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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Animals| ▸ |Snake||View 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.

Pergamon, Mysia, c. 88 - 85 B.C.

|Pergamon|, |Pergamon,| |Mysia,| |c.| |88| |-| |85| |B.C.|, |cistophoric| |tetradrachm|
The cista mystica was a basket used for housing sacred snakes in connection with the initiation ceremony into the cult of Bacchus (Dionysus). In the Dionysian mysteries a snake, representing the god and possibly symbolic of his phallus, was carried in a cista mystica on a bed of vine leaves. The cista in the mysteries of Isis may also have held a serpent, perhaps associated with the missing phallus of Osiris.

The thyrsus is the staff carried by Bacchus and his associates; topped by a pine cone or a bunch of ivy leaves and wreathed with tendrils of vine or ivy.
GS94496. Silver cistophoric tetradrachm, Kleiner Pergamum pl. 13, 25; SNG BnF 1726; SNGvA 1369; SNG Cop 425; BMC Mysia p. 124, 97; Pinder 122, VF, light toning, weight 12.255 g, maximum diameter 27.0 mm, die axis 45o, Pergamon (Bergama, Turkey) mint, c. 88 - 85 B.C.; obverse Cista mystica with half-open lid, from which a snake emerges, all within wreath of ivy with berries; reverse bow-case ornamented with apluster, strung bow emerging upper left, snake with head erect one each side, AΠ (control) over Prytaneis monogram and star above between snakes, case straps draped over snakes below, (Pergamon monogram) to left, snake entwined thyrsus right; from an Israeli collection; $250.00 SALE |PRICE| $225.00


Pergamon, Mysia, c. 88 - 85 B.C.

|Pergamon|, |Pergamon,| |Mysia,| |c.| |88| |-| |85| |B.C.|, |cistophoric| |tetradrachm|
The cista mystica was a basket used for housing sacred snakes in connection with the initiation ceremony into the cult of Bacchus (Dionysus). In the Dionysian mysteries a snake, representing the god and possibly symbolic of his phallus, was carried in a cista mystica on a bed of vine leaves. The cista in the mysteries of Isis may also have held a serpent, perhaps associated with the missing phallus of Osiris.

The thyrsus is the staff carried by Bacchus and his associates; topped by a pine cone or a bunch of ivy leaves and wreathed with tendrils of vine or ivy.
GS94273. Silver cistophoric tetradrachm, Kleiner Pergamum pl. 13, 25; SNG BnF 1726; SNGvA 1369; SNG Cop 425; BMC Mysia p. 124, 97; Pinder 122, VF, obverse die wear, obverse off center, light marks, weight 12.304 g, maximum diameter 27.9 mm, die axis 270o, Pergamon (Bergama, Turkey) mint, c. 88 - 85 B.C.; obverse Cista mystica with half-open lid, from which a snake emerges, all within wreath of ivy with berries; reverse bow-case ornamented with apluster, strung bow emerging upper left, snake with head erect one each side, AΠ (control) over Prytaneis monogram and star above between snakes, case straps draped over snakes below, (Pergamon monogram) to left, snake entwined thyrsus right; ex Gorny & Mosch auction 267 (17 Oct 2019), lot 3197; $160.00 SALE |PRICE| $144.00


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

|Probus|, |Probus,| |Summer| |276| |-| |September| |282| |A.D.;| |EQ<u>V</u>ITI| |Series| |III| |of| |Ticinum,| |<u>V</u>| ||| |*| |TXXI|, |antoninianus|
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; $140.00 SALE |PRICE| $126.00


Pergamon, Mysia, c. 123 - 104 B.C.

|Pergamon|, |Pergamon,| |Mysia,| |c.| |123| |-| |104| |B.C.|, |cistophoric| |tetradrachm|
The cista mystica was a basket used for housing sacred snakes in connection with the initiation ceremony into the cult of Bacchus (Dionysus). In the Dionysian mysteries a snake, representing the god and possibly symbolic of his phallus, was carried in a cista mystica on a bed of vine leaves. The cista in the mysteries of Isis may also have held a serpent, perhaps associated with the missing phallus of Osiris.

