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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Themes & Provenance ▸ Gods, OlympiansView Options:  |  |  |   

The Twelve Olympians on Ancient Coins

The Twelve Olympians, the principal gods of the Greek pantheon, residing atop Mount Olympus, included the following gods:

Greek

Roman

Zeus

Jupiter

Hera

Juno

Poseidon

Neptune

Demeter

Ceres

Ares

Mars

Hermes

Mercury

Hephaestus

Vulcan

Aphrodite

Venus

Athena

Minerva

Apollo

Apollo

Artemis

Diana

Hestia

Vesta


Pontic Kingdom, Mithradates VI, c. 120 - 63 B.C., Lysimachos Type

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Mithradates VI Eupator "the Great"expanded his Pontic Kingdom through conquest, which inevitably brought him into conflict with Rome. Mithradates regarded himself as the champion of the Greeks against Rome, however, after three years of war, he was defeated by Pompey the Great. The design of this coin is taken from a coin of Lysimachos, bodyguard of Alexander the Great, and King of Thrace 323 - 281 B.C. The Lysimachos coin depicted Alexander the Great on the obverse. The features of the obverse portrait on this type are those of Mithradates VI.
SH88831. Gold stater, Callata˙ p. 140, pl. XXXVII (D3/R1); AMNG I 263; HGC 3.2 1824; SNG Cop 1089 var. (control), VF, struck with worn dies, weight 8.206 g, maximum diameter 20.8 mm, die axis 0o, Kallatis mint, First Mithradatic War, c. 88 - 86 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Alexander the Great right wearing the horn of Ammon; reverse Athena seated left, Victory crowning name with wreath held in Athena's extended right hand, resting left elbow on round shield leaning on back of seat, A∆ monogram (control) inner left, KAΛ below seat, trident in exergue ornamented with two small dolphins, ΛYΣIMAXOY downward on left, BAΣIΛEΩΣ downward on right; Kirk Davis, catalog 70, lot 11; $1600.00 (€1408.00)


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 454 - 404 B.C., Old Style Tetradrachm

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The old-style tetradrachm of Athens is famous for its almond shaped eye, archaic smile, and charming owl reverse. Around 480 B.C. a wreath of olive leaves and a decorative scroll were added to Athena's helmet. On the reverse, a crescent moon was added.

During the period 449 - 413 B.C. huge quantities of tetradrachms were minted to finance grandiose building projects such as the Parthenon and to cover the costs of the Peloponnesian War.
SH89851. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG München 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, Choice EF, well centered with much of the crest on flan, some light bumps and marks, weight 17.210 g, maximum diameter 25.67 mm, die axis 285o, Athens mint, c. 454 - 404 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, almond shaped eye, crested helmet with olive leaves and floral scroll, wire necklace, round earring, hair in parallel curves; reverse owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, AΘE downward on right, all within incuse square; $1600.00 (€1408.00)


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 454 - 404 B.C., Old Style Tetradrachm

Click for a larger photo
The old-style tetradrachm of Athens is famous for its almond shaped eye, archaic smile, and charming owl reverse. Around 480 B.C. a wreath of olive leaves and a decorative scroll were added to Athena's helmet. On the reverse, a crescent moon was added.

During the period 449 - 413 B.C. huge quantities of tetradrachms were minted to finance grandiose building projects such as the Parthenon and to cover the costs of the Peloponnesian War.
SH91292. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG München 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, VF, well centered, bold strike, high relief, light tone, flow lines, light marks, weight 17.196 g, maximum diameter 24.7 mm, die axis 90o, Athens mint, c. 454 - 404 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, almond shaped eye, crested helmet with olive leaves and floral scroll, wire necklace, round earring, hair in parallel curves; reverse owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, AΘE downward on right, all within incuse square; ex Numismatic Lanz; $1530.00 (€1346.40)


Julius Caesar, Imperator and Dictator, October 49 - 15 March 44 B.C.

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In Feb 44 B.C. the senate named Julius Caesar dictator for life. Fearing that he wished to become king, on the 15th of Mar, 63 senators assassinated him with their knives. His assassination plunged the Roman Republic into 17 years of civil war, after which it would re-emerge as the Roman Empire.
SH91678. Silver denarius, BMCRR Rome 4143 (also G); Crawford 480/3; RSC I 34; Sydenham 1056; Sear Imperators 100; SRCV I 1407; RBW 1678 var. (H) , Choice F, excellent portrait for the grade, well centered, dark old cabinet toning, banker's marks, scratches, lightly etched, weight 3.408 g, maximum diameter 17.8 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, moneyer M. Mettius, Jan - Feb 44 B.C.; obverse CAESAR·IMP, wreathed head of Caesar right, cymbium (boat shaped cup used as a wine ladle) and lituus (augural wand) behind; reverse M METTIVS, Venus standing left, Victory in her extended right hand, long transverse scepter in left hand, resting left elbow on shield which rests on globe, G (control letter) in lower left field; from the Maxwell Hunt Collection, ex Pegasi Coins; rare; $1200.00 (€1056.00)


