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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Denominations| ▸ |Cistophori||View Options:  |  |  |   

Cistophori

The cistophorus was introduced at Pergamon sometime between 200 and 160 B.C. to provide the Attalid kingdom with a substitute for Seleucid coins and the tetradrachms of Philetairos. The denomination was also struck by other cities under Attalid control. The denomination owes its name to cista mystica, the sacred chest of Dionysus, on the obverse. It was valued at four drachms but weighed only 12.75 grams, as much as three Attic drachms (the most important weight standard of the time). Hoard evidence suggests that they did not travel outside the area which Pergamon controlled, indicating they were valued higher within that area. Cistophori continued to be minted and circulated down to the time of Hadrian, long after the kingdom was bequeathed to Rome in 133 B.C. The portrait of Augustus and later emperors replaced the cista on the obverse.

The cista mystica was a basket used for housing sacred snakes in connection with the initiation ceremony into the cult of Bacchus (Dionysus). In the Dionysian mysteries a snake, representing the god and possibly symbolic of his phallus, was carried in a cista mystica on a bed of vine leaves. The cista in the mysteries of Isis may also have held a serpent, perhaps associated with the missing phallus of Osiris.

Kyme, Aiolis, 165 - 140 B.C.

|Aeolis|, |Kyme,| |Aiolis,| |165| |-| |140| |B.C.||tetradrachm|
In Greek mythology, the Amazons were a nation of all-female warriors. Herodotus placed them in a region bordering Scythia in Sarmatia (in modern Ukraine). Other historiographers placed them in Anatolia or in Libya.
SH58672. Silver tetradrachm, Oakley 2; BMC Troas, p. 111, 74; SNG Cop 104, aEF, weight 16.766 g, maximum diameter 33.5 mm, die axis 0o, Kyme (near Nemrut Limani, Turkey) mint, obverse head of Amazon Kyme right, wearing taenia; reverse horse walking right, oinochoe below raised left foreleg, KYMAIΩN downward on right, MΗTPOΦANΗΣ (magistrate) in exergue, all in laurel wreath tied at the bottom; SOLD


Claudius, 25 January 41 - 13 October 54 A.D., Ephesos, Ionia

|Claudius|, |Claudius,| |25| |January| |41| |-| |13| |October| |54| |A.D.,| |Ephesos,| |Ionia||cistophorus|
SH54006. Silver cistophorus, RIC I 120, SRCV I 1838, RSC II 3, BMCRE I 228, Nice VF, banker's mark, weight 10.700 g, maximum diameter 27.2 mm, die axis 180o, Ephesos (near Selcuk, Turkey) mint, 41 - 42 A.D.; obverse TI CLAVD CAES AVG, bare head left; reverse COM ASI ROM ET AVG, temple of two columns, within temple Claudius stands facing holding a spear and is crowned by Fortuna holding a cornucopia; toned; very rare (R3); SOLD


Athens, Attica, Greece 133 - 132 B.C. New Style Tetradrachm

|Athens|, |Athens,| |Attica,| |Greece| |133| |-| |132| |B.C.
New| |Style| |Tetradrachm||tetradrachm|
"New style" tetradrachms were struck by Athens as a semi-autonomous city under Roman rule. Hellenic style replaces the archaic "old-style." The owl is surrounded by magistrates' names and symbols. The letter on the amphora may indicate the month of production. Letters below may indicate the source of the silver.
SH82664. Silver tetradrachm, Thompson 377 var. (same obv. die; unlisted month/control letters combination), HGC 4 1602, SNG Cop -, BMC Attica -, aEF, beautiful Hellenistic Athena, attractive rose toning with a few darker spots, light marks, weight 16.811 g, maximum diameter 30.5 mm, Athens mint, 133 - 132 B.C.; obverse Head of Athena Parthenos right, wearing necklace, pendent earring, and triple-crested Attic helmet with protomes of four horses above visor, a Pegasos in flight rightward above raised earpiece, and a curvilinear ornament on shell; reverse Owl standing half right on amphora, head facing, A-ΘΕ (Athens) flanking head, winged kerykeion to left, ΠOΛY-XAPM / NIKOΓ / AIAN/TI (Polycharm(os), Nikog(enes), and Aianti-, magistrates) in five lines, B on amphora, ΔI below, all within wreath; ex CNG Triton XIV (4 Jan 2011), lot 216; SOLD


