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 (€412.50)
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 (€217.50)
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; $270.00 (€202.50)
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 (€187.50)
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 (€142.50)
Mark Antony, Triumvir and Imperator, 44 - 30 B.C., LEG II
This may have been II Sabina, disbanded by Augustus. The well-known II Augusta, which took part in the conquest of Britain and was later stationed in South Wales, was one of Octavian's legions, and so not likely to be the Second Legion referred to on this coin. Other Second Legions (Adiutrix, Italica, Parthica and Traiana) were raised much later in imperial times.
RR70126. Silver denarius, Crawford 544/14, Sydenham 1216, BMCRR II East 190, RSC I 27, F, uneven strike, porous, marks, weight 3.398 g, maximum diameter 18.1 mm, die axis 225o, Patrae(?) mint, 32 - 31 B.C.; obverse ANT•AVG / III VIR•R•P•C, galley right with rowers, mast with banners at prow, border of dots; reverse LEG - II, aquila (legionary eagle) between two legionary standards, border of dots; $160.00 (€120.00)
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; $110.00 (€82.50)
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 22, 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; $95.00 (€71.25)
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)
Koinon of Macedonia, Reigns of Elagabalus - Gordian III, c. 218 - 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.
RP71395. Bronze AE 27, cf. AMNG III 512 ff. BMC Macedonia p. 24, 120 ff.; SNG Cop 1355, aF, porous, weight 13.790 g, maximum diameter 26.9 mm, die axis 270o, Beroea(?) mint, c. 231 - 235 A.D.; obverse AΛEΞAN∆POY, diademed head of Alexander the Great right; reverse KOINON MAKE∆ONΩN NEΩ, Alexander riding his horse Bucephalus right, cloak flying behind, couched spear in right hand, reins in left; $65.00 (€48.75)