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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Animals| ▸ |Centaur||View Options:  |  |  | 

Ancient Coins Depicting Centaurs

In Greek mythology, the centaurs are a composite race of creatures, part human and part horse. This half-human and half-animal composition has led many writers to treat them as liminal beings, caught between the two natures, embodied in contrasted myths, both as the embodiment of untamed nature, as in their battle with the Lapiths, or conversely as teachers, like Chiron. Centaurs were said to have inhabited the region of Magnesia and Mount Pelion in Thessaly, the Foloi oak forest in Elis, and the Malean peninsula in southern Laconia.


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, Mopsos 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.
GB87120. Bronze trichalkon, BCD Thessaly II 484, BCD Thessaly I 1210, Rogers 412, McClean 4648, HGC 4 537 (R2), SNG Cop -, Pozzi -, BMC Thessaly -, gF, dark garnet and black patina, well centered, a little rough, weight 8.082 g, maximum diameter 20.5 mm, die axis 225o, Mopsion (Bakraina(?), Greece) mint, c. 350 - 300 B.C.; obverse head of Zeus facing slightly right, vertical thunderbolt to right; reverse MOΨ-EI-ΩN, 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 noting, "HK ex Thess., April 02, $275.-"; very rare; $450.00 (396.00)


Velia, Lucania, Italy, c. 334 - 300 B.C.

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Signed! The KE monograms are the signatures of Kleudoros, the artist or mint master of Velia. We know his name because he signed his full name in the genitive case on one obverse die. On his reverses there is, in addition, usually a control mark, ether Θ, Φ, or A.
GS91332. Silver nomos, Williams 332 (O173/R245), SNG ANS 1336 (same dies), HN Italy 1294, HGC 1 1314, aVF, bumps and scratches, struck with a worn reverse die, minor lamination defects on edge, test punch on obverse, weight 7.536 g, maximum diameter 22.0 mm, die axis 90o, Velia mint, c. 340 - 310 B.C.; obverse head of Athena left, wearing crested Phrygian helmet with decorated with a centauress on bow, KE (Kleudoros monogram) behind neck; reverse lion standing left devouring prey, Φ above, Kleudoros KE monogram between hind legs (obscured), YEΛHTΩN in exergue; $175.00 (154.00)


The Magnetes, Thessaly, Greece, c. 140 - 130 B.C.

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The Magnetes were an ancient Greek tribe living in Thessalian Magnesia who took part in the Trojan War. They later also contributed to the Greek colonization by founding two prosperous cities in Western Anatolia, Magnesia on the Maeander and Magnesia ad Sipylum.
GB87118. Bronze tetrachalkon, BCD Thessaly II 420.5, Rogers Thessaly 346a corr. (numbering error, dolphin not mentioned), SNG Cop 160 var. (controls), HGC 4 65 (S) var. (same), VF, dark patina, centered on a tight flan, some light corrosion, weight 8.060 g, maximum diameter 20.1 mm, die axis 0o, Magnetes' mint, 140 - 130 B.C.; obverse laureate bearded head of Zeus left; reverse MAΓNHTON, centaur Cheiron standing right, right hand extended, branch in left hand over shoulder, chlamys on shoulder flying behind, dolphin (control) below, palm frond (control) before him; ex BCD with his ticket noting, "C.C. Thess. et. lot, July 93, SFr. 100.-"; scarce; $110.00 (96.80)


The Magnetes, Thessaly, Greece, Mid 2nd - Mid 1st Centuries B.C.

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The Magnetes were an ancient Greek tribe living in Thessalian Magnesia who took part in the Trojan War. They later also contributed to the Greek colonization by founding two prosperous cities in Western Anatolia, Magnesia on the Maeander and Magnesia ad Sipylum.
GB89140. Bronze tetrachalkon, BCD Thessaly II 420.4; Rogers 339, HGC 4 64, BCD Thessaly I -, VF, near black patina, spots of corrosion, weight 8.132 g, maximum diameter 22.2 mm, die axis 270o, Demetrias(?) mint, mid 2nd - mid 1st centuries B.C.; obverse laureate head of Zeus; reverse MAΓNHTON clockwise from 9:00, centaur Cheiron advancing right, right hand extended, branch in left over shoulder, star below; $60.00 (52.80)


Kingdom of Bithynia, Prusias II Kynegos, 185 - 149 B.C.

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Prusias II, son of Prusias I, inherited his father's name but not his character. He first joined with Eumenes of Pergamon in war against Pontus, but later turned on Pergamon and invaded. He was defeated and Pergamon demanded heavy reparations. Prusias sent his son Nicomedes II to Rome to ask for aid in reducing the payments. When Nicomedes revolted, Prusias II was murdered in the temple of Zeus at Nikomedia.
GB91912. Bronze AE 21, SNG Cop 639; BMC Pontus p. 211, 9; Rec Gen I p. 226, 26; HGC 7 629; SGCV II 7266, F, corrosion, weight 5.443 g, maximum diameter 21.1 mm, die axis 0o, Nikomedia (Izmit, Turkey) mint, c. 180 - 150 B.C.; obverse head of young Dionysos right, wreathed with ivy; reverse centaur Chiron standing right, playing lyre, his animal skin cloak flying behind, monogram inner right under raised foreleg, BAΣIΛEΩΣ downward on right, ΠPOYΣIOY downward on left; $45.00 (39.60)


Gallienus, August 253 - September 268 A.D.

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This type commemorates vows made to Apollo invoking his protection against the revolt of Aureolus. During the siege of Milan, at a late hour but while he was still lingering with pleasures of the table, a false alarm was suddenly given, reporting that Aureolus, at the head of all his forces, had made a desperate sally from the town. Gallienus, who was never deficient in personal bravery, started from his silken couch, and without allowing himself time either to put on his armor or to assemble his guards, he mounted on horseback and rode full speed towards the supposed place of the attack. There he was ambushed by enemies from among his own officers. Amidst the nocturnal tumult, he received a mortal wound from an uncertain hand. Perhaps his request to Apollo was too specific and asked only for protection from Aureolus?

The centaur Chiron was the tutor of Apollo and the first to teach him the medicinal use of herbs. The exact meaning of the globe and rudder are more obscure but likely allude to Apollo assisting Gallienus in steering the "ship of state."
RL88824. Billon antoninianus, Gbl MIR 738b, RIC V-1 S164, RSC IV 73, Hunter IV 99 corr. (says trophy vice rudder), SRCV III 10178, F, double struck, tight flan, parts of legends unstruck, flan split/crack, weight 2.772 g, maximum diameter 21.5 mm, 8th officina, Rome mint, 267 - Sep 268 A.D.; obverse GALLIENVS AVG, radiate bust right; reverse APOLLINI CONS AVG (to Apollo the preserver of the Emperor), centaur Chiron walking left, globe in right hand, rudder in left hand, H in exergue; $19.00 (16.72)







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Catalog current as of Tuesday, July 23, 2019.
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Centaurs