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

Hippos on Ancient Coins

The word "hippopotamus" derives from the Greek hippos, "horse", and potamos, "river", meaning "horse of the river". The hippo was well known to the Greeks and Romans as the fierce Beast of the Nile. In Egyptian mythology, the hippopotamus-headed Tawaret was a goddess of protection in pregnancy and childbirth, because of the protective nature of a female hippopotamus toward her young. The Greek historian Herodotus described the hippo in The Histories (c. 440 BC) and the Roman historian Pliny the Elder wrote about the hippopotamus in his encyclopedia Naturalis Historia (c. 77 AD). On Roman coins the hippopotamus was sometimes used as a reverse type to commemorate games at which they were displayed.


Claudius, 25 January 41 - 13 October 54 A.D., Roman Provincial Egypt

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Coins with these types were struck by the Alexandria mint in Claudius' year 2 with weights ranging from under 4 grams to over 12 grams. They may have been issued with the denominations diobol, obol, dichalkon, and chalkon. It is often difficult to know which denomination was intended and the references seem to share our confusion.
RX84561. Bronze obol, RPC I 5124, Dattari 164, BMC Alexandria 96, Kampmann-Ganschow 12.10, Milne 71, SNG Milan 628, Emmett 91, VF, green patina, slightly rough areas, weight 5.335 g, maximum diameter 20.7 mm, die axis 0o, Alexandria mint, 29 Sep 41 - 28 Sep 42 A.D.; obverse TI KΛAY KAI CE ΓEPMA (or similar), laureate head right, star below chin; reverse AYTOKPA, hippopotamus standing right, LB (year 2) in exergue; ex Agora auction 52, lot 113; rare; $160.00 SALE PRICE $144.00


Otacilia Severa, Augusta February or March 244 - September or October 249 A.D.

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Struck for the 1000th Anniversary of Rome. In pure Roman style, lavish games took place during which numerous exotic animals were exhibited and slain.
RB08113. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC IV P200a (S), Cohen V 65, Hunter III 26, SRCV III 9170, aVF, weight 19.55 g, maximum diameter 27.5 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 248 A.D.; obverse MARCIA OTACIL SEVERA AVG, draped bust right, wearing stephane, hair in horizontal ridges, plait up the back of head; reverse SAECVLARES AVGG, hippopotamus standing right, S C (senatus consulto) in exergue; scarce; SOLD







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Catalog current as of Thursday, July 20, 2017.
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Hippopotamuses