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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Themes & Provenance ▸ Birds ▸ OwlView Options:  |  |  |   

Owls on Ancient Coins

Owls are depicted on many different ancient coin types but the most prolific types are the coins of ancient Athens. The ancient slang names for the coins of Athens were "owls" (but in Greek of course) and "girls" (referring to Athena on the obverse, also in Greek). "Owls" were so popular as a central currency of the ancient world that the design remained essentially unchanged and somewhat archaic long after other cities began to produce coins of a more refined artistic style. "Owls" of Athens are still very popular. For collectors, they are perhaps the most popular ancient coin type.


Athens, Greece, Pi-Style III Tetradrachm, 353 - c. 340 B.C.

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The Pi III type introduced the true pi-style floral ornament. The lower tendrils have moved outward from the central tendril, and originate from and perpendicular to the curved horizontal line forming the upper tendrils; they parallel the central tendril for most of their length before flaring outward. The central tendril can be exceptionally long, extending down to Athenas ear. Pi III may or may not have a pellet above the earring on the obverse, and have one or two columns of pellets (feathers) to the right of the owl's beak on the reverse. All are struck on folded flans, often elongated oval shaped flans nicknamed "logs."
SH85069. Silver tetradrachm, Kroll Pi-Style p. 244, fig. 8; Flament p. 126, 3; SNG Cop 63; SNG Munchen 96; SNG Delepierre 1479; Svoronos Athens pl. 20: 2, VF, well centered and struck on thick oval "log" flan, attractive toning, light bumps and marks, weight 17.091 g, maximum diameter 25.0 mm, die axis 270o, Athens mint, 353 - c. 340 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right with eye seen in true profile, wearing crested helmet ornamented with three olive leaves and pi-style floral scroll; reverse owl standing right, head facing, to right AΘE in large lettering, to left olive sprig and crescent; ex Gorny & Mosch auction 245, part of lot 1906; $550.00 (489.50)


Kamarina, Sicily, c. 420 - 405 B.C.

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A Gorgoneion was a horror-creating apotropaic Gorgon head pendant. The name derives from the Greek word gorgs, which means "dreadful." The Gorgons were three sisters who had hair of living, venomous snakes, and a horrifying face that turned those who saw it to stone. Stheno and Euryale were immortal, but their sister Medusa was not, and was slain by Perseus. Zeus, Athena, Hellenistic kings and Roman emperors wore Gorgoneion for protection. Images of the Gorgons were also put upon objects and buildings for protection. A Gorgon image is at the center of the pediment of the temple at Corfu, the oldest stone pediment in Greece from about 600 B.C.
GI79953. Bronze tetras, Westermark-Jenkins, type C, 189; BMC Sicily p. 39, 36; Calciati III, p. 53, 16; SNG Stockholm 432; HGC 2 546; SNG Cop -; SNG ANS -, Choice gVF, fine style, nice green patina, well centered and struck, light marks, very light corrosion, small edge split, weight 4.731 g, maximum diameter 17.5 mm, die axis 0o, Kamarina (near Scoglitti, Sicily, Italy) mint, c. 420 - 405 B.C.; obverse facing head of Medusa (gorgoneion) round face, wild locks, no hair band, large eyes, straight mouth; reverse KAMA (upward on left), owl standing right on right leg, grasping lizard with head down in the left talon, three pellets (mark of value) in exergue, Γ (control mark) right; $500.00 (445.00)


Kamarina, Sicily, 413 - 405 B.C.

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Kamarina was suffering a plague. A marsh north of the city was the suspected source. The town oracle advised them not to drain the marsh, but in 405 B.C., the leaders ignored the advice. Once the marsh was dry, there was nothing to stop the Carthaginian army. They marched across the newly drained marsh, razed the city, and killed every last inhabitant.
GI76938. Bronze tetras, Westermark-Jenkins 200; Calciati III pp. 63 - 65, 33; BMC Sicily p. 40; 40; SNG Munchen 415; SNG ANS 1228; SNG Cop 169; HGC 2 548, gVF, nice green patina, tight flan, weight 3.242 g, maximum diameter 14.5 mm, die axis 90o, Kamarina (near Scoglitti, Sicily, Italy) mint, 413 - 405 B.C.; obverse head of Athena left, wearing crested Attic helmet decorated with wing, dot border; reverse KAMA (downward on right), owl standing left on left leg, head facing, lizard in right talon, three pellets (mark of value) in exergue; $400.00 (356.00)


Kamarina, Sicily, 420 - 405 B.C.

