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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Types| ▸ |Astronomy||View Options:  |  |  |   

Astronomy on Ancient Coins

Kroton, Bruttium, Italy, c. 300 - 250 B.C.

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In 295 B.C., Kroton fell to the Syracusan tyrant Agathocles. When Pyrrhus invaded Italy in 280 B.C., it was still a considerable city, with twelve miles (19 km) of walls, but after the Pyrrhic War, half the town was deserted (Livy 24.3). What was left of its population submitted to Rome in 277 B.C. After the Battle of Cannae in the Second Punic War, Hannibal made it his winter quarters for three years and the city was not recaptured until 205 or 204 B.C. In 194 B.C., it became the site of a Roman colony. Little more is heard of it during the Republican and Imperial periods.
GB92021. Bronze AE 18, SNG ANS 444; SNG Munich 1480; HN Italy 2234; BMC Italy p. 356, 117; Lindgren 339, aVF, green patina, porous, very nice for this rare type, weight 3.836 g, maximum diameter 17.9 mm, Kroton mint, c. 300 - 250 B.C.; obverse head of Persephone right, wreathed in grain; reverse three narrow crescents with horns outward, K-P-O around clockwise, one letter within each crescent; ex CNG e-auctions 233 (26 May 2010), lot 106 (est. $250, realized $270 plus fees); rare; $300.00 (264.00)


Itanos, Crete, c. 320 - 270 B.C.

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The ancient Itanos was one of the strongest cities in Crete in Hellenistic and Roman times. The city flourished due to fishing, and its trade in glass and Tyrian purple die. Koufonissi Island, owned by Itanos, was famous the purple die made from shellfish. The nearby temple of Diktaean Zeus also brought pilgrims and the tourist trade. An earthquake in 795 precipitated a significant decline. An Arab attack in the 9th century destroyed much of the city, but Itanos was not abandoned until the 15th century, when successive Arab raids forced its residents to abandon the coast and move inland.
GB92189. Bronze AE 17, Svoronos Numismatique 42, SNG Cop -, BMC Crete -, F, brown patina, tight flan, light corrosion, weight 2.987 g, maximum diameter 16.7 mm, Itanos (near Paalekastro, Eastern Crete) mint, c. 320 - 270 B.C.; obverse helmeted head of Athena left; reverse sixteen-pointed star with pellet-in-annulet at center; ex CNG e-auction 246 (15 Dec 2010), lot 84; only two sales of this type (and one is this coin) recorded on Coin Archives in the last two decades; very rare; $300.00 (264.00)


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

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A crescent with horns up with a star or stars above and within probably represents a solar eclipse.
RS92742. Silver denarius, RIC II 201, RSC 461a, BMCRE III 461, Hunter V 158, SRCV II 3484 var. (no pellet), Choice gVF, some luster, well centered, excellent portrait, flow lines, edge a bit ragged with edge splits, weight 3.580 g, maximum diameter 19.4 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 125 - 126 A.D.; obverse HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS, laureate bust right, drapery on far shoulder; reverse COS III, star within and above crescent moon, globe in exergue; ex Kiassische Mnzen, Tbingen (Dr. Michael Brandt); $250.00 (220.00)


Korkyra (Corfu), Island off Epirus, Greece, c. 450 - 400 B.C.

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Corfu is a picturesque island near the coasts of Albania and Greece. The advantageous trade position allowed Corcyra to play an important role in Greek history. After the Byzantine Empire gradually collapsed it was ruled by Venice from 1401 to 1797, during which time the Turks laid several sieges against its impregnable Byzantine castle.
GS91474. Silver hemidrachm, BMC Thessaly p. 119, 82; HGC 6 45 (R1); SNG Cop -, VF, well centered, toned, light marks, edge split, weight 2.412 g, maximum diameter 14.7 mm, die axis 180o, Corcyra (Corfu) mint, c. 450 - 400 B.C.; obverse female head right (Korkyra or Dione), wearing stephane, K behind; reverse star with eight rays and pellet in center, K on right between rays; very rare; $240.00 (211.20)


Thespiai, Boiotia, Greece, Early 4th Century B.C.

