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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Themes & Provenance ▸ Denominations ▸ CistophoriView Options:  |  |  | 

Cistophori

The cistophorus was introduced at Pergamon sometime between 200 and 160 B.C. to provide the Attalid kingdom with a substitute for Seleucid coins and the tetradrachms of Philetairos. The denomination was also struck by other cities under Attalid control. The denomination owes its name to cista mystica, the sacred chest of Dionysus, on the obverse. It was valued at four drachms but weighed only 12.75 grams, as much as three Attic drachms (the most important weight standard of the time). Hoard evidence suggests that they did not travel outside the area which Pergamon controlled, indicating they were valued higher within that area. Cistophori continued to be minted and circulated down to the time of Hadrian, long after the kingdom was bequeathed to Rome in 133 B.C. The portrait of Augustus and later emperors replaced the cista on the obverse.

The cista mystica was a basket used for housing sacred snakes in connection with the initiation ceremony into the cult of Bacchus (Dionysus). In the Dionysian mysteries a snake, representing the god and possibly symbolic of his phallus, was carried in a cista mystica on a bed of vine leaves. The cista in the mysteries of Isis may also have held a serpent, perhaps associated with the missing phallus of Osiris.


Mark Antony and Octavia, 39 B.C., Ephesos, Ionia

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The obverse legend abbreviates Consul Designatus, Iterum et Tertium, meaning Consul Elect for the second and third time. The reverse legend abbreviates Triumvir Reipublicae Constituendae, the title adopted in November of 43 B.C. by the three Caesarian leaders (Mark Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus) when they formed the Second Triumvirate to oppose the tyrannicides Brutus and Cassius.
SH86609. Silver cistophoric tetradrachm, RPC I 2202, Sydenham 1198, Crawford 263, RSC Octavia and M. Antony 3, Sear CRI 263, BMCRR East 135, SRCV I 1513, Choice gVF, toned, well centered, some die wear and rust, scratches, weight 11.723 g, maximum diameter 27.1 mm, die axis 0o, Ephesos mint, summer - autumn 39 B.C.; obverse M ANTONIVS IMP COS DESIG ITER ET TERT (Consul Elect for the 2nd and 3rd time), conjoined head of Antony and bust of Octavia right, Antony nearer and wreathed in ivy, Octavia draped; reverse Dionysus standing half left on cista mystica, in his right hand, thyrsus in his left hand, flanked by two interlaced snakes with heads erect, III VIR (triumvir) downward on left, R P C (Reipublicae Constituendae) upward on right; $2700.00 (€2295.00)
 


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 104 - 103 B.C., New Style Silver Tetradrachm

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The "New Style" tetradrachms were issued by Athens as a semi-autonomous city under Roman rule. The new-style Owls are markedly different from the Owls of Periclean Athens or the "eye in profile" Athena head of the Fourth Century. They were struck on thinner, broad flans, typical of the Hellenistic period, with a portrait of Athena that reflected the heroic portraiture of the period. The owl now stands on an amphora, surrounded by magistrates' names and symbols, all within an olive wreath. The amphora is marked with a letter that may indicate the month of production. Letters below the amphora may indicate the source of the silver used in production.
SH87798. Silver tetradrachm, Thompson Athens 806 (same dies); Svoronos Athens pl. 62, 6 (same dies); BMC Attica p. , 320 var. (ΣE below), VF, well centered and struck, some die wear, bumps and scrapes, weight 16.306 g, maximum diameter 29.8 mm, die axis 0o, Athens mint, c. 104 - 103 B.C.; obverse helmeted head of Athena Parthenos right, triple-crested helmet decorated with curvilinear ornament on the shell, a griffin right above the raised earpiece, and protomes of horses above the visor; reverse A-ΘE / AN∆-PEAΣ / XAPI/NAY/THΣ AMY/N-O-M (magistrates Andreas, Charinautes, and Amynomachos), owl standing right on amphora on its side; Dionysos seated facing beside Demeter standing facing holding a long torch in each hand; Z on amphora, ΣO below, all within olive wreath; $900.00 SALE PRICE $810.00 ON RESERVE


Augustus, 16 January 27 B.C. - 19 August 14 A.D.

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The cistophorus was first struck by the Pergamene Kingdom was a tetradrachm (four-drachms coin) struck on a reduced Asian standard of about 3 grams per drachm. Its name was derived from the cista, a Dionysian cult snake basket that frequently appeared on the obverse. After the Pergamene Kingdom was bequeathed to Rome in 133 B.C., the Romans continued to strike cistophori for the Asia province, with a value equal to three denarii. The portrait of Augustus and later emperors replaced the cista on the obverse.
SH85435. Silver cistophoric tetradrachm, Sutherland Group VI, RPC I 2213, RSC I 16, RIC I 477, BnF I 916, BMCRE I 696, BMCRR East 263, SRCV I -, VF, well centered, toned, light marks and scratches, weight 11.796 g, maximum diameter 26.0 mm, die axis 30o, Ephesus mint, c. 25 - 20 B.C.; obverse IMP CAE-SAR (counterclockwise below), bare head right, linear border; reverse capricorn right, head turned back left, cornucopia on its back, AVGVSTVS below, all within laurel wreath; SOLD







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REFERENCES

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Cohen, E. Dated Coins of Antiquity: A comprehensive catalogue of the coins and how their numbers came about. (Lancaster, PA, 2011).
Kleiner, F. "Hoard Evidence and the Late Cistophori of Pergamum" in ANSMN 23 (1978).
Kleiner, F. "The Dated Cistophori of Ephesus" in ANSMN 18 (1972).
Kleiner, F. "The Late Cistophori of Apameia" in Essays Thompson.
Kleiner, F. & S. Noe. The Early Cistophoric Coinage. ANSNS 14 (1977).
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Head, B. A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Lydia. (London, 1901).
Head, B. A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Phrygia. (London, 1906).
Macdonald, G. Catalogue of Greek Coins in the Hunterian Collection, University of Glasgow. (Glascow, 1899).
Mattingly, H. & R. Carson. Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum. (London, 1923-1963).
Mattingly H. & E. Sydenham. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol. II: Vespasian to Hadrian. (London, 1926).
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Oakley, J. "The Autonomous Wreathed Tetradrachms of Kyme, Aeolis" in ANSMN 27 (1982).
Pinder, M. Über die Cistophoren und über die kaiserlichen Silbermedaillons der Römischen Provinz Asien. (Berlin, 1856).
Sacks, K. "The Wreathed Coins of Aeolian Myrina" in ANSMN 30. (1985).
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Sear, D. Roman Coins and Their Values. (London, 2000-2014).
Sutherland, C. The Cistophori of Augustus. (London, 1970).
Sutherland, C. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol. I: From 39 BC to AD 69. (London, 1984).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Denmark, The Royal Collection of Coins and Medals, Danish National Museum. (Copenhagen, 1942-1979).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Deutschland, Münzsammlung Universität Tübingen. (Berlin, 1981-).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Deutschland, Sammlung Hans Von Aulock. (Berlin, 1957-1967).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, France, Cabinet des Médailles, Bibliothéque Nationale. (Paris, 1993-2001).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Great Britain IV, Fitzwilliam Museum, Leake and General Collections. (London, 1940-1971).
Waddington, W., E. Babelon & T. Reinach. Recueil Général des Monnaies Grecques d'Asie Mineure. (Paris, 1904-1925).
Wroth, W. A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Mysia. (London, 1892).
Wroth, W. A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Troas, Aeolis, and Lesbos. (London, 1894).

Catalog current as of Thursday, December 13, 2018.
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Cistophori