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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Themes & Provenance ▸ Gods, OlympiansView Options:  |  |  |   

The Twelve Olympians on Ancient Coins

The Twelve Olympians, the principal gods of the Greek pantheon, residing atop Mount Olympus, included the following gods:

Greek

Roman

Zeus

Jupiter

Hera

Juno

Poseidon

Neptune

Demeter

Ceres

Ares

Mars

Hermes

Mercury

Hephaestus

Vulcan

Aphrodite

Venus

Athena

Minerva

Apollo

Apollo

Artemis

Diana

Hestia

Vesta


Pontic Kingdom, Mithradates VI, c. 120 - 63 B.C., Lysimachos Type

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Mithradates VI Eupator "the Great"expanded his Pontic Kingdom through conquest, which inevitably brought him into conflict with Rome. Mithradates regarded himself as the champion of the Greeks against Rome, however, after three years of war, he was defeated by Pompey the Great. The design of this coin is taken from a coin of Lysimachos, bodyguard of Alexander the Great, and King of Thrace 323 - 281 B.C. The Lysimachos coin depicted Alexander the Great on the obverse. The features of the obverse portrait on this type are those of Mithradates VI.
SH88831. Gold stater, Callataÿ p. 140, pl. XXXVII (D3/R1); AMNG I 263; HGC 3.2 1824; SNG Cop 1089 var. (control), VF, struck with worn dies, weight 8.206 g, maximum diameter 20.8 mm, die axis 0o, Kallatis mint, First Mithradatic War, c. 88 - 86 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Alexander the Great right wearing the horn of Ammon; reverse Athena seated left, Victory crowning name with wreath held in Athena's extended right hand, resting left elbow on round shield leaning on back of seat, A∆ monogram (control) inner left, KAΛ below seat, trident in exergue ornamented with two small dolphins, ΛYΣIMAXOY downward on left, BAΣIΛEΩΣ downward on right; Kirk Davis, catalog 70, lot 11; $2200.00 (€1870.00)


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 454 - 404 B.C., Old Style Tetradrachm

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The old-style tetradrachm of Athens is famous for its almond shaped eye, archaic smile, and charming owl reverse. Around 480 B.C. a wreath of olive leaves and a decorative scroll were added to Athena's helmet. On the reverse, a crescent moon was added.

During the period 449 - 413 B.C. huge quantities of tetradrachms were minted to finance grandiose building projects such as the Parthenon and to cover the costs of the Peloponnesian War.
SH89850. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG München 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, Choice EF, full crest, some light bumps and marks, weight 17.182 g, maximum diameter 22.9 mm, die axis 285o, Athens mint, c. 454 - 404 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, almond shaped eye, crested helmet with olive leaves and floral scroll, wire necklace, round earring, hair in parallel curves; reverse owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, AΘE downward on right, all within incuse square; $1800.00 (€1530.00)


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 454 - 404 B.C., Old Style Tetradrachm

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The old-style tetradrachm of Athens is famous for its almond shaped eye, archaic smile, and charming owl reverse. Around 480 B.C. a wreath of olive leaves and a decorative scroll were added to Athena's helmet. On the reverse, a crescent moon was added.

During the period 449 - 413 B.C. huge quantities of tetradrachms were minted to finance grandiose building projects such as the Parthenon and to cover the costs of the Peloponnesian War.
SH89851. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG München 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, Choice EF, well centered with much of the crest on flan, some light bumps and marks, weight 17.210 g, maximum diameter 25.67 mm, die axis 285o, Athens mint, c. 454 - 404 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, almond shaped eye, crested helmet with olive leaves and floral scroll, wire necklace, round earring, hair in parallel curves; reverse owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, AΘE downward on right, all within incuse square; $1600.00 (€1360.00)


Britannicus, Son of Claudius and Messalina, b. 12 February 41 - d. 11 February 55 A.D., Alabanda, Caria

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Of this type, RPC I notes, "Uncertain. This coin was published by Mi 3.307.22, and is known from a Mionnet cast. The coin [the Mionnet specimen] has been tooled ('médaille retourchée') but may perhaps represent a genuine denomination." Our coin allays the RPC I doubts. The denomination is 1/3 of 18.5g RPC I 2818.
SH88430. Orichalcum AE 23, RPC I 2821 (= Mionnet III, p. 307, 22), F, porous, weight 6.496 g, maximum diameter 23.3 mm, die axis 0o, Alabanda (near Doganyurt, Turkey) mint, 50 - 54 A.D.; obverse KΛAV∆IOC BPETANNIKOC KAIΣAP, bare-headed and draped bust right; reverse AΛABAN∆EΩN, Apollo Kissios standing left, nude, bow in right hand with raven on top, sheep standing left at feet on left ; ex FORVM (2013), ex J. S. Wagner Collection; of greatest rarity; $1100.00 (€935.00)


Trajan, 25 January 98 - 8 or 9 August 117 A.D.

