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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Types| ▸ |Athletics & Games||View Options:  |  |  | 

Atheletics and Games on Ancient Coins

Gallienus, August 253 - September 268 A.D., Side, Pamphylia

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A thyrsos and a torch on another Side reverse mentioning the Agon Mystikos (BMC 118) indicates the Sidetan Mystikos was dedicated to Dionysos and Demeter, and perhaps also to the Roman emperor (see J. Noll: Der Agon Mystikos in Side, in: Chiron 16 (1986), pp. 204-206). As Dionysos is, among other roles, a god of the arts, it was likely an artistic rather than athletic competition. Noll dated the conferment of the Sidetan Agon Mystikos to the time of Hadrian, but as the first reference to it comes from coins of Gallienus (such this coin). More likely, the Agon was founded in the mid 3rd century, perhaps in fact under Gallienus, whose interest in mystery cults is well attested and who was famously initiated into the Eleusian Mysteries himself (like Hadrian!).
RP88915. Bronze AE 32, SNG PfPs -, SNG BnF -, SNGvA -, SNG Cop -, BMC Lycia -, Lindgren -; ISEGRIM -; et al. -; c/m: Howgego 805 (169 pcs, applied 253 - 268 A.D.), aF, legends weak, a little off center, rough and porous, weight 17.252 g, maximum diameter 32.2 mm, die axis 30o, Side (near Selimiye, Antalya Province, Turkey) mint, joint reign, Aug 253 - 260 A.D.; obverse AYT KAI ΠOY ΛI ΓAΛΛIHNOC CE, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind; countermark on right: E (5 assaria) in 7.5mm round punch obliterating IA (prior mark of value); reverse IEPA ΠVΘIAE IEPOC MYCTIKOC (holy Pythian [games], sacred, mystical), two prize urns containing palms, set on an agonistic table, table edge inscribed CI∆HW, uncertain object(s) or inscription below table top and in exergue (if any); we could not find a single specimen of this type online or in our many references - this is the only specimen of this type known to FORVM; extremely rare; $200.00 (176.00)


Philip I the Arab, February 244 - End of September 249 A.D.

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During Philip's reign the 1000th anniversary of Rome (248 A.D.) was celebrated, and magnificent games were held. This coin was issued as part of that celebration and the reverse undoubted depicts one of the animal types displayed and hunted in the Colosseum during the games.
RB87835. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC IV 160a; Cohen V 183, Hunter III 107, SRCV III 9012, VF, nice portrait, well centered, some bumps and scratches, a little rough and porous, edge cracks, traces of shellac(?), weight 16.917 g, maximum diameter 28.6 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 248 A.D.; obverse IMP M IVL PHILIPPVS AVG, laureate, draped (and cuirassed?) bust right, from behind; reverse SAECVLARES AVGG (Secular games [provided by] the Emperors), stag standing right, S C (senatus consulto) in exergue; $180.00 (158.40)


Larissa, Thessaly, Greece, c. 450 - 400 B.C.

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During religious games, the young men of Thessaly participated in bull jumping and bull wrestling. In bull wrestling, participants would jump from a horse, naked save a chlamys (cloak) and petasos (hat), to bring a bull down to the ground. The obverse shows a wrestler bringing down a bull and the reverse shows the horse running free after the leap was made. The game may have originated in Asia Minor and then traveled to Crete, where it is known the people of Thessaly learned the sport.
GS73425. Silver drachm, Lorber Thessalian 50, SNG Cop 110, BCD Thessaly I 1128, BCD Thessaly II 175, HGC 4 420 (S), F, well centered, die wear, obverse rough, weight 5.760 g, maximum diameter 20.3 mm, die axis 45o, Larissa mint, c. 450 - 400 B.C.; obverse hero Thessalos restraining bull, both left, holding band around its head, nude but for billowing chlamys tied around his neck, petasos tied around neck flying behind; reverse bridled horse running right, trailing rein, ΛAPI/ΣAIA in two lines above and below, all within shallow incuse square; ex BCD Collection with his tag noting, "Ex Spink's Auction 36, 30/31 May 84, lot 11 (part), the lot for 130.-"; scarce; $140.00 (123.20)


Philip I the Arab, February 244 - End of September 249 A.D.

