Numism > Reading For the Advanced Collector

Coins of mythological interest

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Virgil H:
Thank you for that info, Norbert. I didn't know. I can usually deal with reading German, at least up to a point where I can get some use out of it, I used to be able to speak it a bit, never fluent, but I could get by most of the time.


Maybe we can all lobby for an English version......


Virgil H:
I agree on English version especially since the two German copies I found for sale would require me to mortgage my home. Seriously, I would be willing to help with layout, etc. I have done this for a couple books in the past. A book like this would be of interest beyond coin collectors. Anyway, just thinking aloud.


The Roman Concordia

After the article on Homonoia, now the article on its counterpart, the Roman Concordia.

Concordia is an ancient Roman concept of virtue, like Fides, Spes, Iustitia, Pax or Libertas, which was personified by the Romans. Originally, these deities were not worshipped in images or statues. The Romans first adopted the idea of gods in human form from the Greeks and Etruscans.

Concordia is the personification of concord and thus corresponds to the Greek Homonoia. She promotes and maintains the harmony and unity of the Roman citizens. Unlike the Greek Homonoia, however, the Roman Concordia always has a close connection to the Res publica.

The first temple (Aedes) is said to have been erected in 367 BC by M. Furius Camillus at the clivus Capitolinus and to symbolise the end of the class struggles between patricians and plebeians. The reconciliation was completed in 367 BC with the laws of Gaius Licinius Stolo and Lucius Sextus Lateranus, the so-called Licinian laws (leges Liciniae Sextiae). They established the broad political equality of both estates. Camillus had recognised the need for unification and contributed decisively to these laws.

Camillus, the first historically comprehensible figure in Roman history, was the most important personality in 4th century Rome. Because of his successes against Veji, the Faliscans and the Gauls, he was considered the "second founder of Rome". However, many things were attributed to him that were not historically true. Some of this was already doubted in antiquity (Livius). It is certain that he organised the Roman army in such a way that Rome was able to achieve supremacy in central Italy. But the construction of the 1st Temple of Concordia unfortunately belongs to the unproven narratives. Structural remains from this phase have not been preserved.

A second temple was vowed by Praetor L. Manlius Vulso in 218 BC during a mutiny of the army in the war against the Boians, built in arce (the castle) after the rebellion was settled and consecrated on 5.2.216 (Livius).

After the bloody persecution of the Gracchi, which ended with their murder, a temple of Concordia was built by L. Opimius near the sanctuary donated by Camillus. This temple building is often called a renewal of the temple of Camillus. But according to the sources it can only be a new temple.

It was richly furnished with numerous art treasures and the Senate met here at times. Cicero delivered his 4th speech against Catilina here.
The feast of Concordia was celebrated on 16 January. This was considered the foundation day of the 1st temple. Today, nothing remains of this temple except the podium. Even the podium is partly hidden under a staircase leading up to the Capitol (photo attached).

All these temples stood near the place where Romulus and Titus Tatius joined forces when the Romans and Sabines allied.  A Republican denarius of L. Mussidius Longus from 42 BC shows the shrine of Venus Cloacina (from Latin cluere = to purify). The cult of Cloacina played an important role in the reconciliation of the Sabines with the Romans. On the obverse the Concordia is depicted still veiled. Thus the political Concordia appears here as a secondary form of that covenant goddess, who for her part is nothing other than a form of Venus (Roscher). (Pic attached)

Later, the usually veiled Concordia joins the Venus Victrix. A denarius of L. Vinicius (Vinicia 1a), ca. 54 BC, with Venus Victrix on the reverse, shows her already wearing a laurel wreath. (Pic attaxched. The image comes from

It is reported that in 164 BC the Censor Q. Marcius had a statue of Concordia erected in public. This was brought to the Curia in 154 by the Censor C. Cassius. But when he wanted to dedicate the Curia to Concordia at the same time, the Pontifices prevented the dedication. 

After Iulius Caesar's victory over Pompeius, the Senate 44 vowed a temple to the Concordia Nova. Whether this temple was actually realised is uncertain.

