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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Themes & Provenance ▸ Types ▸ Love & BeautyView Options:  |  |  | 

Love & Beauty on Ancient Coins

Venus is the Roman goddess principally associated with love and beauty, the rough equivalent of the Greek goddess Aphrodite. The son of Venus and Mars, Cupid to the Romans, Eros to the Greeks, is the god of desire, affection and erotic love.


Magnia Urbica, Augusta Mid 283 - Mid 285 A.D.

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It was Sulla who in a dream first saw Venus as Venus Victrix (victorious Venus), with the weapons of Mars. He made her to his personal patroness. Pompey was inaugurating the cult of Venus Victrix in Rome. In the night before the battle of Pharsalus 48 B.C. Pompey was dreaming of Venus Victrix - seemingly a lucky sign -, whereas Caesar was sacrificing to Venus Genetrix, but issued as watchword 'Venus Victrix', and defeated Pompey!
RA86189. Billon antoninianus, RIC V-2 343 (S); Cohen VI 17; SRCV III 12424; Hunter IV p. 216, 4 var. (dot in crescent), F, centered on a broad flan, bumps and marks, weight 3.416 g, maximum diameter 23.8 mm, die axis 0o, 6th officina, Rome mint, 284 - 285 A.D.; obverse MAGN VRBICA AVG, diademed and draped bust right, crescent behind shoulders, hair brushed in straight lines, plait carried up the back to top of head and running under stephane; reverse VENVS VICTRIX (victorious Venus), Venus standing left, helmet in right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand, grounded shield at feet on left, KA crescent ς in exergue; scarce; $250.00 SALE PRICE $225.00


Severus Alexander, 13 March 222 - March 235 A.D., Parium, Mysia

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Eros was the Greek god of love. His Roman counterpart was Cupid ("desire"). According to Hesiod (c. 700 B.C.), one of the most ancient of all Greek sources, Eros was the fourth god to come into existence, coming after Chaos, Gaia (the Earth), and Tartarus (the Abyss or the Underworld). Parmenides (c. 400 B.C.), one of the pre-Socratic philosophers, makes Eros the first of all the gods to come into existence. In early Greek poetry and art, Eros was depicted as an adult male who embodies sexual power. But in later sources, Eros is represented as the son of Aphrodite, whose mischievous interventions in the affairs of gods and mortals cause bonds of love to form, often illicitly. Ultimately, by the later satirical poets, he is represented as a child, the precursor to the chubby Renaissance Cupid.
GB84659. Bronze AE 21, RPC Online VI temp 3873 (4 spec.), BMC Mysia -, SNG «anakkale -, SNG Cop -, SNGvA -, SNG BnF -, SNG Tub -, SNG Hunterian -, SNG Leypold -, F, well centered, small centration dimples, weight 6.202 g, maximum diameter 20.9 mm, die axis 45o, Parium (Kemer, Canakkale, Turkey) mint, 13 Mar 222 - Mar 235 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES L SEP SEV ALEXANDER (many letters blundered or retrograde), laureate and cuirassed bust right, from the front; reverse DEO CVPIDI-NI C G I H PAR (D and H blundered, god Cupid, Colonia Gemella Julia Hadriana Pariana), Cupid standing slightly left, head right, nude but for drapery over left arm, herm at feet on left; extremely rare; $160.00 SALE PRICE $144.00


Julia Domna, Augusta, 194 - 8 April 217 A.D.

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Victory seems an odd attribute for the goddess of love but both Sulla and Pompey dreamed of Venus Victrix. Julius Caesar, who claimed Venus as his ancestor, sacrificed to her and she ensured he was always victorious. The use of Victrix on the reverse of Julia Domna's coinage at this time, not only appealed to the goddess for aid against Pescennius Niger, but also reminded the Romans that the empress too was in Syria with the legions on campaign. It was during this time that Julia Domna was given the honorary title, MATER CASTORVM, or mother of the camp.
RS85793. Silver denarius, RIC IV S536; RSC III 194; BMCRE V p. 27, S49; Hunter III S3, SRCV II 6608, VF, toned, some porosity, edge cracks, weight 2.041 g, maximum diameter 18.9 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 193 - 196 A.D.; obverse IVLIA DOMNA AVG, draped bust right, hair in horizontal ridges and large bun at back of head; reverse VENERI VICTR (victorious Venus), Venus standing right, facing away, seen from behind, naked to the buttocks, resting left elbow on waist high column, transverse palm frond in left hand, apple in extended right hand; $160.00 SALE PRICE $144.00


Soloi, Cilicia, c. 100 - 30 B.C.

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Soli (or Soloi) was a colony of Rhodes, founded c. 700 B.C. southwest of Tarsus, in Cilicia. It was destroyed in the 1st century B.C., and refounded by Pompey the Great as Pompeiopolis (not to be confused with the Pompeiopolis in Paphlagonia).
GB57540. Bronze AE 26, cf. SNG BnF 1197, SNG Levante 872, SNG Cop -, aVF, weight 9.225 g, maximum diameter 24.1 mm, die axis 0o, Cilicia, Olba mint, c. 100 - 30 B.C.; obverse aegis with winged gorgoneion in center; reverse ΣOΛEΩN (below), Aphrodite riding bull right, owl before, monogram above left; rare; $90.00 SALE PRICE $81.00


Katane, Sicily, c. 212 - 50 B.C.

