Holding an ancient coin is holding history in your hands. Some coins actually depict historical events. Many include the image of a historic king or emperor. Every ancient coin relates to the people and events of the time and place it was struck. Every ancient coin relates to an interesting historical story. The stories on this page are a primary source of our ancient coin obsession. We hope you enjoy them.
Roman Republic, Q. Pomponius Musa, 66 B.C.
Many of the Roman moneyers had a solid sense of humor and word play with homonyms was very popular. Pomponius Musa, playing on his name, issued ten types each depicting Hercules Musagetes (Conductor of the Muses) or one of nine different Muses, creating one of the most interesting and sought after series of the Republican coinage. This coin depicts Clio, the Muse of History.
SH90301. Silver denarius, RSC IPomponia 11, SRCV I 353, Sydenham 813, Crawford 410/3, gF, banker's marks, weight 3.585 g, maximum diameter 18.4 mm, die axis 45o, Rome mint, 66 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right, scroll tied with cord behind; reverse MVSA on left, Q POMPONI on right, Clio, Muse of History standing left, reading from open scroll which she holds in both hands, left elbow rests on column; ex CNG auction 233 (26 April 2010), lot 315; $550.00 (€473.00)
Hadrian, 11 August 117 - 10 July 138 A.D.
"This, the first representation of Britannia on the Roman coinage, commemorates victories in Britain over the northern Brigantes tribe following their revolt during Trajan's last years." -- David Sear in Roman Coins and Their Values II
SH72522. Bronze as, RIC II 577b (R2), BMCRE III 1175, Cohen II 197, SRCV II 3676, aF, green patina, tight flan, weight 8.368 g, maximum diameter 26.2 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 119 A.D.; obverse IMP CAESAR TRAIANVS HADRIANVS AVG, laureate bust right, slight drapery on left shoulder; reversePONT MAXTR POTCOS III, Britannia seated facing, foot on rock, head propped on right hand, transverse scepter in left hand, large shield on right, S - C flanking across field, BRITANNIA in exergue; very rare; $300.00 (€258.00)
Claudius IIGothicus, September 268 - August or September 270 A.D.
A scarce and popular historical type - the reverse commemorates Claudius' great victory over the Goths at Naissus in Upper Moesia.
BB67670. Billonantoninianus, Normanby Hoard 1107 (1 spec.), RIC V 252 var (draped and SPQR in ex), SRCV III 11381 var (SPQR in ex), Cunetio Hoard -, EF, weight 3.470 g, maximum diameter 22.0 mm, die axis 315o, 2nd officina, Cyzicus (Kapu Dagh, Turkey) mint, 268 - 270 A.D.; obverse IMP CLAVDIVS P F AVG, radiate head right, two pellets below; reverseVICTORIAE GOTHIC, two captives seated at the base of a trophy of captured arms; ; very rare; $290.00 (€249.40)
Trajan, 25 January 98 - 8 or 9 August 117 A.D.
Personification of the siege of Sarmizegetusa! In 106 A.D., Trajan besieged Sarmizegetusa, the Dacian capital. With the aid of a Dacian traitor, the Romans found and destroyed water pipes supplying the city. Running out of water and food the city fell and was burned to the ground. Decebalus fled but, followed by the Roman cavalry, committed suicide rather than face capture. The river-god on the reverse is usually described as Tiber, however, the reverse likely personifies the impact of the Roman destruction of the Dacian's water supply. Dacia's own water supply has betrayed her, knocked her to the ground, and is choking her.
SH63939. Orichalcumsestertius, RIC II 556, BMCRE III 793 note, Cohen II 526, aF, weight 20.524 g, maximum diameter 32.9 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 103 - 111 A.D.; obverseIMP CAESNERVA TRAIANO AVG GER DAC P M TR PCOS V P P, laureate bust right, slight drapery on far shoulder; reverseS P Q ROPTIMO PRINCIPI S C, River-god, cloak billowing behind, leaning left with right knee on supine Dacia, forcing her to the ground, choking her with his right hand, reeds in left; very scarce; $270.00 (€232.20)
Carthago Nova, Roman Occupation, Scipio Africanus, c. 209 - 206 B.C.
In order to force Hannibal to retreat from Italy, Scipio Africanus attacked Carthaginian Spain and took Carthago Nova in 209 B.C. References most often identify this type as Punic, struck before 209 B.C., but they also note that the head is "Roman style." Some authorities believe, as we do, that this type was struck after 209, under Roman rule. Carthaginian coins sometimes depicted Barcid generals. This coin possibly depicts the Roman general Scipio Africanus.
GB60657. Bronze AE 23, Villaronga MCH 282, Burgos 552, SNG BM Spain 127 - 128, VF, porous, weight 9.096 g, maximum diameter 22.8 mm, die axis 0o, Carthago Nova mint, 209 - 206 B.C.; obverse bare male head (Scipio Africanus?) left; reverse horse standing right, palm tree behind; rare; $250.00 (€215.00)
Ptolemy II requested copies of Jewish texts for the Library at Alexandria. There they were translated and transcribed by seventy Jewish scholars hired for the purpose, creating the Septuagint, the oldest Greek version of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Many of the oldest Biblical verses among the Dead Sea Scrolls, particularly those in Aramaic, correspond more closely with the Septuagint than with the Hebrew text.
