Silver tetradrachm of Athens, circa 510-505 B.C.

    In the archaic period, a design is normally found only on the obverse of the coin, produced by the lower (anvil) die. The reverse die, consisting merely of a square or oblong punch, was employed simply to hold the blank firmly in position during striking and to ensure that sufficient pressure was exerted to obtain a clear impression of the obverse die.

    Towards the end of the archaic period, as minting techniques improved, designs began appearing on the reverse dies too, though still within the incuse square, which now formed a frame for the type. Good examples of early ‘double-sided’ types are to be found at Athens (head of Athena/owl) and at Corinth (Pegasos/head of Athena), both types introduced at the end of the 6th Century.

                Silver stater of Corinth, circa 500 B.C.

    The choice of types in this formative period of Greek numismatics is of special interest. Traditions were being established which were to have a lasting influence on all subsequent coinage, right down to the present day. It was recognized, almost from the start, that there was a completely new medium for artistic expression, whilst the issuing authorities saw the opportunity of advertising the special characteristics of their states The great diversity of deities in the Greek pantheon and the different interpretations of the roles played by each nod and goddess provided scope for much local variation in religious beliefs.

    It is hardly surprising, therefore, those religious subjects were dominant in the earliest phases of coinage. In this way, the individuality of each city could be proclaimed whilst the artist was given the greatest scope for his talents in representing the grandeur and mystery of the Olympians and their minions.

                      Silver tetradrachm of Ephesos, mid-4th Cent. B.C.

    Although religious types dominated the obverses and reverses of the Greek coinage down to the age of Alexander the Great, nevertheless there are many issues which do not fall into this category. The corn-ear of Metapontion, the crab of Akragas, the shield of Boeotia, the bee of Ephesos and the silphium plant of Kyrene are all emblematic types, being the official ‘badges’ of their states.

    Even here, however, there are religious connotations: the ear of corn is associated with Demeter and Persephone, whilst the bee was sacred to Artemis who was especially revered by the Ephesians. Other ‘badges’, such as the amphora, triskelis, knuckle-bone, wheel, etc., found on the ‘Wappenmunzen’ coinage of Athens, could be heraldic devices associated with the Athenian nobility of the 6th Century B.C. But, here again, a religious interpretation of the types seems more likely, with the various aspects of the cult of Athena providing the inspiration.

    Punning allusions to the names of cities are also not infrequently encountered. At Selinus, in Sicily, the leaf of the wild celery plant (selinon) is the constant obverse type of the city’s archaic coinage, whilst the Aegean island of Melos similarly features the apple {melon). There are many such examples from mints in all parts of the Greek world.

                       Silver didrachm of Selinus, late 6th Cent. B.C

    With the establishment of the great Hellenistic Kingdoms in the period following the death of Alexander came a most important development in the evolution of Greek coin types— the beginnings of royal portraiture. The names of the Macedonian Kings had appeared regularly on the coinage from the first half of the 5th Century B.C., but no effigy had ever been produced by the die-engravers, not even of the great Alexander himself. Several of Alexander’s successors, however, placed their portraits on their coins and once the tradition was established

                   Silver tetradrachm of Antiochos I of Syria 280-261 B.C.

    the heads of kings and queens became a regular feature of much of the Greek coinage from the 3rd to the 1st Century B.C. Why it was that none of the powerful tyrants of the 5th and 4th Centuries ever seized this opportunity to proclaim their position and immortalize their features must remain something of a mystery.

    The main series of portrait coins were produced by die Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt, the Seleukids of Syria and the Antigonids of Macedon. The Ptolemies, unfortunately, adopted the practice of reproducing the head of their founder, Ptolemy Soter, on most of their regular silver issues right down to the end of the dynasty. This detracts greatly from the interest of the series (and also complicates the attributions of coins to particular reigns). The Seleukid coinage, on the other hand, presents us with a portrait gallery of kings and queens spanning

         Silver tetradrachm of Antimachos of Baktria (circa 171-160 B.C.)

