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Cistophori

Historia Nummorum

Under the kings of the Pergamene dynasty the so-called Cistophori made their first appearance as the chief medium of circulation for Western Asia Minor. The Cistophorus was so named from its type, the Sacred Bacchic Chest or Cista. According to Dr. Imhoof (Die Münzen der Dynastie von Pergamon, p. 33) this coinage originated at Ephesus shortly before B.C. 200, and its use rapidly extended throughout the dominions of Attalus I of Pergamum. Henceforth the Cistophorus became a sort of Pan-Asiatic coin, its general acceptance being secured by the uniformity of its types, while the local mint-letters and magistrates’ symbols were merely subordinate adjuncts. The institution of this quasi-federal coinage in Asia Minor may have been suggested by the popularity of the Federal money of the Achaean League in Peloponnesus, as well as by the eager adoption by so many Asiatic cities of Alexandrine tetradrachms. The manifold advantages of a uniform currency were evidently beginning to be understood and widely appreciated in the ancient world about this time, and the cistophorus, whether intentionally coined for this purpose or not, met the popular demand, and was issued in vast quantities from numerous Asiatic mints (cf. Livy xxxvii. 46, 58, 59, and xxxix. 7).

The types of the Cistophori may be thus described.


FIG. 284.
Cista mystica, with half-open lid, from which a serpent issues; the whole in wreath of ivy. (Fig. 284.) Two coiled serpents, with heads erect; between them, a bow-case.
AR Tetradrachm 195 grs.

535
Club and lion-skin of Herakles; the whole in wreath of ivy, vine, or laurel.
(Num. Chron., 1880, Pl. VIII. 12.)
Bunch of grapes placed on a vine-leaf.
AR Didrachm 92 grs.
AR Drachm. 46 grs.

Cistophori are known to have been issued at the following mints in Asia Minor:— Adramyteum and Pergamum in Mysia; Ephesus and Smyrna in Ionia; Apollonis, Thyateira, Nysa, Sardes, Stratoniceia ad Caïcum, and Tralles in Lydia; Apameia, Laodiceia, and Synnada in Phrygia; also in Crete (see supra, p. 479). See Pinder, Über die Cistophoren, 1856.

The cistophori of Pergamum may be divided into four classes. With very few exceptions all the specimens bear the letters ΠΕΡ in monogram.

Class I. Circ. B.C. 200-133.

In the field of the reverse, to the right of the serpents, a changing symbol—torch, caduceus, thyrsos, etc.

Class II. B.C. 133-67.

In field, as a constant symbol the snake-entwined Asklepian staff, often with the addition of the letters ΠΡΥ in monogram, standing for Prutanis Πρυτανις, together with abbreviated magistrates’ names.

Class III. B.C. 57-54.

Series of Proconsular cistophori, bearing the names of the Proconsuls C. Fabius, B.C, 57-56, with local magistrates’ names ΜΗΝΟΦΙΛΟΣ and ΔΗΜЄΑC; C. Claudius Pulcher, B.C. 55-54 (?), with local magistrates’ names, ΜΗΝΟΔWΡΟC, etc. (BMC Mysia, p. xxx; N. C., 1899, p. 97).

Class IV. B.C. 49-48.

Cistophorus struck by Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio as ‘Imperator’; Legionary Eagle, in place of Bow-case, between serpents on reverse (B. M. Guide, Pl. LX. 5). (For a cistophorus probably struck B.C. 50-49 by L. Antonius as Q[uaestor] see N. C., 1893, p. 10.)

LATER COINAGE OF PERGAMUM.

The bronze coins (sizes 1.-.6) described below have been generally ascribed to the period (B.C. 133 to Augustus) when the Pergamene kingdom and its capital became part of the Roman province of Asia. Von Fritze (Corolla Num., p. 47 f.) has, however, shown reasons for assigning them to the later period of the Pergamene kingdom, circ. B.C. 200-133. They would thus be a civic issue supplementing the regal issue of bronze coins. It may be doubted whether any bronze coins were struck at Pergamum between B.C. 133 and the time of Augustus.


