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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


Metapontion, Lucania, Italy, 334 - 330 B.C.

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Gold coins of Magna Graecia are scarce and were only minted for exceptional occasions, such as paying mercenaries. Most likely this rare issue was struck when Alexander Molossus, the Epirote King, helped Metapontion against the Lucanians and Bruttians. Molossus was Alexander the Great's uncle and Olympia's brother.
SH86428. Gold 1/3 stater, SNG Lockett 406; SNG ANS 395; HN Italy 1578; Noe-Johnston 3, G1 and pl. 18; SNG Lloyd -; SNG Cop -; Jameson -; Gulbenkian -; Pozzi -; Weber -, aVF+, fine style, marks, reverse double struck, weight 2.574 g, maximum diameter 13.6 mm, die axis 180o, Metapontion mint, c. 334 - 332 B.C.; obverse head of Demeter right, wearing stephane and pendant earring; reverse METAΠON, barley stalk, bird right on leaf to right; ex Forum (2007), ex Christie's Auction (1993) ; very rare; $5500.00 (4675.00)


Macedonian Kingdom, Philip III Arrhidaeus and Alexander IV, 323 - 317 B.C.

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Struck under Leonnatos, Arrhidaios, or Antigonos I Monophthalmos. Philip III Arrhidaeus, the bastard son of Philip II and a dancer, Philinna of Larissa, was Alexander the Great's half-brother. Alexander's mother, Olympias, allegedly poisoned him as a child, leaving him mentally disabled, eliminating him as a rival to Alexander. Incapable of actual rule, he was made king upon Alexander's death only to serve as a pawn for those who wished to grab power for themselves. Olympias had him imprisoned and then ordered his execution in 317 B.C.
SH86159. Gold stater, Price P38; ADM II Series XI, 159a; Mller Alexander P64, aEF, some luster, well centered, attractive style, edge bump, weight 8.519 g, maximum diameter 18.7 mm, die axis 0o, Troas, Abydos (near Canakkale, Turkey) mint, c. 323 - 317 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right in crested Corinthian helmet ornamented with a coiled snake, wearing necklace and long drop earring; reverse Nike standing slightly left, head left, wreath in extended right hand, grounded stylis in left hand at her side, MH monogram over pentagram outer left, coiled snake under left wing; ex CNG auction 108, lot 189; $3700.00 (3145.00)


Macedonian Kingdom, Philip III and Alexander IV, c. 323 - 317 B.C., In the Name of Alexander

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Struck after Alexander's death, under either Perdikkas or Antipater, regents during the joint reign of Alexander's mentally disabled half-brother, Philip III, and Alexander's infant son, Alexander IV. Philip was the bastard son of Philip II and a dancer, Philinna of Larissa. Alexander the Great's mother, Olympias, allegedly poisoned her stepson Philip III as a child, leaving him mentally disabled, eliminating him as a rival to Alexander. Neither Philip III nor Alexander IV was capable of actual rule. Both were selected only to serve as pawns. The regents held power, while Philip III was actually imprisoned. In 317, Olympias had Philip murdered to ensure the succession of her grandson. But Alexander IV would never rule. In 311 B.C., he and his mother Roxana were executed by the regent Kassander.
SH86161. Silver tetradrachm, Price 113, Mller Alexander 224, Troxell issue H3, SNG Cop 682, SNG Munchen 275, SNG Alpha Bank 503, SNG Delepierre 986, Choice EF, attractive archaic style, bold well centered strike, high relief, light toning, weight 17.283 g, maximum diameter 26.8 mm, die axis 90o, Macedonia, Amphipolis mint, c. 322 - 320 A.D.; obverse head of Herakles right, clad in Nemean Lion scalp headdress tied at neck; reverse BAΣIΛEΩΣ AΛEΞAN∆POY, Zeus enthroned left, throne without back, right leg forward (archaic lifetime style), eagle in extended right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand, Macedonian helmet (control symbol) left; Classical Numismatic Group auction 105 (10 May 2017), lot 78; ex Numismatik Naumann auction 46 (11 Sep 2016), lot 105 (realized 1,900 plus fees); $1980.00 (1683.00)


Magnesia ad Maeandrum, Ionia, c. 155 - 140 B.C.

