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Egyptian Hoards I

The Ptolemies



Table of contents

Introduction.............................................................................................................................................. IX

Why a Coin Hoards for Egypt?................................................................................................... IX

The Hoard Data................................................................................................................................. X
Information on the List and on the Notices......................................................................... XI

Chapter I.  List of Hoards.................................................................................................................... 1


Chapter II.  New Hoards.................................................................................................................... 17


Part 1.  The Balkans, and the Aegean................................................................................................ 17

Part 2.  Cyprus........................................................................................................................................... 18

Part 3.  Levant............................................................................................................................................ 19
Part 4.  Egypt............................................................................................................................................. 24

Chapter III.  Articles............................................................................................................................. 35

1. C. Lorber
Overview of Egyptian Silver Hoards under the First Five Ptolemies................................ 35
2. C. Lorber
EH 79. The Aleppo Hoard, 1893 (IGCH 1516).......................................................................... 40

Table of contents V
3. S.P. Craven
EH 156. A Hoard of Early Ptolemaic Silver Tetradrachms
from the American Numismatic Society Coin Cabinet (CH 5.33)..................................... 48
4. Th. Faucher
EH 155. Mit Rahineh avant 1968 (CH 10.447).......................................................................... 56
5. A.R. Meadows
EH 91. Unknown Find Spot, 2013................................................................................................ 63
6. Th. Faucher

EH 173. Le trésor de Touna el-Gebel, 1962? (CH 10.448)...................................................... 64
7. P. Keen

EH 96. The Iraq al-Amir Hoard, 1993 (CH 9.497, 10.268).................................................... 76
8. A.R. Meadows

9. J. Olivier Au
EH 100. The Hebron Area Hoard, Israel, 1991 (CH 8.304)................................................. 134

EH 103. Syrie 1989 (CH 8.462) : deux trésors en un ?............................................................ 139

10. A.R. Meadows
EH 125. Hebron Area 1979 (CH 7.109); Hebron 1980 (CH 7.111);
Yatta 1978/79 (CH 9.531); and Yatta 1981................................................................................... 142
11. Th. Faucher

EH 197. Le trésor de la porte bubastide, Karnak (CH 10.454)........................................... 147

12. A.R. Meadows

EH 105. The “Syria” 1981 Hoard (CH 7.90, 8.306, 8.311, 8.332, 8.344)................................. 150
13. A.R. Meadows
EH 99. The Jordan Hoard, 1987 (CH 8.320)............................................................................ 195

14. J. Olivier, A.R. Meadows

EH 111. Jericho Area, c. 1991 (CH 8.412).................................................................................... 197
15. Th. Faucher, J. Olivier, Ph. Brissaud, Chr. Desbordes
EH 208. Trésor de Tanis, 1986.................................................................................................... 203
16. A.R. Meadows
EH 115. Southern Palestine, 1977 (CH 4.58)............................................................................ 223

VI Egyptian Hoards I
17. A.R. Meadows
EH 113. The Bethlehem Area Hoard, 1984 (CH 8.432)........................................................ 224
18. P.P. Iossif, J. Olivier
EH 126. Saïda 2010 : un trésor atypique ?................................................................................. 225
19. A.R. Meadows
EH 135. Gaza Strip, 1977 (CH 4.69).......................................................................................... 234
20. Th. Faucher, Chr. Desbordes
EH 196 and 227. Les trésors monétaires de la partie nord-ouest du temenos

de Mout à Tanis (Tanis 2007a et 2007b)................................................................................ 236
21. A.R. Meadows, D. Fabre

EH 203. The Heracleion 2010 Hoard....................................................................................... 243
22. Th. Faucher

23. E.T. Newell (†), J. Olivier Au

EH 258, 259 and 260. Trois trésors de bronzes de Cyrénaïque à la BnF......................... 251

EH 221. A Ptolemaic Hoard from Mit Rahinet (IGCH 1714)............................................ 254

24. J. Olivier, Th. Faucher
EH 69. Le trésor de Paphos (IGCH 1477 ; CH 2.106 ; 4.68)................................................ 258
25. Th. Faucher
EH 230, 240, 243 and 246. Les trésors tardifs :

le monnayage d’argent de Ptolémée XII et Cléopâtre VII................................................. 316

