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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Nautical & Marine| ▸ |Ships||View Options:  |  |  |   

Galleys and Other Ships on Ancient Coins

Nero, 13 October 54 - 9 June 68 A.D.

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The name Ostia was derived from the Latin "ostium" - river mouth. At the mouth of the River Tiber, Ostia was Rome's seaport. Construction of the port facilities began under Claudius and was likely completed just before this sestertius was struck in 64 A.D. Trajan and Hadrian expanded the facilities. The port was abandoned due to silting and now lies 3 km from the sea. The site is noted for the excellent preservation of its ancient buildings, magnificent frescoes and impressive mosaics.
SH86120. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC I 178, BMCRE I 131, Cohen I 37, Mac Dowall WCN 120, BnF I -, VF, well centered, nice portrait, near black patina, scratches on obverse lower right field, some porosity and tiny pitting, weight 26.031 g, maximum diameter 34.0 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, c. 64 A.D.; obverse NERO CLAVD CAESAR AVG GER P M TR P IMP P P, laureate bust right, wearing aegis; reverse AVGVSTI above, S - C divided by POR OST below, bird's-eye view Ostia harbor: pharos lighthouse with Neptune statue on top at far side center; crescent-shaped pier with building and figure sacrificing at far end, crescent-shaped row of breakwaters or slips on right with figure seated on rock at far end, 7 ships within port; river god Tiber reclining left holding rudder and dolphin below; ex Gorny & Mosch auction 195 (7 Mar 2011), lot 405; an attractive example of a highly desired type!; SOLD


Persian Empire, Sidon, Phoenicia, King Strato I (Adb'ashtart I), c. 365 - 352 B.C.

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SH48909. Silver double shekel, Elayi 2004 1345-8; cf. Betlyon 21 & 35; cf. BMC Phoenicia p. 145, 29, gVF, weight 25.428 g, maximum diameter 26.9 mm, die axis 0o, Sidon (Saida, Lebanon) mint, c. 352 B.C.; obverse armed galley with oars, advancing left, standard in stern, small figure as figurehead on bow, Phoenician regnal date year 14 (IIII-) above; reverse King of Persia with charioteer in a biga left, horses waking, Sidonian king walks behind in Asian garb carrying a cultic scepter and votive vase, Phoenician letters BA (90) above; typical weak strike, nicely centered on a full flan, lightly toned, ex Goldberg Auction 55, lot 77, 29 Oct 2009; SOLD


Sextus Pompey, Imperator and Prefect of the Fleet, Executed 35 B.C.

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In Greek mythology, Scylla was a monster that lived on one side of Strait of Messina between Italy and Sicily, opposite her counterpart Charybdis. The two sides of the strait were within an arrow's range of each other - so close that sailors attempting to avoid Charybdis would pass dangerously close to Scylla and vice versa. Scylla made her first appearance in Homer's Odyssey, where Odysseus and his crew encounter her and Charybdis on their travels. Later myth gave her an origin story as a beautiful nymph who gets turned into a monster. The idiom "between Scylla and Charybdis" has come to mean being forced to choose between two similarly dangerous situations.
SH87414. Silver denarius, RSC I Pompeia 3a (same ligatures), Crawford 511/4d, Sydenham 1348, BMCRR Sicily 20, Sear CRI 335b, SRCV I 1393, gVF, beautifully toned, edge cracks, legends not fully struck, weight 3.566 g, maximum diameter 19.8 mm, die axis 225o, uncertain Sicilian mint, 40 - 39 B.C.; obverse MAG•PIVS•IMP•ITER, pharos (lighthouse) of Messana, topped with stature of Neptune standing right holding trident and rudder, his left foot on a galley ram; quinquereme (war galley) sailing left in foreground below adorned with aquila on prow and scepter at the stern; reverse PRAEF ORAE•MARIT•ET•CLAS• S•C• (AEs and MAR ligate), the sea monster Skylla, her upper body a nude human female torso, lower body of two fish tails and three dog foreparts, attacking to left with a rudder wielded as a club in both hands raised overhead; ex Nomos Obolos 10, lot 349; rare; SOLD


Hadrian, 11 August 117 - 10 July 138 A.D.

