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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Themes & Provenance ▸ Gods, OlympiansView 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


Macedonian Kingdom, Philip II of Macedonia, 359 - 336 B.C.

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Philip II expanded the size and influence of the Macedonian Kingdom but is perhaps best known as the father of Alexander the Great. He personally selected the design of his coins.
SH85135. Gold stater, Le Rider pl. 75, 63 (D31/R52), SNG ANS 251 (also same dies), SNG Cop 523, aEF, fine style, sculptural high relief obverse die, some mint luster, very light marks, weight 8.572 g, maximum diameter 18.6 mm, die axis 315o, Amphipolis mint, 340/336 - 328 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right; reverse ΦIΛIΠΠOY, charioteer driving a racing biga right, wearing a himation, kentron in right hand, reins in his left hand, ivy leaf right below horses; $4500.00 (4005.00)


Macedonian Kingdom, Antigonus I Monophthalmus or Antigonus II Gonatus, 306 - 270 B.C.

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Unpublished in the standard references and not yet fully attributed, this is only the second specimen of this extremely rare and important drachm known to Forum. Both specimens were struck with the same reverse die. Gorny & Mosch wrote of their specimen: "Troxell recorded a very rare issue of Alexandrine tetradrachms in the name of Gonatas (The Peloponnesian Alexanders, ANSMN 17, 1971, 75-6, note 68), which through hoard evidence was conclusively proven to be struck at Pella circa 272 (see R. W. Mathisen, Antigonus Gonatas and the Silver Coinages of Macedon circa 280-270 BC, ANSMN 26, 1981, pp. 79-123, esp. p. 104). However, this unique drachm has no controls that would explicitly tie it to the Pella mint tetradrachms, and even more perplexing is the style of the engraving, which is clearly dissimilar to the tetradrachms as well. One might suppose that it is in fact not a coin of Gonatas at all, but rather a hitherto unknown drachm of his grandfather, Antigonos I Monophthalmos. However, this also does not sit well, again for reasons of style, which is inconsistent with the period of Monophthalmos' reign. For the time being, therefore, this coin must remain a numismatic enigma until further evidence can shed additional light on it."

There are two auction records for the Gorny & Mosch specimen: Roma Numismatics auction 7 (22 Mar 2014), lot 454, sold for 4,800 plus fees; and Gorny & Mosch auction 203 (5 Mar 2012), lot 150, sold for € 3,200 plus fees. Our coin sold at Gitbud & Naumann auction 16, (4 May 2014), lot 152, apparently slipping through unnoticed by all but our astute consignor for € 575 plus fees.
SH71048. Silver drachm, unpublished in standard refs; cf. Roma Numismatics auction 7, lot 454 (same rev die) = Gorny & Mosch auction 203, lot 150, VF, reverse struck a bit flat, weight 3.845 g, maximum diameter 19.4 mm, die axis 0o, uncertain Greece or Macedonia mint, 306 - 270 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, clad in Nemean Lion scalp headdress tied at neck; reverse BAΣIΛEΩΣ ANTIΓONOY, Zeus Aetophoros enthroned left, throne with high back, eagle in extended right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand, right leg drawn back; ex Gitbud & Naumann auction 16, lot 152; extremely rare, only two know specimens; $1950.00 (1735.50)


Julius Caesar, Imperator and Dictator, October 49 - 15 March 44 B.C.

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This issue was minted to pay for Caesar's military operation against the Pompeians in North Africa. The campaign ended with the dictator's victory at Thapsus on 6 April 46 B.C. The reverse depicts Aeneas carrying his father and the palladium away from burning Troy and refers to the mythical descent of the Julia gens from Iulus, the son of Aeneas.
SH85104. Silver denarius, Crawford 458/1, RSC I 12, Sydenham 1013, BMCRR East 31, SRCV I 1402, Choice gVF, bold strike, weight 3.799 g, maximum diameter 18.3 mm, die axis 180o, North Africa mint, 47 - 46 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Venus right, wearing necklace, hair rolled back, in a knot behind, two locks down neck; reverse CAESAR, Aeneas walking left, nude, carrying his father, Anchises, on his left shoulder, palladium in right hand; $1500.00 (1335.00)


Julius Caesar, Imperator and Dictator, October 49 - 15 March 44 B.C.