    more than two centuries. Mention should also be made here of the splendid coinage produced Greek rulers of Baktria and India-once the easternmost part of the Seleukid realm, but independent from the mid 3rd Century B.C. The remarkable series of portraits featured on these coins have the additional interest of being, in many cases, the only evidence for the very existence of these rulers. The Antigonids of Macedonproducedsome fine portrait coins in

    Silver tetradrachm of Demetrios Poliorketes of Adacedoji 294-287 B C

    On these regal issues, religious symbolism was now mostly relegated to the reverses of the coins and each dynasty tended to adopt a tutelary deny. The earlier Seleukids favored Apollo, who is depicted seated on the omphalos of Delphi on many of the 3rd Century silver and bronze coins. An eagle standing upon a thunderbolt, both symbolic of Zeus, is the constant reverse design for the Ptolemaic coinage in Egypt, and the bearded head of the god himself regularly occupies the obverse of the bronze denominations.

       Silver tetradrachm of Mithradates III of Pontos (circa 220-185 B.C.)

    In conclusion, there follows a list of some of the principal deities appearing as Greek coin types, with explanatory notes relating to their origins and functions. This list is largely the work of Lieut.-Col. J. Kozolubski and first appeared in the 1959 edition of this catalogue. The names in parentheses are the equivalent Roman deities.


                       Zeus Ammon on a silver tetradrachm of Kyrene, circa 360 B.C.

    Ammon. Originally a Libyan divinity, probably protecting and leading the flocks, Ammon was later introduced into Egypt and Greece, where he was identified with Zeus. The head of Zeus Ammon is represented on Egyptian coins as a bearded man, diademed and with a ram’s horn at the temple (Ammon’s horn), the ram being sacred to him.

    Aphrodite on a silver stater of Aphrodisias, circa 380 B.C.

    Aphrodite (Venus). One of the twelve great Olympian divinities, Aphrodite was goddess of love and beauty. She was believed to have been created from the foam of the sea, hence she sometimes appears on coins with a sea-horse or dolphin. Others of her attiibutes are the myrtle, rose, apple, poppy; and doves, swans and sparrows were sacred to her. She is represented on coins nude, semi-nude or dressed and crowned, often accompanied by Eros, her child attendant. The apple she sometimes holds in her hand is the prize awarded her by Paris in the contest with Hera and Athena on Mount Ida.

      Apollo with tripod on a silver tetradrachm of Seleukos II (246-226 B.C.

    Apollo. He was the sun-god, one of the great gods of the Greeks, and was the son of Zeus and Leto; he was also the god of prophecy, of song, music and the arts, and protector of flocks and herds. He punished and destroyed the wicked and overbearing, but afforded help to men in distress by warding off evil. He exercised his power of prophecy through various oracles, of which that at Delphi was the most important.

    The head of Apollo and his attribute the lyre are common types on early Greek coinage. Ares (Mars). God of war and another of the great Olympian deities, Ares was the son of Zeus and Hera. He loved war for its own sake and often changed sides in assisting one or the other combatant parties, but he could be worsted in battle and even be wounded by mortals.

    His helmeted head, beardless or bearded, appears on many coins and his full-length figure is sometimes depicted helmeted but naked, or wearing a cuirass, and holding shield, spear or trophy. He is sometimes shown in the company of Aphrodite, whose lover he was.

    Artemis and stag on a silver octobol of Ephesos, circa 270 B.C.

    Artemis (Diana). One of the great divinities and sister of Apollo, Artemis was the deity of the chase, goddess of the Moon, and protectress of the young. In Ionia, and in particular as goddess of the famous temple of Ephesos, she took over the fructifying and all-nourishing powers of nature from an older Asiatic divinity whom the Greeks, who settled in that area, renamed Artemis. The coin types representing Artemis are very varied for she is represented as a huntress with bow and arrow, running with a hound or killing a stag. As Artemis Tauropolos she is portrayed riding a bull holding a veil over her head. Yet another type is the cultus-statue of the Ephesian Artemis, standing facing, and she is also shown carrying one or two torches.

    Asklepios (Aesculapius). God of medicine and healing, he is shown as a man of mature years, leaning on a staff about which a serpent is entwined. Sometimes the boy Telesphoros the personification of the genius of recovery, stands by his side. Serpents, symbols of prudence and renovation, were sacred to Asklepios for they were believed to have the power of guarding wells and discovering healing herbs.