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From the Prof. Henry H. Armstrong collection. In 1910, the year when he acquired this coin, Professor Armstrong lived in Rome working as a Research Associate of the Carnegie Institution in Archaeology teaching at the American School for Classical Studies in Rome. From 1918 until his death in 1935 he taught at Beloit College as head of the Department of Romance Languages. Nicknamed "Sparky" by the students, his death after a two-week illness came as a shock to the college. His coins, inherited by his son, sat in a cigar box for the next 74 years, acquiring this beautiful iridescent toning.
SH84800. Silver denarius, BMCRE III 247, RSC II 1174b, Strack II 105, RIC II 113c var. (draped and cuirassed), SRCV II 3529 var. (same), gem EF, beautiful old collection "cigar box" rainbow toning, fantastic galley, handsome portrait, some light marks, small edge cracks, weight 3.212 g, maximum diameter 18.3 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 122 A.D.; obverse IMP CAESAR TRAIAN HADRIANVS AVG, laureate and draped bust right; reverse P M TR P COS III (high priest, holder of Tribunitian power, consul 3 times), galley rowed left, mast with furled sail in bow, rudder and cabin in stern; from the Prof. Henry H. Armstrong collection, handwritten envelope notes, "Purchase, Champion, 1910."; SOLD


Mark Antony, Triumvir and Imperator, 44 - 30 B.C., CHORTIS SPECVLATORVM

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Speculatores served the legions as spies, scouts, messengers, lookouts, and executioners. Aboard ship speculatores stood watch as lookouts in a turret (specula) at the stern, explaining their unusual standards. Normally ten speculatores were assigned to each legion. Anthony formed a separate cohort of speculatores which served him personally and also acted as his personal bodyguard. Augustus would later create a speculatorian cohort at Rome to serve as the inner corps of the praetorian guard. This coin probably refers to the naval equivalent, who were comparable to the Marines and provided a shipboard bodyguard for Antony.
SH76389. Silver denarius, SRCV I 1484, Crawford 544/12, Sydenham 1214, BMCRR II East 185, RSC I 6, Sear CRI 386, Choice VF, well centered on full flan, toned, banker's mark and V graffito on obverse, scratches, weight 3.636 g, maximum diameter 18.9 mm, die axis 0o, Patrae(?) mint, autumn 32 - spring 31 B.C.; obverse ANT•AVG / III VIR•R•P•C, galley right with rowers, mast with fluttering banners at prow, border of dots; reverse CHORTIS SPECVLATORVM, three standards, each decorated with two wreaths and a model war galley prow, border of dots; ex CNG auction 76/2 (12 Sep 2007), lot 3262; ex John A. Seeger Collection; this ex-Forum coin is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum; rare; SOLD


Mark Antony, Triumvir and Imperator, 44 - 30 B.C., LEG VI - Ferrata, the "Ironclad"

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The VI Ferrata, the "Ironclad," was an old legion of Caesar's that fought for Antony. It was retained by Augustus and later served in Syria and Judaea. The VI Victrix, on the other hand, was one of Octavian's legions. This Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus issued a 'restitution' of the type, presumably in connection with the latter's Eastern campaigns.
SH76382. Silver denarius, Crawford 544/19, Sydenham 1223, BMCRR II East 197, RSC I 33, Sear CRI 356, Choice EF, near perfect centering, light toning, slightly uneven strike, contact marks, areas of porosity and light corrosion, weight 3.664 g, maximum diameter 17.8 mm, die axis 180o, Patrae(?) mint, 32 - 31 B.C.; obverse ANT•AVG / III •VIR•R•P•C, galley right with rowers, mast with banners at prow; reverse LEG - VI, aquila (legionary eagle) between two legionary standards; ex Forum (2005); SOLD


Arados, Phoenicia, Unknown King "N", c. 348 - 338 B.C.

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Early coins of Arados have the Aramaic letters mem aleph (read from right to left) above the galley, abbreviating Melech Arad (meaning King of Arados), sometimes followed by the king's initial, and sometimes by the Phoenician regnal year date.
SH85437. Silver stater, BMC Phoenicia p. 10, 58; Betlyon 26, note 104, pl. 7, 4; Rouvier III p. 131, 5; HGC 10 33 (R1); Sunrise 114; SNG Cop -, VF, well centered on a tight flan, struck with high relief dies, test cut on obverse, weight 10.346 g, maximum diameter 19.4 mm, die axis 270o, Arados (Arwad, Syria) mint, c. 348 - 338 B.C.; obverse laureate head of bearded Ba'al Arwad right, with profile eye; reverse galley right, figure of Pataikos right on prow, row of shields on bulwark, Phoenician letters mem aleph nun (Melech Arad N - King of Arados N) from right to left above, three waves below; rare; SOLD


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

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Trajan's "bridge reverse" is usually identified as the monumental bridge built across the Danube by the famous architect Apollodorus of Damascus, an amazing example of Roman engineering. Apollodorus' bridge is believed to have differed greatly from the bridge on coin and G.F. Hill suggested the bridge is the Pons Sublicius, a revered ancient wooden structure in Rome, often damaged by floods and presumably restored under Trajan. We believe the Danube Bridge is a more likely subject. Architecture is notoriously schematized on ancient coins and both bridges required piers in the riverbed, so the artistic departure from reality would be the same in both cases.