Britannicus, Son of Claudius and Messalina, b. 12 February 41 - d. 11 February 55 A.D., Alabanda, Caria

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Of this type, RPC I notes, "Uncertain. This coin was published by Mi 3.307.22, and is known from a Mionnet cast. The coin [the Mionnet specimen] has been tooled ('médaille retourchée') but may perhaps represent a genuine denomination." Our coin allays the RPC I doubts. The denomination is 1/3 of 18.5g RPC I 2818.
SH88430. Orichalcum AE 23, RPC I 2821 (= Mionnet III, p. 307, 22), F, porous, weight 6.496 g, maximum diameter 23.3 mm, die axis 0o, Alabanda (near Doganyurt, Turkey) mint, 50 - 54 A.D.; obverse KΛAV∆IOC BPETANNIKOC KAIΣAP, bare-headed and draped bust right; reverse AΛABAN∆EΩN, Apollo Kissios standing left, nude, bow in right hand with raven on top, sheep standing left at feet on left ; ex Forum (2013), ex J. S. Wagner Collection; of greatest rarity; $1100.00 (€968.00)


Julius Caesar, Imperator and Dictator, October 49 - 15 March 44 B.C.

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This type was a special military coinage produced by Caesar during his final campaign. This campaign against the Pompeian forces in Spain culminated in the battle of Munda on 17 March 45 B.C. The obverse refers to Caesar's mythical descent from the goddess Venus. The reverse refers to Caesar's victories in Gaul and the male Gaulish captive may be Vercingetorix.
RR91680. Silver denarius, Crawford 468/1, Sydenham 1014, RSC I 13, BMCRR Spain 89, Sear CRI 58, SRCV I 1404, gVF, old cabinet toning, reverse slightly off center, tiny edge crack, weight 3.934 g, maximum diameter 18.3 mm, die axis 180o, Spanish mint, 46 - 45 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Venus right, small Cupid behind; reverse trophy of Gallic arms; on left, Gallia seated left with hand to head in attitude of morning; on right, male (Vercingetorix?) captive seated right, hands bound behind, looking back and up; CAESAR in exergue; from the Maxwell Hunt Collection, ex Hesperia Art; $900.00 (€792.00)


Trajan, 25 January 98 - 8 or 9 August 117 A.D.

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Marcus Ulpius Traianus, a brilliant general and administrator, was adopted and proclaimed emperor by the aging Nerva in 98 A.D. Regarded as one of Rome's greatest emperors, Trajan was responsible for the annexation of Dacia, the invasion of Arabia and an extensive and lavish building program across the empire. Under Trajan, Rome reached its greatest extent. Shortly after the annexation of Mesopotamia and Armenia, Trajan was forced to withdraw from most of the new Arabian provinces. While returning to Rome to direct operations against the new threats, Trajan died at Selinus in Cilicia.
RB88224. Orichalcum sestertius, Woytek 240q (same dies), BnF IV 512 (same dies), BMCRE III 771, Banti 117, Strack 398, RIC II 478 var. (bust), Cohen 367 var. (same), VF, well centered, rough, weight 21.340 g, maximum diameter 34.4 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, c. 106 - 107 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES NERVAE TRAIANO AVG GER DAC P M TR P COS V P P, laureate heroic bust left, full chest exposed, drapery on left shoulder; reverse S P Q R OPTIMO PRINCIPI, Ceres standing half left, head left, holding grain over modius in right hand, long scepter vertical in left hand, S – C (senatus consulto) divided across field; extremely rare with this bust, struck with a superb obverse die!; $880.00 (€774.40)


Macedonian Kingdom, Philip III Arrhidaeus, 323 - 317 B.C.