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Thespiae stood on level ground commanded by the low range of hills which run eastward from the foot of Mount Helicon to Thebes, near modern Thespies. During the Hellenistic Period, Thespiae sought the friendship of the Roman Republic in the war against Mithridates VI. It is subsequently mentioned by Strabo as a place of some size, and by Pliny as a free city within the Roman Empire, a reward for its support against Mithridates. Thespiae hosted an important group of Roman negotiatores until the refoundation of Corinth in 44 B.C.
GS92209. Silver obol, BCD Boiotia 599; SNG Lockett 1763; SNG Cop 401; SNG Berry 606; BMC Central p. 90, 4; HGC 4 1402, VF, light toning, weight 0.780 g, maximum diameter 10.0 mm, Thespiai (near Thespies, Greece) mint, early 4th century B.C.; obverse Boiotian ox-hide shield; reverse ΘEΣ (bottom stroke on Σ missing), ethnic above and within crescent with horns upward and composed of three lines, all within a shallow round incuse; ex Ancient Imports (Marc Breitsprecher), ex BCD Collection; scarce; $220.00 (193.60)


Antiochia, Pisidia, 2nd - 1st Century B.C.

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Antiochia in Pisidia, also know as Antiochia in Phrygia, and under the Roman Empire as Antiochia Caesareia or Antiochia Colonia Caesarea, was on the border of Pisidia and Phrygia, at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, Aegean and Central Anatolian regions. After the death of Alexander the Great, Seleucus I Nicator, founder of the Seleucid Dynasty, took control of Pisidia. Captured places were Hellenised and, in order to protect the population, nearly 60 fortified cities were founded at strategically important places, usually on an acropolis. Seleucus gave 16 of them the name of his father Antiochos. Colonists were brought from Magnesia on the Maeander to found Antiochia in Pisidia.
GB92188. Bronze tetrassarion, Imhoof KM p. 108, 5; SNG Cop 12 var. (magistrate); SNGvA 4914 var. (same, ethnic around), VF, green patina with earthen highlighting, weight 6.268 g, maximum diameter 21.3 mm, die axis 180o, Antiochia in Pisidia (near Yalva, Turkey) mint, 2nd - 1st century B.C.; obverse eagle standing slight right on thunderbolt, wings open, crescent above, Γ (mark of value) lower right; reverse star of six rays around central pellet, ANTIO/ΞE-ΩN in two lines, ΘEAPI∆O (magistrate's name) below; ex Gerhard Rohde Ancient Coins; extremely rare; $180.00 (158.40)


Pontos (Uncertain City), c. 119 - 100 B.C.

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The comets depicted are almost certainly the comets described in Justin's epitome of the Historiae Philippicae of the Augustan historian Pompeius Trogus (Justin 37.2.1-2): "The future greatness of this man [Mithridates Eupator] had been foretold by heavenly portents. For both in the year in which he was born [134/133 B.C.] and in the year in which he first began to rule [120/119 B.C.], a comet gleamed so brightly for 70 days throughout each period that the whole sky seemed to be on fire. In its extent, each of these comets filled one quarter of the sky and surpassed the sun in brilliance. They took four hours to rise and four hours to set."
GB92131. Bronze AE 11, SNG BM 984; SNG Stancomb 653; Lindgren III 154; HGC 7 317, VF, dark green patina, tight flan, weight 2.204 g, maximum diameter 10.8 mm, Pontos, uncertain mint, c. 119 - 100 B.C.; obverse horse-head right, with star of eight points and central pellet on and below neck; reverse comet star of seven points, central pellet, and tail to right; ex Ancient Imports; rare; $160.00 (140.80)


