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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


Licinius I, 11 November 308 - 18 September 324 A.D., with Licinius II Caesar

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SH35421. Billon follis, Bastien, NC 1973, pp. 87 - 97, VF, weight 3.590 g, maximum diameter 23.7 mm, die axis 330o, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, 317 or 318 A.D.; obverse DD NN IOVII LICINII INVICT AVG ET CAES (Domini Nostri Iovii Licinii Invicti Augustus et Caesar), confronted busts of Licinius I and II, holding trophy of arms between them; reverse I O M ET VIRTVTI DD NN AVG ET CAES (Iovi Optimo Maximo Virtuti Domini Nostri Augustus et Caesar), Jupiter standing facing to the right of trophy of captured arms with two bound captives at base, Jupiter nude except for cloak over shoulder and holds long scepter in left hand, SMATS in exergue; extremely rare; SOLD


Velia, Lucania, Italy, c. 334 - 300 B.C.

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Signed! The KE obverse monogram is the signature of Kleudoros, the artist or mint master of Velia. Interesting helmet decoration.
GI13690. Silver didrachm, Williams Velia 449 (same dies), SNG ANS 1340, HN Italy 1296, SNG Cop 1568, aVF, weight 7.606 g, maximum diameter 21.2 mm, die axis 0o, Velia mint, c. 340 - 310 B.C.; obverse head of Athena left, wearing crested Phrygian helmet decorated with sphinx, KE monogram behind neck; reverse lion left, devouring prey, Φ below, YEΛHTΩN in exergue; nicely toned, old scratch on obverse; SOLD


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.
SH45450. Silver denarius, Crawford 480/13, Sydenham 1074, Sear CRI 107d, RSC I Julius Caesar 39, BMCRR I Rome 4173, SRCV I 1414, Vagi 56, Choice gVF, magnificent portrait, weight 3.660 g, maximum diameter 19.2 mm, die axis 225o, Rome mint, moneyer P Sepullius Macer, Feb - Mar 44 B.C.; obverse CAESAR DICT PERPETVO, veiled and wreathed head of Caesar right; reverse P SEPVLLIVS MACER, Venus standing left, Victory in extended right, long scepter in left hand, shield at feet right; SOLD


Macedonian Kingdom, Alexander the Great, 336 - 323 B.C.

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Troxell did not find links to these dies in the series, but footnote 6, on p. 107, indicates this coin is from series 2. The dies, which match Troxell pl. 24, H, are very similar to Troxell, series 2, pl. 21, 501 (= SNG Sweden II 993) and they were likely engraved by the same hand.
SH87557. Gold stater, Troxell pl. 25, H (same dies); SNG Sweden II 993; Price 172; MŁller 105; SNG Ashmolean 2522; SNG Cop -; SNG Alpha Bank -; SNG MŁnchen -, Choice EF, mint luster, some light bumps and marks, weight 8.592 g, maximum diameter 18.7 mm, die axis 135o, Macedonia, Amphipolis mint, struck under Antipater, c. 327 - 325 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right wearing earring, necklace, and crested Corinthian helmet decorated with a coiled snake; reverse Nike standing left, wreath in right hand, stylus in left hand, trident-head downward (control symbol) in left field, AΛEΞAN∆POY downward on right; SOLD


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

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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.
SH28916. Silver denarius, Crawford 480/13, Sydenham 1074, Sear CRI 107d, RSC I Julius Caesar 39, BMCRR I Rome 4173, SRCV I 1414, Vagi 56, gVF, weight 3.865 g, maximum diameter 17.8 mm, die axis 315o, Rome mint, moneyer P Sepullius Macer, Feb - Mar 44 B.C.; obverse CAESAR DICT PERPETVO, veiled and wreathed head of Caesar right; reverse P SEPVLLIVS MACER, Venus standing left, Victory in extended right, long scepter in left hand, shield at feet right; superb portrait, toned, excellent centering and strike for the type; SOLD


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

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Struck shortly after Alexander the Great's death during the joint reign of Philip III, Alexander's mentally disabled brother, and the infant king Alexander IV, Alexander's infant son with the Bactrian princess Roxana. The two were made joint kings by Alexander's generals who, knowing they could not rule, only intended to use them as pawns. Philip III was imprisoned upon his return to Macedonia, and in 317 B.C. he was executed under orders from Olympias. Alexander IV and his mother Roxana were executed by the boy's regent, Kassander, in 311 B.C. We don't know if this coin was posthumously struck in the name of Philip II, or struck in the name of the reigning (but not ruling) Philip III.
SH68354. Gold stater, Le Rider p. 146 & pl. 58. 157 (D42/R112), SNG ANS 172 ff., SNG Cop 529, SNG Alpha Bank -, EF, perfect centering, weight 8.602 g, maximum diameter 18.0 mm, die axis 0o, Pella mint, posthumous, 323 - 317 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right; reverse ΦIΛIΠΠOY (in exergue), charioteer driving biga right, kentron in right, reins in left, kantharos below; ex Gorny & Mosch auction 215, lot 758; SOLD


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.
SH82680. Gold stater, Le Rider 229 (D67/R174), SNG ANS 144 (same dies), SNG Cop 524, HGC 3 847, Choice aEF, beautiful classical style, well centered, slight double strike, light marks, weight 8.575 g, maximum diameter 17.6 mm, die axis 90o, Amphipolis mint, c. 340 - 328 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right; reverse charioteer in fast biga right, trident head right below horses forelegs, ΦIΛIΠΠOY exergue; SOLD


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; SOLD


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.
SH57285. Gold stater, Le Rider 339 (D62/R259), SNG ANS 144 ff., Choice aEF, weight 8.554 g, maximum diameter 18.4 mm, die axis 180o, Amphipolis mint, c. 340 - 328 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right; reverse charioteer in biga right, trident head below horses, ΦIΛIΠΠOY exergue; ex Harlan Berk, attractive style, perfect centering; SOLD


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

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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.
SH72613. Gold stater, Price P90, ADM I 228 - 230, MŁller Alexander -, SNG Cop -, EF, lovely Hellenistic style, mint luster, weight 8.579 g, maximum diameter 18.4 mm, die axis 0o, Sardes (Sart, 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 ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΥ, Nike standing left, wreath in extended right hand, grounded stylis in left at her side, TI left, rose left under wing; ex Roma Numismatics auction 8, lot 470; SOLD




  




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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, June 25, 2019.
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Olympians