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.
Kyrenaica, Kyrene, c. 300 - 280 B.C.
Silphium grew only in Kyrenaica and most coins of the region, including this one, depict it. The stalk was eaten as a vegetable. Parts of the plant were used to treat all kinds of maladies including cough, sore throat, fever, indigestion, pain, and warts. The fruit was considered both an aphrodisiac and a contraceptive, and was worth its weight in denarii. Unfortunately, we will never know if its medicinal properties were real or imagined because the plant became extinct in the first century A.D. It's said that Nero ate the last plant.
SH70529. Silver didrachm, SNG Cop 1237; BMC Cyrenaica p. 52, 237; Müller Afrique 153, VF, obverse off center, weight 7.352 g, maximum diameter 20.6 mm, die axis 0o, Kyrenaica mint, c. 300 - 280 B.C.; obverse horned head of Apollo Karneios left; reverse silphium plant, stars on each side, KY-PA flanking across, concave field; $400.00 (€300.00)
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 unit, 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; $360.00 (€270.00)
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 arms; ; very rare; $330.00 (€247.50)
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 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; $300.00 (€225.00)
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; $230.00 (€172.50)
Roman Republic, P. Porcius Laeca, 110 - 109 B.C.
This moneyer was a descendant of P. Porcius Laeca, praetor in 195 B.C., who proposed and carried the Lex Porcia de Provocatione. This granted Roman citizens residing outside the city the right to appeal rulings of military magistrates.
SH59043. Silver denarius, SRCV I 178, Sydenham 571a, Crawford 301/1, RSC IPorcia 4, VF, weight 3.851 g, maximum diameter 18.2 mm, die axis 225o, Rome mint, 110 - 109 B.C.; obverse head of Roma right in winged helmet X below chin, ROML above, P LÆCA behind; reverse magistrate standing left in military dress with hand raised, citizen in toga before him, attendant behind magistrate with rod in right and two rods in left, PROVOCOin ex; $215.00 (€161.25)
Koinon of Macedonia, Reign of Severus Alexander, c. 231 - 235 A.D., Alexander the Great and Bucephalus
Plutarch tells the story of how, in 344 B.C. Philonicus the Thessalian, a horse dealer, offered a massive wild stallion to Alexander's father, KingPhilip II. Since no one could tame the animal, Philip was not interested. Alexander, however, seeing that the horse was afraid of his own shadow, promised to pay for the horse himself should he fail to tame it. He was given a chance and surprised all by subduing it. Alexander spoke soothingly to the horse and turned it towards the sun so that it could no longer see its shadow. Eventually Bucephalus allowed Alexander to ride him. Embarrassed, Philip commented "O my son, look thee out a kingdom equal to and worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee." Alexander named the horse Bucephalus because the horse's head seemed "as broad as a bull's." Bucephalus died of battle wounds in 326 B.C., in Alexander's last battle. Alexander founded the city of Bucephala (thought to be the modern town of Jhelum, Pakistan) in memory of his wonderful horse.
RP67757. Bronze AE 27, AMNG III 443; BMC Macedonia p. 26, 141 var (...NEΩK); SNG Cop 1376 var (2 neokorie, star below horse); SNG Hunterian -, F, weight 13.044 g, maximum diameter 26.9 mm, die axis 45o, Beroea(?) mint, c. 231 - 235 A.D.; obverse AΛEΞAN∆POY, head of Alexander the Great right, wearing crested Corinthian helmet; reverse KOINON MAKE∆ONΩN NEΩ, Alexander riding his horse Bucephalus right, diagonal spear pointing downward in right, reins in left, cloak fluttering behind; rare; $150.00 (€112.50)
Roman Republic, Ti. Veturius, 137 B.C.
The reverse depicts the fetial ceremony, part of the ancient treaty making process, during which a pig was sacrificed to sanctify the oaths. This type revived the reverse of gold coinage issued in 217 - 216 B.C. and broke the 75-year tradition of Roma obverses with Dioscuri or chariot reverses on denarii.
RR67797. Silver denarius, SRCV 111, Crawford 234/1, Sydenham 527, RSC IVeturia 1, aVF, porous, weight 3.641 g, maximum diameter 18.5 mm, die axis 45o, Rome mint, 137 B.C.; obverse head of Mars right in a winged and crested Corinthian helmet, X between neck and end of crest, TI VET (VET in monogram) behind; reverse Oath-taking scene, two standing warriors holding spears and facing attendant kneeling in center, holding sacrificial pig, ROMA above; $125.00 (€93.75)
Macedonian Kingdom, Perseus, 179 - 168 B.C.
