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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Themes & Provenance ▸ Types ▸ Love & BeautyView Options:  |  |  |   

Love & Beauty on Ancient Coins

Venus is the Roman goddess principally associated with love and beauty, the rough equivalent of the Greek goddess Aphrodite. The son of Venus and Mars, Cupid to the Romans, Eros to the Greeks, is the god of desire, affection and erotic love.


Titus, 24 June 79 - 13 September 81 A.D., Paphos(?), Cyprus

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Titus visited the Sanctuary of Aphrodite at Paphos in 69 A.D., when the future emperor was on his way to Egypt. He consulted the oracle of Aphrodite, and was told that he had a great future.

The 1.2 mm high gray-green conical stone, which once stood at the center of the Sanctuary of Aphrodite at Paphos, was found by archaeologists near the temple and is now in the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia. It is not a meteorite.
RP59007. Silver didrachm, RPC II 1809, F, encrustations, weight 5.636 g, maximum diameter 21.0 mm, die axis 0o, Paphos(?) mint, obverse AYTOKPATΩP TITOC KAICAP, laureate head left; reverse ETOYC NEOY IEPOY, temple of Aphrodite at Paphos, conical stone (xoanon) at center, Θ in exergue; rare; $250.00 (222.50)


Severus Alexander, 13 March 222 - March 235 A.D., Parium, Mysia

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Eros was the Greek god of love. His Roman counterpart was Cupid ("desire"). According to Hesiod (c. 700 B.C.), one of the most ancient of all Greek sources, Eros was the fourth god to come into existence, coming after Chaos, Gaia (the Earth), and Tartarus (the Abyss or the Underworld). Parmenides (c. 400 B.C.), one of the pre-Socratic philosophers, makes Eros the first of all the gods to come into existence. In early Greek poetry and art, Eros was depicted as an adult male who embodies sexual power. But in later sources, Eros is represented as the son of Aphrodite, whose mischievous interventions in the affairs of gods and mortals cause bonds of love to form, often illicitly. Ultimately, by the later satirical poets, he is represented as a child, the precursor to the chubby Renaissance Cupid.
GB84659. Bronze AE 21, CNG e-auction 380, lot 417 (same dies); BMC Mysia -, SNG Cop -, SNGvA -, SNG BnF -, SNG Tb -, SNG Hunterian -, SNG anakkale -, SNG Leypold -, F, well centered, small centration dimples, weight 6.202 g, maximum diameter 20.9 mm, die axis 45o, Parium (Kemer, Canakkale, Turkey) mint, 13 Mar 222 - Mar 235 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES L SEP SEV ALEXANDER (many letters blundered or retrograde), laureate and cuirassed bust right, from the front; reverse DEO CVPIDI-NI C G I H PAR (D and H blundered, god Cupid, Colonia Gemella Julia Hadriana Pariana), Cupid standing slightly left, head right, nude but for drapery over left arm, herm at feet on left; missing from the many references examined by Forum, but several examples are known from auctions; extremely rare; $180.00 (160.20)


Katane, Sicily, c. 212 - 50 B.C.

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In 212 B.C., after a two-year siege, despite defenses designed by the Greek mathematician and scientist Archimedes, the Roman general Marcus Claudius Marcellus forced his way into Syracuse. Although Marcellus wished to spare the Syracusans, he was unable to stop his soldiers from sacking the city. Archimedes was killed. Marcellus carried off the art treasures of Syracuse to Rome, the first recorded instance of a practice which was to become common.
GB66799. Bronze two chalkoi, Calciati III p. 110, 25; SNG ANS 1278; SNG Morcom 563; HGC 2 612 (R1); BMC Sicily p. 51, 65 corr.; SNG Cop -, VF, weight 3.768 g, maximum diameter 16.8 mm, die axis 0o, Katane (Catania, Sicily, Italy) mint, c. 212 - 50 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right; reverse KATA/NAIΩN, Aphrodite Hyblaia (or Isis?) standing right, wearing kalathos on head, holding dove in extended right, II (2 chalkoi) right; $125.00 (111.25)


Mytilene, Lesbos, 400 - 350 B.C.

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Mytilene on the southeast edge of Lesbos, opposite the mainland, was founded about 1054 B.C. It was initially confined to a small island just offshore that later was joined to Lesbos, creating a north and south harbor. In the 7th century B.C., Mytilene successfully contested for the leadership of Lesbos with Methymna, on the north side of the island. Mytilene became the center of the island's prosperous eastern hinterland.
GS76292. Silver diobol, BMC Troas, p. 185, 8-14 var.; SNG Cop 368 var.; SNGvA 7749 - 7750 var.; HGC 6 1037 (R1) var.; Weber 5670 var. (none with grapes), VF, nice style, grainy surfaces, uneven toning, weight 1.290 g, maximum diameter 11.7 mm, die axis 180o, Mytilene mint, 400 - 350 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right; reverse head of Aphrodite right, hair rolled, MY behind, bunch of grapes (control symbol) lower left; very rare variety of a rare type - we were unable to find another example with the grapes control symbol; $125.00 (111.25)


Soloi, Cilicia, c. 100 - 30 B.C.

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Soli (or Soloi) was a colony of Rhodes, founded c. 700 B.C. southwest of Tarsus, in Cilicia. It was destroyed in the 1st century B.C., and refounded by Pompey the Great as Pompeiopolis (not to be confused with the Pompeiopolis in Paphlagonia).
GB57540. Bronze AE 26, cf. SNG BnF 1197, SNG Levante 872, SNG Cop -, aVF, weight 9.225 g, maximum diameter 24.1 mm, die axis 0o, Soloi mint, c. 100 - 30 B.C.; obverse aegis with winged gorgoneion in center; reverse ΣOΛEΩN (below), Aphrodite riding bull right, owl before, monogram above left; rare; $100.00 (89.00)


Julia Mamaea, Augusta 13 March 222 - February or March 235 A.D.

