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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Themes & Provenance ▸ MythologyView Options:  |  |  | 

Mythology and the Ancient Gods

Many ancient coins depict the gods and goddesses of the Greeks, Romans and other ancient cultures. Collecting as many different gods and goddesses as possible is a fun, educational and affordable collecting theme. Every ancient gods and goddesses has their mythical function, biography, lineage and other facts and fictions that make them interesting. Here we will present as many different gods and goddesses as we can and provide some of the stories about them that fascinate us. We hope they fascinate you too.


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, Mopsus 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.
GB85628. Bronze trichalkon, BCD Thessaly II 486 (same dies), BCD Thessaly I 1210 var. (MOΨEIΩN), Rogers 412 var. (same), McClean 4648 var. (same), SNG Cop -, BMC -, gVF, green patina, bold centered strike on a tight flan, small pits including one on tip of nose., weight 7.719 g, maximum diameter 20.9 mm, die axis 0o, Mopsion (Bakraina(?), Greece) mint, c. 350 - 300 B.C.; obverse head of Zeus facing slightly right, vertical thunderbolt to right; reverse MOΨEI-ATΩN, 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; very rare; $600.00 (510.00)


Maionia, Lydia, 161 - 180 A.D.

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Omphale was queen of the kingdom of Lydia, the wife of Tmolus, the oak-clad mountain king of Lydia. After he was gored to death by a bull, she continued to reign on her own.

Omphale bought Herakles from Hermes, who sold him after an oracle declared Hercules must be sold into slavery for three years. Hercules had sought the oracle to learn what he must do to purify himself, after he murdered his friend Iphitus and stole the Delphic tripod. As a slave, Herakles was forced to do women's work and even wear women's clothing and hold a basket of wool while Omphale and her maidens did their spinning. Meanwhile, Omphale wore the skin of the Nemean Lion and carried Herakles' olive-wood club. But it was also during his stay in Lydia that Herakles captured the city of the Itones and enslaved them, killed Syleus who forced passersby to hoe his vineyard, and captured the Cercopes. He buried the body of Icarus and took part in the Calydonian Boar Hunt and the Argonautica. After some time, Omphale freed Herakles and took him as her husband.

The Greeks did not recognize Omphale as a goddess. Omphale's name, connected with omphalos, a Greek word meaning navel (or axis), may, however, represent a Lydian earth goddess. Herakles' servitude and marriage may represent the servitude of the sun to the axis of the celestial sphere, the spinners being Lydian versions of the Moirae. This myth may have been and attempt to explain why the priests of Herakles wore female clothing.
GB83463. Bronze AE 19, SNG Cop 222; SNGvA 3011; SNG Munchen 302; BMC Lydia p. 129, 17, VF, superb style, well centered, light marks and corrosion, weight 4.380 g, maximum diameter 18.9 mm, die axis 0o, Maeonia mint, rule of Marcus Aurelius, 161 - 180 A.D.; obverse bearded head of Herakles left; reverse MAIONΩN, Omphale advancing right, holding lion's skin and club across shoulder; $315.00 (267.75)


Gordian III, 29 July 238 - 25 February 244 A.D., Deultum, Thrace

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Andromeda was the daughter of Cepheus, an Aethiopian king, and Cassiopeia. When Cassiopeia's boasted that Andromeda was more beautiful than the Nereids, Poseidon sent a sea monster (Cetus Aethiopicus) to ravage Aethiopia as divine punishment. Andromeda was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to sate the monster, but she was saved by Perseus. Later Andromeda and Perseus were married.
SH63219. Brass AE 23, Draganov Deultum 1241a (O109/R592); Varbanov II 2758 (R6); BMC Thrace -; SNG Cop -, aF, weight 6.276 g, maximum diameter 22.5 mm, die axis 180o, Deultum (Debelt, Bulgaria) mint, 29 Jul 238 - 25 Feb 244 A.D.; obverse IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AG, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from behind; reverse COL FL PAC DEVLT, Perseus (on right) standing left, helping Andromeda (on left) come down from a rock after saving her, Medusa's head and harpa in his left hand, his right foot on the sea monster, Cetus Aethiopicus, turned to stone; very rare; $200.00 (170.00)


Taras, Calabria, Italy, c. 380 - 355 B.C.

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Taras, the only Spartan colony, was founded in 706 B.C. The founders were Partheniae ("sons of virgins"), sons of unmarried Spartan women and Perioeci (free men, but not citizens of Sparta). These out-of-wedlock unions were permitted to increase the prospective number of soldiers (only the citizens could be soldiers) during the bloody Messenian wars. Later, however, when they were no longer needed, their citizenship was retroactively nullified and the sons were obliged to leave Greece forever. Their leader, Phalanthus, consulted the oracle at Delphi and was told to make the harbor of Taranto their home. They named the city Taras after the son of Poseidon, and of a local nymph, Satyrion. The reverse depicts Taras being saved from a shipwreck by a dolphin sent to him by Poseidon. This symbol of the ancient Greek city is still the symbol of modern Taranto today.
GI85329. Silver nomos, Fischer-Bossert group 40, 607 (V239/R464); Vlasto 454 (same dies); HN Italy 879; SNG Cop 820 (same); SNG ANS 938; BMC Italy p. 174, 107, F, tight flan cutting off youth's head, minor die damage (raised lump) below Θ, weight 7.689 g, maximum diameter 18.5 mm, die axis 180o, Taras (Taranto, Italy) mint, c. 380 - 355 B.C.; obverse nude youth on horseback standing right, right hand lowered behind him on horse's side, reins in left hand, left foreleg raised, Θ below horse; reverse Taras astride a dolphin left, kantharos in extended right hand, left hand behind on dolphin, TAPAΣ below; $150.00 (127.50)


Tegea, Arkadia, Peloponnesos, Greece, c. 50 - 25 B.C.

