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Home>Catalog>Themes&Provenance>Types>MusicPAGE 1/3123»»»
Music on Ancient Coins


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, L·CENSOR before, a column topped with Victory behind; scarce; $380.00 (€330.60)


Olynthos, Chalkidian League, Macedonia, 420 - 348 B.C.

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In 432 B.C. Olynthos broke away from Athens and, with several other cities, formed the Chalkidian league. In 393, Amyntas III of Macedonia temporally transferred territory to Olynthos when he was driven out of Macedonia by Illyrians. When he was restored and the league did not return his lands, he appealed to Sparta. Akanthos and Apollonia, also appealed to Sparta, claiming league membership was not voluntary but enforced at the point of a sword. After a long war, in 379 these cities were made "autonomous" subject allies of Sparta. Weakened by the division, the league was destroyed by Philip II of Macedon in 348 B.C.
SH64053. Silver tetrobol, Robinson-Clement group D, 38 (same dies); Traité pl. 313, 10; SNG ANS -; SNG Cop -; BMC Macedonia -, VF, weight 2.043 g, maximum diameter 14.8 mm, die axis 0o, Olynthos mint, c. 420 - 348 B.C.; obverse OΛYNΘ (counter-clockwise), laureate head of Apollo left; reverse XAΛKI∆EΩN, kithara with eight strings, squared legend around, all within a shallow incuse square; scarce; $310.00 (€269.70)


Quietus, Fall or Winter 260 - Late 261 A.D.

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Samosata was the walled capital of the Commagene Kingdom founded in 69 B.C. The town remained a regional center under Rome, and until the Ottoman period. The old town of Samsat and all its history were flooded behind the Atatürk Dam in 1989. The new town was built beside the new waterline by the government to house the displaced residents.
SH70589. Billon antoninianus, Göbl MIR 1728n (Samosata), RSC IV 4a, RIC V 3 (R2, Antioch), SRCV III 10819 (uncertain Syrian Mint), VF, porous, weight 3.628 g, maximum diameter 22.8 mm, die axis 180o, Samosata (Samsat, Turkey) mint, obverse IMP C FVL QVIETVS P F AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right; reverse APOLINI CONSERVA, Apollo standing left, radiate, nude but for cloak on shoulders and draped behind, branch downward in right, left rests on grounded lyre, star upper left; rare; $310.00 (€269.70)


Kingdom of Bithynia, Prusias II Kynegos, 185 - 149 B.C.

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Prusias II, son of Prusias I, inherited his father's name but not his character. He first joined with Eumenes of Pergamon in war against Pontus, but later turned on Pergamon and invaded. He was defeated and Pergamon demanded heavy reparations. Prusias sent his son Nicomedes II to Rome to ask for aid in reducing the payments. When Nicomedes revolted, Prusias II was murdered in the temple of Zeus at Nikomedia.
SH71012. Bronze AE 21, SNG Cop 636; Rec Gén 26; BMC Pontus p. 211, 12; SNGvA 256 var (monogram); HGC 7 629; SGCV II 7266, VF, flan adjustment marks, weight 5.468 g, maximum diameter 20.7 mm, die axis 45o, Nikomedia (Izmit, Turkey) mint, c. 180 - 150 B.C.; obverse head of young Dionysos right, wreathed with ivy; reverse BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΠPOYΣIOY, centaur Chiron standing right, playing lyre, his cloak floating behind, ΠM monogram inner right under raised foreleg; $280.00 (€243.60)


Kolophon, Ionia, c. 375 - 350 B.C.

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Colophon, founded around the turn of the first millennium B.C., was one of the oldest of the twelve cities of the Ionian League. Located between Lebedos (19km to the west) and Ephesus (11 km to its south), today its ruins are south of Degirmendere Fev in in Izmir Province, Turkey. Colophon was once the strongest of the Ionian cities and renowned both for its cavalry and for the inhabitants' luxurious lifestyle. After Gyges of Lydia conquered it in the 7th century B.C., Colophon went into decline and was eclipsed by neighboring Ephesus and by the rising naval power of Ionia, Miletus.
GS71761. Silver diobol, SNGvA 2006; cf. Milne Colophon 56 (drachm); SNG Cop 141 (diff. magistrate); SNG Kayhan 372 (same); BMC Ionia p. 37, 11 (same); SNG München 539 (same), VF, nice style, good strike, well centered, toned, porous, weight 1.057 g, maximum diameter 10.5 mm, die axis 0o, Kolophon mint, magistrate Plato, c. 375 - 350 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo left; reverse Kithara with six strings, KOΛOΦΩ upward on left, ΠΛATΩN (magistrate) downward on right; very rare as a diobol; $220.00 (€191.40)


Nero, 13 October 54 - 9 June 68 A.D.

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Legend claims Nero fiddled while Rome burned. While this rumor is probably not true, Nero did sing and play the lyre at other times. He even composed songs that were performed by entertainers across the empire. At first, Nero only performed for private audiences, but in 64, when this coin was struck, he began singing in public in Neapolis. Nero craved the attention, but also he was encouraged to perform in public by the Senate, his inner circle and the people. Nero's famous dying words were "Qualis artifex pereo," which translates, "What an artist dies in me!"
RB72097. Orichalcum as, BnF II 102, RIC I 417, Mac Dowall WCN 547, BMCRE I 377, Cohen 246, SRCV I 1975 var (head right), aVF, centered, excellent portrait, rough, weight 10.064 g, maximum diameter 29.1 mm, die axis 180o, Lugdunum (Lyon, France) mint, 65 A.D.; obverse NERO CLAVD CAESAR AVG GERMANICVS, bare head left, globe at point of neck; reverse PONTIF MAX TR POT IMP P P, Nero as Apollo Citharoedus, advancing right in flowing robes, singing and playing the lyre, S - C flanking across field, I (mark of value) in exergue; ex Morton & Eden auction 59 (14 Nov 2012), part of lot 873; ex Seaver Collection; $200.00 (€174.00)


Nero, 13 October 54 - 9 June 68 A.D.

