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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Themes & Provenance ▸ MythologyView Options:  |  |  | 

Mythology and the Ancient Gods

Many ancient coins depict the gods and goddesses of the Greeks, Romans and other ancient cultures. Collecting as many different gods and goddesses as possible is a fun, educational and affordable collecting theme. Every ancient gods and goddesses has their mythical function, biography, lineage and other facts and fictions that make them interesting. Here we will present as many different gods and goddesses as we can and provide some of the stories about them that fascinate us. We hope they fascinate you too.


Kos, Carian Islands, c. 345 - 340 B.C.

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Herakles was traveling by sea when Hera, who hated him, sent a storm, sinking his boats. Hercules and only a few friends survived, swimming to Kos. Once ashore they asked a shepherd for food and shelter. The shepherd refused and insulted Hercules and they fought. People from nearby Antimachia joined the fight against Hercules. Hercules and his friends slipped into a house, disguised as women, and escaped. Another town welcomed Hercules and declared war on Antimachia. Hercules killed the king of Antimachia and married the newly elected king's sister, Halkiopi. Their son, Thessalos, would later be the king of Kos and Nisyros.
GS86516. Silver didrachm, Pixodarus p. 234, 13 (A2/P7); SNG Cop 619; Weber 6629; HGC 6 1305 (R1); BMC Caria p. 195, 18 ff. var. (magistrate); SNG Keckman 287 var. (same), gVF, attractive style, bold strike, toned, tight flan cutting off ethnic, corrosion, edge cracks, weight 6.369 g, maximum diameter 20.2 mm, die axis 0o, Kos mint, Ma[...], magistrate, c. 345 - 340 B.C.; obverse bearded head of Herakles right, wearing Nemean lion scalp headdress; reverse veiled female (Halkiopi?) head left, MA (magistrate) behind, KΩION below; from the David Cannon Collection, ex Beast Coins; rare; $540.00 (459.00)


Maionia, Lydia, 2nd - Early 3rd Century A.D.

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Omphale was queen of the kingdom of Lydia, the wife of Tmolus, the oak-clad mountain king of Lydia. After he was gored to death by a bull, she continued to reign on her own.

Omphale bought Herakles from Hermes, who sold him after an oracle declared Hercules must be sold into slavery for three years. Hercules had sought the oracle to learn what he must do to purify himself, after he murdered his friend Iphitus and stole the Delphic tripod. As a slave, Herakles was forced to do women's work and even wear women's clothing and hold a basket of wool while Omphale and her maidens did their spinning. Meanwhile, Omphale wore the skin of the Nemean Lion and carried Herakles' olive-wood club. But it was also during his stay in Lydia that Herakles captured the city of the Itones and enslaved them, killed Syleus who forced passersby to hoe his vineyard, and captured the Cercopes. He buried the body of Icarus and took part in the Calydonian Boar Hunt and the Argonautica. After some time, Omphale freed Herakles and took him as her husband.

The Greeks did not recognize Omphale as a goddess. Omphale's name, connected with omphalos, a Greek word meaning navel (or axis), may, however, represent a Lydian earth goddess. Herakles' servitude and marriage may represent the servitude of the sun to the axis of the celestial sphere, the spinners being Lydian versions of the Moirae. This myth may have been and attempt to explain why the priests of Herakles wore female clothing.
GB86735. Bronze AE 20, SNG Cop 222; SNGvA 3011; SNG Mnchen 302; BMC Lydia p. 129, 17; RPC Online temp 9330, VF, rough, reverse scratches, weight 5.130 g, maximum diameter 19.6 mm, die axis 180o, Maeonia mint, 2nd - early 3rd century A.D.; obverse bearded head of Herakles left; reverse MAIONΩN, Omphale advancing right, holding lion's skin and club across shoulder; $150.00 (127.50)


Taras, Calabria, Italy, c. 380 - 355 B.C.

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Taras, the only Spartan colony, was founded in 706 B.C. The founders were Partheniae ("sons of virgins"), sons of unmarried Spartan women and Perioeci (free men, but not citizens of Sparta). These out-of-wedlock unions were permitted to increase the prospective number of soldiers (only the citizens could be soldiers) during the bloody Messenian wars. Later, however, when they were no longer needed, their citizenship was retroactively nullified and the sons were obliged to leave Greece forever. Their leader, Phalanthus, consulted the oracle at Delphi and was told to make the harbor of Taranto their home. They named the city Taras after the son of Poseidon, and of a local nymph, Satyrion. The reverse depicts Taras being saved from a shipwreck by a dolphin sent to him by Poseidon. This symbol of the ancient Greek city is still the symbol of modern Taranto today.
GI85329. Silver nomos, Fischer-Bossert group 40, 607 (V239/R464); Vlasto 454 (same dies); HN Italy 879; SNG Cop 820 (same); SNG ANS 938; BMC Italy p. 174, 107, F, tight flan cutting off youth's head, minor die damage (raised lump) below Θ, weight 7.689 g, maximum diameter 18.5 mm, die axis 180o, Taras (Taranto, Italy) mint, c. 380 - 355 B.C.; obverse nude youth on horseback standing right, right hand lowered behind him on horse's side, reins in left hand, left foreleg raised, Θ below horse; reverse Taras astride a dolphin left, kantharos in extended right hand, left hand behind on dolphin, TAPAΣ below; $120.00 (102.00)