    Athena with Nike on a silver stater of Aphrodisias, circa 380 B.C.

    Athena (Minerva). Surnamed Pallas, and sometimes known by this name alone, Athena was goddess of wisdom, patroness of agriculture, industry and the arts. She guided men through the dangers of war, where victory was gained by prudence, courage and perseverance. Her full-length image, or bust or head only, are amongst the commonest of Greek coin types. She is usually wearing the Spartan sleeveless chiton, peplos, and helmet, and holds spear and shield.

    She is sometimes shown hurling a thunderbolt, covering her left arm with an aegis, or holding Nike. Sacred to her were the owl, serpent, cock and olive, and these attributes often appear with her on coins. She had many additional titles, such as Areia (at Pergamon), Ilia (at Uion), Argeia (at Alexandria), Itonia (in Thessaly), etc.

    Baal. A Semitic god, lord (deity) of a locality, Baal was usually identified by the Greeks with Zeus.

                      Head of Demeter on a silver stater of Delphi, 336 B.C.

    Demeter (Ceres). Goddess of fertility, agriculture and marriage, Demeter was sister to Zeus. When her daughter Persephone was carried off to the underworld by Hades, Demeter, by her mourning, withheld fertility from the earth until, through the mediation of Zeus, it was arranged that Persephone should spend half the year (winter) with Hades and the other half with her mother.

    The myth of Demeter and her daughter embodies the idea that the pro¬ductive powers of nature are rested and concealed during the winter season. The head of Demeter on coins is wreathed with corn or veiled. She sometimes carries a sceptre or ears of corn, or searches for her daughter with a torch. She is also represented holding two torches and standing in a chariot drawn by two winged and crested serpents.

    Dione. The consort of Zeus at Dodona, Dione was probably a sky-goddess. She appears on coins of Epeiros together with Zeus, with a laureate Stephanos and veil, or alone, laureate and veiled.

              Dionysos on a silver tetradrachm of Maroneia, circa 145 B.C.

    Dionysos (Liber). Sometimes known as Bakchos (Bacchus), Dionysos was god of vegetation and the fruits of the trees, particularly the vine. Represented on coins as a youth holding a bunch of grapes, or with his head crowned with ivy or vine leaves, or riding or accompanied by a panther. Vine branches, kantharos and thyrsos are symbols of Dionysos.

    The Dioskouroi on horseback: gold stater of Taras, circa 315 B.C.

    Dioskouroi (Dioscuri). Kastor (Castor) and Polydeukes (Pollux), sons of Zeus and Leda and brothers of Helen of Troy, were protectors of travellers, particularly sailors, and helpers of those in distress. They received divine honours at Sparta and their worship spread from the Peloponnesos over the whole of Greece, Sicily and Italy.

    On coins the two brothers are represented on horseback or standing by their horses, carrying lances and wearing egg- shaped helmets surmounted by stars. They are sometimes confused with the Kabeiroi.

    Eros (Cupid). The god of love, and later connected with Aphrodite, Eros is represented as a youth or boy, naked, winged, and holding a bow and arrows or a torch. Sometimes he is depicted riding on a dolphin (coins of Carteia) or driving the chariot of Hades who is carrying off Persephone. Occasionally, two Erotes are shown.

    Head of Gorgo on a silver stater of Neapolis, circa 500 B.C.

    Gorgo or Medusa. A monster with a round, ugly face, snakes instead of hair, teeth of a boar and huge wings, Gorgo was said to have eyes that could transform people into stone Killed by the hero Perseus, she gave birth to Pegasos and Chrysaor in the moment of her death! Her head is shown as a main type on some coins and also as an adornment of shields.

        Herakles fighting the Hydra: silver stater of Phaistos, circa 300 B.C.

    Herakles (Hercules). The son of Zeus and Alkmene, Herakles was the most famous of all the heroes of antiquity; his strength, courage and wonderful exploits being the subject of numerous stories and poems all over the ancient world. His head, bust or full-length figure are amongst the most common of Greek coin types.