Augustus, 16 January 27 B.C. - 19 August 14 A.D.

|Ephesos|, |Augustus,| |16| |January| |27| |B.C.| |-| |19| |August| |14| |A.D.||cistophoric| |tetradrachm|
The cistophorus was first struck by the Pergamene Kingdom was a tetradrachm (four-drachms coin) struck on a reduced Asian standard of about 3 grams per drachm. Its name was derived from the cista, a Dionysian cult snake basket that frequently appeared on the obverse. After the Pergamene Kingdom was bequeathed to Rome in 133 B.C., the Romans continued to strike cistophori for the Asia province, with a value equal to three denarii. The portrait of Augustus and later emperors replaced the cista on the obverse.
SH85434. Silver cistophoric tetradrachm, Sutherland Group VI, RPC I 2215, RIC I 479, RSC I 33, BnF I 922, BMCRE I 694, BMCRR East 262, SRCV I 1587, VF, full circles strike on a broad flan, light uneven toning, light encrustations, small closed edge crack, weight 11.660 g, maximum diameter 27.2 mm, die axis 0o, Ephesos (near Selcuk, Turkey) mint, c. 24 - 20 B.C.; obverse IMP CAE-SAR (counterclockwise below), bare head right, linear border; reverse garlanded and filleted altar of Diana (artemis, ornamented on the front with two hinds standing confronted, AVGVSTVS above; SOLD


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 104 - 103 B.C., New Style Tetradrachm

|Athens|, |Athens,| |Attica,| |Greece,| |c.| |104| |-| |103| |B.C.,| |New| |Style| |Tetradrachm||tetradrachm|
The "New Style" tetradrachms were issued by Athens as a semi-autonomous city under Roman rule. The new-style Owls are markedly different from the Owls of Periclean Athens or the "eye in profile" Athena head of the Fourth Century. They were struck on thinner, broad flans, typical of the Hellenistic period, with a portrait of Athena that reflected the heroic portraiture of the period. The owl now stands on an amphora, surrounded by magistrates' names and symbols, all within an olive wreath. The amphora is marked with a letter that may indicate the month of production. Letters below the amphora may indicate the source of the silver used in production.
SH87798. Silver tetradrachm, Thompson Athens 806 (same dies); Svoronos Athens pl. 62, 6 (same dies); BMC Attica p., 320 var. (ΣE below), VF, well centered and struck, some die wear, bumps and scrapes, weight 16.306 g, maximum diameter 29.8 mm, die axis 0o, Athens mint, c. 104 - 103 B.C.; obverse helmeted head of Athena Parthenos right, triple-crested helmet decorated with curvilinear ornament on the shell, a griffin right above the raised earpiece, and protomes of horses above the visor; reverse A-ΘE / ANΔ-PEAΣ / XAPI/NAY/THΣ AMY/N-O-M (magistrates Andreas, Charinautes, and Amynomachos), owl standing right on amphora on its side; Dionysos seated facing beside Demeter standing facing holding a long torch in each hand; Z on amphora, ΣO below, all within olive wreath; SOLD


Myrina, Aiolis, Mid 2nd Century B.C.

|Aeolis|, |Myrina,| |Aiolis,| |Mid| |2nd| |Century| |B.C.||tetradrachm|
At the time this coin was issued, Myrina was a thriving town popular with tourists and known for its terracotta, glassware, and oysters. Today it is perhaps best known for these beautiful tetradrachms!
SH58667. Silver tetradrachm, Sacks 25; SNG Fitzwilliam 4329; BMC Troas p. 136, 10, VF, weight 16.737 g, maximum diameter 34.1 mm, die axis 0o, Aiolis, Myrina (near Aliaga, Turkey) mint, mid 2nd century B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo right, hair braided, ribbons flowing behind; reverse MYPINAIΩN, Apollo Grynios advancing right holding patera and laurel branch with fillets; omphalos and amphora at feet; monogram left, all within laurel wreath; SOLD