The thyrsus is the staff carried by Bacchus and his associates; topped by a pine cone or a bunch of ivy leaves and wreathed with tendrils of vine or ivy.
GS91522. Silver cistophoric tetradrachm, Kleiner Pergamum p. 80, 8; Pinder -; SNG BnF -; SNG Cop -; SNGvA -; BMC Mysia -, VF, well centered, old collection toning, bumps and marks, die wear, weight 12.250 g, maximum diameter 26.9 mm, die axis 45o, Pergamon (Bergama, Turkey) mint, c. 123 - 104 B.C.; obverse cista mystica with half open lid, from which a snake emerges left, all within wreath of ivy leaves and berries; reverse bow-case ornamented with an apluster, strung bow emerging upper left, flanked on each side by a snake with head erect, WPA monogram (control) between heads of snakes, straps from case draped over snakes below, (Pergamon monogram) to left, snake entwined thyrsos to right; from the Maxwell Hunt Collection; $130.00 SALE |PRICE| $117.00


Commodus, March or April 177 - 31 December 192 A.D.

|Commodus|, |Commodus,| |March| |or| |April| |177| |-| |31| |December| |192| |A.D.|, |denarius|
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. She was the goddess of health, cleanliness and sanitation. While her father was more directly associated with healing, she was associated with the prevention of sickness and the continuation of good health. Her name is the source of the word "hygiene."
RS94701. Silver denarius, RSC II 762b; Hunter II 13; SRCV II 5702; RIC III M649 var. (draped); BMCRE IV p. 503, M780 (draped), VF, nice young portrait, flow lines, slight porosity, uneven tone, edge ragged with cracks, weight 3.011 g, maximum diameter 18.5 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, Dec 177 - Dec 178 A.D.; obverse L AVREL COMMODVS AVG, laureate head right; reverse TR P III IMP II COS P P, Salus seated left, branch extended in right hand, left arm rests on chair, snake rising up from the ground before her; from the Ray Nouri Collection; $130.00 SALE |PRICE| $117.00


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

|Carausius|, |Romano-British| |Empire,| |Carausius,| |Mid| |286| |-| |Spring| |or| |Early| |Summer| |293| |A.D.|, |antoninianus|
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), Webb 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; $120.00 SALE |PRICE| $108.00


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

|Carausius|, |Romano-British| |Empire,| |Carausius,| |Mid| |286| |-| |Spring| |or| |Early| |Summer| |293| |A.D.|, |antoninianus|
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; $120.00 SALE |PRICE| $108.00


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

|Carausius|, |Romano-British| |Empire,| |Carausius,| |Mid| |286| |-| |Spring| |or| |Early| |Summer| |293| |A.D.|, |antoninianus|
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), Webb 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; $110.00 SALE |PRICE| $99.00


Pergamon, Mysia, c. 92 - 88 B.C.

|Pergamon|, |Pergamon,| |Mysia,| |c.| |92| |-| |88| |B.C.|, |cistophoric| |tetradrachm|
The cista mystica was a basket used for housing sacred snakes in connection with the initiation ceremony into the cult of Bacchus (Dionysus). In the Dionysian mysteries a snake, representing the god and possibly symbolic of his phallus, was carried in a cista mystica on a bed of vine leaves. The cista in the mysteries of Isis may also have held a serpent, perhaps associated with the missing phallus of Osiris.

The thyrsus is the staff carried by Bacchus and his associates; topped by a pine cone or a bunch of ivy leaves and wreathed with tendrils of vine or ivy.
MA95429. Silver cistophoric tetradrachm, Kleiner Pergamum p. 80, 31; SNG BnF 1732; SNGvA 7476; SNG Cop 429; BMC Mysia p. 124, 105; Pinder 98, F, well centered on a broad flan, toned, die wear, light corrosion, weight 11.088 g, maximum diameter 27.3 mm, die axis 0o, Pergamon (Bergama, Turkey) mint, c. 92 - 88 B.C.; obverse Cista mystica with half-open lid, from which a snake emerges, all within wreath of ivy with berries; reverse bow-case ornamented with apluster, strung bow emerging upper left, snake with head erect one each side, ∆H (control) over Prytaneis monogram above between snakes, case straps draped over snakes below, (Pergamon monogram) to left, snake entwined thyrsus right; $90.00 (82.80) ON RESERVE


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

|Carausius|, |Romano-British| |Empire,| |Carausius,| |Mid| |286| |-| |Spring| |or| |Early| |Summer| |293| |A.D.|, |antoninianus|
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), Webb 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; $95.00 SALE |PRICE| $85.50




  



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