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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Themes & Provenance ▸ Types ▸ MusicView Options:  |  |  |   

Music on Ancient Coins

Nero, 13 October 54 - 9 June 68 A.D., SPQR (Vindex?) Countermark

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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!"

The S P Q R countermarks were applied by Gallic rebels probably under Vindex. They appear on Lugdunum mint sestertii, dupondii and asses of Nero.
RB86167. Orichalcum as, RIC I 454, Mac Dowall WCN 570, BnF II 110, Cohen I 244, BMCRE I -, Hunter I -, SRCV I -; c/m: Pangerl 26, F, some legend unstruck, pitting, weight 10.457 g, maximum diameter 28.7 mm, die axis 195o, Lugdunum (Lyon, France) mint, 65 A.D.; obverse NERO CLAVD CAESAR AVG - GERM P M TR P IMP P P, bare head right, globe at point of neck; countermark: S P Q R in a rectangular punch (on neck); reverse PONTIF MAX - TR POT IMP P P (high priest, holder of Tribunitian power, imperator, father of the country), Nero as Apollo Citharoedus, advancing right in flowing robes, singing and playing the lyre, S - C (senatus consulto) flanking across field, I (mark of value) in exergue; from the Lucas Harsh Collection, ex Incitatus Coins (2012); very rare variety with the same titles in the obverse and reverse legends; $300.00 (255.00)


Kolophon, Ionia, c. 490 - 400 B.C.

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The kithara (cithara) was an ancient stringed musical instrument resembling the lyre. The lyre was a simpler folk-instrument with two strings and tortoise shell body. The kithara had seven strings and a flat back. The kithara is a symbol of Apollo and he is credited with inventing it. Its true 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."
GS86610. Silver drachm, SNG Cop 135 (same dies), Milne Colophon 13b, SNGvA -, SNG Mn -, VF, centered on an irregularly shaped flan, toned, etched surfaces, die break on reverse , weight 5.341 g, maximum diameter 19.1 mm, die axis 270o, Kolophon (near Degirmendere Fev, Turkey) mint, c. 490 - 400 B.C.; obverse KOΛOΦΩN (retrograde, counterclockwise), laureate head of Artemis right, wearing earring and necklace, hair in a queue looped up and bound to wreath; reverse Kithara, in an incuse square; ex Savoca Numismatik, auction 1 (9 Apr 2015), lot 189; rare; $300.00 (255.00)


Vibo Valentia (Hipponion), Bruttium, Italy, c. 192 - 89 B.C.

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Vibo Valentia was originally the Greek colony of Hipponion. It was founded, probably around the late 7th century B.C., by inhabitants of Locri, a city south of Vibo Valentia on the Ionian Sea. In 388 B.C., the city was taken by Dionysius the Elder, tyrant of Syracuse, who deported the entire population. The population came back in 378 B.C., with the help of the Carthaginians. In the following years Hipponion came under the dominion of the Bruttii. The town fell to Rome and became a Roman colony in 194 B.C. with the name of Vibo Valentia. After a phase of prosperity during the late Republic and early Empire, the town was almost completely abandoned after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
GI76947. Bronze sextans, SNG ANS 494; SNG Cop 1856; SNG Munchen 1395; SNG Tub 510; BMC Italy p. 363, 31; HN Italy 2266; SNG Morcom -, VF, nice green patina, reverse slightly off-center, bumps and marks, areas of light corrosion, weight 1.999 g, maximum diameter 14.3 mm, die axis 135o, Vibo Valentia mint, c. 192 - 89 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right, two pellets (mark of value) behind; reverse VALENTIA, lyre, two pellets (mark of value) right; $195.00 (165.75)


Leontini, Sicily, c. 405 - 402 B.C.

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Leontini was founded as by colonists from Naxos in 729 BC, itself a Chalcidian colony established five years earlier. It was the only significant Greek settlement in Sicily not located on the coast, being some 6 miles inland. The site, originally held by the Sicels, was seized by the Greeks owing to its command of the fertile plain to the north. The city was reduced to subject status in 498 BC by Hippocrates of Gela, and in 476 BC Hieron of Syracuse moved the inhabitants from Catania and Naxos to Leontini.
GI86576. Bronze tetras, Calciati III p. 77, 3/27 (this coin); SNG Cop 360; SNG ANS 270; SNG Morcom 606; SNG Lloyd 1070; BMC Sicily p. 92, 56; Laffaille 169; HGC 2 709 (R1), gVF, dark patina, well centered and struck, weight 2.165 g, maximum diameter 14.7 mm, Leontini mint, c. 405 - 402 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right, olive leaf and olive behind; reverse tripod lebes with loop handles, a barley kernel flanking on each side, kithara between legs of tripod, three pellets in exergue; ex Roma Numismatics e-sale 6 (22 Feb 2014), lot 45; Calciati III plate coin! ; $180.00 (153.00)


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); Trait 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; $170.00 (144.50)


Valerian I, October 253 - c. June 260 A.D., Hierapolis, Phrygia in Homonoia with Sardis