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The magistrate's name is written ΠAYΣANIAΣ ΠAYΣANIOY, with the last name in genitive, which means Pausanias, the son of Pausanias.
GS86202. Silver stephanophoric tetradrachm, Jones obv. die 10a, SNG Cop 844, SNGvA 7922, SNG Lockett 2830, BMC Ionia -, Weber -, Choice EF, fine style, well centered and struck, toned, weight 16.464 g, maximum diameter 31.6 mm, die axis 0o, Magnesia ad Maeandrum (near Tekin, Turkey) mint, c. 155 - 140 B.C.; obverse bust of Artemis the Hunter wearing stephane, bow & quiver at shoulder; reverse MAΓNHTΩN / ΠAYΣANIAΣ / ΠAYΣANIOY, Apollo naked standing half left, left arm resting on tripod, filleted branch in right, Maeander pattern below, magistrate's name with patronymic left, all within laurel wreath; ex A. Caillat Collection; $1800.00 (1530.00)


Macedonian Kingdom, Antigonus I Monophthalmus or Antigonus II Gonatus, 306 - 270 B.C.

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Unpublished in the standard references and not yet fully attributed, this is only the second specimen of this extremely rare and important drachm known to Forum. Both specimens were struck with the same reverse die. Gorny & Mosch wrote of their specimen: "Troxell recorded a very rare issue of Alexandrine tetradrachms in the name of Gonatas (The Peloponnesian Alexanders, ANSMN 17, 1971, 75-6, note 68), which through hoard evidence was conclusively proven to be struck at Pella circa 272 (see R. W. Mathisen, Antigonus Gonatas and the Silver Coinages of Macedon circa 280-270 BC, ANSMN 26, 1981, pp. 79-123, esp. p. 104). However, this unique drachm has no controls that would explicitly tie it to the Pella mint tetradrachms, and even more perplexing is the style of the engraving, which is clearly dissimilar to the tetradrachms as well. One might suppose that it is in fact not a coin of Gonatas at all, but rather a hitherto unknown drachm of his grandfather, Antigonos I Monophthalmos. However, this also does not sit well, again for reasons of style, which is inconsistent with the period of Monophthalmos' reign. For the time being, therefore, this coin must remain a numismatic enigma until further evidence can shed additional light on it."

There are two auction records for the Gorny & Mosch specimen: Roma Numismatics auction 7 (22 Mar 2014), lot 454, sold for 4,800 plus fees; and Gorny & Mosch auction 203 (5 Mar 2012), lot 150, sold for ? 3,200 plus fees. Our coin sold at Gitbud & Naumann auction 16, (4 May 2014), lot 152, apparently slipping through unnoticed by all but our astute consignor for ? 575 plus fees.
SH71048. Silver drachm, unpublished in standard refs; cf. Roma Numismatics auction 7, lot 454 (same rev die) = Gorny & Mosch auction 203, lot 150, VF, reverse struck a bit flat, weight 3.845 g, maximum diameter 19.4 mm, die axis 0o, uncertain Greece or Macedonia mint, 306 - 270 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, clad in Nemean Lion scalp headdress tied at neck; reverse BAΣIΛEΩΣ ANTIΓONOY, Zeus Aetophoros enthroned left, throne with high back, eagle in extended right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand, right leg drawn back; ex Gitbud & Naumann auction 16, lot 152; extremely rare, only two know specimens; $1600.00 (1360.00)


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

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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.
SH86160. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Munchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, gVF, bold strike, toned, traces of find patina, edge cracks, weight 17.133 g, maximum diameter 24.7 mm, die axis 45o, 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; ex CNG e-auction 405, lot 132; $1550.00 (1317.50)


Julius Caesar, Imperator and Dictator, October 49 - 15 March 44 B.C.