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Struck in the name of King Philip III Arrhidaeus, Alexander the Great's half-brother, under the regent Perdikkas. Philip III and Alexander's infant son, Alexander IV, were made joint kings after Alexander's death. Philip was the bastard son of Philip II and a dancer, Philinna of Larissa. Alexander the Great's mother, Olympias, allegedly poisoned her stepson Philip III as a child, leaving him mentally disabled, eliminating him as a rival to Alexander. Neither Philip III nor Alexander IV was capable of actual rule and both were selected only to serve as pawns. The regents held power, while Philip III was actually imprisoned. In 317, Philip was murdered by Olympias to ensure the succession of her grandson.
SL89735. Silver drachm, Price P56, SNG München 947, SNG Cop 1105, HGC 3.1, 974e (S), Müller Alexander -, SNG Alpha Bank -, NGC MS, 5/5 strike, 5/5 surface, fine style (4629644-013), weight 4.26 g, maximum diameter 15.6 mm, die axis 0o, Ionia, Magnesia ad Maeandrum (near Tekin, Turkey) mint, struck under Menander or Kleito, c. 323 - 319 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, wearing Nemean lion scalp headdress; reverse Zeus seated left on throne without back, nude to waist, himation around hips and legs, feet on footstool, right leg drawn back, eagle in extended right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left hand, IAT monogram left, ΦIΛIΠΠOY downward on right; ex Giessener Munzhandlung D. Gorny GmbH; $750.00 (€660.00)


Corinth, Corinthia, Greece, 345 - 307 B.C.

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Corinth, on the Isthmus of Corinth about halfway between Athens and Sparta, was the largest city and richest port in ancient Greece. Corinth allied with Sparta from about 550 B.C. until the early 4th Century B.C. The city adopted an independent policy in the various wars of the 4th Century. After the Macedonian conquest of Greece, the Acrocorinth was the seat of a Macedonian garrison until 243 B.C., when the city was liberated and joined the Achaean League. In 146 B.C., Corinth was captured and destroyed by Roman armies. Re-founded as a Roman colony in 44 B.C., Corinth flourished once again and became the administrative capital of the Roman province of Achaea.
GS89061. Silver stater, Pegasi 426; BCD Corinth 101; SNG Cop 73; BMC Corinth p. 26, 258; Ravel 1008, HGC 4 1848, gVF, toned, slight roughness, weight 7.893 g, maximum diameter 21.7 mm, die axis 90o, Corinth mint, 345 - 307 B.C.; obverse Pegasos flying left, pointed wing, koppa below; reverse head of Athena (or Aphrodite) left in Corinthian helmet over leather cap, helmet without crest ornamented with a laurel wreath, A-P below divided by neck truncation, eagle (control symbol) standing left behind with wings closed and head turned back right; ex CNG e-auction 232 (28 Apr 2010), lot 91; $700.00 (€616.00)


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 454 - 404 B.C., Old Style Tetradrachm

Click for a larger photo
The old-style tetradrachm of Athens is famous for its almond shaped eye, archaic smile, and charming owl reverse. Around 480 B.C. a wreath of olive leaves and a decorative scroll were added to Athena's helmet. On the reverse, a crescent moon was added.

During the period 449 - 413 B.C. huge quantities of tetradrachms were minted to finance grandiose building projects such as the Parthenon and to cover the costs of the Peloponnesian War.
GS91495. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG München 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, EF, beautiful old collection toning, well centered on a tight flan, edge test cut, weight 17.032 g, maximum diameter 24.9 mm, die axis 270o, Athens mint, c. 454 - 404 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, almond shaped eye, crested helmet with olive leaves and floral scroll, wire necklace, round earring, hair in parallel curves; reverse owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, AΘE downward on right, all within incuse square; from the Maxwell Hunt Collection; $700.00 (€616.00)




  



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The first ancient reference of religious ceremonies for the 12 Olympians is found in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes.

There was a great deal of fluidity when it came to who was counted among their number in antiquity. Around 400 B.C. Herodorus included in his Dodekatheon the following deities: Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Athena, Hermes, Apollo, Alpheus, Cronus, Rhea and the Charites. Herodotus includes Heracles as one of the Twelve.

Lucian also includes Heracles, and also includes Asklepios, as members of the Twelve, without explaining which two had to give way for them. At Kos, Heracles and Dionysus are added to the Twelve, and Ares and Hephaestus are left behind. However, Pindar, Apollodorus, and Herodorus disagree with this. For them Heracles is not one of the Twelve Gods, but the one who established their cult.

Plato connected the Twelve Olympians with the twelve months, and proposed that the final month be devoted to rites in honor of Pluto and the spirits of the dead, implying that he considered Hades, one of the basic chthonic deities, to be one of the Twelve. Hades is phased out in later groupings due to his chthonic associations. In Phaedrus Plato aligns the Twelve with the Zodiac and would exclude Hestia from their rank.

Hestia is sometimes displaced by Dionysus. Hebe, Helios and Persephone are other important gods, goddesses, which are sometimes included in a group of twelve.

The Twelve Olympians gained their supremacy in the world of gods after Zeus led his siblings to victory in war with the Titans. Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hestia, and Hades were siblings. Ares, Hermes, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, the Charites, Heracles, Dionysus, Hebe, and Persephone were children of Zeus. Although some versions of the myth state that Hephaestus was born of Hera alone.


Catalog current as of Sunday, July 21, 2019.
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Olympians