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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Themes & Provenance ▸ Animals ▸ SnakeView Options:  |  |  |   

Snakes on Ancient Coins

The Greeks and Romans did not view snakes as evil creatures but rather as symbols and tools for healing and fertility. Asclepius, the son of Apollo and Koronis, learned the secrets of keeping death at bay after observing one serpent bringing another healing herbs. Woman seeking fertility, the sick, and the injured slept in his temples in chambers where non-poisonous snakes were left to crawl on the floor and provide healing.

Some ancient dignitaries were rumored to have been fathered by a god in serpent form. A serpent, said to have been Zeus, was found beside the sleeping Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great. Her husband, Philip of Macedon, is reputed never to have coupled with the 'Bride of the Serpent' again. Augustus was said to have been fathered by a snake, and his mother never afterwards lost the marks of its embrace.


Mark Antony and Octavia, 39 B.C., Ephesos, Ionia

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The obverse legend abbreviates Consul Designatus, Iterum et Tertium, meaning Consul Elect for the second and third time. The reverse legend abbreviates Triumvir Reipublicae Constituendae, the title adopted in November of 43 B.C. by the three Caesarian leaders (Mark Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus) when they formed the Second Triumvirate to oppose the tyrannicides Brutus and Cassius.
SH86609. Silver cistophoric tetradrachm, RPC I 2202, Sydenham 1198, Crawford 263, RSC Octavia and M. Antony 3, Sear CRI 263, BMCRR East 135, SRCV I 1513, Choice gVF, toned, well centered, some die wear and rust, scratches, weight 11.723 g, maximum diameter 27.1 mm, die axis 0o, Ephesos mint, summer - autumn 39 B.C.; obverse M ANTONIVS IMP COS DESIG ITER ET TERT (Consul Elect for the 2nd and 3rd time), conjoined head of Antony and bust of Octavia right, Antony nearer and wreathed in ivy, Octavia draped; reverse Dionysus standing half left on cista mystica, in his right hand, thyrsus in his left hand, flanked by two interlaced snakes with heads erect, III VIR (triumvir) downward on left, R P C (Reipublicae Constituendae) upward on right; $2700.00 (2295.00)


Gordian III, 29 July 238 - 25 February 244 A.D., Patara, Lycia

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From the birthplace of Santa Clause. Patara, sometimes renamed Arsinoe, was a flourishing maritime and commercial city on the south-west coast of Lycia on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey near the modern small town of Gelemis, in Antalya Province. Patara was said to have been founded by Patarus, a son of Apollo and was renowned for its temple and oracle of Apollo, second only to that of Delphi. Apollo is sometimes mentioned with the surname Patareus. Patara is the birthplace of St. Nicholas (b. c. 15 March 270 A.D.), who lived most of his life in the nearby town of Myra (Demre).
RP87599. Bronze AE 29, SNGvA 4385; SNG Cop 117 118; BMC Lycia p. 77, 14; Von Aulock Lykien 197 , Choice F, nice green patina, well centered on a tight flan, weight 16.416 g, maximum diameter 28.8 mm, die axis 0o, Patara (near Gelemis, Turkey) mint, 29 Jul 238 - 25 Feb 244 A.D.; obverse AYT KAI M ANT ΓOP∆IANOC CEB, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right; reverse ΠATAPEWN, Apollo standing slightly left, head left, laurel branch in extended right hand, bow in left hand at side; before him, on left, eagle standing left on omphalos with it head turned back right; behind, on right, serpent-entwined tripod lebes; rare; $550.00 (467.50)


Nero, 13 October 54 - 9 June 68 A.D.

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Quadrantes, like quinarii, were issued only occasionally, perhaps exclusively for imperial distributions. Suetonius reported that, from the roof of the Basilica Julia "Caligula threw coins among the people." Perhaps this small coin was thrown to the crowd by the Nero himself at a similar event.
RB89528. Orichalcum quadrans, BMCRE I p. 258, 300 (same legend breaks); Mac Dowall WCN 342a; RIC I 258, BnF I 353; Cohen I 110; Hunter I -; SRCV I -, aEF, nice red and green patina, porosity, obverse slightly off center, weight 1.910 g, maximum diameter 13.7 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, c. 64 - 66 A.D.; obverse NERO CLAV CAE AVG 16, owl, with wings spread, standing facing on garlanded altar, snake winding up the right side of the altar; reverse GER P M TR P IMP P P, upright olive-branch, three tiny dots (mark of value) below, S - C (senatus consulto) flanking at sides; from the Errett Bishop Collection; $250.00 (212.50)


Romano-British Empire, Carausius, Mid 286 - Spring or Early Summer 293 A.D.