536
Bust of Athena. ΠΕΡΓΑΜΗΝΩΝ Asklepios standing.
Head of Athena.   „  Nike standing.
Head of Asklepios.   „  Eagle on fulmen.
  „    „   ΑΣΚΛΗΠΙΟΥ ΣΩΤΗΡΟΣ Serpent staff.
  „    „   ΑΣΚΛΗΠΙΟΥ ΣΩΤΗΡΟΣ Serpent coiled round netted omphalos.
Head of Apollo. ΑΣΚΛΗΠΙΟΥ ΣΩΤΗΡΟΣ Tripod.
Head of Hygieia. ΑΣΚΛΗΠΙΟΥ ΚΑΙ ΥΓΙΕΙΑΣ Serpent coiled round omphalos.
Head of Athena. ΑΘΗΝΑΣ ΑΡΕΙΑΣ Owl (Mion.).
  „    „   ΑΘΗΝΑΣ ΝΙΚΗΦΟΡΟΥ Owl in wreath, or on fulmen, or on palm. (Cp. BMC Mysia, p. 132 AR.)
  „    „   ΑΘΗΝΑΣ ΝΙΚΗΦΟΡΟΥ Trophy.
Head of Asklepios. No inscr. Serpent coiled round crooked staff.

The coin with ΑΘΗΝΑΣ ΝΙΚΗΦΟΡΟΥ, Owl in wreath, may have been struck B.C. 183 in connexion with the Nikephoria (von Fritze, op. cit., p. 56).

Imperial— Augustus to Gallienus. Also quasi-autonomous of same period. Inscr. ΠΕΡΓΑΜΗΝΩΝ. Types: Asklepios, Hygieia, Telesphoros. The Asklepian cultus was of great importance (see Wroth, ‘Asklepios and the coins of Pergamum,’ in N. C., 1882, pp. 1-51, and von Fritze, Nomisma, ii. pp. 18-35), and Asklepian types are abundant, especially under the Antonines and under Caracalla, who visited the Pergamene temple of Asklepios in A.D. 214. ΚΟΡΩΝΙC, mother of Asklepios, standing; Statue of Asklepios between rivers Keteios and Seleinos; Asklepios, small naked figure and rat (BMC Mysia, p. 148); Caracalla adoring Asklepian serpent and Telesphoros (BMC Mysia, p. xxxi); also sacrificing to Asklepios (ib.); ΘΕΟΝ CΥΝΚΛΗΤΟΝ, Head of Senate, rev. ΘΕΑΝ ΡΩΜΗΝ, Head of Roma; ΠЄΡΤΑΜΟC ΚΤΙCΤΗC, Head of hero Pergamos; Athena; Armenian (?) captive (Imhoof-Blumer KM, p. 506); ΣΕΒΑΣΤΟΝ ΠΕΡΓΑΜΗΝΟΙ, Augustus in temple; ΛΙΒΙΑΝ ΗΡΑΝ, Bust of Livia as Hera, rev. ΙΟΥΛΙΑΝ ΑΦΡΟΔΙΤΗΝ, Bust of Julia as Aphrodite; obv. Bust of ЄΥΡΥΠΥΛΟC ΗΡΩC, rev. Cypriote temple of Aphrodite (ΠΑΦΙΑ) (see BMC Cyprus, Pl. XXVI. 7); ΖЄΥC ΦΙΛΙΟC; Temple of Rome and Augustus (BMC Mysia, p. 142); River-god, ΚΑΙΚΟC; River-god, ΚΗΤΕΙΟC; Apollo Smintheus (BMC Mysia, p. 145); Satyr dancing the boy Dionysos on his foot (BMC Mysia, p. 150); Youthful Zeus, Gaia and Thalassa (BMC Mysia, p. 151); Ariadne sleeping (Z. f. N., xxiv, p. 74); Great Altar of Pergamum, with humped bulls in front (R. N., 1902, p. 234); Herakles and Erymanthian boar (Inv. Wadd.); Kabeiri (Z. f. N., xxiv. p. 120 f.).

Magistrates—Vettius Bolanus, M. Plautius Silvanus, Q. Poppaeus Secundus, P. Petronius, C. Antius, A. Julius Quadratus, Proconsuls of Asia. The usual local magistrate is a Strategos; also Grammateus, Hiereus, Gymnasiarch, Prytanis (a woman, BMC Mysia, p. 145; cf. Ath. Mitth., 1899, p. 167), Theologos (N. C., 1894, p. 12).