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This issue was minted to pay for Caesar's military operation against the Pompeians in North Africa. The campaign ended with the dictator's victory at Thapsus on 6 April 46 B.C. The reverse depicts Aeneas carrying his father and the palladium away from burning Troy and refers to the mythical descent of the Julia gens from Iulus, the son of Aeneas.
SH85111. Silver denarius, Crawford 458/1, RSC I 12, Sydenham 1013, BMCRR East 31, SRCV I 1402, Choice gVF, light toning, areas of luster, well centered and struck, some light scratches on the obverse, weight 3.846 g, maximum diameter 17.9 mm, die axis 180o, North Africa mint, 47 - 46 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Venus right, wearing necklace, hair rolled back, in a knot behind, two locks down neck; reverse CAESAR, Aeneas walking left, nude, carrying his father, Anchises, on his left shoulder, palladium in right hand; $1500.00 (1335.00)


Pompey the Great, Proconsul, Murdered in 48 B.C., Minted by his son Sextus Pompey

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Struck by Sextus Pompey after his victory over Salvidienus and relates to his acclamation as the Son of Neptune. Although Sextus Pompey was the supreme naval commander, Octavian had the Senate declare him a public enemy. He turned to piracy and came close to defeating Octavian. He was, however, defeated by Marcus Agrippa at the naval battle of Naulochus (3 September 36 B.C.). He was executed by order of Mark Antony in 35 B.C.
SH85112. Silver denarius, SRCV I 1392, RSC I Pompey the Great 17, Sydenham 1344, Crawford 511/3a, BMC Sicily 93, VF, light toning, luster in recesses, tight flan, die wear, part of edge ragged, weight 3.908 g, maximum diameter 19.7 mm, die axis 180o, Sicilian mint, 42 - 40 B.C.; obverse MAG.PIVS.IMP.ITER, head of Pompey the Great right between jug and lituus; reverse PRAEF CLAS ET ORAE MARIT EX S C, Neptune right foot on prow, flanked by the Catanaean brothers, Anapias and Amphinomus, with their parents on their shoulders; scarce; $1500.00 (1335.00)


Julius Caesar, Imperator and Dictator, October 49 - 15 March 44 B.C.

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Venus was the Roman goddess of love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity and victory. Julius Caesar claimed direct descent from the goddess through her son, Aeneas, who survived the fall of Troy and fled to Italy. Caesar sacrificed to her and believed she would ensure he was victorious. The small star at the base of Venus' scepter is symbolic of her divinity. The star on the obverse was likely intended to advertise the beginning of a new age.
SH84760. Silver denarius, Crawford 480/5b, Sydenham 1071, RSC I 41, BMCRR I Rome 4165, Sear Imperators 106a, SRCV I 1412, F, light toning, slightly off center on a tight oval flan, right side of reverse legend unstruck, scratches, light porosity, weight 3.603 g, maximum diameter 18.3 mm, die axis 270o, Rome mint, moneyer P Sevullius Macer, Jan - Feb 44 B.C.; obverse CAESAR IMP, wreathed head of Caesar right, star with eight rays around a central pellet behind; reverse P SEPVLLIVS MACER, Venus standing left, Victory in her right hand, long scepter with a star at base behind in her left hand, Victory facing left, holding wreath in both hands; $1210.00 (1076.90)


