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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


Macedonian Kingdom, Philip II of Macedonia, 359 - 336 B.C.

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Philip II expanded the size and influence of the Macedonian Kingdom but is perhaps best known as the father of Alexander the Great. He personally selected the design of his coins.
SH85135. Gold stater, Le Rider pl. 75, 63 (D31/R52), SNG ANS 251 (also same dies), SNG Cop 523, aEF, fine style, sculptural high relief obverse die, some mint luster, very light marks, weight 8.572 g, maximum diameter 18.6 mm, die axis 315o, Amphipolis mint, 340/336 - 328 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right; reverse ΦIΛIΠΠOY, charioteer driving a racing biga right, wearing a himation, kentron in right hand, reins in his left hand, ivy leaf right below horses; $4000.00 (3560.00)


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Unpublished in the standard references and not yet fully attributed, this is only the second specimen of this extremely rare and important drachm known to Forum.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; $1750.00 (1557.50)


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

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This issue was minted to pay for Caesar's military operation against the Pompeians in North Africa. The campaign ended with the dictator's victory at Thapsus on 6 April 46 B.C. The reverse depicts Aeneas carrying his father and the palladium away from burning Troy and refers to the mythical descent of the Julia gens from Iulus, the son of Aeneas.
SH85104. Silver denarius, Crawford 458/1, RSC I 12, Sydenham 1013, BMCRR East 31, SRCV I 1402, Choice gVF, bold strike, weight 3.799 g, maximum diameter 18.3 mm, die axis 180o, North Africa mint, 47 - 46 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Venus right, wearing necklace, hair rolled back, in a knot behind, two locks down neck; reverse CAESAR, Aeneas walking left, nude, carrying his father, Anchises, on his left shoulder, palladium in right hand; $1350.00 (1201.50)


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

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The Roman numeral on the obverse indicates Caesar's age (52) when this coin was minted, a unique occurrence in Roman numismatics.
SH85105. Silver denarius, SRCV I 1400, BMCRR Rome 3955, RSC I 18, Crawford 452/2, Sydenham 1009, Sear CRI 11, EF, light tone on luster, tiny edge cracks, weight 3.716 g, maximum diameter 19.3 mm, die axis 90o, traveling military mint, late spring-early summer 48 B.C.; obverse female (Clementia?) head right, wearing oak wreath, necklace, jewel before ear, and cruciform earring, hair in jeweled knot behind with falling locks, LII (52 = Caesar's age) behind; reverse CAE-SAR flanking the base of a draped trophy of Gallic arms (shield decorated with fulmen, horned helmet, and carnyx), axe topped by wolf head on right; $1350.00 (1201.50)


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

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This issue was minted to pay for Caesar's military operation against the Pompeians in North Africa. The campaign ended with the dictator's victory at Thapsus on 6 April 46 B.C. The reverse depicts Aeneas carrying his father and the palladium away from burning Troy and refers to the mythical descent of the Julia gens from Iulus, the son of Aeneas.
SH85111. Silver denarius, Crawford 458/1, RSC I 12, Sydenham 1013, BMCRR East 31, SRCV I 1402, Choice gVF, light toning, areas of luster, well centered and struck, some light scratches on the obverse, weight 3.846 g, maximum diameter 17.9 mm, die axis 180o, North Africa mint, 47 - 46 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Venus right, wearing necklace, hair rolled back, in a knot behind, two locks down neck; reverse CAESAR, Aeneas walking left, nude, carrying his father, Anchises, on his left shoulder, palladium in right hand; $1350.00 (1201.50)


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

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Venus was the Roman goddess of love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity and victory. Julius Caesar claimed direct descent from the goddess through her son, Aeneas, who survived the fall of Troy and fled to Italy. Caesar sacrificed to her and believed she would ensure he was victorious. The small star at the base of Venus' scepter is symbolic of her divinity. The star on the obverse was likely intended to advertise the beginning of a new age.
SH84760. Silver denarius, Crawford 480/5b, Sydenham 1071, RSC I 41, BMCRR I Rome 4165, Sear Imperators 106a, SRCV I 1412, F, light toning, slightly off center on a tight oval flan, right side of reverse legend unstruck, scratches, light porosity, weight 3.603 g, maximum diameter 18.3 mm, die axis 270o, Rome mint, moneyer P Sevullius Macer, Jan - Feb 44 B.C.; obverse CAESAR IMP, wreathed head of Caesar right, star with eight rays around a central pellet behind; reverse P SEPVLLIVS MACER, Venus standing left, Victory in her right hand, long scepter with a star at base behind in her left hand, Victory facing left, holding wreath in both hands; $1210.00 (1076.90)