Titles—ΝЄΩΚΟΡΩΝ, Β and Γ; ΠΡΩΤΩΝ; Η ΠΡΩΤΗ ΤΗC ΑCΙΑC


537
ΚΑΙ ΜΗΤΡΟΠΟΛΚ ΠΡΩΤΗ ΚΑΙ ΤΡΙC ΝЄΩΚΟΡΟC ΠΡΩΤΗ ΤΩΝ CЄΒΑCΤΩΝ ΠЄΡΓΑΜΗΝΩΝ ΠΟΛΚ (Caracalla).

Games—ΠΡΩΤΑ ΟΛΥΜΠΙΑ ЄΝ ΠЄΡΓΑΜΩ (Gallienus).

Alliance coins—Nicomedia, Ephesus, Smyrna, Miletus, Sardes, Hierapolis (Phryg.), Laodiceia (Phryg.).

Perperene, south-east of Adramyteum. Small autonomous bronze of the second or first century B.C. Head of Apollo, rev. ΠΕΡ, ΠΕΡΠΕ, Grapes. Imperial— Domitian to Otacilia. Also quasi-autonomous Inscr., ΠΕΡΠΕΡΗΝΙΩΝ. Types: Grapes; Telesphoros holding grapes; Asklepios; Two serpents at altar; Dionysos; Zeus; Athena; Demeter; Apollo (Imhoof-Blumer KM, p. 506); Head of the Senate as town-goddess (ib. p. 32); Bust of the Imperial ΗΓЄΜΟΝΙΑ laureate, on coins of Caligula (ib. p. 32) and Nero.

Pitane, on the Elaean gulf near the mouth of the Euenus. Æ, end of fifth century B.C., wt. 5.6 grs., obv. Head r., rev. ΠΙΤΑΝΑ Pentagram (Brit. Mus.). Also Æ of fourth century B.C. to first century. Inscr., ΠΙ, ΠΙΤΑ, ΠΙΤΑΝΑΙΩΝ. Usual types: obv. Head of Zeus Ammon in profile or facing, rev. Pentagram. Also Head of Bacchante; Omphalos entwined by serpent. Imperial— Augustus to Otacilia. Inscr. ΠΙΤΑΝΑΙΩΝ. Types: Round shield ornamented with pentagram; Head of Ammon; Telesphoros; Athena; Zeus; Prow; Amazon. Magistrates, P. Cornelius Scipio, Proconsul (with head): Strategos.

Placia, on the Propontis, between Cyzicus and the mouth of the Rhyndacus. Autonomous small bronze of the fourth century B.C. Inscr., ΠΛΑΚΙΑ or ΠΛΑ. Types— Head of Kybele, sometimes turreted, rev. Lion r.; Lion’s head; or Bull walking. On the worship of Kybele at Placia and Cyzicus, under the name of ae Maetaer Plakianaeη Μητηρ Πλακιανη, see Mittheilungen d. deutsch. arch. Inst., vii. 151.

Poemanenon, a dependency of Cyzicus, Æ of first century B.C. Type: Head of Zeus, rev. ΠΟΙΜΑΝΗΝΩΝ Fulmen. Imperial and quasi-autonomous— Trajan to Philip. Types: Head of ΗΟΙΜΗC the founder, rev. Hermes (Z. f. N., iii. 123); Eros (Invent. Wadd.); Tyche; Tripod entwined by serpent; Zeus; Asklepios. Magistrate, Archon. (On the site of Poimanenon, cf. J. H. S., xxvi; p. 23.)

Priapus, a colony of Cyzicus near Parium. Autonomous bronze of the third and first centuries B.C. Inscr., ΠΡΙ ΑΠΗΝΩΝ or abbreviated.

Head of Apollo. Cray-fish (or lobster); also shrimp.
Æ .75-35
Head of Artemis. Stag recumbent.
Æ .8
Bearded head filleted r. Amphora.
(Imhoof, Mon. gr., p. 258) Æ .45
Head of Dionysos. Amphora.
Æ .7
Head of Demeter veiled. Stag and cista mystica.
Æ .85

Proconnesus. An island in the Propontis, between Priapus and Cyzicus. Cf. Imh., Mon. gr., p. 259.


