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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Denominations| ▸ |Cistophori||View 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.

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

|Cistophori|, |Augustus,| |16| |January| |27| |B.C.| |-| |19| |August| |14| |A.D.||cistophoric| |tetradrachm|
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


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

|Cistophori|, |Mark| |Antony| |and| |Octavia,| |39| |B.C.,| |Ephesos,| |Ionia||cistophoric| |tetradrachm|
Mark Antony is depicted on the obverse with the attributes of Dionysus.
SH24805. Silver cistophoric tetradrachm, RPC I 2201, Cohen 2 (35 Fr.), Sydenham 1197, Sear CRI 262, gVF, obverse grainy, weight 12.001 g, maximum diameter 26.9 mm, die axis 0o, obverse M ANTONIVS IMP COS DESIG ITER ET TERT, head of Antony right, wreathed in ivy, lituus below, all within wreath of ivy and grapes; reverse III VIR R P C, bust of Octavia right on cista flanked by snakes; SOLD


Tralleis, Lydia, 131 - 130 B.C.

|Cistophori|, |Tralleis,| |Lydia,| |131| |-| |130| |B.C.||cistophoric| |tetradrachm|
On the slopes of Mount Messogis in the valley of the Meander, Tralles, was one of the largest and richest cities of Lydia. King Attalus had a splendid palace there. The local god was Zeus Larasios, but Apollo Pythius and other divinities were also worshiped. Tralles was destroyed by an earthquake but was rebuilt by Augustus and took the name of Caesarea.

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.
SH64043. Silver cistophoric tetradrachm, Cohen Dated 353; BMC Lydia p. 332, 44 ff. (other years), SNGvA 3262 ff. (same); SNG Cop 662 - 663 (same); SNG Tüb -; SNG Munchen -, VF, weight 12.880 g, maximum diameter 28.2 mm, die axis 0o, Tralles (Aydýn, Turkey) mint, 131 - 130 B.C.; obverse Cista mystica with half open lid, from which a snake emerges left, all within ivy wreath; reverse two coiled serpents, heads erect, flanking ornamented bow-case, bow sticking out of case top left, ∆ (year 4) over TPAΛ left, ΠTOΛ (magistrate) above case; Dionysos on right, standing right, holding thyrsos and mask of Silenos; ex Numismatik Lanz; scarce type, rare year; SOLD







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REFERENCES|

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