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

Astronomy on Ancient Coins

Kyrene, Kyrenaica, North Africa, Ptolemaic Rule, c. 300 - 275 B.C.

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Magas was the stepson of Ptolemy I, the son of Berenice I, and half-brother to Ptolemy II. In 276 B.C., he crowned himself King in Kyrene, married the daughter of Antiochos I and invaded Egypt with his Seleukid allies. The Seleukid army was defeated by Ptolemy II and Magas faced an internal revolt of Libyan nomads. Still, Kyrene remained independent as long as he lived.
GS75115. Silver hemiobol, BMC Cyrenaica pl. XXV, 8 (plates only, missing from text); Müller Afrique -; SNG Cop -; SNG Milan -, gVF, toned, scratches, weight 0.419 g, maximum diameter 9.3 mm, Kyrene (near Shahhat, Libya) mint, Magas, as Ptolemaic governor, c. 300 - 275 B.C.; obverse diademed male head right; reverse star of eight narrow rays around central pellet; ex Roma Numismatics E-sale 17 (April 2015), lot 375; extremely rare; $175.00 (€148.75)
 


Probus, Summer 276 - September 282 A.D.

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Invincible Sol charging in a facing quadriga and raising his hand commanding the sun to rise, is one of our favorite reverses of the Roman Imperial series and Forum's recommended coin type for Probus. If you only plan to buy one Probus coin, it should be this type!
RA87626. Billon antoninianus, Hunter IV 315 (also 2nd officina); Pink VI-1, p. 44, em. 3; RIC V-2 911; Cohen VI 682; SRCV III 12041, Choice EF, full circle centering, most silvering remains, uneven strike with part of legends a littl weak, weight 4.298 g, maximum diameter 24.0 mm, die axis 180o, 2nd officina, Cyzicus (Kapu Dagh, Turkey) mint, emission 3, 280 A.D.; obverse IMP C M AVR PROBVS P F AVG, radiate bust left in consular robe, eagle-tipped scepter in right; reverse SOLI INVICTO (to the invincible sun god), Sol in a spread quadriga facing, radiate, cloak billowing out behind, raising right hand commanding sunrise, whip in left hand, CM below center, XXIS in exergue; $150.00 (€127.50)
 


Pontos (Uncertain City), c. 119 - 100 B.C.

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This is apparently a recently discovered new type. All the known examples might be from a single find. The stars depicted are almost certainly the comets described in Justin's epitome of the Historiae Philippicae of the Augustan historian Pompeius Trogus (Justin 37.2.1-2): "The future greatness of this man [Mithridates Eupator] had been foretold by heavenly portents. For both in the year in which he was born [134/133 B.C.] and in the year in which he first began to rule [120/119 B.C.], a comet gleamed so brightly for 70 days throughout each period that the whole sky seemed to be on fire. In its extent, each of these comets filled one quarter of the sky and surpassed the sun in brilliance. They took four hours to rise and four hours to set."
SH71047. Bronze AE 14, Unpublished in standard refs, six specimens known to Forum, F, cleaning scratches, weight 2.121 g, maximum diameter 13.9 mm, uncertain Pontic mint, c. 119 - 100 B.C.; obverse comet star of six rays and center pellet superimposed on pileus; reverse comet star of eight rays and central pellet; extremely rare; $125.00 (€106.25)
 