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In April 248, Philip combined the celebration of Rome's 1000th anniversary with the Ludi Saeculares. Festivities included spectacular games and theatrical presentations. In the Colosseum, more than 1,000 gladiators were killed along with hundreds of exotic animals including hippos, leopards, lions, giraffes, and one rhinoceros. At the same time, Philip elevated his son to the rank of co-Augustus.
RS89482. Silver antoninianus, RIC IV 10, RSC IV 241, Hunter III 43, SRCV III 8916, VF, well centered, frosty surfaces, light bumps and marks, die wear, weight 4.107 g, maximum diameter 22.1 mm, die axis 0o, 5th officina, Rome mint, 248 - 249 A.D.; obverse IMP PHILIPPVS AVG, radiate and draped, seen from behind; reverse VIRTVS AVGG (courage of the two emperors), Philip I and II on horseback galloping right, E in exergue; ex Numismatik Naumann auction 73, part of lot 970; $110.00 (96.80)


Aspendos, Pamphylia, c. 2nd - 1st Century B.C.

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After Alexander took Perga peacefully, Aspendos sent envoys to offer surrender if he would not take the taxes and horses formerly paid as tribute to the Persian king. Agreeing, Alexander went on to Side, leaving a garrison behind. When he learned they had failed to ratify the agreement their own envoys had proposed, Alexander marched to the city. The Aspendians retreated to their acropolis and again sent envoys to sue for peace. This time, however, they had to agree to harsh terms - they would host a Macedonian garrison and pay 100 gold talents and 4,000 horses annually.
GB92207. Bronze AE 12, Lindgren 1075, cf. SNGvA 4583 var. (A-Σ across field), SNG BnF -, SNG Cop -, BMC Lycia -, aVF, green patina, weight 1.607 g, maximum diameter 12.3 mm, die axis 180o, Aspendos mint, 2nd - 1st century B.C.; obverse free horse galloping right, crescent horns up above; reverse ACΠE-N∆IΩN (clockwised from 3:00), slinger standing right, throwing bullet; ex Gerhard Rohde Ancient Coins; very rare; $100.00 (88.00)


Macedonian Kingdom, Philip III Arrhidaeus and Alexander IV, 323 - 317 B.C., In the Name of Philip

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This same type was also issued, presumably later, with a kerykeion between the B and the A below the rider. The countermark probably indicated this older coin was equal to the newer coins.
GB92911. Bronze AE 19, SNG Mnchen 979 (same countermark), Price P2, SNG Cop 124, HGC 3.1 980 (S), SNG ANS -, SNG Alpha Bank -, VF, well centered, dark green patina, reverse die wear, minor pitting/spots of corrosion, weight 6.163 g, maximum diameter 19.3 mm, die axis 0o, Pella mint, 323 - 317 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, clad in Nemean Lion skin headdress; reverse youth on horse prancing right, arm extended above horse's head, cloak flying behind, ΦI (Philip) above, BA (Bασιλεως = king) below; countermark: kerykeion in a round punch; ex Savoca Numismatik auction 32 (14 Apr 2019), lot 27; scarce; $95.00 (83.60)


Aspendos, Pamphylia, c. 2nd - 1st Century B.C.

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After Alexander took Perga peacefully, Aspendos sent envoys to offer surrender if he would not take the taxes and horses formerly paid as tribute to the Persian king. Agreeing, Alexander went on to Side, leaving a garrison behind. When he learned they had failed to ratify the agreement their own envoys had proposed, Alexander marched to the city. The Aspendians retreated to their acropolis and again sent envoys to sue for peace. This time, however, they had to agree to harsh terms - they would host a Macedonian garrison and pay 100 gold talents and 4,000 horses annually.
GB79600. Bronze AE 19, SNG Cop 264 var. (star and crescent), SNGvA 4583 var. (crescent vice star); SNG BnF 148 var. (no star), BMC Lycia p. 103, 74 (same), aVF, green patina, weight 3.565 g, maximum diameter 18.7 mm, die axis 0o, Aspendos mint, 2nd - 1st century B.C.; obverse free horse galloping right, star above; reverse slinger standing right, throwing bullet, A − Σ flanking across center; ex Gerhard Rohde Ancient Coins; very rare; $75.00 (66.00)


Philip I the Arab, February 244 - End of September 249 A.D.