    He is often represented as a young beardless man with his head covered by the skin of the Nemean lion whom he strangled with his hands. He is also shown as a bearded, bull-necked man, usually naked, holding his club, lion’s skin or bow. A club, bow, and also a bow-case, are also types referring to Herakles.

    Head of Hermes on a silver stater of Lycia, late 5th Cent. B.C.

    Hermes (Mercury) A son of Zeus and Maia, Hermes was the messenger of the gods, hence his herald’s staff, the ribbons of which were later changed into the serpents of the caduceus Other attributes of Hermes are the broad-brimmed travelling hat (petasos) adorned with wings, the golden sandals, the winged ankles, and a purse, for Hermes was patron not only of merchants but also of thieves, as well as artists, orators and travellers.

    He was regarded as the inventor of the lyre and plectrum, and of the syrinx. The palm-tree and tortoise were sacred to Hermes so too were the number 4 and several kinds of fish. The caduceus adorned with a pair of wings to indicate the speed of the messenger is occasionally used as a coin type.

    Isis The wife of Osiris and mother of Horus, Isis was a national deity in Egypt, and during Hellenistic times became a leading goddess in the Mediterranean lands. She is portrayed on coins in a long garment with a characteristic knot of drapery on the breast (the nodus Isiacus) and with the ancient Egyptian head-dress which is one of her symbols. The sistrum, a musical instrument, is another attribute.

        Melqarth riding hippocamp: silver double shekel of Tyre, circa 360 B.C

    Melqarth or Melkart. “Lord” of Tyre (Baal-Tsur), worshipped in Phoenicia, seems to have been originally a marine deity, as he is represented riding a sea-horse. Later he was identified with Herakles.

    Nike with wreath and trophy: gold stater of Pyrrhos, 278-276 B.C.

    Nike (Victoria). Greek goddess of victory, Nike was depicted as a woman in a long chiton, sometimes wingless (as on the coins of Terina) but more usually winged, holding wreath and palm and crowning the horses of a victorious charioteer or decorating a trophy.

    Pan (Faunus). God of shepherds and flocks, Pan had horns, beard, puck nose tail goat’s feet, was covered with hair and dwelt in grottoes. He is said to have had a terrific’voice that struck terror into those who heard it. He was fond of music and is regarded besides Hermes, as inventor of the syrinx or shepherd’s pipes with which he is sometimes represented on coins (of Arkadia).

    Poseidon brandishing trident: silver tetradrachtn of Demetrios Poliorketes.

    Poseidon (Neptune). A brother of Zeus, Poseidon was god of earthquakes and ruler of the sea. He is usually represented holding a dolphin and a trident, or the prow ornament of a galley, and standing with one foot on a rock. A trident ornamented or entwined with dolphins appears on coins as the symbol of Poseidon.

    Sarapis. The name is derived from the Egyptian Hesar-Hapi, the deified sacred bull Apis. The cult of Sarapis arose at Memphis under the Ptolemies and the deity combined the attributes of many Hellenic gods with some characteristics of Osiris. He was represented bearded with a modius on his head. Sarapis was a healer of the sick, worker of miracles, superior to fate, ruler of the visible world and underworld, and god of the sun.


                                  Head of Zeus on a silver tetradrachm of Philip II.

    Zeus (Jupiter). The greatest of the Olympian gods, Zeus was considered to be the father of both gods and men. He was a son of Kronos and Rhea and brother of Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Demeter, and Hera; and he was also married to his sister Hera. He was wor¬shipped throughout the Greek world, and in the later Hellenic age was frequently identified with local supreme gods like Ammon, Sarapis, etc.

    He had an immense number of epithets and surnames which were derived partly from the localities where he was worshipped and partly from his functions and powers. The eagle and oak-tree were sacred to him. His usual attributes are the sceptre, eagle, thunderbolt, and also a small figure of Nike which he holds in his hand. The Olympian Zeus sometimes wears a wreath of olive and the Dodonaean Zeus a wreath of oak leaves. He is usually represented bearded, nude or semi-nude, hurling a thunder¬bolt or sitting on a throne.


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