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Legend claims Nero fiddled while Rome burned. While this rumor is probably not true, Nero did sing and play the lyre at other times. He even composed songs that were performed by entertainers across the empire. At first, Nero only performed for private audiences, but in 64, when this coin was struck, he began singing in public in Neapolis. Nero craved the attention, but also he was encouraged to perform in public by the Senate, his inner circle and the people. Nero's famous dying words were "Qualis artifex pereo," which translates, "What an artist dies in me!"
RB72098. Orichalcum as, BnF II 101, RIC I 416, Mac Dowall WCN 543, BMCRE I 376, Cohen 247, SRCV I 1975, F, excellent portrait, porous, scrape, weight 10.108 g, maximum diameter 28.1 mm, die axis 225o, Lugdunum (Lyon, France) mint, 65 A.D.; obverse NERO CLAVD CAESAR AVG GERMANICVS, bare head right, globe at point of neck; reverse PONTIF MAX TR POT IMP P P, Nero as Apollo Citharoedus, advancing right in flowing robes, singing and playing the lyre, S - C flanking across field, I (mark of value) in exergue; ex Morton & Eden auction 59 (14 Nov 2012), part of lot 873; ex Seaver Collection; $200.00 (€174.00)


Gordian III, 29 July 238 - 25 February 244 A.D., Pella, Macedonia

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Pan is depicted in the pose of the life-size marble statue known as the Barberini Faun (Drunken Satyr) in the Glyptothek in Munich. A Faun is the Roman equivalent of a Greek Satyr. The position of the right arm over the head was a classical artistic convention indicating sleep. The statue is believed to have once adorned Hadrian's Mausoleum. The historian Procopius recorded that during the siege of Rome in 537 the defenders had hurled down upon the Goths the statues adorning Hadrian's Mausoleum. When discovered, the statue was heavily damaged; the right leg, parts of both hands, and parts of the head were missing. Johann Winckelmann speculated that the place of discovery and the statue's condition suggested that it had been such a projectile.Barberini Faun
RP66884. Bronze AE 26, cf. Varbanov III 3757 (R4), BMC Macedonia p. 95, 46; AMNG III 35; SNG Hunterian 660; SNG Cop 287 (bust obscure); SNG ANS 639 (laureate); Lindgren -, VF, weight 10.082 g, maximum diameter 25.8 mm, die axis 135o, Pella mint, obverse IMP C M ANT GORDIANVS, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right, from behind; reverse COL IVL AVS PGLLA (sic, error not in refs), Pan seated left, on a rock, right arm over head, left elbow resting on syrinx; ex Gorny & Mosch Giessener Münzhandlung auction 208, lot 1783; $195.00 (€169.65)


Kolophon, Ionia, c. 375 - 360 B.C.

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The Kithara (Cithara) was an ancient stringed musical instrument resembling the lyre, a simpler two-stringed folk-instrument, but with seven strings and a flat back. A symbol of Apollo, credited with inventing it, the Kithara's origins were likely Asiatic. The kithara was primarily used by professional musicians, called kitharodes. In modern Greek the word kithara has come to mean "guitar."
GS73924. Silver diobol, Milne Kolophon 52b; BMC Ionia p. 37, 11; SNGvA 7907, SNG Cop -, VF/aVF, toned, scratches, corrosion, silver deposits, weight 1.003 g, maximum diameter 10.5 mm, die axis 0o, Kolophon mint, magistrate Hermonax, c. 375 - 360 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo left, short hair; reverse KOΛOΦΩ upward on left, EPMΩNAΞ (magistrate's name) downward on right, Kithara; $140.00 (€121.80)


Chalkidian League, Olynthos, Macedonia, c. 432 - 348 B.C.

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In 432 B.C. Olynthos broke away from Athens and, with several other cities, formed the Chalkidian league. In 393, Amyntas III of Macedonia temporally transferred territory to Olynthos when he was driven out of Macedonia by Illyrians. When he was restored and the league did not return his lands, he appealed to Sparta. Akanthos and Apollonia, also appealed to Sparta, claiming league membership was not voluntary but enforced at the point of a sword. After a long war, in 379 these cities were made "autonomous" subject allies of Sparta. Weakened by the division, the league was destroyed by Philip II of Macedon in 348 B.C.
SH69954. Silver tetrobol, BMC Macedonia p. 68, 13; SNG ANS 537, SNG Cop 235; SNG Dreer 266, SNG Berry 22, aVF, grainy, scratches, weight 2.146 g, maximum diameter 13.5 mm, die axis 315o, Olynthos mint, c. 432 - 348 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right, circle of dots around; reverse XAΛKIAEΩN (clockwise from upper left), kithara (lyre) with seven strings, all within incuse; $135.00 (€117.45)




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Catalog current as of Thursday, May 28, 2015.
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