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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Themes & Provenance ▸ MythologyView Options:  |  |  | 

Mythology and the Ancient Gods

Many ancient coins depict the gods and goddesses of the Greeks, Romans and other ancient cultures. Collecting as many different gods and goddesses as possible is a fun, educational and affordable collecting theme. Every ancient gods and goddesses has their mythical function, biography, lineage and other facts and fictions that make them interesting. Here we will present as many different gods and goddesses as we can and provide some of the stories about them that fascinate us. We hope they fascinate you too.


Valerian I, October 253 - c. June 260 A.D., Tyre, Phoenicia

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Dido, the founder and first queen of Carthage, is primarily known from Virgil's Aeneid. Upon succeeding their father as king of Tyre, Dido's brother Pygmalion had her husband Sichaeus killed in a plot to seize his immense wealth. Dido, with a large group of friends and followers, escaped Tyre, carrying with them all of Sichaeus' treasure. As depicted on the reverse of this coin, Dido made a sacrifice at the temple of Melqart-Hercules before leaving. The reverse on some other Valerian types, we know of one example struck with this same obverse die, depict Dido in Carthage beginning construction.
RP75357. Bronze dichalkon, Unpublished in the many references examined by Forum, cf. SNG Righetti 2354 (radiate and cuirassed bust), Rouvier 2503 (same), VF, well centered, porous, flan adjustment marks, weight 11.064 g, maximum diameter 28.9 mm, die axis 180o, Tyre mint, Oct 253 - Jun 260 A.D.; obverse IMP CP LIC VALERIANVS AVG, laureate and cuirassed bust right; reverse COL TVRO MET, Dido standing right, kalathos on head, extending both hands toward a distyle temple of Melqart-Hercules in perspective to upper right, club within the temple, flaming column altar at her feet, murex shell on right below temple; from the J. Berlin Caesarea Collection; the best of the few examples of the type known to Forum; extremely rare; $640.00 (569.60)


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 140 - 175 A.D.

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King Minos demanded that, every ninth year, Athens send seven boys and seven girls to Crete to be devoured by the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull monster that lived in the Labyrinth. Theseus, son of Aigeus, the king of Athens, volunteered to take the place of one of the youths and slay the monster to stop this horror. Upon his arrival to Crete, Ariadne, King Minos' daughter, fell in love with him and gave him a ball of thread to help him find his way out of the Labyrinth. Theseus promised Ariadne that if he escaped he would take her with him. Using the string to mark his path, he made his way to the heart of the Labyrinth, slew the Minotaur, followed the string out, and then rescued the Athenian boys and girls. Athena told Theseus to leave Ariadne and Phaedra behind on the beach. Distressed by his broken heart, Theseus forgot to put up the white sails that were to signal his success. Upon seeing black sails, his father committed suicide, throwing himself off a cliff into the sea, causing this body of water to be named the Aegean.
GB77873. Bronze drachm, BMC Attica p. 105, 764; SNG Cop 341; Svoronos Athens, pl. 96, 1; Kroll 276, aF, corrosion, weight 7.132 g, maximum diameter 23.7 mm, die axis 180o, Athens mint, pseudo-autonomous under Rome, c. 140 - 175 A.D.; obverse helmeted head of Athena right, wearing crested Corinthian helmet; reverse AΘHNAIΩN, Theseus right, preparing to slay the Minotaur, nude, planting knee on the back of Minotaur, raising club in his right hand, a horn of the Minotaur in his left hand, the Minotaur falling right on left knee; from the Butte College Foundation, ex Lindgren (Antioch Associates); very rare; $450.00 (400.50)


Maionia, Lydia, 161 - 180 A.D.

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Omphale was queen of the kingdom of Lydia, the wife of Tmolus, the oak-clad mountain king of Lydia. After he was gored to death by a bull, she continued to reign on her own.

Omphale bought Herakles from Hermes, who sold him after an oracle declared Hercules must be sold into slavery for three years. Hercules had sought the oracle to learn what he must do to purify himself, after he murdered his friend Iphitus and stole the Delphic tripod. As a slave, Herakles was forced to do women's work and even wear women's clothing and hold a basket of wool while Omphale and her maidens did their spinning. Meanwhile, Omphale wore the skin of the Nemean Lion and carried Herakles' olive-wood club. But it was also during his stay in Lydia that Herakles captured the city of the Itones and enslaved them, killed Syleus who forced passersby to hoe his vineyard, and captured the Cercopes. He buried the body of Icarus and took part in the Calydonian Boar Hunt and the Argonautica. After some time, Omphale freed Herakles and took him as her husband.

The Greeks did not recognize Omphale as a goddess. Omphale's name, connected with omphalos, a Greek word meaning navel (or axis), may, however, represent a Lydian earth goddess. Herakles' servitude and marriage may represent the servitude of the sun to the axis of the celestial sphere, the spinners being Lydian versions of the Moirae. This myth may have been and attempt to explain why the priests of Herakles wore female clothing.
GB83463. Bronze AE 19, SNG Cop 222; SNGvA 3011; SNG Munchen 302; BMC Lydia p. 129, 17, VF, superb style, well centered, light marks and corrosion, weight 4.380 g, maximum diameter 18.9 mm, die axis 0o, Maeonia mint, rule of Marcus Aurelius, 161 - 180 A.D.; obverse bearded head of Herakles left; reverse MAIONΩN, Omphale advancing right, holding lion's skin and club across shoulder; $350.00 (311.50)


Roman Republic, L. Marcius Censorinus, 82 B.C.

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The moneyer selected the design to play on his name, Marsyas sounds like Marcius.