26. Th. Faucher

EH 248. Trésor d’Abydos, avant 1940...................................................................................... 327

Bibliography............................................................................................................................................ 333

Plates........................................................................................................................................................... 353

Table of contents VII

[A.R. Meadows, D. Fabre267]

Plate 95
In 2010, to the south of the temple of Amon-Gereb at Heracleion-Thonis (a submerged
site in the bay of Aboukir, in the north-west of the Nile Delta),268 the European Institute of
Underwater Archaeology (IEASM), directed by Franck Goddio, in collaboration with the
Supreme Council of Antiquities, discovered a hoard of 18 Ptolemaic bronze coins dating from
the 2nd century BC (H11624). Their excellent state of preservation,269 and their discovery within
a clearly identified archaeological context during a scientific excavation, make these coins an

important reference point for the study of the site and of the coinage issued by the Ptolemaic
kingdom in the 2nd century BC.


The discovery of this monetary treasure came during research to extend our knowledge
of the “sacred quarter” of the town, which had been archaeologically evaluated in previous
years by a series of surveys and geophysical analyses. The M3 excavation allowed chronologi-
cal sequences to be established, comparative evaluations made, and interpretations offered, of
the building-use, the development, and the nature of the destruction of this very distinctive
quarter of Heracleion-Thonis. It is on this central promontory that the temenos dedicated

267.  We would like to thank Franck Goddio, president of the IEASM and director of the excavation, who gave

us all necessary assistance in the study of the hoard. We would like to equally thank Catherine Grataloup who
examined the ceramics found in the excavated area, and Marie-Amande Coignard for restoring and conserving
the coins.
268.  Begun in 1996 in the Bay of Aboukir (Egypt), the geophysical and geological analyses have made it possible

to determine the contours of the Canopic region now underwater, the circumstances and chronology of the
phenomena of its submersion, the course of the ancient western branch of the Nile, the position of the principal
archaeological deposits mentioned in the ancient texts, as well as the site’s morphology and the configuration
of the human establishment. It appears that a vast triangle of land, 10 km across the base and 10 km long, was
submerged under the waves after collapse and slow subsidence. Following archaeological research, the work of

the IEASM has notably illuminated the general topology of Heracleion-Thonis, situated to the west of the Nile
Delta, and now more than 6 km from the coast: see Goddio 2007. For the results of the geological analyses, see
Stanley 2007. The topography of Heracleion-Thonis fits over that established by Pr. Jean Yoyotte according
to the study of the texts: the name of the city of Thonis (T-Hôné) reflects a particular historical geography; the
city was built over one of the “lower basins (hôné) of the arms of the Nile from where the offshoots at the end
of the lower branch of the Delta emptied into the coastal lagoons, while the single upper arm emptied into the
open sea” (Yoyotte 2001, p. 25).
269.  As the IEASM conservator M.-A. Coignard notes: “Even if very few corrosion plots (blue-green copper
oxy-hydroxides) can be observed, a conservation treatment was needed. Chlorides from the surrounding water
must have migrated into metal porosity, attracted by the polarity of the metal. It needed to be wash out to avoid
cyclic corrosion which could, under optimum conditions, lead to rapid oxidation of the metallic copper until
total destruction of the metal. To prevent more oxy-hydroxides to form, we proceed to chlorides on a passive
solution (basic, pH11) of sesquicarbonate sodium. This solution also increases the chloride extraction rate.”

to Amon-Gereb stood with its temples and annexes,270 around which spread a vast harbor
­complex.271 Dived exploration and geophysical readings had already suggested the presence of
a canal or harbor basin to the south of the temple boundary wall. The task was to identify the
types of port structure found (pier, wharf, quay), and then to try to understand the function-
ing of these probable waterways, and their relation to the economic and religious structures
of the town. The task of identification was made more complicated by the sedimentary geol-
ogy of the site, as a visual and even physical similarity has often been observed here between
land which emerged in ancient times, and the floors of ports or canals. Some submerged land
is now, through collapse and landslide, at a lower level than the floor of the ports that it once
neighbored. Being no longer protected by their surroundings, these structures are suffering,

like the area in general, from the erosive effects of the sea swell, waves and currents, which have
exposed their clay base. Almost all the sediments and loose material which covered them in
antiquity have been removed. The floors of the basins as well as the parts still apparent above

the surface in antiquity, are now flat surfaces, covered almost uniformly by a carpet of mussels
about 10 cm deep, with a layer of marine sand beneath. There is also an interpenetration of the
ancient land surface and the harbor basins.