Ephesos, Ionia, 166 - 160 B.C.

|Ephesos|, |Ephesos,| |Ionia,| |166| |-| |160| |B.C.||cistophoric| |tetradrachm|
A scarce and unusual type because almost all Cistophoric tetradrachm of Ephesus have the ethnic left and symbol right. This is from the third series, before the format had become uniform.
SH08965. Silver cistophoric tetradrachm, Kleiner-Noe p, 41, 6c and pl. XI, 7; SNG Cop -; BMC Ionia -; SNGvA -, EF, weight 12.5 g, maximum diameter 29.9 mm, die axis 0o, Ephesos (near Selcuk, Turkey) mint, 166 - 160 B.C.; obverse cista mystica with half-open lid, from which a snake emerges, all within wreath of ivy with berries; reverse bow-case decorated with apluster, two snakes around, Artenus head right on left, ΕΦΕ on right; obverse slightly off-center; rare; SOLD


Athens, Attica, Greece, 95 - 94 B.C., New Style Tetradrachm

|Athens|, |Athens,| |Attica,| |Greece,| |95| |-| |94| |B.C.,| |New| |Style| |Tetradrachm||tetradrachm|
The "New Style" tetradrachms were issued by Athens as a semi-autonomous city under Roman rule. The new-style Owls are markedly different from the Owls of Periclean Athens or the "eye in profile" Athena head of the Fourth Century. They were struck on thinner, broad flans, typical of the Hellenistic period, with a portrait of Athena that reflected the heroic portraiture of the period. The owl now stands on an amphora, surrounded by magistrates' names and symbols, all within an olive wreath. The amphora is marked with a letter that may indicate the month of production. Letters below the amphora may indicate the source of the silver used in production.
SH59548. Silver tetradrachm, cf. Thompson Athens 1026b (ΣO below amphora), VF, smoothing (burnished), weight 15.974 g, maximum diameter 27.9 mm, die axis 0o, Athens mint, magistrates Zenokles and Armozenos, 95 - 94 B.C.; obverse helmeted head of Athena Parthenos right, triple-crested helmet decorated with curvilinear ornament on the shell, a griffin right above the raised earpiece, and protomes of horses above visor; reverse A-ΘΕ / ΞΕ-NO/KΛHΣ / APMO/ΞΕ/NOΣ, owl standing right on amphora, head facing, coiled snake right, K on amphora, two obscure Greek letters below, all within olive wreath; SOLD


Side, Pamphylia, c. 220 - 190 B.C., Sardes Lydia Cistophoric Countermark

|Side|, |Side,| |Pamphylia,| |c.| |220| |-| |190| |B.C.,| |Sardes| |Lydia| |Cistophoric| |Countermark||tetradrachm|
Interesting countermark applied c. 180 B.C. with the introduction of the Cistophoric coinage. On our coin the countermark reads ΣAP (Sardes, Lydia). Other cities that applied similar countermarks to Attic weight coins are Apamea, Ephesos, Laodikea, Pergamon and Tralles.
SH30033. Silver tetradrachm, SNGvA 4794; c/m: see Bauslaugh Countermarks, aVF, c/m aEF, weight 16.480 g, maximum diameter 28.3 mm, die axis 0o, Side (near Selimiye, Antalya Province, Turkey) mint, obverse head of Athena right in a crested Corinthian helmet, round countermark of bow in case and ΣAP legend on left; reverse Nike advancing left, wreath extended in right, pomegranate in left field, ΣTΗ monogram below (magistrate's name); SOLD


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 118 - 117 B.C., New Style Tetradrachm

|Athens|, |Athens,| |Attica,| |Greece,| |c.| |118| |-| |117| |B.C.,| |New| |Style| |Tetradrachm||tetradrachm|
The "New Style" tetradrachms were issued by Athens as a semi-autonomous city under Roman rule. The new-style Owls are markedly different from the Owls of Periclean Athens or the "eye in profile" Athena head of the Fourth Century. They were struck on thinner, broad flans, typical of the Hellenistic period, with a portrait of Athena that reflected the heroic portraiture of the period. The owl now stands on an amphora, surrounded by magistrates' names and symbols, all within an olive wreath. The amphora is marked with a letter that may indicate the month of production. Letters below the amphora may indicate the source of the silver used in production.

