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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.
Didia Clara, 28 March - 2 June 193 A.D., Daughter of Didius Julianus
Didia Clara, the only child of Didius Julianus and Manlia Scantilla, was made Augusta the day her father became emperor. She survived her father's downfall, but was stripped of her title and the details of her life thereafter are unknown. Due to the short reign of her father, coins of Didia Clara are extremely rare.SH72535. Silver denarius, RIC IV 10, RSC III 3, BMCRE V 14, VF, lightly toned, porous, weight 2.393 g, maximum diameter 18.35 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, first issue, 28 Mar - May(?) 93; obverseDIDIA CLARA AVG, draped bust right, hair in bun; reverse HILAR TEMPOR, Hilaritas standing left, long palm branch in right hand, cornucopia in left; ex CNG auction 337, lot 450; extremely rare (R4); $2400.00 SALE PRICE $2160.00
Byzantine Empire, Constantine VI and Irene, 8 September 780 - 19 August 797 A.D.
In 790, Constantine VI took control and forced his mother, who had been his regent, into exile. A little more than a year later Irene was back as co-ruler. In 797, Irene had her son deposed and blinded and assumed sole rule.
Füeg has the obverse and reverse opposite. Other than Füeg 4.7, the referenced examples all have either incomplete or illegible inscriptions, or have variations from this coin.SH90887. Gold solidus, Füeg 4.7 (C.4.6/Ir.4.1); cf. Wroth BMC 1; DOC III, part 1, 2; Morrisson BnF 2, Tolstoi 1; SBCV 1591; Sommer -; Ratto -, VF, remarkable for complete inscriptions, weight 4.413 g, maximum diameter 21.4 mm, die axis 180o, Constantinople mint, 15 Jan 792 - 793; obverse COnSTAnTInOS CA - SIR, crowned facing busts of Constantine IV, wearing chlamys and holding globus cruciger in left hand; and Irene, wearing loros, cruciform scepter in her right hand; cross above center; reverse SVn IrInI AVΓ mITHRΛ, Constantine V, Leo III, and Leo IV (the boy emperor's deceased father, grand-father and great grandfather) seated facing, each bearded and wearing crown and chlamys; ex Numismatik Lanz (eBay auction, 4 Feb 2011, sold for €3027); rare; $2250.00 SALE PRICE $2025.00
Sabina, Augusta 128 - c. 136 A.D., Wife of Hadrian
Pudicitia, modesty and chastity, was for Romans the highest regarded female virtue. For an unmarried girl, pudicitia meant virginity. For a wife, it meant faithfulness and devotion to her husband. Romans loved the story of Arria, an ultimate example of Roman pudicitia. When the emperor Claudius ordered her husband Paetus to end his own life, he hesitated. Arria took his dagger and stabbed herself to set an example, saying, "Paetus, it doesn't hurt."SH73695. Bronze sestertius, RIC IIHadrian 1032(c) (S), Hunter II 32, Cohen II 61, BMCRE IIIHadrian 1877 var. (diadem vice wreath), SRCV II 3937, aVF, excellent portrait, well centered, green patina, marks and scratches, some corrosion, weight 23.691 g, maximum diameter 33.1 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, c. 135 A.D.; obverseSABINAAVGVSTA HADRIANI AVG P P, draped bust right, wearing wreath of grain, hair in long plait falling down back of neck and roll above wreath in front; reversePVDICITIA, Pudicitia seated left on high-backed throne, veiled and draped, feet on footstool, right hand on breast (raising to lips), left hand in lap, S C in exergue; old anonymous dealer or collector tag in Italian; scarce; $750.00 SALE PRICE $675.00
Faustina Junior, Augusta 146 - Winter 175/176 A.D., Wife of Marcus Aurelius
In Roman religion, Concordia was the goddess of agreement, understanding, and marital harmony. The cult of Concordia Augusta ("Majestic Harmony") was of special importance to the imperial household. She is usually depicted wearing a long cloak and holding a patera (sacrificial bowl), a cornucopia (symbol of prosperity), or a caduceus (symbol of peace).RB26685. Orichalcumsestertius, SRCV II 4710, RIC III 1368, BMCRE IV 2198, VF, weight 19.689 g, maximum diameter 31.5 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 157 - 161 A.D.; obverse FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, draped bust right; reverseAVGVSTI PII FIL S C, Concordia standing left, patera in extended right, cornucopia in left; $600.00 SALE PRICE $540.00
Faustina Junior, Augusta 146 - Winter 175/176 A.D., Wife of Marcus Aurelius