The M3 excavation consisted of the clearing of an area of about 100 m2 and the digging of
several deep boreholes to the south of a precinct wall, which was detected by side-scan sonar.
This structure is built of limestone blocks (l. 60-135 cm; w. 40-80 cm; h. 40-70 cm), at places still
standing three courses high. These foundational levels rest on the clay substrate. Preserved for
a length of 150 m, orientated east-west, the wall defines the southern edge of the temple precinct
(no construction has been found to the south of it). At 34 m from its western end, there is an
offset of 4.5 m to the south. It was from here, the best preserved section of continuous blocks,
that the grid for M3 was positioned. The disposition of the remains of the wall, together with
evidence from the excavations, showed that the area as a whole had experienced landslides

causing the collapse of the wall towards the south.

The coin hoard was discovered at these levels of collapse, in a layer with a north-south
­depression of compact clay, including limestone fragments, gravel and pottery shards, below a

surface layer (of about 0 to 30 cm shelly sand with limestone fragments and potshards rolled
and cemented).272 The exceptional conservation state of the coins is explained by the dense clay

270.  Excavations have uncovered a temple precinct wall more than 150 m long (see below). The discovery of the

naos (the monolithic chapel that held the image of the principle god worshipped in the sanctuary) dedicated
to “Amon of Gereb,” and the indications of the stele of the Decree of Canopus, allow the identification of the
town in which it stands—Heracleion—and that of the principle god of the town. See J. Yoyotte in Goddio,
Fabre 2008, p. 309, no. 115.
271.  To the south-east of the temenos, the port led to quays and an enormous outer harbor, which opened to
the Nile through a narrow passage between cordons of dunes, which protected the whole. To the north of the
“central basin,” systematic surveys have notably revealed several concentrations of wrecks dating from the 5th to
the 6th century BC (see Fabre 2011). To the north, a harbor basin probably allowed access to the sea.
272.  The soundings and the extended excavations have clearly shown that the layers of collapsed material have
“slipped” into the depression situated directly to the south, which appears to be a waterway, most probably a
canal. That this later was navigable is demonstrated by the discovery of a boat which had been covered by the
collapsed layers (Wreck 61, H11193, constructed with “mortise and tenon technique” and bronze nails). The type
and the chronology of the ceramics within the layers sealing the wreck are clearly identical to those at level of

244 Egyptian Hoards I

in which the hoard was found. This means that exchanges with the surrounding environment
would have been limited, with little oxygen and water movement. In this relatively hermetic
environment, the first copper ions, put into solution by the corrosion process, did not migrate
away from coins. They formed a very fine layer of oxidized products, which were quite protec-
tive for the underlying metal. As this first copper oxygenation occurred and consumed oxygen,
close environment must have become quite anaerobic soon after burial. Anaerobic corrosion
does exist for copper alloys, even if it is a slower process than aerobic corrosion, but it didn’t
seem to have occurred. Sulfate and bacteria producing sulfate, at the base of anaerobic corro-
sion, must have been absent. The “clay” was a kind of silty clay-loam, with a large amount of
calcareous inclusions, known to be a non-corrosive environment. The pH must have been basic

(due to calcareous presence), which is very important for metal passivity. All together with a
stable environment, with very few movements and a stable content of water, these data explain
the almost un-corroded state of the coins.273

Architectural elements present in the strata are a fragment of column and the Doric capitol
of a fluted column from the end of the 3rd to the beginning of the 2nd century BC.274 Amongst
the many objects of archaeological interest (coins, fragments of gold jewelry, lead figurines, etc.)