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Aleos was the mythical founder of Alea and the king of Tegea. Kepheos was his son and successor as king. When Kepheos and all of his 20 sons joined Herakles on his campaign against King Hippocoon of Sparta, Athena (or Herakles in some sources) presented a lock of Medusa's hair to Kepheos' daughter Sterope. This lock made Tegea, the home of a major sanctuary of Athena, unconquerable despite the absence of its men. Kepheos and all of his sons (or 17 in some sources) were killed on the campaign against Sparta.
GB85887. Bronze hemiobol, BCD Peloponnesos 1749; BMC Peloponnesus p. 202, 20; Nemea 1967, SNG Cop 314; Weber 4353; HGC 5 1056, Fair/Fine, pitting, edge chipping, weight 2.544 g, maximum diameter 19.6 mm, die axis 270o, Tegea (Alea, Arcadia, Peloponnese, Greece) mint, c. 50 - 25 B.C.; obverse head of Aleos right, wearing tainia; reverse Kepheos standing right, holding spear and shield and extending hand to Athena standing left, holding spear and lock of Medusa's hair; between them stands Sterope, holding vessel to receive the lock; monograms in center above and below; ex J. Cohen Collection; ex J. Aiello; ex BCD Collection; ex Bruun Rasmussen auction 498 (17 Sep 1987); deacquisition (duplicate) Danish National Museum, Copenhagen; very rare; $140.00 (119.00)


Taras, Calabria, Italy, c. 325 - 280 B.C.

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This type was struck with dozens of different pose variations on the reverse. In some scenes, it even appears Herakles might lose. There are so many variations that it might be possible to take photographs of the reverses and arrange them in a flip book to animate the fight.
GS85294. Silver diobol, cf. Vlasto 1366, SNG Cop 990, HN Italy 976, F, toned, centered on a tight flan, light corrosion, weight 0.825 g, maximum diameter 11.9 mm, die axis 90o, Taras (Taranto, Italy) mint, c. 325 - 280 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, wearing crested Attic helmet; reverse Herakles naked standing right, strangling the Nemean Lion, E(?) between legs, club left(?); $110.00 (93.50)


Faustina Sr., Augusta 25 February 138 - Early 141, Wife of Antoninus Pius

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Venus (Aphrodite) can be faulted for the Trojan War. Upset that she was not invited to a wedding, she went anyway and maliciously left a golden apple inscribed "For the fairest" on the banquet table. The goddesses, as Aphrodite expected, argued who was the rightful possessor of 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.
RB71296. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC III 1081, Cohen II 282, Strack III AP1224, SRCV II -, F, some pitting and corrosion, weight 25.927 g, maximum diameter 33.4 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 138 - 141 A.D.; obverse FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG PII P P, draped bust right; reverse VENERI AVGVSTAE, Venus standing right, raising drapery on shoulder with right, apple raised in extended left, S - C (senatus consulto) flanking across field; $75.00 (63.75)


Gallienus, August 253 - September 268 A.D.

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In Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus were the twin sons of the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia, fathered by the god of war, Mars. They were abandoned in the Tiber as infants. Faustulus, a shepherd, found the infants being suckled by the she-wolf (Lupa) at the foot of the Palatine Hill. Their cradle, in which they had been abandoned, was on the shore overturned under a fig tree. Faustulus and his wife, Acca Larentia, raised the children. Romulus was the first King of Rome.
RA73653. Billon antoninianus, Gbl MIR 1628c, RSC IV 46b, RIC V S628, Hunter IV S194, SRCV III 10171 var. (cuirassed bust left), gVF, full circles strike on a broad flan, much silvering, porous, weight 3.435 g, maximum diameter 22.8 mm, die axis 180o, Antioch mint, 264 - 265 A.D.; obverse GALLIENVS AVG, radiate and draped bust right, seen from behind; reverse AETERNITAS AVG, she-wolf standing right, head left, the twins Romulus and Remus suckling below, palm branch right in exergue; $65.00 (55.25)


Phoenician (Palistinian Workshop), 4 Stamped Glass Votive Fragments, 1st Century B.C. - 1st Century A.D.

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From the collection of Alex G. Malloy, former dealer in antiquities for 40 years.

These votive pieces were made to be ritually broken before offering in the altar of the god or distribution in fields for fertility or under building foundations for good fortune. They are almost always found broken.
AA32416. 4 glass votive stamped fragements, partial images of male god; $50.00 (42.50)







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Mythology