Venus (Aphrodite) can be faulted for the Trojan War. Upset that she was not invited to a wedding, she went anyway and maliciously left a golden apple inscribed "For the fairest" on the banquet table. The goddesses, as Aphrodite expected, argued who was the rightful possessor of this prize. It was determined the most handsome mortal in the world, a noble Trojan youth named Paris, would decide. Each of the three finalists offered Paris a bribe. Hera promised he would rule the world. Athena said she would make him victorious in battle. Aphrodite guaranteed the love of the most beautiful woman in the world. This was Helen, who was married to the king of Sparta. Paris awarded the golden apple to Aphrodite. Aphrodite enabled Paris to elope with Helen, Helen of Troy. Helen's husband raised a Greek army to retrieve his wife, starting the Trojan War.SH73705. Orichalcumsestertius, RIC III AP1388b; BMCRE IV AP2147; Hunter II p. 300, 30; Cohen II 268; SRCV II 4720, VF, nice style, well centered, flan crack, weight 24.039 g, maximum diameter 35.1 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, struck under Antoninus Pius, 148 - 152 A.D.; obverse FAVSTINAE AVG PII AVG FIL, draped bust right with head bare, hair waived and coiled chignon tied with double band of pearls on back of head; reverseVENVS, Venus standing half left, apple in right hand, grounded rudder in left hand, dolphin coiled around rudder, S - C low across field; $600.00 SALE PRICE $540.00
Claudius and Messalina, 24 January 41 - 48 A.D., Knossos, Crete
Messalina was Claudius' 3rd wife and mother of Britannicus and ClaudiaOctavia. They were married when she was 14. In 48 A.D., while Claudius was away in Ostia, even though she was married to the emperor, Messalina married her lover, Gaius Silius. Silius was executed and Messalina driven to suicide.SH74280. Bronze AE 20, RPC I 1001 (rev legend ending IIVIR) or 1002, Svoronos Crete 214 corr (IIVIR) or 212, SNG Cop -, BMC Crete -, aVF, crowded irregular flan, weight 4.393 g, maximum diameter 20.4 mm, die axis 180o, Knossos mint, Duumviri Cytherus und Capito, 41 A.D.; obverse TI CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG GERMANICVS, bare head of Claudius left; reverseVALERIA MESSALINA [CAPITONE CYTHERONTE IIVIR] or [CYTHERO CAPITONE] (end of legend off flan), draped bust of Messalina right; extremely rare; $600.00 SALE PRICE $540.00
Julia Domna, Augusta 194 - 8 April 217 A.D., Hadrianopolis, Thrace
Hadrian refounded a Thracian tribal capital, changed its name to Hadrianopolis, developed it, adorned it with monuments, and made it the capital of the Roman province. The city is Edirne, Turkey today. From ancient times, the area around Edirne has been the site of no fewer than 16 major battles or sieges. Military historian John Keegan identifies it as "the most contested spot on the globe" and attributes this to its geographical location. Licinius was defeated there by Constantine I in 323, and Valens was killed by the Goths during the Battle of Adrianople in 378.SH65237. Bronze AE 25, Jurukova p. 157 & pl. XXII, 244 (V137/R244); Mionnet, Suppl. II, 658; BMC Thrace -, SNG Cop -, SNG Hunterian -, VF, green patina, weight 7.837 g, maximum diameter 24.7 mm, die axis 180o, Hadrianopolis (Edirne, Turkey) mint, obverse IOYΛIA ∆O CEBACTH, draped bust right; reverse A∆PIANOΠOΛEITΩN, galley left with four oarsmen and steersman in stern; very rare; $540.00 SALE PRICE $486.00
Odessos, Thrace, c. 125 - 70 B.C., Civic Issue in the Types and Name of Alexander the Great
Odessus surrendered to Alexander the Great in 335 B.C. Rule passed to his diadochus Lysimachus, but in coalition with other Pontic cities and the Getae, Odessus rebelled in 313 B.C. After Lysimachus' death in 281, the city reverted to striking in the types and name of Alexander the Great and continued to strike Alexandrine tetradrachms until at least 70 B.C.SH63508. Silver tetradrachm, Price 1179, VF, toned, weight 15.721 g, maximum diameter 29.8 mm, die axis 0o, Odessos (Varna, Bulgaria) mint, c. 125 - 70 B.C.; obversehead of Herakles right, wearing lion-scalp headdress; reverse AΛEΞAN∆POY BAΣIΛEΩΣ, Zeus seated left, eagle in right, long scepter vertical in left, ∆H under arm, monogram below throne; $500.00 SALE PRICE $450.00
Tetrarchy of Chalkis, Coele Syria, Lysanias, 40 - 36 B.C.