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The plural AVGGG refers to Diocletian, Maximian and Carausius in a futile attempt to appease the legitimate mainland rulers.
RA73502. Billon antoninianus, Webb Carausius 192, RIC V-2 164 (S), Hunter IV 52, Cohen VII 325, SRCV IV 13716, Linchmere -, Carausian Hoard -, Burton Latimer -, Bicester -, VF, green patina, marks and scratches, edge crack, slightly off center, weight 2.737 g, maximum diameter 25.1 mm, die axis 180o, Londinium (London, England) mint, c. 292 - early 293; obverse IMP C CARAVSIVS P F AVG, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, late reign tetrarchic portrait; reverse SALVS AVGGG (the health of the three emperors), Salus standing right feeding snake, held in her right hand, from a patera in her left hand, S-P flanking across field, MLXXI in exergue; from the Charles Peters Carausius Collection; scarce; $180.00 (153.00)


Romano-British Empire, Carausius, Mid 286 - Spring or Early Summer 293 A.D.

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Salus was the Roman goddess of health. She was Hygieia to the Greeks, who believed her to be the daughter of Aesculapius, the god of medicine and healing, and Epione, the goddess of soothing of pain. Her father Asclepius learned the secrets of keeping death at bay after observing one snake bringing another snake healing herbs. Woman seeking fertility, the sick, and the injured slept in his temples in chambers where non-poisonous snakes were left to crawl on the floor and provide healing. This coin, dedicated to the health of the emperor, probably indicates the emperor was at the time suffering from some disease, and sacred rites had been performed for his recovery.
RA73475. Billon antoninianus, Beaujard and Huvelin 36, Webb Carausius 739, RIC V-2 666 (R), Hunter IV -, SRCV IV -, F, well centered on a tight flan, over-cleaned, porous, ragged edge, closed flan crack, weight 2.673 g, maximum diameter 19.4 mm, die axis 225o, Rotomagus (Rouen, France) mint, 2nd emission, c. 1st half 293 A.D.; obverse IMP C CARAVSIVS AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right, seen from the front, continental portrait type; reverse SALVS AVG (the health of the Emperor), Salus standing slightly left, head left, from patera in right hand feeding snake rising from altar, cornucopia in left hand, no mintmarks; from the Charles Peters Carausius Collection; very rare; $160.00 (136.00)


Probus, Summer 276 - September 282 A.D.; EQVITI Series III of Ticinum, V * TXXI

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Ticinum mint EQVITI series III - click "EQVITI" to read the NumisWiki article, "Coins of Probus with Coded Markings of EQVITI Embedded in the mint mark." The letter "V" in the reverse field is the third letter of the codeword EQVITI. The letter "T" in the exergue indicates this coin was struck by the third officina (mint workshop). The star indicates this is from the third Ticinum series. The letters of the word EQVITI are coded in the mint marks of coins from all the officinae of the mint, with the specific letters of the codeword assigned to each officina in order corresponding with their officina numbers. This codeword probably refers to cavalry. It may be AEQVITI truncated because there were only six officinae in operation.
RA87598. Billon antoninianus, Hunter IV 162 (also third officina), RIC V-2 499; Pink VI/1, p. 67; Cohen VI 577; SRCV III -, Choice EF, well centered, much silvering, areas of porosity, bumps and marks, edge crack, weight 3.788 g, maximum diameter 22.7 mm, die axis 0o, 3rd officina, Ticinum (Pavia, Italy) mint, 282 A.D.; obverse IMP C PROBVS AVG, radiate and mantled bust left holding eagle-tipped scepter; reverse SALVS AVG (the health of the Emperor), Salus standing right feeding snake held in arms, V left, * right, TXXI in exergue; $160.00 (136.00)


Hadrian, 11 August 117 - 10 July 138 A.D.

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Salus was the Roman goddess of health. She was Hygieia to the Greeks, who believed her to be the daughter of Aesculapius, the god of medicine and healing, and Epione, the goddess of soothing of pain. Coins dedicated to Salus Augusti, like this coin, probably indicate the emperor was at the time suffering from some disease, and sacred rites had been performed for his recovery.
RS88841. Silver denarius, RSC II 1331, BMCRE III 721 note, RIC II 269 (S), Strack II 265, Hunter III -, SRCV II -, Choice VF, excellent portrait, well centered, reverse die wear, small edge cracks, weight 3.526 g, maximum diameter 18.5 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 137 A.D.; obverse HADRIANVS AVG COS III P P, bare head right; reverse SALVS AVG (the health of the Emperor), Salus standing half left, head left, from patera in right hand rising up from altar, long scepter in left hand; ex Numismatik Naumann auction 72, part of lot 1045; scarce; $160.00 (136.00)


Romano-British Empire, Carausius, Mid 286 - Spring or Early Summer 293 A.D.