538

Circ. B.C. 400-280.
Head of Aphrodite in sphendone or in saccos. ΠΡΟΚΟΝ Oenochoë.
AR 39 grs, (Cf. N. C., 1904, p. 301.) Also Æ.
Head of Aphrodite, hair in saccos. Magistrate, ΑΝΑΞΙΓΕΝΗΣ.   „  Stag recumbent; in front oenochoë.
AR 55 grs. (B. M. Guide, Pl. XXIX. 28.)
Similar.   „  Forepart of stag and oenochoë.
AR 55 grs.
Similar; no magistrate’s name.   „    „  
AR 37 grs.
Head of Aphrodite. Magistrate’s name, ΔΙΑΓΟΡΑΣ.   „  Oenochoë.
Æ .7-.35
Head of Aphrodite.   „  Dove and oenochoë.
Æ .55

The deer, proxπροξ, on the reverse of the drachm is a type parlant (Eckhel, ii. p. 477).

Teuthrania (Kalerga), between Pergamum and Pitane. Coins issued by the dynast Procles I, circ. B.C. 399 (Babelon, Mélanges, ii. p. 189 f.); cf. N. C., 1894, p. 318.

Head of Apollo. ΤΕΥ Young head in Persian tiara.
AR 25 grs.; also Æ.

Thebe, called Hypoplacia, from its situation at the foot of Mount Placius. Small Æ of fourth century B.C., obv. Female head in saccos, rev. ΘΗΒ Three crescents united. (Imhoof-Blumer KM, ii. p. 506.)


Dictionary of Roman Coins





Please add updates or make corrections to the NumisWiki text version as appropriate.

CISTOPHORI. -- Coins were thus denominated, from the cista, or mystical baskets, used in the worship of Bacchus, and which were always found figured upon them. In its original sense the term of cistophorus and cistophera were applied to him or her who, in the mysteries of Bacchus, or of Ceres and of Proserpine, carried the cista, which enclosed the sacred serpent. Amongst the Greeks it was the custom for young girls of high rank to bear this mystic chest at public festivals. The medals called cistophori were coined by authority in reference to the feasts of Bacchus, and became the peculiar symbol of Asia.
Eckhel contends, that the cistophori, the number of which was very considerable, and which were in use throughout all Asia, were struck for the common welfare of the cities of that country, whose fruitful territory and extended commerce, rendered necessary the use of a coinage of known type, and uniform weight, which should inspire confidence and facilitate mercantile transactions. -- M. Du Mersan adopts Eckhel's opinion, thinking with him that a coinage relating to the worship of Bacchus would naturally be adopted by a country in which that pagan divinity was peculiarly honoured.
The time when cistophori were first struck can hardly be determined with accuracy. Certain it is, however, that this kind of money was already known in Asia about the year of Rome 564 (B.C. 190.) -- The number of cistophori, collected in the Asiatic wars of the Romans, and in countries subjected to Antiochus the Great, was prodigious, and it shows how enormoulsy vast the whole aggregate quantity of the coinage must have been. Nevertheless cistophori are now amongst the number of rare coins.
The ordinary types of the cistophori are on the obverse a half-opened chest, or basket, with a serpent issuing from it, the whole surrounded by a crown of ivy and vine leaves. -- The reverse presents a quiver, near which is seen a bow, surrounded by two serpents, with their tails interlaced. -- See the word SERPENT.
The coinage of cistophori continued in the principal cities of the Asiatic provinces, after the Roman conquest. At a later period, the names of Roman magistrates are found on them, coinjointly with those of Greek magistrates; and, according to all accounts, the districts under the authority of these tribunals, furnished each its proportion of silver for the coinage of the cistophori, and this was taken in payment of the tribute exacted of them in that coin by the Romans.
As serving further to prove the connextion of Roman names and official titles under the republic, with the mintages of Asiatic cistophori, it will not be irrelevant here to note three remarkable coins of this class -- one struck by Appius Clodius Pulcher, pro-consul of Cilicia, 699 (B.C. 55), and the two others by his successor in the government of that province, M. Tullius Cicero, the celebrated orator.