Lysanias is called Tetrarch of Abila by Josephus. Lysanias' father Ptolemaios was married to Alexandra, Mattathias Antigonus' sister. Lysanias offered the Parthian satrap Barzapharnes a thousand talents and 500 women to depose Hyrcanus and put his uncle (or step-uncle) Antigonus on the throne of Judaea (Josephus B.J. 1.248). When Lysanias continued to support Antigonus against the Roman nominee Herod the Great, Mark Antony had him executed, and gave his territory to Cleopatra VII.GB90942. Bronze AE 19, Herman 11.g, RPC I 4769, HGC 9 145 corr., Lindgren III 1243, BMC Galatia -, VF, weight 3.505 g, maximum diameter 18.6 mm, die axis 0o, Chalkis sub Libano mint, c. 40 B.C.; obverse veiled female bust right, no inscription; reverse double cornucopia, flanked by four ligatures ΛYCA, TETP, APX, IΦ (Lysanias tetrarch and high priest); very rare; $400.00 SALE PRICE $360.00
Julia Titi, Augusta c. 79 - 89 A.D.
Julia Titi was the daughter of the emperor Titus, and although married, she had an affair with her uncle Domitian. In 83 A.D., Domitian divorced his wife and lived openly with her. It has been said that she died because Domitian forced her to have an abortion but modern research indicates this allegation is false.SH72986. Silver denarius, RSC II 14; BMCRE IITitus 141; RIC II, part 1, Titus 56; Hunter p. 275, 1; BnF IIITitus 106; SRCV I 2612, F, slightly irregular flan, weight 3.030 g, maximum diameter 21.0 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 79 - 81 A.D.; obverse IVLIA AVGVSTA TITI AVGVSTI F, diademed and draped bust right, hair in a long plait in back; reverseVENVS AVGVST, Venus standing right, viewed from behind, nude to the hips, right knee bent, leaning with left elbow and forearm on column, transverse spear on far side in left hand, raising up helmet in right hand; from the Jyrki Muona Collection collection, ex Zuzim Judaea (2012); only the second example of this type handled by Forum; rare; $380.00 SALE PRICE $342.00
Galba, 3 April 68 - 15 January 69 A.D.
Livia was the wife of Augustus, mother of Tiberius, paternal grandmother of Claudius, paternal great-grandmother of Caligula, and maternal great-great-grandmother of Nero. Livia and Augustus remained married for 51 years. They had no children. Livia always enjoyed the status of privileged counselor to her husband, petitioning him on the behalf of others and influencing his policies, an unusual role for a Roman wife. Living very simply and frugally, Livia set an example of Roman virtue which made her quite popular with the people. According to some ancient historians, however, Livia poisoned Augustus' potential heirs and then Augustus himself to make her son emperor. When he was emperor, Tiberius and Livia, had a falling out. On her death in 29 A.D., he did not see fit to have her consecrated. When Claudius came to power, he argued that every God needed a consort (referring to the deified Augustus). The Senate accepted this logic, and she was declared a goddess.SH72998. Silver denarius, RIC I 14 (R2), BMCRE I 167, RSC II 43, BnF III 8, Hunter I -, SRCV I -, aVF, light corrosion, cleaning scratches, weight 2.996 g, maximum diameter 18.4 mm, die axis 180o, Tarraco mint, Apr - Aug 68 A.D.; obverse IMP GALBA, laureate head right, globe behind the point of neck; reverseDIVA AVGVSTA, Livia standing slightly left, head left, patera in right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand; from the Jyrki Muona Collection; very rare; $380.00 SALE PRICE $342.00
Brettian League, Bruttium, Italy, c. 211- 208 B.C., Time of Hannibal