In imperial times, the cult of Concordia was one of the most prestigious of all. Augustus erected an altar in 9 BC, on which sacrifices were made to Ianus, Salus, Concordia and Pax on 30 March. Livia dedicated a shrine to Concordia in the porticus Livia 7 BC on 11 June in honour of her marriage to Augustus (Ovid). Tiberius vowed in the same year to renew the sanctuary founded by Camillus and consecrated it on 16 Jan. 12 AD on the occasion of his triumph over the Pannonians and Dalmatians, but as a temple to Concordia Augusta. The image of the goddess in this temple wore a laurel wreath. Still in later times, the Senate restored the temple

After the discovery of the conspiracy of M. Libo in 16 AD, Concordia also received rich gifts along with other gods.

Concordia is mainly the patron goddess of imperial marriage and the imperial house in the imperial period. The connection of two cornucopias in the arm of the goddess seems to refer to the union of the two members of the imperial house and the blessing of children resulting from the marriage (Roscher). Especially in the arm of Concordia, the double cornucopiae has become a standing symbol. The hope placed in marriage is expressed by a statue of Spes accompanying Concordia, on which she sometimes places her left arm. (Pic of Sabina, RIC III, (Hadrian) 398 attached)
The emperors especially often praise the Concordia exercitum and the Concordia militum on the coins, this extraordinarily often on coins of the later imperial period. This was a time when emperors depended on the goodwill of their soldiers. Their fate depended on their armies. These deposed emperors and raised others to their shields. So this was more a wish than a description of facts. It is not for nothing that these legends are found particularly frequently among the soldier-emperors.

The standard depiction was Concordia Militum with a field sign in each hand. This is an Antoninian of Probus (276-282), RIC V/2, 480 (attached).

The next coin was minted by Aureolus under Emperor Postumus. Aureolus was dux equitum under Valerian, later attacked Postumus and took the imperial dignity himself in 268 AD. The legend Concordia Equitum says nothing other than that he was dependent on his cavalry and hoped for a good relationship with them. Significantly, Fortuna on the reverse was also supposed to be favourably disposed towards him. At the end of this year he was killed by his own praetorian guard. Aureolus under Postumus, RIC V/2, 373 (Pic attched)

According to a conjecture by Hübner, the expression Concordia Augusti expresses the concord of the emperor with the people. In the following solidus of Honorius with the legend Concordia Avggg, however, the promise or the wish for harmony among the emperors resonates. This was not self-evident even among brothers, as we know from the time of Constantine. I have attached the pic of Honorius, RIC X, (Arcadius 24)

Outside Rome, Concordia was mainly used in Spain, Africa and Gallia cisalpina (Pauly).

Because I can't add the pictures to the text I have attached the following pictures:
(1) Remains of the Temple of Concord. The three columns on the left belong to the Temple of Vespasian. Of the Temple of Concordia, only the podium remains on the left behind these columns
(2) The republican denarius Mussidia 6b
(3) The republican denarius Vinicia 1a
(4) Aquilia Severa, RIC IV/2, 226
(5) Sabina, RIC III, (Hadrian) 398
(6) Probus, RIC V/2, 480
(7) Aureolus under Postumus, RIC V/2, 373
(8) Honorius, RIC X, (Arcadius) 24

(1) Plutarch
(2) Sallust, Historiae
(3) Livius, Ab urbe condita
(4) Sueton, Kaiserviten
(5) Cassius Dio, Römische Geschichte
(6) Ovid, Fasti

(1) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon, 1770
(2) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie
(3) Der Kleine Pauly
(4) Wikipedia

Best regards

The peacock in antiquity

The peacock was an attribute of Hera in antiquity.