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Marcus Ulpius Traianus, a brilliant general and administrator, was adopted and proclaimed emperor by the aging Nerva in 98 A.D. Regarded as one of Rome's greatest emperors, Trajan was responsible for the annexation of Dacia, the invasion of Arabia and an extensive and lavish building program across the empire. Under Trajan, Rome reached its greatest extent. Shortly after the annexation of Mesopotamia and Armenia, Trajan was forced to withdraw from most of the new Arabian provinces. While returning to Rome to direct operations against the new threats, Trajan died at Selinus in Cilicia.
RB88224. Orichalcum sestertius, Woytek 240q (same dies), BnF IV 512 (same dies), BMCRE III 771, Banti 117, Strack 398, RIC II 478 var. (bust), Cohen 367 var. (same), VF, well centered, rough, weight 21.340 g, maximum diameter 34.4 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, c. 106 - 107 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES NERVAE TRAIANO AVG GER DAC P M TR P COS V P P, laureate heroic bust left, full chest exposed, drapery on left shoulder; reverse S P Q R OPTIMO PRINCIPI, Ceres standing half left, head left, holding grain over modius in right hand, long scepter vertical in left hand, S – C (senatus consulto) divided across field; extremely rare with this bust, struck with a superb obverse die!; $980.00 (€833.00)


Lapethos, Cyprus, King Sidqmelek, c. 449 - 420 B.C.

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Excavation finds date Lapithos to as early as 3000 B.C. In the 4th century B.C., Lapithos was one of the nine kingdoms of Cyprus. During the Persian rule, Lapithos was settled by Phoenicians. After Peisistratos, king of Lapithos, along with Nicocreon of Salamis, and Stasanor of Curion helped Alexander the Great capture Tyre, Alexander declared Cyprus free. The last king of Lapethos, Praxippos, was subdued by Ptolemy I in 312 B.C. Under Roman rule, Lapethos had more than 10,000 inhabitants, produced copper, earthenware and produce, and was a port and a shipyard. Lapethos was given the name Lambousa ("shining") perhaps because of its beauty or perhaps because of its lighthouse. The apostles Paul, Barnabas, and Mark passed by Lapethos coming from Tarsus. According to Barnabas, during his second tour with Mark, they stayed outside the walls because they were denied access to the city. In late antiquity, Lapethos enjoyed great prosperity but was heavily damaged by Arab incursions. The population often had to flee and take refuge in the interior. After the Byzantine recovery of Cyprus from the Arabs in 965, Lapithos's refugees returned to rebuild, but chose to stay away from the sea, relocating it at the foot of mountain Pentadactylos.
GS87792. Silver stater, BMC Cyprus p. 30 f., 7-9, pl. VI, 6-8; Traité II p. 823, 1361-1363 and pl. CXXXVI; Bank of Cyprus p. 94 & pl. VII, 2; Tziambazis 48, F, struck with worn damaged dies, weight 10.789 g, maximum diameter 21.5 mm, die axis 180o, Lapethos (Lambousa, Cyprus) mint, c. 449 - 420 B.C.; obverse Phoenician legend: King of Lapethos, head of Athena left, wearing a crested Corinthian helmet; reverse Phoenician legend: of Sidqmelek, head of Athena facing, wearing a double-crested helmet with bull’s horn and ears, all within an incuse square; very rare; $650.00 (€552.50)


Luceria, Apulia, Italy, c. 211 - 200 B.C.

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In 321 B.C., the Romans, deceived into thinking Lucera was under siege by the Samnites, walked into an ambush and were defeated. The town threw out the Samnites, sought Roman protection, and in 320 B.C. was granted the status of Colonia Togata, which meant it was ruled by the Roman Senate. To strengthen ties, 2,500 Romans moved to Lucera. Roman culture merged with the native one slowly, probably accompanied by cross-cultural marriages, but Lucera was a steadfast supporter of Rome. By the 2nd century B.C., the rustic town was transformed into a proper Roman city with houses, public buildings, paved roads, sidewalks and services for travelers, accommodation for livestock with running water, and warehouses for storing goods.
GB86125. Bronze uncia, SNG ANS 709; SNG Cop 663; SNG BnF 1368; SNG München 504; HN Italy 682; BMC Italy p. 141, 62; Hunterian -, VF, rough, weight 4.084 g, maximum diameter 14.9 mm, die axis 0o, Luceria mint, c. 211 - 200 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right, bow and quiver at shoulder, pellet behind; reverse LOVC-ERI, toad seen from above; very rare; $540.00 (€459.00)


Trajan, 25 January 98 - 8 or 9 August 117 A.D., Roman Provincial Egypt

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In 116, Trajan completed his invasion of Parthia by capturing the cities of Seleucia, Babylon, Ctesiphon and Susa. This was the high-water mark of the Roman Empire's eastern expansion.
RX87338. Bronze drachm, BMC Alexandria p. 48, 402; Geissen 702; Emmett 611.19; Dattari 1072; Kampmann-Ganschow 27.662; SNG Milan -, Choice VF, well centered, attractive brown patina, a little flatly struck on highest points, weight 18.113 g, maximum diameter 33.8 mm, die axis 0o, Alexandria mint, 29 Aug 115 - 28 Aug 116 A.D.; obverse AVT TPAI-AN API CEB Γ-EPM ∆AKIK ΠAP, laureate bust right, aegis on far shoulder; reverse Zeus enthroned left, long scepter vertical in right hand, thunderbolt at side in left hand, eagle at feet standing left looking back, L I-Θ (year 19) across field; ex CNG, auction 78 (14 May 2008), lot 1508 ($650 plus fees); ex Empire Coins, auction 8 (7 Dec 1987), lot 429; $470.00 (€399.50)


Seleukid Kingdom, Antiochus I Soter, 281 - 261 B.C.