The success of Hannibal at Cannae proved too much for the Bruttians' fidelity; they were among the first after the battle to declare in favor of the Carthaginian general. Some towns at first remained with Rome, but Petelia and Consentia were speedily reduced by other Bruttians and a small Carthaginian force, and the more important cities of Locri and Crotona followed not long after. Rhegium alone remained firm, and was able to defy Carthage throughout the war. The region became a Carthaginian stronghold, but the Romans, though avoiding any decisive engagement, continually gained ground by the successive reduction of towns and fortresses. The ravages of war were a severe blow to Bruttium. Punishment by the Romans after the war completed their humiliation. They were deprived of most of their territory, and the whole nation was reduced to near servitude. A praetor with an army was sent annually to watch over them. Colonies were established at Tempsa, Crotona, and Hipponium (renamed Vibo Valentia). A fourth was settled at Thurii on their frontier. From this time the Bruttians as a people disappear from history. All coinage of the Brettii was issued while they were allied with Hannibal.SH72544. Bronze quarter unit, SNG ANS 120 - 122; Scheu Bronze 50; HN Italy 1990; BMC Italy p. 332, 106 var (no controls), Choice gVF, attractive green patina, weight 1.755 g, maximum diameter 13.2 mm, die axis 180o, Bruttium mint, 211- 208; obversehead of a sea goddess (Amphitrite or Thetis) left, with crab headdress, fulmen (thunderbolt) below neck; reverse BRET/TIWN, crab, bunch of grapes (control symbol) above between claws, linear border; rare; $350.00 SALE PRICE $315.00
Macedonian Kingdom, Seleukos, Satrap in Babylon, 311 - 306 B.C., In the Name of Alexander the Great
Struck in the name of Alexander, this coin also bears the personal badge of Seleukos, an anchor. Seleukos was first appointed satrap in Babylonia in 320 B.C. but was put to flight by Antigonus in 315. He returned in 311 only to be forced to evacuate later that year by a counterattack by Antigonus' son, Demetrius. Not long after, however, Seleukos again recovered the city.SH60135. Silver tetradrachm, Houghton-Lorber I 293, Price 3449 (Marthus), Müller Alexander 1512, aVF/F, weight 16.601 g, maximum diameter 27.0 mm, die axis 225o, uncertain mint, c. 311 - 305 B.C.; obversehead of Herakles right, wearing Nemean lion scalp headdress; reverse AΛEΞAN∆POY, Zeus seated left on throne, right leg drawn back, eagle in extended right, long scepter vertical behind in left, anchor flukes up flanked by ∆ - I in left field, monogram under throne; $290.00 SALE PRICE $261.00
Salonina, Augusta 254 - c. September 268 A.D., Roman Provincial Egypt
Tyche (Greek for luck; the Roman equivalent was Fortuna) was the presiding tutelary deity that governed the fortune and prosperity of a city, its destiny. Increasingly during the Hellenistic period, cities had their own specific iconic version of Tyche, wearing a mural crown (a crown like the walls of the city).SH66838. Billontetradrachm, Dattari 5342; Geissen 2982; Kampmann-Ganschow 91.47; SRCV III 10716; BMC Alexandria p. 2266; Milne 4140, Choice aEF, weight 11.345 g, maximum diameter 23.7 mm, die axis 315o, Alexandria mint, 29 Aug 266 - 28 Aug 267 A.D.; obverse KOPNHΛIA CAΛWNEINA CEB, diademed and draped bust right; reversetyche reclining left on couch, kalathos on head, rudder in right hand, LI∆ (year 14) above; $250.00 SALE PRICE $225.00
Severina, Augusta Spring 274 - November 275 A.D.