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. He 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 portrait on this type are those of Mithradates VI.
SH85133. Gold stater, De Callata p. 141 (D1/R1), SNG Cop 1090 (Thrace), VF, die wear, weight 8.395 g, maximum diameter 19.2 mm, die axis 0o, Moesia Inferior, Tomis (Constanta, Romania) mint, First Mithradatic War, 88 - 86 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Alexander the Great (with the features of Mithradates VI), wearing the horn of Ammon; reverse BAΣIΛEΩΣ ΛYΣIMAXOY, Athena enthroned left, wearing crested helmet, Nike in right hand, resting left arm on round shield behind, monogram and V above knee, TO on throne, trident in exergue; ex CNG e-auction 92 (23 Jun 2004), lot 27; $1200.00 (1068.00)


Ptolemaic Kingdom, Ptolemy III Euergetes, 246 - 222 B.C.

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Ptolemy III Euergetes promoted the translation of Jewish scriptures into Greek as the Septuagint. Due to a falling out at the Seleucid court, his eldest sister Berenice Phernophorus was murdered along with her infant son. In response, he invaded Syria, occupied Antioch, and even reached Babylon. This war, the Third Syrian War, is cryptically alluded to in Daniel XI 7-9.
GP85319. Bronze drachm, Svoronos 964; Weiser 71; SNG Cop 171; SNG Milan 155; Hosking 30; BMC Ptolemies p. 55, 87 ff.; SGCV II 7814, VF, well centered, attractive surfaces, centration dimples, weight 72.761 g, maximum diameter 43.7 mm, die axis 0o, Alexandria mint, 246 - 222 B.C.; obverse horned head of Zeus Ammon right, wearing taenia; reverse ΠTOΛEMAIOY BAΣIΛEΩΣ, eagle standing left on thunderbolt, wings closed, filleted cornucopia left, chi-rho between eagle's legs; a massive Ptolemaic bronze!; $900.00 (801.00)


Myrina, Aeolis, Mid 2nd Century B.C.

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At the time this coin was issued, Myrina was a thriving town popular with tourists and known for its terracotta, glassware, and oysters. Today it is perhaps best known for these beautiful tetradrachms!
GS85155. Silver tetradrachm, stephanophoric; Sacks 30, Hunterian 8, de Luynes 2530, McClean 7946, SNG Cop -, SNGvA -, SNG Ash -, SNG Mun -, BMC Troas -, aEF, attractive style, broad flan, nice toning, slight double strike on obverse, center not fully struck on reverse, weight 16.320 g, maximum diameter 32.3 mm, die axis 0o, Myrina mint, c. 155 - 145 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right, hair falling three long curls over shoulder, ribbons flowing behind; reverse MYPINAIΩN, Apollo Grynios advancing right, patera in right hand, laurel branch with fillets in left hand, omphalos and amphora at feet, three monograms to left, all within laurel wreath; ex Marion Stinton Collection; $800.00 (712.00)


Mesembria, Thrace, c. 275 - 225 B.C., Civic Issue in the Types and Name of Alexander the Great

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Mesembria, Nesebar Bulgaria today, was a Doric settlement on a Black Sea island just off mainland Thrace. Today it is a seaside resort and a man-made isthmus connects it to the coast. The city struck Alexandrine tetradrachms possibly as early as 275 B.C. It is likely Mesembria issued the very last Alexandrine tetradrachms, possibly even under Roman rule, as late as 65 B.C.
SH85286. Silver tetradrachm, Karayotov p. 84 and pl. VII, 41 (O7/R18); Price 992; Mller Alexander 436, gVF, attractive style, light marks and scratches, weight 17.000 g, maximum diameter 31.6 mm, die axis 180o, Mesambria (Nesebar, Bulgaria) mint, c. 275 - 225 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, wearing Nemean lion-scalp headdress; reverse AΛEΞAN∆POY BAΣIΛEΩΣ, Zeus seated left, right leg drawn back, eagle in extended right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand, Corinthian helmet right over ΠA monogram in inner left field under arm; ex FORVM (2013); $700.00 (623.00)




  



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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 Monday, June 26, 2017.
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Olympians