Maximinus I Thrax, March 235 - May 238 A.D., Roman Provincial Egypt

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In Greek mythology, Selene is the goddess of the moon. She is the daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Theia, and sister of the sun-god Helios, and Eos, goddess of the dawn. She drives her moon chariot across the heavens. Several lovers are attributed to her in various myths, including Zeus, Pan, and the mortal Endymion. In classical times, Selene was often identified with Artemis, much as her brother, Helios, was identified with Apollo. Selene and Artemis were also associated with Hecate, and all three were regarded as lunar goddesses, but only Selene was regarded as the personification of the moon itself. Her Roman equivalent is Luna.
RP89035. Billon tetradrachm, Dattari (Savio) 4601; BMC Alexandria p. 228, 1775; Milne 3267; Kampmann 65.73; Emmett 3300.1; SNG Cop -; Geissen -, aVF, full border centering on a broad flan, dark brown patina, mild corrosion, edge cracks, weight 12.190 g, maximum diameter 23.9 mm, die axis 0o, Alexandria mint, 29 Aug 237 - 28 Aug 238 A.D.; obverse AVTO MAΞIMINOC CEV CEB, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust of Maximinus I right, seen from behind; reverse head of Selene right, wearing tainia and chiton fastened on left shoulder with a fibula, L∆ (year four) behind, large crescent right with horns left; ex CGB mail bid sale 13 (30 Jul 2001), lot 557; $145.00 (127.60)


Pontic Kingdom, Mithradates VI Eupator the Great, c. 120 - 63 B.C., Anonymous Coinage

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Mithradates VI Megas (the Great) was king of Pontus in northern Anatolia from about 119 to 63 B.C. He was of both Greek and Persian origin, claiming descent from both Alexander the Great and King Darius I of Persia. Mithradates is remembered as one of Rome's most formidable and successful enemies, who engaged three of the most prominent generals of the late Roman Republic in the so-called Mithridatic Wars: Sulla, Lucullus, and Pompey the Great. After Mithradates VI was at last defeated by Pompey and in danger of capture by Rome, he attempted suicide. The poison failed because he had taken daily doses to build immunity. He then made his bodyguard and friend, Bituitus, kill him by the sword.
GB89057. Bronze AE 26, SNG Stancomb 649, SNG BM 973, SNG Cop 232, HGC 7 310 (S), VF, thick, heavy coin, marks, light earthen deposits, porosity, weight 19.569 g, maximum diameter 26.5 mm, uncertain (Amisos?) mint, c. 119 - 100 B.C.; obverse male head left in a satrapal leather bashlik cap; reverse comet star of eight rays, bow right facing inward, possibly a monogram between the rays; ex Forum (2010).; scarce; $140.00 (123.20)


Kingdom of Pontus, Mithradates VI, c. 120 - 63 B.C.

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The star almost certainly depicts one of Mithridates comets. According to Justin's epitome of the Historiae Philippicae of the Augustan historian Pompeius Trogus (Justin 37.2.1-2): "The future greatness of this man [Mithridates Eupator] had been foretold by heavenly portents. For both in the year in which he was born [134/133 B.C.] and in the year in which he first began to rule [120/119 B.C.], a comet gleamed so brightly for 70 days throughout each period that the whole sky seemed to be on fire. In its extent, each of these comets filled one quarter of the sky and surpassed the sun in brilliance. They took four hours to rise and four hours to set."
GB89059. Bronze AE 22, SNG Stancomb 651, SNG BM Black Sea 976, SNG Cop 230, HGC 7 311 (S), F, dark patina, weight 10.131 g, maximum diameter 21.7 mm, Amisos(?) mint, c. 120 - 100 B.C.; obverse bow case with strap; countermark: helmet right(?) in a c. 5.5mm diameter round punch; reverse comet or star of eight rays, bow right facing inward; ex Ancient Imports (Marc Breitsprecher); scarce; $130.00 (114.40)




  



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Astronomy & Astrology