found in this layer, there is a pig (H11781), a cock (H11713) and a theatre mask (H11783), typical
terracottas, firmly grounded in the Greek tradition but commonly found in Egypt. Accord-
ing to the finds at Athribis, terracottas of animals in general start becoming more popular in
Egypt around the 2nd century BC, and reach their peak in the Roman period.275 The quality
and refinement suggest a Hellenistic date, mid-2nd century BC.276
The ceramic material retrieved from the four collapsed layers—the coin hoard was found in
the second layer—is largely intact and not fused, the sign of rapid burial.277 Layer no. 1 notably
contains a fragment of Rhodian amphora whose base and the beginning of the body are compa-
rable to examples from the 2nd century BC.278 The neck of an Egyptian amphora of type AE2,

consistent with the slip decorated brown terracotta Hellenistic production of the same period,

the coin hoard: ceramics, mostly local, from the end of the 3rd to the first half of the 2nd century BC (see below).
It is to be noted that the deeper levels of sedimentation in the canal (below 170 cm), dating from the Persian
period (that of the last indigenous dynasties), have a very different appearance.
273.  Personal communication of M.-A. Coignard.
274.  See parallels in Pensabene 1993, pp. 311, 335, pl. 1, 16.

275.  Syzmańska 2005, pp. 125, 130, 157.

276.  The best parallels for the pig are Fischer 1994, pp. 420-421, nos. 1134-1135, pl. 120 (particularly no. 1134,
Hellenistic date). The best parallels for the rooster are Fischer 1994, p. 425, cat. nos. 1153-1154, pl. 122 (particularly
no. 1153, Hellenistic date). Fischer provides substantial bibliography for these types, including many other
parallels. Syzmańska also provides a parallel for the pig (Syzmańska 2005, p. 242, cat. no. 240, pl. XXIX), but
his represents a female rather than a male, and it is Roman according to the archaeological context.
277.  The analysis of the ceramic material was performed by C. Grataloup (IEASM). All the data below is
taken from her report for the 2009-2010 missions. We have only referenced ceramics discovered in those layers
directly related to the coin hoard, and not all the ceramics discovered in sector M3 (whose general aspect and
chronology are notably similar). C. Grataloup is preparing the analysis of the ceramics discovered at Heracleion
for publication, together with drawings, photographs and bibliographic references for the ceramics mentioned
here, as well as those from the rest of the M3 sector: Grataloup forthcoming.
278.  Monachov 2005, pp. 78, 81, fig. 4.5.

and the bottom of a local bowl of alluvial clay,279 with convex sides, slip decorated, and with a
stamped decoration of three palmettes, are again from the 2nd century BC. The ceramic content
of layer no. 2 differs little from that of layer no. 1. The neck of a type AE2 amphora in alluvial
clay, which has been dated to between the end of the 3rd and the middle of the 2nd century BC,
was found,280 as well as a local plate of form B firing from the 2nd century BC, with a stamped
decoration of palmettes surrounded by guilloche patterning, and a fishplate with a rounded edge,
partially decorated with orange slip on the exterior, of the 2nd century BC.281 In layer no. 3, local
production is represented by tableware such as the Lekane with a protruding rim modelled on a
Hellenistic Greek original.282 As in layers nos. 1 and 2, the Egyptian AE2 amphora of alluvial clay
is present. Layers nos. 2 and 3 contained local tableware in the form of convex slipped bowls fired

either with B-type reduction or with oxidation. The existence of these two concurrent products,
the profile of the bowls, but equally the presence of a plate with a rounded internal edge, allows
these ceramics to be dated to the course of the 2nd century BC. Like the many other ceramics

found in the course of the M3 excavation, rich in complete forms, this last plate has a fault of
manufacture. Layer no. 4 yields the base of a local amphora in Egyptian style made in the alluvial
clay of Rhodian amphoras of the 3rd to the beginning of the 2nd century BC.283 A little keeled

bowl, in chalk clay with a rounded edge and a very open profile, an example of the tableware made
of chalk clay (Alexandrian) which appeared towards the end of the 3rd and continued until the
2nd century BC,284 also has a manufacturing fault.285 The layers of collapse thus do not seem to
reveal differences either of chronology or character, which supposes a rapid, even simultaneous,
buildup of these strata during the first half of the 2nd century BC, most probably the second
quarter. This gives a date that is perfectly consistent with that of the coin hoard.



