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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Gods, Olympians||View Options:  |  |  |   

The Twelve Olympians on Ancient Coins

The Twelve Olympians, the principal gods of the Greek pantheon, residing atop Mount Olympus, included the following gods:

Greek

Roman

Zeus

Jupiter

Hera

Juno

Poseidon

Neptune

Demeter

Ceres

Ares

Mars

Hermes

Mercury

Hephaestus

Vulcan

Aphrodite

Venus

Athena

Minerva

Apollo

Apollo

Artemis

Diana

Hestia

Vesta


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 454 - 404 B.C., Old Style Tetradrachm

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The old-style tetradrachm of Athens is famous for its almond shaped eye, archaic smile, and charming owl reverse. Around 480 B.C. a wreath of olive leaves and a decorative scroll were added to Athena's helmet. On the reverse, a crescent moon was added.

During the period 449 - 413 B.C. huge quantities of tetradrachms were minted to finance grandiose building projects such as the Parthenon and to cover the costs of the Peloponnesian War.
SH91292. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG München 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, VF, well centered, bold strike, high relief, light tone, flow lines, light marks, weight 17.196 g, maximum diameter 24.7 mm, die axis 90o, Athens mint, c. 454 - 404 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, almond shaped eye, crested helmet with olive leaves and floral scroll, wire necklace, round earring, hair in parallel curves; reverse owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, AΘE downward on right, all within incuse square; ex Numismatic Lanz; $1530.00 SALE |PRICE| $1377.00


Britannicus, Son of Claudius and Messalina, b. 12 February 41 - d. 11 February 55 A.D., Alabanda, Caria

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Of this type, RPC I notes, "Uncertain. This coin was published by Mi 3.307.22, and is known from a Mionnet cast. The coin [the Mionnet specimen] has been tooled ('médaille retourchée') but may perhaps represent a genuine denomination." Our coin allays the RPC I doubts. The denomination is 1/3 of 18.5g RPC I 2818.
SH88430. Orichalcum AE 23, RPC I 2821 (= Mionnet III, p. 307, 22), F, porous, weight 6.496 g, maximum diameter 23.3 mm, die axis 0o, Alabanda (Doganyurt, Aydin, Turkey) mint, 50 - 54 A.D.; obverse KΛAV∆IOC BPETANNIKOC KAIΣAP, bare-headed and draped bust right; reverse AΛABAN∆EΩN, Apollo Kissios standing left, nude, bow in right hand with raven on top, sheep standing left at feet on left ; ex Forum (2013), ex J. S. Wagner Collection; of greatest rarity; $1100.00 SALE |PRICE| $990.00


Macedonian Kingdom, Philip III Arrhidaeus, 323 - 317 B.C.

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Struck in the name of King Philip III Arrhidaeus, Alexander the Great's half-brother, under the regent Perdikkas. Philip III and Alexander's infant son, Alexander IV, were made joint kings after Alexander's death. Philip was the bastard son of Philip II and a dancer, Philinna of Larissa. Alexander the Great's mother, Olympias, allegedly poisoned her stepson Philip III as a child, leaving him mentally disabled, eliminating him as a rival to Alexander. Neither Philip III nor Alexander IV was capable of actual rule and both were selected only to serve as pawns. The regents held power, while Philip III was actually imprisoned. In 317, Philip was murdered by Olympias to ensure the succession of her grandson.
SL89735. Silver drachm, Price P56, SNG München 947, SNG Cop 1105, HGC 3.1, 974e (S), Müller Alexander -, SNG Alpha Bank -, NGC MS, 5/5 strike, 5/5 surface, fine style (4629644-013), weight 4.26 g, maximum diameter 15.6 mm, die axis 0o, Ionia, Magnesia ad Maeandrum (near Tekin, Turkey) mint, struck under Menander or Kleito, c. 323 - 319 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, wearing Nemean lion scalp headdress; reverse Zeus seated left on throne without back, nude to waist, himation around hips and legs, feet on footstool, right leg drawn back, eagle in extended right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand, IAT monogram left, ΦIΛIΠΠOY downward on right; ex Giessener Munzhandlung D. Gorny GmbH; $750.00 SALE |PRICE| $675.00


Eastern Celts, Imitative of Philip II of Macedonia, "Dachreiter" Type, 2nd - 1st Century B.C.