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Elephants are represented on coins as an emblem of Eternity, because the ancients believed elephants lived two or even three hundred years. In April 248, Philip combined the celebration of Rome's 1000th anniversary with the Ludi Saeculares. Festivities included spectacular games and theatrical presentations. In the Colosseum, more than 1,000 gladiators were killed along with hundreds of exotic animals including hippos, leopards, lions, giraffes, and one rhinoceros. At the same time, Philip elevated his son to the rank of co-Augustus. Undoubtedly the festivities included elephants, as advertised by this coin.
RS87526. Silver antoninianus, RSC IV 17, RIC IV 58, Hunter III 31, SRCV III 8921, VF, full-circle centering on a broad flan, attractive golden toning, some die wear, weight 3.950 g, maximum diameter 23.2 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 248 A.D.; obverse IMP PHILIPPVS AVG, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right; reverse AETERNITAS AVGG, elephant walking left, ridden by mahout guiding it with rod and goad; $75.00 (66.00)


Elagabalus, 16 May 218 - 11 March 222 A.D., Laodicea ad Mare, Seleucis and Pieria, Syria

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Laodicea ad Mare prospered thanks to the excellent wine produced in the nearby hills and was also famous for its textiles, both of which were exported to all the empire. A sizable Jewish population lived in Laodicea during the first century. Under Septimius Severus the city was fortified and was made for a few years the capital of Roman Syria: in this period Laodicea grew to be a city of nearly 40,000 inhabitants and had even an hippodrome. Christianity was the main religion in the city after Constantine I and many bishops of Laodicea participated in ecumenical councils, mainly during Byzantine times. The heretic Apollinarius was bishop of Laodicea in the 4th century, when the city was fully Christian but with a few remaining Jews. An earthquake damaged the city in 494 A.D. Justinian I made Laodicea the capital of the Byzantine province of "Theodorias" in the early sixth century. Laodicea remained its capital for more than a century until the Arab conquest.
RP86245. Bronze AE 19, SNG Mnchen 944; SNG Hunterian 3226, SNG Cop 372 var. (bust); BMC Galatia p. 262, 105 var. (no clubs), VF, porous, reverse off center, weight 5.941 g, maximum diameter 19.5 mm, die axis 225o, Laodicea ad Mare (Latakia, Syria) mint, 16 May 218 - 11 Mar 222 A.D.; obverse IMP C M AVP - ANTONINVS - AVG, radiate bust right, bare shoulders seen from behind; reverse LAVDICEON, two naked wrestlers, standing confronted and grappling, wrestler on the left has his hand on his antagonist shoulder, clubs left and right, one behind each wrestler, ∆E exergue; scarce; $70.00 (61.60)


Volusian, c. November 251 - July or August 253 A.D., Damascus, Syria

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Hadrian promoted Damascus to the Metropolis of Coele-Syria about 125 A.D. Severus Alexander upgraded it to a colonia in 222 A.D. Damascus was an important caravan city with trade routes from southern Arabia, Palmyra, Petra, and silk routes from China all converging on it delivering eastern luxuries to Rome. The inscription on the prize urn names the sacred Olympia Sebasmia games, celebrated at Damascus as part of the local imperial cult.
RY86710. Bronze AE 25, RPC Online IX 1964 (same dies, 4 spec.); BMC Galatia p. 288, 32; Rosenberger 58; De Saulcy 6; SNG Hunter 3462 var. (bust); SNG Mn -; SNG Cop -, aF, porous, light earthen deposits, weight 7.860 g, maximum diameter 24.6 mm, die axis 0o, Damascus mint, c. Nov 251 - Jul/Aug 253 A.D.; obverse IMP GALLO VOLOSSIANO AVG, laureate head right, traces of drapery; reverse COL ∆AMAS METRO, agonistic urn containing cypress, inscribed OΛYMΠIA / CEBACMIA, ram's head right between I E (IEPA - sanctuary) below; ex J.S. Wagner Collection; very rare; $60.00 (52.80)







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REFERENCES|

Klose, D. & G. Stumpf. Sport, Spiel, Sieg. (Munich, 1996).


Catalog current as of Thursday, December 12, 2019.
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Atheletics and Games