Tiberius, 19 August 14 - 16 March 37 A.D., Tripolis ad Maeandrum, Lydia

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Tripolis on the Meander (Tripolis ad Maeandrum, also Neapolis, Apollonia, and Antoninopolis) was on the borders of Phrygia, Caria and Lydia, on the northern bank of the upper course of the Maeander, and on the road leading from Sardes by Philadelphia to Laodicea ad Lycum. It was 20 km to the northwest of Hierapolis. The earliest mention of Tripolis is by Pliny (v. 30), who treats it as Lydian. Ptolemy (v. 2. § 18) and Stephanus of Byzantium describe it as Carian. Hierocles (p. 669) likewise calls it Lydian. Some modern academics have placed it in Phrygia. The ruins of Tripolis ad Maeandrum mostly date from the Roman and Byzantine periods and include a theater, baths, city walls, and a necropolis. An ancient church, dating back 1,500 years, was unearthed in 2013.
RP87200. Bronze AE 19, RPC I 3056, SNG Cop 743, SNGvA 3317, SNG München 809, Waddington 2681, Weber 3407, gF, green patina with red earthen highlighting, flatly struck, minor edge chipping, pits on reverse, weight 3.711 g, maximum diameter 18.7 mm, die axis 0o, Tripolis ad Maeandrum (near Yenicekent, Turkey) mint, magistrate Menandrou Metrodoros Philokaisar; obverse TIBEPION KAICAPA TPI/ΠOΛEITAI, laureate head right; reverse MENAN∆POC ΦIΛOKAICAP, radiate head of Helios right, O/T/∆ in right field; ex Numismatik Naumann auction 47 (9 Oct 2016), lot 327; scarce; $120.00 (€102.00)
 


Pontos (Uncertain City), c. 119 - 100 B.C.

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This is apparently a recently discovered new type. All the known examples might be from a single find. The stars depicted are almost certainly the comets described in Justin's epitome of the Historiae Philippicae of the Augustan historian Pompeius Trogus (Justin 37.2.1-2): "The future greatness of this man [Mithridates Eupator] had been foretold by heavenly portents. For both in the year in which he was born [134/133 B.C.] and in the year in which he first began to rule [120/119 B.C.], a comet gleamed so brightly for 70 days throughout each period that the whole sky seemed to be on fire. In its extent, each of these comets filled one quarter of the sky and surpassed the sun in brilliance. They took four hours to rise and four hours to set."
SH90651. Bronze AE 13, Unpublished in standard references, six examples known to Forum, VF, green patina, earthen encrustation, light scratches, reverse off-center, weight 2.431 g, maximum diameter 12.9 mm, die axis 0o, uncertain Pontic mint, c. 119 - 100 B.C.; obverse comet star of six rays and center pellet superimposed on pileus; reverse comet star of eight rays and central pellet; extremely rare; $100.00 (€85.00)
 


Kingdom of Commagene, Epiphanes and Callinicus, 72 A.D.

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In 72 A.D., only two years after Antiochus IV, King of Commagene, sent troops, commanded by his son Epiphanes, to aid Titus in the siege of Jerusalem, he was accused by the governor of Syria of conspiring with Parthia against Rome. After a reign of thirty-four years from his first appointment by Caligula, Antiochus was deprived of his kingdom. He retired first to Sparta, and then to Rome, where he passed the remainder of his life and was treated with great respect. Antiochus' sons, Epiphanes and Callinicus briefly ruled the kingdom but after an encounter with Roman troops, fled to Parthia. They later joined their father in Rome.
SH90336. Bronze AE 21, RPC I 3861; BMC Galatia p. 110, 1 ff.; De Luynes 3440; SGICV 5515, F, dark patina, red earthen deposits, weight 7.954 g, maximum diameter 21.2 mm, die axis 45o, Samosata (Samsat, Turkey) mint, 72 A.D.; obverse Epiphanes and Callinicus riding left on horseback, each wearing chlamys, BACIΛEΩC / YIOI in exergue; reverse KOMMAΓHNΩN, Capricorn right, star above, anchor flukes left below, all within laurel wreath, border of dots; ex John Jencek; $100.00 (€85.00)
 


Pontos (Uncertain City), c. 119 - 100 B.C.

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The comets depicted are almost certainly the comets described in Justin's epitome of the Historiae Philippicae of the Augustan historian Pompeius Trogus (Justin 37.2.1-2): "The future greatness of this man [Mithridates Eupator] had been foretold by heavenly portents. For both in the year in which he was born [134/133 B.C.] and in the year in which he first began to rule [120/119 B.C.], a comet gleamed so brightly for 70 days throughout each period that the whole sky seemed to be on fire. In its extent, each of these comets filled one quarter of the sky and surpassed the sun in brilliance. They took four hours to rise and four hours to set."
GB84563. Bronze AE 12, SNG BM 984; SNG Stancomb 653; Lindgren III 154; HGC 7 317, VF, small flan, slightly off center, green patina with buff earthen highlighting, weight 1.623 g, maximum diameter 12.2 mm, Pontos, uncertain mint, c. 119 - 100 B.C.; obverse horse-head right, with comet star of eight points and central pellet on neck; reverse comet star of seven points, central pellet, and tail to right; ex Agora Auctions sale, lot 25; very rare; $95.00 (€80.75)
 


Islamic, Seljuqs Sultanate of Rum, Ghiyath al-Din Kay Khusraw II bin Kay Qubadh, 1237 - 1246 A.D.