1st coin:
Moesia inferior, Nicopolis ad Istrum, Septimius Severus, AD 193-211.
AE 27, 11.61g, 26.69mm, 210°
struck under governor Aurelius Gallus
Obv.: AV.K.L.CEP.  - CEVHROC - P
         Laureate head  r.
         Hera , in long, girded double chiton, veiled, standing frontal, head l., resting with raised left
         hand on long sceptre and holding patera in outstretched right hand; peacock standing l. at
         her feet.
Ref.: a) not in AMNG
        b) not in Varbanov
        c) Hristova-Hoeft-Jekov (2021) No. (this coin)
rare, EF, dark green patina

The reverse was also struck for Caracalla. An example of parallel coinage for members of the imperial family,
Most spectacular is when Hera rides in a peacock biga, as here on a coin of Antoninus Pius from Kos: Image from Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

In West Germanic the name is attested in Old-High-German as phao (9th century), Middle-High-German as phawe, pha, in Early Germanin as  pfaw(e), phow(e), New-High-German Pfae, Pfauw (until the 17th century). In Old-Saxon pao, Middle-Low-German as pawe, pauwe, as in English pawa, pea, English (older) pea (today folk-etymological peacock). These are all borrowed from Latin pavo, pavonis, which comes from an unknown, probably oriental language.

The peacock leads us to the mythology of Argos. Argos (from Greek "argos = the shimmering one") was a huge monster with 100 or more eyes all over his body (or around his head) so that he could see in all directions. That is why he was also called Panoptes (Greek = all-seer). Of the eyes, only one pair slept at a time, while the others were awake.

One myth tells that he was the son of Inachos, the first king of Argos and progenitor of the kings of Argolis, and of unusual strength. Thus he once slew an un-beastly ox that ravaged Arcadia. Afterwards he wore its hide as clothing. He also executed a satyr who plagued Arcadia. He even surprised Echidna, the daughter of Tartaros and Gaia, a terrible serpent and mother of many monsters, such as the hellhound Kerberos, the Hydra, the Chimaira, the Sphinx and the Nemean Lion, in her sleep and killed her. He should therefore know that sleep could be dangerous!
Argos had a son named Iasos, who became king of Argos.

It happened that Zeus fell in love with Io, a priestess of Hera, and seduced her. When his jealous wife Hera discovered this, Zeus turned Io into a white cow. But Hera saw through this and demanded the cow as a gift, which Zeus dared not refuse her. And she commissioned Argos to guard the cow. He tied her to an olive tree in the Mycenaean forests. When he drove her to pasture during the day, he sat on a high mountain to keep an eye on her.
Zeus, however, could not forget Io. He gave Hermes the order to kidnap the cow, even by force. Hermes went to Argos in the guise of a shepherd and played so sweetly for him on the pan flute that he made him sit down beside him. Through the conversation and the flute playing he finally put Argos to sleep. He then cut off his head and threw it down the rock. Since then Hermes has been nicknamed Argiphontes, the Argos slayer. Io, however, was able to escape. Afterwards, Hera sent her a gadfly that drove her around the world. But that is another story.

To honour her faithful servant Argos and to commemorate his treacherous murder, Hera planted his hundred eyes in the plumage of the peacock, her favourite animal.
The peacock is also in the starry sky. But it did not receive this honour in antiquity; for the constellation of the peacock lies so far south that it cannot be seen from the Mediterranean.  It is one of the constellations introduced at the end of the 16th century by the Dutch navigators Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick de Houtman. Johann Bayer adopted it in his celestial atlas Uranometria, published in 1603.

In Homer's Odyssey, Argos is also the name of Odysseus' hunting dog, who waited 20 years for his master to return. When Odysseus returns home, he is too weak to rise from the dung heap on which he is lying. He just wags his tail and dies. Whether this dog was named after the giant because of his vigilance is not clear.

The peacock in Aesop:
In the fables of Aesop (6th century BC, a rather legendary figure) the peacock is mentioned a few times. In the fable of the peacock and the jackdaw, the peacock boasted about the shine and colour of its feathers. The jackdaw admitted all this, but noticed that all this beauty was not good for the main thing, flying, and flew away. At that time, the peacock was already a symbol of ostentation and vanity.
In the 25th fable, the peacock complains to Juno that he cannot sing as beautifully as the nightingale and is ridiculed because of his voice. Juno replies that all animals have a special gift. His was the beautiful plumage. And he must be content with that, for that is what the gods have given him.