Perseus of Macedonia was the last king of the Antigonid dynasty, who ruled the successor state in Macedonia created after the death of Alexander the Great. After losing the Battle of Pydna on 22 June 168 B.C., Macedonia came under Roman rule.
The hero Perseus, the legendary founder of Mycenae and of the Perseid dynasty there, was the first of the mythic heroes of Greek mythology whose exploits in defeating various archaic monsters provided the founding myths in the cult of the Twelve Olympians. Perseus was the hero who killed Medusa and claimed Andromeda, having rescued her from a sea monster.
GB50614. Bronze AE 19, SNG Alpha Bank 1137, SNG Dreer 628, SNG Cop 1275 ff. var (monogramin ex), SNG München 1202 ff. var (same), VF, scratch on rev, weight 10.273 g, maximum diameter 22.0 mm, die axis 0o, Pella or Amphipolis mint, c. 171 - 168 B.C.; obverse head of hero Perseus right, wearing winged helmet peaked with griffin head, harpa right; reverseeagle standing half-left on thunderbolt, wings open, head right, B - A above wings flanking the eagles head, ΠEP monogram left, ∆I monogram below; $105.00 (€78.75)
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 (€48.75)
Philip I the Arab, February 244 - End of September 249 A.D.
"Peace founded with Persis" - after murdering young Gordian III, Philip needed a quick return Rome to secure his spot, so he made peace with Shapur and ended the campaign. The "P M" on the obverse possibly means "Persicus Maximus" boasting total victory, rather than the traditional "Pontifex Maximus".
RS41792. Silver antoninianus, SRCV III 8941, RIC IV 69, RSC IV 113, EF, flat strike, weight 4.027 g, maximum diameter 24.4 mm, die axis 180o, Antiochia (Antakiyah, Syria) mint, 244 - 245 A.D.; obverse IMP C M IVL PHILIPPVS P F AVG P M, radiate, draped and cuirassedbust right, from behind; reversePAX FVNDATA CVM PERSIS, Pax advancing left, branch in right, scepter in left; from the Jyrki Muona Collection; scarce; $50.00 (€37.50)
Philip I the Arab, February 244 - End of September 249 A.D.
"Peace founded with Persis" - after murdering young Gordian III, Philip needed a quick return Rome to secure his spot, so he made peace with Shapur and ended the campaign. The "P M" on the obverse likely means "Persicus Maximus" boasting total victory, rather than the traditional "Pontifex Maximus".
RS41836. Silver antoninianus, SRCV III 8941, RIC IV 69, RSC IV 113, VF/F, weight 3.978 g, maximum diameter 22.4 mm, die axis 180o, Antioch mint, 244 - 245 A.D.; obverse IMP C M IVL PHILIPPVS P F AVG P M, radiate, draped and cuirassedbust right, from behind; reversePAX FVNDATA CVM PERSIS, Pax advancing left, branch in right, scepter in left; from the Jyrki Muona Collection; scarce; $45.00 (€33.75)
Trajan, 25 January 98 - 8 or 9 August 117 A.D.
Trajan constructed the Via Traiana, an extension of the Via Appia from Beneventum to Brundisium, at his own expense in 109 A.D. Strabo wrote that traveling to Beneventum from Brundisium on the Via Traiana was a good day shorter than on the old Republican road, Via Appia. While the distance was about the same, the Via Traiana climbs fewer difficult hills.
RB69496. Orichalcumdupondius, BMCRE III 998, RIC II 641, Cohen 652, SRCV II 3226, aF, rough, weight 12.362 g, maximum diameter 30.0 mm, die axis 225o, Rome mint, 112 - 114 A.D.; obverseIMP CAES NERVAE TRAIANO AVG GER DAC P M TR PCOS VI P P, radiatebust right, drapery on far shoulder; reverse SPQR OPTIMO PRINCIPI, VIA TRAIANA / SC, female personification of the Via Traiana reclining left, wheel on right knee balanced with right hand, branch cradled in left arm, left elbow resting on rocks; from the Butte College Foundation, ex Lindgren; an interesting historical type!; scarce; $40.00 (€30.00)