Marsyas found Athena's flute. Inspired by the breath of a goddess, it played beautifully. Foolishly he challenged Apollo to a musical contest. Apollo won by singing to the music of his lyre. As a just punishment for his presumption, Apollo flayed Marsyas alive. His blood was the source of the river Marsyas, and his skin was hung like a wine bag in the cave out of which that river flows.
SH73011. Silver denarius, SRCV 281, Sydenham 737, Crawford 363/1, RSC I Marcia 24, VF, nice style, attractive iridescent toning, weight 3.650 g, maximum diameter 19.0 mm, die axis 45o, Rome mint, 82 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right; reverse the satyr Marsyas standing left with wine skin over shoulder, LCENSOR before, a column topped with Victory behind; scarce; $245.00 (218.05)


Gordian III, 29 July 238 - 25 February 244 A.D., Deultum, Thrace

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Andromeda was the daughter of Cepheus, an Aethiopian king, and Cassiopeia. When Cassiopeia's boasted that Andromeda was more beautiful than the Nereids, Poseidon sent a sea monster (Cetus Aethiopicus) to ravage Aethiopia as divine punishment. Andromeda was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to sate the monster, but she was saved by Perseus. Later Andromeda and Perseus were married.
SH63219. Brass AE 23, Draganov Deultum 1241a (O109/R592); Varbanov II 2758 (R6); BMC Thrace -; SNG Cop -, aF, weight 6.276 g, maximum diameter 22.5 mm, die axis 180o, Deultum (Debelt, Bulgaria) mint, 29 Jul 238 - 25 Feb 244 A.D.; obverse IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AG, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from behind; reverse COL FL PAC DEVLT, Perseus (on right) standing left, helping Andromeda (on left) come down from a rock after saving her, Medusa's head and harpa in his left hand, his right foot on the sea monster, Cetus Aethiopicus, turned to stone; very rare; $200.00 (178.00)


Phoenician (Palistinian Workshop), 4 Stamped Glass Votive Fragments, 1st Century B.C. - 1st Century A.D.

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From the collection of Alex G. Malloy, former dealer in antiquities for 40 years.

These votive pieces were made to be ritually broken before offering in the altar of the god or distribution in fields for fertility or under building foundations for good fortune. They are almost always found broken.
AA32416. 4 glass votive stamped fragements, partial images of male god; $90.00 (80.10)


Faustina Sr., Augusta 25 February 138 - Early 141, Wife of Antoninus Pius

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Venus (Aphrodite) can be faulted for the Trojan War. Upset that she was not invited to a wedding, she went anyway and maliciously left a golden apple inscribed "For the fairest" on the banquet table. The goddesses, as Aphrodite expected, argued who was the rightful possessor of this prize. It was determined the most handsome mortal in the world, a noble Trojan youth named Paris, would decide. Each of the three finalists offered Paris a bribe. Hera promised he would rule the world. Athena said she would make him victorious in battle. Aphrodite guaranteed the love of the most beautiful woman in the world. This was Helen, who was married to the king of Sparta. Paris awarded the golden apple to Aphrodite. Aphrodite enabled Paris to elope with Helen, Helen of Troy. Helen's husband raised a Greek army to retrieve his wife, starting the Trojan War.
RB71296. Copper sestertius, RIC III 1081, Cohen II 282, Strack III AP1224, SRCV II -, F, some pitting and corrosion, weight 25.927 g, maximum diameter 33.4 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 138 - 141 A.D.; obverse FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG PII P P, draped bust right; reverse VENERI AVGVSTAE, Venus standing right, raising drapery on shoulder with right, apple raised in extended left, S - C (senatus consulto) flanking across field; $90.00 (80.10)


Gallienus, August 253 - September 268 A.D.

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In Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus were the twin sons of the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia, fathered by the god of war, Mars. They were abandoned in the Tiber as infants. Faustulus, a shepherd, found the infants being suckled by the she-wolf (Lupa) at the foot of the Palatine Hill. Their cradle, in which they had been abandoned, was on the shore overturned under a fig tree. Faustulus and his wife, Acca Larentia, raised the children. Romulus was the first King of Rome.
RA73653. Billon antoninianus, Gbl MIR 1628c, RSC IV 46b, RIC V S628, Hunter IV S194, SRCV III 10171 var. (cuirassed bust left), gVF, full circles strike on a broad flan, much silvering, porous, weight 3.435 g, maximum diameter 22.8 mm, die axis 180o, Antioch mint, 264 - 265 A.D.; obverse GALLIENVS AVG, radiate and draped bust right, seen from behind; reverse AETERNITAS AVG, she-wolf standing right, head left, the twins Romulus and Remus suckling below, palm branch right in exergue; $75.00 (66.75)


Septimius Severus, 9 April 193 - 4 February 211 A.D., Nikopolis ad Istrum, Moesia Inferior

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The first of Herakles' twelve labors, set by his cousin King Eurystheus, was to slay the Nemean lion and bring back its skin. It could not be killed with mortal weapons because its golden fur was impervious to attack. Its claws were sharper than swords and could cut through any armor. Herakles stunned the beast with his club and, using his immense strength, strangled it to death. During the fight, the lion bit off one of his fingers. After slaying the lion, he tried to skin it with a knife from his belt but failed. Wise Athena, noticing the hero's plight, told him to use one of the lion's own claws to skin the pelt.
RP67903. Bronze assarion, H-H-J Nikopolis 8.14.14.25, AMNG I/I 1389, Varbanov I 2347, Moushmov 1010, BMC Thrace -, SNG Cop -, aVF, weight 3.725 g, maximum diameter 16.6 mm, die axis 225o, Nicopolis ad Istrum (Nikyup, Bulgaria) mint, obverse AV K Λ C CEVHPOC, laureate bust right; reverse NIKOΠOΛI ΠPOC I, Herakles standing left, strangling the Nemean lion; $32.00 (28.48)







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Catalog current as of Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
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Mythology