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Kamarina was suffering a plague. A marsh north of the city was the suspected source. The town oracle advised them not to drain the marsh, but in 405 B.C., the leaders ignored the advice. Once the marsh was dry, there was nothing to stop the Carthaginian army. They marched across the newly drained marsh, razed the city, and killed every last inhabitant.
GI76951. Bronze tetras, Westermark-Jenkins 195.12; BMC Sicily p. 40, 38; Calciati III p. 57, 24; SNG Cop 168; SNG Munchen V 410; HGC 2 547 (S); SNG ANS 1226 var. (style), gVF, well centered, attractive dark brown surfaces, some light corrosion, weight 3.552 g, maximum diameter 14.8 mm, die axis 225o, Kamarina (near Scoglitti, Sicily, Italy) mint, 420 - 405 B.C.; obverse facing head of Medusa (gorgoneion) with neatly waved hair, pearled headband, smiling expression, dimpled cheeks; reverse KAMA (downward on right), owl standing left on left leg, head facing, lizard with head down in right talon, three pellets (mark of value) in exergue; scarce; $300.00 (267.00)


Athens, Attica, Greece, Pi-Style III or IV Tetradrachm, 353 - 340 B.C.

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The name Pi-style refers to the floral helmet ornament on the obverse which resembles the Greek letter pi (P) bisected by a long central tendril. On this coin, the Pi-like floral ornament is off the flan.
GS84493. Silver tetradrachm, cf. Kroll Pi-Style p. 244, fig. 8; Flament p. 127, 4; SNG Cop 63; SNG Munchen 96; BMC Attica pl. V, 4; SGCV I 2547, VF, toned, typical tight flan but full face of owl on flan, obverse off center but face of Athena on flan, bumps, marks and scratches, weight 17.157 g, maximum diameter 23.7 mm, die axis 270o, Athens mint, 353 - 340 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right with eye seen in true profile, wearing crested helmet ornamented with three olive leaves and pi-style floral scroll; reverse owl standing right, head facing, to right AΘE in large lettering, to left olive sprig and crescent; from the Dr. Sam Mansourati Collection; $300.00 (267.00)


Amisos (as Peiraeos), Pontos, c. 435 - 370 B.C.

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Amisos was settled c. 760 - 750 B.C. by people from Miletus, who established a flourishing trade relationship with the ancient peoples of Anatolia. Amisos came under the rule of the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great's Macedonian Empire, and then the Kingdom of Pontus. The Romans took control in 47 B.C. and Amisos remained within the Byzantine Empire after the fall of Rome. In 1200, the city was captured by the Seljuks. Amisos today is Samsun, a city of about half a million people on the north coast of Turkey.
GS76173. Silver siglos, SNG BM 1082; SNGvA 45; BMC Pontus p. 14, 9; HGC 7 229; Rec Gen p. 46, 1; SNG Stancomb -; SNG Cop -, VF, attractive style, toned, reverse die wear and breaks, bumps and scratches, light corrosion, weight 5.695 g, maximum diameter 18.9 mm, die axis 45o, Amisos (Samsun, Turkey) mint, c. 435 - 370 B.C.; obverse draped bust of Hera-Tyche right, hair rolled, wearing a turreted stephane ornamented with palmettes and annulets, triple-drop earrings and pearl necklace; reverse owl standing facing on shield, head facing, wings spread open, MY-ΛΛ (magistrate) divided across field below wings, hippocamp upper left, A(?) lower left (not struck?), ΠEIPA in exergue; $270.00 (240.30)


Metapontion, Lucania, c. 300 - 200 B.C.

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Metapontion (Latin: Metapontum) was an important city of Magna Graecia, on a plain of extraordinary fertility on the Gulf of Tarentum, between the river Bradanus and the Casuentus. It was about 20 km from Heraclea and 40 km from Tarentum.
GB71325. Bronze AE 16, Johnston Bronze 68a; BMC Italy p. 263, 193; HN Italy 1704; SNG Cop 1254; Pozzi 542; SNG ANS 562 var. (Athena l.); SNG Morcom 296 var. (same), VF, green patina, some corrosion, weight 3.069 g, maximum diameter 15.5 mm, die axis 180o, Metapontion mint, c. 300 - 200 B.C.; obverse Athena Alkidemos advancing right, brandishing spear in right, shield in left; reverse META, owl standing right on stalk of barley right, head facing, wings closed; $225.00 (200.25)


Amisos (as Peiraieos), Pontos, c. 435 - 370 B.C.