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Although the body and head of the horseman on the prototype drachm of Philip III of Macedonia have been replaced by an S-shaped line over three pellets, the horseman's leg can still be found on the side of the horse!
SH89462. Silver tetradrachm, Göbl OTA tf. 15, 170/4; Lanz 448, aVF, light toning, reverse slightly off center, light marks, weight 11.953 g, maximum diameter 21.7 mm, die axis 0o, tribal mint, 2nd - 1st century B.C.; obverse laureate and bearded head of Zeus right; reverse stylized horseman prancing left, rider's head and body reduced to an S-shaped line over three pellets, leg of horseman on side of the horse; $600.00 SALE |PRICE| $540.00


Macedonian Kingdom, Antigonus II Gonatas, 277 - 239 B.C.

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Antigonus II Gonatas was a powerful ruler who solidified the position of the Antigonid dynasty in Macedon after a long period defined by anarchy and chaos and acquired fame for his victory over the Gauls who had invaded the Balkans. He was the grandson of Antigonus I Monophthalmus, who then controlled much of Asia. His maternal grandfather was Antipater. who controlled Macedonia and the rest of Greece and was recognized as regent of the empire, which in theory remained united.
SL89733. Silver drachm, Panagopoulou 152; AMNG III-2 p. 187, 5; SNG Cop 1203; SNG Mün 1079; SNG Alpha Bank 984; SNG Lockett 1526; SNG Berry 360; HGC 3.1 1044 (R3), NGC Ch VF, strike 4/5, surface 3/5 (4629570-003), weight 3.59 g, maximum diameter 15.9 mm, die axis 0o, Pella mint, 272 - 239 B.C.; obverse wreathed head of Poseidon right; reverse Athena Alkidemos advancing left, brandishing thunderbolt in right hand, shield decorated with aegis on left arm, Macedonian helmet inner left, TI inner right, BAΣIΛEΩΣ (Greek: king) downward on right, ANTIΓONOY downward on left; ex CNG Triton IX (10 Jan 2006), lot 829 (realized $600 plus fees); ex Robert Weimer Collection; very rare; $600.00 SALE |PRICE| $540.00


Lapethos, Cyprus, King Sidqmelek, c. 449 - 420 B.C.

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Excavation finds date Lapithos to as early as 3000 B.C. In the 4th century B.C., Lapithos was one of the nine kingdoms of Cyprus. During the Persian rule, Lapithos was settled by Phoenicians. After Peisistratos, king of Lapithos, along with Nicocreon of Salamis, and Stasanor of Curion helped Alexander the Great capture Tyre, Alexander declared Cyprus free. The last king of Lapethos, Praxippos, was subdued by Ptolemy I in 312 B.C. Under Roman rule, Lapethos had more than 10,000 inhabitants, produced copper, earthenware and produce, and was a port and a shipyard. Lapethos was given the name Lambousa ("shining") perhaps because of its beauty or perhaps because of its lighthouse. The apostles Paul, Barnabas, and Mark passed by Lapethos coming from Tarsus. According to Barnabas, during his second tour with Mark, they stayed outside the walls because they were denied access to the city. In late antiquity, Lapethos enjoyed great prosperity but was heavily damaged by Arab incursions. The population often had to flee and take refuge in the interior. After the Byzantine recovery of Cyprus from the Arabs in 965, Lapithos's refugees returned to rebuild, but chose to stay away from the sea, relocating it at the foot of mountain Pentadactylos.
GS87792. Silver stater, BMC Cyprus p. 30 f., 7-9, pl. VI, 6-8; Traité II p. 823, 1361-1363 and pl. CXXXVI; Bank of Cyprus p. 94 & pl. VII, 2; Tziambazis 48, F, struck with worn damaged dies, weight 10.789 g, maximum diameter 21.5 mm, die axis 180o, Lapethos (Lambousa, Cyprus) mint, c. 449 - 420 B.C.; obverse Phoenician legend: King of Lapethos, head of Athena left, wearing a crested Corinthian helmet; reverse Phoenician legend: of Sidqmelek, head of Athena facing, wearing a double-crested helmet with bull’s horn and ears, all within an incuse square; very rare; $580.00 SALE |PRICE| $522.00