• Faucher and Lorber series 6e286

Obv.: Head of Zeus-Ammon r.; dotted border

Rev.: Two eagles standing l. on thunderbolt; in l. field, cornucopia Í; dotted border; PTOLEMAIOU
Sv. — (cf. 1424B)
1. 22.85 0 28 mm H11624q

2. 21.93 0 30 mm H11624c

279.  Fine alluvial clay free of plant material, from 2nd century BC Alexandria, Harlaut 2002, p. 271.
280.  Marangou, Marchand 2007, pp. 263, 288, fig. 122.
281.  Harlaut 2002, p. 285.
282.  Rotroff 2006, 110 i.
283.  Marangou, Marchand 2007, pp. 263-264, 288, fig. 119 and 125.
284.  Harlaut 2002, pp. 271-272.
285.  The recurrence of manufacturing faults in the ceramics found at these levels suggests the presence of
nearby workshops.
286.  References are to Faucher, Lorber 2010. See now also Picard, Faucher 2012, pp. 60-76.

246 Egyptian Hoards I

3. 24.59 0 30 mm H11624r
4. 21.84 300 28 mm H11624s

Obv.: Head of Isis r.; dotted border

Rev.: Eagle with open wings standing l. on thunderbolt; dotted border; PTOLEMAIOU BASILEWS
Sv. 1234
5. 19.16 300 28 mm H11624d
6. 16.55 330 27 mm H11624m (edge broken)
7. 20.92 330 27 mm H11624a
8. 20.97 300 27 mm H11624h

9. 20.43 330 27 mm H11624f
10. 20.57 330 28 mm H11624e
11. 17.77 300 27 mm H11624g

12. 17.06 0 27 mm H11624b

Obv.: Head of Alexandria in elephant-scalp headdress r.; dotted border

Sv. 1236
22 mm H11624i
22 mm H11624n
Rev.: Eagle with open wings standing l. on thunderbolt; dotted border; PTOLEMAIOU BASILEWS

15. 10.36 330 22 mm H11624j

16. 8.97 0 22 mm H11624k
17. 8.06 0 22 mm K11624o

Obv.: Head of Isis r.; dotted border


Rev.: Eagle standing l. on thunderbolt, head reverted; at back, filleted cornucopia Í; dotted
Sv. 1238

18. 5.03 0 18 mm H11624l

The recent re-examination of the evidence for Ptolemaic bronze coinage of the 2nd ­century BC
by Thomas Faucher and Catharine Lorber (2010) has introduced a degree of clarity that had

hitherto been lacking. Since Huston and Lorber’s seminal article of 2001,287 it had been clear that
there had been a significant reform of the bronze coinage very late in the reign of ­Ptolemy IV,
perhaps c. 207-205 BC. By this reform, the familiar types of the 3rd century coinage were
swept away in favor of a new structure with distinctive new designs, reduced module and lower
weights. The new denominations may be tabulated thus:

287.  Huston, Lorber 2001, pp. 11-40.

Obverse type Diameter Weight
Large horn Ammon (Sv. —) 35 40
Isis (Sv. 1491) 31 23
Heracles (Sv. 1492) 28-30 16-20
Alexandria (Sv. 1493) 24 11
Isis (Sv. 1154) 22 7
Heracles (Sv. 1496) 18 4

The first phase of this new coinage was designated “series 6a” by Faucher and Lorber. Over
the course of the 2nd century, these denominations saw a gradual decrease in module and

weight, and also, at least in the smaller denominations, some variation in design. The largest
four denominations remained distinctive throughout, however.
The chronological development of series 6 can be followed, to a certain degree, through hoard

evidence. A series of hoards excavated in the sacred animal necropolis at Saqqara,288 together with
a much larger hoard recorded from commerce in 1992 (EH 201: the “Coinex hoard”), all ­appear
to have been buried at around the same time, and all contain coins of series 6a, ­together with