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Antiochus faced a formidable task holding the empire together. Revolt broke out in Syria almost immediately after his father's death. He earned the title Soter (savior) for victory over hordes of Gauls that attacked Anatolia. Elsewhere, he had little success. He was forced to abandon Macedonia, Thrace, Bithynia, and Cappadocia and to execute his eldest son for rebellion.
GY85675. Silver tetradrachm, Houghton-Lorber I 379.6a, Newell ESM 166, HGC 9 128g, Choice VF, well centered and struck, high relief portrait, attractive toning, bumps and marks, closed edge crack, weight 16.667 g, maximum diameter 28.1 mm, die axis 0o, Seleucia on the Tigris (south of Baghdad, Iraq) mint, c. 263 - 261 B.C.; obverse diademed head right; reverse Apollo seated left on omphalos, examining arrow with right, resting left hand on grounded bow, monogram (primary control symbol) outer left, ∆/ΩP monogram (secondary control symbol) outer right, BAΣIΛEΩΣ (king) downward on right, ANT-IOXOY downward on left; $450.00 (€382.50)


Mopsion, Thessaly, c. 350 - 300 B.C.

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Mopsion issued only bronze coins, and only c. 350 - 300 B.C. In Nomos 4, BCD notes, "The bronzes of Mopsion are practically impossible to find in nice condition and without flaws or corrosion. They are also very rare and desirable because of the their spectacularly eloquent reverse. The nicest one to come up for auction realized $18,000..."

Mopsion, in the Peneus valley half way between Larissa and Tempe, took its name from the Lapith Mopsos, a son of Ampyx. Mopsos learned augury from Apollo, understood the language of birds, and became an Argonaut seer. As depicted on this coin, he was one of the Lapiths who defeated the Centaurs. This battle was a favorite subject of Greek art. While fleeing across the Libyan desert from angry sisters of the slain Gorgon Medusa, Mopsos died from the bite of a viper that had grown from a drop of Medusa's blood. Medea was unable to save him, even by magical means. The Argonauts buried him with a monument by the sea, and a temple was later erected on the site.
GB87120. Bronze trichalkon, BCD Thessaly II 484, BCD Thessaly I 1210, Rogers 412, McClean 4648, HGC 4 537 (R2), SNG Cop -, Pozzi -, BMC Thessaly -, gF, dark garnet and black patina, well centered, a little rough, weight 8.082 g, maximum diameter 20.5 mm, die axis 225o, Mopsion (Bakraina(?), Greece) mint, c. 350 - 300 B.C.; obverse head of Zeus facing slightly right, vertical thunderbolt to right; reverse MOΨ-EI-ΩN, Lapith Mopsos standing facing, nude, his head turned right, raising club in right hand and extending his left hand, fighting centaur that is rearing left and raising a bolder over its head with both hands preparing to throw it; ex BCD with his round tag noting, "HK ex Thess., April 02, $275.-"; very rare; $450.00 (€382.50)




  



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The first ancient reference of religious ceremonies for the 12 Olympians is found in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes.

There was a great deal of fluidity when it came to who was counted among their number in antiquity. Around 400 B.C. Herodorus included in his Dodekatheon the following deities: Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Athena, Hermes, Apollo, Alpheus, Cronus, Rhea and the Charites. Herodotus includes Heracles as one of the Twelve.

Lucian also includes Heracles, and also includes Asklepios, as members of the Twelve, without explaining which two had to give way for them. At Kos, Heracles and Dionysus are added to the Twelve, and Ares and Hephaestus are left behind. However, Pindar, Apollodorus, and Herodorus disagree with this. For them Heracles is not one of the Twelve Gods, but the one who established their cult.

Plato connected the Twelve Olympians with the twelve months, and proposed that the final month be devoted to rites in honor of Pluto and the spirits of the dead, implying that he considered Hades, one of the basic chthonic deities, to be one of the Twelve. Hades is phased out in later groupings due to his chthonic associations. In Phaedrus Plato aligns the Twelve with the Zodiac and would exclude Hestia from their rank.

Hestia is sometimes displaced by Dionysus. Hebe, Helios and Persephone are other important gods, goddesses, which are sometimes included in a group of twelve.

The Twelve Olympians gained their supremacy in the world of gods after Zeus led his siblings to victory in war with the Titans. Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hestia, and Hades were siblings. Ares, Hermes, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, the Charites, Heracles, Dionysus, Hebe, and Persephone were children of Zeus. Although some versions of the myth state that Hephaestus was born of Hera alone.


Catalog current as of Tuesday, May 21, 2019.
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Olympians