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Amisos was settled c. 760 - 750 B.C. by people from Miletus, who established a flourishing trade relationship with the ancient peoples of Anatolia. Amisos came under the rule of the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great's Macedonian Empire, and then the Kingdom of Pontus. The Romans took control in 47 B.C. and Amisos remained within the Byzantine Empire after the fall of Rome. In 1200, the city was captured by the Seljuks. Amisos today is Samsun, a city of about half a million people on the north coast of Turkey.
GS75197. Silver siglos, SNG BM 1071 (∆ left); Rec Gen p. 46, 1 (A left); HGC 7 229; SNG Stancomb -; SNG Cop -; SNGvA -; BMC Pontus -, VF, attractive style, toned, reverse die wear and die cracks, tiny test cut on obverse, weight 5.651 g, maximum diameter 21.2 mm, die axis 90o, Amisos (Samsun, Turkey) mint, c. 435 - 370 B.C.; obverse draped bust of Hera-Tyche right, hair rolled, wearing a turreted stephane ornamented with palmettes and annulets, triple-drop earrings and pearl necklace; reverse owl standing facing on shield, head facing, wings spread open, stalk of grain upper left, sword in sheath(?) upper right (off flan?), HΓ-H (magistrate) divided across field below wings, ∆ or A (control) lower left, ΠEIPA in exergue; $225.00 (200.25)


Pontos, Amisos, 300 - 125 B.C.

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Amisos was settled c. 760 - 750 B.C. by people from Miletus, who established a flourishing trade relationship with the ancient peoples of Anatolia. Amisos came under the rule of the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great's Macedonian Empire, and then the Kingdom of Pontus. The Romans took control in 47 B.C. and Amisos remained within the Byzantine Empire after the fall of Rome. In 1200, the city was captured by the Seljuks. Amisos today is Samsun, a city of about half a million people on the north coast of Turkey.
SH71627. Silver drachm, SNG BM 1110 (same obverse die, reduced siglos), HGC 7 233 (R1), SNG Cop -, SNG Stancomb -, VF, coppery spots, weight 4.106 g, maximum diameter 17.2 mm, die axis 0o, Amisos (Samsun, Turkey) mint, 300 - 125 B.C.; obverse draped bust of Hera-Tyche right, wearing a turreted stephanos; reverse owl standing facing on shield, wings open, C - Ξ / monogram (TAI?) - P flanking under wings; rare; $215.00 (191.35)


Kamarina, Sicily, 420 - 405 B.C.

Click for a larger photo
A Gorgoneion was a horror-creating apotropaic Gorgon head pendant. The name derives from the Greek word gorgs, which means "dreadful." The Gorgons were three sisters who had hair of living, venomous snakes, and a horrifying face that turned those who saw it to stone. Stheno and Euryale were immortal, but their sister Medusa was not, and was slain by Perseus. Zeus, Athena, Hellenistic kings and Roman emperors wore Gorgoneion for protection. Images of the Gorgons were also put upon objects and buildings for protection. A Gorgon image is at the center of the pediment of the temple at Corfu, the oldest stone pediment in Greece from about 600 B.C.
GI73157. Bronze tetras, Westermark-Jenkins, type C, 185; Calciati III p. 51, 10; SNG Munchen 408; SNG Cop 167; SNG ANS 1222; BMC Sicily p. 39, 34; HGC 2 546, gVF, green patina, light corrosion, weight 3.457 g, maximum diameter 15.5 mm, die axis 180o, Kamarina (near Scoglitti, Sicily, Italy) mint, 420 - 405 B.C.; obverse facing head of Medusa (gorgoneion) with wild locks, hairband indicated, s-shaped eyebrows, bow-shaped upper lip; reverse KAMA (upward on left), owl standing right on right leg, head facing, lizard with head down in left talon, three pellets (mark of value) in exergue; $200.00 (178.00)




  



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