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Please add updates or make corrections to the NumisWiki text version as appropriate.Serpent -- Serpents appear to have been the symbol of Asia. Pomponius Mela says "the figure of Asia Minor holds in its hands a serpent, because perhaps serpents abound in that region." -- Serpents may have become the symbol of Asia after that country had adopted them on its coinage, for the purpose of calling to mind the worship of Bacchus, which they carried to a great extent. -- The Bacchantes in the mysteries were crowned with serpents. The serpent was one of the symbols of initiation into the Bacchanalian orgies. Serpent. -- This reptile, as an image of divinity and of nature, is figured both in its natural shape, and under a variety of monstrous and imaginary forms, on a great multitude of coins of Greek cities, and also on Greek Imperial medals. It is less frequently found on coins with Latin inscriptions ; but still there are not a few instances in which it is represented both on the Consular and on the Imperial medals of Rome. -- The inventor of medicine, Aesculapius, son of Apollo, was worshipped by the Romans under the form of a serpent. That animal was the sign of health-restoring faculty, because, as the serpent, in casting off its skin, was supposed to become young again, so the sick, through the tutelary aid of the healing deity, were believed by the ancients to renew life and to put off old age. It was in consequence of this animal being thus regarded as the symbol of renovation, that the name Serpentarius took its rise in reference to the constant attribute of Aesculapius. The Serpent, with the head of Serapis, on medals struck under Antonine, is thought, by Millin, to signify a beneficent genius and the master of nature. This serpent is also seen on a medal of Nero, with a legend which indicates that this emperor was a new benefactor for Egypt. -- On a medal of Memphis, and in the hand of Isis, it symbolises fecundity and fertility. And as the serpent was said to renew its youth by the annual casting of its skin, the above-mentioned writer thinks it may be taken for the symbol of the Sun, on a medal of the Emperor Verus, on which a serpent, with the head of Serapis, is mounted on the back of a horse, whose march symbolises the year passing away : the head of Serapis representing the Sun as the sovereign of the universe. The Serpent was a symbol of Apollo, and as salutifer accompanies the image of that deity whom the ancients regarded as the guardian of health, on coins both of the Greeks and of the Romans. The Serpent was assigned to Bacchus under various titles, and for various reasons founded like the object symbolised on fable and superstition. Clement of Alexandria affirms "Signum Bacchicorum Orgiorum esse initiatum serpentem." The same author describes Bacchantes as crowned with serpents. Hence a serpent creeping out of a half opened chest (cista) betokens the orgies of Bacchus. A serpent appears on coins of M. Antony, who called himself a second Bacchus. Twin Serpents, rising in tortuous folds, attached by the tails to each other, but with a cista between them, appear on silver medallions, bearing the heads of Antony and Cleopatra, as given in Morell. Two Serpents are seen on a medal of Hadrian, a male and a female ; one has by its side a sistrum and a poppy, the attributes of Isis ; the other is represented with a caduceus and cornears, attributes of Anubis. -- "This type, (says Millin) incontestably refers to the mysteries of Isis, and the fecundity of nature." It is sacred to and attendant onJuno Lanuvina, or Sospita, in whose temple or grove, according to ancient custom, it was required that a virgin, in proof of her chastity, should offer food to the sacred serpent (" corruptis virginibus periculosus," says Woltereck). Coins of Popilia and Prociliamoneyers, and of Antoninus Pius and Commodus, have types allusive to this legendary subject. The same animal was also held sacred to Jupiter, Neptune, Minerva, Pluto, Ceres, Proserpine, Mercury, Isis, and Serapis. -- And that its image was used by the ancients to denote Felicity, Vigilance, Concord, Prudence, Power, Victory, and above all, Health (Salus), is shown on Roman as well as Greek coins. A dead Serpent twined round a tree appears on a fine brass medallion of Antoninus Pius. Hercules, who has slain this Hydra, stands on one side of the tree gathering its fruit : on the other side are the three Hesperides. A Serpent is the sign of Asia (see Asia Recepta) ; also of Africa ; we see a serpent trampled upon by the fore feet of an elephant on a well-known denarius of Julius Caesar. -- Likewise a serpent before the figure of Africa, on one of Diocletian's medals. -- It is seen entwined in folds, erecting itself above an altar, on coins of the Claudia, Nonia, Rubria, and Tullia moneyers ; and on imperial medals of Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Hadrian, Antonine, Aurelius, Alexander Severus, and Maximian. A Serpent coiled round a tripod is, according to Jobert (p. 415), referable to Apollo, or indicates the Delphic oracles. This type is seen on Greek coins of Nero and Domitian. -- [But it is seldom seen on imperial medals of Roman die, except as an attribute of Aesculapius and Salus.] A Serpent issuing forth from a ship, occurs on a fine medallion of Antoninus Pius. -- See AESCVLAPIVS. -- There is one that crawls before Victory on a gold coin of Julius Caesar, restored by Trajan. -- Another is seen erecting itself before the face of a woman, in Faustina sen. A Serpent invariably appears either in the hand or near the figure of Salus, goddess of health, on numerous coins of emperors and empresses. On a contorniatemedal of Nero a serpent appears as if lapping food from a patera offered to it by a woman [Olympias?] lying on a couch ; on another a huge snake, raising itself in a spiral form, directs its head towards some apples deposited on an altar ; behind the serpent is a tree. A Serpent is placed on the back of a horse on coins of Vespasian struck in Egypt, and the same reptile creeps with head uplifted on the prow of a ship on a Greek medal of Domitian. A Serpent occupies the reverse of a coin of the Fabricia moneyer, which Eckhel calls "the serpent of Esculapius." L. Fabricius is recorded to have caused the stone bridge to be built at Rome which communicated with the island in the Tiber, in the year 62 B.C.. -- To this fact the epigraph of L. FABRICIus on a tablet with Populus Romanus above it, which appears on this second brassmedal, most probably alludes. And this opinion is the more strongly corroborated by the type of the serpent, inasmuch as Aesculapius being brought under the form of that creature [as the story goes] from Epidaurus to Rome had a temple in that very insula Tiberina, which the bridge of Fabricius served to unite with the city. A Serpent folded round an egg placed on an altar appears on a first brass of the Eppia moneyer. The signification of which type Havercamp has attempted to explain with various conjectures, no ways satisfactory to the judgment of Eckhel, who, in his turn displays as usual his learning and research, but perhaps not with his accustomed success in solving the enigma of the snake and the egg. A Serpent wound (tortuosus) into many circles or rising in spiral folds, occurs on denarii of the Aemilia, Papia, Pompeia, and Pomponiamoneyers, and on Greek coins of Trajan, Hadrian, and Faustina sen. -- A sinuous snake glides before the biga of Juno Sospita, in Procilia. A Serpent with a lion's head is given by Banduri, from a coin of Diocletian. A Serpent creeps before Minerva on a brass coin of the Clovia moneyer. Two Serpents twined round a winged wand constitute the caduceus of Mercury. A Serpent is placed at the bottom of the labarum on medals of Constantine the Great (see SPES. PVB.) ; and on coins of some of the later Christian emperors (such as Petronius Maximus) a serpent prostrate is seen with the foot of the emperor placed upon it.