The two torches likely refer to Demeter who is frequently depicted holding a torch in each hand.
SL86806. Silver tetradrachm, Thompson 593c; Svoronos Athens pl. 57, 20; HGC 4 1635; magistrates Ammonios, Kallias, and Epiphanous, NGC Choice VF, strike 4/5, surface 4/5, weight 16.47 g, maximum diameter 29.1 mm, die axis 0o, Athens mint, c. 118 - 117 B.C.; obverse helmeted head of Athena Parthenos right, triple-crested helmet decorated with curvilinear ornament on the shell, Pegasus flying right above the raised earpiece, and protomes of horses above visor; reverse A-ΘΕ divided above, AMM/ΩNI/OΣ / ΕΠIΦ/ANHΣ in five lines on left, and KAΛ/ΛIAΣ in three lines on right, owl standing right on amphora on its side, two torches on right, M on amphora, ΠΕ under amphora, all within olive wreath; ex Heritage, NYINC Signature Sale 3063 (16 Jan 2018), lot 33141; SOLD




  




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REFERENCES|

Bauslaugh, R. "Cistophoric Countermarks and the Monetary System of Eumenes II" in NC 1990.
Burnett, A., M. Amandry, et al. Roman Provincial Coinage. (1992 - ).
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Cohen, E. Dated Coins of Antiquity: A comprehensive catalogue of the coins and how their numbers came about. (Lancaster, PA, 2011).
Kleiner, F. "Hoard Evidence and the Late Cistophori of Pergamum" in ANSMN 23 (1978).
Kleiner, F. "The Dated Cistophori of Ephesus" in ANSMN 18 (1972).
Kleiner, F. "The Late Cistophori of Apameia" in Essays Thompson.
Kleiner, F. & S. Noe. The Early Cistophoric Coinage. ANSNS 14 (1977).
Giard, J., P. Besombes & S. Estiot. Monnaies de l'Empire romain. Bibliothque nationale de France. (Paris, 1998 - ).
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Head, B. A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Ionia. (London, 1892).
Head, B. A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Lydia. (London, 1901).
Head, B. A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Phrygia. (London, 1906).
Macdonald, G. Catalogue of Greek Coins in the Hunterian Collection, University of Glasgow. (Glascow, 1899).
Mattingly, H. & R. Carson. Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum. (London, 1923-1963).
Mattingly H. & E. Sydenham. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol. II: Vespasian to Hadrian. (London, 1926).
Metcalf, W. The Cistophori of Hadrian. ANSNS 15. (New York, 1980).
Oakley, J. "The Autonomous Wreathed Tetradrachms of Kyme, Aeolis" in ANSMN 27 (1982).
Pinder, M. ber die Cistophoren und ber die kaiserlichen Silbermedaillons der Rmischen Provinz Asien. (Berlin, 1856).
Sacks, K. "The Wreathed Coins of Aeolian Myrina" in ANSMN 30. (1985).
Seaby, H., D. Sear, R. Loosley, & C. King. Roman Silver Coins. (London, 1952-1989).
Sear, D. Roman Coins and Their Values. (London, 2000-2014).
Sutherland, C. The Cistophori of Augustus. (London, 1970).
Sutherland, C. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol. I: From 39 BC to AD 69. (London, 1984).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Denmark, The Royal Collection of Coins and Medals, Danish National Museum. (Copenhagen, 1942-1979).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Deutschland, Mnzsammlung Universitt Tbingen. (Berlin, 1981-).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Deutschland, Sammlung Hans Von Aulock. (Berlin, 1957-1967).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, France, Cabinet des Mdailles, Bibliothque Nationale. (Paris, 1993-2001).
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum, Great Britain IV, Fitzwilliam Museum, Leake and General Collections. (London, 1940-1971).
Waddington, W., E. Babelon & T. Reinach. Recueil Gnral des Monnaies Grecques d'Asie Mineure. (Paris, 1904-1925).
Wroth, W. A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Mysia. (London, 1892).
Wroth, W. A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Troas, Aeolis, and Lesbos. (London, 1894).

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