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In 212 B.C., after a two-year siege, despite defenses designed by the Greek mathematician and scientist Archimedes, the Roman general Marcus Claudius Marcellus forced his way into Syracuse. Although Marcellus wished to spare the Syracusans, he was unable to stop his soldiers from sacking the city. Archimedes was killed. Marcellus carried off the art treasures of Syracuse to Rome, the first recorded instance of a practice which was to become common.
GB66799. Bronze two chalkoi, Calciati III p. 110, 25; SNG ANS 1278; SNG Morcom 563; HGC 2 612 (R1); BMC Sicily p. 51, 65 corr.; SNG Cop -, VF, weight 3.768 g, maximum diameter 16.8 mm, die axis 0o, Katane (Catania, Sicily, Italy) mint, c. 212 - 50 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right; reverse KATA/NAIΩN, Aphrodite Hyblaia (or Isis?) standing right, wearing kalathos on head, holding dove in extended right, II (2 chalkoi) right; $90.00 SALE PRICE $81.00


Julia Mamaea, Augusta 13 March 222 - February or March 235 A.D.

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Victory seems an odd attribute for the goddess of love but both Sulla and Pompey dreamed of Venus Victrix. Julius Caesar, who claimed Venus as his ancestor, sacrificed to her and she ensured he was always victorious. The use of Victrix on the reverse of Mamaea's coinage at this time, not only appealed for her aid against the Persians, but also reminded the Romans that the empress too was in Syria accompanying the legions on campaign.
RS73862. Silver denarius, RIC IV 358, RSC III 76, BMCRE VI 713, Hunter III 5, SRCV II 8216, VF, well centered on a broad slightly ragged flan, die wear, porous, bumps and scratches, weight 2.771 g, maximum diameter 21.3 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 231 A.D.; obverse IVLIA MAMAEA AVG, draped and diademed bust right; reverse VENVS VICTRIX (victorious Venus), Venus standing half left, helmet extended in right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand, grounded shield on left at feet against far side; ex Harlan J. Berk; $80.00 SALE PRICE $72.00


Katane, Sicily, c. 212 - 50 B.C.

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In 212 B.C., after a two-year siege, despite defenses designed by the Greek mathematician and scientist Archimedes, the Roman general Marcus Claudius Marcellus forced his way into Syracuse. Although Marcellus wished to spare the Syracusans, he was unable to stop his soldiers from sacking the city. Archimedes was killed. Marcellus carried off the art treasures of Syracuse to Rome, the first recorded instance of a practice which was to become common.
GB66786. Bronze two chalkoi, Calciati III p. 110, 25; SNG ANS 1278; SNG Morcom 563; HGC 2 612 (R1); BMC Sicily p. 51, 65 corr.; SNG Cop -, VF, weight 3.126 g, maximum diameter 14.9 mm, die axis 315o, Katane (Catania, Sicily, Italy) mint, c. 212 - 50 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right; reverse KATA/NAIΩN, Aphrodite Hyblaia (or Isis?) standing right, wearing kalathos on head, holding dove in extended right, II (2 chalkoi) right; $70.00 SALE PRICE $63.00


Julia Mamaea, Augusta 13 March 222 - February or March 235 A.D.

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After Apollo insulted him, Eros (cupid) shot Apollo with an arrow that caused him to fall in hopeless love with Daphne, a mortal woman. Eros shot Daphne with an arrow which made her incapable of loving Apollo. Nevertheless Apollo pursued her, and out of desperation Daphne escaped by having herself turned into a laurel. Ever after, winners of the games to honor Apollo wore wreaths of laurel in honor of Apollo's Daphne.
RB55439. Bronze sestertius, RIC IV SA694, BMCRE VI SA190, Cohen IV 62, SRCV II 8232, aVF, weight 20.624 g, maximum diameter 31.1 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 224 A.D.; obverse IVLIA MAMAEA AVGVSTA, diademed and draped bust right; reverse VENERI FELICI, Venus standing facing, head right, long scepter vertical in right hand, cupid seated facing her in her left hand, cupid is naked, winged and extends his hands toward her, S - C (senatus consulto) flanking across field; $55.00 SALE PRICE $49.50


Tarsos, Cilicia, c. 380 - 360 B.C.

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In historical times, Tarsos was first ruled by the Hittites, followed by Assyria, and then the Persian Empire. Tarsus, as the principal town of Cilicia, was the seat of a Persian satrapy from 400 B.C. onward. Indeed, Xenophon records that in 401 B.C., when Cyrus the Younger marched against Babylon, the city was governed by King Syennesis in the name of the Persian monarch. Alexander the Great passed through with his armies in 333 B.C. and nearly met his death here after a bath in the Cydnus. By this time Tarsus was already largely influenced by Greek language and culture, and as part of the Seleucid Empire it became more and more Hellenized. Strabo praises the cultural level of Tarsus in this period with its philosophers, poets and linguists. The schools of Tarsus rivaled those of Athens and Alexandria.
GS58069. Silver obol, SNG BnF 310 - 311, SNG Levante 217 - 218, F, weight 0.458 g, maximum diameter 10.0 mm, Tarsos (Tarsus, Mersin, Turkey) mint, obverse uncertain female head facing slightly left; reverse bust of Aphrodite right, wearing tainia; $45.00 SALE PRICE $40.50







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Catalog current as of Wednesday, February 21, 2018.
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Love & Beauty