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The source and meaning of this sun and lion design is uncertain but there is a popular (although unlikely) explanation. The sultan was madly in love with his beautiful Georgian wife and wanted to put her portrait on his coins. His advisors disapproved, however, so he put his wife's horoscope on his coins instead - the Sun in Leo. The Ilkhan descendants of the Mongols copied this design on a copper fals nearly a hundred years later. After that it became a popular device with which to ornament the copper coins of eastern Anatolia, and particularly Iran where it eventually became the country’s national symbol.
IS88011. Silver dirhem, Izmirlier 457, Mitchiner 982 var. (no crescent), Album 1218, VF, light golden toning, slightly off center on a tight flan, weight 2.867 g, maximum diameter 22.1 mm, die axis 270o, Siwas (Sivas, Turkey) mint, AH 638; obverse al-imam al-mustansir billah amir al-mu’minin (the Imam al-Mustansir, Commander of the Faithful), sun in radiance (the sun in Leo) above lion passant to right, crescent over star to left of sun, star below lion, pellet below raised left foreleg; reverse in central square: al-sultan / al-a'zam / kaykhusraw / ibn kayqubad (the Supreme Sultan Kaykhusraw ibn Kayqubad); above: (duriba) hadha'l-dirham; right: sittmi'a (this dirham was struck in Siwas, in the year 38, six hundred); below: fi sana arb‘in ; ex Specialty Stamp and Coin, Champagne, IL (2002); scarce variety; $90.00 (€76.50) ON RESERVE


Cales, Campania, Italy, c. 265 - 240 B.C.

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The Romans captured Cales in 335 B.C. and established a colony in 334 with Latin rights of 2,500 citizens. It was an important base in the war against Hannibal. Before 184 B.C. more settlers were sent there. After the Social War it became a municipium. Its fertile territory and manufacture of black glazed pottery, which was even exported to Etruria, made it prosperous. Inscriptions name six gates of the town: and there are considerable remains of antiquity, especially of an amphitheater and theater, of a supposed temple, a Roman necropolis, and other edifices.
GB73620. Bronze AE 20, SNG Cop 309; HN Italy 436, SNG ANS 183, cf. BMC Italy p. 79, 23 (star of eight rays vice O below), F, green patina, tight flan, weight 6.161 g, maximum diameter 19.6 mm, die axis 225o, Cales (Calvi Risorta, Italy) mint, c. 265 - 240 B.C.; obverse CALENO, laureate head of Apollo left, star behind; reverse man-faced bull right, star of sixteen rays above, Θ (or O?) below, CALENO in exergue; $85.00 (€72.25)
 


Miletos, Ionia, c. Late 6th Century B.C.

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Before the Persian invasion in the middle of the 6th century B.C., Miletus was the greatest and wealthiest of Greek cities and had a maritime empire with many colonies. After Cyrus of Persia defeated Croesus of Lydia in the middle of the 6th century B.C., Miletus fell under Persian rule.
GA88167. Silver 1/12 stater, SNG Kayhan 476; SNGvA 2080; SNG Cop 944; SNG München 707; SNG Keckman 273; BMC Ionia p 185, 22; Klein 424; SGCV II 3532, VF, obverse off center, light marks, light porosity, weight 1.057 g, maximum diameter 9.7 mm, Miletos (near Balat, Turkey) mint, c. late 6th century B.C.; obverse forepart of lion right, head turned back left; reverse ornamental pattern in incuse square; $80.00 (€68.00)
 




  



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Astronomy