later issues with the same types, but with different control marks, different style and slightly
reduced weight and diameter, all indicative of the passage of time. These later phases have
been termed “series 6b” and “6c” by Faucher and Lorber. A further series, present only in the
Coinex hoard, has been identified as “series 6d.”289
Price was tempted to regard the Saqqara necropolis hoards as connected with the invasion
of Egypt by the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes c. 170 BC. As Faucher and Lorber have
noted, his reasons for seeking a date at this particular period cannot now stand up to scrutiny.
Nonetheless, the connection of the deposit of these hoards with a major crisis within Egypt
seems plausible. The end of the series 6 coinage can otherwise be deduced from the likely start

date of the coinage that follows it, series 7. As Faucher and Lorber have shown, series 7 begins
with the coinage issued in the name both of BASILISSHS KLEOPATRAS and PTOLEMAIOU
BASILEWS. They have suggested an identification of this king and queen with Ptolemy VI and

his sister Cleopatra II, who ruled together from 163-145 BC. The dating of series 7 to before
146 BC is confirmed by its occurrence in a hoard buried at Corinth in Greece (EH 41; IGCH 264),
before the destruction of that city in 146 BC. On balance, it seems likely, therefore, that series 6
had come to an end by the beginning of the joint reign of the Ptolemy VI and Cleopatra II.

Within this broader context of the series 6 and 7 coinage of the middle part of the 2nd cen-
tury BC, the new hoard from Heracleion occupies an interesting position. All 18 coins belong
to last part of series 6, identified by Faucher and Lorber as series 6e.290 This series postdates the
crisis that led to the deposit of the Saqqara necropolis and “Coinex” hoards, since none of these

288.  Price 1981 (EH 204-6).

289.  For full discussion of the series, see Lorber, Faucher 2010, with a summary in table 3.
290.  The Heracleion hoard, indeed, provides the first clear evidence for the existence of the largest denomination
in the series (coins nos. 1-4 in the catalogue above). See Lorber, Faucher 2010, p. 42, table 3.

248 Egyptian Hoards I

deposits contain 6e issues. Yet the diameter and weight of the issues of 6e seem to place them
firmly before the issues of series 7, which seem to begin with the joint accession of Philometor
and his sister in 163 BC.
As we have seen, Price’s proposed deposit date of c. 170 BC for the Saqqara hoards can neither
be proven nor ruled out. Given the poverty of our knowledge of the events in Egypt during
the 170s, we cannot rule out the possibility of a crisis otherwise unattested by the literary and
documentary sources. On balance though, it seems likely from its survival rate today that the
6e coinage was not especially large, and therefore, is unlikely to have been produced over a long
period of time. The years c. 170-163 BC most probably cover its period of issue.
This being the case, it is intriguing to speculate about the circumstances of the deposit of

the Heracleion hoard. It does not have the feel of a savings deposit, and contains only coins
of 6e, and probably all in relatively fresh condition. This has the air of a group of coins taken
out of circulation at one time.


The difficulty of determining the purpose and circumstances of the burial of the hoard leads
to other questions relating to the history of the site. While the levels of destruction, in which
the coins were found, cannot be directly related to a particular historical event, it remains
tempting to see it as a more or less direct consequence of the campaign of Antiochus IV in
169 or 168 BC. In the former year, Antiochus entered Egypt by land, took Pelusium, and from
there must have marched across the Delta to the Canopic branch of the Nile. There, perhaps
at Naucratis, Egyptian ambassadors found him (Plb. 28.19.7). Certainly Antiochus was to be
found at Naucratis shortly afterwards, securing the loyalty of the Naucratites with a hand-

some donative (Plb. 28.20.10). But in 168, Antiochus returned with a fleet, took Cyprus, and
proceeded to conquer much of Egypt. In the Fayum, for example, we hear that the temple of
Amon at Moeris suffered in the passage of the Seleucid troops.291 Antiochus himself, or his fleet,

might equally well have passed through Heracleion, en route for the famous “Day of Eleusis”
(Livy 45.12.1-6). Whatever the case, the destruction revealed in this sector of the temple of
Amon at Heracleion appears to be the result of landslides or substrate collapse, occurring soon
after the burial or hiding of the treasure, rapidly covering and so preserving it. The ceramics

found in the covering material present a homogenous character and chronology. All from the
first half of the 2nd century BC, they are not characteristic of a large commercial center, rather
they are for local use, mostly locally made, and like the amphoras, not always of good quality,
very probably produced in buildings ancillary to the temple. A comparison with the material
from the same period found in Alexandria is striking—it suffices to point out the absence of
oriental or Italian sigillata vessels.292 Generally speaking, the excavations at Heracleion had
already shown an abandonment of the site from the 2nd century BC onwards. To judge from