Septimius Severus, 9 April 193 - 4 February 211 A.D., Heliopolis, Coele-Syria

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The use of perspective is rare on ancient coins!

Heliopolis in Coele-Syria was made a colonia with the rights of the ius Italicum by Septimius Severus in 193. Work on the religious complex at Heliopolis lasted over a century and a half and was never completed. The Temple of Jupiter, the largest religious building in the entire Roman Empire, was dedicated during the reign of Septimius Severus. Today, only six Corinthian columns remain standing. Eight more were shipped to Constantinople under Justinian's orders c. 532 - 537, for his basilica of Hagia Sophia.
RY89044. Bronze AE 25, Sawaya series 22, 294 - 295 (D56/R118); Lindgren III 1271 (same dies); SNG Cop 429; BMC Galatia p. 290, 2; Price-Trell 702, VF, green patina, earthen deposits, weight 11.386 g, maximum diameter 25.3 mm, die axis 180o, Heliopolis (Baalbek, Lebanon) mint, emission 5, 209 - 210 A.D.; obverse L SEPTIMIVS SEVERVS AVG, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right; reverse decastyle temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus Heliopolitanus, on a high podium, with steps in front, aerial view in perspective from above the left front corner, I O M H (Iovi Optimo Maximo Heliopolitano) above, COL HEL (Colonia Heliopolitana) below; ex John Jencek; $550.00 SALE |PRICE| $495.00


Luceria, Apulia, Italy, c. 211 - 200 B.C.

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In 321 B.C., the Romans, deceived into thinking Lucera was under siege by the Samnites, walked into an ambush and were defeated. The town threw out the Samnites, sought Roman protection, and in 320 B.C. was granted the status of Colonia Togata, which meant it was ruled by the Roman Senate. To strengthen ties, 2,500 Romans moved to Lucera. Roman culture merged with the native one slowly, probably accompanied by cross-cultural marriages, but Lucera was a steadfast supporter of Rome. By the 2nd century B.C., the rustic town was transformed into a proper Roman city with houses, public buildings, paved roads, sidewalks and services for travelers, accommodation for livestock with running water, and warehouses for storing goods.
GB86125. Bronze uncia, SNG ANS 709; SNG Cop 663; SNG BnF 1368; SNG München 504; HN Italy 682; BMC Italy p. 141, 62; Hunterian -, VF, rough, weight 4.084 g, maximum diameter 14.9 mm, die axis 0o, Luceria mint, c. 211 - 200 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right, bow and quiver at shoulder, pellet behind; reverse LOVC-ERI, toad seen from above; very rare; $480.00 SALE |PRICE| $432.00


Mopsion, Thessaly, c. 350 - 300 B.C.

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Mopsion issued only bronze coins, and only c. 350 - 300 B.C. In Nomos 4, BCD notes, "The bronzes of Mopsion are practically impossible to find in nice condition and without flaws or corrosion. They are also very rare and desirable because of the their spectacularly eloquent reverse. The nicest one to come up for auction realized $18,000..."