While Apollodorus' own writings on the bridge are lost, it is depicted on Trajan's Column, and discussed in the writing of Cassius Dio and Procopius of Caesarea, among others. The bridge, constructed with wooden arches set on twenty masonry pillars, is estimated to have been 1135 meters long and the river about 800 meters wide. Each gateway was protected by a castrum. Procopius tells us that during construction the river was diverted and about half of the pillars were built on dry land. Cassius Dio tells us that Hadrian removed the wooden arches to protect Moesia from northern invasions. Since Dacia continued to be a province for about the next 150 years, the bridge must have been rebuilt. Aurelian likely demolished it when he abandoned Dacia. In 1856, when the Danube was at a record low, all twenty pillars were seen out of the water. In 1906 two were demolished to ease navigation. In 1982 archaeologists could only find the remains of twelve pillars. Both end pillars are still standing on the Serbian and Romanian shores.
SH54874. Orichalcum sestertius, SRCV II 3207, RIC II 569, Cohen II 542, VF, Tiber patina, weight 28.372 g, maximum diameter 33.6 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 105 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES NERVAE TRAIANO AVG GER DAC P M TR P COS V P P, laureate bust right, from behind, slight drapery on left shoulder; reverse SPQR OPTIMO PRINCIPI, arched single-span bridge over river, covered walkway separated by vertical bars and middle curved line, each gateway surmounted by statuary, right one with flight of steps; boat over S C (senatus consulto) below; SOLD


Macedonian Kingdom, Demetrius I Poliorketes, 306 - 283 B.C.

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Demetrios was called Poliorcetes, "The Besieger" for his creative siege engines including a battering ram 180 feet long requiring 1000 men and a wheeled siege tower named "Helepolis" (or "Taker of Cities") which stood 125 feet tall and 60 feet wide, weighing 360,000 pounds.
SH21618. Silver tetradrachm, Newell p. 82, 72 and pl. VII, 2; S 6762 var, VF, weight 17.048 g, maximum diameter 26.86 mm, die axis 0o, Macedonia, Pella mint, c. 294 - 291 B.C; obverse Nike atop prow of galley left, blowing trumpet and holds stylis; reverse ∆HMHTPIOY / BA−ΣIΛE−ΩΣ, Poseidon stands left, naked save chlamys over extended left arm, about to hurl trident with right, ∆ left, monograms right; SOLD


Elagabalus, 16 May 218 - 11 March 222 A.D.

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The ruins of Antioch on the Orontes lie near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey. Founded near the end of the 4th century B.C. by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch's geographic, military and economic location, particularly the spice trade, the Silk Road, the Persian Royal Road, benefited its occupants, and eventually it rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the Near East and as the main center of Hellenistic Judaism at the end of the Second Temple period. Antioch is called "the cradle of Christianity," for the pivotal early role it played in the emergence of the faith. It was one of the four cities of the Syrian tetrapolis. Its residents are known as Antiochenes. Once a great metropolis of half a million people, it declined to insignificance during the Middle Ages because of warfare, repeated earthquakes and a change in trade routes following the Mongol conquests, which then no longer passed through Antioch from the far east.6th Century Antioch
SH33430. Silver denarius, BMCRE V277 - 278 var. (obverse legend), RSC III 27 ff. var. (same), RIC IV 188 var. (same), EF, weight 3.381 g, maximum diameter 18.2 mm, die axis 0o, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, obverse ANTONINVS PIVS FELIX AVG, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from behind; reverse FELICITAS TEMP, galley with sail right, containing eight rowers and pilot holding rudder, acrostolium and standard at stern, sail or standard at prow; the finest example of the type FORVM has seen and a rare obverse variety (full spelling for FELIX instead of FEL); SOLD




  




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REFERENCES

Schaaff, Ulrich. Münzen der römischen Kaiserzeit mit Schiffsdarstellungen im Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseum. (Munich, 2003).

Catalog current as of Saturday, December 7, 2019.
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