Silver Tetradrachm from Byblos, Phonecia, c.  544 BC    

A hippocamp swims below a Phonecian galley with 3 hoplites aboard. On the reverse, a lion attacks a bull, inscription above.

The Phoenician seamen were renowned in Antiquity; Homer mentions them in the Odyssey. Founded more than seven thousand years ago, Byblos is one of the eldest cities in the world that is still inhabited; its influence is due to its trade with the Egypt of the Pharaohs, to whom it supplied Lebanese wood.

Egyptian style Sphinx on a unique Silver Shekel from Byblos (Phoenicia) c. 450-410 BC

Sphinx crouching wearing double-crown of Egypt. On the reverse, a hippocamp and Punic inscription all in an incuse square and dotted frame. Unique and unrecorded.

It has been suggested that the Punic characters on the reverse, equating ‘M’ and ‘G’, could abbreviate ‘King of Byblos’ since Gebal or Gibel was the ancient Phoenician name for the city the Greeks called Byblus. Such an identification seems likely considering the hippocampus was a prominent feature on later silver coins of Byblus and the obverse finds exact parallels to coins found at the site. Even more convincing is the vast body of numismatic and archaeological evidence that testifies to the strong Egyptian influence in Byblus – hence the importance of the sphinx obverse.

Legend provides the city with strong ties to Isis, who at one point is said to have been in service to its king and queen; we are also told that Osiris’ coffin landed at Byblus. Furthermore, the sphinx on this shekel and its related issues is not the standard Greco-Roman version, but is distinctly Egyptian in appearance: it wears the Nemes headcloth, upon which is placed the dual crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, with the bottom crown representing Lower Egypt (the Delta) and the top part representing Upper Egypt. Its right forepaw may be raised above a lotus flower, and its serpent-like tail may represent the snake Agathodaeomon.

Founded more than seven thousand years ago, Byblos is one of the eldest cities in the world that is still inhabited; its influence is due to its trade with the Egypt of the Pharaohs, to whom it supplied Lebanese wood.

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