The peacock in religion:
Hera was the patron goddess of marriage. If a wheel-beating peacock is depicted on this coin, then Hera is meant. And just as the emperor with the eagle on the coins wants to show his connection to Zeus, so here the empress's connection to Hera is meant.
The peacock played an important role as a symbol of Hera in the consecratio of the empress. While emperors entered the world of the gods after their death through the eagle of Zeus (or Zeus himself), empresses (or their souls) were elevated to the gods at the apotheosis through the peacock of Hera. The apotheosis was usually approved in a kind of senate resolution.

2nd coin:
Mariniana, wife of Valerian I, died before AD 253
AR - Antoninian, 3.49g, 20mm
       Rome 254
         Veiled bust r., behind shoulders crescent moon
         Peacock flying r., carrying seated figure of empress on back, r. hand raised, sceptre in left hand
Ref.: RIC V/1, 6, Pl. I, 12; C. 16

In Christianity, the beauty and splendour of the peacock was a symbol of the coming paradise (first in the Catacomb of Callist) and the joys of the afterlife. Augustine (de. civit. Dei 21, 4) wrote that the flesh of the peacock was incorruptible, thus making it a symbol of immortality. Since the peacock loses its feathers during the moulting season in late summer and regains them in the spring, it stands for resurrection and renewal. This is why we often find the peacock on ancient Christian tombs.

It thus resembles the phoenix, which is always reborn. The peacock symbolism also represented the "all-seeing" church and the holiness associated with it.

However, this idea changed in the Middle Ages, when the peacock became a symbol of arrogance and vanity because of its beauty and courtship behaviour.

The peacock is already mentioned in the Old Testament. In 1 Kings 10:22 it says of King Solomon:

"The king had tarsis ships that sailed the sea together with the ships of Hiram. These came once in three years, bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes and peacocks."

So Solomon had peacocks, among other things, imported from other countries for his pleasure. It is not clear which place was meant by Tarsis, but it is usually identified with the Phoenician trading city of Tartessos in the Guadalquivir estuary in southern Spain. The name "Tarsis" is probably Iberian or "Tartessic". The Hebrew word for peacock "tukkiyyi" is very similar to "tokei", the native name for the peacock in Sri Lanka, which suggests that the peacocks came from their original homeland.

Probably in the 7th/6th century, the peacock reached Samos via Iraq and the Near East, where it was a sacred animal in the Heraion (Pauly). In the 5th century, peacocks were a precious rarity and were shown in Athens in the breeding yard of Pyrilampes and Demos at new moon for an entrance fee (Plutarch). The Romans, however, were not so scrupulous. For them, the peacock, introduced by Q. Hortensius, became the epitome of table luxury, surpassed only by peacock brains (Suetonius) and - next to nightingale tongues - by peacock tongues (HA, Heliogabal), the degenerate pinnacle of luxury. Here, it was not the taste but the difficulty of obtaining it that determined the value of a meal (Demandt).

Art history:
The story of Argos is not rarely depicted in art. I have chosen the following works:

(1) The oil painting "Juno and Argus" by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), which was painted around 1611 and is now in the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne. Juno sets the eyes of Argus in the tail feathers of the peacock.

(2) By Antonio Belluci (1654-1726) "Juno orders Argus to guard Io". I have chosen this picture because a dog is lying next to Argus, a clear allusion to Argos, the faithful dog of Odysseus.

I have added the pictures of
(1) Antonius Pius, Kos,
(1) Severus, Nicopolis ad Istrum, Hristova-Hoeft-Jekov
(2) Christian sarcophagus (detail)

(1) The Old Testament
(2) Suetonius, Biographies of the Emperors
(3) Ovid, Metamorphoses
(4) Aesop, Fables
(5) Homer, Odyssey
(6) Apollodorus
(5) Herodotus, Histories
(8) Plutarch, Parallel Biographies

(1) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie (Detailed Dictionary of Greek and Roman Mythology).
(2) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon, 1770
(3) Seth William Stevenson, Dictionary of Roman Coins
(4) Alexander Demandt, The Private Lives of the Roman Emperors, 1997
(5) Hristova-Hoeft-Jekov, Nicopolis ad Istrum, Blagoevgrad 2021
(6) Der Kleine Pauly

Online sources:
(1) The Bible Dictionary
(2) The Warburg Institute Iconographic Database
(4) Wikipedia

Best regards


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