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

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Telephus (or Telephos) was the son of Herakles and Auge, daughter of King Aleus of Tegea. An oracle told King Aleus that he would be overthrown by his grandson, so he forced his daughter Auge to become a virgin priestess. After she was violated by Herakles, their son, the infant Telephus, was hidden in the temple but his cries revealed him. Aleus ordered Telephus exposed on Mt. Parthenion. He was saved by a doe Herakles sent to suckle him.
RY86711. Bronze AE 26, RPC Online IX 1968 (11 spec.); SNG Hunter 3461; De Saulcy 7; Lindgren I 2153; Rosenberger 59 var. (ram running in ex.); SNG Mn 1025 var. (same), F, desert patina, parts of legends weak, porous, weight 10.109 g, maximum diameter 25.9 mm, die axis 0o, Damascus mint, c. Nov 251 - Jul/Aug 253 A.D.; obverse D VIB GALLO VOLOSSIANO AVG, laureate head right, traces of drapery; reverse COL ∆AMA METR, hind (antlered doe) standing right, suckling infant Telephos seated left, ram's head right in exergue; ex J.S. Wagner Collection; scarce; $90.00 (76.50)


Taras, Calabria, Italy, c. 325 - 280 B.C.

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This type was struck with dozens of different pose variations on the reverse. In some scenes, it even appears Herakles might lose. There are so many variations that it might be possible to take photographs of the reverses and arrange them in a flip book to animate the fight.
GS85294. Silver diobol, cf. Vlasto 1366, SNG Cop 990, HN Italy 976, F, toned, centered on a tight flan, light corrosion, weight 0.825 g, maximum diameter 11.9 mm, die axis 90o, Taras (Taranto, Italy) mint, c. 325 - 280 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right, wearing crested Attic helmet; reverse Herakles naked standing right, strangling the Nemean Lion, E(?) between legs, club left(?); $85.00 (72.25)


Faustina Sr., Augusta 25 February 138 - Early 141, Wife of Antoninus Pius

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Venus (Aphrodite) can be faulted for the Trojan War. Upset that she was not invited to a wedding, she went anyway and maliciously left a golden apple inscribed "For the fairest" on the banquet table. The goddesses, as Aphrodite expected, argued who was the rightful possessor of this prize. It was determined the most handsome mortal in the world, a noble Trojan youth named Paris, would decide. Each of the three finalists offered Paris a bribe. Hera promised he would rule the world. Athena said she would make him victorious in battle. Aphrodite guaranteed the love of the most beautiful woman in the world. This was Helen, who was married to the king of Sparta. Paris awarded the golden apple to Aphrodite. Aphrodite enabled Paris to elope with Helen, Helen of Troy. Helen's husband raised a Greek army to retrieve his wife, starting the Trojan War.
RB71296. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC III 1081, Cohen II 282, Strack III AP1224, SRCV II -, F, some pitting and corrosion, weight 25.927 g, maximum diameter 33.4 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 138 - 141 A.D.; obverse FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG PII P P, draped bust right; reverse VENERI AVGVSTAE, Venus standing right, raising drapery on shoulder with right, apple raised in extended left, S - C (senatus consulto) flanking across field; $55.00 (46.75)


Halos, Thessaly, Greece, c. 302 - 265 B.C.

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Athamas, the mythical founder of Halos, had two children with his first wife, Nephele, Phrixus and Helle. Athamas' second wife Ino, jealous for her own two children with Athamas pretended that an oracle demanded that Phrixus and Helle must be sacrificed to Zeus. Just as the sacrifice was prepared, the cloud nymph Nephele descended and placed the children on a ram with a golden fleece given to her by Hermes. The ram flew off to safety but Helle fell off and drowned in the Hellespont, which was named for the accident. Phrixus landed in Colchis, sacrificed the ram to Zeus and hung up the fleece, where Jason would later obtain it.
GB75129. Bronze dichalkon, BCD Thessaly II 86.2; Reinder series 6; Rogers 241, fig. 114; SNG Cop 64; HGC 4 8 (R2), gF, rough, corrosion, weight 2.868 g, maximum diameter 15.4 mm, die axis 195o, Halos mint, c. 302 - 265 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Zeus right; reverse Phrixos clinging to neck and chest of the golden ram flying right, nude but for cloak billowing behind him, AX monogram to upper left; ex Roma Numismatics e-sale 12 (1 Nov 2014), lot 268; ex Frank James Collection; rare; $36.00 (30.60)







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Catalog current as of Sunday, September 23, 2018.
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Mythology