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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Animals| ▸ |Elephant||View Options:  |  |  | 

Elephants on Ancient Coins
Julius Caesar, Imperator and Dictator, October 49 - 15 March 44 B.C.

|Julius| |Caesar|, |Julius| |Caesar,| |Imperator| |and| |Dictator,| |October| |49| |-| |15| |March| |44| |B.C.||denarius|
Minted after his invasion of Italy and crossing of the Rubicon on 10 January 49 B.C. until his defeat of Pompey at Pharsalus, this was the first coin type issued in Caesar's name. The elephant was the symbol of the Caesar family. According to legend, an ancestor received the name Caesar after single-handedly killing an elephant, probably in North Africa during the first Punic War, and "Caesai" was the name for elephant in the local Punic language. The obverse was long described as an elephant trampling a snake, symbolizing good triumphing over evil. For the Romans, however, the snake was a symbol of healing, not evil. The image to the right (click it to see a larger photo) is ornamentation on the side of the Gundestrup cauldron (c. 150 - 1 B.C.) depicting three Celtic warriors sounding their carnyx war trumpets. Clearly, Caesar's elephant is trampling a carnyx and the obverse symbolizes Caesar's victory over the Celtic tribes of Gaul. The reverse refers to Caesar's office of Pontifex Maximus, the high priest of Rome, a title now held by the Pope.Persian Empire
SH51516. Silver denarius, Crawford 443/1, Sydenham 1006, RSC I 49, Sear CRI 9, BMCRR Gaul 27, Russo RBW 1557, SRCV I 1399, Choice EF, wonderful elephant, excellent centering, a few minor nicks, light uneven toning (not as dark as appears in the photo), weight 3.992 g, maximum diameter 18.7 mm, die axis 75o, military mint, traveling with Caesar, 49 B.C.; obverse elephant walking right trampling on a carnyx (a Celtic war trumpet) ornamented to look like a dragon, CAESAR below; reverse implements of the pontificate: culullus (cup) or simpulum (ladle), aspergillum (sprinkler), securis (sacrificial ax), and apex (priest's hat); SOLD


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

|Julius| |Caesar|, |Julius| |Caesar,| |Imperator| |and| |Dictator,| |October| |49| |-| |15| |March| |44| |B.C.||denarius|
This is a scarcer variety of the type with the elephant's legs parallel and a human-like ear, attributed to Spain. The engravers were apparently unfamiliar with elephants. The round ear may indicate the elephant depicted is a North African Forest Elephant. The lower portion of modern elephant's ears have a distinctly triangular shape. The North African Forest Elephant species is thought to have become extinct around the 1st or 2nd century A.D. If the Romans used them in the Colosseum and other games, it would go some way to explain their extinction around that time. A hippopotamus species from Lower Egypt and a lion species from Mesopotamia are also suspected to have been butchered to extinction in Roman games.
SH82717. Silver denarius, BMCRR Gaul 27 (also with human-like ear), Russo RBW 1557 (same), RSC I 49, Sydenham 1006, Crawford 443/1, Sear CRI 9, SRCV I 1399, EF, well struck on a broad flan, iridescent toning, some die wear, weight 3.947 g, maximum diameter 18.9 mm, die axis 45o, Spain, traveling military mint, traveling with Caesar, 49 B.C.; obverse elephant walking right, legs parallel, ear resembling a human ear more than an elephant ear, trampling on a carnyx (Celtic war trumpet) ornamented to look like a dragon, CAESAR below; reverse implements of the pontificate: culullus (cup) or simpulum (ladle), aspergillum (sprinkler), securis (sacrificial ax), and apex (priest's hat); ex CNG (59305, 5/2/2000, www.historicalcoins.com); SOLD


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

|Julius| |Caesar|, |Julius| |Caesar,| |Imperator| |and| |Dictator,| |October| |49| |-| |15| |March| |44| |B.C.||denarius|
Minted after his invasion of Italy and crossing of the Rubicon on 10 January 49 B.C. until his defeat of Pompey at Pharsalus, this was the first coin type issued in Caesar's name. The elephant was the symbol of the Caesar family. The obverse was long described as an elephant trampling a snake, symbolizing good triumphing over evil. For the Romans, however, the snake was a symbol of healing, not evil. The image to the right (click it to see a larger photo) is ornamentation on the side of the Gundestrup cauldron (c. 150 - 1 B.C.) depicting three Celtic warriors sounding their carnyx war trumpets. Clearly, Caesar's elephant is trampling a carnyx and the obverse symbolizes Caesar's victory over the Celtic tribes of Gaul. Also, Pompey had recently tried to enter Rome on a chariot drawn by four elephants, since the gate was too narrow, the entrance was a flop. This coin was a reminder both of Caesar's success and of Pompey's failure. The reverse refers to Caesar's office of Pontifex Maximus, the high priest of Rome, a title now held by the Pope.Persian Empire
SH84738. Silver denarius, Crawford 443/1, Sydenham 1006, RSC I 49, Sear CRI 9, BMCRR Gaul 27, Russo RBW 1557, SRCV I 1399, Choice aEF, well centered and struck on a broad flan, light toning, some luster in recesses,, weight 4.001 g, maximum diameter 20.2 mm, die axis 180o, military mint, traveling with Caesar, 49 B.C.; obverse elephant walking right trampling on a carnyx (Celtic war trumpet) ornamented to look like a dragon, CAESAR below; reverse implements of the pontificate: culullus (cup) or simpulum (ladle), aspergillum (sprinkler), securis (sacrificial ax), and apex (priest's hat); from the Marcelo Leal Collection; SOLD







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