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"The coin that killed Caesar." The obverse legend declares Caesar is "Dictator for Life" and he wears the veil, symbolic of his life-term position as Pontifex Maximus. Caesar would be both the dictator and high priest of Rome for the remainder of his life, but his life would end only a few weeks after this coin was struck. For Caesar to put his image on coins and in effect declare himself king was too much for Brutus and his republican allies. On the Ides of March (15 March) 44 B.C. Caesar was stabbed to death by as many as 60 conspirators, led by Brutus and Cassius. According to Plutarch, a seer had warned that harm would come to Caesar no later than the Ides of March. On his way to the Theater of Pompey, where he would be assassinated, Caesar passed the seer and joked, "The ides of March have come," meaning to say that the prophecy had not been fulfilled, to which the seer replied, "Aye, Caesar; but not gone." This meeting is famously dramatized in William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar when Caesar is warned by the soothsayer to "beware the Ides of March."

Minted for Caesar's planned Parthian war, this type was often carelessly struck indicating the mint was working under great pressure.
SH85584. Silver denarius, Crawford 480/16, Sydenham 1067, Sear CRI 111, RSC I Julius Caesar 9, BMCRR I Rome 4185, SRCV I 1415, aVF, toned, weight 3.464 g, maximum diameter 17.7 mm, die axis 45o, Rome mint, moneyer C. Cossutius Maridianus, Feb - Mar 44 B.C.; obverse CAESAR DICT PERPETVO, veiled and wreathed head of Caesar right; reverse C MARIDIANVS, Venus standing left, Victory in extended right hand, resting left arm on shield at side on right; $1500.00 (1275.00)


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

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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.
SH86208. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Munchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, gVF, bold well centered strike with high relief dies, banker's mark and graffito on chin, edge cracks, weight 17.098 g, maximum diameter 26.1 mm, die axis 270o, 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; $1400.00 (1190.00)


Seleukid Kingdom, Seleukos I Nikator, 312 - 281 B.C.

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Seleukos (Seleucus) founded the Seleukid Empire and the Seleukid dynasty which ruled Syria until Pompey made it a Roman province in 63 B.C. Seleukos was never one of Alexander the Great's principal generals but he commanded the royal bodyguard during the Indian campaign. In the division of the empire after Alexander's death Seleukos did not receive a satrapy. Instead, he served under the regent Perdikkas until the latter's murder in 321 or 320. Seleukos was then appointed satrap of Babylonia. Five years later Antigonus Monophthalmus (the One-eyed) forced him to flee, but he returned with support from Ptolemy. He later added Persia and Media to his territory and defeated both Antigonus and Lysimachus. He was succeeded by his son Antiochus I.
SH76216. Silver tetradrachm, Unpublished; Houghton-Lorber I 165(1) var. (controls), cf. Houghton-Lorber I 169(a) (hemidrachm), VF, very high relief, well centered, bumps and marks, head of Zeus flatly struck, weight 17.143 g, maximum diameter 25.6 mm, die axis 90o, Susa (Shush, Iran) mint, c. 295 - 291 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, wearing Nemean Lion scalp headdress; reverse BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΣEΛEYKOY, Zeus enthroned left, nude to the waist, himation around hips and legs, right leg forward, feet on footstool, eagle in right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left, radiate bust of Helios facing (control symbol) on left, AP (primary control) under throne above strut, ΠA (secondary control) monogram under strut; extremely rare, possibly unique - the only example known to Forum; $900.00 (765.00)


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

Click for a larger photo
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.
SH86271. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Munchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, gVF, well centered and struck on a tight flan, no test cuts, light marks, some obverse die wear, weight 17.156 g, maximum diameter 23.6 mm, die axis 90o, 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; $900.00 (765.00)




  



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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 Saturday, December 16, 2017.
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Olympians