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This coin commemorates the homonoia (alliance) between Phrygia and Sardis. Cities in Thrace and Asia minor sometimes formed alliances with other cities. The competition for prestige and rivalry between cities in the East was intense. Alliances could enhance a citys status by aligning either with many cities or with particularly important ones. Homonoia was part of civic "foreign policy" and might have involved the exchange of delegates and joint celebrations and sacrifices. At least 87 cities issued homonoia coins celebrating their alliances.
RP77255. Bronze AE 30, cf. Franke-Nolle, type VI, 848 ff. var. (Vs.C/Rs.-, unlisted reverse die); SNGvA 3668; SNG Tubingen 4054; Lindgren III 596, aF, obverse rough, weight 10.243 g, maximum diameter 30.3 mm, die axis 180o, Phrygia, Hierapolis (near Pamukkale, Turkey) mint, Oct 253 - c. Jun 260 A.D.; obverse AY K - ΠOY ΛIK OYAΛEPAN/OC, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from the front, round countermark on face; reverse IEPAΠOΛE/ITΩN - KE - CAP∆IANΩN NEWK/OPΩN, Apollo on left, standing right, plectrum in right hand, kithara in left hand; cult statue of Kore facing, wearing kalathos and veil, OMONOYA in exergue; very rare; $150.00 (127.50)


Macedonian Kingdom, Philip III Arrhidaeus and Alexander IV, 323 - 317 B.C., Struck in the Name of Philip

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Struck in the name of King Philip III Arrhidaeus, Alexander the Great's half-brother, under the regent Perdikkas. Philip III and Alexander's infant son, Alexander IV, were made joint kings after Alexander's death. Philip was the bastard son of Philip II and a dancer, Philinna of Larissa. Alexander the Great's mother, Olympias, allegedly poisoned her stepson Philip III as a child, leaving him mentally disabled, eliminating him as a rival to Alexander. Neither Philip III nor Alexander IV was capable of actual rule and both were selected only to serve as pawns. The regents held power, while Philip III was actually imprisoned. In 317, Philip was murdered by Olympias to ensure the succession of her grandson.
SH75320. Silver drachm, Price P43, Mller Alexander P50, SNG Munchen 938, aEF, some die wear, weight 4.238 g, maximum diameter 18.1 mm, die axis 0o, Ionia, Kolophon (near Degirmendere Fev, Turkey) mint, c. 323 - c. 319 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, wearing Nemean lion scalp headdress; reverse ΦIΛIΠΠOY, Zeus Atophoros seated left on throne without back, nude to the waist, himation around hips and legs, right foot drawn back, feet on footstool, eagle in extended right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left, lyre left; ex Forum (2005); $140.00 (119.00)


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

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In 243, Timesitheus, Gordian's father-in-law and praetorian prefect became ill and died under suspicious circumstances. Gordian III appointed Philip the Arab as his new praetorian prefect.
RB76166. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC IV 303a, Hunter III 117, Cohen V 262, SRCV III 8732, Choice VF, attractive green patina with red earthen fill, nice portrait, well centered, light marks, small edge cracks, weight 17.522 g, maximum diameter 30.5 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 4th issue, 242 - 243 A.D.; obverse IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from behind; reverse P M TR P V COS II P P, Apollo enthroned left, laurel-branch in right hand, left forearm resting on lyre on back of his seat, S C (senatus consulto) in exergue; $140.00 (119.00)


Tarentum, Southern Apulia, Italy, c. 275 - 200 B.C.

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Tarentum's independence and power ended when the Romans expanded across Italy. Tarentum was aided by Pyrrhus, who surprised and defeated Rome with the use of war elephants. However, after Pyrrhus departed, the city surrendered in 272 B.C. In 209 B.C., Tarentum would suffer for supporting Hannibal. The commander of a Bruttian force betrayed the city to the Romans. Indiscriminate slaughter ensued and among the victims were the Bruttians who had betrayed the city. Thirty thousand of the Greek inhabitants were sold as slaves and the city's art treasures, including the statue of Nike (Victory) were carried off to Rome.
GI85894. Brass AE 14, Vlasto 1850, HN Italy 1092, SNG Morcom 259, aVF, rough, weight 2.212 g, maximum diameter 13.8 mm, die axis 180o, Tarentum (Taranto, Italy) mint, c. 275 - 200 B.C.; obverse scallop shell; reverse kithara; very rare; $140.00 (119.00)


Kolophon, Ionia, c. 190 - 30 B.C.

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Homer is a legendary ancient Greek epic poet, traditionally said to be the author of the epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey.
GB81678. Bronze AE 19, SNG Cop 186; SNGvA 2017; SNG Munchen 557; Milne Colophon 179; BMC Ionia p. 41, 43, F, nice green patina, centered on a tight flan, weight 5.018 g, maximum diameter 18.2 mm, die axis 0o, Kolophon (near Degirmendere Fev, Turkey) mint, magistrate Pytheos, c. 50 B.C.; obverse Homer seated left in himation, right hand raised to chin (the thinker pose!), scroll in his left hand resting on his knees, ΠYΘEOΣ (magistrate) downward on left; reverse Apollo standing right, phiale in right hand, kithara in left hand, KOΛOΦΩNIΩN downward on left; ex Forum (2014); $120.00 (102.00)




  



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