Juno was the chief female divinity in the Roman pantheon. She was the wife of Jupiter and a member of the Capitoline Triad. She had many different aspects, such as Juno Moneta, Juno Sospita and Juno Lucina, but here she is depicted as Juno Regina, "Juno the Queen." Juno is usually shown holding a patera, scepter or a statuette of Athena, and is often accompanied by a peacock.SH65365. Bronze as, MER-RIC 1884, RIC V 7, BnF XII 319, Hunter IV 17, Cohen VI 9, SRCV III 11711, VF, weight 8.682 g, maximum diameter 24.8 mm, die axis 0o, 7th officina, Rome mint, 11th issue, early - Sep 275; obverseSEVERINA AVG, diademed and draped bust right; reverseIVNO REGINA, Juno standing slightly left, head left, patera in right, long scepter vertical behind in left, peacock left at feet on left; $225.00 SALE PRICE $203.00
Aelia Flaccilla, Augusta 19 January 379 - 386 A.D., Wife of Theodosius I
Aelia Flaccilla was a fervent supporter of the Nicene Creed. Sozomen reports her preventing a conference between Theodosius and Eunomius of Cyzicus who served as figurehead of Anomoeanism, a sect of Arians. Ambrose and Gregory of Nyssa praise her Christian virtue and comment on her role as "a leader of justice" and "pillar of the Church." She is commemorated as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church; her feast day is 14 September.RL70543. Bronze half centenionalis, RIC IXSiscia 35.2 (R2), LRBC II 1566, SRCV V 20623, Cohen VIII 5, VF, excellent centering, weight 0.926 g, maximum diameter 13.3 mm, die axis 0o, 2nd officina, Siscia (Sisak, Croatia) mint, 25 Aug 383 - autumn 384 A.D.; obverse AEL FLACCILLA AVG, diademed and draped bust right; reverseSALVS REIPVBLICAE, Victory seated right inscribing Christogram on shield set on cippus, BSIS• in exergue; rare; $225.00 SALE PRICE $203.00
Otacilia Severa, Augusta February or March 244 - September or October 249 A.D.
Pudicitia was the personification of modesty and chastity.RB30704. Orichalcumsestertius, SRCV III 9169, RIC IV 209a, Cohen V 55, Hunter III - (p. cxi), VF, weight 16.513 g, maximum diameter 28.7 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, c. 244 - 245 A.D.; obverseMARCIA OTACIL SEVERA AVG, diademed draped bust right; reversePVDICITIA AVG, Pudicitia seated left, drawing veil from face with right hand, long transverse scepter in left, S C in exergue; $200.00 SALE PRICE $180.00
Faustina Sr., Augusta 25 February 138 - Early 141, Wife of Antoninus Pius
Faustina I was the wife of Antoninus Pius. Little is known of her, except that she was regarded as vain and frivolous, though this may have just been malicious gossip. Antoninus Pius loved her greatly, and upon her death in 141 A.D. she was deified and a temple was built in her honor.SH65151. Orichalcumsestertius, RIC III 1118, BMCRE IV 1514, Cohen 88, SRCV II 4614, Nice VF, green patina, small patina edge chip on rev, weight 27.399 g, maximum diameter 32.6 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, posthumous, 147 - 161 A.D.; obverseDIVA FAVSTINA, draped bust right, pearls in hair and hair in elaborate bun on top; reverseAVGVSTA, Ceres standing facing, veiled head left, torch raised in right hand, stalks of grain downward in left, S - C flanking across field; $200.00 SALE PRICE $180.00
Koinon of Macedonia, Reign of Gordian III, 238 - 244 A.D., Alexander 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.SH65202. Bronze AE 26, AMNG III 724; cf BMC Macedonia p. 22, 102 (one neokorie); SNG Cop -; SNG Hunterian -; SNG Bar -; SNG Saroglos -; Lindgren -, F, weight 10.822 g, maximum diameter 25.2 mm, die axis 180o, Beroea(?) mint, 238 - 244 A.D.; obverse AΛEΞAN∆POY, head of Alexander the Great right, as Herakles, clad in Nemean lion scalp headdress; reverse KOINON MAKE∆ONΩN B NEΩ, Alexander galloping left on his horse Bucephalus, about to spear a lion leaping left below; rare; $200.00 SALE PRICE $180.00
Julia Mamaea, Augusta 13 March 222 - February or March 235 A.D.
Vesta was originally a household spirit. Later she was personified as the goddess of the hearth and given the stature of her Greek equivalent, Hestia. In the temple of Vesta her flame was kept alive by Vestal Virgins.SH66879. Orichalcumsestertius, RIC IV 708, BMCRE VI 389, Cohen IV 83, SRCV II 8236, VF, weight 24.538 g, maximum diameter 30.9 mm, die axis 315o, Rome mint, 226 A.D.; obverse IVLIA MAMAEAAVGVSTA, diademed and draped bust right; reverseVESTA S C, Vesta standing left, Palladium in right, long scepter vertical in left; $200.00 SALE PRICE $180.00