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Salus was the Roman goddess of health. She was Hygieia to the Greeks, who believed her to be the daughter of Aesculapius, the god of medicine and healing, and Epione, the goddess of soothing of pain. Her father Asclepius learned the secrets of keeping death at bay after observing one snake bringing another snake healing herbs. Woman seeking fertility, the sick, and the injured slept in his temples in chambers where non-poisonous snakes were left to crawl on the floor and provide healing. This coin, dedicated to the health of the emperor, probably indicates the emperor was at the time suffering from some disease, and sacred rites had been performed for his recovery.
RA73274. Billon antoninianus, RIC V-2 162 (R), Web Carausius 181, Bourne Carausius -, Linchmere -, Burton Latimer -, Bicester -, Carausian Hoard -, aVF, dark patina, nice portrait, weak legends, scratches, corrosion, weight 3.683 g, maximum diameter 24.9 mm, die axis 180o, Londinium (London, England) mint, c. late 289 - 291; obverse IMP CARAVSIVS P F AVG, radiate and cuirassed bust right, middle reign portrait type; reverse SALVS AVG (the health of the Emperor), Salus standing left, with right hand feeding snake rising from altar at her feet, long scepter vertical behind in left hand, B - E across fields, MLXXI in exergue; from the Charles Peters Carausius Collection; rare; $150.00 (127.50)


Romano-British Empire, Carausius, Mid 286 - Spring or Early Summer 293 A.D.

Click for a larger photo
Salus was the Roman goddess of health. She was Hygieia to the Greeks, who believed her to be the daughter of Aesculapius, the god of medicine and healing, and Epione, the goddess of soothing of pain. Her father Asclepius learned the secrets of keeping death at bay after observing one snake bringing another snake healing herbs. Woman seeking fertility, the sick, and the injured slept in his temples in chambers where non-poisonous snakes were left to crawl on the floor and provide healing. This coin, dedicated to the health of the emperor, probably indicates the emperor was at the time suffering from some disease, and sacred rites had been performed for his recovery.
RA73269. Billon antoninianus, RIC V-2 994 (S) var. (...P F AVG), Web Carausius 1117 var. (same), Linchmere 812A var. (same), King Carausius -, Burton Latimer -, et al. -, gF/aF, broad flan, reverse weak, corrosion, weight 3.501 g, maximum diameter 22.3 mm, die axis 225o, unmarked mint, c. 288 - 291; obverse IMP CARAVSIVS P AVG, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, middle reign portrait type; reverse SALVS AVG (the health of the Emperor), Salus seated left feeding serpent and holding long staff, no field marks or mintmarks; from the Charles Peters Carausius Collection; scarce; $140.00 (119.00)


Romano-British Empire, Carausius, Mid 286 - Spring or Early Summer 293 A.D.

Click for a larger photo
Salus was the Roman goddess of health. She was Hygieia to the Greeks, who believed her to be the daughter of Aesculapius, the god of medicine and healing, and Epione, the goddess of soothing of pain. Her father Asclepius learned the secrets of keeping death at bay after observing one snake bringing another snake healing herbs. Woman seeking fertility, the sick, and the injured slept in his temples in chambers where non-poisonous snakes were left to crawl on the floor and provide healing. This coin, dedicated to the health of the emperor, probably indicates the emperor was at the time suffering from some disease, and sacred rites had been performed for his recovery.
RA73489. Billon antoninianus, RIC V-2 165 (S), Web Carausius 195, Bourne Carausius -, Linchmere -, Burton Latimer -, Bicester -, Carausian Hoard -, F, green patina, flan cracks, ragged flan, corrosion, encrustations, weight 3.219 g, maximum diameter 25.8 mm, die axis 180o, Londinium (London, England) mint, c. late 289 - 291; obverse IMP CARAVSIVS P F AVG, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, middle reign portrait type; reverse SALVS PVBLICA (the health of the public), Salus standing right, feeding snake held in right hand, from patera held in left hand, B - E across fields, MLXXI in exergue; from the Charles Peters Carausius Collection; scarce; $125.00 (106.25)




  



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Snakes