Pontic Kingdom, Mithradates VI, c. 120 - 63 B.C., Lysimachos Type

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Mithradates VI Eupator "the Great" expanded his Pontic Kingdom through conquest, which inevitably brought him into conflict with Rome. He regarded himself as the champion of the Greeks against Rome, however, after three years of war, he was defeated by Pompey the Great. The design of this coin is taken from a coin of Lysimachos, bodyguard of Alexander the Great, and King of Thrace, 323 - 281 B.C. The Lysimachos coin depicted Alexander the Great on the obverse. The features of the portrait on this type are those of Mithradates VI.
SH85133. Gold stater, De Callata p. 141 (D1/R1), SNG Cop 1090 (Thrace), VF, die wear, weight 8.395 g, maximum diameter 19.2 mm, die axis 0o, Moesia Inferior, Tomis (Constanta, Romania) mint, First Mithradatic War, 88 - 86 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Alexander the Great (with the features of Mithradates VI), wearing the horn of Ammon; reverse BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΛYΣIMAXOY, Athena enthroned left, wearing crested helmet, Nike in right hand, resting left arm on round shield behind, monogram and V above knee, TO on throne, trident in exergue; ex CNG e-auction 92 (23 Jun 2004), lot 27; $1200.00 (1068.00)


Macedonian Kingdom, Alexander III The Great, 336 - 323 B.C.

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On either 10 or 11 June 323 BC, Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, in Babylon, at age 32. This coin was struck around the time of Alexanders' death, in the city where he died, Babylon.

After Mazaeus died in 328 B.C., Alexander appointed Stamenes as satrap of Babylon. Little is known about him, other than he probably died of natural causes around 323 B.C. when Archon of Pella replaced him. Perdiccas suspected Archon of colluding in the theft of Alexander's corpse and, in 321 B.C., sent Dokimos to replace him. Archon was defeated and died from battle wounds.
SH85059. Silver tetradrachm, Price 3673, Mller 672, Demanhur 4467, Choice EF, toned, well centered and struck, fine style, high relief, toned, some bumps and marks, weight 17.214 g, maximum diameter 26.7 mm, die axis 90o, Babylon mint, struck by Stamenes or Archon, c. 323 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, clad in Nemean Lion scalp headdress tied at neck; reverse Zeus enthroned left, right leg forward (archaic lifetime style), feet on footstool, eagle in extended right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand, tiny M lower left, ΦIΛH monogram below strut, AΛEΞAN∆POY (Alexander) downward behind, BAΣIΛEΩΣ below; ex Gorny & Mosch auction 244, lot 176; $900.00 (801.00)


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

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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.
GS85068. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Munchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, Dewing 1611, SGCV I 2526, VF, attractive archaic style, well struck, toned, some marks and bumps, small edge cracks, weight 17.101 g, maximum diameter 23.8 mm, die axis 270o, 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 AΘE right, owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, all within incuse square; ex Gorny & Mosch auction 245, part of lot 1906; $900.00 (801.00)


Plarasa and Aphrodisias, Caria, 1st Century B.C.

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During the middle of the second century B.C., the neighboring towns of Plarasa and Aphrodisias united, forming a single community. The union was undoubtedly approved and probably encouraged by Rome to improve their security. The order of the names indicates Plarasa was the dominant community when the agreement was made. At that time Aphrodisias may have been little more than a small village with a sanctuary to Aphrodite. By the middle of the first century B.C., however, Aphrodisias was the prominent partner. Sometime during the reign of Augustus, the name Plarasa was dropped. The weight standard is apparently that of a late Roman Republican denarius.
GS84797. Silver drachm, Macdonald Coinage Type 2 (O2/R3), SNG Keckman I 13 (same dies), SNGva 2434 (different dies), cf. BMC Caria p. 27 (illegible), SNG Cop -, aVF, die break behind head on obv., scratches, polished, almost all of reverse legend is off flan or unstruck, weight 3.478 g, maximum diameter 17.1 mm, die axis 0o, Aphrodisias-Plarasa mint, pseudo-automomous, 1st century B.C.; obverse bust of Aphrodite right, veiled and draped, wearing stephane, earring and necklace; reverse ΠΛAPAΣEΩN KAI AΦPO∆EIΣEIΩN (or similar, none known with end of legend legible), eagle standing right on thunderbolt, head right, wings open, MY/ΩN in two lines in left field, ΞE/NO/KPA/THΣ / ME/NAN/∆PO/Y (magistrate Xenokrates Menandrou) in nine lines in right field; extremely rare; $750.00 (667.50)




  



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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 Thursday, May 25, 2017.
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Olympians