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Victory seems an odd attribute for the goddess of love but both Sulla and Pompey dreamed of Venus Victrix. Julius Caesar, who claimed Venus as his ancestor, sacrificed to her and she ensured he was always victorious. The use of Victrix on the reverse of Mamaea's coinage at this time, not only appealed for her aid against the Persians, but also reminded the Romans that the empress too was in Syria accompanying the legions on campaign.
RS73862. Silver denarius, RIC IV 358, RSC III 76, BMCRE VI 713, Hunter III 5, SRCV II 8216, VF, well centered on a broad slightly ragged flan, die wear, porous, bumps and scratches, weight 2.771 g, maximum diameter 21.3 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 231 A.D.; obverse IVLIA MAMAEA AVG, draped and diademed bust right; reverse VENVS VICTRIX (victorious Venus), Venus standing half left, helmet extended in right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand, grounded shield on left at feet against far side; ex Harlan J. Berk; $90.00 (80.10)


Katane, Sicily, c. 212 - 50 B.C.

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In 212 B.C., after a two-year siege, despite defenses designed by the Greek mathematician and scientist Archimedes, the Roman general Marcus Claudius Marcellus forced his way into Syracuse. Although Marcellus wished to spare the Syracusans, he was unable to stop his soldiers from sacking the city. Archimedes was killed. Marcellus carried off the art treasures of Syracuse to Rome, the first recorded instance of a practice which was to become common.
GB66786. Bronze two chalkoi, Calciati III p. 110, 25; SNG ANS 1278; SNG Morcom 563; HGC 2 612 (R1); BMC Sicily p. 51, 65 corr.; SNG Cop -, VF, weight 3.126 g, maximum diameter 14.9 mm, die axis 315o, Katane (Catania, Sicily, Italy) mint, c. 212 - 50 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right; reverse KATA/NAIΩN, Aphrodite Hyblaia (or Isis?) standing right, wearing kalathos on head, holding dove in extended right, II (2 chalkoi) right; $85.00 (75.65)


Katane, Sicily, c. 212 - 50 B.C.

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Catania, on the east coast of Sicily between Messina and Syracuse, has been repeatedly damaged and even destroyed by catastrophic earthquakes and eruptions from Mount Etna, yet it still prospers. Today, Catania is an economic, tourism, and education center, and an important hub of industry, nicknamed the "European Silicon Valley."
GB65645. Bronze two chalkoi, Calciati III p. 112, 26; SNG ANS 1284; SNG Cop 194; BMC Sicily p. 52, 66 (hexas), VF, nice for the type, green patina, weight 3.590 g, maximum diameter 16.4 mm, die axis 0o, Katane (Catania, Sicily, Italy) mint, c. 212 - 50 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo left, monogram behind neck; reverse KATA/NAIΩN, Aphrodite Hyblaia (or Isis?) standing right, wearing kalathos on head, dove in extended right hand, II (2 chalkoi) right; rare; $75.00 (66.75)


Salonina, Augusta 254 - c. September 268 A.D.

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Venus (Aphrodite) started the Trojan War with a golden apple. When she failed to receive a wedding invitation, she maliciously deposited a golden apple inscribed "For the fairest" on the banquet table. The goddesses argued who deserved this prize. It was determined the most handsome mortal in the world, a noble Trojan youth named Paris, would decide. Each of the three finalists offered Paris a bribe. Hera promised he would rule the world. Athena said she would make him victorious in battle. Aphrodite guaranteed the love of the most beautiful woman in the world. This was Helen, who was married to the king of Sparta. Paris awarded the golden apple to Aphrodite. Aphrodite enabled Paris to elope with Helen, Helen of Troy. Helen's husband raised a Greek army to retrieve his wife, starting the Trojan War.
RS65792. Silver antoninianus, Gbl MIR 904c, RSC IV 134 (Lyon), Hunter III S19 (Rome), Cunetio 735 (64 spec.), Elmer 98, SRCV III 10662, RIC V -, VF, toned, tight ragged flan, flan cracks, small encrustations, weight 3.028 g, maximum diameter 22.9 mm, die axis 45o, Cologne mint, 257 - 259 A.D.; obverse SALONINA AVG, draped bust right, wearing stephane, hair in ridges and in plait looped below ear up the back of head, crescent behind shoulders; reverse VENVS VICTRIX (victorious Venus), Venus standing right, viewed from behind, nude but for drapery at hips, buttocks exposed, leaning with left elbow on column, apple (or helmet?) in exerguetended right hand, transverse palm on far side in left; not in RIC; $75.00 (66.75)


Galeria Valeria, Augusta, June 293(?) - 311 A.D., Second Wife of Galerius

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In 309, a plague, possibly related to anthrax, spread across the Roman Empire, causing a drastic decline in the population. Plagues and population decline were perhaps the greatest cause for the decline of Rome.
RL84389. Billon follis, RIC VI Thessalonica 36, SRCV IV 14592, VF, well centered, dark patina, areas of corrosion, weight 5.182 g, maximum diameter 27.1 mm, die axis 0o, 2nd officina, Thessalonica (Salonika, Greece) mint, 308 - 310 A.D.; obverse GAL VALERIA AVG, diademed bust, shoulders facing, head right, wearing embroidered robe; reverse VENERI VICTRICI, Venus standing left, raising apple in right hand, raising drapery over shoulder with left hand, star left, B right, SMTS in exergue; ex FORVM (2012); $70.00 (62.30)




  



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Love & Beauty