Mopsion, in the Peneus valley half way between Larissa and Tempe, took its name from the Lapith Mopsos, a son of Ampyx. Mopsos learned augury from Apollo, understood the language of birds, and became an Argonaut seer. As depicted on this coin, he was one of the Lapiths who defeated the Centaurs. This battle was a favorite subject of Greek art. While fleeing across the Libyan desert from angry sisters of the slain Gorgon Medusa, Mopsos died from the bite of a viper that had grown from a drop of Medusa's blood. Medea was unable to save him, even by magical means. The Argonauts buried him with a monument by the sea, and a temple was later erected on the site.
GB87120. Bronze trichalkon, BCD Thessaly II 484, BCD Thessaly I 1210, Rogers 412, McClean 4648, HGC 4 537 (R2), SNG Cop -, Pozzi -, BMC Thessaly -, gF, dark garnet and black patina, well centered, a little rough, weight 8.082 g, maximum diameter 20.5 mm, die axis 225o, Mopsion (Bakraina(?), Greece) mint, c. 350 - 300 B.C.; obverse head of Zeus facing slightly right, vertical thunderbolt to right; reverse MOΨ-EI-ΩN, Lapith Mopsos standing facing, nude, his head turned right, raising club in right hand and extending his left hand, fighting centaur that is rearing left and raising a bolder over its head with both hands preparing to throw it; ex BCD with his round tag noting, "HK ex Thess., April 02, $275.-"; very rare; $450.00 SALE |PRICE| $405.00


Trajan, 25 January 98 - 8 or 9 August 117 A.D., Roman Provincial Egypt

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In 116, Trajan completed his invasion of Parthia by capturing the cities of Seleucia, Babylon, Ctesiphon and Susa. This was the high-water mark of the Roman Empire's eastern expansion.
RX87338. Bronze drachm, BMC Alexandria p. 48, 402; Geissen 702; Emmett 611.19; Dattari 1072; Kampmann-Ganschow 27.662; SNG Milan -, Choice VF, well centered, attractive brown patina, a little flatly struck on highest points, weight 18.113 g, maximum diameter 33.8 mm, die axis 0o, Alexandria mint, 29 Aug 115 - 28 Aug 116 A.D.; obverse AVT TPAI-AN API CEB Γ-EPM ∆AKIK ΠAP, laureate bust right, aegis on far shoulder; reverse Zeus enthroned left, long scepter vertical in right hand, thunderbolt at side in left hand, eagle at feet standing left looking back, L I-Θ (year 19) across field; ex CNG, auction 78 (14 May 2008), lot 1508 ($650 plus fees); ex Empire Coins, auction 8 (7 Dec 1987), lot 429; $420.00 SALE |PRICE| $378.00




  



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The first ancient reference of religious ceremonies for the 12 Olympians is found in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes.

There was a great deal of fluidity when it came to who was counted among their number in antiquity. Around 400 B.C. Herodorus included in his Dodekatheon the following deities: Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Athena, Hermes, Apollo, Alpheus, Cronus, Rhea and the Charites. Herodotus includes Heracles as one of the Twelve.

Lucian also includes Heracles, and also includes Asklepios, as members of the Twelve, without explaining which two had to give way for them. At Kos, Heracles and Dionysus are added to the Twelve, and Ares and Hephaestus are left behind. However, Pindar, Apollodorus, and Herodorus disagree with this. For them Heracles is not one of the Twelve Gods, but the one who established their cult.

Plato connected the Twelve Olympians with the twelve months, and proposed that the final month be devoted to rites in honor of Pluto and the spirits of the dead, implying that he considered Hades, one of the basic chthonic deities, to be one of the Twelve. Hades is phased out in later groupings due to his chthonic associations. In Phaedrus Plato aligns the Twelve with the Zodiac and would exclude Hestia from their rank.

Hestia is sometimes displaced by Dionysus. Hebe, Helios and Persephone are other important gods, goddesses, which are sometimes included in a group of twelve.

The Twelve Olympians gained their supremacy in the world of gods after Zeus led his siblings to victory in war with the Titans. Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hestia, and Hades were siblings. Ares, Hermes, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, the Charites, Heracles, Dionysus, Hebe, and Persephone were children of Zeus. Although some versions of the myth state that Hephaestus was born of Hera alone.


Catalog current as of Saturday, August 24, 2019.
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Olympians