291.  P. Tebt. 3.781, ll. 2-5 (Trismegistos 5369). Cf. Hölbl 2001, p. 147.

292.  C. Grataloup will highlight these differences in a forthcoming study.

the numismatic information alone, the vast majority of Ptolemaic coinage examined from
­Heracleion predates series 6e (Meadows 2015); this provides a terminus ante quem for the de-
cline of the port as a commercial center. This decline began after the foundation of ­Alexandria
in the 4th century BC. Heracleion would no longer serve as Egypt’s western port, and would
lose its central economic role.293 It retained its special religious aura in the Ptolemaic period,
as seen by both archaeological discoveries and ancient texts. It appears nonetheless that in
the second quarter of the 2nd century BC, one or more catastrophic events led to the almost
complete abandonment of ancient Thonis. The excavations have highlighted both the natural
factors (collapses, landslides, soil liquefaction, etc.), and the anthropogenic (the removal of stone,
reuse, etc.), impacting on the principle buildings of Heracleion.294 However, it still remains

difficult to measure the degree of implication of the many problems that the ­Egyptian economy
suffered in the 2nd century BC, through repeated disruption (revolts, foreign invasion, civil
wars), corruption, and the decline of the irrigation system, etc.295 A factor we have to consider

is the role of the canal from Alexandria to the Nile, and the effect that this may have had in
pushing Heracleion to the sidelines. The Alexandria canal joined the Nile at Schedia296 (28 km
south-east of Alexandria), which was a Ptolemaic-Roman city functioning as a customs harbor

for goods moving through it from both directions.297 It appears that the finds at Schedia pro-
vide in effect a mirror image of that of Heracleion. Excavations indicate that after a Hellenistic
phase (from the end of the 3rd century BC onwards), Schedia experienced significant growth
during the Roman period with a rise in production or storage facilities.298

293.  Alexandria inherited the administrative and economic structures, as well as communications networks and

well-established interregional trade of Heracleion-Thonis. According to Pseudo-Aristotle, these administrative

and economic powers were transferred under unsavory circumstances. Cleomenes of Naucratis, who was
assigned to build up and populate the new capital, where the majority of trade was to be conducted, extracted
enormous sums from priests and businessmen in the city and misappropriated trade (Ps.-Aristot. Econom. 2,
33e). We cannot exclude the possibility that the (economic) “decline” of Heracleion-Thonis was caused in part

by a geomorphological modification of the Delta at the Canopic mouth of the Nile.

294.  There is almost a complete absence of material dating from after the 2nd century BC. By the 1st century BC
Heracleion-Thonis is no more than a memory. Diodorus Siculus (90-20 BC) wrote concerning the Thonis
site: “It is at the place called Thonis, which was formerly the Egyptian emporion, that the river flows into the
sea” (Diod. 1, 19, 4). Strabo, visiting the region of Canopus in 30 BC, observed in vague terms: “It is said that,
in ancient times, a city called Thonis existed there” (Strab. 16, 1, 16). The site was again occupied during the
Byzantine Period. See Goddio 2007; Goddio 2008; Fabre 2008; Fabre, Goddio 2015.
295.  Bingen 2007, pp. 195-204.
296.  Rougé 1987; Clauss 2005, pp. 297-328.
297.  Strab. 17, 1, 16.
298.  This process is reversed in late Roman into Byzantine period when there is a decline in its role as an
emporium (due to a possible decrease in trade), and a shift towards “ruralisation” and agricultural production.
See Excavations Reports: http://www.schedia.de/content.html.

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Pl. 95.  EH 203. The Heracleion 2010 Hoard. [A.R. Meadows, D. Fabre]