Orphic cult of Phanes.

See also


  1. "Electrum stater inscribed with the name of Phanes". British Museum. 2011-09-29. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  2. Newton (Num. Chron., 1870, p. 238
  3. "Full text of "The numismatic chronicle and journal of the Royal Numismatic Society"". Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  4. Herodotus third book (ch. iv.)
  5. Herodotus third book
  6. Iliad 2.814, 6.419
  7. "Ancient coinage of Ionia". Retrieved 2012-05-21.
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