JD35537. Silver quarter-ma, Meshorer TJC 32; Mildenberg Yehud pl. 21, 24; Hendin 1087, aVF, weight 0.157 g, maximum diameter 6.8 mm, die axis 90o, Jerusalem? mint, obverse diademed head of Ptolemy I right; reverseeagle standing half left on thunderbolt, wings open, head left, Aramaic YHDH (Yehudah) on left; $190.00 (€163.40)
Roman Republic, L. Titurius L.f. Sabinus, 89 B.C.
The reverse refers to the rape of the Sabines. This moneyer traced his descent form the Sabines and perhaps from KingTatius himself. -- Roman Silver Coins edited by David R. Sear and Robert Loosley
RR71941. Silver denarius, SRCV I 249, Crawford 344/1, RSC ITituria1- 2, Sydenham 698, BMCRR I Rome 2322 ff., aVF, toned, tight flan, obverse slightly off center, weight 3.934 g, maximum diameter 18.0 mm, die axis 315o, Rome mint, 89 B.C.; obversebare head of KingTatius right, SABIN downward behind, TA monogram or palm frond before; reverse two Roman soldiers running left, each bearing a Sabine woman in his arms, L·TITVRI in ex; from the Andrew McCabe collection, ex Roma Numismatics e-auction 10, lot 578; $170.00 (€146.20)
Roman Republic, L. Titurius L.f. Sabinus, 89 B.C.
This moneyer traced his descent from the Sabines and perhaps from KingTatius himself. Tarpeia was daughter of the commander of the citadel in Rome. She offered to open the gates for the besieging Sabines, if they would give her what they wore on their left arms, meaning their gold bracelets. The Sabines were unable to enter the citadel; its open gates were miraculously protected by boiling jets of water created by Janus. Keeping their promise, the Sabines threw the shields they worn on their left arms upon Tarpeia, crushing her to death, and then they kicked her off a cliff. This myth was likely used to explain the Tarpeian Rock, a cliff on the Capitoline Hill from which murderers and traitors were thrown.
RR71940. Silver denarius, Crawford 344/2c, Sydenham 699a, RSC ITituria 5, BMCRR I Rome 2326, SRCV I 252, aVF, toned, weight 3.332 g, maximum diameter 19.1 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 89 B.C.; obversebare head of SabineKingTatius right, palm frond below chin, SABIN behind, A.PV (argento publico) before; reverseTarpeia buried to her waist in shields, trying to repel soldiers who are about to cast shields upon her, star over and within crescent with horns up above, left TITVRI in exergue; from the Andrew McCabe collection, ex Roma Numismatics e-auctions 10, lot 578; $165.00 (€141.90)
Roman Republic, L.P.D.A.P. Series, c. 91 B.C.
The Lex Papiria de assis pondere et sestertio feriundo (Papirian Law concerning the weight of the as and the striking of the sestertius) of 91 (or maybe 90) B.C. re-authorized the production of silver sestertii, which hadn't been seen for over a century. More importantly, it reduced the standardweight of the as to a half ounce (the semuncial standard).This law is attested by Pliny, who says that "mox lege Papiria semunciarii asses facti" (soon by the Papirian Law asses were made semuncial). What is most interesting is that this law is attested on the first coins struck under its terms. Sestertii bear the letters E.L.P. for "e lege Papiria" (by the Papirian Law) and bronzes have the formula L.P.D.A.P. for "lege Papiria de assis pondere."
RR71925. Bronze quadrans, Crawford 338/4c, RBW Collection 1239 (same reverse die), Sydenham 678c, SRCV I 1193, BMCRR -, VF, uneven strike, weight 3.353 g, maximum diameter 16.4 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, c. 91 B.C.; obverse head of Hercules right, wearing Nemean Lion scalp headdress, three pellets behind; reverse prow right, three pellets (mark of value) over L.P.D.A.P. (Lex Papiria de assis pondere) above; from the Andrew McCabe collection, ex Roma Numismatics e-auction 11, lot 142; scarce; $90.00 (€77.40)
Aetna, Sicily, The Kampanoi Mercenaries, c. 344 - 339 B.C.
In 475 B.C. Hieron moved ten thousand settlers from Syracuse and Peloponnesus to Katane and renamed it Aetna. In 461, after Hieron's death, the new settlers were expelled. They moved to the southern slope of the volcano and founded a new Aetna. In 403 B.C., Dionysius the Elder made himself master of Aetna, where he settled his discharged Campanian mercenaries, the Kampanoi. The Kampanoi retained possession of Aitna until 339 B.C., when Timoleon took the city and put them to the sword. Under Rome, Aitna became a municipal town of considerable importance; its territory being one of the most fertile of all Sicily. The site of the city and time of its destruction are unknown today.
GB82936. Bronze AE 13, Calciati III, p. 327, 2; SNG Morcom 877; SNG ANS -, VF, weight 1.980 g, maximum diameter 12.8 mm, die axis 180o, Aitna mint, c. 344 - 339 B.C.; obverse Campanian helmet with cheek guards, ornamented with a gryphon, linear border; reverse KAM monogram in laurel wreath; $65.00 (€55.90)