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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.


Taras, Calabria, Italy, c. 325 - 285 B.C.

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The first of Herakles' twelve labors, set by his cousin King Eurystheus, was to slay the Nemean lion and bring back its skin. It could not be killed with mortal weapons because its golden fur was impervious to attack. Its claws were sharper than swords and could cut through any armor. Herakles stunned the beast with his club and, using his immense strength, strangled it to death. During the fight, the lion bit off one of his fingers. After slaying the lion, he tried to skin it with a knife from his belt but failed. Wise Athena, noticing the hero's plight, told him to use one of the lion's own claws to skin the pelt.
GS88949. Silver diobol, Vlasto 1381 (same dies), HN Italy 914, gVF, toned, small scrape on cheek, light marks, mild porosity, tiny edge cracks, weight 1.014 g, maximum diameter 12.6 mm, die axis 0o, Taras (Taranto, Italy) mint, c. 325 - 285 B.C.; obverse head of Athena right wearing crested Attic helmet ornamented with a hippocamp; reverse Herakles standing slightly left, nude, upper body and head turned right, with both hands and arms lifting and strangling the Nemean lion, TAP and vertical club in left field; ex Numismatik Lanz; $140.00 (Ä123.20)


Taras, Calabria, Italy, c. 390 - 385 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.
GS91333. Silver nomos, Fischer-Bossert group 28, 408 (V179/R314); Vlasto 370 (same dies); SNG ANS 892 (same); SNG Cop 806 (same); HN Italy 870, HGC 1 768 (R1), aF, toned, tight flan, weight 7.564 g, maximum diameter 20.0 mm, Taras (Taranto, Italy) mint, c. 390 - 385 B.C.; obverse ephebe (Greek young man 18 - 20 years old in military training) on horseback galloping right, nude, holding reins with both hands, Λ below horse; reverse Taras astride dolphin left, akrostolion in extended right hand, Λ below dolphin between Taras' feet, TAPAΣ below; $135.00 (Ä118.80)


Maionia, Lydia, c. 161 - 217 A.D.

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Omphale was queen of the Lydian Kingdom, the wife of Tmolus, the oak-clad mountain king. After he was gored to death by a bull, she continued to reign on her own. She 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 an attempt to explain why the priests of Herakles wore female clothing.
GB86735. Bronze AE 20, SNG Leypold I 1053 (this scarcer rev. legend arrangement); RPC Online IV 1325; SNG Cop 222; SNGvA 3011; SNG MŁnchen 302; BMC Lydia p. 129, 17, VF, rough, reverse scratches, weight 5.130 g, maximum diameter 19.6 mm, die axis 180o, Maeonia mint, c. 161 - 217 A.D.; obverse bearded head of Herakles left; reverse MAIONΩN, Omphale advancing right, draped in Herculesí lion skin, carrying his club in her left hand over her left shoulder; $120.00 (Ä105.60)


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 MŁn 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; $70.00 (Ä61.60)







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Mythology