1. The first of the has on its obverse in Latin characters AP. PVLCHER AP. F. PRO-COS. Appius Pulcher Appii Filius Pro-consule. The rest of the legend is in Greek, showing the cistophorus to have been coined at Laodicea, under the magistracy of Apollonius and Zosimus. The accompanying types are, as usual, two serpents and cista mystica, bow, quiver, and caduceus, with ivy and vipe leaves. (Engraved in Seguin, p. 82, and in Morell. Thesaur. Claudia gens). -- Pulcher was pro-consul in Asia about 700 (B.C. 54): he mentioned by Cicero, but only as pretor.

2. The second has on its reverse M. CICERO PRO COS. and APA(MEA), where it was struck, with the same type as the preceeding. On the obverse the cista and serpent, without legend. -- Cicero here is styled pro-consul. But on the following (which is engraved in Seguin, p. 83, and in Morell. Fam. Rom. Tullia gens), he has that of Imperator, viz.: --

3. Obv. -- M. TVLL. IMP.; the rest of the legend, in Greek, records it to have been struck at Laodicea, by Labas, son of Pyrrhus.
Rev. -- Without legend. Serpent gliding out of the half-opened cista.
Marcus Tullius succeeded Pulcher as pro-consul of Cilicia, in 703 (B.C. 51). With regard to the title of IMP. the following is what he states of himself: -- "Thus named Imperator after the victory near Issus; in the same place, where as I have often heard you say, Clitarchus relates, that Alexander vanquished Darius." -- Ad. Famil. lib. ii. cp. 10.

4. There is a fourth Roman cistophorus, contemporaneous with and similar to the above.. -- It was struck at Apamea, in Syria, and records on its reverse, at full length, the name and title of P. LENTVLVS, IMPERATOR. -- Engraved in Morell. Fam. Rom. Cornelia gens.
This Publius Cornelius Lentulus, surnamed Spinther, was a friend of Cicero's. He served the office of consul B.C. 57, and was the predecessor of Pulcher and Marcus Tullius in the pro-consulship  of Cilicia, whither he went B.C. 56. He was saluted Imperator for a campaign in the Amanus; but did not obtain triumphal honours until B.C. 51, when Cicero was himself in Cilicia.
On the reverse of one of the cistophori of Pergamos, appears the name of the Caecilia gens, as follows: -- Q. METELLVS PIVS SCIPIO IMPER. The Roman eagle between two intertwined serpents. The legend betokens the son of Pro-consul Scipio Nasica, who was adopted by Q. Metellus Pius, and which son afterwards pro-consul of Asia, about 705 (B.C. 49). -- See Caecilia gens, p. 151 of this dictionary.
Next in the Roman series of cistophori come those struck in  Asia for Mark Antony, who, following the example of  Mithridates, and other oriental princes, took the title of Bacchus. -- See p. 59 of this dictionary -- see also the Familiae Romanae of Morell, and of Riccio, Antonia gens.

On one of the coins of Augustus, which bears on the reverse the figures of two serpents, we read ASIA SVBACTA. On a quinarius of the same emperor, we find Victory standing on the mystical cista, on each side of which appear two serpents, and the legend ASIA RECEPTA (see p. 89). -- The same type is found on a gold coin of Vespasian.
The cistophori of all ages are uniform in type, except those of later times, when the Romans altered the primitive type. There was, however, no change but in those bearing the name of the Roman Magistrates.
"The ordinary weight of a cistophorus," according to M. Du Mersan, "is 12 grammes and two or three decigrammes, more or less. The drachm containing four grammes and five decigrammes, the cistophori must therefore be tridrachms." -- According to the Abbé Belleye, as cited by Millin, the uniform weight of these medals, which are all of pure silver, is 240 grains, poids de Paris, instrinsic value two livres 14 sous.
See Eckhel, De Cistophoris -- see generally Millin, Dictionnaire des Beaux Arts -- see particularly "a memoir on coins called Cistophori," from the pen of M. Du Mersan, premier Employé au Cabinet des Antiques de la Bibliothèque Nationale, translated by the Editor of the Numismatic Chronicle, and inserted in that periodical, 1846.



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